My 2011 In Pictures


A few highlights from the year that was:

Another Year Over, And A New One Just Begun


It’s hard to explain exactly how I felt, a mile in the air, at the moment I stopped falling toward the Earth at 176 feet per second.

When the parachute deployed and our descent slowed dramatically, the first thought to go through my head was, “OK, now I feel safe.”

But the thing is, there had not been a moment, leaving the plane or during the mile of freefall that I didn’t feel safe. I knew the chute would deploy; I knew I would be OK.

However, it was still a nice feeling when it did.

Welcome to my 2011.

That mile has been this year — a year when everything fell apart, sending me plummeting down at terminal velocity.

This, then, is faith: that while I’ll be glad when the parachute finally deploys, there’s never been a moment that I haven’t felt safe.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like to fall out of that plane without the parachute. But with the parachute, it was fun.

It would be easy to view this past year through the former filter; months of unchecked descent. But that’s the beauty of having the parachute — if there’s one thing I’ve learned working with NASA, it’s that in the right context, freefall can be kinda awesome.

When I look back on this year, there’s no question that the things I lost will stand out in my memory. But so will many many other things:

– I saw the last space shuttle launch ever in person.
– I went skydiving, twice.
– I experienced a long-standing goal of going to a Paul Simon concert, finishing my concert bucket list.
– Even if it’s still tied up in publishing limbo, I finished the manuscript of my (apparently cursed) second book.
– I fired an AK-47.
– I gave a lecture in the very cool Davidson Center theater at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
– I went backpacking for the first time, and camped in sub-freezing conditions.
– I discovered that I have better and more awesome friends than I ever realized.
– I got to see the number-one team in the country beat my Ole Miss Rebels.
– I went (kinda) to Space Camp.

And all of that has been during “the worst months of my life.” Not bad, really.

I’m blessed. Beyond measure.

And while I would have preferred to have bill-paying employment, this season has given me the chance to do things I wouldn’t have or couldn’t otherwise.

I enjoy substitute teaching. I have loved working at the Depot. If I could make a living doing either, I would in a heartbeat. I’m looking forward to delving further into the world of Pampered Chef. I’ve made money lecturing and selling books and taking pictures and acting and teaching and freelance writing. And along the way, I’ve met some great people. There’s a lot to look forward to in 2012.

For years now, I’ve worn some variety of cross necklace. But in the last couple of months, I’ve substituted it occasionally for a souvenir of my first skydiving outing — a closing hook used on a parachute rig. I felt a little guilty at first replacing the cross with it, but realized that, ultimately, if a symbol of being willing to step out of an airplane without fear isn’t representative of what faith in God is all about, I don’t know what is.

Welcome to 2012. Enjoy the fall. I’ll see you on the ground.

Great Moonbuggy Race 2011


This is how it’s supposed to be done:


This is how it’s more often done:


This is what happened to the team from Russia:

They did, eventually, push the buggy out of the obstacle, and pushed on to the next one before giving up.

I was amused by the fact that when they hit the obstacle and got stuck, the guy on the team launched into a flurry of Russian I didn’t understand, punctuated with a couple of words starting with F— and S— that I and the other bystanders did.

I guess English is truly the new Lingua Franca when it’s the language used when we have to pardon your French.

I thought it was really cool that Russia joined the participants this year, but I’ll admit that I still had enough nationalism to find it amusing that they struggled. I’ll admit having a passing thought along the lines of, no wonder we beat them to the moon.


These are some pictures I took:

Nothing Changes On New Year’s Day


Years ago, science fiction grandmaster Arthur C. Clarke wrote a book, a sequel, titled “2010.” It was about the future.

The future is now past.

It’s a new day. A new year. A new future. Not the one that the book, or other futurists envisioned. But an amazing one nonetheless.

As Paul Simon wrote of a different past future, “these are the days of miracle and wonder.”We live in an amazing age, of amazing possibility.

Heather wrote a post recently about “Rediscovering the Art of Lost Treasure.”  I think Bill Watterson said it well: “There’s Treasure Everywhere.”

Make resolutions if you want. Don’t if you don’t. The truth is, a good year is the one that isn’t defined by the things you wanted at its beginning, but the one that is defined by things you never would have thought to dream, by the hidden treasure. Go. Find yours.

I’ll see you out there.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl

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