May 27

If you’re coming here from an old link, an updated version of this post is here.

One of my quirks, I remember dates. They get lodged in my head, and I can’t get them out. Some useful, like birthdays (though I’m getting worse with adding those), and some not, like the anniversaries of days certain things happened. It’s a reflex, to the point where, apparently, it can be annoying.

Anyway, May 27 is one of those dates, from events that occurred in two consecutive years.

On May 27, 1992, I graduated from Huntsville High School.

Doing the math, I graduated from high school 17 years ago today, when I was about two months shy of my 17th birthday. In other words, high school is now just over half my life ago. I’ve lived more since that day than I had before. It’s just weird to think about; I certainly don’t feel twice as old as I was then. I’ll admit that my days at HHS are a distant and remote memory at this point, but I’m still young, right? From graduation until our 10-year reunion, sure, a good bit of time passed. But the reunion was hardly any time ago at all. And now the 20 is just around the corner. Where does it go?

On May 27, 1991, Beth Ladner died.

Beth was a member of my class at Huntsville, was a fellow part of the staff of the school newspaper, and ran against me for senior class vice-president. She was brilliant, pretty, and a genuine and easily likeable person, with a promising future, most likely as a marine biologist. She died in a car accident right before final exams.

And that fact has always stayed with me. This was high school, and final exams were huge — the studying, the stress, the work. If the accident had occurred a week later, she would have gone through all of that. And still been dead. The effort all in vain. We all know we’re going to die, and that it could happen at any time, but Beth’s death was such an object lesson in that. We strive, we struggle, we hurt, we laugh, we dance, we love, we cry — all for a tomorrow that one day won’t come.

Beth’s loss made us all the less. But the rest of us took final exams, and went on. And went to college. And married. And divorced. And had kids. And got jobs. And strived and struggled and hurt and laughed and danced and loved and cried. More of us have been lost along the way. But the rest continue to continue.

And hopefully the world is better for it.

Before This River Becomes An Ocean…

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:22-31

OK, I wish I could lay claim to this insight myself, but, the truth is, a friend of mine talked yesterday about this passage, in a way I’d never thought about before.

What was Jesus saying in the last verse? Every time I’ve heard someone talk about this, and every time I’ve read it before, the disappointment is obvious. Peter could have done it. He knew it was possible to walk on water, and, yet, even knowing that, he faltered. There was no reason he couldn’t have done it if he truly believed, and yet he didn’t. His faith could be so great, and yet was so little. “Oh you of little faith.”

But just a slight difference in intonation of those few words changes the whole passage. Yes, Peter had little faith. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. At that point, how many people in the world had any faith in Christ at all? And how many had the faith to say, “If it’s You, call, and I’ll come”? Maybe Peter’s “little” faith isn’t in comparison to great faith, but in comparison to none at all. After all, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”* Peter’s faith was little, but even a little is incredibly powerful.

So what if the tone wasn’t disappointment, but pride and encouragement? Christ sees Peter moving along his journey from a world without faith to a man of great faith, taking another step along that journey — on the waves! He’s proud, and encourages Peter to continue forward.

“Oh, you of little faith! Why did you doubt?”

Strong praise, indeed.

Sad Chimes They Say So Much

Sad Chimes Rest Home
Arguably, I really should own this t-shirt, but I don’t really need it $26 bucks worth. (If someone wanted to spend money on me really frivolously … well, there’d still be better ways. But it is cool.)

Technically, of the three computers on the shirt, I only currently have in my possession the front one (but I have at least three computers with that basic form factor). I used to have the bubble iMac, but it’s one of the rare computers I’ve owned that found its way into other hands.

In addition to those three and my current machines, however, there’s an old PowerMac Performa, a rare all-in-one education G3 and a variety of useless laptops.

I’m begining to realize, however, it may well be time for the Mac retirement home to shut down, and its occupants to move on. So, whether he likes it or not, a variety of antique machines will be eventually heading to my friend Joe Gurner.

The Undiscovered Country

After successfully watching a shuttle launch on Monday and getting to see one of the orbiters up close on Wednesday, I did something far more unlikely on Saturday night — I went to a country music concert.

Traditionally, I’m not the biggest fan of country music. In fact, traditionally, going back not that far, I pretty much hated the stuff.

By two years ago, I was beginning to develop the slightest of tolerances. There were a few Alabama songs I’d heard as a kid that had made it onto my iPod. And some Johnny Cash, starting with “Hurt,” and then extending into a few more covers from the American sessions, and then eventually including songs from Walk The Line.

And then there was Garrison Starr, who started out solidly alternative and rocking, but has dabbled on the line of country in recent albums. And there’s the brilliant, brilliant Lori McKenna, who is very possibly my favorite artist currently. But that was about it.

But over the past couple of years, I’ve had a handful of people broaden my horizons. My coworker Heather has been persistent and gradual, starting with a song here or a song there that might speak to something I was dealing with, and eventually moving up to, here, you should listen to this album. And then Susanna would have it on constantly. The former taught me that some country music was actually pretty good; the latter taught me a tolerance for the rest.

And, so, yeah, I’ve left “The Wolf” in my radio station presets, and still flip over there occassionally. My iPod has a fair amount of Dixie Chicks and Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, etc. (I find that my taste in country reflects my taste in general; I lean preferentially toward female artists.) In the weirdest turnabout, I brought a Dixie Chicks CD in for Heather to listen to not that long ago.

So I was already familiar with Sugarland, first from an old discovery that I’d picked up on iTunes — “Down In Mississippi (Up to No Good)” — and then through one of the CDs that Heather had shared with me.

But, yeah, a year ago, even offered a free ticket to go with friends to the concert, I very possibly would have turned it down. Two years ago, I almost definitely would have. This past weekend, I was eager. Even in the rain.

And for a while there, I was really proud of myself. I really enjoyed the first opening act, enough that I went home and put one of his albums in my Shopping Cart on iTunes. However, I discovered today that he’s not really considered country (it can be a little tougher to delineate folk-ish genres in a one-man-one-guitar format, so cut me some slack, and when he was joined by some members of Sugarland, they made him sound a bit more country). Apparently, he was there mainly because Sugarland covered one of his songs.

To share a bit with the readers, here’s some Matt Nathanson:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The second opening act, Billy Currington, was aggressively OK, but he did do a cover or two that I enjoyed, so that was something.

Sugarland was just fun. I rather enjoyed their performance, and was glad I went.

As unlikely as that may be.

(Heck, this is even the second post on my blog to talk about Taylor Swift, which is pretty unlikely as well.)

Trek XII Heavy

I think I’m probably going to let my other blog die of old age before too terribly long, but, in the meantime, I had a post I wanted to write that very much fit that one much better than this one, in which I respond to an article about who should be the villian in the next Trek movie.

The Tour

OK, I’ve already posted photos from my trip to Florida and Kennedy Space Center, including some from the tour I went on yesterday, but I wanted to write one final post about the trip to talk about the tour, inasmuchas it was phenomenal.

I’ve been on tours of Kennedy Space Center before, both paid a paid tour through the Visitors Center and a specially chartered tour through an education conference I attended. But I’d never been on one like this before.

It was relatively short, as tours go — we really only saw three things. But those three things were incredible.

In reverse chronological and ascending coolness order —

We went out to Launch Pad 39B, going well past the usual tour visitor pad viewing stand and right up to the camera area near the pad, extremely close. I think, one time before, I had been this close to a pad, but it was made very cool this time by the fact that Endeavour was waiting there in case she’s needed for a rescue mission. Granted, we couldn’t see the orbiter herself, since she was covered by the Rotating Service Structure, but we got a very good view of the External Tank and the Solid Rocket Boosters.

The other cool part of the pad tour, for me, was that it was an opportunity to see how much things had changed since the last time I was there. Pad 39B is currently undergoing modifications to support the Ares program. Most notably, since Ares I will be so much taller than the shuttle, the lightning rod that had been at the top of the pad had been removed, since it would be shorter than Ares I and thus offer no protection. In its stead, three lightning towers have been erected around the pad. It was a great opportunity to actually see the modifications up close.

In addition to the pads, we also got to go inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. I have, of course, seen the VAB before, from the outside — it’s pretty much impossible to get anywhere near Kennedy Space Center without seeing the gargantuan structure, once the largest enclosed volume in the world. But I had never been inside the VAB, until yesterday. Obviously, the size and height were the main things you noticed, although, to be fair, it’s hard to get a sense inside of the full extent of either, since it’s so larger, and is somewhat modular.

Another really neat thing about the VAB tour was that there were pieces in one of the bays of the Ares I-X vehicle, a demonstration rocket that will fly later this year. It was very cool to see actual hardware associated with the next generation of rockets; even though I-X is only a partial test version of Ares, those pieces represent, really, something that NASA hasn’t done in almost 30 years — test-launched a new manned launch vehicle.

On a more somber note, we had pointed out to us a concrete block wall a story or two up inside the VAB. Behind that wall, we were told, were the recovered remains of the space shuttle orbiter Columbia. I knew that, unlike Challenger, Columbia had not been permanently buried, but I didn’t realize exactly where she was, in a place that workers would see every day while preparing the remaining orbiters for flight. A good reminder of the importance of vigilance, I suppose, but interesting nonetheless.

The other stop on the tour was the Orbiter Processing Facility, which proved to be probably the single coolest place I’ve been on any tour of any NASA facility. (I’m writing that off the top of my head; I reserve the right to change my mind.) Not so much for the OPF itself, though it was cool enough. The incredible part was that the OPF we toured happened to house at the time OV-103, the space shuttle orbiter Discovery. I walked underneath Discovery. I was close enough that I could have touched an orbiter. (This, of course, was strictly verboten.) This has been a long-standing desire of mine, to actually get to see one of the orbiters up close, but I’d pretty much given up on it happening until the fleet was retired to museums. Getting to see Discovery while she was being prepared for her next flight was an incredible opportunity that I never thought I would have, and an amazing experience.

And she’s beautiful.

My Vacation Photos