Taking Up Space

My co-worker Heather’s official NASA blog is now online.

Actually, the first post published earlier this month, but we’ve been publicizing it very gradually. I was going to write this before going on my trip, because she included me in a post, but I didn’t get a chance before leaving.

The blog is “Taking Up Space,” a rather clever play on words that we’re fairly pleased with. Heather will be writing blog entries about student events and opportunities, and just about cool NASA stuff that strikes her fancy.

Finally seeing the blog online has been an awesome experience. It’s the result of a lot of planning and a lot of hard work making it happen. Heather wrote another, limited-run NASA blog last year, Free Falling, about her flight on a Zero-G aircraft. The new blog has been in planning for a good chunk of that last year, and we’ve both put a fair bit of time and effort into making it happen, with a huge amount of support from the education technology team. Getting this far has been a labor of love, and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

I’m excited about the project, and about seeing what Heather will be writing. Taking Up Space will provide a new twist on the stories we’ve been covering, and should make for some interesting reading. Check it out! We hope you enjoy it!

Drawing The Line

Jason Sims

Jason Sims

Amusing lines from last night’s Face2Face rehearsal, offered randomly without context:

David: “At Payless, we’re known for shoes. And death. But mostly shoes.”

Trevor: “Changing a lightbulb isn’t as easy it looks.”
Jen: “It requires a PhD?”
Trevor: “If you do it right.”

JaSims: “Bobby-Daddy, NASA called. They’re calling me up. It seems under the new administration they no longer want to send a man to the moon and bring him safely home. They just wanna send a man to the moon. I’m gonna live up there in a trailer.”

JaSims: “Hello, 911. There’s about to be a fire.”

Trevor: “Men, this is the sort of day when you look over the hill and say I’m probably going to bite the big one.”

Diana: “We keep the gunpowder in different sections so you don’t die all at once.”

Give It Away

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “People Who Beg For Money.”

I’m behind. This should have been last week’s entry, but I didn’t write last week. So I’m writing it now.

I really considered just combining it with the topic for this week, “Tithing,” and calling it good. But that would be crass even for me.

That said, I really don’t have a lot to say about this topic. I don’t even have a set policy myself. I give people money sometimes. Sometimes I don’t. And as best as I can tell, it’s completely random. It really doesn’t have much to do with what they say or what they want it for. I will say I part with money more easily than anything else. Need a ride? Want to use my phone? Here, why don’t I give you some money instead.

Part of the randomness, though, has to do with what I do believe about giving money to people who beg — it’s really not about that person. It’s easy to fall into the thought process of, that person really doesn’t need that. It’s just going to go to waste. They’re going to spend it getting drunk. What have you. And maybe so. But I’m not sure that it matters.

I think God measures us by where our heart is, rather than by where someone else’s is. He didn’t say He would measure us by whatever we did for the most deserving of these his brothers, but for the least. The greatest thing about God’s grace and love is that they are offered unconditionally; and we are to love others as He first loved us. At times, I think He would have us to give to people simply because they are undeserving, not in spite of it.

Really, is it any wonder that some people have a hard time picture a God who loves them because of who He is, not what they do?

Glamour Shots

So, yeah, I ate well over the past week.

I was definitely going to blog about my dinner Tuesday night, which we’ll get to in a moment, but I realized I had enough food pics from the trips that really I should just make one omnibus eating post.

The first food of the trip started things off nicely — Corky’s at the airport in Memphis. It wasn’t exactly what I expected; based on the price and name on the menu, I was expecting what I would have gotten at an actual Corky’s restaurant. The first surprise was that there were no sides; I got a rack of ribs and a roll. Which is fine; that was what I was there for, and arguably didn’t need any more food. The other difference was that they didn’t ask me whether I wanted my ribs wet or dry. I’ve had half-and-half ribs at Corky’s before, but they’ve been just that — one half wet, the other half dry. These, by default, came as a hybrid, part of the rack with sauce and part of it with rub. Different, but good.

Dinner Tuesday, as I said, was the most interesting meal of the trip, and possibly the best. Our liaison at Glenn was quite the foodie, and made several recommendations; he and his wife even ended up joining my coworker Heather and I for dinner that night, and made agreeable dinner companions. (There’s a story there I may blog at some point involving robot uprisings, but we’ll see.) Among the suggestions, though, was one stand-out so compelling that no further discussion was required — Steak On A Stone.

The restaurant’s concept — which is apparently patented so no one else in the U.S. can do it — is this: your meat (mainly steak, but other options are available) is served essentially raw on a lava stone that has been heated to 750 degrees. You cut your steak and cook it to your taste one bite at a time as you eat. Sure, there’s something a little ironic about being on a trip and spending a bunch of money (although not bad at all, price-wise) to go out and cook your own supper, but the food was quite good, and the concept paid off two ways — one, it’s actually pretty agreeable to be able to get each single bite of steak exactly right, and, two, it adds a certain entertainment value to the meal. It was funny to notice, though, how much longer it took to finish for the person who liked her steak well-done.

Wednesday was the day of two desserts. It was an accident, really. We were going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but were hungry enough that we wanted to get something to eat before we did. I, on the other hand, really wanted to take advantage of being near a Cheesecake Factory to get some dessert. So, we decided, we’ll get supper, tour the Rock Hall, and then get dessert afterward. Wandering the area, we ended up at another of our liaison’s recommendations, The Chocolate Bar. As the name might imply, their forte is dessert and drinks, but they also have other chocolate-based food, including a chocolate-covered pasta dish and cocoa-rubbed pork loins. Perusing the menu, though, we found the entrees less compelling than the desserts. So, to tide us over for Rock Hall, we got dessert at The Chocolate Bar with plans to get dinner, and dessert again, afterward.

Back in late January, I think, a friend of mine went to see Brad Paisley in concert in Birmingham, and posted on Facebook about the trip as it unfolded. The Brad Paisley part was of no great interest, though I was disappointed to learn that the opening act was Miranda Lambert, whom I actually would have liked to have seen. The most compelling status update, however, was that she was eating a white chocolate red velvet cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory. No sooner were the words read than I knew I must have it.

I made plans to have dinner in Birmingham a couple of weekends later, but, being the night before Valentine’s Day, I wasn’t even willing to wait in the line to find out how long I would have to wait to be seated at The Cheesecake Factory. I went back a week later, and did, in fact, successfully eat at The Cheesecake Factory, but, dinner finished, the waiter revealed they were out of a couple of varieties of cheesecake, including, but not limited to, what at that point became my cheesecake Moby Dick, the white chocolate red velvet.

At that point, it tasked me, and I would have it. So when I was going to be somewhere with a Cheesecake Factory again, I was compelled to try again. And, this time, success! And it was, in fact, good.

There’s one meal I didn’t get a picture of that I must mention, and that’s lunch on Thursday. Easily the least glamorous of the meals mentioned here, but one of the more cool for me: we ate at the cafeteria at Glenn Research Center. Specifically, I ate the salad bar at the cafeteria at Glenn Research Center. (Well, I ate from it, not the whole thing.)

One of the early times I was at Johnson Space Center in Houston, I got a salad. And I was amused that I didn’t think their salad bar was quite as good as ours at Marshall. There’s a history of competition between the two centers, and I was glad to declare victory for MSFC in that area. So then a year and a half ago, we’re visiting Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and have lunch at the cafeteria. So, at that point, well of course I’m going to get the salad bar. And it was very Silicon Valley, full of fancy stuff you wouldn’t see at the other two.

With three NASA salad bars under my belt, on this trip, I actually requested to eat in the cafeteria, just to add another salad bar to my set. And it was good. I still like ours better, but it was perfectly functional.

I shared my cheesecake photo with the friend who inspired it, and the conversation turned to my other food pictures. Another coworker commented that a lot of my pictures from the trip were basically just plain photos, but that I’d obviously put some care into the food pics. (“Oh, yeah, that’s what I like…”) So I was sharing those pics and that story this weekend, and one of my friends at dinner Saturday night in New Orleans wanted me to take a picture of my food there, to add it to the set. Not quite as pleased with my smoked sausage po’boy pic, but here it is nonetheless.

I’m Back

OK, I’ve not written in a ridiculously long time. Sorry.

I spent last week in Cleveland, and this past weekend going down to New Orleans. No time for blogging, I’m afraid.

Gonna have a good bit of catching up to do, so I’ll probably break it into mini-blog posts rather than trying to actually catch up all at once.

Hope all is well with you.

This Is My Body

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “The Rite Of Communion.”

Yeah, this one I can’t even begin to do justice to.

I’ve touched on some of the themes already, in my Reconstruction post about saying grace over dinner and in my Passover post.

But of all the topics on this list, I’ve probably spent as much time thinking about this one in the last couple of years as any of them. For those thatdon’t know, I spent a year visiting different churches, observing the differences in how people worship, and how that affects their view of God and their relationship with Him. And one of the main things I paid attention to was how churches celebrated the Lord’s Supper. Or the sacrament of Eucharist. Or Communion.

The latter name, by the way, is my favorite, and the one I prefer to use. The Lord’s Supper is descriptive, but superficial; it focuses only on the significance of the fact that we are repeating the ritual as instructed by Christ, but fails to reflect the meaning of that ritual. Eucharist — thanksgiving — goes a little further, but is still vague in my opinion. Communion? Yeah, there’s meaning there.

I won’t delve into all the differences I saw. Churches that observe communion every week. Churches that do so quarterly. Churches for whom observing communion is the heart of the service. Open and closed communion. Juice and wine. Crackers and bread. Intinction. Altars.

I’ll get into a quick aside, and say that I’m not as big a fan of intinction, dipping the bread into the cup and taking both together. My usual congregation has adopted this practice, and I really wish we would go back. I prefer to take the two elements separately, and to have the time to meditate on each individually. The exact thoughts I have vary each time, but the themes that keep coming back are the two elements as two aspects of grace through the cross — the bread representing the body, broken for me, the price paid for my sins so that I don’t have to pay it; the cup representing the blood shed in the breaking of the body, the cleansing that comes after the price is paid so that I can move on, righteous once more, not through my righteousness but His. The cup is the second chance, the bread the price that makes it possible.

During my journey, the observance that made the most profound impact on me was at the home-based church I’ve been a part of, however. Almost every time we met, we would begin by having dinner and fellowshipping together before moving into our discussion. And one week, early on, our pastor was saying a blessing over the food, and he used verses from the Lord’s Supper, blessing the bread and the cup.

At the time, it completely caught me off guard. Those words don’t go with this situation. But then — why not? We were gathered together as a church body, we were breaking bread and drinking, we were there to worship Him.

And reading through the epistles, one could make the argument that that was probably not unlike a way “breaking bread” took place in the early church. Not a cold and liturgical ritual, but a social celebration. And that’s why I like “communion,” to be, at its best, that’s what the observance should be, not just communion with Him, but with His church. (That doesn’t mean there’s not merit in the other as well; I celebrated the meaning of Easter this year while in Florida for the launch by observing Eucharist on my own.)

I mentioned in my “saying grace” post that when I pray before eating with other people, I usually include either thanks or blessing for “the opportunity to break bread together.” And that’s the origin of that. If two or more believers are gathered, and are consuming bread and drink, then we are at that point the church, and the prayer recognizes that and consecrates it for His use.

Because when Christ broke the bread, He was talking of it specifically, and in terms of His immenent sacrifice, when He said, “This is My body.”

At the same time, however, there was another level to that — As He spoke the words, He was surrounded by His apostles, the foundation of His church. As He looked around the table, He recognized, “This is My body.”

Today, that honor belongs to us. It is our place to carry on His work. Eucharist should remind us of the cost and atonement delivered through the crucifiction. But communion, whether it be with a large congregation on a Sunday morning or simply two believers at Cracker Barrel, should remind us of the privilege of service for Him that cost and atonement bought.

THIS is His body.


Um, hello!

Been a little while, huh? Sheesh, I haven’t written an actual real post on here in a week, which is kinda unusual for me. Sorry. Why? I’m really not sure. I’ve been busy. I haven’t had much to say. There are parts of my life that don’t get blogged at the moment. I’ve been saying stuff places other than here. I’ve been putting off writing my next Reconstruction post. Who knows?

So random thoughts about stuff:

I’m going to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, soon, which is exciting. It will be the sixth of the 11-or-so NASA field centers that I’ve visited, putting me above the halfway point. I’ve not been to Cleveland before, so if anybody has any suggestions of things to do there, they would be much appreciated.

Shortly thereafter, I’m going to the Simon & Garfunkel concert, which I’m also rather excited about.

This weekend, however, I’m going to watch students launch rockets a mile into the air as a volunteer at NASA’s Student Launch Initiative. I’ve never seen the event before, so I’m eager to witness it firsthand.

Last weekend, I volunteered at NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race, and, for the first time, got to ride a moonbuggy. Kinda challenging.

President Obama expanded on his new vision for NASA’s future today, with some great finessings to the plan. Most significantly, construction of a new heavy lift vehicle beginning in 2015 is the best news that the spaceflight community could hope for. An HLV is the key to human exploration of the solar system, as well as opening up amazing opportunities for science.

I went to the Yuri’s Night party at the Davidson Center Saturday night. Huntsville’s still behind other cities in their celebration, but hopefully we’re moving toward catching up.

I taught kids at Sojourn again on Sunday. Threw out everything I thought I knew how to do, and did it completely differently. Seemed to go a bit better.

Have I mentioned that I got a chance to play with an iPad? I did. For that matter, I forget if I blogged my great story about standing in line to not see a product I had no intent to buy. In the rain. And I’m too lazy to go back and look. I need to try one again, to see what typing on it is like. The picture below is from Lain, but I like it.

Eh, enough for now, I guess.