Regular Richie Feature

The Star Trek fanzine Spockanalia contained th...

The Star Trek fanzine Spockanalia contained the first fan fiction in the modern sense of the term. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking at the stats for my blog, I was amused by some of the things people have run searches for recently that have led them here. (Something that generally amuses my friend Richie also, leading me to name these posts for him.)

  • telling a story as we paint
  • solar system in my pocket — Is that a solar sys… Ah, never mind
  • my first time goint to a southern baptist church
  • apple logo haircut — I’m pretty sure this is awesome
  • angry birds redxpink fan fiction — I’m pretty sure this is horrible
  • falling person
  • lego mucens that is gumboll — Couldn’t have said it better myself.
  • equipment of music studio public domain — Don’t turn to me for music-making advice.
  • as if he is trying to
  • why do we explore? for kidsThe incredibly well-voice answer
  • why do we explore kids — Take out that one word “for,” and suddenly we’re Michael Jackson
  • first black mayor of indianola ms — Don’t  think I ever wrote about this, but it was Arthur Marble
  • nasa huntsville improv — This is possibly the best search ever
  • daily hitt 30 day challenge — I don’t know what this challenge entails, but everyone should do it
  • david hitt and tyson — Which Tyson? Mike? Neil? Chicken? This could be widely different posts.
  • david hitt 1776 — In which I earn independence for America

Ad Astra, Per Aspera, Per Aspera, Per Aspera


Maybe I should be writing this Friday. I’ve always done it today, and this year won’t be any different.

Where were you?

Forty-six years ago, when a fire during tests in an Apollo spacecraft on the launchpad killed three astronauts, I wasn’t around yet. Odds are, statistically, neither were you. The Apollo I fire has been long enough ago now that the world’s population then was only half what it is today. I knew the names of the crew for the namesake schools honoring them here in Huntsville. I was teaching at one of those schools last year on the anniversary of the loss of Columbia.

Twenty-seven years ago, I was a new transfer student at Huntsville Middle School when we lost the space shuttle Challenger. I was in the gym when I heard, and I literally couldn’t believe it. Space shuttles do many things, but blowing up, to my 10-year-old mind, was not one of them. It wasn’t until much later in the day that I knew it was true. It was a universal touchstone for my generation, and it’s odd as time passes to encounter those for whom it’s just a historical event.

Ten years ago.

Ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I was at home. I was asleep, when a coworker called to tell me about Columbia. I was addled, and it made no sense. I finally understood enough to go downstairs, to turn on the TV. To hear the repeats of “Columbia, Houston, Comm Check.” I was working at Marshall Space Flight Center already then; I had been for about half a year. It was different. It was personal. It hurt. It still does.

I made myself some promises then. I was nobody. I worked at NASA, but I had nothing to do with the shuttle or its safe flight. But I promised myself I would watch every launch. I promised myself I would watch every landing. I wouldn’t take them for granted. We, as an agency, needed to take less for granted. And even if I couldn’t contribute, I could at least hold myself to that standard. And so I did. I set my alarm for some weird hours sometimes, but I watched every crew launch after that, and I watched every crew come safely back home after that. I heard every “Wheels stop,” right up until the last time they did.

The last time I marked this anniversary at Marshall, we were still flying humans into space. We’re not, today. But we are preparing for the day we do. And this time, in a very small way, I have the honor of being a part of that. I’m not an engineer. I’m not directly responsible for safety. I’m glad to be a part of a team that does have safety as a prime value in this new rocket they’re designing. But even in my small role, in the ways that I can, I will still work to uphold that standard — Don’t take it for granted.

Song Challenge Week 18 — A Song That You Wish You Heard On The Radio

The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.

Song Challenge Week 18 — A Song That You Wish You Heard On The Radio

“All Will Be Well,” Gabe Dixon Band

Maybe it’s on the radio all the time somewhere, and I look uncultured for posting it, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on the radio more.

Normally I write posts explaining these, but I have nothing to say about this one that it doesn’t say better for itself.

Twixt Yesterday And Tomorrow



I wrote a little bit ago about starting my new job at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, providing communications support for the new Space Launch System rocket. At the time of that post, I was mostly settled in, but had one milestone I’d not yet crossed — receiving my new badge. I’d planned to write another post when that happened, but I was busy. So I’m writing this one instead, which is better anyway.

The badge was always a big deal to me. It meant I was part of something incredible. I was proud to wear it, and when I was hired for this job, I very much looked forward to wearing it again.

There were two types of occasions, however, when I was most proud of wearing it, when I was most aware of what it meant.

There were the days when I was aware of its history. Days that I was in the room with Flight Director Gene Kranz, talking about his experiences on Apollo 13. Days when I was in the room with Alan Bean, telling us about what it was like to walk on the moon. In its history, NASA has done incredible things without parallel, and the badge means I’m part of that heritage.

And then there were the days when I was aware of its potential. Watching a shuttle launch. Watching the Ares I-X launch. This agency does incredible things today, and the badge means I’m part of that team.

So I was glad to be wearing it again.

Yesterday was one of those days. And by those, I mean both of those. I’m not going to say it was the most incredible day I’ve experienced, but I don’t recall another day that brought home both the heritage and the potential like yesterday did.

Yesterday, I watched an engine component test firing.

The component being fired was over 40 years old; a gas generator from the F-1 engine that powered the Saturn V rocket that carried men to the moon. Obviously, this particular piece didn’t fly, but it was produced alongside the ones that did, for that very purpose. F-1 engine testing at Marshall Space Flight Center was a major milestone on the road to the moon 50 years ago, and I was there watching hardware from that era come to life again, in the same test area.

The component was being fired because it’s being studied to create an improved, modern version of the F-1, as part of a program to develop a new rocket. The goal is a new launch vehicle that will ultimately be more powerful than the Saturn V and that will unlock the solar system for human exploration and for robotic missions beyond anything we could do now.

NASA has done amazing things. But the best is yet to come. It’s an honor to be a part of that. It’s an honor to wear the badge.

“Nothing Beats An Astronaut”

The commercial above is part of Axe’s Axe Apollo Space Academy contest, in which you can win a trip into “actual space.”

Regardless of what you think of Axe, you gotta admit the commercial is good.

And it plays to idea that one could argue has gotten lost over the years — the raw coolness of astronauts, of spaceflight, of rockets. It’s unapologetic in presenting astronauts as cool.

Because, you know, they kinda are.

Gardening In Babylon


Sitting here at the beginning of 2013, it’s easy to imagine that I’ll most remember the year 2012 for how it ended, coming home in the last month to Marshall Space Flight Center after a year and a half away.

But, notable ending aside, 2012, by mass, was a chapter in my life about evolution, about answering a question the previous year had posed about who I am.

For the longest time, if you’d asked me to describe myself, somewhere pretty high on the list would be the fact that I’m a writer. Heck, I think that was my entire Twitter bio at one point. And for at least 15 years, it had been true — since college, I’d spent six years writing for newspapers and nine years writing for NASA education.

And then, one day, I’m not a writer anymore. At least, not in the sense of someone who writes things. No one was paying me to write, and I wasn’t even writing on here with any sort of regularity.

So if I don’t write, it’s hard to argue I’m a writer. What am I then?

I started working on the answer late the year before, but 2012 was the year that it really began to coalesce.

I started working at the Depot toward the end of 2011, but I expanded what I was doing there last year, doing more field trip programs for kids, and starting to give tours for adults. It was through that I ended up being “discovered” and doing the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll this fall.

I also continued substitute teaching from the year before, doing more of it and in more places than the year before. Some days were great, some were not so great. The great days, as a rule, tended to be the ones where I got to do more actual teaching, instead of babysitting.

My work with Cottage Senior Living included some writing, but also let me revisit my design and graphics skills I’d not used professionally in a long time.

I did begin writing again. I wrote a blog for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. I wrote articles for Mud & Magnolias magazine. I finished another draft of a book. And now I’m writing at my new job.

Then there’s the more random factors, like selling Pampered Chef and starting Comic Science Improv from the ashes of Face2Face.

And putting it all together, it becomes a story about, well, putting it all together.

Last year, more than any other, I took my foundation as a writer, and built on it, using pieces old and new. I’m a communicator. I can do that with writing, but I can also do it through design or speaking or graphics or acting. They stopped being separate things, and became parts of one thing.

And that one thing is telling a story. I told a lot of stories last year, about the Huntsville Depot, about The Commons, about the Space Launch System, about Christmas lights in Mississippi, about dead Alabama governors, about the space shuttle, about quality kitchen shears.

I was a writer. And one day I wasn’t.

Last year was about becoming something else. It’s a story about becoming a storyteller.

Song Challenge Week 16 — A Song You Used To Love But Now Hate

OK, I started this quite a while back and then dropped the ball, but I’m going to try picking up the 30 Day Song Challenge again as a weekly project.

Song Challenge Week 16 — A Song You Used To Love But Now Hate

“Sway,” The Perishers

Hate’s an awfully strong word.

To be honest, while I’m sure there are songs I used to love but now hate, I really can’t think of any.

But can think of a group of songs that fairly quickly fell from “can’t listen to them enough” to “don’t listen to them.”

I encountered The Perishers a few years ago; if I recall, through a free iTunes download and through an excellent duet with Sarah McLachlan on their song “Pills.” From those introductions, I downloaded a couple more of their albums, and liked them OK.

And then came my divorce, and their mopey collection largely of failed/failing relationship songs provided a handy sonic and emotional landscape for where I was at the time. The Perishers started popping up on Facebook and elsewhere when I listed my favorite musical acts.

Time passed, as it does. And healing gradually came, as it does. And the mopeyness subsided, as it does.  And The Perishers started disappearing from my usual playlists.

Eventually, I came across one of their songs, and realized it had been forever since I’d heard it. And, to be honest, I probably skipped it.

Which is nothing against the band. Their music is great stuff, and really resonated with me for a time. It’s just that today, they still really resonate with that time. And it’s not that I don’t want to think about that time, or something.

It just amuses me to remember being that mopey. I mean, a divorce is a hard thing to go through, and depressed emotions are part of the game.

But, wow, that’s some saccharine mopeyness there.