(Still catching up a bit)

So earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend TEDxNashville, largely to watch Space Launch System program manager Todd May give a talk.

If you’re not familiar with TED, it’s basically a lecture series around the theme “Ideas Worth Spreading.” There’s the big “real” TED talks, but the organizers allow groups to use the “TEDx” brand to hold their own independent events. (TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” which covers a great amount of topics, really.) The talks generally are shorter (for Nashville, no more than 18 minutes), and are supposed to be the “talk of your life” for the speaker’s giving them. No pressure there.

I’ve watched any number of TED and TEDx talks online over the years, but actually being at the event was an interesting experience in ways I hadn’t anticipated. When you watch talks online, you’re generally cherry-picking. Something sounds interesting, so you watch it. Something doesn’t pique your interest, so you scroll past it to find one that does. Sitting in the audience, you’re not cherry-picking. You’re there, and the event unfolds in front of you. I ended up watching talks that I never would have clicked on online, and it was fascinating to have that sort of horizon-broadening experience.

Of course, the highlight for me was Todd’s talk. I’d had the opportunity to be involved in preparations, and it was one of the most fun things I’d worked on at this job. I was also anxious to see how it went. We’d had a dry-run earlier in the week, and Todd was still very much in the process of getting it nailed down. By the day of the talk, however, he knocked it out of the park. It was invigorating seeing the audience reaction as well (several attendees were live-tweeting the event). There was excitement that a real NASA person was at the event and about the reveal of the rocket. It’s easy to get lost in industry perspectives, and it was great seeing the reactions of real people. The work we do still inspires.

The talk should be posted online fairly soon, so I’ll post a link when it is.

Song Challenge Week 22 — A Song You Listen To When You’re Sad

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

Song Challenge Week 22 — A Song You Listen To When You’re Sad

“Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” Will Hoge

A song I listen to when I’m sad? Well, what am I sad about?

Historically, this one is a very situational thing for me. If I’m sad, changes are I’m sad about something. And that something is frequently loss. And often in those moments, I can gravitate towards songs that speak to what it is I’m sad about losing.

In college and thereafter, I couldn’t listen to 10,000 Maniacs’ “How You’ve Grown” without crying. I had a baby brother growing up that I rarely got to see living a state away, and that song drove home what I was missing — “Every time we say goodbye, you’re frozen in my mind as the child that you never will be again.” I came home each time to a different person than I left.

As my marriage fell apart, another 10,000 Maniacs song got played a lot (my music library was less diverse back in those days), “Jezebel” — “I’m not saying love’s a plaything; no, it’s a powerful word, inspired by a strong desire to bind myself to you.”

In the wake of the divorce, there was Lori McKenna’s “If You Ask” reminding me of all my shortcomings. And in the years since, in other situations, there’s been Rascal Flatts and Sugarland and more Lori McKenna.

And then, there are the songs that lift up instead of pulling down.

In younger days, it was as simple as singing to myself. “It is well with me soul.”

The first songs I listen to that came to mind, I actually just used a few entries back, “All Will Be Well,” by the Gabe Dixon Band.

So to avoid repeating it, I’ll go with another one that occupies a similar emotional landscape for me, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” by Will Hoge. (There’s an Eli Young Band cover that’s had more success, but I still prefer the way I first heard it.)

Hope isn’t always the road out of heartache. Sometimes it’s the road into heartache. But it’s still worth hoping.

Mourning And Night

So the Rocket City Bloggers are doing a Year Long Blogging Challenge, where there’s a prompt for each week of the year. Since I’ve been remiss in blogging lately, I missed the first three prompts, but I figured I would do something for this week’s: “What is your favorite joke/cartoon?”

If I had more time, this would have a long explanation about the history of the cartoon and an aside about the joys of collaboration. Instead, I’ll just say my friend Lain is brilliant and here’s a cartoon we did:


Vulgar Time-Traveling iPhone


Every Sunday morning, my iPhone becomes a time machine.

I wrote a post a couple of years ago about technology and scripture, about how changes in the way scripture is presented change the way we interact with it, and even how we think about it and what we get out of it.

By and large, I don’t see these things as good or bad, they simply are. If a person believes that scripture is divinely inspired, it’s not too far a leap to imagine that the One doing the inspiration had the foresight to know that media would change over time and prepare for it.

(On a side note, I heard someone talk about scripture in terms of fault-tolerant transmissions. We have the technology now to beam messages to spacecraft throughout the solar system in such a way that even if there is data lost in transmission, the process compensates so that what is received is still usable. I’m inclined to think that may be a good analogy — that scripture was inspired to function properly despite human language changes, errors, and international alterations.)

The latest significant change for me is interesting because it actually mitigates the effects of one of the earlier changes. To me, one of the earliest presentation changes was the beginning of the practice of translating scripture. Now, you no longer have to speak Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic to understand the stories. The number of people who can understand scripture on their own is broadened tremendously. This is a very good thing.

That very good thing, however, comes at a cost — the reach is broadened, but shades of meaning are lost. A word might mean multiple different things, and the translator has to pick which one was intended. A word might have several shades of meaning, and the new language equivalent may not capture that texture. A word might mean one thing, but be translated as a word that has shades of meaning not intended by the original. (And that doesn’t even get into cultural differences over time.)

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been discovering some of those instances where things I took for granted weren’t necessarily the case, or where there was a richness in the original I had no awareness of.

I still don’t speak the original languages, and don’t have an original text Bible anyway. And, to be honest, that first part is unlikely to ever change.

But, I do have my iPhone time machine.

I now have the ability to select any word in a passage, and see what the original-language word there was. I can read definitions for what the word meant. I can see whether it’s the same word used in another place with a similar translation.

It brings me a little bit closer to what it would have been like reading the original.

I realize there are still limitations — I’m cherry-picking the words I’m looking up, I’m still going based on someone else’s definitions, I still don’t necessarily understand the cultural context — but it’s at least helping me to think about things differently, to be aware of the richer texture.

And that, I think, is a change for the better.

Straight Outta Cullman


Rebecca and I went with our friends the McPhersons to the Bloomin’ Festival at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman this weekend. I took some pictures. Fun was had by all.