Ode to Opportunity


A poem for the Mars rover Opportunity, still silent in the midst of a planet-wide dust storm on the Red Planet.Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.27.21 AM.png

One of My Favorite Quotes From This Whole Space Business Thing


A couple of days ago I came across one of my favorite quotes from this whole space business thing. In my head, someday I’m going to write a self-help book based about applying spaceflight principles to personal life, and if that ever happens (spoiler alert: it’s not) this quote will be in there.

Seven years ago yesterday I was in Titusville, Florida, for the last launch of the space shuttle. There was, obviously, a lot of anticipation for the launch, and a lot of attention being paid to the fact that the weather was not looking like it was going to comply.

During a press briefing a couple of days out, Mike Moses, chair of the Mission Management Team, was asked if NASA would still proceed with preparations for the scheduled launch, given that, at the time of the briefing, there was only a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather. (And double that two days later.)

Moses responded, and I love this: “I know of only one way to make it a 100% no-go forecast, and that is not to put propellant into the tank.”

They did, in fact, put propellant in the tank. The weather, did, in fact, cooperate.

And Atlantis did, in fact, launch.

You can never guarantee success. But you can always guarantee failure.

Review: “Hope of Nations” by John Dickerson


If there’s one thing many modern Christians do well, it’s despair for the state of the world. Either the modern age is the end times, or it certainly should be. 

John Dickerson’s “Hope of Nations: Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post-Christian World” is a handy guide for that mentality, which is both everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with the book.

The premise of the book is this: Modern society is abandoning capital-T Truth, which seems to pendulum between being the belief that there are some things that are more than just opinions no more valid than other opinions, and being God. This new “anything goes, everything’s equal” mentality is leading to a worldwide cultural decline and societal collapse.

At its best, the book has practical advice for living as a Christian in that world, both in terms of how to recognize “Post-Truth” fallacies, and in terms of how to live in such a way as to make the world a better place. How does Christianity prove its relevance and merit in a world decreasingly likely to accept “because it’s true” as a compelling argument? “We should not be outloved,” Dickerson challenges in an example of the strongest parts of this book. 

Unfortunately, such points are scattered sparsely throughout the book, and, most often, buried toward the end. How this is received will depend on the reader. At one end of the spectrum, the book seems unlikely to make much impact on a non-Christian; it’s “preach to the choir” approach seems more likely to alienate than convince a reader not already in Dickerson’s doctrinal camp. To the reader of a similar mindset, however, that choir-preaching could be a welcome pep-rally, a reinforcement that things really are as bad as they thought, and that those they were inclined to blame really are at fault. 

For myself, I would have preferred more meat and less pep rally. I found myself wanting to give up on the book after multiple recountings of the same anecdote about just how depraved those folks in San Francisco are, and disappointed when I finally reached a chapter challenging Christians wanted to make a difference to be “Known for Doing Good in a Post-Church Era” that the pages it spent exhorting the reader to “do good” never got around to positing what might be recognized as “good” things for a Christian to do in today’s society.

The meat of the book is good, but your enjoyment of the book as a whole will entirely depend on whether you find getting there a slog or a celebration.