#iHeartHsv: There’s No Place Like Home

OK, so I’m finally allowed to talk about this! The Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched a new website for visitors to our awesome city, iHeartHsv.com, and Rebecca and I are regular bloggers for the site! Even if you’re local, it’s well worth checking out — an incredible resource of things to do in the Rocket City (Huge kudos to Jessica Carlton Kumbroch!), and I am SO very honored to get to be a part of it. I was born in Huntsville and have spent almost three quarters of my life here, but over the last three years, my relationship with “my own little postage stamp of native soil” has deepened in very cool ways. I’m extremely proud to have been picked as part of the voice of me hometown, and very proud to call Huntsville home. ‪#‎iHeartHsv‬, indeed!

Related Link: Can’t get enough #iHeartHsv? CVB launches new website for all things Huntsville-Madison County (from al.com)

My Own Last Client

So I never officially stopped blogging.

You can tell, because anyone who officially stops blogging is required by law to write a post about the fact that they’re totally done blogging, and I never did that.

I did, however, mean to write a post saying that I would probably be pretty low-key for a while, but I never did that, either. And “a while” lasted much longer than I intended. And, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure that it’s over.

A while back, I was talking with a graphic designer about doing some work, and she asked that we not judge her by her own website. “I’m my own last client,” she explained. If she’s going to be doing web design work, she’s going to be doing it first and best for her customers, not herself.

I like it, and I’m stealing it. Certainly, when it comes to this blog, I’ve been my own last client. I’ve done a good bit of writing; I just haven’t been doing it here. Most of it’s not been blogging, but if you happen to miss my blogging, I do still blog regularly for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Basically, I realized a while back that I was about to be too busy to make this a priority. That busy period has lasted longer than I expected and is still very much going on, but if I’m not officially back, I’m at least taking a break from my break because there are things I want to write about — primarily, all the reasons I’ve been too busy to write. (And to assure that it actually happens, I’m not going to publish this post until I have some of the others ready to go.)

Oh, and that picture — that’s not entirely about my return to blogging; but we’ll get to that eventually, too.

Regular Richie Feature

My friend Richie enjoys seeing the search strings that led people to my blog, so every so often I post them for him. Here are some of the highlights from searches from the last month or so:

Star Gazing Farm

Star Gazing Farm (Photo credit: sneakerdog)

  • why is the subway pulled pork so expensive? — Pulling the pig behind the subway isn’t that hard, but picking up the pork bits afterwards takes some time, you know?
  • luxury of knowing lyrics — I want to live in a country where knowing lyrics isn’t a luxury, it’s a right!
  • notable words from prometheus — “engineers, faith, father, why, aaaaaaah!” You’re welcome.
  • i’d rather be a hammer than a knife — Also, I’d rather be a screwdriver than a spoon.
  • moby dick die — The new adaptation from the makers of “Kill Mo’ Mockingbird.”
  • hipster stargazing — Yeah, when I started, it was still nebula-gazing. Just sayin’
  • good neighbear — In a world with better marketing, the Star Farm bear would have eaten that gecko already.
  • “oh no! promootheus.” — This search makes me happy.
  • skydiving gift quotes — “Never look a gift skydiver in the mouth.” ‘Cause they might land on you or something. (Hey, they can’t all be gold.)
  • lori mckenna the moat — Presumably they were looking for “The Most,” but if Lori McKenna had an upcoming album of castle-themed songs, I would still listen to it.
  • devil fiddler — I have no comment about this one. It speaks for itself.
  • pampered chef guy version — A/k/a “Fire And Knives” (Cooking needs that Pampered Chef can totally help with, by the way.)
  • “wookiee jesus” — I’m not even on the top couple of pages of results for this one.
  • animal planet haunting demon— “They say there’s a demon that lives at Animal Planet, and that whoever challenges him will die.”


Here’s an odd sort of post with an odd sort of admission, but I thought some of the people who read from the Rocket City Bloggers community, among others, might be interested in a discussion of what goes on behind the veil.

I haven’t blogged in too long.

For the reader, hopefully, there’s no sense of that. As I’m writing this, there was one post that came two hours too late for my every-other-day schedule I try to maintain. For the reader, you’re reading this well after that gap, and I haven’t missed a beat for days.

Behind the scenes, however — I’ve written two posts already today, but before that, I hadn’t written anything on here in three weeks. Which is much better than the dry spells I’d been going through, but it still too long for someone who calls himself a writer to go without writing.

And I haven’t completely gone without writing. I also blog for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, though similar to this, I write in spurts rather than regularly. And I’ve been working on my second book again, productively, and that’s been wonderful.

But as a blogger, I find that both inspiration and time to write come in chunks rather than an even flow. Ideas pop up sporadically, and, when they do, I create a draft post with, if nothing else, a title, and perhaps some links or jotted thoughts. Some of these are picked up quickly, some linger for weeks or  months. But actually writing is a more rare thing.

It feels a bit like cheating, posting things that were actually written much earlier, but nobody would actually want to read this if I posted it like I write it — nothing for weeks and then 10 posts at a time.

I’d be curious to hear from other bloggers out there — how about you? Do you write fresh each time, or are there periods where the muses are more kind than others?

Regular Richie Feature

Person using cell phone while driving.

Person using cell phone while driving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friend Richie enjoys seeing the search strings that led people to my blog, so every so often I post them for him. Here are some of the highlights from searches from the last month or so:

  • “communion by intention”
  • cool hairstyles for high school boys — I really doubt they found what they were looking for here
  • stories in my pocket h that good no thats bad
  • demand curve for metallica — Curve over time? Musical taste? IQ?
  • what bad things people are saying about the space & rocket center
  • falling airplane & air pockets
  • horrible pampered chef stories
  • texting while driving
  • a time to kill john grisham — No! Don’t do it!
  • dragon quest in my pocket — That’s what she said. Or something.
  • chicken bad word — Trust me, even if I knew bad words in chicken, you don’t want to tick one off
  • what is a bad book — An unfinished one.
  • what kind of word is actually — Is actually what!? Don’t keep me in suspense…
  • epic rope swing across canyon — ‘Cause that’s totally the sort of thing I write about doing.
  • guy in pantyhose starbucks — That, on the other hand, was not me. I swear.
  • font the i am second?
  • rhett butler and scarlett book — Please please please tell me you weren’t trying to find out what book they were in.
  • hey you what did you say about my momma — I said your momma is so fly, Delta brags about how much they love her.

Signals From Tranquility Base

In my defense, I have been blogging.

Oh, sure, up until Sunday, I hadn’t written on here in over two months, which is shameful, and I’m trying to do better.

But even thought I hadn’t been blogging here, I was still writing regular blog posts. You should read them. (And, hey, if I disappear again, you’ll know where to go to get that fix I know you’ll be wanting.)

Back before the beginning of the year, the social media manager at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center asked me if I would consider including in my volunteer work writing posts for the official USSRC blog. For the time being, that’s evolved from me being a blogger for the center to being the blogger for the center.

The results are online at Signals From Tranquility Base.

I was tasked with writing about artifacts in the museum’s collection, and I decided to write it using a “This Week In Space History” approach. Each week, I pick an event marking an anniversary, and tie it to an artifact in at the museum.

The fun part, though, is the stories. I try and find a different angle each time for the posts, making it a little bit more than just-the-facts.

I’m enjoying it. It’s been too long since I’ve written space stories on a regular basis, and I’ve missed it. After nine years at NASA, there are a lot of stories stuck in my head, and it makes me very happy to be able to share them again, to be able to tell them for such a good purpose.

And, you know, they really are some good stories.

Regular Richie Feature

Arlo and Janis

Image via Wikipedia

Once again, search strings that have brought people to “Stories In My Pocket” over the course of the last month.

  • feel+funny+article+blog 1
  • sonngs geta 2011
  • get to my pocet song
  • lyrics about looking forward to seeing someone
  • haircuts and weight
  • in my pocket i have a funny
  • is newspaper business improving in 2011?
  • so shall your offspring be
  • theology kung fu panda 2 predestination
  • photoshop david hitt 1
  • don’t congratulate a woman on engagement
  • toro henry david find roots and don’t
  • cyborg stories
  • “starbucks” “marketing” “calendar” “2011”
  • how many share we purchased in one days
  • other words for chicken
  • what is nasa to do with that
  • some hot question
  • the analogy book of related words ebook
  • i draw ninja turtles
  • рисовать ниндзя
  • chicken bad word
  • example of what to write on brick as married name
  • old federation starships
  • david hitt bible teacher
  • bible verse on technology
  • arlo and janis bop ’till you drop
  • richie younce
  • what does it mean when your dell laptop makes a loud beeping noise

Social Media and the Divine Disconnection

twabsence [twæbsəns] n. a break taken from use of social media, such as Twitter or Facebook (coined 2011 by Jason Sims and Mathis Sneed)

This post has no point. Sorry.

Or, at least, it has no conclusions. This is me working through feelings about a subject that’s too nebulous to have concrete thoughts on at the moment.

It goes back two or three years. I have a friend who quits Twitter and Facebook. A lot.

These days, you don’t even notice. You get a friend request from him, or see that he’s following you, or that someone’s saying you should friend or follow him. And you realize that he’s been gone again.

The part that’s odd to me is that, frequently, in the time he was gone, he’s become someone else; his user name is slightly different than it was the last time you followed him, indicating that he’s actually creating new accounts each time, instead of just returning to the unused one. Why, I don’t know.

But the subtlety of the way it happens lately is a change from the past. In the past, each departure would be marked with a long period of tweets or statii about the fact that he was spending too much time on social media.

That’s right — he was spending time on social media talking about the fact that he was spending too much time on social media (talking about the fact that he was spending too much time on social media [talking about the fact that he was spending too much time on social media {ad nauseum}]). The solution seemed simple — stop talking about it, and then you won’t be.

It’s not uncommon. Author Anne Jackson, whom I follow on Twitter, recently began a month-plus-long Twitter break, having just returned from another two-month break last month. One can look at her Twitter feed and see where it would be overwhelming. If I used Twitter like she does, I might sell more books. Promoting awareness has always been one of my weak suits, and she’s far better at it than I.

Also not uncommon, and very fascinating to me, is the social media Lent break. At least one good friend of mine has stopped using Twitter for Lent. Another person I follow has stopped tweeting after 5 p.m. for the duration.

Others are curtailing their social media use in other ways for Lent. It’s fun logging in on Sunday and watching them catch up on what they’ve missed saying.

I wrote on Ash Wednesday about Lent and what I was doing this year, but I don’t know that I got deep enough into one of my major issues with the way a lot of people treat Lent — they either give up something bad, or they give up something good.

Many people use Lent as an opportunity to give up something they really feel like they probably shouldn’t be doing anyway. And then, after 40 days, they go back to doing it. If it’s really something you shouldn’t be doing, don’t give it up for Lent. Give it up. Period.

Other people give up things that are actually good things, in order to give something up. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, the time is always right to do the right thing. If you should be doing it, don’t stop.

The better approach I’ve seen is to give up luxuries. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not needed, and their absence prompts an awareness, and that awareness can lead to the contemplative discipline that I think is at the core of Lent.

The problem there is that, again, there’s often little long-term beneficial take-away from it. People often choose luxuries that they believe they over-indulge in. So for Lent, they give it up. And after Lent, they all to often return to the way it was before. Because nothing has changed. Because the secret isn’t in being able to give something up temporarily.

The secret is in moderation.

Which brings us back to social media.

Personally, and this is just my bias, I disagree with giving up social media for Lent. The reality is, we live in an age when social networking is an important part of how we communicate. As Christians, we have an obligation to communicate. Our job is to share our gospel. In my opinion, at the point where we make ourselves less effective communicators, we fall down on our divine obligation.

I’ve had several people say they don’t use Facebook or Twitter or other social media because they don’t want what it is.

Well, what is it?

Many years ago, I toured William Faulker’s Rowan Oak home in Oxford, Miss., and the tour guide said something I wish I could remember about how Faulkner used the telephone. Basically, the upshot of it was that Faulkner believed that the telephone in his house was not there for other people’s convenience, it was there for his convenience.

Amen, brother.

But we lose track of that. We carry a cell phone so that other people can get in touch with us. It becomes not a convenience, but an obligation.

Me, I believe that’s why my cell phone has voicemail. Leave me a message, and if I believe it’s worth my time, I’ll call you back. Otherwise, I’ll respond in a way that’s respectful of both of our time.

But I digress.

Social networking is no different. It is what you make it.

Facebook, in particular, is one of the most versatile tools to come down the pike in a very long time. For one friend, it’s about keeping in touch with classmates. For another, it’s about rescuing dogs. For another, it’s about promoting her writing. For another, it’s about playing games. And those are just personal accounts, without getting into pages and the like.

The flip side of that, however, is that, because there is so much it can be, it can become more than you want it to be. Let Facebook become how you play games and how you keep up with friends and how you promote your band and how you do whatever else, and it gets to be too much.


Twitter’s more focused, but even in the one or two things it does well, it can become too much. It would easily be possible to follow enough people who are posting enough that it would take all your waking time to keep up with it.


But the same thing is true of any means of communication. You could write letters all day. You could talk on the phone all day. You could read books all day.

Any of that would be unhealthy. But so would not communicating.


My challenge would be, don’t give up social media for Lent.

Develop a social media strategy for Lent.

But whatever your reason for taking a break, don’t take a break that’s going to return you to being overwhelmed after Easter or in May or after a month or whatever you’re giving it up for.

We share the Word by sharing our lives. And in this day and age, social media is one of the best tools we have for doing that. Every tweet doesn’t have to be about God for it to serve Him. It just has to build relationships. To make connections. So that those may let Him be seen in you.

If you’re a Christian, and you’re giving up social media for religious reasons, my challenge would be this — am I using this in a way that serves God or not. If so, don’t give it up. If not, then don’t just give it up for Lent. Give it up. Period. And ask yourself how it could be better used.

In moderation.

Regular Richie Feature

B.B. King at Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Ontari...

Image via Wikipedia

Once again, search strings that have brought people to “Stories In My Pocket” over the course of the last month.

  • story about “what the best youth should be for our country
  • whats with this stupid haircut? pyramid haircut
  • can i use my guatemalan passaport to get in night clubs here in nashville tn?
  • if my two year old took any excedrin pill 800 ml how would he act
  • bible cd do not have women and stepfather
  • how to write an essay about having a wonderful time with good food,good music and good company.suddenly there was an earth-shaking crash
  • ronald reagan pocket
  • funny stories about ninjas in space
  • ah think is ganin tuh be fun fo’ yee watchin me struggle wi’ this next yeor.
  • why girls hate angry birds game
  • what do the words nasa stand for
  • feel like having church
  • mullets are awesome my mom has won
  • is nasa hiding something 2011 ca7
  • write one abomination story
  • pocket god barbecue time quest
  • cheesecake namaste myers brigg one later blog
  • what special thing did b.b. king do in his life
  • what religious figure does neil armstrong have a large green bust of in his living room?
  • the shuttle going down to save the miners in chile
  • what would happen to the demand curve for metallica cds if they became unpopular?

This Makes Me Happy

Lori McKenna sent this out to her e-mail list earlier this week. Note the bottom quote. (Click to embiggen.)

(The review the quote is from is here.)