¡Vivir Con Miedo Es Como Vivir a Medias!

Another post from the Rocket City Bloggers Year-Long Blogging Challenge: “This week we get quasi-philosophical…what is your favorite quote?”

As I’ve no doubt mentioned ad nauseum here, I’m not a fan of favorites. To everything there is a season, right?

But if I had to pick a favorite movie, I’d go with “Strictly Ballroom.” It’s a small indie flick, but it’s the first film by Baz Luhrmann, who went on to do the Leo DiCaprio “Romeo and Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge” and the new “The Great Gatsby.” I first saw it when I was in college, reviewing movies for The Daily Mississippian, and immediately fell in love with it.

It remains a favorite, and I’ve inflicted it on countless people over the years. It’s been interesting to me how my thoughts on it have changed, however, in the almost 20 years since I first watched it. The artistic reasons I appreciate it remain evergreen — the timing, Luhrmann’s brilliant use of music, the color, etc. The story reasons … well, the older I get, the more the main characters just strike me as impetuous kids than heroes. But, most importantly, the movie still remains fun, and as long as it does, I’ll keep watching it.

But that wasn’t the question, was it? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

So if I had to pick a favorite quote, which, again, I don’t want to have to do, I’ll go with one from my favorite movie.

“¡Vivir Con Miedo Es Como Vivir a Medias!”

Roughly, “A life lived in fear is like a life half lived.”

To be sure, part of my affection for it comes from the context: I like the movie, and I like the line in the movie. But, even so, it’s good stuff, you know? Not a bad thing to remember from time to time.

Quote Backlog III

I keep a folder of quotes that I like to use in my sidebar, but I come across them more frequently than I can use them, and some just never really fit where I am when I update. So here’s a whole bunch of them I haven’t used.

“I’m not writing it down to remember it later. I’m writing it down to remember it now.” — Field Notes

“And the God of all grace, after you have suffered a little while, will himself perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” — 1 Peter 5:10

“‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.'” — C.S. Lewis

“To the world you might be just one person. But to one person, you might just be the world.” — Unknown

“It’s no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.” — Gal 2:20 (MSG)

“There is wonderful freedom and joy in coming to recognize that the fun is in the becoming.” — Gloria Gaither

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” — Phil Cooke

“Prayer is what happens for people who realize that God is Dad.” — Mark Driscoll

“The fewer the words, the better the prayer.” — Martin Luther

“Say that you are well and all is well with you, and God will hear your words and make them true.” — Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“It is a remarkable thing that some of the most optimistic and enthusiastic people you will meet are those who have been through intense suffering.” — Warren Wiersbe

“Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.” — Francis Bacon

“God is painting with thousands and thousands of colors and shades and textures a picture we call history.” — John Piper

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – Albus Dumbledore

“I love her and that’s the beginning of everything.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell, spirituality is for those who have been there.” — Clarissa Dickson Wright

“We can awesome! And we can sexy!” — Ryan North

“As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors.” — Rhys Alexander

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” — Gloria Steinem

“Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.” — Oscar Wilde

Don’t Cry

I got this poster in e-mail today. I don’t know where it came from originally, but I rather love it.

We Are Marshall

Yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Specifically, yesterday marked 50 years since President Eisenhower came to Huntsville to dedicate the new center, which brought elements of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency based at Redstone Arsenal under the auspices of the then-two-year-old National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The center’s first director was the ABMA’s German genius, Wernher von Braun.

In his comments on that day, Eisenhower recognized the ABMA’s work on the Redstone and Jupiter rockets and Explorer 1 satellite, and the already ongoing work on the Saturn architecture. (“No doubt this mighty rocket system makes its presence known loudly — possibly too loudly — in Huntsville.”)

Eisenhower went on to say:

Marvel as we will these technical achievements, we must not overlook this truth:

All that we have already accomplished, and all in the future that we shall achieve, is the outgrowth not of a soulless, barren technology, nor of a grasping state imperialism. Rather, it is the product of unrestrained human talent and energy restlessly probing for the betterment of humanity. We are propelled in these efforts by ingenuity and industry — by courage to overcome disappointment and failure — by free-ranging imagination — by insistence upon excellence — with none of this imposed by fiat, none of it ordered by a domineering bureaucracy. In this fact is proof once again that hard work, toughness of spirit, and self-reliant enterprise are not mere catchwords of an era dead and gone. They remain the imperatives for the fulfillment of America’s dream.

Not pushbuttons nor electronic devices, therefore, but superlative human qualities have brought success and fame to this place.

There are far more famous words that the agency has been charged with over the decades, but we would do well not to forget these that Eisenhower shared with this center. I hope that, fifty years later, we continue to live up to them. I feel like we do. I hope that I continue to live up to them.

Yesterday was a proud day for me. As Marshall marked 50 years of existence, I have been a tiny part of the Marshall team for eight, about a sixth of the time it’s been around. A minority, to be sure, but a measurable minority. And that’s a huge honor and privilege for me, to have worked at this storied institution for so long and to have seen so much of its history. Marshall continues to do amazing things, and his poised to do unprecedented things again. And I get to watch from the front row, and chronicle those things for those who will continue that work in years to come.

Like I said, an honor.

The picture above was taken to celebrate the occasion. Can you find me?

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Quote Backlog

I keep a folder of quotes that I like to use in my sidebar, but I come across them more frequently than I can use them, and some just never really fit where I am when I update. So here’s a whole bunch of them I haven’t used.

“Life is rarely about what happened; it’s mostly about what we think happened.” — Chuck Klosterman

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” — Henry David Thoreau

“I’m not perfect, but you should’ve waited. I’m worth it.” — Lee Christmas, “The Expendables”

“Only a growing man can help other people grow. Therefore the first qualification for leadership is not having arrived.” — @immanuelnash

“You often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.” — The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

“There are honest people in the world, but only because the devil considers their asking prices ridiculous.” — A Fine And Private Place by Peter S. Beagle

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”
— The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.

“The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.” — A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” — Henry Ward Beecher

“The secret of patience is to do something else in the meantime.” — Anonymous

“You let your past destroy you, or you use it to create something better” — Tyler Perry

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” — Malcolm Forbes

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” — Confucius

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be.” — Douglas Adams

“Life is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be.” — Jose Ortega y Gasset

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” ― Zelda Fitzgerald

“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson

“If He who in Himself can lack nothing, chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed.” — C.S.Lewis

“Loving someone does not simply mean doing things for them; it is much more profound… To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth and their importance; it is to understand them.” -– Jean Vanier

“Every breath is a second chance.” — Switchfoot

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” -– Confucius

“The most important time in your life was the time you spent with these people. That’s why you all are here.” — Christian Shepherd, “LOST”

“Life is too short for drama and petty things, So kiss slowly, Laugh insanely, Love truly, And forgive quickly.” — Anonymous

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable.” — C.S. Lewis

“It’s your fault; I just wanted to say I’m sorry.” — James Rhodes, “Iron Man”

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” — Mother Theresa

American Gods

I just finished reading American Gods as part of the One Book, One Twitter project that Heather told me about. I did a rather poor job of it, not staying at all on schedule and not following any of the online discussions, but I did, in fact, finish the book.

Since I don’t know whether anyone who reads this has read it, is reading it, will read it, etc., I won’t get into much about the book, but there were two passages that I wanted to share that should be sort of non-spoilery.

The first, the “‘I Believe’ Speech” is probably, looking online, the stand-out passage from the book — you can even buy it on a t-shirt. I don’t necessarily agree with it all, obviously, (I’ll let you guess which parts I do) but it is good reading.

“I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen–I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones who look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass.

I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of The Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies too. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

I managed to find the other passage online as well, but it’s far less commonly posted. It’s one of the characters talking about what it means to be a god.

“You got to understand the god thing. It’s not magic. It’s about being you, but the you that people believe in. It’s about being the concentrated, magnified essence of you. It’s about becoming thunder, or the power of a moving horse, or wisdom. You take all the belief and become bigger, cooler, more than human. You crystallize.”

The person who I copied the text from used it as part of a post about love and attraction. And, yeah, that’s a good application of it. In fact, it’s kind of where I was going with it, if via a different route. In the book, the character saying it is talking about being a god. But, to some extent, I don’t know that his reference to “the God thing” doesn’t work in a worship context as well. I talked with a friend of mine this week about the fact that I think the thing God values most about us is not what we do, but who we are.

I wonder if we shouldn’t seek that, to find our “concentrated, magnified essence” of who He made us to be.

Godspeed, Atlantis

The flagpoles in the picture above are outside of the Payload Operations Control Center at Marshall Space Flight Center. There’s a row of several flagpoles — flying the U.S. flag, the NASA flag, the space station flag, flags for NASA’s international partner agencies. And then, there’s the flagpole at the end.

After I’d been working here for half a year, the flagpole on the end sat empty for two and a half years. Each of the orbiters has a flag, and the flagpole is used only to fly those flags when an orbiter is in space. Right now, the Atlantis flag is flying on the flagpole on the end.

Just days from now, that flag will be taken down. And will never fly again.

I’ve been debating what to say in this blog post. I watched the launch Friday, and wanted to write about it. But doing so requires addressing the elephant in the room. This is the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis. Or, it’s not. There’s still talk of another flight of Atlantis next June, but the decision won’t be made until next month, after the current flight is over. Too late to pay respects to Atlantis timely to her last mission, if that’s what STS-132 is.

And doing it now is just being honest. When I watched Atlantis launch on Friday, it was very much on my mind that it could be for the last time.

Launch was an interesting experience. I went down and watched the last two in person, and had thought I might finish out the program that way. But my brother’s graduation precluded a Florida trip this past weekend, so I watched from work. And I was glad that’s how it worked out.

Seeing a launch in person is an amazing experience, and I recommend everyone go down for one of the last two (or three). But the way I saw it Friday really wasn’t so much a better or worse thing as an entirely different thing. Watching it on a big screen meant that you get to see detail that you just don’t from the Causeway at Kennedy. But the best part was watching it in a roomful of Marshall team members. For many of these people, this is their life’s work. It’s not simply powerful, it’s personal. And it’s an honor stand amongst them for that moment. I’ve said it before, but it’s a huge huge privilege to be even a tiny tiny part of this team. I’m blessed.

And it was a beautiful launch.

But the thing that made the biggest impression was just a tiny detail. They had small versions of the Atlantis flag decorating the tables. And those flags bear a weird association for me — my friend and coworker Heather received a flown Endeavour flag for a story she did about the student contest that named that orbiter. Since, obviously, Endeavour didn’t have a name when the naming contest started, it was the OV-105 naming project, referring to the Orbiter Vehicle designation. As a result, even though the flags have the names on them, when I see them, the number pops into my head instead. I see the flag at the top, and think not Atlantis, but OV-104.

I did a quick mental calculation — is that right? 104? Yeah, ’cause OV-103 is Discovery, and OV-102 is …

OV-102. That designation was used a lot seven years ago, after she was lost on re-entry over Texas. A good bit of the official investigation work referred to her by that officlal designation, instead of the better known name, Columbia.

OV-102 didn’t get to retire. Her career ended tragically and abruptly on February 1, 2003. And she wasn’t the first. OV-099 met an untimely end as well, on January 28, 1986.

Each of those flew for a last time. Not by choice, not in the way anyone would have wanted or dreamed. But utterly final nonetheless. And in the line of duty, doing what they were built for.

If STS-132 is in fact Atlantis’ last mission, she will be only the third orbiter to have a final flight. And unlike her sisters, it will be planned, it will be because she survived until the end.

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Godspeed, Atlantis! Come home to us safely. As sad as it is to see your career come to an end, it is a far, far better rest that you go to than you have ever known.

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.”


I had a picture I submitted posted today on the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks! Yay, me!

I feel a little bad, ’cause it makes fun of a sign at a local restaurant, and I love love the place. No offense, guys!

It’s my first time, I think, having a submission picked and posted like that. The second closest I’ve come is a picture I took that was used at Apostrophe Abuse, but my coworker Heather actually sent it in.

I’ve submitted a couple of entries to Overheard Everywhere, but neither of them has been used:

One was heard outside the New York, New York casino in Vegas: “I feel like we’re at home, except it doesn’t smell as bad.”

And the other was from a cute little elementary-school age girl at Six Flags, explaining earnestly: “A false alarm is when you don’t get a baby.”

Never Quite As It Seems

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 “Your Dreams.”

“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a
king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams.”
— Hamlet, Act II, scene ii

Ironically, I’ve kind of already dealt with this week’s topic this week. My formspring.me question about where I will be 10 years from now that I wrote about on here a couple of days ago sort of speaks to my dreams for the future. And it even occurred to me before I wrote yesterday’s Bucket List post that really I could just slap the Reconstruction header on the top of the post and call the week done.

But that would have been cheating, huh?

Since those basically took apart the issue of my figurative dreams, my dreams for the future, I guess that leaves me with dealing with literal sleeping dreams for this post.

Actually, I could, theoretically, talk about another type of dream, prophetic dreams. Not that long ago, I don’t know that I really believed that they still happened, but I’ve come around since then. However, it’s not something I have personal experience with, so it doesn’t really fit the topic of “my dreams.”

I could talk about the only real recurring dream I remember having, one that I had for years after moving back to Huntsville on a pretty regular basis, and which I still have on rare occassions.

In the dream, I would decide that I was supposed to be a newspaperman. I used to believe this firmly, back when I still worked in journalism — that the ink in my blood was more than just a career choice, but an integral part of my nature, of “who I am.” In the dreams, I would decide that working at my current job was a betrayal of that, a betrayal of myself, and I would go back to Mississippi to my last newspaper job.

Sometimes, in the dream, I didn’t even make it through the first day back before I realized I’d made a huge mistake. Sometimes, in a different variation, I made it overnight before realizing that. Fortunately, in the dream, I’d never actually quit my current job, I’d just gone back to newspaperering, so I would always just come back to this job after missing a day or so of work with no one the wiser.

Leaving newspapers was hard, and it was a decision that I second-guessed for a while. The dream was a real comfort during that time, it gave me some reassurance that I’d made the right decision; I suspect how I felt in the dream was very much how I would have felt in reality.

Beyond that, the only thing I would add, kind of along the lines of the quote I used in the beginning, is that it’s been interesting over the past few years how the idea of good dreams and bad dreams has changed.

As a kid, it’s easy. A happy dream is a good dream. A scary or sad dream is a bad dream. As I get older, that becomes less and less true. Today, what used to be a “bad dream” doesn’t really bother me. I have nightmares on very rare occassions, and, when I do, OK. I have them, they play out, and they end or I wake up. And it’s done. It’s behind me.

Today, it’s the “good dreams” that bother me more. It’s the dreams of a happiness that’s passed, or that never was, or shouldn’t or couldn’t be, that are the worst. It’s dreaming of a reality that you wish was, only to wake and realize that it was only a dream that’s hard. Waking from a nightmare to a reality that’s better than your dream is always a relief. Waking from a dream that’s better than reality can be a little harder to swallow.

But, ultimately, some dreams come true. Some don’t. You sleep, you dream, you wake. You live your day, and dreams come true, or they don’t. The day is better than you dreamed, or it’s not. And at the end of the day, you sleep again. And dream some more.