Three Belief Stories

Three narratives of faith that recently caught my attention:

On Fear and Identity. I like Jason’s unique visualization of “Christ lighting the city” as a response to spiritual despair, a redemptive journey geographically superimposed over one’s soul, something akin to prayer-walking.

I Used to Believe Better. From Aaron J. Smith, aka “Cultural Savage.” This is where I’ve often found myself, wondering how I ended up in a nominal state of jaded doubt — I recover daily, but it’s much harder for someone with depression to deal with the climb out of that pit.

Why I’m Coming Out as a Christian. From Ana Marie Cox, once founder of Wonkette. She’s not so much concerned with the predictable reactions of nonbelievers as with the outrage of fellow Christians who cannot countenance that a snarky liberal woman could be a sister in Christ. As a fellow liberal Protestant egalitarian, I countenance this wholeheartedly.

RadioShack Bankruptcy

Shortly after RadioShack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, stores near us closed down and emptied out.

Empty Radio Shack store

Good time to read Jon Bois’s stories on working for RadioShack through the course of its decline:

Older article of interest from a former employee: 6 Confessions Of A Former RadioShack Employee (2008) — and a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread by an employee as of three months ago.

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Leonard Nimoy has died.

When I was an introverted and emotionally befuddled third-culture kid who struggled daily with feelings of isolation and alienation while growing up, Star Trek and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock reached me in my confused youth, in ways that gave me comfort, confidence, and hope that I had a place in the world — a place that would involve space, science, and computers. I’m me today because of that, and today is the future in part thanks to him.

Goodbye, Leonard Nimoy, and live long and prosper.

Snows of February

February delivered some good snow towards the end of a mostly uneventful winter; still nowhere as close to previous February snowmageddons and snowpocalypses, but enough to close schools for a few days and make the general landscape look mildly Arctic.

Snowy Merrifield Pano
Snowy townhouses Parked by a snow drift at sunset #snow

Walking around DC on a Sunday morning after the snowstorm was especially fun since most businesses didn’t bother to shovel or treat their sidewalks till later in the day.

Slushy DC sidewalks, K St NW
Slushy DC sidewalks, 17th St NW

And here’s a snowy selfie.

Snowy selfie

(Yes, I know, I need a haircut, but while it’s still cold I don’t mind looking like a disheveled hippie if the extra layer of hair keeps me warm.)

Pictures of the Sky

On our flights between O’Hare and Narita I’d hoped to get something like Alessandro Merga’s view of the Milky Way, but my plane window long exposures turned out sadly less impressive. I did catch some faint auroras on the westbound flight, though.

Aurora long exposure attempt Plane Window Long Exposure Attempt

The night sky in Puerto Galera, Philippines was mostly cloudy, but the one clear night we had made for some good star photography, stymied just a bit by a full moon and bright resort lights.

Night Sky over Puerto Galera

On January 10th I was able to capture Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2), visible as a fuzzy green smear just barely shining through DC area light pollution.

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) — cropped detail

A week later I captured Venus and Mercury in the winter twilight. I’d never actually seen the planet Mercury before; it was much fainter than I had expected.

Venus and Mercury

All photos shot with a first-gen Sony NEX3.

2014 in Review

Most notable thing about last year was @PicPedant, my half-humorous Twitter image-debunking account which somehow got so popular that I made the news.

My grandmother died.

I got a Google Glass.

Travel-wise, I went to Florida to visit the Space Coast and hang out in Orlando with my parents. We went to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Visited Chincoteague, twice. Visited Shenandoah, twice. Rode coasters at Hersheypark and Kings Dominion. We finally got to see the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center, which we’d been meaning to do since we moved out to the county in 2009. At the end of the year we went to the Philippines to spend the holidays with my family.

In space, ESA’s Philae landed on a comet, EFT-1 launched and returned successfully, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo was destroyed, killing a pilot, and Orbital’s Antares blew up, losing an ISS cargo capsule.

Work has been sending me to NASA HQ a lot; I take photos.

Best selfie of 2014:

Antennae (standing in front of a metro station pillar)

(You know, when I wrote 2009 in Review, I said I would start cleaning up and backtagging old entries. Six years later, I still haven’t. Sorry.)

MNL-NRT-ORD-DCA

ANA 767-300 JA624A at MNL ANA 777-300ER at NRT

The return trip was much less grueling than the flight over: no overnight airport transfers in Japan this time around — though Chicago O’Hare was a pain to transit through, what with the standard bag re-check and a broken airport tram that forced us into a taxi for a terminal transfer.

Continue reading MNL-NRT-ORD-DCA

Christmas 2014 and New Year 2015

Already knew it was going to be a great Christmas Day from the Manila Bulletin headline.

In the Philippines, that's the Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Dad at Christmas brunch with grandson (my nephew), and sister-in-law after jubilantly gifting my brother with a GoPro:

Dad and Lukas Francis and Ayna

Toddler nephew also played around with my DSLR and managed to snap a decent photo of Amy. Then I pointed the DSLR at my other nephew Uno and said “DON’T SMILE”:

Photo of Amy taken by Nephew Lukas with Sony NEX3 Uno

So Merry Christmas, here was our tree:

Christmas Tree

Next day we packed up and headed south to Puerto Galera by banca.

Banca out of Berberabe, Batangas Cloudy sunset from banca en route to Puerto Galera, Mindoro #philippines

We stayed in the dive resort town of Sabang rather than the somewhat less quiet Puerto Galera town proper. Much scuba diving was done.

Sabang, Mindoro at low tide Puerto Galera, Mindoro #philippines

I’m not a huge fan of the Philippines’s New Year firecracker culture, but some of the resorts had nice fireworks. (Not pictured: drunken fistfight that broke out on beach in front of our resort.)

New Year's Eve Fireworks

We had a couple days back in Metro Manila after the Puerto Galera dive trip, mostly spent packing for the flight home to DC. Lovely views of Manila right up to the Bay from our hotel room.

Greenhills and Metro Manila panorama
Manila Skyline: Light and Shadow

It was really nice to come back and reconnect with family after a few missed years. Full holiday photo album here.