reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

Month: January 2016

New Wall Hangings for a New Year

Busy as I am, I’ve left the walls in my office pretty bare since we moved into the house over a year and a half ago. It’s been on my mind to put up some pictures that would help set the right mood and motivate and inspire me to strive for great things, and I’m happy that I made the time over Christmas vacation to do exactly that. It’s not The Stratosphere Lounge, but it’s starting to shape up into my own little slice of aviation-lover’s Heaven.

I went with mostly black-and-white — partly for look but largely because of the nature of the subject matter. There are some truly great historic photos available in high resolution at NASA’s “GRIN” archives, and I put four that I’ve treasured for years on my main wall — a Saturn V in the Vehicle Assembly Building, D-558 and X-2 supersonic test craft being dropped from their respective motherships (a B-29 and a B-50), and an absolutely priceless, magnificent shot of Joe Walker climbing into the X-1A that radiates irrepressible, gloom-shattering joy.

Framed photos of X-2 drop, and Joe Walker with X-1A

Framed pictures of D-558-2 and Saturn V

From other sources, I added a Falcon 9 night launch photo, and a really neat and captivating picture of the beautifully oddball Convair B-36, with contrails streaming from its six rear-facing prop engines over a dark sky:

Framed photos of a Falcon 9 launch, and a Convair B-36 in flight

Two of my favorites, souvenirs of a Bill Whittle tour of The Lost Future, await me right by the office door — purposefully reminding me, in concert with the others, of what we’re capable of achieving when we put smarts, determination, and backbone into it.

Framed photos of from the NERVA project

I also made a dedicated corner for my SR-71 pics, which to my eternal delight include signed postcards by legendary Blackbird pilot and photographer Brian Shul, who I greatly enjoyed the privilege of meeting when he spoke at the Hiller Aviation Museum.

Framed pictures of SR-71 Blackbirds

I’ve got wall space for more, but I’d say that’s a pretty good and satisfying start. Surrounding myself with this caliber of Awesome, the hope is that at least some of it is bound to rub off.

2016 Plans

I aim pretty high, and expect a lot of myself. As a result, when it comes time to look back on a year, I rarely feel as if I’ve managed to accomplish much of what I ambitiously hoped to get done. But I’ve found if I can at least consistently keep my focus on my most important projects and goals, and devote my best efforts to achieving them while keeping less important distractions from getting in the way, I can feel pretty good about what I’ve done. 2015 fits that description for me: I did about the best I could manage to, amid many competing priorities, while relentlessly striving to do better. In short, I’m largely happy with where I invested my time and energy, even as I continue to seek ways to produce more of the results I’m after.

“The Way Out” marked a significant pivot in my thinking, and has become a series I revisit when in need of perspective. I mean to make it a priority to continue that work and line of thinking into 2016.

I also mean to make 2016 the year The No Fear Pioneer springs back to life with a substantial number of new episodes. I’ve been enthusiastically jotting down notes about ideas I want to get to, and am really looking forward to developing them into new installments.

Lastly, my intent going into 2016 is to approach things with a sense of gratitude. It’s too easy to dwell on all that’s worrisome or going badly today, and in the course of doing so to overlook the precious gift that reveals it by comparison: to have known something better. I mean for my attitude to be one of gratitude, animated by love of the beauty and goodness I have seen, and am thankful to have witnessed and experienced — traces of the past that give me reason to be confident a better future is possible. We still have the recipe. A suitable time, place, and people are all that’s needed for it to work its wonders again.

© 2005-2021 Troy N. Stephens

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