Family Category

Paul Gray, RIP

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Paul_Gray-MIT.jpgPaul Gray, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1980 to 1990 and the man who handed me my college diploma, died today at the age of 85. Gray was the last true MIT nerd to hold the post, possibly the last who ever will. In his years in the MIT administration, Gray managed to improve the undergraduate experience and broaden the base of potential MIT students while preserving the school's distinctive ethos that he had known since his undergraduate days.

In the 2008 Infinite History interview with Paul Gray tells his life story in his own words (the link leads to a transcript), and what follows is a summary and excerpts that I found interesting.

Gray, the son of an electrical utility technician, started experimenting with electricity and magnetism as a first grader, began building and repairing radios with vacuum tubes at the age of 10, and became an amateur radio operator in high school, building his own equipment. Accepted to RPI, Yale, and MIT, Gray signed up for MIT at the urging of his high school English teacher:

GRAY: ... I was admitted to all three. But MIT was the only one that didn't offer me any money. The other two made it quite easy to go. And I was about to go to Yale, which it offered the most, when I had a conversation with really my first mentor besides my family. And that was my English teacher in high school: had her for four years. Emily Morford. M-O-R-F-O-R-D. And I told her-- she knew where I'd applied, she wrote a reference-- and I told her what my tentative decision was and she took me to the woodshed. And she said, "You can't do that. If you have a chance to go to MIT that's where you should go. It's the best place to study engineering."

INTERVIEWER: Now wait a minute, this is the English teacher telling you?

GRAY: The English teacher, English teacher. Who lived long enough to see me elected president here. What, 1950 to 1980, 30 years later. She couldn't come to the inauguration. She was in her 90s and lived in Florida, but she knew about it. She had been an important-- she was perhaps the teacher in high school that I remember the most. And that includes chemistry and physics and biology and mathematics. And it was her influence that pushed me the other way. I went back and the family said, "Well we can manage that. Do it." So that's how it happened.

I can't resist quoting what Gray said about how he learned to write and the disconnect between SAT scores and actual verbal skills:

GRAY: ... I've always enjoyed writing and do a lot of it. And maybe that's part of it because she taught writing, she taught the English language, the way it should have been taught. You know we diagrammed sentences, we worked on paragraph structure, the whole nine yards. And I came out of high school I think being a pretty good writer. And it paid off in later years here, still pays off.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think many MIT students can diagram a sentence today?

GRAY: No, too many of them can't really create a sensible sentence, let alone a paragraph. It's astonishing to me. I mean MIT students come here with an average verbal school of something like 750. But still most of them are abominable writers. Not all-- I mean, some are very skillful. Some have learned the craft. But a great many of them come here needing a boost in their writing, which they get.

Gray was the last of a series of five presidents with connections to the Institute prior to taking office, and one of three who had attended the university as undergraduates. Gray's two immediate successors had no prior connection to the Institute; the current president, L. Rafael Reif, joined the MIT electrical engineering faculty in 1980 and has been at MIT ever since.

As an undergraduate, Gray found a home away from home and lifelong friends in an MIT fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa:

During the summer, in those days, freshmen got visited by fraternity students because when you arrived here, you had to make a choice between whether you were going to live in a dormitory or live in a fraternity, pledge a fraternity. And I had a visit that summer from two students, both of them living in New Jersey, and I said, "No, I'm not going to rush week. I'm going to live in the dormitory." I already had an assignment in East campus which was then all single rooms. And I lived there through, about through Thanksgiving, but found it was intensely lonely, partly because all the folks around me in that dormitory were GIs who had come back from World War II. You know, the largest class ever to graduate from MIT was the class of 1950, because it swept up all the guys who had had their education interrupted in the early '40s. And the GIs who returned were very single-minded about their studies. They were not involved in any social life or other activities that eighteen-year-olds would be involved in. And I just felt isolated.

So as it happened, the two students who had visited me in the summer showed up again one evening and visited me at the dormitory and said, "Why don't you come over and have dinner?" Well I did. And that opened my eyes to a very different style of living at MIT. To live with 28 other people in a four-story house on Commonwealth Avenue. And so I moved into the house in December and lived there for the next three-plus years. Three-and-a-half-plus years. And that was also an important learning and living experience for me because I was an only child. I had only two cousins, one on each side of the family, saw them seldom and really had grown up without-- had neighborhood friends, to be sure, but their interests were different from mine-- had never had an association with other people my age whose interests overlapped with mine. And I had a role there eventually in governance of the place, as well as most people did, and it was a great experience....

The living members of my pledge class, of which there are about five or six, we get together every September for a clam bake at one or another's house. This year it's at our place.

Gray received his S. B. in Electrical Engineering in 1954, his S. M. the following year, and then decided he'd "had it" and was leaving MIT, never to return.

After two years in military service, which involved teaching GIs in the use and maintenance of listening devices, Gray came back to MIT in 1957 and received his Sc. D. in 1960. Gray's doctoral research involved developing compound semiconductor materials for new applications, in which he had to develop the techniques to make the materials himself in an induction furnace: "Nobody to teach me the techniques, to how to do this in a way that would produce crystalline materials. It was a real challenge."

During his military service and doctoral studies, Gray discovered that he loved teaching. As a new faculty member, Gray became a leader in redirecting the electrical engineering curriculum from vacuum tubes to semiconductors. In the late 1960s, Gray was asked to move into higher positions of administrative leadership, serving as an associate dean of student affairs, associate provost, and dean of engineering. When Jerry Wiesner became MIT president, he asked Gray to become his deputy as chancellor of the Institute.

I'll let you read for yourselves Gray's role in the creation of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and his description of the pragmatic and peaceful process that led MIT to reach out deliberately to encourage members of minority groups and women to apply. (Prior to 1968, MIT did no recruiting at all and accepted about 25% of applicants.) I'll close by focusing on a couple of anecdotes that epitomize Gray's leadership as president.

In the fall of 1982, MIT's chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) planted and inflated a weather balloon marked MIT in the middle of Harvard Stadium during the Harvard-Yale game, a stunt regarded as the greatest hack in MIT's history:


Dear Derek,

Word has come to me that your campus police are holding some property which rightfully should be located in the MIT Museum. Can this be true?

Surely you have little use for a makeshift device constructed from vacuum cleaner parts, points from a 1967 Mustang, and a handful of marbles. We, however, being the sentimental sort, would take great care of -- indeed, we would enshrine -- this symbolic highlight of the 1982 football season.

Please give it back.

Sincerely yours,
Paul E. Gray

A few years later, enrollment in Course VI, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as the first generation of students who had begun working with computers in high school arrived on campus. MIT had always allowed students to choose a major without jumping through any additional hoops, but the crowding in Course VI led to talk of entrance restrictions. The crunch led Gray back to the classroom to "shame [his] colleagues":

In the middle 80s, the enrollment in electrical engineering and computer science was exploding. And it started out the decade at about 200 per class, 200, 250 per class. And by 1985 it was up to 350. And there was concern that if the trend line continued, it was going to go past 400. It was more than the department could staff and manage. And what's more it beggared all the other departments, who said, "Where are my students? They're all in EE!"

And the department at that point was desperate to get more people to teach sections. And a number of folks who were faculty members of EECS, but were also laboratory heads, were saying, "Gee, I just don't have time for that." So, I figured if I showed up and taught two sections for a couple of semesters, some other people might catch on. And they did. It made some difference.

The trend line began to turn as other departments began to offer classes in computer programming, as applied to each discipline. "That drained off some of the students that otherwise would have thought they had to be in Course VI in order to learn to be computer scientists."

Those of us who were at MIT in the 1980s were blessed to be there under a leader who remembered what it was like to be in our shoes, who understood the value of the residential community (be it fraternity, independent living group, or dorm entry) as home-away-from-home, and who, without embracing political correctness or institutional fascism, navigated societal change with MIT engineering pragmatism. May his memory be a blessing.

David Marshall Rollo, a leader in Tulsa choral music for over a half-century, a friend and mentor to many, passed away on April 25, 2017, at the age of 74, of complications from pneumonia. I was blessed to know David for 40 years as his student at Holland Hall, as a singer under his direction at Coventry Chorale, and as a friend.


David will be remembered by family and friends this Saturday, June 24, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati, in downtown Tulsa. David's former students at Holland Hall will perform de Victoria's O Magnum Mysterium during the prelude to the service, at approximately 10:45 am. During the service, the Trinity Choir will perform "The Lord Is My Shepherd," the setting of Psalm 23 by the late Trinity choirmaster and organist Thomas Matthews. (Holland Hall alumni wishing to sing O Magnum Mysterium during the prelude are requested to arrive at the Trinity choir room (in the basement) by 10:15 to rehearse. The Trinity choir will rehearse at 10.)

David_Rollo-HH_Early.jpgA Cleveland native, David came to the University of Tulsa for college, earning a bachelor's and master's degrees in vocal performance, under the direction of the legendary Arthur Hestwood. David toured for a year with Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians. In 1967, he joined the faculty of Holland Hall, serving as vocal music instructor, chairman of the fine arts department, and director of student activities, retiring in 1996. He also served for a time as director of the Tulsa Community Chorus at Tulsa Junior College. In 1982, David founded Coventry Chorale, a mixed-voice chorus performing classical and sacred music, serving as its artistic director and conductor until the Chorale's final concert in 2005. In the 1970s, David was choir director at Christ United Methodist Church; he joined the choir of Trinity Episcopal Church in 1980 and remained a Trinity parishoner from that point onward. David recorded two albums with his choirs: Holland Hall Concert Chorus, Standing Ovation, 1977; Coventry Chorale, The Lord Is My Shepherd: A Tribute to Thomas Matthews, 2002.

I first encountered Mr. Rollo as a freshman, a mediocre alto saxophonist in Holland Hall's then-tiny instrumental music ensemble, and then as a sophomore in his music theory class. His office, right next to the Commons, was a favorite hangout for many students, particularly those involved in music. Sometime during my sophomore year, I went to see his office to see him about tickets for the school musical. He complimented my speaking voice and asked if I'd ever thought about trying out for Concert Chorus. I hadn't, but at his encouragement, I did, and I made the cut. The following year I made it into the school's twelve-voice Madrigal Singers.

David Rollo believed that high school students were capable of singing great music beautifully, and under his tutelage we sang Mozart's "Sparrow Mass," settings of Te Deum by Mozart and Haydn, Mendelssohn's "O for the Wings of a Dove," Bach's Cantata BWV 159, Benjamin Britten's setting of Hodie Christus Natus Est, Randall Thompson's "Last Words of David" and "Frostiana," English and French and Italian madrigals, and, of course, the anthems of Trinity organist and choirmaster Thomas Matthews. We did popular and modern music, too. We sang a fall concert (popular) and a spring concert (classical), at Lessons and Carols, and out in the community -- for example, at St. Aidan's for the ordination of the school's chaplain, Father Ibn Masud Syedullah, which gave us an introduction to Anglican chant. Is there any Tulsa high school today, public or private, singing the challenging repertoire that David Rollo taught his students?

There may have been a few students in the chorus that had personal vocal training, but for most of us what we learned about singing, David Rollo taught us during our hour-long rehearsal every other day. He taught us to enunciate, to use our diaphragms, to produce head tones and sing without vibrato.

David opened nearly every Holland Hall Concert Chorus rehearsal with O Magnum Mysterium, a polyphonic setting of a Christmas responsorial chant by 16th century Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria. The song was always a part of Holland Hall's annual service of Lessons and Carols at Trinity, but during rehearsals David used O Magnum to teach us to tune our notes, to listen to one another, to blend our voices, and to taper every phrase. He would often have us mix ourselves, so that no one was standing next to anyone singing the same part. Here is a recording of the piece by the 1977 edition of the Holland Hall Concert Chorus, conducted by David Rollo:

After high school graduation, I sang for Mr. Rollo in the Tulsa Junior College Community Chorus. I remember a Fourth of July concert on the west bank of the river, performing Peter J. Wilhousky's arrangement of "Battle Hymn of the Republic." I found a news article from 1993 saying that David had served as an adjunct instructor at TJC for 48 semesters.

After college, my wife and I joined Coventry Chorale. David stretched the abilities of this amateur group with Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil (a cappella and in Russian), requiem masses by Mozart, Fauré, Duruflé, and Saint-Saëns; Puccini's Messa di Gloria; and works by modern Oklahoma composers such as TU Professor Joseph Rivers ("Tempests Round Us Gather"), Louis Ballard ("The Gods Will Hear"), and Thomas Matthews. Although Trinity was home, Coventry performed at Episcopal churches in Ponca City, Ada, Pryor, and Okmulgee, at OK Mozart, a concert of Gilded Age music connected with an exhibition at Philbrook, for the centennial celebrations of Holy Family Cathedral, and newly-composed Shabbat service music at Temple Israel.

One of my favorite concerts to sing involved a series of a cappella Anglican anthems that David had selected from renaissance composers like Thomas Tallis and William Byrd and settings of old songs by 20th century composers ("Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" by Elizabeth Poston, "Faire Is the Heaven" by William Henry Harris).

On September 11, 2002, David organized and led Tulsa's participation in the Rolling Requiem, a worldwide memorial for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, beginning in each time zone around the world at 9:46 am local time, circling the globe with Mozart's "Requiem." Over a thousand people crowded into Trinity for the service. The following year Faure's Requiem was performed, and the tradition continued for some years after for Trinity's annual 9/11 remembrance.

It was through David that my wife and I became acquainted with Tulsa Boy Singers, and years later our sons would get their start in musical education and performance with TBS, providing a solid foundation for their involvement in instrumental music.

David was deeply involved in the life of Trinity Episcopal Church. He was a longtime choir member, served as vestryman and headed the liturgy and worship committee, and in later years served at the church's reception desk during the week. For a few years, I had the joy of singing alongside David, at his invitation, as one of the Wise Men at Trinity's Epiphany procession, singing the Willcocks/Rutter Matin Responsory ("I Look from Afar").

But it's not enough to talk about David's musical accomplishments. David's genuine warmth and good humor, particularly his love of groan-worthy puns, are an essential part of what made him unforgettable to those who sang for him and caused him to become not merely a teacher and conductor but a genuine friend. If no one else remembered your birthday, you could count on getting a card from David.

David was a prolific communicator, emailing the latest terrible pun or shaggy-dog story to his long list of friends. He was vocal about his political opinions as well, forwarding articles to his friends, and a frequent writer of letters to the editor. From time to time, David would send me a story idea or a comment on my latest article. His political opinions might be classified as common-sense conservative: Supporting the troops and expressions of patriotism, opposing public funding for dams in the Arkansas River, supporting the idea of moving election day to the weekend. Our last email exchange was in mid-April: He wrote, with disdain, about the news that MIT Press was publishing a book called Communism for Kids.

Last fall David wrote some topical limericks that were published in the Tulsa World:

We've gone through election muck,
For 160 days we are stuck
With a mayor whose term
Ends in December, that's firm.
We wish G.T. Bynum good luck!

The Donald (with last name of Trump)
Deserves a good kick in the rump.
For he was recorded
Making comments so sordid.
Now Trump really looks like a chump.

David's friends knew of his health challenges stretching back for over 20 years, the effect, one suspected, of decades of smoking, overeating, living alone, and generally not taking care of his health. He amazed everyone by battling through some ferocious illnesses and was with us longer than we dared hope -- but still gone too soon.

Requiescat in pace, Señor Notas.

ONE MORE THING: Here's a memory of David's ability to think on his feet from that November 1989 concert of American music and Coventry Chorale's performance of Louis Ballard's "The Gods Will Hear." This was a complex piece of music, with multiple rhythms, unusual instrumentation, and many tempo and key changes. The concert was being recorded for later broadcast on KWGS. At one point, David, while conducting, had to play a bullroarer -- a carved piece of wood at the end of a string that makes a load roaring noise when you whirl the rope rapidly in a circle. During a particularly rapid passage, David made a quick page turn and pulled the middle pages right off the staples and off the stand. The chorale tried to continue but soon got lost, sounding like a phonograph winding down when the power is suddenly cut. David cut us off, retrieved the prodigal pages from the floor, told us to go back to a clean starting point a few pages earlier, and counted us in. When I listened to the broadcast several months later, I braced myself in anticipation of the crash, but the edit was seamless.



This Friday, May 26, 2017, at 7:30 pm, the Tulsa Boy SIngers will perform their farewell concert at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th & Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa.

The program includes many classical and popular favorites from over the years: Haydn's Missa Brevis, "Skylark" by Johnny Mercer, Palestrina's Sicut cervus, Franck's "Panis Angelicus," "The Father's Love" by Lole, a medley from the musical Oliver!, and many more selections.

Tulsa Boy Singers was founded in 1948 by George Bowen and was led for decades by Gene Roads. Stephen Tappe succeeded Roads as director, and for the last 12 years or so, Casey Cantwell, choirmaster and organist at Trinity Episcopal Church, has directed TBS. Jackie Boyd Saylor has served as assistant director under Roads, Tappe, and Cantwell, commuting for many years from her home in Ponca City.

I'm very sad that, because of prior commitments I can't change, I won't be able to attend the final performance of an organization that has meant so much to our family. My oldest son joined at the age of nine, starting as a treble and finishing as a low bass. (That's him on the far left of a photo from around 2007). His tenure included TBS's singing tour of Britain in 2007. My youngest began at the age of five in TBS's junior choir but couldn't participate this year because of conflicts with another musical training program. My oldest son's first performance, at Philbrook's Festival of Trees, providentially opened the door to my dad becoming Philbrook's official Santa Claus for many years.

TBS introduced my sons to a high level of rehearsal and ensemble performance and the beauties of classical music and instilled both a solid foundation for musicianship and confidence in public performance. My biggest gripe against TBS is that there hasn't been an choral program for girls as devoted to high standards of repertoire and performance.

Many thanks to Casey and Jackie and the alumni and parents who have sustained TBS for so many years. I hope that many alumni and friends of TBS show up this Friday night to salute their efforts, to enjoy beautiful music in the beautiful Gothic surroundings of Trinity Episcopal Church, and to celebrate what TBS has meant to our community.

Recipe: Texas caviar

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I need to post something every now and then, and this was something I wanted to record. It's a family favorite -- hope you enjoy it, too.

High in fiber and flavor, this is a favorite for eating with tortilla chips, on salad greens, or just straight out of a bowl. The "caviar" consists of beans and other small bits of vegetable, mixed and marinated in a spicy dressing. The recipe makes enough to fill three quart jars.

The substance:

  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can of black-eyed peas (plain, NOT with bacon), rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can of whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped into bean-sized pieces

The dressing:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 15 oz. cans of Ro-Tel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 small bulb of garlic (8-10 cloves), pressed
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Mix the ingredients for the dressing into a bowl. Rinse and drain the beans, then add them to the dressing. Mix thoroughly and chill for a few hours.

The amount of cilantro is an approximation. I usually just take one bunch of cilantro, as sold at the supermarket, pluck the leaves and chop them. That turns out to be pretty close to a cup, and I don't have the bother of transferring tiny moist leaf bits from the chopper to a measuring cup and thence to the bowl, losing some each step of the way as they adhere to the side of each container. Our Kuhn Rikon Pull-and-Chop does a speedy job of mincing the leaves -- six pulls and done. The Brisbane-designed Dreamfarm Garject handles garlic pressing with ease -- no need to peel the cloves, and it's big enough to handle multiple cloves in one go.

For a lower-carb version, substitute a bell pepper for each can of beans/corn. You can also use cut green beans as a can-for-can substitute. You could even just make the dressing and enjoy it as a spicy, no-added-sugar, salad topping.

Other colors of bell pepper can be used, but the green makes a nice contrast to the red tomatoes and yellow corn.

As on the night before this blessed morn, A troop of angels unto shepherds told, Where in a stable He was lowly born, Whom nor the earth, nor heav'n of heav'ns can hold. Thro' Bethlem rung this news at their return; Yea, angels sung that "God with us" was born: And they made mirth because we should not mourn.

His love therefore, oh! let us all confess,
And to the sons of men his works express.

This favour Christ vouchsafed for our sake;
To buy us thrones He in a manger lay;
Our weakness took, that we His strength might take,
And was disrob'd, that He might us array;
Our flesh He wore, our sin to wear away;
Our curse He bore, that we escape it may;
And wept for us that we might sing for aye.

His love therefore, oh! let us all confess,
And to the sons of men his works express.

A hymn on the mystery of the incarnation and Christ's substitutionary work of redemption, by George Wither, a 17th century English satirist and sometime political prisoner. On Christmas eve, we listened to the Trinity Episcopal Church choir sing Wither's verse to Song 46 by Orlando Gibbons (audio here), a tune more famously used as the setting for "Drop, Drop Slow Tears."


The Tulsa Boy Singers will perform their annual holiday concert tonight, Thursday, December 17, 2015, at 7:30 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th & Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. (Park and enter from the south side of the church.) Admission is $10 for adults; no charge for children.

The boys will perform Christmas songs and other seasonal favorites, including:

  • Ave Maria
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Pat-a-pan
  • White Christmas
  • In the Bleak Mid-Winter
  • The very best time of year

Also included will be an organ solo version of the French carol "Bring a torch, Jeanette Isabella" and the American folk carol, "I wonder as I wander" as a piano solo.

I had a sneak preview of some of their music this past Sunday night, when they traveled to Norman to sing in a service of Advent Lessons and Carols at St. Thomas More Parish. Though few in number, the seven trebles did a beautiful job on Bach's "Zion hört die Wächter singen," which they will perform at Thursday's concert, accompanied by Casey Cantwell, TBS director and Trinity choirmaster, on the organ.

These young men are well-trained musicians -- the ribbons they wear indicate levels of achievement in the Royal Society for Church Music's "Voice for Life" training program -- and they produce a clear and straight tone, which resounds throughout Trinity Episcopal Church's beautiful Gothic Revival sanctuary.

A reception with savory and sweet snacks will follow the concert.

As always, boys that might be interested in joining TBS can be auditioned immediately after the concert. Auditions are brief, and no need to prepare -- just a quick test of your ability to match pitch. Both of my sons have benefited greatly from their participation in TBS: Fundamental skills of musicianship, poise and confidence in front of a crowd, following direction and blending your efforts as part of a team, and developing an appreciation for great music.

On board a CRJ-700, the first leg of the trip

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.

And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.

Lod (לוד): Population: 71,060. Election results: Likud 32.77%, Joint Arab List 16.15%, Israel Our Home 10.30%. By group: Nationalist parties 62%, Arab parties 17%, Leftist parties 13%, religious parties 7%.
Beersheba (בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע): Population: 197,270. Election results: Likud 37.69%, Zionist Camp 12.24%, Israel Our Home 12.06%. By group: Nationalist parties 70%, Leftist parties 21%, religious parties 7%, Arab parties 1%.

It doesn't seem to matter how early we start to plan and pack, we can't seem to avoid the last-minute scramble before a trip. The morning of our March 7 departure included a 2 a.m. run to Walgreens for a few items, a visit to the ATM and the post office (to mail some get-well cards), and an unsuccessful attempt at getting the accumulated grit and grime of winter washed off of the car. (March 6 was the first really nice day in weeks, and it seemed like every car wash ran out of soap that day.) I got about a one-hour nap before I got up, got myself ready, then got everyone else up. My mom and dad came by, bringing Whataburger sausage biscuits and coffee and both of their vehicles (the Avalon and the Santamobile) to help get the five of us and all of our stuff to the airport. We weighed bags and rearranged and jettisoned. I shooed everyone out the door and ran through my checklist for closing up the house.

Back from Israel

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By now, the loyal readers that have bothered to hang around will not be surprised by long gaps between blog entries. Work and family obligations have been preempting time and energy to write for publication here or anywhere

The most recent silence was about family, but much more joy than obligation. The whole family spent the last two weeks on a physically and intellectually demanding study tour of Israel, under the auspices of Augustine Christian Academy and the Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation. The itinerary took us from Dan even unto Beersheba, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, from the lowest point on Earth to the foothills of still snowy Mount Hermon. We saw the country at its greenest, with even the desert in bloom, at the tail end of a wet winter and spring, before the withering heat of summer sets in.

The people and places of the Bible were certainly at the center of the tour, but we covered nearly the entire span of recorded human history, from city gates that Abraham likely passed through over 4000 years ago to the present day. I don't know of any spot on the planet quite like Israel, where nearly every great world empire has left its mark -- Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Mecca, the Umayyids, the Abbasids, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, Napoleon, the British. (That's us below, in front of a Roman aqueduct near the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea Maritima.)

Over the course of the tour, I managed to fill a small Moleskine notebook with tiny writing, and the five of us took tens of thousands of photos. Although I'm back at work and back to the old grind, I want to spend some time sorting through the notes and images and memories while they're still fresh. So don't expect to see political posts any time soon.

Bates family in front of Roman aqueduct at Caesarea Maritima, Israel

Tulsa Community College has for several years offered a program to Tulsa County high school graduates called Tulsa Achieves: Free tuition and fees for up to 63 credit hours or three years, which ever comes first. To qualify, you have to have a C average or better in high school and enroll in TCC for the fall after you graduate.

These scholarships are primarily funded by the property taxpayers of Tulsa County and the sales and income taxpayers of Oklahoma out of the TCC budget:

The FY 14 budget includes the following components: approximately 34.4 percent from local appropriations; 32 percent from state appropriations; 31.6 percent from tuition and fees; and 2 percent from grants and other sources.

So the same families that send their young adults to TCC on a Tulsa Achieves scholarship are paying the property taxes (either directly as owners or indirectly as renters) and sales taxes to fund the scholarship. The same board of directors that pays for the scholarships are also in control of institutional costs. If the board were to allow spending to spiral out of control, the same people would have to decide whether to make up the difference by cutting the number or scope of Tulsa Achieves scholarships, raising tuition, or seeking outside funding. Raise tuition or cut scholarships too much, and students drop out. There's no disconnect between funding and spending, and that creates an incentive to keep costs under control.

President Obama has proposed federal funding to cover all community college tuition. I haven't seen a description of the funding formula, but the effect is almost certain to be the same as any situation in which a third party is paying the bill.

Right now TCC tuition plus fees is about $130 per credit hour, not counting flat fees on top of that. 30 credit hours per year is roughly what you'd need to take in order to graduate in two years with an associate's degree. So for the sake of example let's round it off to an even $4000 per academic year in tuition and fees.

So the federal government comes along and says we'll cover community college tuition and fees for qualified high school graduates. TCC would realize that they could phase out the Tulsa Achieves program or end it altogether. They wouldn't lose any students because the net cost to the student will remain the same, but now TCC would have an extra $4000 a year per student to play with. They could raise salaries, increase administrative perks, pay for more conference travel, build fancier facilities.

Then, suppose TCC should raise tuition and fees from $4000 to $5000 -- a 20% jump and far faster than the rate of inflation. A few adult learners may yelp, but not much, since they're only taking a course or two, not a full load. The students who qualify for free tuition from the federal government won't feel it at all. And now TCC would have even more money to spend on salaries, perks, travel, and facilities. They would regard it as "other people's money," even though it's really money ultimately but indirectly coming from Tulsa taxpayers and from the grandchildren who will have to repay the money the feds borrowed to fund "free" community college.

With a federal guarantee of free community college, would there be any pressure on TCC to control costs? No. If the federal government tried to limit reimbursement under the program to the original tuition baseline, there would be protests that the government is going back on its promise of free tuition.

I don't know how many Tulsa Achieves students have attained two-year degrees or gone on to four-year degrees. I don't know how many of those students would not have received a degree without the help of Tulsa Achieves. But I do know that Tulsa County residents are getting more educational opportunity for their tax dollars because the same board that determines the scope and size of the grants also has to account for the cost that those grants have to cover.

MORE: The New York Times' David Brooks points out that retention is a much bigger problem than tuition cost for underprivileged students trying to get an education:

The problem is that getting students to enroll is neither hard nor important. The important task is to help students graduate. Community college drop out rates now hover somewhere between 66 percent and 80 percent.

Spending $60 billion over 10 years to make community college free will do little to reduce that. In the first place, community college is already free for most poor and working-class students who qualify for Pell grants and other aid. In 2012, 38 percent of community-college students had their tuition covered entirely by grant aid and an additional 33 percent had fees of less than $1,000.

The Obama plan would largely be a subsidy for the middle- and upper-middle-class students who are now paying tuition and who could afford to pay it in the years ahead....

In short, you wouldn't write government checks for tuition. You'd strengthen structures around the schools. You'd focus on the lived environment of actual students and create relationships and cushions to help them thrive.

We've had two generations of human capital policies. Human Capital 1.0 was designed to give people access to schools and other facilities. It was based on the 1970s liberal orthodoxy that poor people just need more money, that the government could write checks and mobility will improve.

Human Capital 2.0 is designed to help people not just enroll but to complete school and thrive. Its based on a much more sophisticated understanding of how people actually live, on the importance of social capital, on the difficulty of living in disorganized circumstances. The new research emphasizes noncognitive skills -- motivation, grit and attachment -- and how to use policy levers to boost these things.

The tuition piece of the Obama proposal is Human Capital 1.0. It is locked in 1970s liberal orthodoxy. Congress should take the proposal, scrap it and rededicate the money toward programs that will actually boost completion, that will surround colleges, students and their families with supporting structures. We don't need another program that will lure students into colleges only to have them struggle and drop out.

Brooks mentions several specific challenges:

Community colleges are not sticky places. Many students don't have intimate relationships with anyone who can guide them through the maze of registration, who might help bond them to campus....

A quarter of college students nationwide have dependent children. Even more students at community colleges do. Less than half of community colleges now have any day-care facilities. Many students drop out because something happens at home and there's no one to take care of the kids.

My late mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, saw this need many years ago when she began working with "displaced homemakers" -- women who found themselves suddenly widowed or divorced and in need of a job. She founded the Benton County, Arkansas, Single Parent Scholarship Fund and helped begin similar funds statewide and nationwide. The fund helps with costs beyond tuition -- it may be books, childcare, or car repairs -- anything that might otherwise force a student to drop out. The aid is provided in the context of relationships with mentors and peers. Because the funds are raised and distributed by a private organization, funds are distributed according to compassionate judgment rather than rigid rules. Thousands of students in Benton County have been helped since the program's inception.

Rather than spend money our federal government would have to borrow and establish another federal bureaucracy, it would be better for state and local higher education officials to encourage more of these private scholarship funds to be established.

Edited from the version originally published on December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to anyone who happens by BatesLine today.

As a Holland Hall high school student, I attended and sang in the annual service of Christmas lessons and carols at Trinity Episcopal Church, modeled after the annual Christmas Eve service from the chapel of King's College, Cambridge.

At the beginning of the service, after the processional, Father Ralph Urmson-Taylor would read the bidding prayer. Confessing Evangelical has it as I remember it. It's worth a moment of your time to ponder.

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this our diocese.

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forevermore.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the Throne of Heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us: Our Father, which art in heaven...

(In some versions, the prayer for "all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love" is dropped, perhaps because of political correctness and religious timidity. I was happy to hear those words on today's broadcast from Kings College. Who needs prayer more than those who reject the Way, the Truth, and the Life?)

The phrase "upon another shore, and in a greater light" always gives me goosebumps as I think about friends and family who are no longer with us, but who are now free from pain and delighting in the presence of the Savior they loved so dearly in this life. Especially this year, I think about my mother-in-law, who left us in March 2013 after a two-year battle with cancer and my sister-in-law, who succumbed to cancer this January. As my wife said back on her first Easter without her mom, "For her, it's Easter every day."

I think, too, of others we lost too soon. Steve Arnold was felled by a heart attack less than a month ago. Steve was an early Tulsa blogger, starting a blog called Tulsa Chiggers back in 2006, with a focus on education. In recent years, Steve traveled to Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia with the organization Grace Notes to teach and train Christian pastors and teachers. He was a man of deep convictions and irenic temperament, and it was a blessing to have known him. His family will spend their first Christmas without him, but Steve will spend his first Christmas rejoicing "upon another shore, and in a greater light."

Which brings us to the final verses of the Epiphany hymn, "As with Gladness, Men of Old":

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!


On December 8, 2013, Holland Hall celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Lessons and Carols service, and I was among the alumni privileged to join the Holland Hall Chorus in two of the anthems under the baton of retired director David Rollo and current director Steve Dyer. You can watch the entire Holland Hall 50th Anniversary Lessons and Carols online. Here is a six-minute "trailer" of Lessons and Carols.

If you're reading this on Christmas Eve, you can listen to a replay of the annual Lessons and Carols service from Kings College Cambridge at 10 p.m. Central Time on KWTU 88.7. This year's broadcast will be available for the next four weeks on the BBC website. (Here's a direct link to the WMA stream, courtesy, should you want to use VLC to download for offline listening.)

Michael C. Morgan ponders the meaning of "A Charlie Brown Christmas": "Christmas in a Minor Key."

John Piper explains what Christmas is all about in 115 words:

Christmas means that a king has been born, conceived in the womb of a virgin. And this king will reign over an everlasting kingdom that will be made up of millions and millions of saved sinners. The reason that this everlasting, virgin-born king can reign over a kingdom of sinners is because he was born precisely to die. And he did die. He died in our place and bore our sin and provided our righteousness and took away the wrath of God and defeated the evil one so that anyone, anywhere, of any kind can turn from the treason of sin to the true king, and put their faith in him, and have everlasting joy.

Mark Steyn offers "a cornucopia of Yuletide delights from the Santa Steyn grotto - carols and lessons, movies and memories" in articles from his wide-ranging archives. Some links are light-hearted (e.g., an article about Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside," but he reminds us of our suffering brethren in the Middle East. He first wrote these words in 2011, but the situation is even worse today:

On this Christmas Eve, one of the great unreported stories throughout what we used to call Christendom is the persecution of Christians around the world. In Egypt, the "Arab Spring" is going so swimmingly that Copts are already fleeing Egypt and, for those Christians that remain, Midnight Mass has to be held in the daylight for security reasons. In Iraq, midnight services have been canceled entirely for fear of bloodshed, part of the remorseless de-Christianizing that has been going on, quite shamefully, under an American imperium.

Sawi he spoke

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Lately, for the eight-year-old's bedtime story, I have been reading the book Peace Child by Don Richardson. In 1962, Richardson, his wife Carol, and their infant son went with Regions Beyond Missionary Union to the Sawi, a people who live in the sago palm swamps along the Kronkel River in what was then Netherlands New Guinea, now the Indonesian half of that island.

The story is told in an engaging and suspenseful manner, with the end of each chapter leaving my son anxious to learn what happens in the next. The book begins with stories of Sawi intrigue that took place prior to the Richardsons' arrival, illustrating the value the culture held for treachery -- "fattening with friendship for the slaughter." You might invite an enemy to your home, feed him and treat him with honor for weeks or months before springing the trap on your trusting victim. You have him over for dinner... and then have him for dinner.

Richardson then takes us across the Pacific to the frozen tundra of Canada's Prairie Bible Institute, where he and his wife met and where they heard the call to take the gospel to the isolated inland tribes of Netherlands New Guinea. From this point on the story follows the Richardsons as they arrive in New Guinea, meet neighboring tribes, survey the Sawi territory, make initial contact, build a home, and begin learning the language and customs of the Sawi.

I had been helping my daughter and her friend through a tough passage of Latin, one that made extensive use of indirect discourse with accusative subjects and present, perfect, and future infinitives in active and passive voice. We finished, and I went to read the next chapter of Peace Child to my son. This passage on the grammar of the Sawi language seemed apropos, so I brought the book and my son back to where the girls were studying and read it to all of them. You think you have it tough with six Latin tenses?

Peace_Child.jpgSpeaking Sawi was proving far more than an exercise in stringing simple terms together. Often a single word turned out to be only a stem to which a seemingly limitless number of suffixes or chains of suffixes could be attached.

Each verb, for example, has nineteen tenses in its indicative mood alone. So far I had isolated the functions of only one-third of those nineteen tenses. Also, each of the nineteen tenses occurred in both a first-person and a non-first-person form, making a total of thirty-eight verb endings to choose from every time I wanted to make a simple indicative statement in Sawi.

Another group of verb endings were slowly emerging as the subjunctive mood of the language, a system for expressing "if," "could have," "would have," and "should have." Further, I was getting glimmerings of an imperative mood, a brace of suffixes which say "let me," "let us," "let him," as well as give commands in the second person.

Apparently concrete verb stems became etymological phantoms which could assume any one of fifteen different shapes even before one began extending them with suffixes. One form of the stem proclaimed the subject as singular, another as plural. Still othres indicated action aimed at either a singular or plural object. Other forms signified operations which were either customary, progressive, repeated, reciprocal, experimental, conclusive, partial, excessive or obstructed.

In Sawi, every sequence has to be in correct time order with no steps omitted. The grammar is correspondingly set up to handle long action sequences in a smooth, flowing manner.

Every statement has to be classified as either firsthand or secondhand information. Sawi won't let you take credit for someone else's thoughts. Nor will it let you avoid responsibility for your own utterances. It abhors indistinctness. It tolerates no nonsense. It would resist a translation of Alice in Wonderland like oil resists water. Surgically precise, transistorized description is its goal.

Sometimes I felt like my brain circuits would get shorted before I mastered Sawi. And yet learning it was a great adventure. I often felt like a mathematician must feel as he tackles problems and breaks through into new formulas which work like magic.

Sawi is so enchantingly specific in its vocabulary. In English you open your eyes, your heart, a door, a tin can or someone's understanding, all with one humdrum verb "open." But in Sawi you fagadon your eyes, anahagkon your heart, tagavon a door, tarifan a tin can, and dargamon a listener's understanding.

If someone had shown me a statement of Sawi grammar and asked me to guess the type of persons who developed it, I would have guessed a race of pedantic-philosopher types obsessed with fastidious concern for handling masses of detail efficiently.

And yet, looking deeper, I would have guessed they were also poets -- an entire subclass of Sawi verbs is devoted to personifying inanimate objects as speaking! If a flower has a pleasant scent, it is saying fok! fok! to your nostrils. Is it also beautiful? It is saying ga! ga! to your eyes. When a star twinkles it is whispering sevair! sevair! If your eyes twinkle they are calling si! si! If mud squishes around your feet, it is murmuring sos! sos! In the Sawi universe, not only man, but all things are communicating.

Climbing up a notched pole, I entered the manhouse and sat down on the grass mat among the men of Haenam and Yohwi. They didn't look like the philosopher-poets their language suggested they were. I felt I was sitting in the presence of a mystery. How did a culture addicted to barbarism develop such a refined, logical and efficient language? Perhaps the swift thought and keen reflexes needed to survive in a violent context served to produce linguistic efficiency also.

Or was their language an artifact pointing back to an earlier age of more complex aspirations? I had already noticed that the Sawi had a deep, almost compulsive esteem for their ancestors. Perhaps there was more than just a sentimental basis for it.

"A race of pedantic-philosopher types" brings to mind Tolkien's design of the languages of Middle Earth or the scholars who constructed languages like Esperanto and Volapük.

In the same chapter, Richardson feels he has enough of the language to attempt to explain the story of Jesus to a group of Sawi men. He is shocked to find that they see Judas as the hero of the story and Jesus as his dupe -- the ultimate example of fattening with friendship for the slaughter. The realization causes Richardson to feel hopeless that he could find a way to communicate the gospel to this culture. But he prays and God provides in a surprising way, and that's the rest of the story.

Notwithstanding the cannibalistic treachery of the Sawi, Richardson describes with admiration their language and the efficiency of their way of life, using the flora and fauna on hand to sustain themselves.

When progressives hear conservatives condemning multiculturalism, they wrongly assume that conservatives wish to eradicate other cultures, other languages, other folk customs and force conformity to bland Anglo-Saxon suburbia. In fact, conservative Christians may be doing more than anyone else to preserve dying languages and musical traditions, through the work of groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators. The practice of the evangelical mission community is to translate the gospel into the "heart language" of every people group and, as they come to faith in Christ, to express their faith in their own music.

Richardson's account of the Sawi way of life allows us to draw an important distinction. Multiculturalism insists that we suspend all value judgment of another culture, and so we must not condemn the cannibalistic treachery of the Sawi -- live and let live. A Bible-believing Christian would say instead that there are aspects of a culture which are morally neutral, aspects which are positive, and aspects which are -- let's not mince words -- evil, aspects which disfigure the imago Dei borne by every human of every tribe, tongue, and nation. While every culture in this fallen world has negative elements, some cultures have a built-in engine for reform and improvement, while others may only shed negative elements under outside encouragement or pressure, and so we ought to reject a false moral equivalence between cultures.


Don Richardson sells his own books, books on related topics, and his own artwork depicting the cultures of New Guinea on his website.

In 2012, fifty years after his arrival, Don Richardson and his three sons returned to the Sawi lands:

Never the Same from Pioneers-USA on Vimeo.

The New Testament has been translated into Sawi, but only three Papuan languages have a complete translation of the Bible. World Team, the successor agency to Regions Beyond, has five current translation and literacy projects that need your support.

The Summer Institute of Linguistics' Ethnologue has a map showing the incredible linguistic diversity of eastern Indonesian Papua (New Guinea). Here is the Ethnologue's entry on the Sawi language, which has an estimated 3,500 speakers.

An index of online resources for the Sawi language.

Here is a collection of audiovisual Bible lessons in the Sawi language.

Volume 14 (1986) of the journal Irian: Bulletin of Irian Jaya has a paper describing kinship and marriage customs among the Sawi.

A prime example of the failure of multiculturalism: Officials turning a blind eye to the exploitation of young girls in Rotherham, England, for over a decade out of fear of being thought racist or Islamophobic. James Delingpole writes:

The impression given was that to be against multiculturalism is like being against chicken tikka masala, or bhangra, or arts festivals or smiley brown skinned people or fun generally.

But multiculturalism isn't and never was a handy synonym for "multiethnic". And at last, it seems, the majority of British people have twigged.

Multiculturalism is the philosophy that says the grooming, trafficking and mass rape of underage white girls by Muslim gangs is not as bad as being thought Islamophobic.

Multiculturalism is the philosophy that says it's better to let a little African girl get tortured to death by her relatives than it is to be thought culturally insensitive or judgemental.

bbcmquartet.jpgThe BBCM Quartet, an award-winning young string quartet from Tulsa, will perform as part of the Summerstage Festival tomorrow night, Friday, July 18, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in the Charles Norman Theater of the Tulsa PAC. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $8 for 12 and under.

The quartet -- Joseph Bates and Nicholas Bashforth on violin, Anthony Conroy on cello, Quinn Maher on viola -- will present a variety of genres, including classical chamber music and movie themes.

The program includes:

  • "Hedwig's Theme" (Harry Potter), John Williams (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • What Wondrous Love is This?, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, Mozart
  • String Quartet No. 1, Andante cantabile, Tchaikovsky
  • The Magnificent Seven, Elmer Bernstein (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • Canon in D, Pachelbel
  • Raiders March, John Williams (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • Wexford Carol, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • Blarney Pilgrim, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • String Quartet "Lobkowitz", Op. 77, No. 1, Haydn

The four study music at Barthelmes Conservatory under instructors John Rush, Sheri Neubauer, and Krassimira Figg.

The BBCM Quartet won first place in the 2014 Tulsa Young Chamber Artist Competition (sponsored by Tulsa Camerata and Chamber Music Tulsa) and finished second in the Buttram String Quartet competition sponsored by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. All four members of the group are in the Tulsa Youth Symphony and were at Quartz Mountain last month as part of the 2014 Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute orchestra.

Here's their appearance on Fox 23's Tulsa Live this morning. The sound is a little unbalanced because of the use of lapel mics rather than standard instrument pickups.

MORE: The BBCM Quartet is available for weddings, banquets, and other functions. Contact them through their Facebook page.

One of the films created at the recently concluded Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute involved my favorite violinist.

The film was directed and produced by Matt Hanisch and Shauna Rathbun. The music is "River Flows in You" by Yiruma. The setting is Quartz Mountain Resort on Lake Altus-Lugert in southwest Oklahoma.

The Einstein quote from the film:

"Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb, it will live its whole live believing that it is stupid."

Forty years ago today, June 8, 1974, there was a massive tornado outbreak and widespread flash flooding in northeastern Oklahoma. At least 10 tornadoes touched down (possibly more from the long-track supercell that killed 12 Drumright residents and two others). For Tulsans who were kids in the '70s, it was the first major weather disaster we had witnessed.

According to the National Weather Service, it was Tulsa's costliest weather disaster to date and has since been surpassed only by the 1984 Memorial Day Flood and the 1993 Tulsa/Catoosa tornado. Two F3 tornadoes passed through Tulsa's city limits, the second one touching down before the first one had finished with us.

Everyone had heard about an "old Indian legend" that the hills and the bend of the river protected Tulsa from tornados. But which Tulsa? The settlement around the Creek Council Oak? The Tulsa of 1918 that didn't extend south beyond 21st Street or east of Lewis? The Tulsa of 1957, when the newly completed expressway connecting the turnpikes was dubbed "Skelly Bypass"? The Tulsa of 1974 reflected the tripling in Tulsa's size that took place in 1966. All the tornado damage occurred in areas beyond Tulsa's early-day boundaries, and Brookside was the only area within the pre-1966 boundaries that was damaged.


The east Tulsa neighborhoods around 21st and Garnett that were hit were mostly very new at the time. Nearby neighborhoods were hit by another tornado on December 5, 1975. I always thought of the area as a tornado magnet.

It was a Saturday, and Mom had taken me to Oertle's (a locally owned department store 26th & Memorial) so that I could buy a gerbil. I had wanted a gerbil because I had seen one at school -- I forget whether it had belonged to the teacher or to a classmate. I named her Herbie, because a gerbil's shape reminded me of a Volkswagen Beetle. We came home with Herbie, a plastic Habitrail Deluxe Set (the big cage with the wheel and the tower), and official Habitrail food and litter. (Everything was orange or yellow. It was the '70s.) I seem to recall we were in a hurry to get home because storms had been forecast and the sky looked ominous.


There had already been tornadoes in Oklahoma City earlier in the afternoon. We would have been listening to KRMG on the AM-only radio in our Chevy Kingswood Estate station wagon as we drove home.

Some time after we got home we heard the tornado warning on the radio. Although we lived in Wagoner County, we were in the far northwest corner, in the then-unincorporated Rolling Hills subdivision, so we paid attention when Tulsa County's name was called for a storm.

In our little house at 416 S. 198th East Ave., there was no basement, so taking cover meant that Dad pulled the foam mattress out of the back of the station wagon and the four of us huddled under it in our little hallway. Someone, probably Dad, also opened the windows away from the direction of the storm, in hopes of equalizing pressure and preventing the house from exploding. (That practice is now deprecated.)

Sometime after the storm had passed, my mom's next-to-youngest sister and her husband arrived. They had been at the Camelot Hotel for an event and were stuck in traffic on I-44 for hours trying to get to our house.


Mobile phones were practically non-existent. None of the TV stations had radar. I think weather radio existed, but we didn't have one.

Those are my memories of June 8, 1974. What are yours?


KJRH spoke to ORU Dean Clarence Boyd, Jr., who was a student on the second floor of an ORU dorm that lost its third floor to the tornado.

KOTV talked to residents of the Walnut Creek neighborhood, which was damaged by the second Tulsa tornado. One house was damaged by a piece of the ORU administration building from almost a mile away.

Tulsa World has a collection of its photos from the June 8, 1974, tornado aftermath. has a photo of the tornado damage in Brookside north of the KTEW/KVOO studios and the recollections of Michael Evans, who rode out the storm in Tulsa's first and at the time only Arby's at 42nd and Peoria.

I locked the south door and noticed I could no longer see across the street. I turned to lock the north door and out of the corner of my eye saw both picnic tables were airborne. My reaction was to flinch because milliseconds later they pushed through the glass front. I have no idea what happened after that because for about 20 minutes I was unconscious.

Stacy Richardson was on the air on KAKC, in the Trade Winds West at 51st and Peoria, the night of the tornadoes, at least until the power went out for every AM station except one. Sonny Hollingshead remembers tornado damage to Bell's at the Fairgrounds. David Bagsby remembers going to 31st and Mingo to try to rescue a friend stuck in a flash flood. Tulsa also received five inches of rain that night. More Tulsa tornado memories. More Tulsa tornado memories. Even more Tulsa tornado memories. Still more Tulsa tornado memories.

The Tornado Project has a list of all tornadoes touching down in Oklahoma between 1950 and 2012.

Randy Brown has been posting Top 30 hit lists from his days at Tulsa's legendary rock station KAKC (he called himself Bob Scott on the air) on Tulsa Memories from the 60's and 70's Facebook group. The lists were based on surveys of sales at local record stores. He posted the KAKC Top 30 from September 8, 1971, and wrote:

I always sort of made it my mission in life to take over the design and publication of the weekly Big 30 list at every radio station I worked at. In 1971, I gave our Big 30 sheet a pretty dramatic redesign. And lookie!! There I am on the cover, handing over a check for cash to a lucky KAKC contest winner who knew the phrase that pays in our Pay Phone contest. Survey dated September 8, 1971.

Well, that date rang a bell. In September 1971, right after Labor Day, I started at Holland Hall as a 3rd grader, back when the lower and middle schools were at 2660 S. Birmingham Place.

That's also the week when I first heard KAKC. At our house we listened to KRMG-AM and -FM (now KWEN 95.5) -- middle-of-the-road and easy listening, respectively.

Mom taught in Catoosa and Dad worked downtown, and we lived in Rolling Hills, then unincorporated territory east of Tulsa and about 12 miles from school. So I was in a carpool. Dad would meet the carpool at the 11th & Garnett DX (SE corner, now Mazzio's).

Mr. Ivers, the elementary PE teacher, was the driver, and he was a KAKC listener.

He had a Volkswagen station wagon, and somehow he managed to squeeze five or six students in the car with him. There were a couple of sisters and a veterinarian's daughter who lived near the KVOO towers. On the way to school we picked up a Monte Cassino student (a girls' high school back then) who lived in the Rosewood neighborhood NW of 11th and Mingo. (The neighborhood was demolished after the 1984 Memorial Day flood.) Then we drove south on Memorial, stopping to pick up a girl who lived on the west side of the street, just south of a creek, about where 13th Street would have been if it had gone through. On south to 21st, then west to Lewis, south on Lewis to drop off the Monte Cassino student, then left on 27th Place and the south entrance to Holland Hall's Eight Acres campus.

Since we rode in a VW, we played a game like "Slug Bug" -- counting VWs along the way. The big prize went to the first one to call the big VW repair shop on the SW corner of 21st and Yale -- dozens of beetles, wagons, and microbuses.

KAKC was the soundtrack of my daily ride to school, new music en route to a new school in an unfamiliar part of town. My life the two previous years had centered around Admiral and 193rd East Ave. -- church, school, the Red Bud grocery store, Raley's Pharmacy, TG&Y, Lon's Laundry, In'n'Out convenience store. There was the occasional visit to a doctor's office or big shopping center in "Tulsa proper," but that involved crossing four or five miles of farmland. I was leaving behind the school where Mom taught and where my neighbors and Sunday School classmates went.

The music made an impression, and a song from that week's top 30 list has strong associations with those first rides to school: The banjo-infused "Sweet City Woman" by The Stampeders. Maybe I identified with the lyrics. "So long, Ma, so long, Pa, so long, neighbors and friends" -- if only for seven hours.

Here's a playlist I put together of all 30 songs, starting with #30 ("Imagine" -- sorry about that, but it is what it is) and ending with #1 ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down").


Edited from the version originally published on December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to anyone who happens by BatesLine today.

As a Holland Hall high school student, I attended and sang in the annual service of Christmas lessons and carols at Trinity Episcopal Church, modeled after the annual Christmas Eve service from the chapel of King's College, Cambridge.

At the beginning of the service, after the processional, Father Ralph Urmson-Taylor would read the bidding prayer. Confessing Evangelical has it as I remember it. It's worth a moment of your time to ponder.

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this our diocese.

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forevermore.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the Throne of Heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us: Our Father, which art in heaven...

(The prayer for "all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love" seems to have been dropped in recent years for the sake of political correctness and religious timidity. Who needs prayer more than those who reject the Way, the Truth, and the Life?)

The phrase "upon another shore, and in a greater light" always gives me goosebumps as I think about friends and family who are no longer with us, but who are now free from pain and delighting in the presence of the Savior they loved so dearly in this life. Especially this year, I think about my mother-in-law, who left us in early March after a two-year battle with cancer. As my wife said back on her first Easter without her mom, "For her, it's Easter every day."

I think of the last verses of the Epiphany hymn, "As with Gladness, Men of Old":

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!


On December 8, 2013, Holland Hall celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Lessons and Carols service, and I was among the alumni privileged to join the Holland Hall Chorus in two of the anthems under the baton of retired director David Rollo and current director Steve Dyer. You can watch the entire Holland Hall 50th Anniversary Lessons and Carols online. Here is a six-minute "trailer" of Lessons and Carols.

The live broadcast of the annual Lessons and Carols service from Kings College Cambridge has already happened, but you can listen to last year's broadcast at the above link on the BBC website.

FUN-FUL ladder casts shadows, Riverside Park, Independence, Kansas

The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Preservation Blog has put its spotlight on the efforts of the City of Independence, Kansas, and the Friends of Riverside Park and Zoo (FORPAZ) to preserve the park's historic playground equipment while meeting modern safety requirements:

When Riverside Park's insurance company told park staff that they needed to remove two playground slides dating from the early 1900s for safety reasons, Barbara Beurskens, director of the Independence, Kan. park, knew that she and her team had to find a solution that would keep the metal playscapes in place.

"These are so important to the community," says park staffer Rachel Lyon of the tall slides manufactured by the now-defunct FUN-FUL company.

The solution involved installing tons of rubber mulch under the slides, improving guardrails, and undergirding ladders to prevent slip-throughs.

So often the difference between demolition and preservation is affection. City officials confronted with an insurance company's warning often respond with a helpless shrug, followed by an order to send the bulldozers. That's easier to do if you have no emotional connection to what's about to be torn down.

But the city officials here understood that generations of former children from Independence and the region have rich memories tied to these slides and see-saws, memories of overcoming their fears, memories of games of imagination.

I note from a websearch that Park Director Beurskens has worked for the City of Independence in one capacity or another for over 30 years -- clearly, she's been around long enough to understand that "This Place Matters" (to borrow an NTHP slogan). Perhaps she had children of her own who grew up playing on the big slides.

NTHP's Katherine Flynn has included (with my permission) some of my photos of Riverside Park's historic playground equipment from 2007. After an earlier visit in 2003, I described the equipment and wrote about my amazement that the playground equipment I remembered from my childhood visits was still there and in use, and I alluded to the liability concerns that have caused classic equipment to vanish from playgrounds and parks across the country.

A spinning circle -- the kind with the raised elongated bumps at right angles for traction, and bars radiating and rising from the center, then forking out and connecting to the edge. [My son] Joe was riding it, having me spin him faster and faster. As he was spinning, and as I was pondering whether, out of appreciation for the City of Independence having the guts to keep this classic play equipment available, I would refrain from filing suit if one of my kids were injured -- as if he could read my mind, Joe launched himself off the circle. His foot was caught by one of the handholds and it seemed he might be dragged around, but the circle stopped quickly. Joe was fine, grinning. He got up, brushed off the sand (that's what they use around all the play equipment -- not hard, splintery wood chips, but nice soft sand). "I intended to do that. I thought it would be cool to jump off!"

We passed through Independence in May, and we spent a couple of hours there walking through part of the zoo, riding the train and the carousel, and playing on the playground. It was a gray and damp day, so the slides didn't move very fast. Here are a few pictures which show some of the safety improvements:

FUN-FUL big slides, with new guardrails and rubber mulch, at Riverside Park in Independence, Kansas, by Michael Bates
FUN-FUL big slides with new guardrails and rubber mulch, at Riverside Park, in Independence, Kansas
Grates add safety to big FUN-FUL slide ladders at Riverside Park in Independence, Kansas, SX003886 by Michael Bates, on Flickr
Grates add safety to big FUN-FUL slide ladders at Riverside Park in Independence, Kansas
Improved guardrails on the big FUN-FUL slide tower at Riverside Park in Independence, Kansas, SX003885 by Michael Bates, on Flickr
Improved guardrails on the big FUN-FUL slide tower at Riverside Park in Independence, Kansas
Photos and videos Copyright 2013 by Michael D. Bates. All rights reserved.


Visiting Riverside Park: The park is open 6 a.m. to midnight daily. The train, carousel, and mini-golf are open weekends from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and weekdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and weekends from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. in spring and early fall. (October 20 is the last day in 2013 for the rides and mini-golf.) The zoo is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., April through October, then 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., November through March.

City of Independence Riverside Park and Ralph Mitchell Zoo webpage
Riverside Park and Ralph Mitchell Zoo on Facebook
Friends of Riverside Park and Zoo (FORPAZ) website
Friends of Riverside Park and Zoo (FORPAZ) on Facebook

BONUS: Playground swings sound like trumpeting elephants:

On July 6, 2013, Tulsa violinist Joseph Bates won first place in the youth division of the Texas Cowboy Reunion Old Time Fiddlers' Contest. This was Bates's third time to compete at the Stamford, Texas, contest, winning third place in 2007 and second place in 2008. Bill Burns, who later won the senior division fiddle contest, is playing rhythm guitar. Candi Davidson, a student at Hardin-Simmons College and also a classical violinist, won the adult division and was overall grand champion. Because of the large number of contestants, the judges had them play two tunes each rather than the traditional three. Here's Bates's prize-winning performance of "Jesse Polka" and "Faded Love."

After the results, several of the fiddlers stuck around to jam. Here are Jerry Don Shane, Bill Burns, Candi Davidson, and Joseph Bates taking turns with the "Westphalia Waltz."

Bates studies classical violin at The bART Center (formerly known as the Barthelmes Conservatory). Here he is with Nicholas Bashforth, Anthony Conroy, and Quinn Maher, performing three movements of the Mozart String Quartet in G Major (K. 80/73f).

Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe with MedalWe had one fewer gift to buy this Mother's Day, one fewer card to send, one fewer phone call to make. A little more than two months ago, my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, Ed. D., died after a two-year battle with breast cancer at the age of 79.

In lieu of that gift, that card, that call, it seems fitting to remember her and, in particular, her decades of dedication to the needs of single parents. She was a remarkable woman. Everyone gets the one-line notice on the Births and Deaths page of the paper, some may get a paid obituary, but there aren't many whose passing rates a news story and an editorial commendation for a "life well spent."

From the Rogers Morning News editorial column, Friday, March 8, 2013:

... the deck is often stacked against single parents and their families. Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe of Rogers began to understand those barriers in the 1970s, first while studying at the University of Arkansas and later through her work as a vocational counselor helping students find ways to pay for higher education.

"There was one group I couldn't help, and it haunted me," Marugg-Wolfe once said of her realization single parents faced tremendous obstacles.

Nobody knew a movement to help single parents was about to be born. Since, that movement has provided nearly 30,000 scholarships valued at nearly $16 million. What happened was a perfect coalescence of a need, an idea of how to address it and the people with passion, energy and drive to make a difference. Marugg-Wolfe was their inspirational leader....

"What Marjorie has been able to do is change the lives, in one generation, of multiple generations," Jim Von Gremp, a board member of the Benton County program, said at a 2012 University of Arkansas event at which Marugg-Wolfe was named a distinguished alumna. "The families study together. The children study because the mother studies. The children see the mother work to achieve, and in one generation, you develop a second set of college graduates."...

Marugg-Wolfe was quick to note she didn't do it all on her own. What he did, however, was nurture an idea into its full realization. Where others might have seen a problem too big to solve, she saw an opportunity to help those she could.

Although she received award after award for her devotion, the real prize for her work live on in the improved circumstances of thousands of single parents who have been, and continue to be, affected, and the future generations whose lives have been forever improved.

We'd call that a life well spent.

Marjorie-House.jpgMarjorie grew up on a dairy farm on Pleasant Grove Road in the Bellview community southwest of Rogers in Benton County, Arkansas, the sixth of nine children. As a high school senior, Marjorie was society editor for the Rogers Daily News, co-edited the school yearbook, and class valedictorian.

In the middle of her senior year, her mother died of leukemia. At 17, she was the oldest child still at home. She deferred her dreams of college and scholarship offers to serve as homemaker for her bereft father and surrogate mother to her younger siblings. When her father remarried, she went on to college, earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas.

While in college she met and married Navy veteran Alfred F. Marugg from Texas and the two moved to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, where they raised two daughters. She earned a master's degree from the University of Maryland. When Al retired from civil service, the family moved back near Rogers, to an acreage just a mile from where Marjorie grew up.

With her daughters off to college, Marjorie went back to school, too, to earn an Educational Specialist degree, with a focus on "displaced homemakers," stay-at-home moms who suddenly find themselves divorced or widowed and needing a job.

As coordinator of the Homemakers in Transition Program at Northwest Vo-Tech, Marjorie found that unexpected expenses could deter single parents from pursuing the education they needed in order to escape poverty. A student might have a full-ride scholarship, but that wouldn't cover an expensive car repair.

To meet the need, Marjorie worked with countless generous volunteers and donors to start the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County in 1984. (Helen Walton was an early and generous supporter.) Marjorie co-founded the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, and the program has spread to 70 Arkansas counties.

After her husband Al's death in 1990, Marjorie went back to school once again, earning a doctorate of education at the University of Arkansas in 1993. In 1992, she was remarried to John Wolfe, a high school classmate who had also been recently widowed. They traveled to Europe and the Far East and across America and enjoyed boating on Beaver Lake and Rogers Class of '51 gatherings.

Pres Bush with Dr. Marugg-Wolfe_edited-500px.jpgMarjorie_Huckabee-2005-500px.jpgHer advocacy for single parents was recognized by President George W. Bush at the White House in 2002, when she received the President's Community Volunteer Award from the Point of Light Foundation. (The photos above and to the left show her on that occasion.) In 2005, she received the Community Service Award from the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Governor Mike Huckabee.

In 2008, Marjorie became the founding president of ASPIRE (Assisting Single Parents in Realizing Education), a nationwide support network for single parent scholarship programs across the country.


Marjorie (in purple dress, center) with Benton County Single Parent Scholarship Fund students at the 2009 awards banquet.

In 2012, the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions recognized her as Outstanding Alumna in Education.

Marjorie had a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior, rooted in her upbringing at Little Flock Primitive Baptist Church, where her father led shape-note singing. She was an early and active member of Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas, where she served in the women's ministry and helped start the GriefShare program.

Passionate about family history, Marjorie contributed the Grady Ford article in History of Benton County, Arkansas. At reunions, Marjorie was known for gathering everyone around to share family stories with younger generations.

Marjorie loved organizing large gatherings and serving her guests outdoors on her deck. She collected cookbooks and historical books on the daily lives of women. She loved teaching her daughters and grandchildren about nature, visiting the seashore, and watching the colorful visitors to her bird feeders, which she always kept filled.

In recent years, Marjorie became increasingly concerned about the direction of our country and culture, often sending letters to the editor and circulating emails to friends and family to express her views. Last November's election results were deeply disheartening to her. The connection between nutrition and health was another abiding concern of hers.

Marjorie was a devoted wife, sister, aunt, mom, and grandmother, too, concerned about the well-being of her extended family, attending as many of her grandkids' performances as she could and taking pride in their achievements. My daughter spent a cherished week with her grandmother right after Christmas 2011, learning her grandmother's sewing techniques. For many years she sent out a monthly update to the far-flung Ford clan with prayer requests and that month's birthdays and anniversaries.

Here is video of that May 2012 University of Arkansas awards ceremony. Jim von Gremp, a long-time member of the Single Parent Scholarship board, introduces Marjorie Marugg Wolfe, who describes the history and challenges of the single parent scholarship fund. Ralph Nesson, Director of Development at the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, who worked with Marjorie from the beginning, concludes the tribute.

There are reports of extensive fire damage to the Rolling Hills Shopping Center, on Admiral Pl west of 193rd East Ave in far east Tulsa.

Assistant Fire Marshal Rick Bruder told reporters that a discount store and a pizza restaurant were likely destroyed as the fire caused their roofs to collapse. Also damaged is a clothing store, an insurance agency and an auto parts store.

It's telling that none of the news reports name the center. There once was an impressive sign at the Admiral Place entrance, but it's been long gone.

When my family moved to Rolling Hills in 1969, the Rolling Hills Shopping Center was the only such place for miles around. (The next nearest shopping center was Wagon Wheel at Admiral and Garnett.) County Assessor records say that it was built in 1968. Here's the lineup, from east to west, as I remember it:

OTASCO (not there in 1969, but built on in the 1970s)
Red Bud Supermarket
Raley's Pharmacy
Mini-Mall (with barber shop)
T. G. & Y.
Liquor store
Dry cleaners
Lon's Laundry (around the corner, facing west)

And then the freestanding buildings:

Tastee Freeze (built in 1965, northwest corner)
Roll-In Lounge (east side, facing 193rd)
Phillips 66 (corner of Admiral and 193rd)

There was an MFA insurance agent in there somewhere, too. Roll-In Lounge was a beer joint (B. Y. O. L.). The mini-mall had a space where my sister took tap and ballet lessons. In high school, she worked for Raley's.

Before we had our own washer and dryer, we'd take our laundry to Lon's. The fellow who ran it (Lon, I suppose) was white-headed, tall, and skinny, and he whistled tunes that I didn't recognize. It was hot and steamy, especially in the summer, and there was the smell of soap powder and the taste of a cold bottle of Grapette from the Pepsi machine. I don't recall that it was air conditioned. I can remember sitting in Lon's in a shell-backed metal lawn chair, with a notebook, a 4-color pen, and a road atlas, plotting out an upcoming family vacation, while we waited on the next load to finish.

The T. G. & Y. -- 5¢ to $1.00 -- was where you went for school supplies, fabric, and simple toys. They lasted until not long after Wal-Mart built their first Tulsa store (assessor records say 1972, but that seems too early to me), about 40,000 square feet, less than half the size of a SuperCenter. I recall T. G. & Y. posting defiant "we will not be undersold!" signs. The Wal-Mart building is now some sort of light industrial business. The T. G. & Y. space became a C. R> Anthony store and then (much later) Dollar General.

When OTASCO closed, Red Bud took over the space. At some point, they became Marvin's. Old-timers will remember a stand near the entrance that sold Hillbilly Barbecue sandwiches.

Although the center has been in the City of Tulsa's limits since 1966, it's always been associated with Catoosa, as most of its patrons were in the town of Catoosa or its school district. Rolling Hills east of 193rd was unincorporated back then, but in the Catoosa school district.

It's been sad to see the decline of the center, but it has followed the same downward path as similar centers built in the same era. The presence of the Hard Rock Casino seems to have drawn all the new development to the Catoosa side of I-44 (which is the Tulsa/Catoosa and Tulsa County / Rogers County boundary).

Thursday I took the students in my Ancient Greek class at Augustine Christian Academy. We went to Philbrook to see a special exhibit of ancient artifacts -- statues, inscriptions, coins, jewelry, household items, and vessels having something to do with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love (known to the Romans as Venus), and her most famous child, Eros (aka Cupid).

I had the students spend a good deal of time looking at a Greek inscription from the Roman period, from a public bath in the Greek town of Assos in Asia Minor. We're accustomed to seeing ancient texts set mainly in minuscule letters, with spaces between words and accent marks. It was interesting to try to decipher words in all caps with no spaces or accents, with part of the inscription missing and words sometimes wrapping around the end of a line.

Here is an image of the inscription, from Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens: 1882-1883, published shortly after the inscription's discovery as part of the "first collection of Greek inscriptions ever made by an American expedition in classic lands."


Many artifacts depicted Aphrodite's role in the abduction of Helen and the disastrous war it sparked. Paris, prince of Troy, was asked to judge which of the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite which one was the fairest. Aphrodite bribed Paris with Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, who happened to be the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Menelaus rallied the Greeks to get her back, the Trojans refused, and the Trojan War ensued, ending in the destruction of Troy. Aphrodite's mortal Trojan lover, Anchises, escaped the flames on the back of their son Aeneas, whose treacherous travels to the future site of Rome are told in Vergil's epic poem Aeneid. At least one coin in the collection depicts Aeneas giving Anchises a piggy-back ride.

I was fascinated by a vessel depicting the elopement of Helen and her return to Menelaus. There were names in tiny letters scratched into the pot above most of the characters. Some of them were written left-to-right and some right-to-left. There were phis and thetas, but there were Ls instead of lambdas, and they seemed to use X for the xi sound.

The exhibit has a roped-off "mature audiences only" section; we steered clear of it. There were a few items near the end of the exhibit (relating to drinking parties and a Greek practice that I'll euphemistically call "mentorship with depraved benefits") that should have been in the roped-off area.

After seeing the exhibit the students all decided to color a picture of an amphora (one student turned hers into an ιχθυς τανκ). We toured the gardens and marveled at a magnificent display of tulips on the south allee. On the rotunda's mezzannine, there's an exhibit of glamorous black-and-white photos of Hollywood stars of the 1930s, and next to it an intriguing display of art made from books.

We topped off the field trip with lunch, appropriately at Helen of Troy restaurant, 6670 S. Lewis Ave. We had gyros, tawook, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel, and spanakopita. It was all delicious, and the students enjoyed trying new foods. The portions for the lunch sandwiches were larger than we expected.

It was a delightful day. If you have an interest in ancient Greece and archaeology, I'd encourage you to catch the Aphrodite exhibit; it's at Philbrook through May 26, 2013. And if you love the food of the eastern Mediterranean, I encourage you to dine at Helen of Troy.

Some tech notes so I don't forget how I did this.

Over this last weekend, my middle and youngest children were in a production of "The Music Man Jr.," a simplified, hour-long version of the Meredith Willson musical. (The cast, mainly elementary and middle-school aged children in the Classical Conversations homeschooling program, sang loudly and well, hit their cues, recovered gracefully from little slip-ups, and elicited genuine laughs again and again. It was good enough that I have actually enjoyed watching scenes again and again (even scenes without my kids) as I put together the DVD. Carletta Bradley and Jamie Lange of the Bradley Lange School of Fine Arts in Broken Arrow did a remarkable job of directing the students, who had fun while working hard.

I spent the last two performances taking video (for archival purposes, not for sale or public performance) with a borrowed Sony Handycam, which records video onto mini-DVDs. Each mini-DVD holds about 55 minutes in long-play mode, and between the two performances I wound up with four discs and a bit over 3 GB of video.

I thought it ought to be a simple matter to combine the resulting video object files (VOBs) on the mini-DVDs into a single DVD, and to do it without decompressing and recompressing the video and audio streams. I tried DVD-Shrink, which was good for identifying chapter points, and you can set it not to compress the video, but in the end I couldn't get a DVD built.

So here's what I did instead:

Copied all the contents of each mini-DVD onto my hard drive, each DVD with its own folder.

Used DGIndex (, and added each VOB file (there were six in all) to a single project, then "save project and demux video," creating two files, an .M2V MPEG-2 video file and a .AC3 audio file.

Used Adobe Encore CS3 to attach the demuxed video and audio to a timeline, and then find the time to use (hour, minute, second, frame) for each chapter break. Encore was unable to create the DVD files, pulling an error each time, complaining about a problem near the end of the combined video. Evidently this is a known problem, but one without a solution. So in the end, Encore was only useful for identifying chapter points.

Used DVDAuthorGUI 1.029 to set the chapter points determined in Encore, to create M2V stills from 720x480 JPG images (created with GIMP), one for each menu, to attach buttons and actions to the menu and link them together. Click the link for how to make menus with DVDAuthorGUI.

Authored the DVD with DVDAuthorGUI, which created a folder with the normal DVD subfolders (VIDEO_TS, AUDIO_TS), VOBs, and IFO files.

Added another folder to contain non-DVD info -- a couple of audio recordings of the performances that don't have the sounds of me operating the zoom and swiveling the camera.

Final step: Write the folder out to DVD as a data DVD and be sure to close the disc to make the DVD player happy.

Now that I've successfully built a disc, I could try to make a more complicated menu, complete with embedded video and audio. It would be nice to be able to upgrade the menus without redoing the VOBs.

MORE: is a comprehensive, crowdsourced resource on recording, editing, and playing back video in various tape and optical formats. One nice feature: Reviews of playback devices that allow you to do an apples-to-apples comparison of capabilities, e.g., which video and audio formats can the player handle.

UPDATE 2014/04/10:

So I'm doing this again and re-learning some lessons. Here's more step-by-step, with some changes. (No Adobe anything this time.) I will add more notes later when I have time.

1. Copy all the contents of each mini-disc into its own separate folder on your computer's harddrive.

2. Launch DVDAuthorGUI, then from the tools menu, launch DGIndex.

3. In DGIndex, File | Open, then navigate to the folders where you copied the mini-disc contents, and add the VOB files from each of the folders to your project. Make sure the order is right. Click OK when done.

4. File | Save Project and Demux Video. I use a separate working directory named with the event's initials, date YYYYMMYY and time -- it just needs to be a unique name. Demuxing takes about 6 minutes. Exit DGIndex.

5. Use ReStream to remove ending sequence on your m2v file, which, if not done, will mess up DVDAuthorGUI.

6. Launch DVD-Shrink, and use it to find where you want chapter points. Go to Reauthor, then use the DVD browser to navigate to where you copied the minidiscs to your hard drive. You'll drag each disc's contents as a separate Title over to the DVD structure pane on the left. The icon with two arrows lets you set a precise start time, which helps you find exactly where you want the chapter break, down to the 1/2 second.

The chapter points are per original minidisc, so for the video in minidisc 2 and following, you'll have to add the running time of the previous disc or discs. (Excel is good at adding times, if you don't want to do Base 60 arithmetic in your head.) It's helpful to put these times in a text file, which you can then copy and paste into DVDAuthorGUI. Keep in mind that DVD-Shrink uses hour:minute:second:frame format, but DVDAuthorGUI expects hour:minute:second.decimal format. So if DVD-Shrink says the starting point is frame :15, substitute .50 (half of 30 frames).

(Further NOTE: DVDAuthorGUI thinks it can help you define chapter points interactively, but its visual editor uses the Windows Media Player, which is sloppy and imprecise. So use DVD-Shrink to find exactly where you want your chapter points.)

7. Launch GIMP to create your title image. You might use a favorite photo from dress rehearsal, and add title and chapter names as layers above it. Save it as a high quality JPG. (DVDAuthorGUI accepts BMP files, but then converts to low-quality jpg, so save it yourself as a high quality jpg.)***

8. Back to DVD Author GUI. Add Title and then navigate to the .demuxed.m2v file you created with DGIndex. Select the file. Then, on the next dialog, select the audio file.

9. In DVDAuthorGUI, click chapters, then copy and paste the list of chapter times from your text file to the dialog box and click OK.

10. In DVDAuthorGUI, click the Menus menu (on the menu bar), then Create M2V Still. Navigate to the JPG file you created in step 7, then tell it where to save the result. For aspect ratio, choose 4x3 or 16x9, whichever matches the ratio of your video.***

11. In DVDAuthorGUI, click the Menus button, then, on the Menu Manager popup, you have two choices, creating a new menu or importing an already-defined menu. Choice A: Click the Add New Menu button. On the file chooser, pick the .m2v still you created in step 10. Add an audio stream if you want it, or cancel if you don't. Choice B: Click the File menu and then "Import menu from file." This allows you to export a menu from another project as a .dvam (DVDAuthorGui project file), edit it offline, and load it in. If you already have a menu you like to use as a basis for this project, Choice B can be quicker than Choice A.

12. Now you're in the menu editor. I like to check the advanced box, because then I can specify pixel position and width and height of each clickable area. I keep it simple -- outlined box around each chapter title, linked to jump to that chapter. Once you're happy, click accept.

13. Click the nav cmds icon, and change the post-command for the title to "call menu", so it will automatically go back to the menu when it's done playing. Set first play to jump titleset 1 menu. Click accept.

14. Add any extras you'd like to add. I haven't tried this yet.

15. You're ready to author the DVD. Click the "author DVD" icon. When it asks for a folder name to create the DVD, you need to navigate to where you want the VOB files to go and then give the name of a folder that doesn't yet exist. Click Save and it will start going. Authoring took about 7 minutes to complete.

16. The folder where you put the VOB files is ready to write to a DVD using your favorite DVD burning utility. You might want to add in photos, audio, a scan of the program.

*** NOTE: Using a high-quality JPEG didn't produce a high-quality image for the menu after all. There is a method to turn a still image into an M2V file for a menu using DVD Shrink. I haven't tried it yet. More info here, here, here.

One can argue about whether the death of marriage leads to big government or vice versa, but simply raising the topic shouldn't put one beyond the pale, should it?

OCPA has raised that question, and they're giving high school seniors a chance to do some deep thinking about a hot issue and maybe earn a college scholarship at the same time.

ocpalogo.jpgThe Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs will award $12,000 to five high school seniors in this year's essay contest. We asked students to answer the following question:

What impact, if any, does the structure of civil society, including family structure, have on the growth of government and vice versa?

The deadline is this Monday, April 1, 2013. For contest rules and an entry form visit

Some food for thought, along these lines:

There are those fiscal conservatives who believe that defending the traditional view of marriage and family, held nearly worldwide for millenia, is a losing cause, and so they advocate surrendering, so that the conservative movement can put all of its resources into the battle over the size and scope of government, which they presume to be more winnable.

In 2010, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a pro-life Christian and founder of an inner city classical Christian school, told the Weekly Standard:

that the next president, whoever he is, "would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We're going to just have to agree to get along for a little while," until the economic issues are resolved.

In September 2010, Mike Pence (then a congressman, now Governor of Indiana) responded to that perspective:

To those who say that marriage is not relevant to our budget crisis, I say, you would not be able to print enough money in a thousand years to pay for the government you would need if the traditional family continues to collapse.

Phyllis Schlafly calls the divide between fiscal and social issues "phony":

Contrary to politicians who want to call a truce about social issues, there is absolutely no way to separate social and fiscal issues; they are locked in a tight political embrace....

That's because the social issue of marriage, and its importance to our society, has become a tremendous fiscal issue. The problem of marriage absence is now costing the taxpayers even more than national defense....

It is obvious that when the mother of these children has no husband to support her and her babies, she calls on Big Brother Government. You and I then pay the bills for what is labeled welfare. It's not poverty that causes broken families; it's the absence of marriage that causes poverty and puts kids below the designated poverty line. Social issues cause fiscal expenses.

Columnist Mark Steyn speaking at Hillsdale College in March 2012:

Anytime I went into an ABC show all the people said, "How can Rick Santorum be a credible presidential candidate? He's so weird." Then I actually asked what's weird about him. He's weird because he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He's weird because the family is the basic building block of society. In fact, it was non-weird for almost all of human history. What's interesting to me is not Santorum's weirdness, but the fact that so much of what he says is now presumed to be weird. I think he's right on the basic issue, which is that the crisis America faces is not primarily an accounting problem or a bookkeeping problem. We're broke for a reason. This country is the most broke nation in history because it is not the republic of limited government and self-reliant citizenry De Tocqueville observed two centuries ago. So he's right in the extent that the [financial] brokenness is a symptom of the problem not the problem and in that sense I don't find Santorum half as weird as 90 percent of his critics.

Oklahoma State Sen. Rick Brinkley is also a pastor as well as the head of the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau. His pastor's heart shines forth in frequent thought-provoking posts on his Facebook account. He was kind enough to allow me to share a post from March 14, 2013, pondering the legislature's deadlines -- and life's deadlines. With the recent passing of my accomplished mother-in-law, I found it particularly resonant.

I'm exhausted. Today was the final deadline for Senate Bills to be passed off the floor & sent to the House.

rick_brinkley.jpgUnlike the Federal Government, the Oklahoma Legislature is required to work on a strict schedule. Every three weeks is a deadline week. Any Bill not making the deadline is dead. This ensures that things get done. No one can sit idly by while the deadlines pass. It also forces individual legislators to make tough decisions regarding their own Bills. Sometimes you have to let bills which aren't that important to you go in order to get other bills through the process by the deadline. The entire session must be over by the last Friday of May....that day is called "Sine Die"....which means "Without assigning a day for future meeting"....anything not completed by that day is dead. There's also the rule that each "legislature" is actually two years. The rules state that if a bill is killed in committee or on the floor, it cannot be brought up again until the next legislature, which this year means it could not be brought up again until 2015. If a legislator feels his/her Bill may fail when voted upon, he/she will hold the bill until the next year in order to work on it to get the votes to pass it. It causes you to look at the bigger picture of taking risks on a bill that is important to you. I, personally, think these deadlines are great.

Without deadlines, there is rarely a sense of urgency to get things done. I hope I lead my life the same way.

If you do not realize that there is a deadline on your life, you may sit idly by and watch your life unfold before you without even participating in it.

Just like Oklahoma's legislative rules:

*Sometimes you have to prioritize what is important & let things go that keep the really important things from being accomplished.

*Other times you have to place a hold on really important things to make sure you get them right. You never want the important things to fail because you didn't take the time to execute them properly.

*At some point your "Sine Die" will arrive. There will not be another day assigned to you. Everything you have not accomplished will die with you, unless you plant those dreams in the next generation to accomplish in your stead.

Every day you are living, you are one day closer to dying. Let me say that again, at the end of today you will be one day closer to dying. Have you met your deadlines & made the important things the important things?

Your life is also run by a deadline. Make sure you get everything accomplished that you can. But, realize the important things aren't things, they're the people in your life. Your deadline is 24 hours closer to arriving. Get stuff done, but celebrate life with those you love along the way.

RELATED: In March 2011, I wrote about life's intermediate deadlines and the value of having a bucket list for each distinct season of life, with a particular focus on a bucket list for traveling as a family.

(NOTE: As a student of Latin, I was surprised to hear "sine die" pronounced for the first time by a legislator. In school it would be pronounced "SIH-neh DEE-eh," but in the legislature they pronounce it "SIGH-knee DIE.")

Time to tame the tabs. Here are a few articles worth your notice:

Natasha Ball has compiled This Land's list of 50 Best Spring Break Things to Do in Oklahoma. For all my years and all my travels, I see plenty of items that I have yet to accomplish and many more that I have yet to share with my kids.

rockwell_header.jpgSomething not on her list because it's not in Oklahoma, but worth a visit, and only about 2 hours east of Tulsa: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Beautiful setting in a wooded ravine. Architecture that looks like the lair of a Bond villain. And for the next two months, through May 27, 2013, a wonderful exhibit of the art of Norman Rockwell -- full-sized paintings, many of them covers he did for the Saturday Evening Post.

General admission to the museum is free, sponsored by Walmart. Admission to the Rockwell exhibit is $12 for adults; children 18 and under and museum members are admitted at no charge. There's an audio tour of the Rockwell exhibit at no extra charge -- well worth taking. It's an iPod Touch; you key in the number of the painting you're viewing for narration, sometimes including Norman Rockwell himself, a member of his family, or one of the models for the painting. We were there about a week ago and really enjoyed it. We needed two hours just to see the Rockwell exhibit.

Promoting your hometown for tourism is a tricky business. It may be a nice place to live, but why would anyone want to visit there? The Oklahoma-based blog Small Biz Survival has notes from a talk by Roger Brooks of Destination Development International on how to market a community, listing the common pitfalls of small-town marketing, most of which apply to places like Tulsa, too:

The first fact he mentioned is about how we search when we're looking for somewhere to go. We search on activity first, then location second. So we'll search "mountain biking western Oklahoma" or "sailing southern Ontario." Brooks' examples showed people searching on an activity and then a town name.

"Have you ever gone anywhere because they 'have something for everyone' or they are the 'gateway to' someplace else?" Brooks asked.

Brooks urged asking these questions:

  • What do you have that the people you are hoping to attract can't get or do closer to home?
  • What makes you worth a special trip?
  • What sets you apart from everyone else?

It's long been a frustration to me that the tourist materials produced for Tulsa by a branch of the Tulsa Regional Chamber focus on Tulsa's sophistication and the kind of amenities you'd expect to find in any large American city. These brochures and booklets might reassure people who are thinking about relocating to Tulsa, but they won't attract visitors from around the country or around the world. On the other hand, Tulsa's truly unique features and history get downplayed. Brooks addresses the psychology that produces a generic and ineffective marketing message, and includes a list of phrases that should be banned from your tourism brochure, including so much to do, center of it all, best kept secret, outdoor recreation, and playground.

Streetsblog looks at why enclosed malls are dying even in small cities, like Effingham, Illinois.

Steve Lackmeyer at The Oklahoman covers what looks like defiance from Oklahoma City's public works department over the implementation of Project 180, the program to make downtown streets safer and easier to navigate for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.

At the Washington Free Beacon, there's a review of Detroit: An American Autopsy, a combination of investigative reporting and personal narrative on the decline and fall of a once-great metropolis. "An American Autopsy often reads like an old detective novel. There are mustachioed homicide detectives, hit men, con men, grifts and drugs, greed, and corruption."

Next American City reports on a Brookings Institution study of Amtrak ridership: Shorter trips (under 400 miles) have more riders and make more money than long-distance runs.


Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa, will host two concerts this weekend featuring beautiful Christmas music in its Gothic Revival sanctuary.

On Friday night, December 21, 2012, at 7:30 pm, the Tulsa Boy Singers will perform a concert of Christmas and winter music Tickets are $10, and available at the door. Student admission is free. TBS's junior choristers as young as six will be joining the singers on a couple of songs. A reception will follow.

The TBS program includes familiar carols like Good King Wenceslas and In the Bleak Midwinter, ancient carols like Coventry Carol and Personent Hodie, and more modern seasonal songs like White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

The Tulsa Boy Singers, now in their 65th year of existence, is made up of boys from 8 to 18 who rehearse twice weekly and are trained in vocal performance and music theory. If you know a boy age 6 or older with an interest in singing, there will be an opportunity for a brief audition after the concert. TBS was my oldest son's first musical activity, and what he's learned from director Casey Cantwell and assistant director Jackie Boyd has laid a strong foundation for everything he has done with music since, teaching him to read music, to follow direction, to blend with others, to feel confident performing in public, and to appreciate great music. I'm thrilled that my youngest son has the same opportunity and only wish as strong a program existed for Tulsa's girls.

On Sunday night, December 23, 2012, at 7:30, the Tulsa Symphony Brass and organist Casey Cantwell will present a concert of Christmas music, part of the Saint Cecilia Concert Series. Tickets are $20 ($10 for students and seniors), may be purchased in advance online, and will be available at the door.

One of my favorite memories of this time of year at MIT was walking out of the December chill and into Lobby 7 on my way to class in the morning and being greeted with a brass quintet playing Christmas carols, which filled that vast space. I imagine Sunday's concert will bring those memories back to life.

The six-year-old was learning about Belshazzar, the king of Babylon, in Sunday School, so I gave him some supplemental educational material: A straightforward retelling of the story from the Book of Daniel by Johnny Cash, accompanied by the Carter Family and the Statler Brothers. At the beginning of the video, Cash mentions that this was the first song he sang for Sam Phillips when he came to Sun Records to try out for a chance to record.

Life has been busy. There's a lot to write about -- last week's Oklahoma State Supreme Court decisions; Mayor Junior's desire to rebrand Tulsa -- not much time to write.

A couple of weeks ago, I was showing my six-year-old son the maps of past presidential election results on We scrolled through the years, as the nation's early parties came and went, noticed odd split-state results, and then looked at the projected map for this year, with red, blue, and beige states.

He wanted to figure out which way the beige swing states would go, so he had me scroll back and forth through the 2000, 2004, and 2008 maps, and for each state he picked the party that had won a state most often of the last three elections. (Not sure why he didn't want to go further back; maybe years that begin with 1 just seem too weird to him.)

Here's his map: Romney 285, Obama 253. Romney takes FL, VA, NC, OH, CO, NV, NH; Obama takes PA, MI, WI, IA.


My own guess? I think Obama wins NV, Romney wins WI and IA, plus one of the Maine congressional districts. Philadelphia voter intimidation keeps PA in Obama's column. Romney 296, Obama 242.

George_Washington_19.JPGThis is the final week to see a piece of George Washington's Mount Vernon right here in Tulsa. The traveling exhibition "Discover the Real George Washington: New Views from Mount Vernon" at Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum. The exhibition's final day is September 23, 2012.

The exhibit goes beyond the familiar basic facts of Washington as our 1st President and the Father of Our Country to help you get to know Washington the surveyor, young officer, churchman, and agricultural innovator, among many other roles.

Earlier this summer my family visited Mount Vernon and saw the new Donald W. Reynolds Educational Center there. The exhibit you will see here in Tulsa is a near-duplicate of the permanent exhibit in Mount Vernon, including three life-size figures depicting Washington at different ages -- as a young surveyor, as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and as President of the United States. The figures were developed using forensic analysis of a life mask, paintings, clothing, and other artifacts. Short videos from the History Channel accompany interactive exhibits.

My youngest son said he liked the exhibit at Gilcrease better, because you could look in through the side of the Fort Necessity diorama to see the battle from the perspective of those hiding in the forest.

One thing we saw at Gilcrease that we did not see at Mount Vernon: George Washington's dentures and the story of how they were made.

Unless you travel to Mount Vernon, you won't be able to see George Washington's repository for dung, see the "rustication" used to make the wooden mansion appear to be made of stone, or admire the vistas from the back of the mansion to the Potomac River, but you'll be able to learn about these things right here in Tulsa at Gilcrease Museum through Sunday or at the exhibit's companion website, Discover the Real George Washington, where you can explore an interactive timeline and see the same History Channel videos on display in the exhibit.

Gilcrease Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults, children 18 and under are free, and there are discounts for seniors, groups, and active duty military. Gilcrease Museum is owned by the City of Tulsa and curated by the University of Tulsa.

acalogo.jpgIt's back-to-school time for the Bates family. In years past, that applied to our three kids and Mom, who homeschools the youngest two. This year it applies to Dad, too.

This morning I taught my first session of Ancient Greek I at Augustine Christian Academy (ACA) as part-time teacher. There was a need, and with clearance from my employer, I offered to teach the class.

We began today with the basics: The alphabet, accents, breathings, consonant categories, vowels and diphthongs, punctuation and capitalization. Homework included some worksheets for practicing Greek handwriting.

There's room for a few more in the class, and this is an opportunity for homeschooled students who want to learn ancient Greek. ACA allows homeschooled students in grades 6-12 to sign up for individual classes.

Becoming a part-time student at ACA also opens the door for optional participation in other aspects of school life: chapel and Bible studies, membership in one of the school's four houses, school musicals, school trips, the school's annual formal banquet, and more. To learn more about ACA's options for homeschool families, contact the school office at 918-832-4600.

The Greek I course I teach is offered two days a week at the beginning of the school day, a great way to get your homeschooler off to a good start. ACA also offers Latin and Hebrew, art, music, theater, logic, philosophy, economics, Biblical exegesis, history, literature, and the full range of math and science. Here's the full list of ACA classes for 2012-2013.

ParthenonThe Parthenon by Konstantinos Dafalias on Flickr, Creative Commons attribution license.

A bit about my background in this subject: I studied Greek at MIT, part of my self-designed dual major in classics and computer science. During my time there, MIT offered a few modern languages (French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese), but Greek was the only ancient language offered. (For Latin, you had to cross-register up the street at Harvard.)The Greek courses were taught by MIT's only classics professor, Harald Anton Thrap Olsen Reiche. Prof. Reiche served on the MIT faculty from 1955 until his retirement in 1991. In addition to formal courses, I was in a small group -- myself, one other student, and a literature professor -- reading through Plato's Apology in Greek, and I took an IAP course in New Testament Greek taught by an engineering grad student who insisted on using modern Greek pronunciation, very different from the classical pronunciation I'd learned.

A peach of a day

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My wife wanted more blueberries.

She and the two younger kids picked an astonishing amount (18 gallons?) a few weeks ago at Thunderbird Berry Farm east of Broken Arrow. Nevertheless there didn't seem to be enough to cover pie baking, freezing for later, and random noshing. She wanted more, if we could get them.

Saturday she thought perhaps we could go and pick some more. Nope: Thunderbird's Facebook page said they ended the season June 30. Getting too hot for the berries. Owasso Tree Farm's website said they were done, too, not just blueberries but blackberries, too. The early hot weather had ripened everything earlier than normal.

So Saturday morning the six-year-old and I headed to Cherry Street for the Farmer's Market. We kept our eyes out for blueberries but found none.

I have mixed feelings about farmer's markets. I love the concept: A weekly community gathering, farmers bringing fresh produce straight to the consumer, no middleman to boost the price to the consumer and lower the price to the farmer, supporting our community's ability to feed itself in the event of a disruption to national and international food distribution networks.

In practice, I find it uncomfortable and expensive. I never have a clear picture of what I need, so I either underbuy or overbuy. I find myself tempted to make aspirational purchases -- buying food without a realistic idea of when we'll cook and eat it. It's awkward to look at produce at one booth, under the watchful eye of the farmer, only to excuse myself to see if the tomatoes are better or cheaper at any of the other booths. I rarely know what the price of the item is at the supermarket, and even if I did, the farmers tend to use a different standard to price each item than the supermarket does. Reasor's prices peaches by the piece, one farmer prices them by dry measure, another prices by the pound. So I leave feeling glad that I helped support a local farmer (particularly if it's someone I know), glad that I bought some fresh food, but frustrated with myself for not being a good steward of the family food budget.

Lomah Dairy had a sign at its booth that explained that their cows have names and are treated with love and respect. It brought to mind that Portlandia sketch where a hipster couple at a restaurant grills the waitress about the living conditions of the chicken they were about to eat for dinner. ("His name was Colin. Here are his papers.") Unsatisfied with the waitress's claims, they go to the chicken farm to investigate for themselves.

One booth sold us a bag of pickle cucumbers for $4 and 6 ears of corn for $5. (The pickle cucumbers were the six-year-old's idea.) The ears were a bit scrawny (already picked over toward the end of the market, I expect), so the farmer threw in a couple more on the house.

I stopped at the Bootstrap Farm booth because I recognized one of the farmers as a friend who is a philosopher and erstwhile barista. We were given a sample of golden, sweet cherry tomatoes, and we bought a quart container of them, plus a few pounds of vine-ripened, regular-sized tomatoes -- $11. (I had one of the big tomatoes that night with a little bit of salt -- wonderful!) Then a stop by the Council Creek Farm pickup, its bed loaded with fresh cantaloupe and watermelon. We bought one big watermelon ($6) and two canteloupe (@ $4) -- $14. I struggled up the hill to the car cradling the melon in the crook of my arm, carrying a plastic shopping bag with the corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes by the handle, and carrying a partly torn plastic bag with a cantaloupe. The six-year-old managed to carry the other cantaloupe in his arms.

We dropped off the goods, then headed back down the hill for a cup of coffee (for me) and a cup of fruit (for him, although I ate the pineapple, kiwi, and orange bits he didn't want).

Next stop: Hardscape Materials in Bixby. We've got a small pond, bequeathed to us by the previous owners, and I've tried to keep it in shape, but because of the big freeze of 2011 and a 15-month stretch when work had me out of town half the time, things got out of hand. Tall flowering plants, joined by a thick mat of roots, had completely taken over the pond. (We were told they were water hyacinth, but they aren't.) I cleaned all of them out, leaving the water lilies, but in the clean out process I apparently made a couple of small tears in the liner.

So we went to Hardscape Materials, which has an entire building devoted to pond equipment and supplies and several large demonstration ponds with waterfalls, fountains, rocks, and gigantic koi. Hardscape has developed many of the pond products they sell.

They had the patch kit we needed, and after we bought it, the six-year-old led me around the grounds for a while. (There are few more interesting ways to spend time than to follow the whims of a six-year-old.) Hardscape has acres of stone, rock, and gravel of all types. They even sell basalt columns. They come from naturally hexagonal rock formations, the most famous of which is Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Back in the car and south on US 64. Next stop was Carmichael's produce stand, on the west side of the road just south of the river. They had plenty of Bixby corn, much healthier-looking than what we bought on Cherry Street -- a dozen ears for $6, cheaper than $7.50 for the same amount at the supermarket. Cucumbers were two for a dollar, sweet potatoes were 89 cents a pound (same price as the supermarket), so we bought some of those.

And they had blueberries from Nacogdoches, Texas -- $32 for a flat of 12 pints. That was much cheaper than the supermarket, where we would have paid about $48 for the same amount. Via text message, I was told to buy two flats.

They had peaches, too, but I intended to buy some peaches straight from the orchard in Porter, so we headed south again, but not before a quick drive around downtown Bixby. We noticed the removal of an ugly facade from a historic retail building in progress, a steeple for sale, and an interesting two-story gas station that now belongs to the local historical society.

South and east again along US 64 through Leonard and Stone Bluff, which reminded the six-year-old of Route 66, which led to questions about when towns were bypassed by highways and why the interstate highway system was built, followed by answers about pre-interstate bypasses and Eisenhower's post-World War I convoy across America and his experience with autobahns in Germany and how some bypasses (like Tulsa's Skelly Bypass) don't bypass anything any more.

Downtown Haskell has lovely new streetscaping, some interesting buildings with potential, and a couple of blocks where most of the buildings are gone, the result of a fires some years ago. (The Google street view imagery from February 2008 shows how much is now missing.) We stopped at Family Style Barbecue, in one of the old buildings, for lunch. The ribs were pretty good, a bit fattier than I like, but good flavor and no need for sauce. The beans had a nice smoky flavor. I tried a bit of their barbecue sauce but didn't care for it. The six-year-old enjoyed his ham sandwich, but not as much as he enjoyed the funny animal-video show on the TV in the corner.

After lunch we walked around a bit, noticing a sign ("HOME AND AUTO STORE") that had belonged to the OTASCO that once had been there, across the street from a building bearing the name ADELMAN (which, if memory serves, was the name of the family that built the Delman Theater at 15th and Lewis -- they dropped the initial A), an exposed native stone wall, a hexagonal tile floor (the only remnant of Broadway Cleaners), a pig statue in front of a butcher's shop and a mid-century modern facade on a defunct bank building. The six-year-old noted the irony of the painting on Family Style Barbecue's window: three walking pigs -- dad, mom, and son -- carrying balloons, one of which read "LET'S EAT!" "They shouldn't go in there. They'll be butchered!" he said with a grin.

East on 104 across the Arkansas River at Choska, then on to 231st Street, a gravel road between sod farms. We'd have probably been better off to go a couple of miles north, then east and back south, but I was following Google's directions. The six-year-old was grateful to get back on a paved road after two or three miles.

Livesay Orchards had lots and lots of fresh peaches, at least three different varieties, and a lady at a booth offered samples on toothpicks of each. They had a special on Scarlet Prince -- a half bushel for $18 (other varieties were $27 for a half bushel). They also grow apples. We drove past the orchards heading east, north on the first paved road into Porter proper, where the east-west streets are named for peach varieties. Porter is a town that could use some serious TLC. The town's famed Porter Peach Festival is July 19 - 21, 2012. This year they'll have carnival rides, mud races, a 5k run, and a car show, in addition to the peaches.

Home the easy way, on 51, and then the hard part -- finding some place to put 20 ears of corn, a big bag of cucumbers, a half-bushel of peaches, five pounds of sweet potatoes, two flats of blueberries, two cantaloupes, and a watermelon. I baked all the sweet potatoes, and we had watermelon, peaches, and tomatoes with a little bit of leftover ham for dinner that night.

My wife gently reminded me that the fresh produce is perishable, is best when you buy it, and you want to use it before it goes bad. So we are going to be gorging ourselves on fruit and vegetables for a week or so.

P. S. Anyone have a good pickle recipe? I'm thinking half-sour or maybe bread-and-butter.

Way back in 2003, when this blog was in its infancy, I wrote about a weekend visit to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for a reunion of alumni of the New Creations, University Baptist Church in Fayetteville's collegiate choir. My wife sang with the group throughout her time at the University of Arkansas. During the reunion, long-time director Tanner Riley led a massed choir of alumni in several oft-performed songs.

I needed to hear one of those songs again today; perhaps, at the end of a hard week, you do, too. It's by John Purifoy, and it's a setting of Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30. Here's the New Creations from their 1984 spring concert. The second clip has a few words of invitation from Pastor J. D. McCarty followed by a reprise of the song.

Come to Me All Who Labor (MP3)

Come to Me All Who Labor (reprise) with remarks by J. D. McCarty (MP3)

MORE: From Pilgrim's Progress

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which CHRISTIAN was to go was fenced on either side with a wall; and that wall was called "Salvation".

"In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks." Isaiah 26:1

Up this way, therefore, did burdened CHRISTIAN run; but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as CHRISTIAN came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble; and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

Then was CHRISTIAN glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart,

"He hath given me rest by his sorrow,
And life by his death."

Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.


We're getting rid of clothes we don't need and came across a couple of bright teal windbreakers from the 1990 International Science and Engineering Fair, which was held in Tulsa that year. My wife and I, then newlyweds, volunteered for the fair, marshalling buses and giving directions to visitors.

ISEF 1990 Tulsa embroidered Indian head logo on a teal windbreaker

I guess we took the windbreakers with us to Europe later that year, because in the pocket of the smaller jacket was a little wrapper, likely from a mint:

Mövenpick Marché Heidiland mint wrapper

Autobahnrestaurant N13

Mövenpick Marché Heidiland mint wrapperOn the back, a young female model holds something that looks like a Paris street sign, reading:


The Mövenpick Marché Heidiland is a roadside restaurant in Canton Graubünden, in eastern Switzerland. It's part of a chain, but more than just a fast-food place -- more like the Stuckey's and Howard Johnson's you used to see along Oklahoma's turnpikes, but much bigger and nicer. You'll still find this sort of thing along the some east coast turnpikes and British motorways -- restaurant or food court, convenience store, tourism info -- some of them approach the size of small malls.


But I've never been to one in the US or UK with a goat enclosure.

Marché Heidiland, on the highway A13, is one of the most well-known rest stops in all of Switzerland. The "Heidi and Geissenpeter Game" is waiting for you as soon as you walk in the front door. Two large game rooms provide an exciting experience for all kids. There is also an outdoor playground and a goat enclosure close to the entrance.

We would have come across this place on the way between picking up a rental car in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, and our stop for the night in Chur, Switzerland.

Our September 1990 vacation, facilitated by my wife's employment with American Airlines, started in Frankfurt and took us to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Mittenwald, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and Munich in Germany, Prague in newly freed Czechoslovakia, Vienna, Melk, and Salzburg in Austria, Liechtenstein, Chur, Glarus, Lucerne, Rüschlikon, and Zurich in Switzerland, whence we flew home. We had a Eurail / Hertz car/train package deal, used the car in Bavaria, took the train through Czechoslovakia and Austria (including a brief ride on a boat on the Danube), then picked up a car in Vaduz for the last few days of the trip.

I remember being disappointed that you couldn't find a cheap lunch in Vaduz, as you could in Austria, Bavaria, and Prague. So we likely stopped here for a meal.

I don't recall whether it was cheap then, but it certainly isn't cheap today. The website touts fresh baked goods and abundant buffets. The evening buffet (7 pm to 10:30 pm) runs $25, not including beverages. The lunch special -- dish, drink, and dessert -- is about $18, and the Sunday brunch buffet is about $27. There are size discounts: Under 110 cm is free, under 140 cm is half price. The bargain breakfast -- croissant, bread roll, butter, jam, and coffee -- is only $9. (The US dollar and the Swiss Franc are right about at par at the moment. When we visited, a dollar was worth 1.30 Swiss Francs.)

In addition to the goat enclosure, the Marché Heidiland has an outdoor playground, an indoor play area, a smokers' room, a conference room, and free WiFi.

The baby facilities are impressive: A microwave oven, bottle warmer, and hot water kettle for use in preparing your baby's food, built-in changing tables (not just pulldown tables in the handicapped toilet stall), and special strollers that give you a place to put your tray of food and your child's tray as you navigate the buffet.

MORE: Bill Clinton stopped here on his way to Davos a couple of years ago.

MORE reminiscing: Older readers will recall the midway rest stop on the Turner Turnpike, with a pedestrian bridge connecting eastbound and westbound rest areas. The eastbound area had a Howard Johnson's restaurant, a souvenir shop, a Phillips 66 service station, and a tourism display. One thing you couldn't get on the eastbound side was a bottle or can of pop. If you wanted anything other than HoJo Cola, you had to walk over the turnpike to the vending machines at the Phillips station on the westbound side.

Midway Station Overpass - Turner Turnpike, OK -1950s

MORE stuff that fell out in the dryer (should have checked the pockets more carefully): A chestnut and (found in the lint trap) a ticket labeled "RVO" dated September 26, 1990, at 16:00, for two people. RVO is a regional transportation company in the Bavarian Alps, so perhaps this was a ticket for our day train trip from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden with another American couple.

Here's Merle Haggard, singing lead and doing his best imitation of Bob Wills' hollers, with three Texas Playboys: Johnny Gimble playing fiddle, Tiny Moore (next to Merle, holding a fiddle) and Eldon Shamblin (playing his Stratocaster) singing harmony.

Let's send this one out to Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren in Massachusetts.

Tiny Moore was best known as a virtuoso mandolin picker, but he was also a terrific vocalist. Tiny was only given the chance to sing lead on a few Texas Playboys recordings, but he shared lead vocal duties with Bob's youngest brother Billy Jack Wills in Billy Jack's Sacramento based western swing band (1952-1954). Eldon Shamblin, a brilliant and creative rhythm guitarist, also served as arranger and band manager for the Texas Playboys, and sang on trios and quartets from time to time. Tiny and Eldon, teamed up with steel guitarist Herb Remington on the triple guitar arrangements of big band tunes on the Tiffany Transcriptions recordings. Tiny, Eldon, and Johnny had all performed, along with Joe Holley, Alex Brashear, and Johnnie Lee Wills on Merle Haggard's 1970 album A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or, My Salute to Bob Wills), and Tiny and Eldon toured with Merle Haggard for a few years.

Many thanks to See-Dubya for the tip.

Nancy_C_Newman.jpgWilliam_Basil_Newman.jpgI am exactly as Cherokee as Ms. Warren: Family lore says that my great-great-grandmother Nancy Catherine Boyd was a half-blood Cherokee. (Note the high cheekbones.) She was born in Ohio, but the story is that there was a community of Cherokee in Ohio who had moved there to get out of the way of white expansion into Cherokee lands in the South; many then, it is said, moved to Indian Territory to rejoin their relocated people in their "permanent" home. Nancy married William Basil Newman, who refused to let Nancy enroll with the Dawes Commission, because he didn't want his wife owning land (an allotment) in her own name; and thus old Basil deprived all his descendants of the benefits of Cherokee citizenship, or so the story goes.

Albert W. Bates was my grandfather's youngest brother, five years younger. He was drafted into the Army at age 20, served in the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division, the Thunderbirds. He is buried in Welch Cemetery near his parents and some of his siblings.


From the Oklahoma War Memorial, World War II, Part VI


ALBERT W. BATES, Private, U. S. Army. Home address: Estella, Craig County. Carl E. Bates, Father, Estella. Born July 15, 1922. Enlisted December 4, 1943. Decoration: Order of the Purple Heart. Died October 5, 1943, of shell wounds received in battle near Ponte, Italy.

From the Nowata Star, November 2, 1943:


Estella Man Dies in Action

Pvt. Albert W. Bates, Estella, brother of John Bates of Nowata, was killed in action somewhere in the North African theater of war on October 5, it wsa learned here today. He was 21 years old.

A war department message to his father, C. E. Bates, Estella farmer, gave no other details, stating that a letter will follow. The elder Bates believes his son was killed in Italy.

The county soldier had been in the service only 10 months. He entered the army from Nowata in December, 1942, and was assigned to the 45th division.

He sailed with that unit in the spring for North Africa and later took part with his buddies in the successful conquest of Sicily, going through that campaign unhurt.

Before joining the colors, he assisted his father with the management of the Bates farm, route one, Estella. He was unmarried.

The brother in Nowata is employed at the Benjamin funeral home. There are no other immediate survivors.

The World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing Army and Army Air Forces Personnel from Oklahoma lists Pvt. Bates as KIA.

Albert W. Bates' enlistment record says that he was a selectee and was enlisted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on November 25, 1942. His civilian occupation is listed as "Semiskilled miners, and mining-machine operators."


The regiment was first committed to battle on 10 July 1943, in the assault wave of the landings on the island of Sicily, and suffered its first casualties there. Though enemy resistance was light, twenty-seven men were drowned in the landings. Among the first to die in battle were four resolute machine gunners that held their positions unto death to keep a German counterattack from overrunning a withdrawing rifle company. The regiment conducted another landing on Sicily, in an operation to leapfrog up the coast to by-pass heavy defenses. In debarking ship in one such operation a landing craft loaded with men broke free from the ship's davits and dropped on top of another loaded landing craft that had come alongside the ship: twenty-one men were killed in this single mishap. Regimental casualties on Sicily numbered close to 200.

Next, the regiment participated in the assault landings at Salerno, Italy, coming ashore the second day, 10 September 1943. They were immediately involved in fighting to break out of the beachhead, battling at such places as the Tobacco Warehouse (which changed hands four times on 12 September), Persano, and the Sele River. The regiment's 1st Battalion was hit by enemy tanks on 13 September and was surrounded and bypassed by the Germans, who moved toward the ocean, threatening the whole of the beachhead. Two of the division's artillery battalions, the 189th and the 158th stood in the way, stopped the Germans and saved the beachhead -- firing 3,650 rounds in a single day. The German defense was defeated on 17 September, and the enemy wave began to withdraw -- followed aggressively by the Americans. On 23 September Corporal James D. Slayton of K Company earned the regiment's first Medal of Honor by wiping out three German machine gun nests with rifle fire, hand grenades, and his bayonet. The next day the Regimental Commander's jeep ran over a German mine, and Colonel Ankcorn lost a leg. On 28 September 2nd and 3rd Battalions were bombed by American planes. On 6 October 1943 E Company was hit hard by an enemy counterattack, and was reduced to 45 men. Showers were arranged and clean clothes were issued to the men on 19 October -- the first such opportunities in more than forty days. With only brief spell in reserve, the regiment continued to battle the Germans, the mountains, and the cold until relieved from the line on 10 January 1944 after 72 days of continuous combat.


Salerno: American Operations From the Beaches to the Volturno (9 September-6 October 1943)

Reminiscences of the men of the 157th Infantry

Many thanks to the Find A Grave volunteers who post images and tirelessly document gravestones.

It was a fun but busy weekend with no time for posting here. Friday night involved ferrying my oldest son from playing in Barthelmes Conservatory's spring open concert to singing with the Augustine Christian Academy show choir at the school's high school graduation. While he was busy with that, I met up with a friend, a Tulsan now sojourning in Texas, back in town to celebrate his birthday at In the Raw South, enjoying sushi, good conversation, and one of the best views in Tulsa. (And now I think of it -- too late -- it would have been a great spot to view Sunday night's sunset eclipse.)

Saturday was focused on Mayfest. Several Barthelmes Conservatory students performed on the 4th & Boston stage. While the temperatures were pleasant, the gusty winds were a challenge, and at one point several students and I were chasing several pages of piano music down 4th Street. I thought my son and his ensemble partner played as well in the open air as they had for the previous night's indoor concert, but he said that several times a gust lifted his bow off the strings. Not the ideal conditions for performing.

After a young female singer performed, we thought we were going to have a few minutes of quiet before the Barthelmes performance began, but instead the sound system was cranked up to a deafening volume. It turned out they were playing music on the 4th and Boston sound system for a "flash mob" at 4th and Main. Now, downtown Tulsa blocks are 300' by 300' from lot line (usually the building face) to lot line, plus 60' between lot lines for streets and sidewalks. So that means we were sitting within 20' or so of music cranked loud enough to be heard by dancers the length of a football field away. If you want music at 4th and Main, kindly put the speakers at 4th and Main.

We spent a little while exploring the art booths on Main Street. I was especially impressed by Douglas Fulks' pen and ink drawings of football stadiums, baseball parks, and musical instruments and Christopher Westfall's romantic paintings of Tulsa cityscapes. A Westfall print would be a great gift for a homesick Tulsan, and our convention and visitors bureau would do well to license some of his images to promote the city. I particularly liked his painting of Shades of Brown coffeehouse in Brookside.

We wound up on Boston Ave. south of 5th Street, next to the Philcade Building, one of Tulsa's Art Deco treasures. Big band music was playing on a PA system and dozens of young people (and a few older) were swing dancing in the street. This was part of the first-ever Greenwood Swingout and also part of Chalkfest, an event sponsored by Kanbar Properties, separate but alongside Mayfest, to bring people over to Boston Ave. At one point, the whole crowd lined up to do the Shim Sham, a swing line dance, to a recording of "Stompin' at the Savoy" with the late Lindy Hop legend Frankie Manning calling out the steps. Many of the folks dancing are regulars at The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate's Saturday night dances at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Brookside.

Inside the Philcade, the Tulsa Art Deco Museum held the grand opening of its preview space and gift shop, a taste of what the organizers hope to develop on a larger scale. The preview space includes displays of Deco-inspired small appliances, such as toasters and radios, and consumer product packaging -- typewriter ribbon cases, potato chip cans, and ice cream boxes. A three-seat theater in the center ran a sequence of Betty Boop cartoons which had my kids cackling. (The Deco Ball is coming up on Saturday, June 9, 2012, in the Philcade's penthouse, once home to Waite and Genevieve Phillips.

Sunday night we tried to see something of the solar eclipse just before sunset but could find only one small spot in our yard where sunlight struck our fence. The sun went behind the clouds -- no good for eclipse spotting but the sunset was beautiful, with sunbeams streaming through holes in the clouds.

The previous weekend was no less busy: Friday evening we journeyed to Fayetteville for a reception -- the University of Arkansas School of Education honored my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, as an outstanding alumna for her work establishing single parent scholarship funds in Benton County and across Arkansas and now across the country through Aspire, a nationwide network of single parent scholarship programs. Saturday was the Oklahoma Republican State Convention in Norman. Sunday night was Mother's Day -- a relaxing celebration with extended family on a beautiful afternoon, followed by the final performance of Fiddler on the Roof at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. ("Sunrise, Sunset" and "Sabbath Prayer" get me choked up every time.)

May has been a month of end-of-school activities, too. Final exams and final projects for the oldest son. Our daughter achieved the Classical Conversations Memory Master milestone for the second year in a row. Our youngest son finished the first book for Awana Sparks -- that involves memorizing about two dozen Bible verses and the books of the New Testament. Closing ceremonies for Classical Conversations featured a skit entirely in Latin, written and performed by the high school (rhetoric) students, and a skit set for all of the grammar and dialectic students set in pioneer days, incorporating in a creative way some of their memory work, such as history sentences, states, capitals, and geographical features, principal parts of irregular verbs, times tables, and presidents.

I'm still working on my comprehensive report of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's speech at Oral Roberts University. In the meantime, I'm pleased to introduce a new contributor to BatesLine, who provides her own concise and insightful perspective on Santorum's visit to Tulsa. (I'm especially pleased to have a contributor who needs no editing whatsoever.)

Santorum sincere, straightforward
by Katherine Bates, apprentice pundit
Special to BatesLine

Katherine-20120207-250px.jpgAuthentic. Sincere. Straightforward. People who heard Rick Santorum speak at the Mabee Center on February 9, 2012 used all of these words. During his short speech, he captivated listeners, and received over ten standing ovations. He could hardly get more than a sentence out without the audience applauding. He spoke clearly, and he conveyed his points very well. Santorum is an amazing speaker, and doesn't avoid talking about certain issues or topics like most candidates.

One thing that stood out was his speech on equality, and that our rights are endowed by our CREATOR, and not by the government. So should the government be able to take away our right to choose our doctors, and our health insurance, and our medications? His answer? No, absolutely not!

Another topic Santorum spoke about was Affordable Energy. With gas prices today, this topic appealed to everyone.

At the end of his speech, he answered questions for ORU students. He delivered his answers well, and was patient with each of them. Though other candidates might have cowered away from these topics, Santorum had an immediate and firm answer as each question was thrown at him. In my opinion, we need someone like Santorum, who had his values straight from the beginning, for the next president of the United States.

Katherine Bates, 11, is a Tulsa-based writer, the author and illustrator of The Toads' Spring Fling, a children's story book, and Katrina, a science fiction short story. She has studied writing with Tulsa-based author Gina Conroy at Augustine Christian Academy and the Institute for Excellence in Writing through the Classical Conversations homeschool program. She is a member of the Tulsa County Impact 4-H Club.

Photo by Bland Bridenstine

The Augustine Christian Academy Show Choir will be delivering singing valentines next Tuesday, February 14, 2012.


Are you looking for something unique and extra special for the ones you love this Valentine's Day? Let them be serenaded by a group of very talented singers from Augustine Christian Academy's Show Choir. Prices range from $25 - $40. We'll deliver a song, a personalized card, chocolates, and a special dedication to a location of your choice within the Tulsa area. Deliveries will be offered from 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM on February 14th. Order early to get your preferred delivery time! All orders must be received by February 13th! Get your Singing Valentine order form by CLICKING HERE, or pick one up in the school office. Please call Mrs. Gale Post at 918-852-2040 for more information.

Here's the group singing "Unforgettable" this morning on Fox 23 Daybreak:

The more you pay, the more precise you can be with the delivery time. Proceeds support the ACA performing arts program, which is producing Hello, Dolly, April 19 through 22, 2012.

Merry Christmas

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... from the extended Bates family to your family.

Michael Bates and family, Philbrook, 2011, with Santa and Mrs. Claus

Photo by Cole Elijah Cunningham, featuring Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at Philbrook.


Just four more days until the Niña and the Pinta, historical recreations of Christopher Columbus's two caravels, sail out of Muskogee's Three Forks Harbor and down the Arkansas River to their next destination. The ships serve as touring maritime museums, traveling around North America to teach about Columbus, seafaring, and the Age of Discovery. Sponsored by the Columbus Foundation, the ships were built in Valenca, Brazil, using the same sort of methods that would have been in use five hundred years earlier. Niña was built 20 years ago, Pinta 6 years ago.

The Nina, at Muskogee's Three Forks Harbor
My two younger kids went with a group of their fellow Classical Conversations homeschoolers to tour the ships just before Thanksgiving. The heavy fog, which later burned off, added to the sense of history. Crew members explained the different parts of the ship and what life at sea would have been like in the late 15th Century.
On board the Nina

Below decks on the Nina

Here's a link to schedule, hours, and ticket information for the Niña and the Pinta. December 7 is listed as the final day in Muskogee. Three Forks Harbor is part of the Port of Muskogee, on the east side of the Arkansas River just south of US 62.

Give Thanks to the Lord
by Katherine Bates

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
Sound hymns of joyous praise,
And Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice
Has freed the former slaves.
He died upon that blessed cross
And now we can enjoy
Salvation! Hearts are freed from sin
And Satan's evil ploy.

Out sick, again

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In case you're wondering at the silence here, I got hit Saturday night (shortly after publishing the previous entry) with a nasty gastrointestinal bug that had me up all night. I'm better, but not yet back to normal.

This evening was the first time I felt like spending any time in front of a computer, and I've added a few interesting items to the linkblog (left sidebar on the home page). My pace of publishing will likely remain slow, as I catch up on work and home matters while trying to get an ample amount of sleep. Thanks for your patience.

Here's my eldest son's performance from Saturday's Oklahoma State Fiddling Championship at the Tulsa State Fair. He finished fourth in the junior category (ages 13-16), performing "Liberty," "Ashokan Farewell," and "Faded Love."

He decided to enter about a week before the contest. He hadn't been sure whether he'd have to time to perfect fiddle tunes in the midst of regular schoolwork and the amount of time he spends practicing classical violin. (The generous prize money helped to persuade him -- he won $50, and every contestant in his category went away with at least $20.) I'm very proud of him. It's amazing to see how his showmanship and musicianship has grown since starting to learn violin over five years ago and entering his first fiddle contest four years ago.

The Oklahoma fiddling championship keeps growing and improving. This year, the contest was inside, on the lower level of the IPE Building (aka QuikTrip Center) on the Muscogee Creek stage (where in years past the Chinese acrobats used to perform).

MORE: Scott Pendleton, dad and rhythm guitarist for the Pendleton Family Fiddlers, has written a comprehensive cover story in the October 2011 issue of Tulsa People about Tulsa's fiddle scene, including local acts, venues, and jam sessions. That's Scott on the left in the video playing rhythm guitar, as he did throughout the contest.

A word of praise for Joe Momma's Pizza:

The actors in Encore! Theatre Company's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a two-hour break between the end of the Saturday matinee and call for the evening performance. Proximity, pizza, and video games made Joe Momma's the obvious place to get a bite to eat and hang out until the kids were allowed back into the PAC. My wife called ahead to give them warning, and they set aside the back room for our group of 40 or so.

One waitress, a thoroughly tattooed young woman, took all the orders and kept them all straight. There was an above-and-beyond moment, too. My in-laws avoid wheat gluten as much as they can, so they ordered a 10" pizza with a gluten-free crust. A few minutes after the order the waitress came back to tell them that the alfredo sauce had gluten as well, and asked if they'd like to order a pizza with red sauce instead.

So not only did Joe Momma's offer gluten-free pizza, the staff was alert enough to catch an inconsistency between crust and topping and brought the issue to the customer to resolve it to the customer's satisfaction, rather than bring out a pizza that wouldn't have met the customer's requirements. Well done to the waitress and kitchen staff.

And now a complaint for the Tulsa Parking Authority and their operator for the Williams Center South garage, Central Parking System:

When we came to see the final performance of Charlie, I opted to park in the underground garage right next to the PAC, rather than leave the car out in the hot sun. Saturday and Sunday parking costs only $4, not the usual $8, or so said the ticket.

When I reached the pay machine at the exit, the machine, which seemed to be shiny and new, failed in three separate ways:

"Please pay with a credit card or cash."

[ iInsert credit card.]

"Credit cards are not accepted. Please pay with a credit card or cash."

[Grumbling, I Insert $20 bill. Machine returns $11 in dollar coins. Receipt shows $8 charge for parking, despite ticket and signs to the contrary.]

So the machine wouldn't take a credit card, despite saying it would, the machine charged me the weekday rate, twice the rate I should have been charged, and the machine short-changed me. I'm out five bucks.

An attendant was in the booth, but she couldn't help me. She could see what was wrong, but she didn't have the authority or the means to correct the problem. She told me her name and wrote the Central Parking System number on the back of my receipt. So I get to decide whether to waste at least $5 of my time to get my $5 back. (Since the machine wouldn't take a credit card, they won't be able to credit my account, so I'll wind up with a check that will be sent through the mail and that I'll need to deposit.)

This is not the sort of parking experience we should be providing for downtown visitors.

events~~element283.jpgToday (Sunday, July 17, 2011) at 2 p.m. is the final performance of Encore! Theatre Company's production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, part of the SummerStage Festival at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Encore! is a 501(c)(3) non-profit

The show stars Encore! artistic director Josh Barker as Willy Wonka, Blake Simpson as Charlie Bucket, Reed Probst as Mike Teevee, Victoria Hannath as Veruca Salt, Abby Casciaro as Violet Beauregarde, Anthony Conroy as Augustus Gloop, and Mark Casciaro as Grandpa Joe. The director is Mindy Barker, who also plays Mrs. Beauregarde. The cast of 39 includes a dozen Oompa-Loompas.

Following the performance, there's a special treat: "Children who attend the show will receive a FREE chocolate bar, five of which will hide a GOLDEN TICKET to win fun prizes! (While supplies last.)"

events~~element356.jpgeventselement322-fix.jpgThis production has been a major part of our family's summer, with our older two kids rehearsing almost every night for their first Encore! production and my wife helping to sew Oompa-Loompa costumes.

Despite (or perhaps because of) all the hard work involved in preparing for this production, our kids have enjoyed the experience, and it's been especially exciting for them to have the opportunity to perform at the PAC. The Barkers put a huge amount of effort, creativity, and skill into the sets, costumes, sound effects, and choreography.

The show begins at 2 p.m. at the John H. Williams Theater downstairs at the PAC. (Use the 2nd Street entrance, just west of Cincinnati. Tickets are $16 for adults $16, $13 for seniors $13, $11 for children under 12. No convenience charge if you buy the tickets at the box office, which opens at noon.

durer_praying_hands.jpgI have a list of 15 topics that I want/need to write about, but this afternoon it seemed more appealing to work with my five-year-old to pick up and put away the Hot Wheels, Magformers, Puzzibits, Lego and Duplo pieces littering his bedroom floor.

The long list of topics I need to tackle, far from energizing me, fills me with despair. But what makes it harder is that we are nearing the official start of Tulsa's 2011 campaign season. In the coming days, weeks, and months, I'll be writing some things that voters need to understand, but they're things that will likely cost me some friends and make me a target.

Over the last seven years, going back to the historic 2004 election that ushered in a grassroots majority on the City Council, Tulsa citizens have increasingly had a voice and a seat at the table at City Hall. The PLANiTULSA process that shaped Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in a generation from the input of thousands of Tulsans is perhaps the zenith of the progress we've made over the last seven years.

Unfortunately, the bunch that used to have unchallenged control of city government -- a group I've nicknamed the Cockroach Caucus for their aversion to the sunlight of public scrutiny -- is trying for a comeback. Between now and November, you will see a well-funded, coordinated effort to seize control of City Council and shut out the priorities and concerns of regular, working Tulsans. You can expect well-produced TV and radio ads and slick postcards that will use misdirection and misinformation to try to warp your perception of the issues and the candidates. You can expect a rerun of the "Momentum" campaign in Oklahoma City, funded with money funneled through a series of organizations to hide its origins, spent on ads that used national issues in an unprincipled and inconsistent way to elect its preferred candidates. The Tulsa version involves some of the same people, appears to be using the same funding strategies, and has already used its pull to get its preferred set of council district boundaries enacted.

If they get their way, the gains of the last seven years will be halted and reversed. We'll be back to the days of puppet city councilors that only pretend to listen to the concerns of their constituents. The key issue of this campaign: Will city government be run for the benefit of all Tulsans, or only for the benefit of a favored few?

As I look ahead to the coming election season, I feel overwhelmed. I worry about communicating the danger I see in an effective and compelling manner. I worry because many of my friends and allies who have fought the good fight these many years are on the sidelines this year, exhausted and bruised from the attacks they've endured. I worry whether I can write as much as I need to without neglecting the demands of my day job or the needs of my family.

So I'm asking for your prayers, and not only for me, but for bloggers, candidates, and campaign volunteers. Pray for endurance, perseverance, and encouragement. Pray for insight in analyzing issues and candidates and clarity in expressing that analysis to the voters. Pray for "malice toward none... charity for all... firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right." Pray that God would raise up reinforcements -- candidates, activists, and bloggers who will fill in the gaps left by those who have stepped away from the battle lines to bind up their wounds. Pray that these people would have the financial and personal support they need to bring their message to the public.

As for the Cockroach Caucus: Pray that God would "confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks," that their deceptive tactics will be clumsily executed and easily exposed. Pray for chaos and dissension in their ranks. Pray that some insiders would have an attack of conscience and expose the Caucus's inner workings to the public.

Finally, pray for the voters, that they would have the wisdom to see through deception and misdirection.

P. S. I expect there will be a lot of eyes on this site in the days and weeks to come. Election seasons always bring a readership peak. There are two great ad spaces available -- your ad will appear at the top of every BatesLine page. Ads start at $20. In June, according to the awstats analysis of my server log, BatesLine served 516,504 pages to 72,786 visitors, and that's likely to increase as interest in city elections rises.

Greetings from the self-proclaimed "Cutest Café in Georgetown" (Snap, 1062 Thomas Jefferson St, open 11 to 11 most nights, til 10 on Sundays, crepes, bubble tea, free wifi), where I'm grabbing a quick bite of dinner to complete a wonderful weekend in the Washington area.

Planning to meet up with friends when visiting a city is always a tricky business. Just because I'm free doesn't mean they will be. And planning several different meetings is even trickier -- you can't firm up plans with Friend B until things are set with Friend A

This weekend everything fell into place --

  • a spur-of-the-moment visit with a former colleague and his family in Annapolis, en route from Delaware to DC;
  • breakfast, lunch, and a full Saturday morning of talking urban planning and touring new developments and redevelopments (The Kentlands, Bethesda Row, downtown Silver Spring) with a college classmate who works for Montgomery County's planning agency;
  • a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian and a serendipitous opportunity to hear Bartlesville native singer/songwriter Becky Hobbs;
  • breakfast and traditional Anglican worship with a blogpal at the historic Falls Church;
  • lunch with a fraternity brother and his kids at a conveyor-belt sushi place in Tyson's Corner (warning: website is flash app with automatic music), followed by dessert at a fancy coffee and sweets shop;
  • a free concert at the Kennedy Center by Tulsa Celtic trio Vintage Wildflowers (archived broadcast should be available here in a couple of days);
  • and, in between all that, strolls around downtown Annapolis, Capitol Hill, Eastern Market, the National Mall, Foggy Bottom, the Watergate, the Potomac, Falls Church, the C&O Canal, and Georgetown.


Add to that the time I spent last weekend at my MIT class of '86 reunion / ZBT Xi centennial, and dinner several times this week with my uncle and aunt, and it's been a time of renewing and deepening ties with friends and extended family.

The weekend also marks the end of an intense nine months of travel related to a project at work. Since last August 23rd, I've been away from my family 190 days, with no more than three weeks' break between trips, and all but 11 of those days have been devoted to the day job.

My trips were focused on three cities: San Antonio, Texas (101 days), Fairfield, California (44 days), and Dover, Delaware (34 days). Earlier in the year, I spent 78 days in Wichita on a different project, spread out over five months. These few cities join a handful of other places where I have been for a month or more over a short span of time:

Lawrence, Ks.
Bartlesville, Okla.
Brookline, Mass.
Ocean City, New Jersey
Quezon City, Philippines
Altus, Okla.
London, England


I thought I might get more accomplished during my travels, but it didn't work out that way. I read a few books, did a bit of blogging, but it was hard to resist the urge to explore the area and spend time with old friends. The extended time away was a hardship for the whole family, but it was interesting to spend enough time in these cities to begin to get to know them well.


I've never traveled so much in such a short span -- 30 days away over the course of a year is closer to typical -- and I don't expect to repeat the situation.

Don't expect my blogging pace to pick up anytime soon. Now it's time to renew my ties with my immediate family. Eventually it'll be time to renew my acquaintance with the city that has been my hometown for 42 years.


25 years ago today, I sat in MIT's Killian Court along with a thousand other students in a heavy academic gown made heavier by a steady rain. Officials thought the rain would hold off, but by the time it became apparent that it would not, it was too late to redirect graduates, diplomas, and well-wishers to the alternative indoor sites.

It was a fitting conclusion to the odd final act of my time at MIT. A couple of weeks into the spring semester of my junior year, chest aches and fever were diagnosed as acute pericarditis. The doctor sent me straight to the infirmary, and within a week I was watching as a surgeon stuck a needle into my chest to drain a half-liter of fluid as a crowd of residents looked on. (Mt. Auburn Hospital was a teaching hospital.)

After a week of recovery time, I tried to jump back into academic life, but the pericarditis came back, along with high fever and heart rate. A few more weeks later, I had been ordered to go home and recuperate. There were further recurrences, much less severe, a couple of times a year over the next nine years, treated with rest and indomethacin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. (I'm pretty sure a couple of chest colds from years earlier were symptoms of the same problem.)

The missed semester threw the whole graduation plan off, thanks to courses offered only in the fall or spring. I came back full-time for the '84-'85 year, spent fall '85 working and taking one class, and then finished up in the spring of '86. The disruption to my plans inspired the essay I wrote for the yearbook -- I'll post that separately, later.

A significant recurrence struck at the beginning of my final month of school, and I had to give myself space to recover. With the department office, I determined I didn't need the Aeneid course at Harvard for graduation, so I punted it. I had an A in 6.045 (Computability, Complexity, and Automata); the professor said I could punt the final entirely and still get a C -- not pretty, one of a handful of non-As, and the only one in a class in my major, but I needed to cut way back on the pressure so I could rest and get healthy. I still had a final in Medieval and Church Latin at Harvard that the prof let me take at a later time. (Can't think of the other class I had that semester.)

Oh, about my major: I had planned to pursue computer science, although I was open to urban studies or political science. The first lecture of the initial urban studies class was so blatantly left-wing on matters incidental to urban policy that I dropped the class and the idea of majoring in Course XI. During the first semester of my sophomore year, I worked out a plan that would give me an education in computer science but would include a humanities component that was stronger than usual for MIT -- specifically, classics, which was not a major MIT has ever offered. I put together a classics component from Latin classes taken by cross-registration at Harvard and a couple of ancient Greek and Roman history classes offered at MIT. The dual major in humanities and engineering got me two-thirds of the standard program in each of computer science and classics but would still let me finish in four years. I wrote up a proposal and got the necessary approvals. (The rules were changed after the fact to require a majority of classes in each component of the dual major to be taken at MIT.)

My parents and sister were coming for commencement, and the night before we were going to have dinner at Uno's at Harvard and Comm Ave in Allston with a high school classmate who worked in Boston. Their arrival from my uncle's house in New Jersey kept getting pushed back. (The delay was because my little sister realized she left her boyfriend's photo at our uncle's house, so they had to retrace winding roads to fetch it. Thankfully, this was not the boyfriend she eventually married.) (Thinking back on this, it's hard to remember how we managed back then without cell phones.)

Back to graduation day, and it's raining steadily. One parent was heard to say, "After the soaking I've taken from this place for the past four years, what's a little rain?"

We sat through what may have been the dullest commencement speech ever. The speaker, one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard, had apparently never read the speech before stepping up to the podium to read it, ploddingly, to us. (I had to look it up, but the speaker was William Hewlett, who received a Master's from MIT in 1936.) You can read Hewlett's speech on page 5 of the June 24, 1986, issue of The Tech (PDF), but you'd be better off reading columnist Andrew Fish's summary on page 4:

Inside or out, the audience still had to be content with the address of William R. Hewlett SM '36. This was unfortunate. Hewlett's own title, "Random Thoughts on Creativity," was certainly appropiate. I had trouble following the speech, as it wandered aimlessly around, never reaching a firm conclusion....

The biggest complaint I have against the speech, though, was its stereotyping of the MIT community. Hewlett treated the entire class as if they were engineers going into industry. The speech was not a broad message to the entire graduating class, rather a lesson on how to be a better engineer....

I also urge the commencement committee to be more creative in their speaker selection. Graduates should be able to hear a speech with vision, and not another lecture, at the end of their long career.

'85 got Lee Iacocca and sunshine, for heaven's sake.

We then had to endure the lengthy remarks of our class president, who had a seat under the canopy and was evidently indifferent to her soggy classmates' plight. (I seem to recall many of us shouting "Finally!" until she skipped ahead to her conclusion.)

Finally, we lined up to march across the stage and receive our diplomas from President Paul Gray. (There was a joke: MIT's skies are gray, the walls are gray, the buildings are gray -- even the president is Gray!)

That's President Gray in the gray and cardinal robes shaking my hand and about to hand me my diploma. The rain doesn't show up on my black robe (although the robe's cheap dye showed up all over the dress shirt I was wearing), but you'll notice the mud and moisture on the cuffs of Gray's gray trousers. Behind his back, Dean of Undergraduate Education Margaret MacVicar is reading the names, and in the background next to my left shoulder is former President Julius Stratton.

After the ceremony I met up with my parents and sister, went to a reception for my department, then connected with some of my Campus Crusade friends. After that, we dropped by the fraternity house so I could show my folks around. A brother gave me a copy of the Wheel of Fortune home game as a gift -- watching Wheel was a nightly ritual in our apartment, a four-bedroom flat in a brownstone at 128 Fuller St. that the fraternity leased for overflow housing. (We even named our victorious "treasure hunt" (road rally) team the Wheels of Fortune.)

Beyond that the memories grow dim. Seems like I ought to be able to remember where my sister and parents stayed that night, where we ate dinner. I remember that they couldn't spend as much time in Boston as I had hoped; Dad, who had been laid off by Oxy (Cities Service) the previous September, had a new job in another city. It was just one more way that graduation fell short of my hopes.

I remember seeing them off at Logan with several boxes of my stuff to take along as checked luggage. A few days later, I packed my grandfather's old Sedan De Ville with all my belongings and headed back to Oklahoma, where I had a girlfriend (almost in Oklahoma -- in Fayetteville) but no job yet. I took my time going home the southern route, enjoying gas at less than 60 cents a gallon, seeing my uncle in northern New Jersey, friends in Charlottesville and Birmingham, and my girlfriend in Fayetteville before pulling into the driveway in Tulsa.

I bought a little portable stereo at Radio Shack so I could listen to cassettes and record my thoughts as I drove. I still have the stereo, and I'm sure the cassette is around here somewhere. It would be interesting to hear what was on my mind.

This is my first trip back to Boston in about 15 years. I'll be attending some of the reunion activities and going to a reception and dinner in honor of my fraternity chapter's centennial. It's an opportunity to remember where I've come from and think about where I'm headed for the next 25 years. A prayer for clarity and inspiration would not go amiss.

UPDATE 2013/05/30: Revisited this entry after responding to a Colin Quinn tweet imagining himself as MIT's commencement speaker, and I think I remember a couple of details that I had forgotten when I wrote this. My parents and sister stayed at the Travelodge at Beacon and St. Paul in Brookline which was under renovation. It's now a Holiday Inn. If I recall correctly, I brought them bagels from Kupel's the morning after commencement. (Kupel's bagels were a Sunday morning tradition at ZBT. We even had an officer -- bagel chairman -- in charge of acquiring them.)

As for dinner the night of commencement, for some reason I remember a disappointing meal at 33 Dunster Street. Perhaps it was the next night that we had dinner at Chef Chow's in Coolidge Corner.

ChuckFest.jpgMy wife and I know Chuck Stophel as a fellow parent of students at Augustine Christian Academy. Chuck is also one of the school's biggest boosters, and he's invested a lot of time and energy into making classical Christian education at ACA an ongoing reality.

Now Chuck is dealing with a serious and expensive medical challenge, and he and his family need our help. Friends have organized a special event this Saturday evening, April 30, 2011 -- ChuckFest -- at Augustine Christian Academy, 6310 E. 30th Street (just west of Sheridan, a block north of 31st), from 4 to 7 pm. From the ChuckFest Facebook page:

This is a come-and-go fundraiser for Chuck and Sara Stophel to raise money for Chuck's medical expenses and other needs. Tasty heavy hors d'oeuvres, desserts and drinks, fabulous music and entertainment emceed by LEANNE TAYLOR of News on 6, activities for children and a wonderful silent auction will be held. Chuck has given to so many over the years! Please mark your calendars for this wonderful way to show Chuck and his famly how much we love and support them! Invite your friends!


If you are unable to attend, but would like to contribute to Chuck's medical expenses, a fund has been established at MidFirst Bank in Tulsa. Please make donations in the name of "Charles D. and Sara Stophel Support Trust" and mail to: MidFirst Bank, 7050 South Yale, Suite 100, Tulsa, OK 74136. Thank you and God bless you!

Last night, my 14-year-old son decided to spend some of his savings on a set of the Harvard Classics -- a 50-volume treasury of the best of Western Civilization. If you like the idea of a school that can inspire that sort of love of learning, you ought to appreciate and support a volunteer like Chuck who has done so much to make it possible.

In tenebris

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(There are a fair number of stream-of-consciousness reminiscences in this piece, so to simplify matters, the main thread of last Friday's story is in normal text, and the flashbacks are in italics.)

My feet hit the floor at 4:15 a.m. Eastern time Good Friday morning; pitch black outside. After a shower, some final packing, a "breakfast" of leftover pulled pork and some broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots from the big bag I got at Sams, I checked out. At 5:15 I pulled out of the lot, making a brief stop at the Wawa on the way out of town for a cup of coffee. As I headed north, I watched the rosy-fingered dawn spread and brighten across the marshes to my right.

At 6:50, I'm pulling my "preferred upgrade," a Mercury Grand Marquis -- not much of an upgrade with gas pushing $4 a gallon -- into the rental return queue. By 7:10, my bag is checked, and I'm ready to go through the nearly empty security line. Or ready as soon as I polished off my four leftover pieces of mozzarella string cheese. (I figured the dry salami slices and the broccoli would be OK, but the cheese constituted a liquid or gel and no doubt would violate TSA rules.)

The TSA agent checking my boarding pass and ID wondered why someone would go through Chicago to get back to Oklahoma, instead of DFW. I explained that DFW was south, and passing through there involved backtracking. That seemed to satisfy his curiosity -- or was it suspicion?

By the end of the day, I came to share his suspicion of anyone that would fly through O'Hare in April. You'd have to question a traveler's sanity, if not his intentions.

On my outward bound trip, on Palm Sunday, my plan to fly through Chicago was thwarted when American delayed the in-bound flight of the plane I was supposed to take to Chicago. I'd miss my connection, so the ticket agent changed my flight, rerouted me through DFW, then went to the baggage room, pulled my bag, and re-tagged it to match the new itinerary. Of course, I didn't learn of the delay until I was at the airport, having rushed around all morning to finish packing, and having skipped lunch with my family to make the flight -- unnecessary as it turned out. And my aim in taking that early afternoon flight -- arriving at the hotel at about 10:30 -- was thwarted, too, by a three-hour margin.

Once I arrived at my destination airport and was issued my land yacht -- it was after midnight and too late to mess with trading cars -- I started on my 90 minute drive to my destination. A highway sign for a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts lured me off the interstate. At the donut shop, a small group of regulars in the corner watched in amusement as an evidently drunk customer berated the young Indian behind the register.

The drunk customer was only buying three donuts and he wanted a donut box to hold them. The clerk insisted he didn't have one. After a few go-rounds, the clerk admits to having the big dozen donut boxes, leading the drunk to exclaim that the clerk was holding out on him. The drunk paid and headed outside, or so I thought. He came back a minute later to ask the clerk to hold the door so he could wheel his trike out of the entryway. I supposed a connection between his condition and his choice of transportation, but wouldn't it still be DUI no matter what type of vehicle you're operating on the public roads?

But back to the dark and stormy Good Friday at O'Hare: American Airlines delayed my homeward bound flight by almost two hours, and eventually they cancelled it, as well as the flight to follow. Looking for an American gate agent, I found one cheerfully suggesting that cancelled Harrisburg passengers might find it convenient to fly to Boston instead. She met my puzzled expression with a shrug. She transferred my reservation to a United flight due to leave about the same time as my cancelled flight, took a description of my bag and the number of my baggage claim check, then wrote a six-digit number (the bag change order number, evidently) on the claim check. All seemed to be well, and I was led to believe my bag would be joining me on the flight home.

I strode over to the United terminal, past the "Kids on the Fly" playground where my oldest played during long layovers, back when my wife worked for Sabre, and we had non-rev privileges on American. I remembered another stormy Chicago spring night, when my oldest, then three, entertained the other passengers at the gate where we waited for the last flight to Tampa. He turned a roll-aboard with the handle extended into a ticket window. I remember that we were strung along, expecting that the final flight would go after the storms moved through. Instead, the flight was canceled, so we claimed our luggage, found a nearby down-on-its-heels hotel with a shuttle service, and as my wife and son slept, I searched Sabre for a flight that could get us within a couple of hundred miles of where we wanted to be. (Miami was our best option, as it turned out. Somewhere, in an old Franklin planner 7-ring binder, I must still have my cheat-sheet of Sabre commands -- N-display, VNR, VNL....)

My oldest had another milestone at O'Hare: He was about 8 months old, on the seat of a parked people-mover cart, and he pulled himself up for the first time, using the back of the seat.

Back to 2011: I found some chairs in the walkway between E and F concourses with power plugs under each seat. By some miracle, the T-mobile hotspot I connected to didn't require me to log in -- must have been the cyber-equivalent of pulling up to an unexpired parking meter. All was well until the 6'5", 300 lb, young man with terrible BO decided the seat next to me was the best place to air out his feet and make a phone call (in some Slavic tongue). I left shortly thereafter.

The United flight left on time. I dozed off and on through the flight, in between attempts to read through the Gospel according to Mark on my PDA. As we crossed into Oklahoma, I had a clear view of Route 66, in sunlight, and a dramatic view of the backside of a line of cumulonimbus clouds which had the Will Rogers Turnpike hidden in deep shadow. We turned west, flew south along Peoria, then at Southern Hills we started the U-turn for landing. The storm had moved through Tulsa by the time we landed.

At the Tulsa airport, I learned that neither United nor American had any idea where my bag was or which airline had custody of it. United's system had no record of it; American's system showed a bag change order but no confirmation of its current whereabouts. Most likely it would come in on American's only uncanceled ORD-TUL flight after 11 pm, and then would be transfered at TUL to United for me to pick up. I filed my phone number and a description of the bag with both airlines, just in case.

At 5:30 -- 14 hours since my feet hit the floor, 13 since I left the hotel -- I walked into my own home, sans checked bag. We debated whether to go to church for the Good Friday Tenebrae service or to have some sort of devotional at home. We decided to have a quick meal -- the soup my wife had been cooking, plus some leftover hoagies -- and head to Christ Pres.

I grew up in a very non-liturgical church but came to appreciate the concept of the church year and in particular, Holy Week. After returning to Tulsa from college, I remember looking for special services to attend. I went to the Three Hours at St. John's Episcopal, Tenebrae at Immanuel Lutheran in Broken Arrow when it was on the hill, Easter Vigil at St Aidan's led by the beautiful baritone of Father Masud Syedullah. That may have been all in the same year, 1988. The following year I was in London on Good Friday, the last full day of a five-week work assignment there. I went to the Litany at St. Paul's Cathedral in the morning, the Three Hours at All Souls Langham Place in the afternoon. I flew home Saturday and went again to a Father Masud-less Easter Vigil at St. Aidan's. It wasn't the same.

So I'm happy to be a member of a church that holds special Holy Week services; all the more reason to forget my weariness and get everyone rounded up and in the car to go to church. We were wrong about the time -- we thought 7:15 instead of 7:30 -- so we were atypically on time.

Tenebrae is Latin for "shadows," and the service involves seven readings that lead from the light of the Last Supper, through the growing darkness of betrayal, abandonment, condemnation, crucifixion, and burial. After each reading, a candle is snuffed out, and at the end of the service the sanctuary is pitch black.

The candles were set in bowl-like holders, arranged on the communion table in the center of the platform. As we waited for the service to start, our associate pastor of 30 years noticed the candles flickering, so he got up from the front pew, shut the air vents that blow onto the platform, and the flames stood still. The associate pastor is a master of detail, and his knowledge of the physical plant pales in comparison to his knowledge of the church members, regular attenders, and even new visitors, and using that knowledge to help connect people with one another. He will be missed.

While we were sitting in the pew, accidentally early, the senior pastor approached to say that the first of seven readers backed out at the last minute and could I read in his place?

The service began with a hymn ("Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross") and two passages from the Old Testament read by the pastor about the suffering of God's Anointed -- Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Another hymn ("Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended"), and then I walked up to read the first lesson from John 13 where Jesus dips a morsel and hands it to Judas, telling him to do what he has to do quickly. I read slowly and somewhat dramatically, snuffed the first candle, then returned to our pew. As I sat, our five-year-old exclaimed, in an emphatic stage whisper: "Great... job... Dad!"

The five-year-old was not so excited at the end of the service, when all the lights were out and the pastor took the Christ candle to the back of the sanctuary, then led the congregation in "Were You There?" The five-year-old was a bit spooked by the darkness as we left the sanctuary in silence, but as he got into his car seat, he was singing, "Sometimes it causes me to tremble," over and over again.

As we pulled into the driveway, the garage door opener wouldn't work. Then we noticed that the porch light was off. In fact the power was out for our whole block.

We walked in to the darkened house and rounded up the lanterns and flashlights -- standard spring equipment for an Oklahoma household. The five-year-old said over and over again that he was scared. I held his hand and led him with a lantern in the other hand. I got him dressed for bed, gave him his allergy medicine (also standard spring equipment for Oklahoma), brushed his teeth, and tucked him into bed. His 10-yr-old big sister climbed into bed with him and read him a story by flashlight -- The Case of the Great Train Robbery, about a kid with a skunk for a pet.


We found a rechargeable electric "candle" that he could use as a nightlight, and he had his sister's Hello Kitty lantern to turn on if he needed to get up. We said prayers. We couldn't turn on his usual CD, but the toads and frogs were singing in our backyard pond, and his big brother was out on the deck practicing his violin under the light reflecting off of the clouds, softly playing "Maiden's Prayer" and "Tamlin" and snippets of the classical pieces he's been learning.

Shortly after the five-year-old fell asleep, the lights came back on. I head to the airport. A while later, I headed to the airport in time for the arrival of the last AA flight from ORD, delayed by an hour or so. My bag came up on the carousel -- it never had been transferred to United -- so I grabbed it and headed home. My head hit the pillow approximately 24 hours after my feet had hit the floor that morning.

The US Air Force is looking for a supplier for Light Air Support aircraft, to be used by the Afghan Air Force and by the USAF to train other partner air forces. Award is expected this summer, and the question is whether the Air Force will pick a variant of an American-designed and -built aircraft it already uses, in the hundreds, or a Brazilian-designed aircraft that would be new to the fleet.

In 1994, the US Air Force and US Navy issued a request for proposals for a new aircraft to be used for primary pilot training to replace the T-34 and T-37 aircraft, along with the flight simulators for the new aircraft. One of the bidders was Beechcraft (then part of Raytheon); the company I worked for at the time, FlightSafety, was part of the Beechcraft team, would design and build the simulators.

T6TexanII.jpgTo be frank, I didn't think our team stood a chance. The proposed aircraft was a modification of a Swiss-designed single-engine turboprop, and the RFP required the controls and performance of a jet aircraft. But Beechcraft was able to provide jet handling and performance at a turboprop price, using technology to conceal the peculiarities of a propeller-driven aircraft from the pilot, and they won the contract.

I was part of the FlightSafety design team for the simulators for the winning aircraft, dubbed the T-6 Texan II. My job was to develop an Ada 95 framework which would connect software models of flight dynamics, engine performance, radios, instruments, hydraulic, electrical, and fuel systems, and would do so in an object-oriented way without compromising real-time performance.

The T-6 Texan II is now being used by the air forces of seven different nations, and FlightSafety Simulation in Broken Arrow has built dozens of T-6 simulators for the USAF and for Greece's Air Force. (I have no idea if any of my work is still in the simulator, or if it has all been rewritten over the years. Ada 95 lost its DOD status as a "mandatory" programming language about the time we started developing the T-6 sim.) The aircraft itself is built at the Hawker Beechcraft factory on the east side of Wichita, Kansas. It's been a good thing for our region's aviation industry.

There's also an armed version of the T-6. The AT-6 has on-board avionics (based on the system in use on the A-10C) to support surveillance, attack, and reconnaissance. Now the Air Force is looking for an aircraft to fill a light aircraft support and counterinsurgency role for the Afghan Air Force and other military partners.

The only other declared bidder, according to Aviation Week, is Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. A U. S. company, Sierra Nevada Corp., is the prime contractor, but Embraer would supply the parts from Brazil for assembly in Jacksonville, Florida. The Light Air Support contract will be awarded this summer.

Embraer began as a government-owned aircraft manufacturer in 1969, was privatized in 1994, but the government has retained a "Golden Share" which gives the government of Brazil veto rights over:

  • change of our name and corporate purpose;
  • amendment and/or application of our logo;
  • creation and/or alteration of military programs (whether or not involving Brazil);
  • development of third party skills' in technology for military programs;
  • discontinuance of the supply of spare parts and replacement parts for military aircraft;
  • transfer of our control;
  • any amendments to the list of corporate actions over which the golden share carries veto rights, including the right of the Brazilian government to appoint one member and alternate to our Board of Directors and the right of our employees to appoint two members and their respective alternates to our Board of Directors, and to the rights conferred to the golden share; and
  • changes to certain provisions of our bylaws pertaining to voting restrictions, rights of the golden share and the mandatory tender offer requirements applicable to holders of 35% or more of our outstanding shares.

I would not want the DOD to be forced by protectionist policies to buy poorly designed and expensive equipment from American companies, but neither would I want our defense dependent on overseas companies who are subject to the whims of a sometimes-friendly, sometimes-not foreign government.

The US has a long history of taking an aircraft and creating variants to extend its use into new mission areas. (The C-130 is a great example.) Parts for one variant often can be used for other variants. A pilot or maintenance technician trained on one variant of an aircraft can quickly learn to fly or work on another.

And if that aircraft and its simulators are built by US companies, it means keeping our tax dollars in the US, supporting American high tech and manufacturing capabilities. I trust the Kansas and Oklahoma congressional delegations are aware that it would also mean high-tech and skilled manufacturing jobs for their constituents.

DISCLOSURE: I have no financial interest (direct or indirect) in the outcome of this procurement. Hat tip to John Hawkins of Right Wing News for calling the issue to my attention.

Added to the blogroll

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So many people have a blog nowadays that you may stumble across a friend's blog before they let you know that they have one. Here are a few blogs of friends and associates that I've come across recently. They're worth reading, and I'm adding to the blogroll, so you'll see their latest posts show up over on the BatesLine blogroll headlines page and (as appropriate) the BatesLine Oklahoma headlines and BatesLine Tulsa headlines pages.

I've gotten to know Tulsa visionary and restaurateur Blake Ewing through his involvement in organizations like TulsaNow. He doesn't post on his blog often, but when he does post it's usually a blockbuster essay on our city's challenges and possible futures. There's been a lot of talk about his latest: "Grow up, Tulsa." (I disagree with him on a few points and may elaborate in coming days.)

English with Rae is a blog aimed at helping those learning English as a second language go beyond "This is a pen," providing examples of conversational English and American culture in context and presented in a way that makes them interesting even if English is your first language. Rae, a college friend of my wife's, spent many years in Japan and writes from her experience as a second-language learner of Japanese and with Japanese learners of English. A news item about a Honolulu restaurant adding a tip to the bills of non-English speaking guests is the starting point for her most visited article, Tipping Cows and Everyone Else, which covers three different kinds of tipping (restaurant, cow, and advice), introduces customary tipping practices, and provides examples of the Present Real Conditional form, all neatly interwoven.

Gina Conroy is an author based here in Tulsa. We know her through school, and she was my daughter's creative writing teacher. Her blog, Defying Gravity, is devoted to striking the balance in life as a wife and mom and in pursuit of her dream of novel writing. She is under contract to contribute a novella to an anthology, and a recent entry is devoted to the process and pain of cutting a 50,000-word work in progress down to 20,000. She often interviews other writing moms and dads. Many recent entries have been devoted to dreams and ambitions -- rekindling them, thwarting dream-killers, and balancing your dreams.

Urban Garden Goddess is a Philadelphia-based blogger just getting into home organic gardening. As a rookie gardener last year, Tania (a friend through blogging circles) won third prize in the individual vegetable garden category in the Philadelphia Horticultural Society's City Gardens Contest. She's also a runner, and a recent entry is about "solid eating for a solid race performance."

San Francisco architect Christine Boles and I were both active in Campus Crusade for Christ at MIT back when. Her blog illustrates some of the creative solutions she and her husband, partners in Beausoleil Architects, have devised to meet the needs of clients while respecting history and the environment. Her latest entry shows how they turned a ground floor room into a garage while preserving the bay window that makes up the historic facade. In an earlier post, she advocates for "deconstruction" and recycling of building materials over demolition and landfill. This was interesting, too: The importance of the oft-overlooked V in HVAC -- ventilation.

Texas State Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) is married to a high school classmate of mine. Last year he defeated an incumbent Republican in the primary and went on to election in November. His blog has only a few entries, but they provide some insight into the 2011 Texas legislative session and the budding conflict between fair-dealer and wheeler-dealer Republicans. He is an author of HB 1937, which would prohibit TSA groping in the absence of probable cause. His article -- Dividing the Apple -- about the tough budget decisions facing the legislature, is worth reading. An excerpt:

Civil government has nothing except that which it takes from We the People. Unlike God, the government cannot create value or substance out of nothing.

When the Federal Reserve with Congress' approval "prints more money," it simply increases the number of federal reserve notes ("dollars") that are being exchanged in our economy for goods and services. The increase in the number of federal reserve notes in circulation does not represent more wealth. It merely divides the same value of goods and services in the economy into smaller parts. If you divide an apple into 4 parts or 8 parts, it is still just one apple.

The Texas legislature cannot create wealth either. It has no money except that which it takes from We the People. It can divide the apple of wealth we enjoy and redistribute it, but it cannot create more apples.

Even so, we are running out of apple. Even after adjusting for inflation and population growth, the portion of the apple that our state government consumes has grown by 45% over the last decade (that number is 87% without any adjustments). As the state's portion has grown, Texas families and businesses have had to settle for a smaller portion to feed themselves.

As first steps to budget cutting, Simpson has called for cutting all corporate welfare from the budget and reducing administrative overhead in the common and higher educational systems. His name popped up in a recent AP story:

Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, put together an odd-couple coalition of Democrats and Republicans to approve an amendment zeroing out funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts and redirecting it to services for the elderly and disabled.

Channeling tea-party-like, populist anger right back at his own leaders, Simpson also has railed against hundreds of millions of dollars in what he calls "corporate welfare." It happens to include Perry's job-luring initiatives, the Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund.

"These parts of the budget are more protected than schools and the weak among us," Simpson said. He failed to redirect the money, but not before raising a stink among Republicans.

You've heard of a "bucket list" -- the list of places you want to visit, experiences you want to have, tasks you want to accomplish before you "kick the bucket."

But there are deadlines other than death that deserve a list. On my recent extended business trips, I've made a bucket list -- a spreadsheet of things I'd like to see and do while I'm in the area. The idea is to consolidate in one place all the interesting possibilities I've gleaned from the AAA Tourbook, Yelp, the local alt-weekly, the tourism brochures in the hotel lobby, so that when I have a free evening or if I'm stuck away from home over a weekend, I don't waste my free time trying to figure out how to spend it.

I wish I'd made a bucket list back when my wife worked for American Airlines. We took some wonderful trips -- Ireland, Scotland, central Europe, Kauai -- but looking back, there are a lot of places I wish we'd visited when it was cheap and we had the time.

Another deadline worthy of a bucket list: Childhood's end. We have only four more years before my oldest fledgling leaves the nest. There is a sweet spot for family travel -- when a child is old enough to remember the trip but young enough to still have a sense of wonder and excitement about visiting new places. And there are wonderful memory-making places that are thrilling for a six-year-old but boring for a 12-year-old.

A Branson timeshare salesman once asked me and my wife: "As Christians you have a plan for your eternal life, but do you have a plan for your vacation life?" (I had to stifle a loud and long laugh.) The only definite plan I had then was not to spend every vacation in the same condo development, but now I can see the point of having a plan.

A recent article on listed 15 places kids should see by age 15. It's a good list, if weighted toward the coasts and away from the heartland; all the attractions are worth experiencing. So far, unfortunately, we've only been to three: the Grand Canyon (only the oldest), Walt Disney World (the oldest two), and the National Mall in Washington (all three). (Several of the ideas should be read as encompassing their surroundings: E.g., a visit to Alcatraz should also involve riding a cable car and exploring Chinatown, seeing the National Mall would include seeing the Smithsonian museums and government buildings that frame it.)

Here are a few places I'd add to the list:

  • The Alamo: A monument to heroism and sacrifice.
  • Kennedy Space Center: Even though it's about to become more of a historical artifact than a working space port, it still represents some of America's (and mankind's) greatest achievements.
  • The Cosmosphere: The history of space flight from the German rocket program to the International Space Station, with artifacts like Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 capsule and Odyssey, the Apollo 13 command module. Just four hours away in Hutchinson, Kansas.
  • Bartlesville Playground (aka the Kiddie Park): The sweet spot for this park is ages 3 through 8, although there are rides for older and younger children (and a few for grownups, too). I have many happy memories of this place as a child and as a parent. We make the 40-mile drive there at least once a summer.
  • Silver Dollar City: a wonderful combination of thrill rides, old-time music, living history, and spelunking. Last year we had passes and spent over a week there over the course of the year.
  • Knoebel's Grove or a similar old-fashioned, family amusement park: No theme, just plenty of rides to make you spin, splash, and soar.
  • A ride on a historic steam train: A must if you've got a Thomas the Tank Engine fan in the family.
  • Local history: For Tulsans that should include the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, the Tulsa Historical Society museum, Gilcrease Museum, and the 45th Infantry Museum in Oklahoma City.

And that's just the USA. I'd love to travel all over Europe with my family.

What's on your family travel bucket list? Leave a comment, and let us know.

RELATED (2014/10/03):

These two links are specifically aimed at the parent of a high school senior and they're mostly not about travel, but they're worth thinking about, even if your kids are younger:

NBC Today: 13 things to do with your kids before they leave for college
Grown and Flown: The Parent's 'Last Call' List for Senior Year

Ideas include paying a professional photographer for family photos (including extended family, if possible), looking at baby pictures, talking candidly about your own failures and successes, taking a one-on-one road trip.

A little stream-of-consciousness before bedtime:

I always feel like I've won the rent-a-car lottery if the vehicle has Sirius/XM satellite radio. I love the "decade" stations ('40s on 4, '50s on 5, etc.), the Laugh channel (clean comedy), and the classic country on Willie's Place.

By the way, there's a real Willie's Place, a truck stop on I-35E in the municipality of Carl's Corner, Texas, just a bit north of Hillsboro. It's a truck stop, a cafe, a honky-tonk, and a studio for the XM station of the same name. I stopped there one night on one of my "commutes" to San Antonio. I had a great chicken fried steak. The waitress was exactly what you'd hope for in a truck stop waitress -- called me "hon" and kept the coffee cup filled (and sent me off with a big to-go cup). They've got free wifi, and the big booths on the wall have outlets conveniently located above the table. It was an unusually foggy night, and I appreciated being able to check the weather ahead, and send a few emails while I took a break from the road.

Back to Willie's Place the satellite radio station: I was listening to the Bill Mack show tonight, and he was interviewing Mel Tillis by phone with George Hamilton IV in studio. Mel announced that he's the new spokesman for Goo-Goo Clusters, the official candy of the Grand Ole Opry. (Note the initials.) Mel and George (no relation to the very tan actor) reminisced about old times in Nashville. George mentioned that shortly after he came to town, Webb Pierce called up to invite him and his wife to Woodmont Baptist Church, which they soon joined. Mel said he had been a member there, too. (George did a dead-on Webb Pierce imitation, too.) Funny to think that a member of a Baptist church had a hit song about compulsive drinking.

I remember when you could only get a Goo-Goo in and around Nashville. Remember when you could only get Krispy Kreme donuts in the South? I'd always make a point to pick some up when I was that part of the country, but now that they're everywhere it's not as special.

(I told you this was stream of consciousness.)

Back to Bill Mack: I like his show, but he really needs to stop playing songs that get me all weepy and sentimental. Back to back he played Tammy Wynette singing "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and Roger Miller, Ray Price, and Willie Nelson singing "Old Friends."

I don't think I'd ever heard "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" all the way through before. I only knew it through the K-TEL-type ads for a collection of country music hit singles -- you hear Tammy spell the word and see it on the list of songs crawling up the screen. It tells quite a story in just a few words. Here's bright, four-year-old J-O-E, just a bit younger than my youngest, blissfully unaware that his happy childhood is about to come crashing down:

Watch him smile, he thinks it Christmas
Or his 5th birthday
And he thinks C.U.S.T.O.D.Y spells fun or play
I spell out all the hurtin' words
And turn my head when I speak
'Cause I can't spell a way this hurt
That's drippin' down my cheek.

As a kid I mocked country music because of twangy voices like Tammy Wynette's, but the twang takes simple but powerful lyrics and gives them an extra emotional punch.

And then to follow that with "Old Friends" -- that was just too much, Bill:

Old friends, looking up to watch a bird Holding arms to climb a curb, old friends. Old friends. Lord, when all my work is done Bless my life and grant me one old friend At least one old friend.

As hard as it's been to spend so much time on the road, one of the blessings has been the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. A week ago I had lunch and spent a lovely afternoon with a fraternity brother and his family. I don't think I'd seen him since his wedding, 25 years ago. Last fall, I spent a terrific day seeing Austin with another fraternity classmate -- hadn't seen him and his crew since his youngest and my oldest were in diapers. On another short visit to Austin there I had lunch with my old Urban Tulsa colleague G. W. Schulz, now writing on homeland security for the Center for Investigative Reporting. I joined blogpal Anna Broadway and a group of folks from her church for lunch after worship -- hadn't seen her since the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

I was delighted to find out that an old, dear friend of mine from college days lives in the next town over from where I've been working in California. He and I were on a two-month long Campus Crusade summer project in Manila, way back in 1983. We'd met at the Atlanta Christmas Conference the previous winter, via a mutual friend from his college who had been with me on a summer project the previous summer in Ocean City, New Jersey.

We had very different personalities. He, much more outgoing and a class clown type, already had a nickname -- Beach, so he gave me one -- Fish, because my sense of humor and demeanor reminded him of Abe Vigoda's character on Barney Miller.

You really get to know someone through the stresses of navigating a new culture and experiencing so many memorable adventures side-by-side. We spent our days working with students at different campuses, then would often head to a nearby food stand at the corner, away from the crowded dorm room and a project staffer intense enough to be immortalized in cartoon form. We'd sit in front of the Burger Machine, drink Cokes and eat what he called "gray matter burgers" and hash over the day.

After that summer we wrote regularly for a while, kept in touch sporadically over the years, and we'd been able to meet up a few times when business brought me to his neck of the woods, but the last time was over a decade ago. On these recent trips, we've been able to get together a dozen times or more. It's been wonderful to have had the time to go beyond just catching up and remembering old times and to get back into the rhythm of a friendship -- joking around, hashing over the events of the week, talking through the challenges and decisions we face.

Praise God for the blessing of old friends.


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Thanks be to God: We are all cozy and home. Power, cable, phone, and internet all work. Plenty of food in the fridge and pantry. I made my last trips to the store and the gas station at about 10 Monday night, just as sharp ice pellets began to fall from the sky. Reasor's had almost everything we needed, but they didn't have sweet potatoes.

So I tried the Walmart Neighborhood Market, which seemed more picked-over than Reasor's, with twice as many customers packed into a smaller space, made even more cramped by the pallets of groceries in all the aisles. Apparently they won't deviate from policy, not even for a massive snow storm: Self-checkout was closed, as it normally is at that hour, although under the circumstances it could have helped a great deal. The main entrance into the produce section was blocked off, as usual at that time of day, so incoming customers had to work their way past customers in the checkout line and carts filled with items to go back on the shelves or, presumably, into the trash (including one cart with prepackaged meat, yogurt, milk, and a sickly, suspicious drip onto the floor). The customers in line had to choose between moving out of the way of incoming customers or out of the way of shopping carts trying to maneuver around the restocking pallets. (Those sweet potatoes had better be the best ever.)

As I returned from getting gasoline, I saw a jogger out in the mixed sleet and snow. Not someone who was caught in the storm and hurrying home, but someone dressed to run and jogging at a steady pace down one of our main neighborhood streets. No doubt he was out running in it just to be able to say he was.

On Tuesday I finished a project -- a Kodak photo/memory book for my dad -- the kids played Wii, we all watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (none of us had seen it before -- great movie, although the ending is improbable), and we all played Apples to Apples Jr. and Sorry. We spent some time outside in the late afternoon, when the sun came out, but we couldn't take the cold for long. Drifts were over two feet high next to our house, and the snow seemed to average about 14" around the yard. The loose powdery snow wouldn't pack into snowballs or snowmen.

This storm poses very different problems than the December 2007 ice storm. In '07, power outages were widespread and lengthy, with weatherheads and meters pulled off the sides of houses by the ice. On the other hand, the roads cleared quickly as the ground had been warm. We were cold and in the dark, but we were mobile. I sent my family to relatives in Arkansas; I toughed it out with the help of a gas-log fire and gas water heater and spending as much time as possible away from the house. Power came back Thursday afternoon after three and a half days without.

It's much nicer that we have power this go around. The powdery snow and sleet didn't stick to wires and tree branches. On the other hand, that same powdery, drifting snow has made it impossible to drive without getting stuck. It doesn't pack down, and if you push it out of the way, it doesn't stay put. It's like an ocean of tiny packing peanuts.

As a consequence, not only have all schools cancelled classes, but City of Tulsa trash service has been cancelled for Wednesday as well. Bus service was cancelled for most of the day, and may be cancelled tomorrow as well:

For Wednesday February 2, 2011, Tulsa Transit management will assess the condition of the streets in the early morning. An announcement will then be made as to the service to be run on Wednesday. The current plan for the paratransit Lift Program service for Wednesday is to run trips already scheduled for dialysis passengers only. No additional Lift Program trips will be run on Wednesday.

All Tuesday flights departing Tulsa International Airport were cancelled. As for Wednesday, Southwest Airlines has cancelled all of its departures from Tulsa before 4 pm (as far as I can tell; the website makes it difficult). A special page on the snowpocalypse states:

We have cancelled a majority of our Tuesday flights to/from TUL; and some of our Wednesday morning flights to/from TUL. Our resumption of service is contingent upon the conditions of the runways, taxiways, other airport services, and city's infrastructure to/from the airport.

Note that even if the airport is up and running, Southwest may not fly if people can't make it to the airport.

The last time I was around this much snow was during a two-week business trip in early January 2004 to East Aurora, New York, near Buffalo. The nice thing about East Aurora is that it's a compact place. I had three taverns and a movie theater within walking distance of the hotel. My first night in town, with two feet of snow on the ground, I put on my L. L. Bean Maine hunting shoes, walked a block to a tavern, and had a prime rib sandwich and a Guinness. The people who owned and operated those eateries could walk to work. (In some cases, they had only to walk downstairs.)

My parents had plenty of amusement. The birdseed they scattered on the patio brought juncos, cardinals, sparrows, finches, blue jays, mourning doves, and red wing blackbirds, and those birds attracted...

But the biggest visitor, a red-tailed hawk that came swooping in with the anticipation of a fat little junco for supper, but not expecting an icy landing, he crashed into the patio doors with lots of noise and fluttering of wings. Supper was gone and the embarrassed hawk retreated quickly to a nearby tree, then he was gone from there before I could grab the camera.

Any interesting sightings from your picture window? Has anyone been out on the roads? Leave a comment!

Home from San Antone

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I can hardly believe I'm done. I can hardly believe I won't be back again soon.

I've spent most of the last three months working 60+ plus hours per week on a project in San Antonio. That's on top of another month early last fall and a few weeks last winter and summer on a related project.

On Saturday, the last remaining discrepancy was resolved. This morning, I checked out of the hotel that was my home-away-from-home. (I went from 0 nights to gold status with this particular chain in the course of the project.) It was strange to tell the desk clerk that, no, I wouldn't need to be making another reservation right now.

I don't enjoy being away from my family, but I do enjoy getting to spend enough time in a city to get to know it well. I've got plenty of observations from my own perambulations about the Alamo City and its environs and from a couple of books I picked up: Saving San Antonio, about the course of historic preservation there since the late 19th century, and HemisFair '68 and the Transformation of San Antonio, a collection of brief essays by civic leaders from the 1960s to the present, which so far seems to be more about how the '68 World's Fair failed to transform the city, and what had to happen to produce the economic growth and tourism we see today. San Antonio went through the same transition from at-large city government to a district-based city council about 20 years before Tulsa. I hope to share some of my observations here, but I make no promises. There's more hard work ahead.

Long hours working on the challenging task of getting software from the Reagan years to cooperate with a new computer didn't leave much energy for writing, particularly not for heavy research and careful word-craft.

When I was at home, it was time to play with the kids, sleep, catch up on chores and errands, and prepare for the next trip -- not to get hip-deep in local politics. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to schedule a dental checkup when you're out of town 3/4 of the time and don't know for sure when you'll next be home?)

When I did have free time, I had a "bucket list" of San Antonio events, attractions, and eateries I wanted to try when the opportunity arose. I got through a lot of them, but missed a few. I did most of the in-city things I'd hoped to do (still haven't been on a river cruise), but weekend day trips to the Gulf Coast or Houston didn't happen, and I only made it to Austin a couple of times.

While there have been periods on the past when I've been away from home frequently, my weekly spots on KFAQ with Michael Del Giorno and Gwen Freeman and my weekly column in UTW forced me to stay in touch with the latest developments back home, to sit in front of a computer screen keeping up with Tulsa news instead of exploring a new city. Without the responsibility to talk or write every week on local politics, I've been able to read for fun, work through my "bucket list," surf the web, or spend an hour on the elliptical while watching back-to-back episodes of "The Office."

There's a long post in my head about the temptation to spin a cocoon -- play Wii, watch Netflix, do yardwork, and just be a homebody -- to stop spending my time and taking risks for causes that don't directly benefit my family's welfare.

On the other hand, it seems selfish to collect all this information and all these experiences and do nothing with them.

More about that, perhaps, another time. See you soon, Tulsa. I'll be home in just a few.


Fifty years ago today, my parents were married at the First Baptist Church of Dewey, Oklahoma. Fifty years later, "through many dangers, toils, and snares," by God's grace, Dad and Mom are still married to each other and together enjoying their very active retirement years and their five grandchildren.

They met at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly when they were 14 years old and then saw each other over the next few years at Baptist youth gatherings. After Dad's two years at NEOA&M, they were both students at Northeastern State in Tahlequah. They married in the middle of their junior year in college there, and a little apartment in Tahlequah was their first home as a couple.

They sacrificed for the sake of their kids' education. They balanced career, childrearing, and community involvement. They persisted in their commitment to one another despite the challenges and stresses that lead so many couples back to the courthouse.

25 years ago, the woman who would become my wife happened to be a guest in our home as we went through old photos in preparation for Mom and Dad's silver wedding anniversary celebration. You couldn't wish for a better way to introduce a girlfriend to your family. (Last Tuesday was also the 25th anniversary of our first kiss.)

Congratulations, Dad and Mom, and thank you for founding the family to which I am so blessed to belong.

MORE: Here's my tribute to Mom and Dad from the May 28, 2008, issue of UTW.

Route 66 News reports that the City of Catoosa is applying for a state grant to purchase the Blue Whale and surrounding property from the sole owner, a member of the Hugh Davis family.

I was pleased to see that there's talk of rebuilding the ARK -- Animal Reptile Kingdom -- which predates the Blue Whale. I remember a field trip from Catoosa Elementary School, c. 1970, to the ARK, which had small animals on exhibit inside. (I seem to recall a snake pit on the property too, and that the assistant principal, Mr. Hough, had some experience working with snakes and went into the pit.) I don't remember the ARK being open during the years that the Blue Whale pond was a public swimming hole. There is another building just to the south of the ARK -- a peaked roof with two wings, probably the original welcome center(and gift shop, no doubt) from Hugh Davis's roadside attraction.

My mom taught the Davises' grandchildren in kindergarten, and every year during her unit on Indians, Hugh would set up a teepee in her classroom.

For its May 22, 2009, issue, the Journal Record interviewed Blaine Davis, who tells the story of the Blue Whale that has its roots in his father's career at director of the Tulsa Zoo and the opportunity for roadside attractions created by the new four-lane alignment of Route 66 (c. 1957) through his property.

Straightening that stretch in the still-busy intercontinental road (the Turner and Will Rogers turnpikes were less than a decade old at that point) came as Hugh Davis contemplated retirement. For more than 30 years, the Tulsa Zoo curator struggled against tight budgets to build his facility, often journeying around the world to catch animals himself. So when highway planners dissected his 38- acre homestead with a safer U.S. Highway 66, thereby giving Hugh several new roadside lots, he left the zoo in 1966 to open a then- common tourist trap, the exotic animal park.

Blaine Davis said his parents stocked Nature's Acres with alligators, poisonous snakes, monkeys and many other creatures, which were kept in a stable, pins or pits around a two-story wooden ark used for concessions and parties. Hugh Davis built the facilities by hand with whatever he could find - such as leftover World War II bomber turrets, which topped his grove of seven-foot- tall concrete mushrooms.

The story notes that the whale was completed in 1972, and the park was closed in 1988.

On the Blue Whale's Yelp entry, Hugh and Zelta Davis's granddaughter comments:

Im the great grand daughter of Hugh Davis, the creator of the Blue Whale, and I always find it comical to read reviews about our family's private property. Many people who don't take time to read the story of the Whale do not understand it. Hugh and Zelta Davis were avid animal lovers, and it's guaranteed if you ever stopped by their house you would have encountered animals such as bear cubs, monkeys, and even tiger cubs that needed a little extra care outside of the Zoo. Hugh Davis wanted to find a way to give citizens of Catoosa (and surrounding areas) the opportunity to enjoy animals and learn about them. First was Nature's Acre's and the ARK which had a snake corral and an alligator farm. This place stayed busy! Once Hugh retired about 10yrs later, he needed something to keep him busy. Within a few years the project was complete. Originally, the pond surrounding the massive Blue Whale was spring fed and intended only for family use. However, as many locals began to come to enjoy its waters, Davis brought in tons of sand, built picnic tables, hired life guards, and opened it to the public. The Blue Whale closed in 1988 because the owners were getting too old to manage the park. The Whale was created out of pure love for the love of his life, and they shared the gift with everyone. The thought that his whale would one day be a historic and fascinating attraction never crossed his mind, and so there was no need for copyright or trademark registration.

She notes that because the family doesn't hold any IP rights to the whale's image, T-shirts and souvenirs created and sold by others doesn't contribute to the upkeep of the whale.


A vintage postcard of Hugh and Zelta Davis's Animal Reptile Kingdom, featuring Zelta with two alligators.

Zippy the Pinhead visited the Blue Whale in 2002.

A description of this stretch of Route 66 from the Twin Bridges to the Blue Whale.

Here's a Google Map I created showing the location of Animal Reptile Kingdom and Blue Whale and environs. Corrections and additions are welcome.

View Blue Whale and Animal Reptile Kingdom in a larger map

Maetenloch at Ace of Spades HQ has linked a short USA Today quiz on generational identification. For each question, you pick one answer among six, choosing the cultural experience that comes closest to your own (the hot toy of childhood, first major news event you remember, the big movie of your teen years, etc.). Then the program guesses your birth year based on your answer.

What I noticed on each question was a big gap where my experiences should have been. For first major news event, they had the RFK assassination (1968 -- I was four and didn't hear about it) and Chuck and Di's wedding (1981), but not the moon landing (1969 -- every kid remembered that) or Nixon's resignation (1974). For major sports figure you could pick from Joe Namath (won the 1969 Super Bowl) and Larry Bird (with the Celtics in 1980), but not Hank Aaron (broke Ruth's career home run record in 1974) or Mark Spitz (won a record number of medals at the 1972 Olympics). For technological advances the choices included color TV (1965) and cell phones (1983), but not the Walkman (1979), Pong, or digital watches. They had picks that would have worked for boomers and or for Gen X, but not for those of us born in the first half of the '60s, on the cusp between the two generations.

Based on my answers they guessed I was born in 1952. I'm guessing that was influenced by picks like Joe Namath and Tonka trucks, both of which were on the wane when I was growing up, but were still around. (I knew about Namath more as a celebrity who did Noxzema ads and wore pantyhose than as an active football player.) The next available picks chronologically were too late on my personal timeline to be good answers.

It's interesting to see that, using USA Today's generational boundaries, not only do I fall into a Gap, so do my parents, who were born just before WW II: too late to know the depression, but too early to be considered Boomers. (Interestingly, the Beatles fall into that same crack.)

Speaking of Namath and Noxzema:

There was a nice feature in the daily paper on Thursday about the guy I've called Dad for the last four decades or so, but who's known around Philbrook this time of year as Santa Claus.

The Philbrook Museum's Festival of Trees is in full swing - and one jolly guy has been a star of the event for five years. Santa Claus, decked out in an elaborate red suit and full white beard, meets with children and happily allows them to sit on his lap for photos....

Bates became Philbrook's Santa in 2005.

"We love our Santa," said Karen Fraser, fundraising events manager at the museum. "He is so wonderful with everyone, always patient and ready to listen and smile."

Bates knows he has a good job at the Philbrook.

"It's one of the best places to be Santa because you have so many great kids come in," he said. "Most of the time they're really respectful of the property, and the best part is when you get a group of them jumping in your lap giving you hugs."

The article mentions the Santa conventions that he's attended. Over on his website,, you can read his daily reports from the Celebrate Santa 2009 gathering and find links to an Urban Tulsa Weekly feature story on his Santa career and the tribute I wrote a couple of years ago.

Santa will be at Philbrook this weekend and next as part of the Festival of Trees. Come get your picture taken with him! For details, see the website.


So the other two volunteers from the Tulsa area had to cancel. The expected number of local Muskogee volunteers didn't materialize. I think there were about 7 by the time all was said and done, including me and my 10-year-old daughter. Only three of us had any of the four pizzas I bought (for the 16 hungry folk that were expected), and we barely cracked the four two-liter bottles of pop. (The awesome homemade peanut butter and chocolate-chip-oatmeal cookies eased the disappointment considerably.)

But it was still a day well worth while. On the ride down, my daughter read through the sample ballot I brought her from the election board. She read through all the state questions and peppered me with questions. We talked about the judicial selection process, the rainy day fund, and sharia law. Along the route I pointed out the TV towers, and we talked about how television signals get from the networks to the local studios to the local stations towers to the cable company to the TV set (and why the Weather Channel doesn't need a tower at all). I pointed out the KTUL tower, still one of the 100 tallest freestanding structures in the world.

At HQ, while waiting for other volunteers to arrive, we heard about the frequent sign vandalism that has plagued the Thompson campaign. Boren's supporters are showing indications of feeling threatened.

(Ever notice how it's always the insurgent, grassroots candidates' signs that get stolen, while the establishment candidates' signs stay put. By the way, someone stole a John Eagleton sign and a Molly McKay sign out of my front yard Thursday night, even though they were well back from the street. A couple of days earlier, I had found that same Eagleton sign flat on the ground.)

I was happy to learn that our efforts were coordinated with the state Republican GOTV effort. We had a "slate card" -- all GOP nominees for the precinct on a door hanger -- and a push card for Charles Thompson, and we had the state party's list of voters to target.

My daughter and I were originally given a sprawling (10 sq mi) suburban precinct to cover. I opted instead for a compact precinct in town, where distances were shorter and the street layout was somewhat Cartesian. Somewhat.

We began by parking and walking two or three blocks in each direction to cover nearby homes. That became irksome to my little girl, whose legs are much shorter and slower than mine. Also, the three pieces of pizza and Pepsi were not sitting well. After a pitstop, we changed methods. I would drive and hop out of the car to deliver flyers; she would mark up the list of houses to visit, advise me of the next place to stop, and hand me the flyers. It sped us up considerably; still, it took us about 4 hours (not counting the break) to cover about 100 households. It would have been quicker if I had known the neighborhood. (I certainly know it now!)

Here's what I learned about navigating the streets of Muskogee.

  • Given a house with number n, the house next door may have house number n+2, n+20, or any value in between.
  • Given a house with number n, the house directly across the street may have house number n+1, n+101, or any value in between.
  • In other words, two house numbers that are numerically near-neighbors may be quite distant.
  • House numbers on a street are not guaranteed to increase or decrease monotonically with a given direction of travel.

And regarding the display of house numbers: Folks, do you want to die while the ambulance driver tries to figure out which house is yours? The house number ought to be prominently near the door of your house, on your curb, and on your mailbox if you have one.

Also, if you care about political candidates and really want to help them campaign effectively, you will UPDATE YOUR VOTER REGISTRATION WITH YOUR CURRENT ADDRESS. Do you want your favorite candidate's volunteers dodging chained pitbulls and risking an ankle to the so-called "steps" -- the wood rot and carpenter ant damage has only left rungs, really -- to try to deliver to you a reminder to vote at the house where you haven't lived for 10 years and which has since passed through the hands of a series of rental owners with decreasing standards for upkeep and tenants and at which no likely voter lives because everyone in the house has a rap sheet as long as your arm? Do you, bub?

I generally left literature at the door, without knocking, but if someone had the front door open or was out in the yard, I'd stop to talk. We and our cause were well received. No one greeted me rudely. Many people volunteered that they had already planned to vote for Thompson and a straight ticket. They want Pelosi and posse gone, and they understand that getting rid of Dan Boren gets us one step closer to that goal. At one home, I was speaking to the lady of the house, when the husband came out. "I just wanted to make sure you wasn't no dam Democrat."

We finished a bit before sunset, turned in our leftover materials, then headed to My Place for barbecue before driving back to Tulsa. We played "I went to the beach and took" to pass the time on the ride home. (Each person in turn adds some oddball object to the list, in alphabetical order, after perfectly reciting the list of all previous items.) Our list: "I went to the beach and took an altimeter, a barometer, a chronometer, a denominator, an elevator, a fraction, a gummy bear, helium filled balloons, iodine, jack o' lanterns, a kilometer, a lamb, a microsecond, a nail, an oscilloscope, a porch light, a quadrangle, a rectangle, a square, a tenacious triangle, an umbrella, a volleyball, a w [can't remember w], a xylophone [natch], a yak, and a zebu."

Then we played the alphabet game. Did you know it's pretty easy to find a Q in Tulsa? A phrase in a Mother Nature's Pest Control billboard -- "sleeping with spiders?" -- inspired another alphabetical game: "Abiding with Ants?" "Bathing with Beetles?" "Cooking with Cockroaches?" "Eating with Earwigs?" "Fellowshipping with Fleas?" (We couldn't think of a good D.)

At home, I played Candy Land and the Wiggles Game with the four-year old. Next time I'm taking all the special cards out of the Candy Land deck. Do you know what it's like for a sleepy four year old to be on the verge of victory and then to draw the Plumpy card? And the Wiggles Game is fun, but it may not be the best way to wind down before bed. ("Tickle someone." "Walk like a pirate." "Dance like Dorothy the Dinosaur.")

(Big son was busy getting ready for the middle school musical -- Disney's Aladdin Jr.. He plays the main bad guy. Tickets are still available for next weekend's performances -- November 5, 6, and 7. Come experience a little private school that knows how to put on a big production. Many of the middle school actors are veterans of Spotlight Children's Theater and Encore! Playhouse.)

Thanks to the hard work of FreedomWorks new media director Tabitha Hale, BlogCon's tireless organizer, intern Sarah Desprat, and the rest of the FreedomWorks staff, the 175 bloggers at the event got to relax and enjoy the program and one another's company. As a result, most of us didn't do much actual blogging. One notable exception was DaTechGuy, who would break away now and then from the mingling and schmoozing to interview bloggers, taking photos, and uploading multimedia to his site.

He was kind enough to interview me on Thursday, the first day of the event, as we were waiting for the start of a meet-and-greet between bloggers and Republican congressional staff. Click here to watch DaTechGuy's interview with me. Visit his "Field Guide to Bloggers" category to see more interviews, including a very strange interview with Iowahawk.

By the way, in real life, DaTechGuy is a tech guy, the kind that can fix your PC. He can even fix your PC from the other side of the world. Read all about the services he offers here.

I had thought that perhaps there would be a service nearby at the Pentagon today, and there will be, but it's a private service, so the memorial there will be closed until noon. So am taking time here at the hotel room desk to remember the events of that day, to remember why they happened, and to remember my friend Jayesh Shah, a graduate of Tulsa Memorial High School and TU, who was working at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center north tower that day.

I don't have anything profound to say today; just some personal memories of the day, the aftermath, and the very ordinary times that were interrupted. Before I get to those, here are some reflections and first-hand accounts of the attacks from other bloggers:

Gerard Vanderleun was watching from Brooklyn Heights when the towers fell, recording his observations online: "Lower span of Brooklyn Bridge jammed with people walking out of the city, many covered with white ash. Ghosts. The Living Dead. BQE empty except for convoys of emergency vehicles."

Juliette Ochieng remembers the architect of the towers, Minoru Yamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. (Yamasaki also designed Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Tower and Performing Arts Center.)

Robert N. Going had been to New York City the day before the attacks to drop a foreign visitor off at the airport, pausing on the way for the guest to snap a photo of the skyline. He volunteered at Ground Zero, and he met the man who found the steel cross in the ruins of Building 6.

The Other McCain calls us to remember with the Falling Man documentary.

Midnight Blue Says remembers Cantor Fitzgerald employee Marcello Matricciano and uses clips from that day's morning news shows to remind us what was on the national mind before the towers were hit an hour later.

Now for my memories of the day (click continue reading if you're on the home page)...

MAFB-Magformers-20100715.jpgI was playing Uno this evening with my four-and-a-half-year-old. Spiderman Uno, with the Spider Sense card that lets you see one other player's cards before deciding on the new color.

I won the first hand. (Bad daddy.) Little Bit's lower lip started trembling, and he starting getting sniffly. He said something I couldn't quite make out in a teary voice, and he excused himself to his room for about half a minute to collect himself.

The next hand I lost. (Good daddy.) Midway through the third hand, he exclaimed with a grin, "I love this game!"

"Even when you don't win?" I asked.

He replied, nonchalantly, "I didn't mean to cry. It was myself that made me cry." He shrugged. "Why did my body think of that?"


Every year around this time, Gary Ezzo, creator of a popular system for child-rearing and discipline (including books like Babywise and Growing Kids God's Way), holds an annual "National Leadership and Alumni Conference" for his organization, Growing Families International.

And every year, conservative Christian bloggers who reject Ezzo's approach as physically dangerous and unbiblical hold a special Ezzo Week emphasis to educate parents on the problems with Gary Ezzo and his teachings. Blogger TulipGirl launched Ezzo Week in 2004; you can read through her archive of material on Gary Ezzo, Babywise, and Growing Families International .

This year Ezzo's conference is being held in the Tulsa metropolitan area at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, which is why I'm making a special effort to make my Tulsa readers aware of the other side of the story. The last time the Ezzo conference met in Tulsa, Tulsa Kids ran an excellent article featuring interviews with moms who had used Ezzo's feeding plan and whose children struggled with failure to thrive, and with people who had been involved in Ezzo's organization. The author of that piece also wrote two earlier pieces for Tulsa Kids: Babywise? Be Wary! Part 1, published in January 2000, and Babywise? Be Wary! Part 2, from February 2000.

As parents-to-be, we heard glowing reports from many of our friends about Babywise, Ezzo's plan for getting babies on a feeding schedule ("Parent Directed Feeding") and sleeping through the night within two months, and Growing Kids God's Way, which emphasized "First Time Obedience." Last year I wrote about my regrets in following the Ezzo approach:

That approach to discipline alienates parents from children, and sets mom and dad up as scorekeepers and penalty managers. I found myself denying myself the enjoyment of time with my brilliant, funny, and beautiful kids for the sake of teaching them a lesson. And a child's natural desire to please mom and dad turns to despair -- the feeling that nothing he does will ever be good enough, so why bother trying?

It is hard to ditch the Ezzo mindset. You're confronted with regrets over years wasted and damage done, as the letter on Quiet Garden discusses. There's also the inner Ezzo nagging you that you're being too lax, too lenient, that you're spoiling your kids. But I'm starting to think that the worst kind of spoilage would be if my child no longer felt connected to me, if my child felt alienated from me, no longer identifying with my values, uninterested in my advice, unwilling to learn from my experiences.

I'd rather work alongside my children, enjoying their company, sharing laughter, and guiding them down the right path -- not like the guy back at the gas station who gave you directions but like the sherpa who is with you step-by-step up the treacherous mountain trail.

If you know young parents or parents-to-be, or those who teach and mentor new parents, please send them a link to this article and encourage them to tune into to TulipGirl's blog for Ezzo Week 2010.


Voices of Experience on
A timeline on controversy surrounding Gary Ezzo, his methods, and his estrangement from churches and family members


Way back in the first week of BatesLine's existence, I posted photos of Midwest City's doomed Tinker Plaza shopping center. Downtown on the Range has photos of and commentary on the new-urbanist Midwest City Town Center that took its place.

Tyson and Jeane Wynn have posted their 50th WynnCast, covering, among other things, their hometown of Welch, Oklahoma, and the news site they run to help keep their friends and neighbors informed. They also talk about the upcoming Christy awards for Christian fiction and three books that they've publicized (book publicity is their main line of work) that have been nominated.

This Land Press reports on some of the classy items for sale at the Tulsa World's online auction site. Another piece from the inaugural print edition is now online: A story by Michael Mason on the way the City of Tulsa's handles (or mishandles) the land it owns. He wonders whether it's time to put all the surplus land on the auction block. And Erin Fore has a fascinating account of her day volunteering at a Norman soup kitchen.

OCPA reports that the private-sector share of Oklahoma's personal income has dropped to an all-time low -- 62% -- thanks in large part to the Federal stimulus package. Oklahoma's private-sector proportion is about 6 percentage points below the national number, a gap that has been fairly constant over the last two decades.

The Tulsa Parks and Recreation master plan is online on the Tulsa Parks website. You can download the Tulsa Parks master plan executive summary or the entire Tulsa Parks master plan.

Speaking of parks, here are some photos from the 1970s of the Bruce Goff Playtower in Bartlesville's Sooner Park. I remember climbing this as a kid. These pictures also show (albeit not well) the Möbius Strip climbing frame that used to sit at its base; I remember watching Dad work his way around the Möbius Strip many years ago. (You held on to the top rail and put your feet on the bottom rail on the outside. As you worked your way around, keeping your hands and feet on their respective rails, you would wind up on the inside and upside down.) There's a Facebook cause to fund the Goff Playtower's restoration.

INCOG has updated the map of municipal boundaries in the Tulsa metro area. It's striking how many cities straddle county lines. Eventually Owasso and Broken Arrow will have at least half its population and land area in a county other than Tulsa County. The same could be true of Sand Springs and Sperry. It appears that Skiatook is already mainly in Osage County and has plenty of room to grow in that direction. Tulsa will always be mainly in Tulsa County, but the city has significant territory in Osage, Rogers, and Wagoner County; meanwhile the seat of Creek County has a foothold in Tulsa County. Only a few pockets of land are not within any municipality's fenceline; a rather significant area lies between Tulsa and Sand Springs and includes the unincorporated settlement of Berryhill. The municipal disregard for county lines suggests that county government is not the right framework for regional cooperation to provide government services, but rather some sort of federation of municipalities.

Irritated Tulsan has an important fountain drink etiquette reminder for QT cheap drink season.

When you've been away from blogging for almost a week, it's hard to know where to begin again.

We returned Thursday night from a week-long family vacation in Branson. We spent several days at Silver Dollar City, visited Branson Landing one night, went to the Butterfly Palace, and swam in the pool most days. They were long full days, and what little time I had on the computer (after the kids were finally in bed) was mainly spent handling emails from work.

I was happy to learn that the Wagoner County Commission voted to rescind their call for a special election for a quarter-cent sales tax to build a county fairgrounds, an animal shelter, and a location that would be leased to Bell's Amusement Park. While I very much want to see Bell's up and running again, a tax increase is not the right way to make it happen. There are better approaches, such as tax increment financing, that wouldn't add to the taxpayers' burden. In addition, there were concerns about vague terms in the lease, a lack of financial numbers for the cost to operate the fairgrounds, and the lack of public discussion prior to putting the tax issue on the July primary ballot.

The two county commissioners who voted to rescind the election deserve credit for backing down in the face of the public's concerns, for choosing to put together a better plan rather than trying to force a bad plan down the taxpayers' throats. Here in Tulsa County, the likely reaction to public qualms would have been to pour more money into the "vote yes" ad campaign -- full steam ahead into the iceberg -- and then blame the public for voting it down.

A classic family amusement park would certainly bring people and dollars into Wagoner County. We just dropped a pile of money in Branson because of Silver Dollar City. We spent money at the park and in town, buying meals at restaurants, groceries, souvenirs, and gas. Last fall, during a visit to SDC, we bought season passes for 2010 because the park offers fun for everyone in our family. While we love the Bartlesville Kiddie Park, our oldest has outgrown all but a few of the rides and our middle child is close to that point. Were there an amusement park close to home, I imagine we would still visit SDC once a year, but probably wouldn't buy an SDC season pass.


The Looper, Knoebels Amusement Resort

Last summer, during our vacation in Pennsylvania and Delaware, we drove three hours each way to spend a day at Knoebels Amusement Resort, a family-owned amusement park in central Pennsylvania that first opened in 1926. Knoebels is not a theme park, but a collection of rides that grew over time -- now more than 50 that range from kiddie rides to two giant roller coasters. Knoebels began as a country retreat, shaded picnic grounds, swimming hole, campground, and cabins, and all those elements are still present, mixed in with the rides. I remember thinking how nice it would be if a resurrected Bell's was in a shady rural setting.


The Flyer, Knoebels Amusement Resort

A TIF may be the right approach for providing infrastructure for a new Bell's Amusement Park, particularly if the TIF can be structured, like Bixby's Regal Plaza/Spirit Bank Event Center deal, so that taxpayers are not put at risk. As an attraction with the potential to attract visitors from beyond Oklahoma's borders, a new location for Bell's might qualify for state tax incentives, too.

I hope to see Bell's up and running soon. I wish the Bell family and Wagoner County officials all success in finding a way to move forward that doesn't involve raising the tax rate.

MORE: Here's a PDF of the lease agreement between Wagoner County and Bell's.

There are some exciting events in Tulsa over the next few days, but because of a heavy and strange work schedule I won't be able to make any of them. But that doesn't mean you have to miss them:

Friday, April 23, 2010: National Fiddler Hall of Fame Gala, Tulsa PAC, 7 pm. Two of my favorite bands are performing, both with Tulsa ties. The main act is Hot Club of Cowtown: Brady Heights resident Whit Smith on guitar, Elana James on fiddle, and Jake Erwin on bass, a trio that brings together western swing and gypsy jazz, Bob Wills and Django Reinhardt. (Not that they were far apart: Curly Lewis, fiddler for Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys, said at the first NFHOF gala that all the western swing fiddlers wanted to play like Hot Club de France jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.) The opening act is Rockin' Acoustic Circus, a group of talented young musicians that brings together bluegrass, jazz, blues, swing, classical, and rock-n-roll and which features (I say without fear of contradiction) the prettiest bluegrass cellist on the planet.

Saturday, April 24, 2010: QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show: Fly-bys of military and civilian aircraft, including a B-2 Stealth Bomber! Rocket races! Aerobatics! Wing walking! Channel 2 Weather Show! World War II warbirds!

Already sold out, but worth a mention for future events:

Thursday, April 22, 2010: Blogger meetup at Siegi's Sausage Factory: Wish I could be there because the food's on my diet and the speaker is my good friend Erin Conrad. Watch to learn about future blogger meetups.

Friday, April 23, 2010, Saturday, April 24, 2010, Sunday, April 25, 2010: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Augustine Christian Academy, 30th Street west of Sheridan. This little classical Christian school does a big musical every spring. Performances sold out, but they have a waiting list for tickets. Call 832-4600 to put your name on the list. (My wife and oldest son will be playing fiddle music at a pre-show buffet Saturday. )

In the current issue of the Catoosa Times, there's a lovely story about my mom, Sandy Bates, and the weekly Story Time at the Catoosa Library.

My four-year-old gets a mention, too; Story Time is the beginning of his weekly day with Grandma. He helps her get everything ready, helps her clean up, and then they usually (at his request) go to the grocery store. Mom told me that he didn't want his picture taken for the story. He was very polite but firm: "No, thank you." So his wishes were respected.

The story was written by someone we've known since we moved to the Catoosa area in 1969. Vicki Binam Albright and I were in the same Sunday School classes at First Baptist Church of Rolling Hills for many years. (I think we had different 2nd Grade teachers at Catoosa Elementary, though after almost 40 years it's hard to remember for sure.) Her dad, Clifford Binam, and my dad served together on the Board of Deacons, her mom, Carlette, was the church secretary, and her sister Missy and my sister Kay were born one day apart. We all grew up together, and it's nice to see Vicki doing a great job as editor of the Catoosa Times. I really appreciate her putting this story together.

(As a side note, it's interesting how emotional geography doesn't always line up with the lines on the map. Our family never actually lived in the City of Catoosa -- when we came from Bartlesville, we first lived in Rolling Hills, which was then unincorporated Wagoner County but in the Catoosa school district, and after nine years moved a mile west into the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa school district. But Mom taught kindergarten at Catoosa from 1970 to 1998, Dad was a leader in the local Jaycee chapter, I started school there, my sister went all the way through school there -- save one miserable year in the Tulsa system after we moved -- and nearly everyone at our church either was in Catoosa schools or a graduate, so in a sense Mom and Dad have always been a part of the Catoosa community.)

The four-year-old:

Volunteered to help me clean the Little Tikes playhouse in the backyard. He wanted to play in it, but it was looking pretty grody, He did a good job and stayed working alongside me until the job was done.

Played catch with me and then hit the ball off a tee. He's got a good throw.

Stayed in the tree that big brother put him in, even though it was a little scary.

Counted the Zip Fizz tubes in the package (20), and pointed to the one he liked the best. They were all the same, he said, but that one was number 1.

Gave a play-by-play from the kitchen bathroom at his successful number two effort.

While big sister got ready for bed, played Mastermind with me. I gave him a few simplified puzzles with only two colors, and he solved them in two or three guesses.

The nine-year-old:

Came home from shopping wearing a sharp new fedora.

Played a couple of beautiful pieces on the piano, including Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz, and then played a pretty little improvisation of her own.

Asked to play Mastermind with me. She played the full six-color game and was able to solve the puzzle in five tries.

The 13-year-old:

Regaled me with tales of his excellent week of learning about state government at TeenPact. Best speaker of the week: Randy Brogdon, who spoke about his Obamacare Opt-Out bill. Worst speaker: Jari Askins, because she underestimated the interest and intelligence of these kids and dumbed down her talk. (First question from the kids to Askins: What do you think about the Obamacare Opt-Out bill?)

Climbed to the top of a hackberry tree and helped little brother get into one of the lower branches.

Played a double-stop arrangement of San Antonio Rose that he's been learning. It sounds just like Johnny Gimble and Keith Coleman's twin fiddles at the beginning of the version on For the Last Time. (He and his mom went to a western swing fiddle workshop at Tulsa Strings last weekend, led by Shelby Eicher and Rick Morton.)

Yesterday, I took part of the afternoon off and took our three kids to the Tulsa Historical Society in Woodward Park. It was our first visit as a family, and we all enjoyed it immensely.

The "carrot" to get us in the door was a special Spring Break promotion for families -- complete a History Detective Scavenger Hunt and win a 2010 Tulsa Historical Society membership. (I learned about the promotion via their @TulsaHistory account on Twitter.)

The scavenger hunt involved finding answers to questions in the museum's exhibits -- Tulsa in the 1940s, Seidenbach's Department Store, Zebco, lost movie palaces, construction photos of historic buildings. We only had an hour and were about to finish well within that time, but we could easily have spent much more time exploring. I understand that the Seidenbach's exhibit is about to close, so if you're interested in the history of ladies' fashion and retail, you'll want to visit very soon. (An exhibit on Tulsa baseball opens in April.)

THS does a great job of exhibiting its historic photographs and artifacts, both in making them easy to view and in providing context for appreciating their significance. I loved the megasized prints of aerial and streetscape photographs in the '40s exhibit -- it made it easy to show my kids the places they know and the places that are long gone. (Comment from the 13-year-old on the '40s streetscape photos: "I wish downtown still looked like that." Comment from the 9-year-old on color photos of the Akdar Theater / Cimarron Ballroom: "They tore that down for parking? Were they blind?")

When we turned in our completed scavenger hunt paper, we were signed up for our membership, and the kids were given a copy of Tulsa History A to Z, a book filled with photos and interesting stories of Tulsa's past.

As THS closed for the day, we went back to the car to retrieve scooters and a bicycle then walked across the parking lot to the Tulsa Arboretum. The collection of trees is ringed by a paved path that was just right for our 4-year-old and his Lightning McQueen bike. As we circled the park, he had us stop at every brass nameplate so I could tell him the English and Latin names of each tree.

The Tulsa Historical Society is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free!

MORE: Become a fan of Tulsa Historical Society on Facebook to see daily historic photos and trivia questions and news about THS events and exhibits.

Flickr photo by Francisco Diez

Last Sunday was Pi Day, (3/14), and at 1:59 pm, MIT released its admission decisions for the class matriculating in 2010. ECs got to see the results Tuesday morning, and once again, some really bright, personable young men and women weren't offered admission. Many of those bright young people wasted their time in applying.

As some of you may know, I'm an alumnus of MIT, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1986. (I don't say much about it -- I figure when you've been out of college for more than a decade, what you've done since graduation matters far more than where you went to school.)

My only ongoing involvement with the school is my work as a member of the MIT Educational Council, a group of hundreds of alumni worldwide who assist with the undergraduate admissions process. We serve as a local presence for the admissions office, and our main role is to interview applicants for admission. I've been an EC (as Educational Members are known) since 1987.

There are five ECs in northeastern Oklahoma. Gary Bracken '59, chairman of Ernest Wiemann Ironworks, is the current regional coordinator, responsible for managing the load of applicants among the alumni, making the arrangements when touring MIT admissions officials visit Tulsa (usually every other fall), and holding meet-and-greets for admitted students in the spring. (Gary was preceded in that role by John McGinley '52 and, before John, petroleum geologist Bob Rorschach '43, who interviewed me when I applied to MIT.)

The opinions presented here are my own, the description of admission processes and policies are my impressions and understandings, and they do not necessarily -- almost certainly do not -- represent the official views and policies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My use of the masculine form of the third person singular pronoun is in accordance with traditional English usage and is not meant to suggest that women are unwelcome at MIT. In fact, the sex ratio is nearly 50-50, a far cry from the 3:1 male-to-female ratio in my freshman class. Click this link for the official MIT admissions website.

Currently, I interview applicants from Bixby, Jenks, Cascia Hall, Holland Hall, Memorial, Hale, and Edison, but occasionally I'll pick up an interview from a different school if another alumnus is overloaded. This year I interviewed six applicants, including one from Azerbaijan. (That interview was conducted via Skype, which enables students in remote locations where there are no ECs a chance to meet with an alumnus.)

(Originally published 2010/02/26, bumped to the top for the benefit of my fellow guitar students.)

In the fall of 1989, shortly after we were married, my wife, who had been playing violin since elementary school, decided she'd like to learn some fiddle techniques. She found a teacher in Inola named Darrel Magee. (As it happens, I'm taking a beginning guitar course from Darrel this semester.)

Darrel was also the head of the country music program at Rogers State College in Claremore. RSC also had (still has) its own UHF station and a degree program in broadcasting. The two threads came together in a weekly program called Oklahoma Swingin' Country, with students running the cameras and in the control room.

Darrel invited my wife to participate in one of the broadcasts, and she spent many hours learning arrangements for familiar tunes like "Silver Bells," "Time Changes Everything," and "Steel Guitar Rag," and songs that were new to us then: "Big Beaver," "My Window Faces the South," "Milk Cow Blues."

The show was taped in Claremore on a Friday evening for later broadcast. I sat and watched from behind the cameras. Because of various camera and control room errors -- this was student practice, after all -- it took six hours to put together a 30-minute show. The awkwardness in some of the between-songs talk is partly because you're seeing the third or fourth take of what was originally a spontaneous intro. For example, "I'm going to sing first because I sure don't want to have to follow these other great singers," turned into, "I'm going to sing first because I don't want these other singers singing before me," on the take when the camera was in the right place.

For a small college TV show there was a lot of musical talent packed in the room, starting with singer Debbie Campbell and legendary guitarist Eldon Shamblin. I knew back then that Eldon was a Texas Playboy, but I didn't realize (as I do now) what a big deal he was, and Eldon was not the sort to make a big deal about himself. The video has some nice closeups of his solos and backup work on that old Stratocaster. Debbie, Tulsa's favorite female vocalist for many years, displayed her range on "Crazy" and "Me and Bobby McGee." (I'm still waiting for someone to post video of her Tulsa Tribune jingle.)

The rest of the lineup: Darrel Magee, piano; J. D. Walters, steel guitar; Suzanne Wooley, Mikki Bates, Rod Smith, fiddles; Jeannie Cahill, rhythm guitar; Ernie McCoy, drums; Jim Bates, bass. (Jim's no relation, as far as I know.) J. D. and Ernie have both played with the Texas Playboys at the annual Bob Wills Birthday bash at Cain's. Jeannie, Darrel, and Eldon joined Leon McAuliffe on his 1985 gospel album. And I'm pretty sure that was the same Rod Smith I saw performing last week in a classic country music revue in San Antonio.

OklahomaSwinginCountry-1989 from Michael Bates on Vimeo.

The Rogers State TV guys sent us a copy of the tape after it aired, and I got it converted to DVD not long ago.

Unfortunately, my wife's work schedule at American Airlines (Sabre) changed, and she wasn't able to continue with fiddle lessons. Two decades later, as our oldest son took up fiddle, she did too, and the two of them have gone to Jana Jae's annual fiddle camp and played with the local fiddle circle.

Sandra Lyn Rhea, prom night

Today was a special celebration for our family -- a milestone birthday for Mom. We gathered at my sister's house. She baked a special birthday cake -- two hearts side-by-side with chocolate frosting -- and heart-shaped sugar cookies. Brother-in-law braved the cold to grill burgers outside -- fresh beef from his dad's farm.

My sister came up with a great idea for a gift, and Mom was very, very pleased with it. It's a photo book from We gathered photos from Mom's childhood, young adulthood, parenthood, and grandparenthood, uploaded them to the site and used templates to arrange photos and text in the book. We included favorite memories from each of her kids and grandkids. The result was a beautiful hardbound book with full-color pages. My sister picked the photo above for the book's cover.


MORE: A couple of years ago I devoted my weekly column to a tribute to Mom and Dad.

And if you know Sandy Bates, had her as a kindergarten teacher, worked with her, feel free to leave a birthday greeting in the comments below, and I'll be sure she sees them.

Alumni of American Airlines' Sabre reservation system will gather Friday, January 22, 2010, at Mulligan's, in the Radisson Hotel on 41st St, between US 169 and Garnett Rd.

Here's the text of the invitation that's going around by e-mail:

30 Years??? Seems like yesterday!!!

Come celebrate the 30th anniversary of the NY to TUL migration!

All are invited...
old friends & new friends,
transplants & native Oklahomans,
current & past employees of
AA, HP, EDS, and Sabre...
to an informal gathering
at Mulligan's located inside the
Radisson Hotel on
41st St. just east of Hwy 169
(between Mingo and Garnett)
Friday, January 22 nd, 2010

Sudden death

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Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing
Passing from you and from me
Shadows are gathering, death beds are coming
Coming for you and for me.

An uncle of mine died this week. He was 70.

He and my aunt were in the process of moving into a new house. The day after Christmas he went back to the old house to take care of something, fell, and evidently hit his head. He was able to call a friend for help, but by the the time he reached the hospital his brain was beginning to shut down. He lost consciousness and never regained it.

He leaves behind his wife of nearly 50 years, two daughters, and two grandchildren. And while he suffered some chronic health problems, which may have intensified the effect of the fall, neither he nor his wife had any reason to think that his words to her as he left on his errand would be the last he would ever speak to her.

I last saw my uncle in early November, at the annual early Thanksgiving celebration for that side of the family. I took some extra photos because we knew it would be our last Thanksgiving at that house. It never crossed my mind that it would be our last Thanksgiving with my uncle.

No one wants to suffer through a long, painful demise, but most of us would hope for enough advance warning to get our affairs in order and to say our farewells to those who love us. Yet so many people never get that chance. Another uncle died last year from a sudden stroke. A former coworker was felled by a heart attack at the age of 40, two months after his youngest child was born. A friend died suddenly one afternoon of an aortic aneurysm. Another friend was in one of the highest stories of the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Pete Maravich and Jim Fixx were both athletes in excellent health, but both dropped dead suddenly from heart attacks.

Only God knows the hour in which you will take your last breath. But whether death comes suddenly or slowly, one thing is sure: Death is coming.

They nailed his hands
There on the cross,
On his head the thorns did lay.
Be prepared to go;
There's one thing I know:
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.

You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.
Sinner man, won't you stop now and pray?
Live the road of sin alone.
Let Jesus lead you home.
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.

On the great Judgment Day
When life's book is read
There'll be no time to pray
Learn to love and forgive
While on earth you live.
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.

By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.(James 4:13-14)

None of us have any guarantees that we will wake up in the morning. When you leave your house in the morning, you cannot know for certain that you will return that evening.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Come home.
Come home.
Ye who are weary, come home.
Earnestly, tenderly,
Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home.

Today is the only day we know we have. Every moment is entrusted by God to us as stewards, to be used for His glory.

Even if I survive 2010, 2010 will have its share of loss. We go through life expecting every week to be like the last. But in the course of 2010, I will travel through places that I will never visit again. I will spend time with friends and family members that I will never see again. Opportunities will come my way that I will never see again. Friendships will end. At some point in 2010, my youngest child will correct himself and stop uttering some cute malapropism forever. In just a few days, he will no longer be a three-year-old.

Every moment is its own little death.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

When I left work on Thursday at about 3, high winds were firing tiny ice darts (sleet, officially) into my exposed skin, as I cleared the car windows as quickly as I could. I stayed off the expressways and mentally charted a zigzag route home, avoiding any significant up- or down-grades. Closer to home that meant figuring a way to deal with the rise going west from Sheridan to Yale. A combination of neighborhood streets provided for a gentler climb with fewer cars. Then came the most fearsome challenge of all -- the driveway -- and I made it up on the first try.

We had finished all our last minute shopping on the 23rd, so there was no reason to get out on the roads. A 1:42 p.m. e-mail from the church office announced cancellation of the 11 p.m. Christmas Eve service. Within two hours, the 6 p.m. service had been canceled, too. No need to get out at all.

My wife had the older son get out the china and crystal and set it on a new, shiny, red tablecloth. For dinner, we had fish, crabcakes, crescent rolls, salad.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, as we cleaned, made dinner, ate, cleaned up, we watched out the window at the snow falling and swirling. Bedtime was later than usual on Christmas eve, as we bundled up and went out in the yard to see the snow glowing in the streetlights. The snow had piled high enough to fill the street from curb to curb. The 13-year-old took a half-yardstick with him. The white powdery stuff was about 7" deep through most of the yard, with some drifts as deep as a foot. It was still falling, still blowing. It was a real blizzard.

Back in the house, into warm clothes and ready for bed. We read through the Advent Book -- a beautifully illustrated volume with a numbered door on each page, a present from my parents a few years ago -- with the three-year-old finding and reading each number and opening each door, the 13- and nine-year-old reading the Christmas story found behind the doors, as the 13-year-old picked out "Once in Royal David's City" on his mandolin.

Late bedtime led to late wake-up time -- about 9. After looking through our stockings and opening presents, we had breakfast -- kielbasa, cinnamon rolls, eggs, and the clementines that Santa brought.

We had planned to have Christmas dinner at my mom and dad's, but with the roads packed with ice and snow, officials discouraging travel, and KRMG's Joe Kelley describing the scene as a combination of "Mad Max + Ice Planet Hoth," we all agreed to delay until Saturday. So there was no need to shovel the driveway, no hurry to get dressed and out the door. The only pressure I felt was making sure I got the kids bundled up and outside to play in the snow before the day was gone. They would have been content sitting close to the fire and playing with their gifts. The nine-year-old had a new SimAnimal game for her DS that kept her absorbed much of the day. The 13-year-old got lost in some Calvin and Hobbes books. The three-year-old had some new Cars Hot Wheels and a new double spiral track to use for racing them. He and I played the card game War by the fireplace. My wife had bought a DVD set of holiday TV episodes and movies. There was a Burns and Allen Christmas episode, and one from a series about the French Foreign Legion. We watched the Dragnet episode, from the original series, about the baby Jesus statue missing from a church nativity scene.

Lunch was simple -- leftover roast from earlier in the week. Plus more candy from the stockings.

Outside, we measured the snow -- 10" to 12" most places, with some drifts to 18", including one about that height in front of the garage door. Glad we didn't need to go anywhere. We got the sleds out and the kids rode them around the yard and down the little hill over the storm shelter. Efforts to use turn the swingset slide into a luge course were unsuccessful -- the sleds were too wide; so much for holding the 2018 winter games in our backyard -- but did not result in injuries. The kids played on the swings, with only a few inches clearance between the swing and the top of the snow.

While we played, mom got a well-deserved nap. She returned the favor a little while later. When I got up from the nap, they were watching Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Then OETA had the Red Green Christmas Special, and we learned how to make a complete Christmas dinner while driving your car. (Potatoes go in the hubcaps. Peas go in the radiator, but there's no good way to get them out. The fan doubles as a meat slicer.)

It may have been the most relaxing Christmas ever.

Augustine Christian Academy is blessed to have among its alumni a talented young videographer named Kenneth V. Jones. Kenneth produced several wonderful videos in connection with the ACA Junior Performing Arts Company's presentation of the Nutcracker. He does an amazing job of capturing the event. Here is a montage of scenes from dress rehearsal:

Nutcracker Dress Rehearsal Montage from ACA on Vimeo.

And a montage from the opening night performance.

Nutcracker Montage - Augustine Christian Academy from ACA on Vimeo.

Previous entries:

Nutcracker photos
Nutcracker preview

Nutcracker photos

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The school has posted some photos from Augustine Christian Academy's production of "The Nutcracker".

Here are my three kids: The Prince, the Candy Flute, and their little brother.

And here she is with one of her classmates and best friends:

The Prince as the Nutcracker, with Herr Drosselmaier:

The Prince and Marie, with the Chinese dragon and dancers

At the cast party after the final performance, "Marie's" mom (who had two younger daughters in the performance as well) remarked that it was wonderful that Augustine Christian Academy provided a God-honoring context in which her daughters could develop their God-given talents.

ACA is not a wealthy school, but teachers, parents, and students take what they have and add a lot of sweat equity and a lot of heart. The result is consistently one of beauty and excellence. If you want a school where your children will be challenged to excel in a loving and creative environment, check out Augustine Christian Academy.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photoAugustine Christian Academy's Junior Performing Arts Company presents "The Nutcracker" this weekend, December 11-13, 2009. I attended last night's dress rehearsal, and it's a wonderful story told through dance, colorful costumes and sets, and the music of Tchaikovsky -- the party, the wind-up dolls, the snowflakes, the battle with the Mouse King and his minions, the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, and Russian dancers, the gingerbread clowns, and the Sugar-Plum Fairy.

What: The Nutcracker

Where: Augustine Christian Academy, 30th St., just west of Sheridan Rd.


  • Friday, December 11, 2009, 7 p.m.

  • Saturday, December 12, 2009, 7 p.m.

  • Sunday, December 13, 2009, 2 p.m.

Admission: $8.50 for adults; $6 for students.

Tickets are available at the school office. I'm told that Friday and Sunday are almost sold out.

Saturday, before the performance, there's a special "Land of the Sweets" extravaganza -- a light dinner, desserts, and priority seating for the show -- $20 for adults; $15 for students.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, the Prince battles the Mouse King

What's especially impressive about this production is that the performers range in age from the 7th and 8th grade leads down to the 1st grade gingerbread men. That they have put together such a well-executed performance is a tribute to the dedication and energy of the young actors and dancers. It's also a tribute to the creative team of teachers and parents who spent the semester directing and teaching choreography, designing costumes and sets, and to the parents (including my wife) and grandparents (including my mother-in-law) who spent the semester sewing those costumes (almost 100). (And a special thanks to another grandparent -- my mom -- whose babysitting made it possible for my wife to help as much as she has.)

Performing arts are an ACA specialty, and every year the high school puts on a full-scale Broadway musical. This year is the first for a major production involving the grammar and junior high grades. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the result is amazing.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photo

I may be biased. My 13-year-old son is the Nutcracker Prince and my nine-year-old daughter is a dancer in several scenes. I am as proud as can be of both of them.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photo

ACA's "Nutcracker" is a wonderful evening's entertainment. It's also an opportunity to get acquainted with a school that seeks to glorify God through excellence in all its pursuits, including the performing arts.

Low-quality cellphone pix by Michael Bates

MORE: After the jump, video from a segment on Fox 23 Daybreak from last Tuesday, featuring directors Gail Post and Dawn Redden, and five of the students performing the Russian Dance (in a smaller space than usual).

My son the juggler, during our visit to Silver Dollar City last weekend:

Santa Claus returns to Tulsa's Philbrook Art Museum for the 25th anniversary of the Festival of Trees. Today (November 21, 2009) is the members' opening of the Festival; the Festival opens to the public on Sunday.

Santa will be at Philbrook each weekend of the festival (including the Friday after Thanksgiving) to meet children of all ages and for professional photos. Visit to see Santa's schedule of appearances at this year's festival.

Later on Saturday afternoon, at 3 p.m., Philbrook will host children's illustrator Lane Smith, whose works include The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. Reservations are required, and tickets are $15 for non-members.

(Full disclosure: Philbrook's Santa Claus is my dad.)

As generally pleased as I am with Tuesday's election results, the outcome that's most on my mind is this one. Please pray.

UPDATE 2009/11/11: After coming off ECMO, Anne Marie Dutcher's numbers are good and stable, much to everyone's amazement. Her mom, Susie, blogs that God has done something extraordinary. There are still many hurdles to come, so keep praying.

A busy day

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How I spent my Saturday:

I slept in. I've been short on sleep all week, still haven't completely shaken this cold. I actually got 10 hours of good sleep. The downside of that is I lost some precious hours on a perfect autumn day.

My wife and older son have what I had about a week ago. Both are afflicted with what one might palindromically call the "tons o' snot" virus. My wife has a raspy voice from drainage, but otherwise isn't feeling too bad; the 13-year-old also has a fever.

I took the three-year-old with me on some errands. First, downtown to the Performing Arts Center to buy tickets for the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra concert of Italian music. It's a required concert for our two older kids, as part of their music scholarship, but of course the kid with the fever won't be going. I head up Boston Ave., but it's blocked off between 4th and 5th to allow a huge crane to set up. It appears to have been involved in swapping out a massive air conditioning unit from some building's roof -- the Atlas Life building, I'd guess. The inconvenience was far outweighed by the opportunity for a three-year-old boy to look at a big piece of machinery up close.

As we walked up Boston, I pointed out the interesting animals carved into the Philcade and Kennedy buildings and the Philtower gargoyles. (I learned a lot from Ed Sharrer's downtown safari walking tour.) The ticket office was closed -- didn't open until two hours before showtime -- so we walked back to the car, then drove to the library.

We returned a rolling backpack full of books and videos, then checked out some audio books on CD and a few videos, plus a couple of books on owls for the big son's next science report. I'd have spent more time browsing, but Little Bit was getting restless.

We went to Coffee House on Cherry Street for a treat and to let me see about buying tickets online. He wanted a cream cheese brownie and a bottle of Orange Crush, except that he didn't. He drank about a third of the Orange Crush and took a few nibbles of brownie. I could buy tickets online, but two discounted $5 tickets would cost me $19.50 including "convenience charges." Seems like online tickets are as convenient for the venue as they are for the buyer, so I don't get why I need to pay $3.75 extra per ticket. I decided it would be worth it to drive back at 5:30 to buy the tickets at the box office.

We headed up the hill to the Christ the King Parish playground, which the parish allows the public to use evenings and weekends. The three-year-old decided that the equipment was a big airplane, and because there were two steering wheels, both of us had to drive at the same time.

I tried to talk him into a walk around the block to see some pretty trees and houses, but he was ready to go home and maybe play a computer game. So we did. He got to play Putt Putt Saves the Zoo, while I did laundry and waited for 5:30 to roll around.

At 5:30 (despite some teary protests) I stopped the game and loaded him in the car to get the tickets. We bumped into David White and his wife in the ticket line. David has served for many years on the Board of Adjustment; I got to know him through the Midtown Coalition. It was nice to see him again.

Back to the car with tickets in hand. The three-year-old wanted to go back to Joe Momma's Pizza, where we had dinner the night before while Mom and the two big kids went to a showing of The Wizard of Oz at their school. I said that we had some leftovers at home, but I'd drive by so he could see where it was.

(At Joe Momma's, we had played tic-tac-toe on the butcher paper tablecloth and after dinner played a few games of pinball and Asteroids. He had a non-linear definition of three-in-a-row, which worked to his advantage. There might be a 90-degree bend in the line, but it was still a line connecting his three Os.)

(He has a sense of Mid-Century Modern architecture, too. When we had passed the old First National, Liberty, Bank One, Chase Auto Bank at 7th and Cincinnati, he said it was part of the Central Library. When I said that it looked a bit like the library but it wasn't, he then claimed it used to be a library. He must hear somebody saying "that used to be..." rather a lot on drives around Tulsa.)

My wife usually goes with the kids to these concerts -- a chance to get out of the house -- but she wasn't feeling up to it, so I went with my daughter. The first two pieces, featuring oboe, were lovely, but a bit too soothing for my already tired brain. As an extra piece -- not in the program -- guest conductor David Lockington sang a monodic madrigal, Amarilli, mia bella by 16th century Florentine composer Giulio Caccini. He has a lovely voice, perfect for the type of music, a sort of recitative, and was accompanied by a harpsichord. Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1, closed out the first half. An early 20th century composer, Respighi made use of baroque and renaissance themes, as his contemporaries played with atonality. The program had a wonderful quotation from Respighi:

We are against art which cannot and does not have any human content and desires to be merely a mechanical demonstration and a cerebral puzzle.

The second half was Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony; I am almost certain that the opening movement was used by Fiat for a commercial in the '70s. (Watch this and see if it rings a bell.) It still makes me think of zipping along an Alpine road in a sporty vehicle.

Then home and a bit of a break, watching an SNL repeat from earlier in the year. The 13-year-old thought that soup would settle well, so I headed out to Reasor's for soup and a few other items. Back at home, got the food put away, dealt with some more laundry, finally got ready for bed.

And now it's taken me an hour or more to get this written, but now you know why I haven't blogged anything else today.

Michael Palin, the incoming president of the Royal Geographical Society, spoke out in support of strengthening geography as an academic subject in the latest issue of Geographical, the society's magazine, according to a story in the Daily Mail:

ptp_101_01_l.jpg'It's a subject that still seems to be neglected,' he said.

'It's seen as a slightly nerdy subject, and I can't really begin to think why when you look at what's happening in the world.

'Whether it's endemics, terrorism, or global warming, knowing the geography is so vitally important. I want to overcome the feeling that geography isn't really a serious subject, or a subject you should choose to study - and say that it's the subject you ought to choose.'

In the same article, Palin said it was time for Britain to stop apologizing for the British Empire:

The TV star said: 'If we say that all of our past involvement with the world was bad and wicked and wrong, I think we're doing ourselves a great disservice.

'It has set up lines of communication between people that are still very strong.

'We still have links with other countries - culturally, politically and socially - that, perhaps, we shouldn't forget.'

(If the name seems familiar, you might recall Mr. Palin's role in a TV series that first aired 40 years ago this week. It seems to me that much of Monty Python's humor reflects the rigorous instruction in history, geography, and literature that Britons of Palin's generation received.)

(UPDATE: Just rediscovered where I found this story linked -- belated hat tip to Violins and Starships.)

Geography as a separate school subject had disappeared by the time I came along, having been replaced by "Social Studies," which mushed together a lot of related disciplines, teaching none of them well. (On the other hand, we had some great history classes, including Frank B. Ward's 7th grade American History and the U. S. Constitution test that you had to take over and over again until you achieved proficiency.)

One of the things I love about my oldest son's homeschool curriculum is the emphasis on learning the world map. Each week he has to learn a new continent or region -- it's South America this week; last week was Central America and the Antilles -- drawing the map freehand and labeling it with countries and capitals four times over the course of the week. The beginning of the course covered the US, with rivers and mountains along with states and capitals. He had to learn to draw Canada's provinces and territories as well. By the end of the class, he should be able to find any country on a map, and he'll have geographical hooks on which to hang information he picks up in news stories, history books, and fiction. Those geographical hooks will complement the chronological pegs he established by memorizing the timeline from the Veritas history cards. Without memorizing places, names, and dates, how can anyone organize the other facts one learns about the world?

Meanwhile, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service alumni are appalled at the watering down of a traditional subject called Map of the Modern World. The challenging course walked students through the evolution of political boundaries from the Napoleonic upheaval to the present day. The revamped course will include lectures on plate tectonics and global climate change and will emphasize physical geography over political geography. The course is considered a rite of passage for Georgetown SFS students, compared by this alumnus to a "boot camp":

In an earlier post on geography, I mentioned a course I took at Georgetown called "Map of the Modern World", a 1-credit boot camp of world geography and geopolitics. As a student at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service (SFS) I had to take this course as a graduation requirement-since the qualification exam rendered me, in Professor Pirtle's thundrous voice, "geographically ignorant." Even though it was a killer for a one-credit course, it was one of the most rewarding courses I took. I know of no other university that has a geography course that even comes close.

Yet, just as it does in the world of education, the "boutique" theories seem to be adopted by administrators as if they were flavors of the month. Such is the case at SFS, where the new dean, James Reardon-Anderson, wants to take over the course personally. Instead of the classic geopolitical survey that each student in the SFS has received (gratefully) for decades, Reardon-Anderson plans to restructure the course as a study of geographic forces and human interactions. The grit-and-grind of the Mercator map is replaced by the soft Venn diagrams of interactions, encounters and relationships.

The change has inspired a Facebook group called Take Back Map of the Modern World, which offers the catalog descriptions of the old and new versions:

Faculty: Keith Hrebenak

This one-credit-hour course is designed to provide you with regional overviews of the evolution of the world political map since 1800. The objective of this course is to enhance your basic working knowledge of the political map of the modern world as a first step in understanding world events and international relations. The method of instruction
will be lectures supported by a heavy dose of maps and short outside readings. The lectures will focus on the evolution of the modern political map of each region and on major nationalist, ethnic, boundary, and territorial conflicts and tension areas.

Faculty: James Reardon-Anderson

This one-credit course is designed to provide basic knowledge of the physical and political geography of the world. Weekly lectures cover the fundamental forces that shape the physical geography and the effects of physical geography on human behavior in ten regions of the world. The final exam covers information presented in the lectures,
the location and capitals of contemporary states, and the identification of major geographical features. The final examination is multiple choice and graded pass-fail. The course is required for graduation from the School of Foreign Service.

Since Georgetown's School of Foreign Service provides the United States with many of our career diplomatic leaders, I hope the school reverses course and again includes a rigorous political geography course as a core requirement. Better still, let's restore geography as one of the basic "grammars" to be learned by young school children, alongside parts of speech, spelling rules, and multiplication tables.

(Note: The photo above is from the photo section of Michael Palin's travel website.)

Wearing Irlen lenses during Tulsa Boy Singers spring 2009 concertIrlen Syndrome, also known as scotopic sensitivity syndrome. There's an informational meeting tonight, Monday, October 5, 2009, at 7 p.m., at the La Quinta Tulsa Airport, east of Sheridan on the south side of I-244, presented by Catherine Barnes, an Irlen diagnostician. To make a reservation or for more information, contact Mrs. Barnes at 859-489-7773.

Our oldest son has been helped immensely by Irlen filters. His fourth grade year at Regent was the school's first in the old Higher Dimensions facility. The walls were painted bright white, the fluorescent lights were very bright, and there was sunlight, too. The combination gave him severe headaches, and there were many days when he had to come home early. He loved to read, but he preferred to do so in dim light. (Of course, we wouldn't let him read in the dark because it was bad for his eyes.) Grid paper and sheet music were particularly problematic for him.

He had a number of medical and ophthalmological tests, including an MRI, trying to figure out the source of the headaches. Everything appeared to be normal. Contrary to occasional parental suspicions, there was something between his ears. :)

Wearing Irlen lenses and a FedoraMy wife remembered that her sister had had trouble filling in the bubbles on standardized tests, and that the use of a translucent pink overlay sheet had helped immensely. My wife found out about the Irlen Institute started working with a diagnostician to find a color that would help him. A dark shade of purple seemed to work best, and so he began using purple overlays to read text and to photocopy assignments and music onto purple paper. Wearing hats helped, too, by shading his eyes. (Hats have become his trademark.)

After finding a tint that seemed to work, he was fitted for glasses with Irlen filter lenses -- no optical correction, just tint. Direct light leaking around the sides continued to be a problem, so we found some wraparound frames that keep the stray light out. He doesn't need them all the time, but they're a must for working with music or doing schoolwork.

What's happening here is a visual processing problem that's aggravated by certain parts of the visible spectrum. The problem is not in the eyes -- it's not optical in nature -- but in the visual processing portion of the brain. Filtering out the offending wavelengths makes the letters look to him they way they do to the rest of us. He no longer has to strain to read and write, and the headaches have gone away.

Irlen lenses have been helpful to people with dyslexia, other reading problems, writing difficulties, and headaches related to bright light. If you've had these sorts of problems or know someone who has, visit the Irlen Institute website to learn more, and, if you can, come to tonight's informational session at the Tulsa Airport La Quinta, 123 N. 67th East Ave.

MORE: Here's an ABC News video about Irlen.

And this Salt Lake City news report shows some examples of ways black on white text appears to Irlen syndrome sufferers:

STILL MORE: This critical blog entry attacking Irlen lenses drew many testimonials from people who have benefited from using colored lenses and overlays and from parents of those who have benefited. As several responses point out, Irlen lenses don't cure dyslexia, but they remove a significant barrier to learning to read -- words seeming to shift, whirl, dance, blur, or fade from the page. In my son's case, he has never had difficulty reading fluently and voraciously, as long as he could read in subdued light.

July 25, 2009: Hustontown, Pa.

Our arrival was timed so that we could attend the monthly get-together at the Hustontown Volunteer Fire Department, an open stage night where locals gather to play music, to listen to music, and to visit with one another. Refreshments (including homemade pies) are sold to raise money for the fire department.


The house band is led by a longtime volunteer firefighter, and the group accompanies most of the other performers. Our two oldest kids each signed up to play (fiddle and piano, respectively).

I didn't know what kind of music to expect from amateur night in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. I would never have expected it to be the same sort of music you'd hear at such an amateur night in Kentucky or Arkansas or Oklahoma.

Earlier that day, as we drove through southwestern Pennsylvania, my wife and I were struck by the number of Ulster place names we saw. Two vacations (B.C. -- before children) took us to Counties Antrim and Tyrone and Donegal and the cities of Belfast and Derry, partly in search of traces of my Scotch-Irish ancestors. I knew from some of my genealogical reading that many Ulster Scots who came to America in the 1700s entered at Philadelphia and settled inland; first in Lancaster County, then further west into the Alleghenies, and then south into the Shenandoah Valley, the Cumberland Gap, the Holston Valley, and then, in the 1800s and 1900s, westward to places like Texas, Oklahoma, and California's Central Valley. It was easy to see how Scotch-Irish settlers from the glens of Antrim or the Blue Stack Mountains of Donegal would have felt right at home in western and central Pennsylvania.

A couple of weeks ago, Philadelphia-based blogger Skye made this observation on Twitter, as she drove west to Pittsburgh for the Right Online conference:

So, this is alabama in between

I'm not sure what she saw to lead her to that conclusion, but it makes sense. (I was surprised at the number of Confederate battle flags I saw flying around Fulton County. Not a huge number, but more than the number I expected -- zero.)

The culture of northern Alabama and the culture of south central Pennsylvania are bound together by this Ulster Scots heritage, a heritage that is so ubiquitous in America that it is as invisible as the air that we breathe.

I mentioned the music at the open stage night: There was western swing, there was classic country (e.g. Hank Williams), and there was traditional gospel (e.g., "I've Got a Mansion Just over the Hilltop"). The latter style had many in the crowd singing along. The house band included fiddles, a banjo, an accordion, a pedal steel guitar, and a bunch of electric basses and electric and acoustic guitars.


What clinched the connection for me was the opening tune: A couple of choruses of Bennie Moten's "South", recorded in 1928. Moten was a Kansas City native, and his band included the Kid from Red Bank (as Johnny Martin called him) -- Count Basie. The song entered the western swing repertoire via Bob Wills, who used it each night to lead off his dances. Is it just a coincidence that the Hustontown Fire Department house band opened with the same tune over 70 years later?

Here's my oldest son performing a traditional Irish tune called "Tam Lin" and the classic western swing number, "Faded Love." I love the way the band comes in behind him on Tam Lin. There was a bit of a hiccup on a key change in Faded Love, but everyone got on the same page eventually. I'm proud of him being willing to go up in front of a hundred or so strangers and play with a dozen musicians he'd never played with before.

I was proud of my little girl, too. She played her two recital pieces from Barthelmes -- "Snake" and "Relay Race" -- and remembered to take a bow at the end:

The three-year-old was wiped out from the long drive. Here's one of his few moments of alertness and a more typical moment a short while later:


But he was awake for ice cream. After the show, we headed to a local favorite spot -- the Twist and Shake -- which specializes in unusual flavors of soft serve ice cream. That night the special flavors were chocolate marshmallow and peanut butter. Another night they had grape nuts ice cream and teaberry ice cream. (Teaberry tastes just like Pepto-Bismol.)


Back at the house, we caught fireflies for a while before turning in for the next day's big adventure: A ride on a real steam train.

Tulsa Boy Singers, performing at York Minster, June 10, 2007

The Tulsa Boy Singers, a choral group of boys from ages 8 to 18, is holding a special concert Friday night, August 28, 2009, at 7 p.m. The concert has a dual purpose -- to recruit new members and to raise money. Brief auditions for boys interested in singing with TBS will be held immediately after the concert, and following the concert there will be a wine and cheese reception. There will also be a a silent auction -- bidding starts at 6:30, before the concert -- for products and services from great (and generous) local businesses.

Here's some basic info about TBS:

The Tulsa Boy Singers is a community-based, non-profit, nondenominational organization for musically talented boys from 3rd grade through high school. The choir has been serving Tulsa for over 60 years, presenting concerts each Christmas season and each spring, singing at civic events (such as Philbrook's Festival of Trees), weddings, and other occasions.

Hour-and-a-half rehearsals are held each Monday and Thursday at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Tulsa. Boys come from all over the metro area and as far away as Wagoner and Ponca City.

As part of their training, the boys go through the Royal Society of Church Music's "Voice for Life" program, which teaches music theory and notation, vocal technique, and musicianship, as well as the personal discipline required to be rehearse and perform as part of a group.

After school is out each summer the choir goes on a brief tour. Recent tours have taken TBS to Texas and around Oklahoma, and in 2007 TBS spent a week performing in the United Kingdom. Each August before school begins, there's a week long camp where the boys learn music for the upcoming season and have time to swim and kayak and enjoy the outdoors.

New singers start out in the Boy Choir, TBS's training choir. When they've developed some basic choral and performance skills, boys can be promoted to the Concert Choir, which brings with it the chance to go on tour and participate in camp.

Funds raised from Friday's auction will go toward scholarships, tour trip costs, camp costs, and overall costs of maintaining the choir.

My oldest son is now in his fifth year with TBS. Although it's a challenge to weave rehearsals into a busy schedule, he enjoys it too much to think of giving it up. Through TBS, he has learned about music, about teamwork, and about poise in front of an audience, giving him skills that are useful far beyond the field of choral music.

I hope you'll attend Friday's concert and learn for yourself what the Tulsa Boy Singers are all about.

MORE: Here are the Tulsa Boy Singers, performing Palestrina's Sicut cervus (Psalm 42:1) at St. Paul's Covent Garden, during their 2007 UK tour.

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.

Day 3: July 25, 2009, Columbus, Ohio, to Hustontown, Pa., via I-70 and I-76, 320.9 mi., 6:41 en route.


The third day of driving included a swing through historic Zanesville, Ohio, and across its unusual Y bridge and a stop at Wheeling, W. Va.'s Italian Festival on the Ohio River waterfront. Click the "read more" link to read all about it (and see some pictures, too).

Day 2: July 24, 2009, Pacific, Mo. to Columbus, Ohio, via I-44 and I-70, 479.9 mi., 11:30 en route (plus one hour lost to the time change).

11 a.m. was a later start than I'd hoped for, but it was much better than the day before. We sailed through St. Louis without a snarl. The kids were under a no-books, no-DS order until we passed through the city so that they might actually pay attention to what we were driving past. Interest was expressed in going up in the Gateway Arch, but we were too far behind schedule for that to work; we'd try to fit it in on the return trip. I made sure to call their attention to the Eads Bridge, the Mississippi River, and the near-ruin that is downtown East St. Louis. The oldest boy noticed a tall building that no longer had tenants or even windows: "You can see all the way through it!"

We hit construction delays as we approached the point where I-70 and I-55 split, so I opted to drive a while on US 40. That two-lane road was backed up by what looked to be a serious accident. I gave up after about 10 minutes, confessed to my bad call, turned around (traffic was stopped in both directions) and headed back to the jammed interstate. But before we reached the on-ramp, I spotted a streetsign for "Old National Rd." The old highway led us through the village of Troy, Ill., then back to US 40, which we followed through the town of Highland, settled, according to a book I have on the National Road, by Swiss immigrants; the influence was apparent in some of the town's older buildings.

The current alignment of US 40 doesn't go through Highland, but bypasses it. Having missed the spot where the older alignment splits off to go through the main part of town, we turned south on Poplar, following the signs for the business district. I took a guess, based on years of experience following old highway alignments, about which street would take us east out of town on old US 40. After a few blocks it appeared that my guess was wrong, so I pulled into a subdivision, consulted Google Maps on my Treo, and, correctly oriented, got us back on track. Our path back to new US 40 and I-70 took us past a farmhouse with beautifully decorated shutters, spangled with stars in what we guessed was a traditional Swiss immigrant pattern. (Didn't get a picture, sadly.)

As we were nearing three hours on the road and people were complaining about hunger, I decided that we would stop at the Vandalia McDonald's. It had a Playplace, which would give the two younger kids a chance to burn off some energy, and wifi, which would let me get a couple of tasks handled while the kids played. Before the trip, I'd used McDonald's travel planner to find all the locations on our route with a Playplace and wireless internet, and massaged the data into a spreadsheet (a Perl script was involved), which I printed out and put in a binder along with our AAA online Triptik.

Chillin' with Ronald McDonald

Although we often bought sandwiches out, we'd get water and no fries (or maybe one order to share), and make use of our stock of sodas, Vitamin Water, and snacks in the car.

From there, we headed into Vandalia for a visit to the old Illinois State House, which served as the state capitol from 1834-1837 and was the place where Abraham Lincoln first served as an elected official. Foreshadowing the construction of new stadiums to keep the pro sports franchise happy, it was built at local expense in hopes that the legislature would not relocate to another city. (Nevertheless, Lincoln and other upstate legislators made Springfield the capital just three years later.) The rooms had been restored to appear as they would have in the 1830s, with wood-burning stoves for heat and standing desks.

The docent told us a story about the State Auditor's office. When the state offered a bounty for wolves, a hunter had to bring the wolf's scalp to the Auditor in exchange for a voucher, which he then could take to the local bank to receive payment. To prevent someone claiming the bounty more than once for the same wolf, the Auditor kept all the wolf scalps in an ever-growing pile in his office.

Madonna of the Trail, Vandalia, Ill.We paid a visit to the Madonna of the Trail statue on the southwest corner of the State House grounds, marking the western terminus of the National Road. The Daughters of the American Revolution placed 12 of these statues, honoring pioneer mothers, along the National Old Trail Road from Bethesda, Md., to Upland, Calif. (The statues are roughly contemporaneous with E. W. Marland's competition for the design of a Pioneer Woman monument in Ponca City, Okla.)

Across the street from the State House is a pocket park devoted to Abraham Lincoln, with a statue of Lincoln seated, reading the newspaper. There is a display telling the story of Lincoln's odd proposal of marriage to a woman he didn't love and how devastated he was when she turned him down.


Back on the road after our two hours in Vandalia, we stopped for gas in Terre Haute (my original goal for Day 1's overnight stop) at about 5, then picked up a half-dozen sliders at White Castle for a snack. Reviews were mixed: The grownups liked them; the kids, not so much. We zipped through Indiana, passing through Indianapolis (and marveling at the enormous Lucas Oil Stadium), and taking a break at the Greenfield rest area, which had a pretty wetlands and wildflower area to walk along.

My wife picked up a hotel coupon booklet (RoomSaver) at the rest area, and as I drove she combed through it looking for a good deal along our route. I had hoped to make Zanesville, but the rooms there were scarce and surprisingly pricey. She found a coupon for a Hawthorn Suites on the north side of Columbus. It would take us out of our way, but at $50 it seemed like the best deal. I made the final calls from a gas station just east of the Ohio border, where we stopped for yet one more potty break and to take care of a nasty diaper. (This was an old fashioned convenience store with outside-entrance restrooms and no convenient changing table. Had to change him on the floor with the diaper bag as a pillow. Yuck.)

The kids watched The Return of the Pink Panther for a while, then everyone (except me) fell asleep. We wound our way to the Hawthorn Suites Columbus North, arriving about 11:30 Eastern Time.

Without a doubt, this was the tattiest place we stayed on the trip. It was a converted Residence Inn. The room was large and had a full kitchen, but it was musty, the cabinets had some missing veneer, and there was a big crack across the full-length mirror. It could use some refurbishment, and I was a little surprised that the place met Hawthorn's franchise standards. Nevertheless, we managed to get settled, with the grownups on the double bed, the girl on the fold-out couch, and the two boys on sleeping bags on the floor.

The next morning, the breakfast made up for any deficiencies in the room. Fresh biscuits with real sausage gravy with visible chunks of sausage, and freshly cooked scrambled eggs, along with the usual continental breakfast stuff and the make-your-own waffles. Without a doubt it was the best hotel breakfast of the entire trip. I checked out the breakfast while the rest of the family showered, then we swapped: They ate while I fixed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for later in the day and got the car packed. We hit the road for Day 3 at 9:22 a.m.

Vacation 2009: Day 1

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Day 1: Tulsa, Okla. to Pacific, Mo. via I-44, 367.0 mi., 6:20 en route.

We didn't leave until 7 pm.

The plan had been to pack our bags the day before and take care of final errands and packing the morning of, while the minivan was at Cartec for some minor surgery. (The dealership, we believe, had stripped the threads on the bolt that holds the oil pan. Jiffy Lube discovered the problem and installed a temporary fix. We didn't think we should drive more than 3,000 miles on a temporary fix.)

I hoped to make Terre Haute. Then I hoped to make Effingham. I was reconciled to a stop in Vandalia, and by the time we left, I decided I'd be thrilled to make it to St. Louis, which we did.

It always takes us longer than planned to get packed. The challenge is not getting the bags in the car; it's deciding what goes into the bags. My wife thinks and rethinks, wanting to be sure we don't leave anything behind that we might possibly want or need at some point. Plus she was trying to put all that we'd need for the first two nights on the road -- clothes, toiletries, medicine -- into three bags, so even once she'd decided to take something, she still had to figure where it should go.

Only after all the bags are zipped up can I solve the three-dimensional puzzle of fitting them in the car. This did not occur until about 5 pm. I quickly realized that the large rolling suitcase I had packed was simply not going to fit, so in the driveway I swapped the essential contents (clothes) to a roll-aboard suitcase and left the rest (books, mainly) in the bedroom or stowed them in other bags that were going in the car. In the end we had 8 smallish, mostly squishable bags, 2 larger bags, a laptop backpack, and a rolling laptop case. That was just in the back. On top of that we had two sleeping bags and three pillows. Two more big pillows and a small pillow plus three fleece blankets were in the main compartment for the kids' comfort.

The minivan also contained a violin case under the back seat, a large cooler in place of the left middle seat, a rolling hanging file box between the cooler and the driver's seat (containing non-perishable snacks, umbrellas, and travel activities), rolling backpacks for each of the two older kids (normally used or school) containing their travel activities, a small backpack to hold maps and to keep a few cold cans of pop handy up front, two small camera bags, two sets of juggling sticks, a diabolo, two portable DVD players. Around my wife's feet was another bag stuffed with travel activities and books the kids might want to read, plus her purse and at least two canvas tote bags filled with I'm not sure what. The biggest son sat in the right middle seat. The smallest son in his car seat immediately behind, with big sister to his left on her booster and yet another box of toys and amusements (including his Leapster) between them. Big son's job was to pass things between mom and the back seat and was pretty attentive and helpful as long as he didn't have his nose in a book or his Nintendo DS.

S3011572I took these pictures as we unpacked at our first destination, my wife's aunt and uncle's house in Hustontown, Pa. They came in handy five days later when we packed to leave, as I couldn't remember how I'd made everything fit. You can't see the large rolling suitcase behind the two small roll-aboards or the tennis bag at the bottom filled with swim stuff -- suits, sunscreen, goggles, inflatable lily pad. You can barely see the soft-sided light blue suitcase behind the sunshade.S3011571

The other problem that always slows our departure is the urge to get certain tasks done before leaving for two-and-a-half weeks, as if we hadn't already been putting them off for at least twice that long. I spent valuable time the night before departure trying to synchronize our digital photos between the laptop and the home computer. (I never did find a way in Perl to get the size or date of a file in Windows. I wound up running a "find . -depth -exec ls -lR {} \;" command in Cygwin on both computers, then writing a Perl script to parse the output and compare the contents of the two drives, then manually copying folders from one to the other. One vexing problem was Windows XP thinking that the high-speed USB ports on the laptop weren't, slowing file copy speed by a factor of 320.)

My watch battery was dying and the case for my Treo was falling apart, so at 1 p.m., when the car was ready, I walked over to pick it up, paid for it, then drove to Promenade to get a new case and a new watch battery. My wife had me pick up some Arby's sandwiches for a late lunch. I bought enough so we had the leftovers for dinner as we were getting on the road.

Finally, around 6:30, we did the positively final uses of the potty, then I chased everyone out, did my obsessive checks of locks and windows, set the alarm, said a prayer over the house, and got in the car. I asked our three-year-old to say a prayer for a safe trip, and at 6:53 p.m. off we went....

... to the branch library to drop off all the books that were checked out.

At 7 we were truly underway. We made a pitstop at 9:30 at the Quik Trip -- a final outpost of civilization -- on the Kansas Expressway in Springfield. I made some phone calls to book a room on the outskirts of St. Louis, everyone used the bathroom, little bit got a clean diaper, we bought a bismarck, donut holes, and a cheap 32 oz. soda. We set up the DVD player for viewing. My wife and almost-13-year-old son rigged up a kids' car desk that could hang on the back of my seat, reinforced it with long strips of velcro and ribbon, and that became the platform for the portable DVD player. The player plugged into a power strip which plugged into an inverter which plugged into what we used to call a lighter socket.

That pitstop took about 45 minutes.

We made another "brief" stop (about 30 minutes) for gas at about 11:30, in St. Robert. At the first station we tried, a voice over the intercom informed us that there were doing the daily closing and it would be 20 minutes before we could purchase gasoline, but we'd be welcome to wait. No thanks, I replied. Off to another station, where we bought gas, used the restroom, dispensed night time medicine, and turned on the inverter so that it would actually power the DVD player. The kids watched Finding Nemo and at length all fell asleep. About 30 miles west of our hotel, we hit thick fog, which (so I was told by the desk clerk) is fairly common. At 1:20 we pulled up to the Comfort Inn's front door. Everyone was settled by about 2 -- mom and sister in one bed, dad and big brother in the other, three-year-old on his sleeping bag -- except for me, still wound up from the drive, checking e-mail and posting a couple of blog entries.

Next morning, we were up at about 8. We had the hotel's "hot" breakfast (starchy stuff, make-your-own waffles, and thawed and nuked egg patties) along with a Baptist middle school youth group. We let the kids wrestle around as we got packed and then hit the road for day 2 at 11:00 a.m.


Over the last two and a half weeks,

we packed five people and too much stuff into a minivan,
drove it 3,748.1 miles through 11 states and the District of Columbia,
reconnected with dear aunts, uncles, and friends,
met a longtime e-mail and blog pal in person,
bumped into a former co-worker of my wife's,
introduced our kids to the kids of a college friend and watched them hit it off,
enjoyed unseasonably cool weather,
visited Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home and the building where he first served in public office,
ate dinner in Santa Claus (Indiana),
went kayaking in Little Assawoman Bay,
rode a narrow-gauge steam train in the mountains of Pennsylvania,
visited a railroad museum and its elaborate model layouts,
spent the day at an old-fashioned, family-owned amusement park,
went swimming and picnicking at a lake in a Pennsylvania state park,
taught a Maltese dog some new tricks,
sat on a porch and watched the rain come down,
picked zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and broccoli from the garden,
ate fresh sweet corn and tomatoes from a produce stand named Sipes (of all things),
ate zeppolis at an Italian festival in West Virginia,
used the free wifi in a tiny branch library in a tiny Pennsylvania town,
played music at the open stage night at the town's volunteer fire station,
tried exotic ice cream flavors -- chocolate marshmallow, peanut butter, bittersweet, and teaberry (which tastes just like Pepto-Bismol),
tried Pennsylvania Dutch birch beer (liked it) and Ale-8-1 (not so much),
took a guided shorebird tour,
visited an old U. S. Life Saving Station,
swam in the Atlantic Ocean,
watched dolphins at sunrise just offshore,
ate fresh crabs,
ate Herr's Old Bay flavored potato chips,
ate pastrami in a kosher restaurant in Washington,
ate salt water taffy,
managed to offset most of the eating with a lot of walking,
rode the Metro and walked between the hotel and the station,
stayed the night in a two-day-old hotel,
went tax-free shopping at an outlet mall in Delaware,
put up with abysmal internet access and cell phone reception,
looked out over one of the deepest river gorges in America,
visited the Museum of Frontier Cultures,
visited the National Air and Space Museum,
visited the National Museum of Natural History,
rode to the top of the Gateway Arch,
walked around my wife's childhood church,
saw a sand sculpture contest,
stayed in two different houses and five different hotels,
ate some truly loathsome "hot breakfasts" at said hotels,
ate the best breakfast at the tattiest and cheapest hotel on the trip,
managed not to leave behind any beloved blankets or stuffed animals,
managed to suffer only a few minor injuries (an elbow scrape, a couple of head colds, and one wrenching of the knee -- mine) and only one minor ding in the rear fender,
managed to avoid any disasters at home (except for someone not shutting the freezer door all the way),
and generally had a wonderful time,
except that now I need a vacation.

More specifics and pictures in the days to come.

Please join me in wishing a happy 13th birthday to a wonderful, creative, funny young man with a bright future.


(And say a prayer for the father of a teenager.)

I was five years old, but I got to stay up late to watch the moon walk. We were at my grandparents' house in Nowata. My grandpa sold and repaired TVs, radios, and appliances (Johnny's Electronics), so he had a color TV. (We wouldn't have one for a few years yet.) Not that color TV mattered -- the only picture was a ghostly black and white image of Neil Armstrong descending the ladder.

To this preschooler, the Apollo missions seemed like a regular TV series: Apollo 7 in October 1968, Apollo 8 at Christmas, Apollo 9 in March '69, Apollo 10 in May. (Of course, there was a NASA TV series -- I Dream of Jeannie -- and that space program seemed to have a mission every week.) I knew the names of the spaceships -- Gumdrop and Spider, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Columbia and Eagle. The Gulf station at Washington and Frank Phillips Blvd gave away very intricate cardboard lunar module models -- the kind you put together with tab A and slot B. (We didn't know it at the time, but it's funny to think that the thin cereal-box cardboard was thicker than the LEM walls.) Like all five-year-old American boys in 1969, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.

I've been reliving those eight days in July through a series of YouTube videos -- excerpts of ABC and NBC coverage of Apollo 11. While it's interesting to learn more about the behind the scenes, through newly released and restored film and interviews, it's been fun to experience the events and to share them with my children as most of us experienced them four decades ago. (Someone else posted the videos; I just created a playlist.)

The videos cover the launch, moon landing, moon walk, rendezvous, splashdown, and arrival on the USS Hornet. ABC used animations -- hand-inked cartoons -- and simulations -- guys in spacesuits in mockups of the CM and LEM -- to accompany mission audio and show what couldn't be shown by live video. Both ABC and NBC commentators left room for the astronauts and Houston to be heard. (I saw some of the CBS coverage on the History Channel; as others have observed, Cronkite didn't know when to be silent.)

Frank Reynolds anchored coverage for ABC, with science reporter Jules Bergman. The NBC coverage includes David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, and Frank McGee.

One of the excerpts has a long discourse by Huntley, with McGee chiming in, about priorities, about whether America's space program was just a series of bad decisions triggered by Sputnik. The two suggested that just as government had engineered a successful trip to the moon, government could fix hunger and homelessness if only the political will were there. (McGee said, "We have the technology -- the software and the hardware.") After watching this, my son and I had an interesting discussion on the fallacy behind the lament, "if we can put a man on the moon, why can't we solve complicated social problem X?"

Another segment has Frank Reynolds throwing it over to a very young Peter Jennings for a short ABC newscast with stories on Vietnam, Chappaquiddick, and a possible air traffic controller strike. The story on Vietnam was interesting -- the report insisted on referring to the Viet Cong as the "National Liberation Front," making it sound like an indigenous guerrilla movement rather than the arm of the Communist North Vietnamese government that it was.

In another segment, Rod Serling led a panel discussion on the moon landing with science fiction authors Frederick Pohl and Isaac Asimov, asking whether any of the authors had predicted a moon landing in their books.

An interesting historical note: After the moon landing and before the moon walk, Buzz Aldrin took communion on the moon in conjunction with his congregation (Webster, Tex., Presbyterian Church) back home, using bread and wine and a chalice provided by his pastor. In 2003, the Episcopal Church recognized the occasion by making July 20 a lesser feast day in the church calendar: "First Communion on the Moon."

Here is the collect for the feast:

Creator of the universe,
your dominion extends through the immensity of space:
guide and guard those who seek to fathom its mysteries [especially N.N.].
Save us from arrogance lest we forget that our achievements are grounded in you,
and, by the grace of your Holy Spirit,
protect our travels beyond the reaches of earth,
that we may glory ever more in the wonder of your creation:
through Jesus Christ, your Word, by whom all things came to be,
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.

The Rev. Mark Cooper, current pastor of Webster Presbyterian Church, tells more of the story:

At the time of the lunar landing Aldrin was an elder in our church. A communion kit was prepared for him by the church's pastor at the time, the Rev. Dean Woodruff. Since Presbyterians do not celebrate private communion, the communion on the moon was structured as part of a service with the congregation back at the church. Aldrin returned the chalice he used to earth. Webster Presbyterian continues to possess the chalice, which is now kept in a safety deposit box. Each year the congregation commemorates the lunar communion on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the landing.

Finally, an excerpt from Charles Krauthammer's recent column, The Lunacy of Our Retreat from Space

Michael Crichton once wrote that if you told a physicist in 1899 that within a hundred years humankind would, among other wonders (nukes, commercial airlines), 'travel to the moon, and then lose interest . . . the physicist would almost certainly pronounce you mad.'... Fourteen months from today, for the first time since 1962, the United States will be incapable not just of sending a man to the moon but of sending anyone into Earth orbit. We'll be totally grounded. We'll have to beg a ride from the Russians or perhaps even the Chinese.... But look up from your BlackBerry one night. That is the moon. On it are exactly 12 sets of human footprints -- untouched, unchanged, abandoned. For the first time in history, the moon is not just a mystery and a muse, but a nightly rebuke.

MORE: How They Built it: The Software of Apollo 11:

The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) systems on each craft were designed and built by teams of researchers and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), led by the late Dr. Charles Stark Draper, under contract with NASA. Garman was one of the many NASA workers who helped run, test and debug the fledgling MIT code that would run the Moon mission from launch to splashdown. Some dedicated hobbyists have even designed and built their own computers to replicate the original Apollo devices.

"The AGC was very slow, but very reliable and very small for that time in the history of digital computers," Garman said. "It was the earliest to use integrated circuits."

The software as it was designed was built basically from scratch by MIT, he said. How did they know what to start with? "MIT didn't really--they sort of made it up as they went along. Neither NASA nor MIT had built software for digital flight control and guidance systems in the past--no one had near this magnitude. So it took some soul-searching on both NASA and MIT's sides to write down requirements and create hard schedules and test plans."...

Jerry Bostick was 30 years old and was a member of Kranz's White Team for Apollo 11.

"I started out in the mission planning division, designing missions," he said. "We would write the requirements for all of the software in both the ground-based and the onboard computers, working primarily with MIT and IBM."

"We would give instructions to the programs by punching cards," Bostick said. "You had to wait at least 12 hours to see if it would work right." The early programming was done in the real-time computing complex in Houston using IBM 7094 computers with 64K of memory. There were no hard disks. All the data was stored on magnetic tape, with each computer having about eight tape drives. Most programs used for the mission were written in Fortran, Bostick said. "After Apollo 1, we upgraded to the biggest and the best equipment that government money could buy, the IBM 360 with an unheard of 1MB of memory. We went all the way from 64K to 1MB."

Back in the early '80s, my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, started teaching at a vo-tech school in Springdale, Ark., and working with "displaced homemakers," women who, by reason of divorce or widowhood, found themselves looking for work after years of not working outside the home. Her involvement grew out of graduate research at the University of Arkansas. She helped women with resume preparation, learning how to present oneself in an interview (including learning how to dress for the job hunt), and getting additional education and training. Many of her clients still had children at home, and they often ran into financial obstacles that forced them to drop out of classes. It might be as simple as the car breaking down and needing to work overtime to pay for the repairs. There were expenses that financial aid through the school would not cover. So she started a scholarship fund in her home county, Benton County, to meet those needs.

Yesterday's Benton County Daily Record reported on a volunteer appreciation luncheon marking the 25th anniversary of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County. According to the story, since 1984 the fund "has awarded more than 4,987 scholarships totaling $3,478,943." According to the program website:

Designed to supplement existing government assistance, college grants and loans, the scholarships awarded by Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County encourage students to enter school and prevent them from dropping out of school because of unexpected financial hardships. Often times, scholarship funds are used for:
  • Transportation
  • Child care
  • Housing & utilities
  • Medical insurance
  • School supplies
  • Glasses
  • Computers and desks
  • Other day-to-day necessities
  • Clothing, food and necessities for children

Here are a couple of stories from scholarship recipients:

Christie Parvin-Vogel is one of the many whose lives have been changed by Single Parent Scholarships.

"I came into the program as a 19-year-old mother of a baby boy," Parvin-Vogel said. "I knew I needed to go to college and have an education so I could support myself and my child, but there were no scholarships available to me."

Through the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, Parvin-Vogel was able to get two associate degrees and later a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and a master's degree in management information systems.

"SPSF has been a blessing to me not only because of the money, but because of you guys," Parvin-Vogel said, referencing a room filled with people who helped launch the program 25 years ago.

Another scholarship recipient, Geri Lovelace-Lee, told of her decision to apply for the Single Parent Scholarship Fund: "When I came to a crossroads where I found myself without a car, without a home, and I had these two children and a few pieces of furniture, I knew I had to do something. This program not only helped us with an education, but it came full circle. It helped with everything in life. Thank you," she said.

Anyone know if such a program exists in Tulsa?

I mentioned in passing that I spent more time than I intended last weekend trying to upgrade a PC to a bigger hard drive. The PC (a Dell Dimension 2400) doesn't have room for more than one hard drive, so I put the new drive in a USB enclosure and downloaded a copy of Clonezilla Live, an open-source disk cloning program that runs on a bootable Linux CD. The software itself was easy to use, but in trying to do a disk-to-disk clone, it would finish copying the data then fail on an fsync call at the very end. Next I tried the image backup method -- create a Clonezilla image of the old, smaller drive on a MyBook external hard drive, then restore that image to the new drive. After some trial and error, I downloaded another bootable Linux tool, gparted, to get the partitions right before restoring the image to the new drive. I then installed the new drive in the PC.

Result: The system booted, the data was all there, but Windows XP thought the disk was still the same old size. (40 GB instead of 400 GB.) Going into the Computer Management tool under Disk Management, I could see that the partitions were there and recognized as the correct size, but when I looked at Properties on the drive, it still showed 40 GB with very little free space.

Finally it occurred to me to look at the instructions that came in the box. Sure enough, the Seagate kit included a CD with cloning software from Acronis.

That didn't work either. The Seagate software, which was based on DR-DOS, could recognize the MyBook, but not the drive in the external enclosure. I then tried numerous ways to connect the second drive to the IDE controller, but cable lengths and connector locations defeated me. This box was simply not designed to have a second hard drive installed.

Last try: I downloaded an updated version of the Seagate DiscWizard software. This version, also by Acronis, was Linux-based, had no trouble recognizing the drive in the USB enclosure, and made it easy to partition and clone the disk. Windows XP now correctly recognizes the drive's full size.

So my weekend would have been much more productive if I'd read the instructions in the first place. Then again, since the Seagate CD in the box didn't work, I probably would have tried Clonezilla next, so in all likelihood I'd have tried all the same experiments, just in a different order.

The morning began with the patter of a steady drizzle on the roof as I snoozed in bed. It was a good soaking rain, much appreciated by my lawn.

As tempting as it was to stay in bed listening to the rain, I decided to bestir myself and head out to the taxpayers' "tea party" at Haikey Creek Park. I arrived about half way through the festivities. The rain continued, off and on, but there was a good crowd (300 is my guess), I saw a lot of familiar faces, listened to a few speeches, and had a Nathan's hot dog.

Shortly after I got home, the power went out, affecting several blocks, including the grocery store. It came back on, but I didn't trust it to stay on, so instead of working on the computer, I left it off and worked on laundry and housecleaning. There was another short outage about 3. I took a nap while the clothes were drying.

The power seemed stable, so I went back to work on my computer project -- upgrading the hard drive on the kitchen computer. My attempt to do a direct disk-to-disk transfer using Clonezilla Live had failed once the night before, so I tried it again, and again it failed. (It failed on the final fsync call.)

About 8 I decided to go try to see some fireworks. My family was visiting my in-laws in Arkansas, and I didn't have an invite anywhere, so I drove around to see what was open (Blue Dome district was completely shut down), wound up at 16th and Boston, and started walking towards the 21st Street bridge. As I got close to the bridge, someone called my name. It was Maria Barnes, the once and possibly future District 4 councilor. She waved me over, and I sat down to chat with Maria and her family as we waited for the show to begin.

The fireworks began at 9, before the sky had turned completely dark. Word was that the early start was to try to beat the storms that were on the way. About 15 minutes later, we saw a whole bunch of fireworks go off near the deck of the bridge and more shoot up and explode. End of show. Maria's husband James said he saw a fire truck headed toward the launch site. Turns out a mortar misfired and the electronics for the remaining fireworks were destroyed.

Heading back to the house, I saw thousands of people in lawn chairs in the parking lots on the east side of Yale between 15th and 21st, as if they were expecting a fireworks show. But the Drillers were out of town and Bell's, which always had a great display, has been gone for three years. As I walked down to the store to pick up a few items, I saw a few rogue rockets here and there, accompanied by lightning in the clouds, but no show.

I brought back a free Red Box video rental (thanks 918 Coupon Queen!) -- Gran Torino, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood -- and watched it as I folded laundry and Clonezilla did its work. It's a wonderfully multifaceted story. You can read it as a meditation on the meaning of manhood. We're presented with several models to consider: Walt Kowalski (the main character, a Korean war vet and retired auto worker), his sons, the Hmong, Latino, and black gang members, the young priest, and the young Hmong man that Kowalski reluctantly takes under his wing. There's another angle dealing with the clash of cultures. The corrosive spread of gangbanger culture beyond its ghetto roots is another recurring theme. I think at some point I need to watch Gran Torino with my oldest son, followed by a long discussion. (The language is a deterrent to doing that anytime soon.) The movie reinforces my growing conviction that enculturation -- attachment to a healthy culture -- is more important than education in preventing crime and poverty.

Elsewhere in the Oklahoma blogosphere:

Nothing worked out quite as David Schuttler had hoped, but he did catch video of the final barrage of the River Parks fireworks display.

Irritated Tulsan has posted a collection of memories of Bell's Amusement Park. Shadow6's first date story is my favorite.

Tasha Does Tulsa took advantage of the long weekend to catch up on her blog-stalking. (And many thanks for the kind words, Natasha.)

Laurel Kane had plenty of visitors at Afton Station, despite the rain, and she made it down to Tulsa to see a parade of Gold Wing motorcycles on their way to watch fireworks at the river.

Brandon Dutcher links to a paper by Neil McCluskey of the Cato Institute. Far from being the bedrock of American liberty, public education often been used to oppress local autonomy and individual freedom:

Today, following decades of district consolidation, the imposition of statewide curricula, and threats of national standards, all religious, ideological, and ethnic groups are forced to fight, unable to escape even into the relative peace of truly local districts. The result is seemingly constant warfare over issues such as intelligent design, abstinence education, multiculturalism, school prayer, offensive library books, and so on. When diverse people are forced to support a single system of public schools, they don't come together, they fight to make theirs the values that are taught.

We attended Tuesday night's free Starlight Concert at the River West Festival Park to hear a concert by the U. S. Air Force Band of the West, performing alongside the Air National Guard Band of the Gulf Coast. It was well-attended and well worth the time to go.

I think it must have been about 1970 when I first attended one of these concerts. They've been going for 63 years. Back then, they were held in Skelly Stadium, with a bandstand built over the lower west side stands and concert-goers sitting in the upper deck (which no longer exists). The programs were staffed by local union musicians -- I suspect it was a way to keep them busy during the slow season -- and featured light classical pops, big band hits, standards, Sousa marches, selections from Broadway musicals and movie sound tracks, and even a few recent pop tunes. It was a pleasant thing to watch the stars come out, to feel the air cool off, and to hear melodies floating on the breeze.

Back to 2009: For some reason the amphitheater wasn't used, so the crowd spread out on the goose-poop-covered festival ground to the south. (We forgot chairs, but had some beach towels in the van.) The lack of a proper bandshell made it hard to hear the music too far from the tent-covered concrete pad that served as a stage. But we found a place to the side, behind the percussion section, that allowed us to hear the whole band and to watch the percussionists work the chimes, bells, gongs, and drums.

We all enjoyed the concert. It began, as you might expect, with the National Anthem (the audience was invited to sing along). One of the highlights was a medley of themes from spy and detective movies and TV shows, including the James Bond films, the Pink Panther movies, Get Smart, Dragnet, and a few specific Bond movies (e.g. Goldfinger, Live and Let Die).

There were three featured vocalists, including Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Lane McCray, Jr. He sang "A Foggy Day in London Town" and Michael W. Smith's "There She Stands." The MC informed us that McCray was an international recording star, selling over 10 million records. You've probably never heard of him -- I hadn't -- but that just illustrates the disconnect between the American and European music scene. McCray had been on active duty in the Air Force and stationed in Germany, but left to pursue a career in music. McCray began singing as part of a "Eurodance" duo called La Bouche. Their first album shipped double platinum. According to the official website, "La Bouche sind Erotik und heiße Preformance mit Ohrwurmcharakter." (I don't know what that means, but I love German compound nouns.)

The concert ended with a medley of the official songs of the five branches of the Armed Forces, winding up as the band took to their feet to sing and play "Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder" (MP3 link). I was disappointed not to see "Stars and Stripes Forever" on the program, but they played it as an encore as the crowd clapped to the beat.

The Band of the West / ANG Band of the Gulf Coast goes on to Weatherford, Texas, for a Thursday night appearance, the final date of their week-long tour through Oklahoma and north Texas.

There are three more Starlight Concerts this summer, with the Starlight Concert Band under the direction of Dale Barnett, formerly the championship-winning band director at Union and Catoosa High Schools. Barnett has been directing the band for six years, but he started with the band as a trombonist and euphonium player in 1971. Each concert has a different theme:

July 7 - A Tribute To Super Heroes
July 14 - Movie Night
July 21 - Swingin' Under the Stars & Silent Auction

Each concert begins at 8. Tonight's show ended about 9:45. There are concession booths, but you can also bring your own refreshments.

The Starlight Concert Band will also play a concert in Kiefer this Friday night, July 3, at 8 pm in the municipal park.

It's a great (and free) Tulsa tradition. Bring the family, bring a picnic, and enjoy beautiful music under the stars.

My nephew is a Guitar Hero virtuoso. He would love to win the Aerosmith Opening Act contest. To do that, he needs the most views of his YouTube video, showing him getting a 100% score playing Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion."

You can help. All you have to do is click play -- as many times as you can. If everyone visiting this blog plays the video just once, it would give him a great start. Thanks for your help.

2009 Barthelmes Anniversary Concert

Barthelmes Conservatory will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a special concert this coming Tuesday night, May 19, 2009, at 6 p.m., in the Bernsen Center, 708 S. Boston in downtown Tulsa, in the Grand Hall on the 4th floor. Admission is free. About two dozen students will perform short pieces.

For a story in the latest Urban Tulsa Weekly, Holly Wall spoke with Aida Aydinyan, executive director of the conservatory about the school's history and mission:

"All (of Barthelmes') 63 scholarship students are unique and have fascinating personal stories," said Aydinyan. "However, two of them ... are the first two students to be graduating from the Conservatory Music School program but also that these very first graduating students have been accepted to higher education institutions because of the Conservatory. These amazing and significant happenings deserve to be recorded and achieved.

"It is an incredible feeling to realize that we have invested in the future of these scholarship students and the pride derived from the fact that we indeed prepared them for success in college and performing arts field," she said.

I'm proud to say that my daughter (shown above) was selected to perform a short solo piano piece and my son will perform as part of an ensemble. Another ensemble piece will be performed by Bo Willis and Kiersten Morales on violin, Drew Crane on piano, Emma Hardin on cello, and Zac Hardin on bass. (Emma and Zac play bluegrass cello and bass for Rockin' Acoustic Circus, so Tuesday is a chance to hear their classical side.) I heard this quintet's performance at a studio concert last week -- marvelous. Bo Willis is graduating from the Barthelmes Music School program and will attend the University of Tulsa on a full scholarship.


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A couple of weeks ago:

My three-year-old son wanted to know the name of the little black stuffed toy dog.

Mom-mom looked for a name tag on the dog, but didn't find one.

She told the three-year-old, "Sometimes people name an animal after something that's the same color. You might name a black animal Midnight because at midnight the sky is dark."

"I want to name him Off, pacause when the light is off, it's dark and black."


Eight-year-old sister to three-year-old, admiring his camouflage PJs: "I like your pajamas."

Three-year-old to big sister: "When you get little-er, you can wear them."

TulipGirl linked to this post on a blog called Quiet Garden. It's a letter from one mom to another on making the shift away from some of the controlling, behavioristic parenting methods popular in evangelical circles and toward a way of Christian parenting that reflects God's fatherly grace towards his children. It is packed with helpful and convicting insights. Here are just a few:

I started questioning all of the things I had been taught about "christian parenting", and I did word studies in the Bible on things like "obedience" and "discipline". I was shocked at what WASN'T in there... none of the harshness or retribution I expected; instead, obedience was almost always linked to *love*, especially in the New Testament. "If you love me, you will obey me"... not "if you don't obey me, you will suffer". It was obedience based on relationship, not fear of punishment, which was a totally foreign concept to me. I guess in my mind I thought it was "if you obey me, then I can love you".

I had to really look at how I viewed my relationship with God... is that the way I thought he saw me? If I was obedient, he would love me and be nice to me, but if I wasn't, he would make bad things happen to me? I couldn't find that idea anywhere in scripture. Instead I found him saying "if you focus on loving me, you will WANT to be obedient". The focus was always on my relationship with him, my obedience was supposed to be a natural product of my love for him.

When I started asking God to show me how to parent, it didn't happen the way I expected. Instead of getting "Holy Spirit parenting tips" on how to make my kids behave, I started getting convicted for my OWN behavior. When I started to get angry at them for something they were doing, I would be reminded of a situation where *I* was doing the exact same thing my child was doing, only in an adult context....

If I wanted them to handle frustration calmly and reasonably, then I had to demonstrate self-restraint and not fly off the handle and yell at them when they ticked me off. The idea is not just to *tell* them how to act, but to *show* them what it looks like. After all, how can we expect them to do something we can't?...

If I could not behave better than my child, how could I be so arrogant as to stand in judgement over him and be less merciful than I would want God to be to me? God showed me all of the times I made excuses for myself for my bad behavior, for being crabby or impatient or selfish, or just plain rebellious towards him. It was so easy to rationalize my own behavior, but my children, who were immature and still learning were expected to jump to it, never have a bad day, never make mistakes?...

Take your cue from the Holy Spirit... one who is called along side to help. Instead of MAKING your kids do what you want, work on finding ways to HELP your kids do what you need them to do. Don't see yourself as standing over them, but be someone who comes in alongside them and helps them do what they need to do. More kindly coach/mentor and less crabby old school teacher.

There's more. She unpacks the description of love in I Corinthians 13, turning each phrase into a question for parents to ask ourselves about our motivations in how we direct and discipline our children.

We read the Ezzo books before our oldest was born. Many of our friends -- good, loving Christian people -- recommended them to us. I regret it. That approach to discipline alienates parents from children, and sets mom and dad up as scorekeepers and penalty managers. I found myself denying myself the enjoyment of time with my brilliant, funny, and beautiful kids for the sake of teaching them a lesson. And a child's natural desire to please mom and dad turns to despair -- the feeling that nothing he does will ever be good enough, so why bother trying?

It is hard to ditch the Ezzo mindset. You're confronted with regrets over years wasted and damage done, as the letter on Quiet Garden discusses. There's also the inner Ezzo nagging you that you're being too lax, too lenient, that you're spoiling your kids. But I'm starting to think that the worst kind of spoilage would be if my child no longer felt connected to me, if my child felt alienated from me, no longer identifying with my values, uninterested in my advice, unwilling to learn from my experiences.

I'd rather work alongside my children, enjoying their company, sharing laughter, and guiding them down the right path -- not like the guy back at the gas station who gave you directions but like the sherpa who is with you step-by-step up the treacherous mountain trail.

Snow fun whatsoever

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I haven't uploaded our March 28 snow day photos yet, but Don Danz has posted photos of his snowman construction effort with his boys, which was followed by a snowball fight. A follow-up entry shows what happens to a snowman in Oklahoma in March when you forget to give him a magic silk hat.

Meanwhile, way out in western Oklahoma, Sarah the Brit Gal has pictures of the considerably greater amount of snow that was dumped on them: First the blizzard in progress Friday afternoon, the snow as of midnight, what 25 inches of snow looks like, the yard and the road to town, a snow ice cream recipe, and Sunday's dig out and thaw in 72 degree weather. Sarah writes, "England you have no idea what bad snow is - OMG!"

MORE: David Schuttler has some great photos and video of the snow in Tulsa.

I hate to go so long without posting, but I'm worn out. Yesterday was a great day of family fun, but between carrying a three-year-old up a snowy hill a dozen times, shoveling the driveway to get the van up the hill and into the garage, making snowmen last night, repairing snowmen this morning (undoing the damage caused by unknown vandals), shoveling the driveway to get the sedan down the the hill -- I'm exhausted and achy and still have a column to finish and two big assignments at work. So you're not getting anything new from me tonight.

I would like to call your attention to the most recent issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. In addition to my column (about the need for legislation in Oklahoma to deter SLAPP lawsuits), you'll find the second installment of Natasha Ball's wonderful new weekly column on money-saving ideas. (You may know her as Tasha Does Tulsa. Here's a link to Natasha Ball's complete UTW archive.)

The cover this week -- done in the style of an old-west "wanted" poster, with a sepia-tone photo of 3rd Street between Kenosha and Lansing that looks a hundred years old -- is one of my favorites to date. The cover story by Mike Easterling will bring you up-to-date on the East Village or East End -- the downtown area east of Elgin and north of Home Depot. Despite many city-driven plans for the area -- including the 1997 Tulsa Project plan that would have wiped it all out for a soccer stadium -- progress so far has been the result of individual dreams and private funding:

And yet, as [Micha] Alexander noted earlier, the neighborhood he built mostly from scratch, and without any public assistance, has gone all but unrecognized. The irony of that isn't lost on him, but he doesn't dwell on that lack of attention.

"Everything we're planning on doing here, we're planning on doing with private funds," he said, noting that willingness to risk his own money without outside help isn't something a lot of developers share.

"A lot of people put their hands out, expecting something to be done for them," he said.

Alexander did apply for Vision 2025 funding several years ago, but his bid was rejected. "They said it was not in the right location, it was too modern and people wouldn't buy it," he said. Alexander now believes that's just as well, since the organic nature of his neighborhood's rebirth has allowed him to proceed according to his own vision, without any interference.

"If I was to go ask for this or ask for that, there are certain parameters I'd have to follow," he said. "The way we're doing it, our limit is nothing more than what we decide to do. I like that."

Last but far from least: You'll want to pick up this week's UTW to get a copy of the 2009 Spring Thing, an 80-page, full-color "essential guide to spring and summer" in Tulsa. I've got two new pieces in the book: A look at the city's political landscape and a guide to six great neighborhoods on Route 66: Red Fork, Riverview, Tracy Park, Kendall-Whittier, White City, and Tower Heights. (I could have easily written about a half-dozen more, but I had a word limit.) If you're e-inclined, you can download a PDF of Spring Thing 2009 here.

Since I started writing for Urban Tulsa Weekly, I've had a few photos and graphics published in the paper -- Lady Belvedere, the Statehood Centennial parade in Guthrie, PLANiTULSA workshops, along with some I took to illustrate one of my columns.

But today for the first time I got to see one of my photos in a hardbound book. It's a picture of Monkey Island at Ralph Mitchell Zoo in Independence, Kansas, and it's in a brand new coffee table book called Amazing and Unusual USA by Jeff Bahr. Bahr is co-author of Weird Virginia and a contributor to several other books in the Weird series.

I took the picture in 2007. My youngest son, then about 18 months old, and I stopped in Independence on the way north to Lawrence for my uncle's 50th birthday party. I have happy memories of the park and zoo from my childhood, and I thought my little one would enjoy looking around at the animals and the playground. We might even get to ride the train.

My wife and older two weren't able to come along, and they had the nice camera, so I took a bunch of pictures with a Kodak DX7440 which had an automatic lens cover that needed an occasional nudge with a fingernail to open all the way. Most of the pictures were of my son at various nursery-rhyme-themes spots in Kiddy Land, but I took a few documentary-type shots, too, of the park and vintage playground equipment. Nothing too artistic (although this one was quite nice, I thought) but well-framed with context.

I posted the photos as a set on Flickr, and duly added descriptions, tags, and geocoding.

A little over a year later, last September, I received an e-mail from Publications International asking for permission to use the Monkey Island photo.

Today we got a box in the mail, and it was my contributor's copy of the book! I understand that it will be available to the public next month.

Amazing and Unusual USA is 320 pages, attractively laid out with large images next to informative and often humorous text, organized by region. It features many of the "World's Largest" statues from around the country. Oklahoma is represented with four photos: Ed Galloway's World's Largest Concrete Totem Pole in Foyil, Tulsa's Golden Driller, Hugh Davis's Blue Whale in Catoosa, and a couple of guys wrestling an enormous catfish at the Okie Catfish Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley. I have a number of books about weird Americana and roadside attractions on my shelf, but I've only heard of perhaps a third of the odd attractions in the book. The kids enjoyed paging through the book and had to be shooed away when it was time for bed.

The fact that my photo is in this book is not a tribute to my photographic skills but to the power of Web 2.0. Because I had uploaded the photo and tagged it in several meaningful ways, it could be found by someone looking for just the right image of the Birthplace of Miss Able.

Tulsa's Santa David Bates is attending the 2009 Celebrate Santa convention in Gatlinburg, Tenn., this week, and he's posting daily updates on his website.

This afternoon is the big event: The Holly and Shamrock Parade, with of hundreds of Santa Clauses, plus Mrs. Clauses, elves, and reindeer, in honor of St. Patrick.

Stop by for the latest scoop from Santa Central, temporarily relocated to the Smoky Mountains.

little_cowboy_lullaby-bob_wills-sheet_music.jpgMy kids listen to CDs at night, usually one CD on infinite repeat, and over and over again for several weeks. Over the Christmas holidays they listened to piano instrumental versions of carols. I introduced them to the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. We tried Mark Knopfler's soundtrack for Local Hero, but there were a couple of loud songs that interrupted the flow of quieter pieces.

The three-year-old really wanted to listen to a Bob Wills CD, but it was too bouncy in places and tended to make it hard for the kids to get to sleep and stay asleep. So I put together a mix CD of slow, restful western tunes:

  1. Goodnight, Little Sweetheart, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  2. Little Cowboy Lullaby, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  3. Texas Sandman, Johnnie Lee Wills & His Boys
  4. Just Friends, Hot Club of Cowtown
  5. Dedicated to You, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  6. Medley: La Golondrina, Lady of Spain, Cielito Lindo, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  7. No Wonder, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  8. Along the Navajo Trail, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  9. Prairie Lullaby, Sons of the Pioneers
  10. Wagon Wheels, Sons of the Pioneers
  11. Lonely Yukon Stars, Riders in the Sky
  12. My Oklahoma, Riders in the Sky
  13. Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Riders in the Sky
  14. Don't Fence Me In, Riders in the Sky
  15. Streets of Laredo, Riders in the Sky
  16. Red River Valley, Riders in the Sky
  17. Sleepwalk, Santo and Johnny
  18. Moonlight Serenade, Santo and Johnny
  19. Song of the Islands, Santo and Johnny
  20. Tear Drop, Santo and Johnny
  21. Harbor Lights, Santo and Johnny
  22. Tenderly, Santo and Johnny
  23. Everlasting Hills of Oklahoma, Sons of the Pioneers
  24. Goin' Home, Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys (adapted from the Largo movement of Antonin Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World")

I notice that of the Texas Playboys tunes, I tended to choose the sentimental numbers that Bob Wills sang himself. The opening number of the disc is the number that was (and still is) used to close Texas Playboys dances. It opens with some sultry chords by Leon McAuliffe. I made my little girl chuckle last night: After I kissed her goodnight, I said, "Take it away, Leon," then hit the play button.

Two of the songs are songs my mother sang to me at bedtime: "Don't Fence Me In," and "Cielito Lindo" -- we knew it as the Ay-ay-ay-ay song.

One song I didn't have, but wished I did, was "Blue Shadows on the Trail" by Sons of the Pioneers. It's on a Disney Lullabyes videotape, from the movie Pecos Bill. Others I might have included but didn't: "Yearning (Just for You)," "Happy Trails," "In the Arms of My Love."

To explain the inclusion of a couple of New York musicians in a western collection, I'll repeat an anecdote from an earlier entry:

This little detail from the Wikipedia bio of the Farina brothers, Santo and Johnny, made me smile:
When they were very young, their dad was drafted into the Army and stationed in Oklahoma. There (on the radio) he heard this beautiful music. It was the sound of the steel guitar and he wrote home to his wife and said "I'd like the boys to learn to play this instrument."

I like to think Mr. Farina was listening to this guy over KVOO -- from "Steel Guitar Rag" to "Sleepwalk" in one generation.

Specifically, I like to think that Mr. Farina heard Leon McAuliffe playing those opening chords on "Goodnight, Little Sweetheart."

UPDATE 2013/05/24: Added the above graphic, the cover of the sheet music for "Little Cowboy Lullaby" by Bob Wills and Cindy Walker, from the lyrics and sheet music page at Thanks to the kindness of retired blogpal See-Dubya, I was able to add "Blue Shadows" to a second edition of the CD, to which I added Tommy Duncan's "High Country."

A new engagement

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I spent several evenings poring over maps and sunset tables. Tulsa doesn't have an ocean nearby, but I thought there had to be some place where you could see the sun set over the water. Somehow, in the days before the World Wide Web, I was able to figure out the approximate point on the horizon where the sun would be on the target day: Saturday, January 21, 1989. And then I found my spot on a fishing map of Lake Keystone that I'd picked up on one of our rambling Saturday drives: Walnut Creek State Park, west of Prue on the north shore. There was a peninsula that jutted far enough south, and the lake ran straight due west far enough, that it should be the right spot to see the sun go down over the water.

A day or two before the big day, I left work early to drive out and see if my calculations were on target, and to scout out a good spot to sit with a view of the lake.

Saturday morning I drove from my 1985 Toyota Camry from my apartment on the east side of Place One (3249) over to her place on the other side of Cincinnati (3252) to pick her up. We were going to the Audubon Society's bald eagle watching event just below Keystone Dam. She grew up learning about all sorts of wildlife, particularly wild birds and sea creatures, from her parents as they went on family outings to the Delaware beaches and looked out the back window to the creek and woods beyond her suburban Maryland yard. It would be exciting to see the national bird in the wild.

The weather would be nice: About freezing in the morning, but getting up into the 50s, mild for January, and sunny. We drove across the 21st Street Bridge, then out Adams Road, State Highway 51, and onto old 51 -- the road that once upon a time went to the town of Keystone, now sunk beneath the waters of the lake that took its name. We joined the other eagle watchers in the parking area on the south side of the river. We could watch the eagles in flight from there, but to get a good look at eagles in their nests, we were put on a bus to the north side, where the Audubon Society had telescopes set up.

When the tour ended, it was a bit early for lunch, so we wandered around Keystone State Park, walked along the shore and talked. Lunch was at the Pizza Hut in Mannford.

She had gone to the library a couple of days earlier to photocopy Consumer Reports reviews of CD players. She wanted one to go with her new Bose Acoustic Wave machine. We talked about features and options and looked over the ratings while we waited for the food.

I suggested that we drive over to Cleveland, so I could show her the house where my great-grandparents, Henry Cleveland and Ocie Rose Crider, had lived on the southeast corner of Kiowa and Division.

(They both passed away in the mid-'70s, my last living relatives who had seen the 19th century. Their house was an interesting place to visit when I was a kid, with a refrigerator that ran on natural gas, collectible plates and figurines all over the place, wall plaques of their two cats, and a big old-fashioned console radio at the end of the hall. There were apple trees in the side yard. The covered front porch was broad and concrete, with some old metal lawn chairs, but everyone came in through the kitchen door.)

I think she suspected at this point that something was up. We'd gone on plenty of Saturday drives, visiting historic places, looking for ghost towns, but this seemed a bit more rambling than usual. Like I was killing time for some reason.

We had been dating for about three years, since the intersemester January (IAP, as we say at MIT) I spent in Tulsa my senior year. I came home after graduation, looked for work close to her in Arkansas, but found a job in Tulsa. We traveled to see each other three weekends out of four. Marriage seemed a likely prospect, but we both thought we needed some time living in the same town, around each other more than just a couple of days at a time, before we took the leap. Through a friend from church, she got a job with American Airlines, working on a support desk for the Sabre reservation system, diagnosing hardware problems over the phone for travel agents. She moved to Tulsa in the April of '88. Her little sister was spending a college year abroad, and there were suggestions that if we were to plan a certain big event, it would be nice to plan it soon enough and for a time when her sister would be in the country.

We stopped in a convenience store on the north side of Cleveland to get a couple of pops and a snack. This was the headline on the Daily Oklahoman:

Bush Calls for "New Engagement"

41st President Inaugurates "Age of the Offered Hand"

"Everyone's after me to propose!" I exclaimed in mock complaint.

We drove up to New Prue Road, a county road that would take us along the north side of the lake to Walnut Creek State Park. (I don't remember when or how I explained going into Walnut Creek State Park, except that it was someplace we hadn't been before. Maybe I said we could watch the sun set over the water before we went home.) We parked by a picnic table (the one I had scouted), went walking around by the shore, then came back to the table. It was about 5, the sun was getting low in the sky, and I said we were going to have an evening devotional.

I had become interested in Episcopal liturgy, and had my Bible, a copy of the 1978 Book of Common Prayer, and a 1982 Hymnal. I led us, inexpertly, through Evening Prayer Rite II, including singing a non-metrical version of O Gracious Light which was hard to sing, and she corrected me on a tricky interval. (She's a much better sight-singer than I am.)

The sun neared the horizon as we finished the readings and prayers. Things are a bit fuzzy at this point, but this much is clear: I got down on one knee, got a box with a ring out of my coat pocket, and asked her to marry me, and she said yes.

Somewhere in our house there's a self-timed, flash-fill photo of us sitting together with the sun setting over the lake in the background.

As we walked back to the car to head home, she noticed that the full moon was coming up. We drove to a spot on the east side of the peninsula where we could see the moon over the water. As we watched, a great blue heron flew from south to north across the disc of the moon.

Six months and a day later she said yes again, or specifically, "for better or worse, for richer or poorer."

Lately she's been putting with a lot more worse than better. The three-year-old has an ear infection; the eight-year-old just got over one. And me -- you know what's been going on with me.

Thank you, Mikki, and happy engagement anniversary, such as it is. I love you. Thanks for saying yes all those years ago.

Partly personal, but this news is reason for a bit of local pride, a bit of reflection on the reach of products built right here in northeastern Oklahoma.

Today, Prince William of Wales began an 18-month search-and-rescue training course at the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, in Shropshire near England's border with Wales. According to the Times, Flight Lieutenant Wales, as he is known in the Royal Air Force, "will train on Squirrels and Griffins before moving on to the workhorse of the SAR, the Sea King."

Squirrel, Griffin, and Sea King are RAF nicknames for military variants of the Eurocopter AS3 50BB, the Bell 412EP, and Sikorsky S-61, respectively.

FlightSafety Simulation Systems, based in Broken Arrow, builds helicopter simulators as well as training devices for fixed-wing aircraft, and over the years they've done a number of simulators for Bell 412 variants, most of which are based at FlightSafety's Fort Worth Learning Center, just across the airfield from Bell Helicopter Textron's Hurst, Texas, factory.

In the late '90s, FlightSafety Simulation also built a Bell 412-based simulator to be used at DHFS to train Griffin pilots. In 1999, I was assigned to rewrite the communications link software that allowed the main simulation computer to send commands to the image generator that produced the out-the-window picture seen by the pilots in training. A brand new Evans and Sutherland Harmony image generator didn't have all the bugs worked out, so they were going to try an older-generation model. The older model used a different communication method than the new one, so I had to change the main simulation computer software so it could talk to the older image generator. (It used raw Ethernet packets over a point-to-point crossover cable.)

So in late May of '99, I traveled to RAF Shawbury, and spent hours in the very loud and very air conditioned computer room of DHFS's new simulator building. Mornings I marked up source code listings at the Albrighton Hall hotel over a full English fry-up or in my room, a much more comfortable place to work. I finished my work in five days and had a spare day to drive through the countryside of north Wales, take a ride on the narrow-gauge Talyllyn Railway, and pay a visit to Portmeirion, setting for the '60s spy series The Prisoner. Earlier in the week, I'd managed a quick evening visit to Hay-on-Wye, the famed town of second-hand bookshops; most other evenings I made it in to historic Shrewsbury for a meal and a walk around. Our visual software expert, Jim Narrin, arrived a couple of days before my departure to modify the software that formatted commands to the image generator to work with the older generation E&S.

Within a couple of years, the Harmony IG was deemed ready for use and the older IG was replaced. The IG communication code I developed was no longer needed (although there's still some general purpose code on the simulator that I wrote).

But I was just one of dozens of Tulsa-area engineers and technicians who had a part in bringing that simulator to life (not to mention all the support staff in human resources, accounting, travel, program management, etc.). This simulator brought millions of dollars to the Tulsa area in payroll for high-tech jobs.

And now this Broken Arrow-built simulator will almost certainly be part of the search-and-rescue training program for the future ruler of the United Kingdom. I'm not a royalty enthusiast, but I was still somewhat excited and proud to come across this bit of news today.

Here's a description of the DHFS course from the website of FB Heliservices, Ltd., the contractor that runs the program, and here's a bit about the simulator itself. More here at the BBC News website.

Well, foo....

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Still, I can't be too upset given that the winning quarterback had "John 3:16" inscribed into his face paint. (Usually it's Phil 4:13.) Congratulations to the Gators.

And well done to Sam Bradford and the Sooners for a great season. Come back next year, Sam, and give it another go.

Thinking back to the '70s and '80s, I found it strange to see OU get beat by a team running the option.

The most entertaining part of the evening was my three-year-old dashing around the living room, diving into the couch, tackling his big brother and tackling me. (Big brother, now 12, did the same thing at that age, but my back was nine years younger.) Occasionally he noticed what was happening in the game. "Did he get tickled?" he asked after a play. In the three-year-old's experience tackled and tickled usually go together.

I thought Fox's broadcast team did a fairly even-handed job covering the game. I can remember bowl games in years past where it seemed obvious that the broadcasters were more excited about and interested in OU's opponent than OU. That wasn't the case until it was apparent that Florida was going to win.

Note to Fox TV executives: College football bowl games and other televised sporting events are often enjoyed by entire families, including young children. Please stop using such occasions to promote violent and adult-themed TV series and movies. My kids don't need to contemplate the idea of someone being haunted by their miscarried twin, the theme of one of the movies you advertised. We saw very few of your ads, even the family-friendly ones, because I had to switch to C-SPAN during every break to avoid the ugly and scary ads. (We watched a pleasant looking gentleman named Mr. Sunshine tell a Senate committee about the budget deficit. Too bad Gov. Davis wasn't at the hearing.)

The jobs meme

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My paying gigs, in roughly chronological order:

  • Programming financial applications in BASIC for TRS-80 and Wang 2200 computers
  • Inserting security strips in book spines for the MIT library system
  • Selling souvenirs in a shop on the Atlantic City boardwalk
  • Tutoring high school students in math and Latin
  • Interviewing municipal officials in Worcester and Amesbury, Mass., about the impact of the Prop 2 1/2 property tax limitation
  • Flipping burgers and running a register at the (then brand new) Catoosa McDonald's
  • MIT Language Lab assistant: Cleaning cassette players, copying tapes from reel to cassette, checking materials in and out
  • Programming telemetry simulations in Fortran
  • Flight simulation software engineer
  • Parsing and processing mailing lists for political candidates
  • Blogger
  • Columnist for Urban Tulsa Weekly
  • Election night radio commentator

By way of Dustbury and the Happy Homemaker.

The rules of the meme, from its originator:

Just list all the jobs you've had in your life, in order. Don't bust your brain: no durations or details are necessary, and feel free to omit anything that you feel might tend to incriminate you. I'm just curious. And when you're done, tag another five bloggers you're curious about.

Consider yourself tagged, if you want to be.

Christmas 2008

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Christmas 2008 so far:

On the way to work the morning of the 24th, I spotted water flowing out from our street onto the nearest arterial. I doubled back and saw that the source a couple of springs emerging from cracks in the concrete. I called my wife, who called the Mayor's Action Center. She had everyone get an early bath, washed dishes, stockpiled water in pitchers and bathtubs, figuring we'd be without water for a day or so while the city fixed the leak. In fact, we never lost water -- upstream from the leak, evidently. When I returned from shopping, they were excavating across nearly the full width of the street. By the time we got back from church, the leak was nearly repaired. By the time the children were in bed, they had temporarily filled in the hole with mud and gravel, and it was open to traffic. Kudos to the city workers who got the job done quickly and with as little disruption as possible.

I left work early that day and did some last-minute shopping. I needed to go to Best Buy for a camcorder battery and a couple of other things. Rather than head to 71st and US 169, the nearest store to the office, I opted to visit the newest Best Buy in the new Tulsa Hills shopping center. It was a longer drive, but the traffic wasn't as bad and the stores, while busy, weren't absolutely packed. While there, I stopped at Lowe's for a couple of gift cards, at Radio Shack, and at Books-A-Million. Books-A-Million is new to the Tulsa market, well-organized, open late, and has an in-store coffee shop. I picked up a book for each of the kids, as well as a cool world map puzzle which has separate pieces for each country.

We went to the 6 pm service at Christ Presbyterian Church. Scripture readings were interspersed with carols. Carols were accompanied by our orchestral ensemble; my wife was the lone violin. The pastor offered a brief Christmas eve meditation. After the service we chatted with friends before heading home.

The kids opened their Christmas pajamas and robes -- it was a Christmas tradition when I was a kid to get new PJs on Christmas Eve. After getting dressed in them, they finished hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree and helped tidy up the living room. Just before bed our 12-year-old read the Christmas story from The Advent Book, a beautifully illustrated book with a page for each day, showing a door. Open the door, and you see a part of the text of the Christmas story, with pictures. It was a gift from my parents a few years ago, and it's now a part of our family tradition.

Little Brother and Big Sister serenaded us, too:

Our almost-three-year-old left some sugar cookies on a plate for Santa, which we placed on the hearth. (He made the sugar cookies with grandma at her house a couple of days earlier.) The kids were finally in bed at about 10:45, with the understanding that they couldn't come into the living room until 9 the next morning. The two younger ones went to sleep to Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas album.

And so to bed... for the children anyway.

The next morning at 9 or so, the kids came in to see what Santa Claus had left in their stockings. Rather than making them wait until after breakfast, we let them go ahead and open the gifts under the tree, too.

We spent the afternoon at my parents' house, where we had Christmas dinner (ham and sweet potatoes) and opened more presents. Little Brother got Grandpa to read him his Cars book.


Our almost-three-year-old is good at expressing gratitude. Several times, unbidden and unprompted, he said, "I always wanted a [whatever he'd just opened]," followed by a kiss on the cheek to the giver.


Before we left, Dad showed us a gift from his brother: A DVD transfer of 8mm home movies from the late '50s and early '60s. Although most of the film was shot before I was born, the people and places and activities hadn't changed that much by the time of my earliest memories a few years later. My grandmother (she wasn't in many shots, so I assume she was running the camera) captured a lot of family times together: Playing croquet in the yard, eating homemade ice cream on the patio under the shade of the pecan trees, celebrating birthdays, Christmas, and Easter, watching parades in downtown Nowata. Of course, there were plenty of shots of Dad, then a skinny 20-something, clean-shaven and with a crew cut. Quite a contrast with the guy who can today pass for a certain right jolly old elf.

Next stop was my sister's house and a chance for my kids and hers to spend some time together. It was exciting to see my dad in a photo on the front page of the daily paper. A story about him was in last week's Urban Tulsa Weekly, and he had been on KVOO Tuesday morning, hearing what listeners wanted for Christmas. The story in the Tulsa World was about generous giving to the Neediest Families Fund -- a program started by the late, lamented Tulsa Tribune -- and how donors had helped meet specific needs.

Earlier in the month, there was a story about Margie Edwards, an 11-year-old girl who used to receive visits from Santa every year, but her Santa, her stepfather, had been shot and killed this summer. A Santa in California had gotten wind of the story and contacted my dad to see if he could visit Margie this year.

The story about Santa's visit to Margie, written by Jarrel Wade, was well done and accurate. Wade wrote: "After reading about the family's struggles in the Tulsa World, an anonymous donor made sure Santa knew to visit Margie this Christmas to bring her presents." But the caption under the photo read: "A concerned donor from California called and paid Santa to show up at the Reeds' house."

While Dad is compensated for his work at private parties and public events, he would never accept pay for humanitarian appearances such as this one or his visits to the children's ward at the hospital. He sent a polite e-mail to the reporter to let him know about the inaccuracy and received a reply that the a correction would run, which happened the next day. Dad wasn't too bothered by it, but at least one employee of the paper was rather troubled by the mistake. Understandably so: One inaccuracy of that sort by a line editor erodes the credibility that other employees are working hard to rebuild. It wasn't just an error.

Even if Santa had been paid to appear (which is not the case), it's unnecessarily ugly to say so bluntly. Saying that the donor "arranged for Santa to show up" acknowledges the donor's thoughtfulness without raising questions in young minds about Santa's financial dealings.

But the matter was quickly passed over, as the kids went upstairs to play the new edition of Guitar Hero. My sister and I got roped in to do vocals with the band. The vocalist has to match the pitch of the original (although they seem to be ok with raising or lowering it an octave). She did a creditable job on "Beat It." I got 93% on "La Bamba" (the Los Lobos version), but didn't do quite as well on "On the Road Again" and "Ramblin' Man." I considered trying The Doors' "Love Me Two Times" -- I thought I could match Jim Morrison's croony baritone -- but I thought the lyrics might be too suggestive for the audience. I tried my hand at drumming on "Sweet Home Alabama" but stunk.

We had a great time playing a game called "Bananagram." Like Scrabble, it involves letter tiles and building crosswords, but there's no board. You work independently, arranging and rearranging your letters to use them all up in a connected set of valid crossword words. I ruled at this, winning most of the hands, but I had tough competition. I was especially proud of using "oxcart," "goiter," and "quince" in various puzzles. (The word "quince" was acquired from a Reader Rabbit game -- they used it in a game as a food that started with the letter "Q". "Quince -- it's a fruit.")

More later. Hope your Christmas was merry, too.

The December 18-24, 2008, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly includes a feature story about Santa David Bates by managing editor Katie Sullivan. Some clips:

Bates is in his fourth year as one of Tulsa's many Santas that grace the city's holiday surroundings and events. After retiring four years ago from St. Francis hospital, Bates decided to kick off his boots, relax and let his hair down -- or, in this case, his beard grow out.

Bates' friends and family members then began to notice his strong resemblance to Santa Claus, and this compelled Bates to dress as Santa for Halloween one year. In his full garb on Halloween night, Bates thoroughly enjoyed each and every time he heard the doorbell ring. The neighborhood trick-or-treaters shared his joy. Their faces changed instantly when Bates opened the door. Some kids froze with astonished looks on their faces, wondering if Bates was crazy and had mistaken which holiday it was. Others immediately lit up and yelled, "Santa!" Naturally, Bates handed out candy canes, which he said "are extremely hard to find in October." It was in the reactions from the kids that Bates reveled. "Where's Rudolph? and "Why are you here?" were some of the children's inquiries.

After that night, Bates knew this would be one Halloween costume worth resurrecting. Shortly after, he heard Philbrook needed a replacement Santa to fill in for the season. "That's when I fell in love with doing it," Bates said. "I don't do malls or shopping centers. Those are too strenuous." He keeps his holiday season schedule full of small individual gatherings, private parties, nursing homes, museum and library trips and hospital visits....

The gentle giant mentality comes naturally to Bates, a loving father and grandfather who boasted of his own kids' and grandkids' achievements. "You couldn't do this job without having the joy and pleasure of children. That's the best part." Bates also likes to hand out a card to the children he sees that explains God's love for them and that the greatest gift of all was Jesus Christ. For Bates, the legacy and tradition hold the utmost value.

Tulsa Santa David Bates is on the web at I'm very proud of my dad and happy that he's found such a fun and rewarding role in his retirement.

There are over a million orphaned children in Russia. One of them is named Losha Sokolov. He is 12 years old, and he lives in an orphanage in Chuvashia. As a 10 year old, he came on his own to the orphanage, where he hoped to have clothing and food.

A Pawhuska family hosted Losha early in November for 10 days as part of a program of the Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project. Jacky and Marie Payton had two boys of their own, then six years ago they adopted two brothers and a sister, all under the age of three. They had no intention of adding to their family when they agreed to host Losha, but the whole family fell in love with him and are seeking to bring him back to Pawhuska for good.

There's a catch: $45,000 in adoption-related fees and another $15,000 in travel expenses.

They raised over a thousand dollars at a fundraiser over the weekend. Their oldest boy, Garrett, is willing to sell his palomino horse and auction off the '65 Mustang that his father has been saving for him in order to reach the goal.

You can learn more about the Paytons and how you can help them bring Losha home on their website, There's a blog where you can follow their progress.

MORE: The Paytons and Losha were featured in this story in the Bigheart Times and in this article in the Tulsa World.

Several Russian orphans will be coming to Tulsa for a 10-day visit in January. If you'd like to host one of them, contact the Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project for details.

Festival of trees begins

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Philbrook's Festival of Trees kicks off tomorrow (Saturday, November 22, 2008):

Philbrook's annual holiday gift to members features holiday treats, photos with Santa and special performances. Please take the opportunity to see and buy one-of-a-kind holiday creations by area artists, gingerbread houses and holiday trees. The 2008 Festival of Trees will be a memorable treat for the entire family. Guests are welcome for $5.00 per person.

The festival is about the Christmas trees, decorated by designers and available for sale, but the gingerbread houses, made by school children, are even more interesting and fun.

Tulsa Boy Singers will be performing, and you can get your picture taken with my dad, Santa. Santa will also be at Philbrook on Sunday and Saturday and Sunday of the next two weekends.

Two University of Tulsa conservative student groups are bringing a scholar and author to speak about economics, women, career, and family. Jennifer Roback Morse describes herself as "your coach for the Culture Wars."

Timeless values are the core of prosperity for business, families and society. The Culture Wars are bad for business. The attacks on timeless values-- including marriage, the two-parent family and religion--increase costs, undermine productivity and demoralize your work force. As your Coach for the Culture Wars, Dr. Morse is prepared to defend against these attacks. Using economics, statistics and history, Dr. Morse will help you take ground and avoid losses in the Culture Wars.

Morse was involved in the campaign for California Proposition 8, which passed on Tuesday, overturning the California Supreme Court's judicial fiat that redefined marriage. In a recent blog entry, Morse explains that CSC's ruling represented the breach of a compromise -- California's domestic partnership law:

There was a compromise. It was called domestic partnerships. Many fair-minded Californians thought that the very generous DP legislation over the last 8 years was the basis for a stable compromise: hospital visitation, insurance, survivorship benefits, adoption, the whole enchilda. But what we saw as a compromise, the gay lobby saw as a stepping stone toward their final goal of gay marriage. The compromise was not disrupted by putting Prop 8 on the ballot. Those law suits that resulted in judicially imposed [same-sex marriage] this spring broke up the compromise.

So now I ask you: why should anyone compromise with the gay lobby? Why should any sensible person give an inch? Particularly when they have so little respect for the democratic process that they are out protesting in front of the Mormon Temple in LA. They are treating their opponents with contempt. Why should we pretend that compromise is possible?

Here are the details for Morse's visit to TU:

For women torn between career and family, Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., offers help and insight. On Wednesday, November 12th, two student groups at the University of Tulsa will sponsor a talk by Dr. Morse. Dr. Morse's research has led her to promote a new model of feminism that supports women both at the workplace and at home. Dr. Morse shows how some feminist policies had negative effects. Her new model for feminism offers greater options for women in all walks of life.

The lecture will take place Wednesday, November 12th, at 7:00 p.m. at the University of Tulsa, in the Allen Chapman Activity Center.

Dr. Morse's findings are drawn from a prestigious scholarly career. She taught economics at Yale University and George Mason University for 15 years. Currently, Dr. Morse is the Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

Through her popular books and articles, Dr. Morse takes her research to the public. Her books include Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World (2005) and Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village (2008). Her public policy articles have appeared in Forbes, Fortune, and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

The lecture is sponsored by the TU Law chapter of the Federalist Society and the TU Intercollegiate Studies Group. The Federalist Society stands for the Constitutional separation of powers. The TU Intercollegiate Studies Group promotes the study of Western civilization through book discussions, lectures, and essay contests.

Kudos to these TU students for continuing to bring provocative conservative scholars to speak here in Tulsa.

Looking more than a little out of place, there's a shiny Airstream trailer parked on the Williams Center Green at 3rd and Boston.

It belongs to StoryCorps, a non-profit organization which aims to collect the life-stories and memories of ordinary Americans. The process works like this:

  1. You pick a friend, relative, or acquaintance that you'd like to interview.
  2. You reserve a 40 minute time-slot for recording your interview.
  3. You compose some good questions for the interview.
  4. You conduct the interview.
  5. When you're done, you get a CD of the interview; a copy is archived in the Library of Congress.

Interview a parent or an elderly neighbor. Have your kid interview you. Talk to someone who remembers downtown or Greenwood in their glory days, before urban renewal.

The StoryCorps trailer will be in Tulsa through November 29. Follow that link to book a time and learn more.

If StoryCorps isn't coming to your town, they offer some alternatives along with some tips for recording your own interviews.

Saving buildings is important, but we also need to save the memories associated with those buildings. StoryCorps is one way to do that.

My election day

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In case you were wondering:

6:00 am -- Up after a night of tossing and turning, during which I dream of total on-air collapse: I don't get my database stuff finished, I can't keep up with the precincts as they come in, I have nothing coherent to say.

6:20 am -- I call in to the KRMG Morning News for a preview of election night coverage. Not one of my better interviews. As soon as I hang up, I notice that I'm sitting slumped over -- not good. I guess I've lost the knack of being "up" and "on," as I used to have to be every Tuesday morning on KFAQ.

8:00 am -- I deliver my daughter to school. I scratch my neck and discover that, although I put on Lectric Shave before I left, I had forgotten to shave. I head home to get my electric razor, use it, and take it with me for a touch up in the late afternoon.

8:15 am -- Work. Try, try, try to focus, focus, focus. Fail.

12:50 pm -- I take the afternoon off, leave work, and head to my precinct to vote.

1:05 pm -- No line at the polls as such. Three people are already voting, another one or two come in behind me. My two ballots are counted as numbers 1085 and 1086, cast just after the midpoint of election day.

1:20 pm -- Drop off watch at the On the Spot shop in Promenade; have lunch in the food court while they put in a new battery. For the first time since I used to sing with Coventry Chorale, I have to think: What can I eat that will (1) not come back to haunt me five hours from now, (2) not gum up my voice, and (3) give me enough energy to get through the day? I opt for kung pao and bourbon chicken over noodles.

2:00 pm -- At the Coffee House on Cherry Street, I'm working as fast as I can to finish up the Microsoft Access entry form, queries, and reports that I'll use to help me compare precinct results to previous elections. I've already imported results from the 2004 elections, the 2006 Mayor's race, the 2006 Third Penny, and the 2007 River Tax vote. I have three hours to learn and use some unfamiliar Access features. I've used Access plenty in the past to create and query databases, but I usually export the data and parse it through Perl or manipulate it in Excel to see percentages and do comparisons. Tonight I won't have the time for that, so I need reports that will instantly tell me what I need to know.

As I'm testing my queries, it becomes clear that Sen. Tom Coburn's 2004 election will be the clearest benchmark for Sally Bell's chances. Coburn lost County Commission District 2, but not by much, largely because of crossover voters in the Midtown Money Belt, who tend to prefer a Democrat who's one of their own (Brad Carson lived in Maple Ridge before moving to Claremore to run for Congress) over a populist Republican. Bell would need to outperform Coburn, holding on to Republicans outside of Midtown and picking up enough anti-tax Democrats to make up for the loss of the Money Belt Republicans to Karen Keith.

5:30 pm -- A quick stop at the 11th and Utica QT for a bottle of Coke Zero and a couple of pepperoni and sausage stuffed breadsticks, which I fail to notice are behind the "Still cooking" sign. (Ewwww.) My wife happens to be at one of the gas pumps, filling up before she picks up our daughter from her piano lesson. I say hi to her and the two boys. They'll go to the Republican watch party for a couple of hours while I'm broadcasting. (Later in the evening, I'll get a text message from my wife saying that the kids are pretty upset over the election results. The 12-year-old has become a Mark Levin fan -- he downloads his free podcasts to his iPod every night.)

5:45 pm -- After choking down two slightly doughy and lukewarm breadsticks, I arrive in the News on 6 lot. I'm let in along with the Mazzio's delivery guys, which means the breadsticks were totally unnecessary. I find my spot, unpack my laptop, and begin to get situated. Steve Schroeder, the news operations manager for KOTV, gets me set up with their result tracking software and looks for some headphones so I can hear the feed from KRMG. I grab a couple of pieces of pizza.

6:00 pm -- KRMG coverage begins. I open the chatroom. Still no headphones, so I try to listen online. I keep an eye on a couple of news sites for early results from the East Coast.

6:31 pm -- I'm all wired up and ready to go. Spend the rest of the hour in the chat room and watching early returns. I see Terry Hood and Scott Thompson zip by in my peripheral vision as they go to and from the studio to do their local segments.

7:16 pm -- The first batch of precinct results are handed to me. News on 6 staff are taking calls from runners in the field, writing down results on paper, then entering them into the tracking system. Once they're in the tracking system, however, you can't get the individual precinct data back out, and that's what I need. So Gary Kruse collects the processed precinct sheets and brings them to me, where I enter them into my Access database. Last Friday, when I came by to check things out, I got a copy of the precinct sheet from Steve, so I laid out the entry form identically to the sheet to make it easy to enter and doublecheck the data.

Every half hour, after the national segment with ABC Radio, Joe Kelley does a brief segment each with me, Elaine Dodd at the Democratic watch party at the TWU hall, and Don Burdick at the Republican watch party at the Crowne Plaza. I'm impressed with both Don and Elaine, who manage to say something interesting and new during each break. Joe does a great job of directing traffic and keeping the broadcast moving. Never a dull moment.

(I'm still amused to hear Elaine talking up Karen Keith, when you know that Karen will put another county tax on the ballot of the sort Elaine and I have joined together to fight in the past. And if I hear Elaine say that Oklahoma is "ruby red" one more time....)

There's no music in the background at the Democratic party, but when Joe cuts to Don, you can hear the Rockin' Acoustic Circus playing their blend of bluegrass, country, and western swing.

My Access reports work as hoped. Early on I can see that Sally Bell is lagging Coburn's 2004 performance by 5 to 6 percent -- not a good sign. Good numbers for her in Jenks and Glenpool and some Sand Springs precincts, but not good enough. The street tax report shows me that both taxes are passing in every City Council district, a clear sign that both measures will win big. If a tax is passing by a slim margin in east and north Tulsa, it's passing with at least 60% citywide. I'm also watching the result tracking program for the statewide and legislative races.

When I'm not on the air, I'm entering data as fast as I can, using a numeric keypad I bought last week. Sheets are piling up, but I sort them to get the precincts in CCD 2, Senate 37, and the City of Tulsa entered first. (It's quickly apparent that Dan Newberry has blown Nancy Riley clean out of the water.)

At one point (about 9?) the control room calls to ask if I have data on the Rogers County races. There's nothing in the results tracking software, so I call and let them know. A few minutes later I find some results and call back, but I missed the window -- they've gone back to national coverage. I post the results in the chat room -- a good thing, because, when I finally get the chance to talk about the results, I can't find the original webpage among all the tabs I had open, so I have to resort to what I posted. It was my only real bobble of the night, thankfully.

I am rooted to my chair from about 6:30 until about 10:40, either chatting online, entering data, or talking on air. My final slot comes around 10:30, delayed because of McCain's concession speech. I keep entering data while I'm waiting for my turn. The final slot is a chance to mention any story that we've overlooked, so I congratulate Dana Murphy for an apparent and long-overdue victory in her race for Corporation Commission.

Thus ends my first paid radio gig. I stuck around a bit longer to finish entering the last few sheets as I listened to Obama's victory speech. In the end, the KRMG/KOTV team's runners had fetched results from 215 of 267 precincts in Tulsa County -- pretty impressive. I close out the message board -- "Everyone out of the pool!"

11:05 pm -- I'm packed up, and ready to head out the door. I head over to the Crowne Plaza to meet up with the remnants of the Republican watch party. I hang out for a couple of hours, as we rehash the results, swap campaign stories, toast the humiliating defeat of Georgetown Georgianna, and watch anxiously to see if Minnesota really is crazy enough to elect Stuart Smalley to the U. S. Senate.

1:00 am -- Off to the house. Everyone is asleep. I spend another hour checking e-mail and doing a little websurfing. In bed a bit after 2:00 am.

The national outcome and the county commission race were disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. The state results were encouraging. From a personal perspective, as a lifelong news junkie and radio wannabe, I thoroughly enjoyed spending election night in a newsroom with a stack of results to analyze and a chance to talk politics on the radio.

You may have already heard the promos, but in case you haven't:

I'll be part of News Talk 740 KRMG's election night coverage, keeping an eye on local races and on listener comments submitted via Internet chat on Joe Kelley will anchor the coverage, Elaine Dodd and Don Burdick will provide updates from the watch parties, and I'll be in studio monitoring precinct-by-precinct results as they come in, looking for an early read on the trends.

KRMG's coverage begins at 6 pm. I'll miss being at the GOP watch party, but I'm excited to be a part of KRMG's election night team.

Toddler walks into the room where I'm working on compressing some digital video.

"I want to watch another movie. Can I sit on your lap?"

We look at some short videos from our trip to San Antonio: Video of lorikeets, dolphins, and the toddler telling Grandma about his day at Sea World:

"A walrus is good not to pet."

We look at some video I took at the Republican National Convention. First, the balloon drop with star-spangled three-foot wide balloons bouncing around the convention floor.

"That is awesome."

We look at some video from just before the balloon drop; people (including Henry Kissinger) are applauding, clapping in time to the music.

"I don't need to watch that. That is not awesome."

ONE MORE from tonight: "A kitten is a kind of kittycat that walks in the bushes." (He had seen a kitten during big brother's field trip to the Linnaeus Garden at Woodward Park.)

"Let the rush begin"

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I received an e-mail earlier this week from my college fraternity, Xi Chapter of Zeta Beta Tau, about their upcoming rush week activities.

Saturday: All-you-can-eat steak and lobster dinner and a casino night.

Sunday: Building potato guns, canoeing on the Charles River.

Monday (Labor Day): Paintball, barbecue, geocaching.

Tuesday: Bowling, go-kart racing.

School starts on Wednesday, but they will have an event each night, and then a Boston Harbor cruise to a 19th Century fort on Georges Island on Saturday and a picnic at Larz Anderson Park on Sunday.

During rush week, fraternities entice freshmen to visit with fun activities and the best food they'll eat all year. This gives the freshmen a chance to get to know the brothers and vice versa, to figure out whether a potential member is a good fit with the house.

Reading about rush week brought back a lot of happy memories.

Way back in 1981, I arrived on the MIT campus the night before the beginning of what was then officially called "Residence/Orientation Week," but was unofficially known as rush week. During R/O Week, you met your adviser, registered for classes, and picked a place to live, either entering the dorm lottery (as about 2/3rds of the freshmen did) or pledging a fraternity or joining an independent living group (as the remaining third did). To join a fraternity, you had to receive a bid. There was also an "activities midway," where you could learn about clubs and musical groups and sports teams. All this took place before the start of classes.

Over the summer, I had received an official residence book from MIT, with a page about each of the 33 fraternities, ILGs and a couple of pages about each of the dormitories, and a map in the middle showing how they were scattered throughout MIT's campus, Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, and beyond.

Some fraternities (not "frats" -- you wouldn't call your country a...) held summer rush parties in cities where they had a cluster of brothers -- our house usually had one in Boston, one in Chicago, and one in LA. Most houses sent out postcards advertising rush week activities. When the booklet I ordered from The Sporting News about baseball scorekeeping arrived in the mail, my mother assumed it was a particularly offensive fraternity brochure. On the cover, in big letters, was the title: HOW TO SCORE.

After flying to Boston on Braniff and catching a shuttle to campus, I spent my first night at MIT in a gray, dismal cell dorm room in East Campus, my temporary assignment. It was like an SRO apartment -- there was a sink and a mirror in the room. The dorm was quiet -- dorm residents weren't required to come back for R/O week. I was alone, just me and the clock radio, tuned to WEEI 590, the news station. I was homesick to the point of tears.

(Earlier that night I had eaten a cafeteria dinner at Lobdell Dining Hall with three other freshmen, one of whom was named Greg Lobdell -- no relation.)

The next morning, I was surprised to discover that the bathroom on our floor was co-ed. I learned this as I was about to go in for a shower, only to hear a female voice declare, "I'll be out in a minute." Had I misread the sign on the door? I retreated to my room. No one had instructed me on the etiquette of co-ed bathrooms, and rather than risk an embarrassing breach of protocol, I skipped the shower and washed up at the sink in my room as best I could.

If memory serves, we had adviser meetings later that day to get acquainted and to start the process of signing up for classes. There was an R/O edition of The Tech to read, replete with ads for fraternity rush events. (There was also an ad for the whizzy TI-59 programmable calculator, featuring Bill Cosby in academic regalia.)

That afternoon was the freshman picnic. The picnic was held in Killian Court, a broad lawn surrounded on three sides by the original 1916 campus buildings. According to The Tech's report, we ate roast beef, corn on the cob, watermelon, and ice cream, mingled with fellow frosh, and then listened to speeches, including addresses by Dean of Students Shirley McBay and President Paul Gray. (At MIT, the joke went, the skies are gray, the buildings are gray, even the president....) Banners were unfurled from the roof of Building 10, behind the speakers. One of the banners, which didn't completely unfurl, was supposed to read, "This to MIT. Collect and third number calls will not be accepted at this number." (That was the message the phone system played to outside callers.)

While our attention was directed in the opposite direction, fraternity upperclassmen lined up across the open side of the court. At the end of the picnic, the president of the interfraternity council declared the beginning of rush, and the upperclassmen rushed in to shanghai freshmen to their parties and activities. While I had a list of houses in mind, the onslaught threw me into a state of confusion, so when an upperclassman named Scott Fulks came up and invited me to ZBT, I said yes, having forgotten that I had pretty much eliminated the house as being too far off campus. Scott conducted me to a waiting car, already packed with other freshmen, which took us up Memorial Drive, across the BU Bridge, west on Commonweath Ave. alongside the "B" Line streetcar. A U-turn at the Brighton Ave. bend brought us to Naples St. and the colonial facade of ZBT at 58 Manchester Road, Brookline. I was ushered up the steps and into the house, where I signed in at the front desk.

ZBT's special event was an excursion to Canobie Lake Park, an amusement park just across the state line in New Hampshire. I was hesitant; I had planned to visit several different fraternities that evening. I later learned that this was part of the game -- keeping freshmen out on activities for as long as the rules allowed gave a house a better shot at finding and getting their choice of freshmen.

My seatmate going up to New Hampshire had been a sophomore named George. He was a talkative fellow with wire-rim glasses and a tidy little mustache. He told me all about the house and the brothers. Later another brother apologized that I had to sit next to George and told me I shouldn't believe anything he said. I seem to recall he left the house and possibly MIT as well after about a year.

It was a fun evening. Canobie had a great wooden coaster. I recall riding it with a senior named Bill Rubin, who, with his bushy black beard, curly hair, and receding hairline, looked more like a middle-aged professor than a college student.

I was invited to spend the night at ZBT, and someone drove me by the dorm to pick up a change of clothes. I didn't spend another night at the dorm.

It was only as an upperclassman that I learned how much went on behind the scenes. Brothers had vacated some of the second-floor rooms for freshmen and were sleeping on floors and in the basement. Being invited to stay over meant you were a prospect.

While freshmen slept upstairs, the brothers cleaned the house and then met in the basement to go through the log of freshmen who had signed in, soliciting appraisals from those who had talked to each one. Brothers were encouraged to keep a small notebook handy and after a particularly interesting conversation to make some notes, discreetly, to bring up in discussion that night. Eddie Beauchemin, who was in the class ahead of me, always had the most detailed notes. If no one else could remember a freshman, Eddie would.

Upperclassmen didn't get much sleep during rush week, particularly those who ran the front desk and the back room, part of a bigger IFC operation to track the whereabouts of all freshmen and the house's own efforts to find and bring back freshmen that were regarded as good prospects for membership. (Stephanie Pollack's column in the post-rush edition of The Tech from that year is a good description of an upperclassman's experience of rush week.)

After a short night of sleep, upperclassmen were supposed to be showered and shaved and ready to schmooze before the first freshman came downstairs for breakfast.

After a Saturday morning made-to-order breakfast, I asked to be taken to one of the houses that I had on my list to visit -- Epsilon Theta, a co-ed house and the only other MIT residence in Brookline.

To be continued....

Mobile blogging test

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This is a test....

Except for having to remember the filename of the photo I wanted to upload and having to both attach the file and manually insert the code in the post entry and the double-posting, everything worked just fine.

I'm amused / distressed that mobile blogging apps haven't advanced much since the last time I attended a national political convention.

A few days ago on the linkblog, I linked to Brandon Dutcher's story of a surprising word of reassurance in the midst of tremendous stress, out of the blue in the middle of a sermon:

"Who has chest pains?" he asked. "Stand up."

I was somewhat taken aback, yet I stood up because, indeed, for about a week I had been having some pain on the right side of my chest, the cause of which was unclear to me. Since the pain wasn't severe, I had pretty much dismissed it as a nagging inconvenience that would go away soon enough. It certainly hadn't been on my mind during the service. But as I stood there, this man, his face and his voice exuding genuine compassion, said to me something altogether unexpected: "Don't worry. You'll be able to get all your work done."

Until that moment, it hadn't even remotely occurred to me that stress and worry could be the source of the pain, but in an instant it became clear. Then began to wash over me an overwhelming realization that God really does love me and is intensely concerned with my well-being. Even amid my disobedience ("Be anxious for nothing"), here was Almighty God--who was, after all, quite busy running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments--taking the time and the initiative to attend to one redeemed sinner in Nowata, Oklahoma.

As I sat down I tried to maintain my composure, but this realization was simply too much. I spent the next several minutes in that rickety little church weeping, as God's love--how to put this?--poured over me like warm oil. And he wouldn't let up. He just kept telling me how much he loved me and how he didn't want me to worry.

Michael Spencer is very open on his Internet Monk blog about the challenges and discouraging circumstances in his ministry and his personal life. That openness sometimes brings him "encouragement" from readers of the sort Job received from his "friends." (I've been guilty of offering that kind of encouragement in his blog comments.) On Saturday, Michael wrote about two examples of genuine encouragement from surprising sources. He concluded with this reflection on discouragement:

There is discouragement in my world, but if I am honest, most of it is smaller than I make it. I am the one who amplifies it most of the time.

As I've learned to listen more and more to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I'm learning that Jesus was very dependable when he taught us that the Kingdom of God is upon is. Right here, right now, close by.

I choose to not see it because I am lobbying for that most destructive of emotions: self-pity. Jesus is reminding me that there is sufficiency in the love he extends, and the love he places around us. That love comes in thousands of different ways in a day.

The problem is that I don't expect it, don't listen or look for it, don't live in expectation that his gracious love will meet me throughout the day.

Lamentations 3:22-24 "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

Saturday night, I drove the family to Bartlesville, to the Kiddie Park. It's one of my favorite places, where I get to watch my children have fun on the same rides that delighted me forty years ago. The two-year-old rode everything he could (except the roller coaster), and this year he liked it all. The almost-eight-year-old is almost too tall for many rides, but she was able to join her little brother on the ferris wheel, the pirate ship, the airplanes, the trucks, the boats, and the bumper cars. We all rode the train and the carousel.

The twelve-year-old can only ride the same rides the grown-ups can, so he brought along the juggling sticks he bought the day before to keep him occupied and walked around the park practicing tricks. He was already pretty good at it. Toward the end of the evening, an older boy walked by, said, "That's awesome, dude," and handed him a dollar. His first tip, and he wasn't even trying!

Before we left for Bartlesville, my daughter's Sunday School teacher called to remind us that she needed to review Psalm 121, as the class would be reciting it during the morning service. So as we prepared to head home from Bartlesville, I looked up the Psalm on my Palm, and handed it back to her so she could practice as we traveled. As she recited, we each had opportunity to ponder the Psalmist's words:

I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you--
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

MORE: David Rollo wrote to remind me that Thomas Matthews, the late sacred music composer, organist, and choirmaster of Trinity Episcopal Church, wrote a setting of Psalm 121, which was included on the Coventry Chorale's CD of Matthews' anthems. Here it is:

(Download 850 KB MP3)

UPDATE: There's a sweet song about the Kiddie Park that they play over the loudspeakers at the end of the evening. There's a page on the Kiddie Park website where you can read the lyrics, read the story of the song, and listen to it.

Summers come and children grow And life goes on you see But time stands still in Bartlesville Where the last train ride is free

Elvis Polo has an entertaining and enlightening talk show every Saturday night from 6 to 9, but as an extra special treat, he's invited my son Joe to bring his fiddle to the studio and play the bumpers into and out of the commercial breaks during the first hour, from 6 to 7. Tune in to 1170 to listen live, or check the weekend shows podcast page later to listen on demand.

Here's Joe's performance at last month's Skiatook Bluegrass Festival. (He did even better at the Texas Cowboy Reunion, but I haven't got that uploaded yet.)

Backing Joe up is Eldon Combs, from Lowell, Ark., on upright bass, and Scott Pendleton on rhythm guitar.

MORE: Here's the podcast from Saturday night.

We were driving south from Ballinger, Texas, on US 83. It was about time to stop and stretch our legs anyway, when I saw a skinny brown and white sign -- an official -looking, state-placed sign marking a recreational or historic feature -- that said "Indian pictographs." I stopped some yards further down at what I thought was a historical marker. (It was a dedication plaque for the 1930s bridge over the Concho River.) On a whim I turned around and turned in at the sign.

The road was a winding gravel ranch road which led to a small house. We passed a couple of bison along the way. My expectation was a 10-minute stop and a look at a some faint paint marks on rocks. The Paint Rock pictographs turned out to be much more.

Ranch owner Fred Campbell came out of the house to meet me. He told me about the tours, and we discussed the logistics of bringing along a 2 1/2 year old along a 1,000-foot-long trail. He offered to lead us down to the start of the trail -- we in our minivan would follow him in his small utility truck -- then I could drive the utility vehicle along the trail with the toddler on board, while the rest of the family walked along beside him. (Visions of piloting a stickshift on a bumpy, twisting trail filled me with fear, but I agreed anyway.)

The ranch, we learned, had been in his wife Kay Campbell's family since her grandfather settled there in the 1870s.

The house turned out to be a very nicely appointed visitors center. A couple of persian cats and a border collie roamed the shady yard. Inside, Fred demonstrated how the Indians used rocks like hematite to make paint, explained some of the symbols we would see and the lore behind them, and showed us a time-stamped video of "daggers" of light crossing certain pictographs on the solstices and equinoxes, indicating that the rocks were used as a kind of calendar.

Then Fred got into his utility truck with the two big kids riding shotgun, while we followed in the Odyssey. He led us through a gate, past some of his angora goats, down to a flat camping ground between the Concho River and the limestone bluff on which the pictographs appeared. The 1,000 foot trail was a level path along the base of the bluff, easy to navigate. We stopped briefly at about a dozen stations along the bluff, as Fred pointed out and explained some of the most interesting of the pictographs. The pictographs were easy to make out.

Back at the visitors' center, we paid for the tour ($6 each for adults, $3 each for children), picked out some postcards, and chatted with Fred, as we took a final pit stop before getting back on the road. (The visitors' center has very nice restrooms.)

(Fred told me an interesting story about meeting the Duke of Wellington, who invited him to his Spanish estate to discuss its suitability for raising angora goats. The Duke was affable, but his wife was standoffish as soon as she had been introduced to Mr. Campbell. On the last day of the visit, the Texan learned why -- Lady Wellington told him she was descended from Clan McDonald, which had been massacred by the Campbells of Argyll at Glencoe in 1692. For his part, Fred apologized for what happened three hundred years ago, but pointed out that he hadn't been there. Old grudges die hard over there.)

As we got into the van to leave, Fred gave the kids some small rocks of the type used to make paint. While it wasn't in our plan for the day, all five of us thought the Paint Rock Pictograph site was a very worthwhile and fascinating detour.

To arrange a tour, phone 325-732-4376, or write:

Fred and Kay Campbell
Paint Rock Excursions
Box 186
Paint Rock, TX 76866

This Google map shows directions from the town of Paint Rock ("A") to the visitor's center ("B"). The loop in the road about 1500 feet west of "B" is the at eastern end of the pictograph-covered limestone bluff (which looks like a thin white road), but you may only go there as part of a tour.

View Larger Map


An American Profile article from February 2008 about the Paint Rock pictographs will give you an idea of what happens on one of their tours:

Kay Campbell, 80, walks along a dusty trail on her central Texas ranch, leading a tour group of school children. She stops along the way to point out dozens of crude drawings painted on a rock bluff overlooking a once popular American Indian campground. Ranging from a few inches to several feet in size, the rock art is the legacy of American Indian tribes that roamed the area centuries ago. Some of the drawings--animals, human figures, weapons, stars and suns--tell stories that experts can decipher, while others remain mysterious, vague communications from cultures that existed some 200 to 500 years ago....

At the beginning of each tour, she scrapes hematite rock, mixes the red shavings with water, and uses this to paint symbols on her arm. A retired school teacher, she uses "show and tell" to demonstrate the process by which American Indians made the paint that they used to fill in designs etched by flint. "I try to show how people lived thousands of years ago and how they wrote history without letters or words," she says.

This brief 1999 press release by archaeastronomer R. Robert Robbins of the University of Texas explains what has been observed, with photos showing the interaction of sunlight and pictograph on the solstices.

An article on the Concho Valley Archaeological Society website tells what has been found in excavations on the plain below the decorated limestone cliffs.

Bob Anderson, a gourmet garlic grower and amateur astronomer, has written about the astronomical features of the Paint Rock pictographs. He believes some of the drawings depict the spring sky, widely-observed supernovae, and an eclipse.

This article is about visiting the pictographs on the winter solstice.

Here's A January 27, 2008 San Angelo Standard-Times story, in which Fred and Kay talk about the Sims/Campbell ranch.

The pictographs are just across the Concho River from the town of Paint Rock, population 300, seat of Concho County.

Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, three times is a tradition. (So went a saying that was common around my college fraternity house.)

Two years in a row now, our minivan has suffered a flat tire as we returned home from a trip to Texas. Last year, the tread came off of our left rear tire while on the H. E. Bailey Turnpike south of Chickasha. The Wal-Mart tire store stayed open a bit later and replaced our tire for us, allowing us to make it back to Tulsa that night.

This year we were on our way back, coming up I-35 from San Antonio, where I had been on business, bringing the family along from our trip to Stamford. We stayed overnight in Denton, and the following morning my wife noticed the right rear tire had gone flat. (I was too busy congratulating myself on a good job repacking the back to notice the flat.)

While I put the temp spare on and rearranged the back of the van to accommodate the flat, my wife called tire stores. We wound up at Discount Tire, 2245 S Loop 288, just off of I-35E. The LaQuinta gave us an extra half hour in the room so the rest of the family could stay cool while I changed the tire.

Discount Tire took care of us in just over an hour, during which time we had lunch at the Burger King next door, which had a huge indoor play area. The tire had a leak, which they were able to fix. When the manager handed me my keys and my bill, I saw that the total was $0.00.

"No charge? That was a lot of time and effort for no charge."

"I'd tell you to keep us in mind when you need tires, but you're not from around here. But we'll be in Oklahoma before long."

Discount Tire is in 22 states. There are four locations "coming soon" to Oklahoma City: I-240 & Shields, Kilpatrick Tpk & Penn, 10800 N May, and 8268 NW Expressway.

The Denton location of Discount Tire deserves praise for showing kindness to travelers who were very unlikely to become customers.

Belated congratulations to Tulsa's Emma Jane Pendleton, 14, who took first place in the Patsy Montana National Yodeling Championship, and to her younger sister Marina, 13, who took second. The two sisters are also top fiddlers; Emma Jane is the reigning Oklahoma Junior Fiddle Champion and won the junior championship at the Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest.

Here's a Tulsa World slideshow featuring Emma Jane Pendleton singing Patsy Montana's million-selling hit "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart."

We saw the Pendleton family a couple of weeks ago at the Skiatook Bluegrass Festival, where the two girls both won prizes in the Youth Fiddle competition. Emma Jane won first and Marina won second in the 11-15 and took first and third in the open category (if I recall correctly). Their dad, Scott Pendleton, played rhythm guitar for all the contestants. My oldest son was in the competition as well. The Tulsa World posted a slideshow of photos from the contest, which includes interviews with the Pendleton sisters, my son, and Claremore fiddler Jordan Flippo.

The Pendletons' next performance is Tuesday, July 15, at 7:30, in downtown Sand Springs at the Triangle Park. You'll enjoy hearing this multi-talented musical family perform.

(Corrected, July 18, results of the Skiatook context.)

I am very proud to announce that my son finished second Saturday in the 18-and-under division at the Old Timers Fiddle Contest at the 2008 Texas Cowboy Reunion in Stamford, Texas. His prize was a $50 bill, presented to him by the event's MC, former Congressman Charlie Stenholm. He performed Cotton-Eyed Joe, Tennessee Waltz, and Faded Love. I heard a number of people in the audience humming along on that last number. He has only been playing violin for two years, and he's made great strides since last year's contest, when he placed third.

As I told him before his performance, however the contest turned out, we already know he's a much better fiddler than he was a year ago. I hope to post video later in the week. (Internet connectivity here is rather limited.) One of the senior contestants, Bonnie Workman, complimented him afterwards and encouraged him to keep going, even though he didn't win. She told him it takes heart to be a fiddler, and she could hear it in his music.

He had the novel experience of being recognized today. He was wearing a distinctive hat, which made a difference, but a couple of people stopped him when we went back for the cowboy poetry performance that afternoon -- a young man told him he was in awe of his fiddling ability. He was recognized again at a dance at Old Glory that evening. We just happened upon the event - a Czech polka band playing under an open-air pavilion to a crowd of about 50.

Abilene TV station KRBC was covering the fiddle contest and interviewed my son. Click that link to see the video.

There may not be a better place to experience old time Texas than Stamford, Texas, at the annual Texas Cowboy Reunion.

Worn out

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I have several new entries in work, but I'm too beat to finish any of them. It was a fun weekend, but a long one. On Saturday morning, my oldest son was one of a number of Barthelmes Conservatory students to perform in a program for the OK Mozart festival in Bartlesville. While the students performed, I minded the youngest son, walking up and down the ramps and stairs at the Bartlesville Community Center, buying a snack at the gas station across the street, and talking a walk past First Baptist Church (where I went to church when I lived in Bartlesville 40 years ago), the Price Tower, and Robert Indiana's big 66 sculpture.

After a quick lunch at Arby's (where we learned that the manager, recently relocated from Kansas, was a music aficionado who hadn't yet learned about OK Mozart), we headed west, via Pawhuska, Hominy, and Cleveland to the Pawnee Bill Ranch for the big Pawnee Bill Wild West Show. The show happens the last three Saturday nights in June, a recreation of some of the acts that were included in the show that toured the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The show included trick riding and roping, dramatizations involving Cossacks and Mexicans and stagecoaches and cowboys, Indian dancing, and some slapstick comedy. Before the show, there are reenactments and music up on the hill, the museum and mansion are open, and there's a barbecue supper, as well as a variety of pushcarts. We all had a great time. The show itself starts at 7:30 and ends about 10. Pawnee is an hour west of Tulsa via the Cimarron Turnpike.

Sunday, we had lunch at Delta Cafe, then the big kids and I spent three hours cutting up fallen limbs and dragging them to the curb. Then we went over to my dad's house, and I helped him with the roof of a new storage shed while the kids and their cousins helped to paint the shed. We ate hamburgers and watched "The Best of Mike Myers" on TV.

I still had a column to finish, so I got up at about 3:30 a.m. and headed to IHOP. After a full day of work, I attended the initial meeting of the PLANiTULSA partners -- very interesting, more about that in my column next week -- then came home to the family.

So that's all i can give you tonight.

The loser team

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Joel at On the Other Foot uses the occasion of a Moses Lake Pirates game -- "a kind of a Z-league semi-collegiate baseball team" -- to reminisce about his own baseball career:

I don't know if other guys my age remember these, but the league usually had a "loser team" with really patient coaches so that the kids who hadn't a hope of being any good on the field could still play. (Sort of a Bad News Bears without Tatum O'Neal and with less skill.) Not surprisingly, I was on that loser team every year. (Bernie Leingang and Pastor Sid Cox, if you ever Google your names and run across this, thank you for coaching us. You guys had patience that would make Job look like a crankhead.)

I know about the loser team. I was on the loser team for my one and only year of Little League. I was so bad I played right field -- when I played at all -- on the loser team.

My school had two teams. The boys on the good team started playing in 2nd grade. They formed another team in 3rd grade -- the Holland Hall Hawks.

Holland Hall's old campus at 2626 S. Birmingham Pl. ("Eight Acres") had a football field that became two diamonds during baseball season. The good team -- someone out there is bound to remember the team name -- played on the diamond at the north end. It was called Fenway Park because the back wall of the gymnasium dominated the view toward left field.

The Hawks had the south diamond, nearer to 27th St. It was known as Wrigley Field because of the ivy growing in the ditch on the far side beyond left field.

We never won a game. The last game of the season, we came close to beating a team from Paul Revere School, a school that didn't even have its own playing field. (The game was played at Heller Park.) Our manager, Doss Briggs's dad, promised us a soda if we won, and we had a lead for a time, but blew the lead in the late innings.

My grandmother, who later in life would be a devoted fan of the hapless Chicago Cubs of the 1970s, loved to watch us play. She laughed as we watched butterflies, picked dandelions, chewed on our mitts, threw the ball past each other, and reacted belatedly to any ball that came our way.

An edited version of this column appeared in the May 28, 2008, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The published version is no longer available online. Posted online November 18, 2014.

Philip Larkin wrote, in a poem with an unforgettable and unprintable first line, that parents "fill you up with the faults they had, and add some extra, just for you," and advised, "don't have any kids yourself."

As a father of three, the fear that Philip Larkin was right (Google his poem, "This Be the Verse," if you wonder what I'm on about) has me constantly second-guessing my parenting decisions.

Am I being too strict? Too lenient? Am I overprotective? Am I teaching them to choose what is good, beautiful, and just? Am I a good role model?

But halfway between Mother's Day and Father's Day, as I think about my parents, I see all the good they built into my life, not only by precept but by example.

My parents sacrificed financially so that I could attend a private school, back in the day when that was rare for a middle class family, sacrificed to help me through MIT.

They brought me up "in the fear and admonition of the Lord," instilling a genuine faith in Christ and modeling the importance of being part of a community of believers.

They continue to show their love to me and my sister by showering their love on our children - their grandchildren. The desire to have them a constant part of my children's lives is a big reason why I've never seriously considered moving away.

They also demonstrated by their example the importance of community involvement and activism.

If you like the fact that I'm not afraid to step on toes, not afraid to speak passionately in a public forum, willing to put my name on a ballot and my opinions and reputation on the line again and again, you have my dad and mom to thank. Or to blame, if you'd just as soon I sat down and shut up.

David and Sandy Bates grew up in small towns north of Tulsa - Dad in Nowata, Mom in Dewey.

For Dad, civic involvement was an extracurricular activity; his days were spent in accounting and, later, in data processing for Cities Service for 20 years, followed by another 15 in data processing with St. Francis. Mom's activism was part and parcel of, but not limited to, the hundreds of Catoosa kindergarten students she taught over the course of 28 years.

They were and are frequent voters, going to the polls every election day and taking us along with them.

Soon after Cities Service brought our family from Bartlesville to Tulsa, we joined the little Southern Baptist church down the street.

Within a few years, Dad was asked to serve as a deacon. Both Mom and Dad at various times taught Sunday School and sang in the choir. Mom worked in the nursery and later helped with the bus ministry.

Our Baptist church provided my earliest lessons in participatory democracy and parliamentary procedure. We had monthly business meetings, and everything had to be brought before the membership for a vote. We reviewed finances, voted on appointments to committees, hired pastors and staff members, and debated over whether to move the church to a more visible location. Every baptized member, even me at age 8, had the right to speak and vote.

As chairman of the deacons, Dad served as moderator for these meetings, and was often asked to fill that role even when he wasn't chairman. He chaired the meeting in accordance with Robert's Rules of Order, keeping the meetings moving while giving everyone a chance to be heard.

Leadership meant dealing with unpleasantness, too, like the time he had to tell the pastor, on behalf of the deacon board, that it was time to look for a new job.

Dad also served several years as director of Church Training. For the non-Baptists, that was the name of the classes that preceded the Sunday evening worship service.

When I was about 13, Dad insisted on naming me as his assistant director, which meant collecting and tabulating the attendance records for all the classes (Baptists love statistics) and then delivering the attendance report at the beginning of the evening service.

As a spotty and self-conscious teen, I hated speaking in front of the congregation, but in time, I got used to it, which was Dad's intention.

Dad was involved outside the church, too. I remember being with him in the Port of Catoosa Jaycees' concession stand when President Nixon came to dedicate the port in 1971. It was a small group, but it was about all Catoosa had in the way of civic organizations, and they sponsored basketball tournaments and other special events.

In 1976, I was with him at the Republican 1st District Convention, where he was the lone Wagoner County delegate and convention secretary, a Ford man in a Reagan year. He took me along to county and state party conventions that year and in 1980, and to forums held by Cities Service's employee PAC.

Nowadays, he volunteers in the video booth at First Baptist Church and in the St. Francis Hospital gift shop. He let his beard grow out when he retired, and he spends his Christmas seasons as a Real Bearded Santa. (See for details.)

Dad exemplified servant leadership - long-term commitment to an organization, sometimes to a fault - doing jobs that no one else wanted to do, and staying with the job until it was done.

A year after we came to Tulsa, Mom went back into teaching, taking a job at Catoosa Elementary School.

The elementary school was housed in the district's oldest facilities, built by the WPA in the '30s. The high school had just moved into a new, air conditioned campus at the south end of town.

The school board was all about athletics; bond issues focused on building and improving the high school's sports facilities, while the elementary campus was left to rot. Young children sweltered through August school days - they didn't even have window units to cool off the rooms.

Teachers' pay was appalling, and there was no budget for anything more than basic materials. Mom spent her own funds to decorate the room and purchase educational toys and books.

Mom's fellow elementary teachers were not inclined to rock the boat. Their place, as they saw it, was to keep their noses to the grindstone and to submit unquestioningly to the leadership of the administration and school board.

Mom was willing to take a stand. She found some like-minded colleagues and organized a classroom teachers' association. She brought the administration to the negotiating table and won better conditions for students and teachers. When the board was uncooperative, she helped elect new board members who shared the goal of a better education for Catoosa's children.

For her efforts she was tagged as a troublemaker and a naysayer. One administrator referred to her as a battleaxe, a label she wore with pride.

Mom was willing to challenge those in power because of the powerless little ones she taught.

She retired about 10 years ago, but she hasn't slowed down. She teaches English as a second language, helps immigrants prepare for their citizenship tests, helps in First Baptist Church's clothing room, and has gone on church mission trips to Mexico and Peru. But she spends much of her time as a doting grandma to her five grandchildren.

My kids don't get their heritage of community initiative from just one side of the family. My mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, was honored in 2002 with a President's Community Volunteer Award for the single parent scholarship program she founded in Benton County, Ark.

To you Tulsa moms and dads reading this, you have a golden opportunity this year to model civic involvement and to lay the groundwork for a better Tulsa for your children's future.

Our city is updating its comprehensive plan for the first time in a generation, and we've hired a planning firm, Fregonese Associates, that will try to build a vision for Tulsa's future from our individual dreams and desires.

We'll have a chance to provide our input through citywide workshops this fall and community workshops after the first of the year, and the chance to monitor and comment upon the work in progress online through the website. Plan now to be as involved as you can.

(To be notified of upcoming opportunities for public input, sign up at

You can lecture all you like about good citizenship, but nothing substitutes for being a model. The way my parents used their time and passion demonstrated for me the importance of caring for the community.

From Dad and Mom, I learned to step forward and lead, when others would rather sit and watch from the sidelines. They never pushed themselves forward, but when duty called they answered. When no one else would take the lead, they stepped forward. When others got bored or discouraged or disgusted and quit, they remained faithful. They persisted.

Happy belated Mother's Day, Mom. Happy early Father's Day, Dad. I love you, I'm proud of you, and I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me, particularly for the wonderful example you set of persistent and passionate community involvement.

A rich legacy

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Today is midway between Mother's Day and Father's Day, and my column in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly is a salute to my mom and dad, David and Sandy Bates, for the example they set of community involvement:

If you like the fact that I'm not afraid to step on toes, not afraid to speak passionately in a public forum, willing to put my name on a ballot and my opinions and reputation on the line again and again, you have my dad and mom to thank. Or to blame, if you'd just as soon I sat down and shut up....

You can lecture all you like about good citizenship, but nothing substitutes for being a model. The way my parents used their time and passion demonstrated for me the importance of caring for the community.

From Dad and Mom, I learned to step forward and lead, when others would rather sit and watch from the sidelines. They never pushed themselves forward, but when duty called they answered. When no one else would take the lead, they stepped forward. When others got bored or discouraged or disgusted and quit, they remained faithful. They persisted.

Happy belated Mother's Day, Mom. Happy early Father's Day, Dad. I love you, I'm proud of you, and I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me, particularly for the wonderful example you set of persistent and passionate community involvement.

In the story, I mentioned my dad's retirement career as a Real Bearded Santa; you'll find him on the web at

I also mentioned my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, who was honored at the White House in 2002 with a "Point of Light" award for her work with the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County (Ark.).

I also mentioned a poem by Philip Larkin that derides parenthood. Numerous poetic rebuttals have been written. This is my favorite, by John J. Swift:

They buck you up, your mum and dad,
They always meant to and they do.
They give you all the love they had,
And add some extra, just for you.

'Cos they were bucked up, in their turn,
By nans and grandads, all the way
From dawn to dusk, they had to learn
To love their neighbour every day.

Nan handed on her love to mam,
Who passed it on to me, her son.
Now every blessed thing I am
Will be in my kids, every one.

From far-off Hoboken, N.J., Mister Snitch! celebrates the landslide election victory of 19-year-old John Tyler Hammons as Mayor of Muskogee with the lyrics from the famous Merle Haggard song, linked to a wide variety of photos -- sweet, nostalgic, and funny, and almost all connected in some way with Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA.

Some of the photos are from the annual Renaissance Festival at The Castle on the north edge of Muskogee. Here are photos from our family's visit to this year's Oklahoma Renaissance Festival.

Toll on the Muskogee Turnpike: $1.20.

Tank-full of gasoline: $52.50.

Tickets to the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival: comped.

Digital camera: $329.

Having that digital camera handy when you run into a co-worker in full Renaissance Festival costume?



I don't have much for you tonight because we spent the day at The Castle in Muskogee, and we had a great time. My two older kids completed their "quests" -- scavenger hunts that take you to all parts of the grounds. They both tried the rock wall -- the seven-year old made it to the top; the eleven-year-old tried the more difficult "jackpot" path, but didn't quite make it. We saw the joust and a falconry demonstration. My eleven-year-old son decided he wanted to go in costume. He looked like young Wart in Disney's The Sword in the Stone.

There are some new linkblog entries on your left. Stan Geiger has a bunch of new posts up about Tulsa Community College's spending habits and doubtful enrollment figures, things to keep in mind for Tuesday's TCC property tax hike election, so be sure to pay him a visit.

I never would have guessed it, but one of the most fun things about having small children is watching their language skills develop, seeing the changes as they learn to parse more of what they hear, as they incorporate new rules into their own speech and assimilate all the special cases and irregularities that we take for granted. And there are those bittersweet moments when they finally get something right, but it means a cute, funny mistake is gone forever.

In the last couple of weeks our little one -- 28 months -- has been adding final consonants. He gives us a very clear "ssss" at the end of words -- often closer to "sssssh." "Yah" has become "yessssh." S with another consonant at the beginning of a word is still elusive. That's been true with all three of ours; I suspect they just don't hear that initial S sound as part of the word but as incidental noise.

Initial S before a vowel is still a voiceless velar fricative -- like the "ch" in the Scottish word "loch" or the initial H in Hanukkah. So before we put on his shoes, he will say, "I nee chhh-ocks and tsoos."

Final T is everywhere, mostly where it doesn't belong, especially after a final N. "I faw downt." (I fall down.) "Dah-ee is a mant." (Daddy is a man.) Train used to be "tsoo-tsoo-wayne," now it's "tsoo-tsoo-waynt." (Also, "int" for "in.")

Tonight, we were talking about the idea of "part" -- your finger is a part of your hand, your hand and your fingers are parts of your body.

I told him that the roof is a part of our house.

"Isss nah a paht!" (It's not a part!)
"Yes, it is."
"Isss nah iz!" (It's not is!)
"Yes, it is."
"Isss nah iz!"

MORE: Some other funny verbalizations:

"Bah-mum" for "bottom."
"Mom-mom" for "mama."
"Ran-ma" for "Grandma."
"gr" for "dr": "Benagrill," "gry" for "dry."


"kr" for "tr": "kruck" for "truck"
He adds an extra "f" to "flower": "flau-fur"
Brother and sister are "Jo-jo" and "Ka-runt."

I finally figured out why he objects so strongly to "a part" -- he's hearing it as "apart" i.e. "not together." So the idea of the roof being apart from the house or his fingers being apart from his hand would be somewhat upsetting.

BatesLine is five years old today. Although that doesn't come close to Dustbury's longevity, five years of fairly consistent and continuous blogging is pretty impressive in a world where blogs start and end at an alarming rate, if I do say so myself.

Here is the Wayback Machine's first snapshot (in August of 2003) of my first month of posts.

Blogging has been a wonderful thing for me. It has given me an outlet to express my interests and opinion and to connect with other people -- here in Tulsa and around the world -- who share those concerns.

The whole thing really started out as, "SInce we're switching from dialup to DSL, maybe I should buy a domain so we can keep our e-mail addresses if we change ISPs." One of the best prices for domain hosting was a company called BlogHosts (RIP), which came with Movable Type 2.6.3 pre-installed, so why not give this blogging thing a try?

I had the good timing to start blogging just as Vision 2025 was gaining public attention. I had plenty of local politics to write about, although it wasn't my original vision for BatesLine that it should be dominated by local issues.

My blogging caught the attention of KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno, and right after the Vision 2025 election, Michael and his co-host Gwen Freeman took me to St. Michael's Alley (RIP) to pitch the idea of a weekly follow-up on Vision 2025. That broadened over time to cover the full scope of local politics. At some point we switched from Monday to Tuesday, and if I missed any weeks through the four and a half years, it was only one or two. Serving as a guest analyst on election night 2004, participating in election post-mortem roundtables, and filling in with Gwen when Michael was off are among some of the highlights.

(Although the regular weekly guest slot on KFAQ is no more, you may be hearing me on the radio again before too long.)

Being on the air every week caught the attention of Urban Tulsa Weekly reporter George Shultz, who wrote a profile of me in July 2005. Through that, Keith Skrzypczak brought me on to write a column for the paper. That began in September 2005. To bring things full circle, the column's tight focus on local politics allowed me to restore a broader focus to BatesLine. The linkblog allowed me to pass along links of interest -- blogging in its fundamental form -- with a minimum of fuss.

I'll stop there for now, but later today look for some highlights from the past five years, and an appreciation of the many wonderful blog-pals I've made.

Thanks for reading and celebrating this milestone with me.

UPDATE: Thanks for all the lovely well wishes. I'm sorry, but I didn't get anything more added today. I did attend a wonderful event: The Holocaust remembrance at Temple Israel. There was an overflow crowd. (Well over a thousand, I would say.) My son sang with the Tulsa Boy Singers. The featured speakers were Dr. Leon Bass, an American World War II veteran who was one of the liberators of Buchenwald, and Robbie Waisman, a survivor of Buchenwald. There was an emphasis on honoring those who had fought against fascism and had liberated the camps. Seven World War II veterans were given the honor of lighting remembrance candles at the end of the service. My son knew the basic facts of the Holocaust, but hearing these speakers tell their personal stories brought it home to him. Mr. Waisman was about the age my son is now when his secure and loving home was torn apart by the Nazis. Only he and a sister survived; five brothers and both parents were put to death.

A few days ago, Jon Swerens posted an entry at The Good City called "Politics can't save urbanism." Jon's point, in a nutshell, was that we can't use legislation and regulation to impose high-density urban living on a populace that believes it to be undesirable. The culture has to change.

I responded with a comment that in some ways the culture is changing and what could be done in cities like Tulsa and his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind., to help that change along. Jon was kind enough to spotlight the comment in a subsequent blog entry. Here's what I had to say:

You make a good point about the cultural issue. Two generations have been raised to see the tidy segments of the suburbs as normal and the city as a messy mix that needs sorting out. That's starting to change, and a significant number of people have experienced the pleasures of urban living, either directly, or vicariously through TV shows like Seinfeld and Friends. (And it could be argued that the appealing depiction of urban life on those programs was made possible by Giuliani's cleanup of New York in the '90s.)

I think the starting point is for cities like Fort Wayne and Tulsa to create and preserve urban places for the many who already know they want to live there. As these areas thrive, others will see that urban excitement is possible close to home, not just on the East Coast or in Europe. Over time there may be enough demand to redevelop badly aging post-war suburban neighborhoods in a new urbanist fashion.

Politics still matters: You need councilors and planning commissioners with the courage and vision to approve a pilot project for form-based codes or special zoning with design guidelines to protect traditional neighborhood development from suburban-style redevelopment.

But mostly you need entrepreneurial types willing to reuse old buildings in traditional neighborhoods, and others who are willing to build new in a traditional style. Recreating a vital urban core will happen the same way it was destroyed: one building at a time.

Thinking further about cultural influences in support of traditional urban settings, I've noticed that a fair number of children's TV programs and books are (or have been) set in urban environments. First and foremost, there's Sesame Street, with its row houses and corner grocery. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood is a traditional mixed-use neighborhood with shops and a trolley line within walking distance.

When my oldest son was small, he watched "The Busy World of Richard Scarry" nearly every day. The cartoon, which featured characters like Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat, and Bananas Gorilla, was set in Busytown, a vaguely northern European small city, filled with street-fronting small businesses like bakeries and green grocers. Here's the show's opening credits:

If you can think of other pop culture elements -- novels, music, movies, TV series -- that make urban living seem appealing, please post them in the comments below.

Border run

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Saturday and Sunday afternoon our family spent some time at the American Kennel Club Agility Nationals, held in the Ford Truck Barn at Expo Square. Admission was free, and the event drew big crowds.

It was impressive to watch the dogs navigate a difficult course, but I was just as impressed by the trainers, who had to reposition themselves and give hand and voice signals so that after every obstacle the dog knew exactly where to go next. Going across the wrong obstacle or hesitating to jump the right one resulted in a disqualifying penalty. (I never did get a clear understanding of the rules and the penalties. I had expected to see so many penalty seconds added to a dog's time, but that didn't seem to be the way it worked.

It wasn't surprising that of the six size classes (8", 12", 16", 20", 24", 26"), the four top classes were won by border collies. (A papillon won the 8" class, and a shetland shepherd was the 12" champ. Here are the results from the final day of competition, with photos and links to diagrams of the courses.) Border collies are one of the smartest breeds, as well as being fast and agile.

Way back in 1994, my wife and I were in Scotland on vacation and saw a border collie demonstration at Leault Farm near Kincraig, Inverness-shire. Neil Ross, a champion herder, controlled six dogs with a combination of whistles and spoken commands. We watched as the dogs positioned themselves in a hexagon around a group of sheep and herded them into a pen.

It was great fun to watch these talented dogs and their handlers zip around the course.

Wynn a book for Easter

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Claremore blogger extraordinaire Tyson Wynn is running an Easter giveaway, offering a chance to win a copy of The Life of Christ, a joint effort from Time and the American Bible Society. Tyson says the book is beautifully illustrated and can help the reader better understand the historical context of the Gospels. For a chance to win one of the two copies he's giving away, follow the link and read the instructions at his site.

(While you're there, be sure to have a look around at the rest of WynnBlog, including the WynnCast (a podcast featuring Tyson and his wife Jeane) and his thorough coverage of the recent lockdown at Rogers State University involving a former student named Tywone Parks, a story that ought to be of interest to anyone concerned about the security of our students on campus.)

Robinwood B&B

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Three summers ago, our family enjoyed a few peaceful days with some of my wife's relatives, staying in their beautifully restored and decorated home, built in 1913, in Little Rock's Quapaw Quarter. It looked like it ought to be a bed and breakfast, and now it is. (Here are some pictures of our kids at the house.)

Robinwood B&B has a website -- still under construction, but you can view pictures of several of the rooms and find their phone number, so you can call and speak to innkeeper Karen Ford or her mom Miriam to learn more. The website notes that the B&B is pet-friendly, something of a rarity. (UPDATE 2008/03/31: They've posted their room rates and booking policies.)

Little Rock is about a four-hour drive from Tulsa, and Robinwood B&B would make a great getaway.

RELATED: Just a few blocks away is the wonderful Community Bakery, on Main Street, just south of I-630, a local gathering place that I used as an office during our trip three years ago. From a blog entry I started at the time, but never finished: "This was my main office during our visit to the city, and I paid rent in the form of purchases of delicious treats like peanut butter cookies, brownies, bagels, a grilled chicken sandwich, a spinach frittata, and excellent coffee. The Wi-Fi connection was excellent, and there were enough outlets scattered around for the laptop users. A CD of baroque music played in the background. They have a small collection of board games and a stack of today's newspapers for the perusal of customers. There are nice views out onto Main Street, outdoor seating in good weather, and plenty of free parking."

There's a lot of it about

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From the Centers for Disease Control, Norovirus Q&A, aka the "stomach flu":

The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults. Most people with norovirus illness have both of these symptoms.

Some salient points from the CDC information:

People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery. Therefore, it is particularly important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness.
Anyone can become infected with these viruses. There are many different strains of norovirus, which makes it difficult for a person's body to develop long-lasting immunity. Therefore, norovirus illness can recur throughout a person's lifetime. In addition, because of differences in genetic factors, some people are more likely to become infected and develop more severe illness than others.

So a child gets sick from one strain of norovirus, then seems to get over it in about 24 hours. He goes back to school, but he's still contagious. He's also still susceptible to infection by a different strain of norovirus.

The CDC page has information on how to prevent infection and on the importance of keeping the patient hydrated. The keys to preventing infection: Wash hands frequently and clean surfaces with chlorine (bleach) based cleansers.

We've been dealing with it with one child or another for about 2 weeks, and the doctor's office says it's pretty widespread, with children going back to school before they're fully well and non-contagious.


A little break from politics:

Our littlest one turned two years old on Friday. His use of words has exploded in the last few months, although he mostly says the beginning sound of each word, which is adorable, of course. (That's him in the photo, during a visit to Pops on Route 66 back in November, smiling after a sip of Boylan Natural Cane Cola.)

Fire truck becomes fie kuh, for example. Train is "tshoo tshoo wai." Initial S isn't there yet -- snake, snowman, and snowflake become nay, no-mah, and no-feh, respectively. Sock is chah, where that first ch is a voiceless velar fricative pronounced in the back of the throat like a Hebrew "ch." So before he can "go ou-chai" (go outside) he "nee chah an tsioo" (needs socks and shoes).

Some of his most endearing words are starting to evolve. "Da-da" is becoming "da-dee." "Ja-ja" has become "gwahmah" and will be "grandma" before too long.

For months, he would hear and understand the word "car" but he would always pronounce it by making a car sound -- vocalizing on a high and rising pitch and vibrating his lips together. "Do you see the big car?" "Beeg blblblblblblbl!" But about a week ago he stopped, started saying "cah" consistently, and even substituted a less impressive "vroom" for his standard car noise. I managed to cajole the old sound out of him last night, but he did it almost sheepishly.

As we would look at books and pictures, every man with a long white beard he would call "Bah" -- my dad, his grandpa. Pictures of Santa Claus were "Bah", too, which is easy to understand. Now, after Christmas, he makes the distinction between his grandpa and "Sah Caw."

Still, every man with a hat in a black and white picture is "Dah Whee." We were looking at old family photos on the wall, and I was showing him pictures of me and my wife when we were small. He would say the names as he looked at the photos. There's a black and white one of me next to my grandparents' house in Nowata, probably about three years old, wearing a little hat and suit. So he called the boy in the picture "Dah Whee."

"Dah Whee" is Bob Wills, whose music is often heard in our house. Our two-year-old recognizes the cover of Wills's For the Last Time album, which shows a 68-year-old Wills in a cowboy hat, but he also recognizes as Bob Wills the smiling man in the big cowboy hat, as depicted on the cover of Charles Townsend's biography of Wills, San Antonio Rose. The boy will sometimes request "Dah Whee" music when he's eating in his high chair or when it's naptime. (Leon McAuliffe and Johnnie Lee Wills are acceptable substitutes.) Sometimes he will ask to sit in my lap when I'm at the computer and ask to watch a Bob Wills video (like this one from 1951 of the "Jo-Bob Rag" and "Liberty"). (But his favorite website is the one with the funny kitty pictures.)

Last night, my wife was putting him to bed. He wanted to hear the "Blue's Clues" CD, but his older brother, sleeping in the same room, protested, and Mom was worried that it wasn't conducive to sleep. When she asked, "How about something else?" the toddler said "Dah Whee," which was just fine with our eleven-year-old fiddler. She started the CD and walked out of the room to the opening notes of the Texas Playboy Theme. As she passed the crib, she heard a little voice saying "Ahhhh-haaaa!"

Plaid all over

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We had a great time tonight at a performance of the oft-resurrected musical Forever Plaid, which brings back the era of close harmony pop quartets like the Crew Cuts, the Four Lads, the Four Aces, the Four Freshmen, and the Lettermen.

The play was presented by Tulsa Repertory Musicals at the historic Tulsa Little Theatre.

The Off-Off-Broadway play was first performed in Tulsa in 1995, and two members of the original Plaids are on stage this year: Mark Pryor as Frankie and Justin Boyd as Jinx. My wife, oldest son, and I have all had the pleasure of singing with Justin as part of Coventry Chorale, the schola cantorum for Trinity Episcopal Church's Epiphany Service, and this summer's Tulsa Boy Singers' tour of Britain. His performance tonight of the Four Lads' hit "Cry" was a show-stopper.

Tulsa Little Theatre, just south of 15th, turned 75 years old in 2007. After several years in which it was left to rot, Bryce and Sunshine Hill bought the theater and began restoration in 2004, reopening it in 2005. They've done a beautiful job, creating a very intimate venue for performances. The theater seats about 300 and is available for event rental.

Forever Plaid is worth the price of admission just for the chance to hear great old songs like "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Catch a Falling Star." The laughter built into the well-timed choreography and the '60s nostalgia are icing on the cake. The three-minute condensed version of The Ed Sullivan Show is a sight to behold: In the time it takes to boil an egg they bring back Topo Gigio, Señor Wences, Bill Dana, and the Flying Wallendas, plus plate-spinners, dog acts, accordion players, and acrobats.

There's a matinee performance on Sunday which is sold out, but tickets are still available for the New Year's Eve show which begins at 9 p.m. Call 744-7340 to make arrangements to see the show.

Be tankpool

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Christine celebrates Thanksgiving with the extended Happy Slip family:

Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and yours!

I've uploaded some of our photos from Friday's centennial reenactment of Oklahoma's statehood day in Guthrie, the territorial capital and first state capital city. I have more to upload later tonight or tomorrow. There are three sets:

Oklahoma Centennial procession, GuthrieOklahoma Statehood Centennial - Procession: This set begins with the Jack Love group gathering at the State Capital Publishing Company at 2nd and Harrison (now home to a publishing museum). Jack Love was one of the first Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners and, in fulfillment of a campaign promise, he hired special railroad coaches to bring 60 girls from Woodward to Guthrie for the inauguration, and then had carriages to bring them to the Carnegie Library where the swearing-in took place. A gun was fired to signal that President Roosevelt had signed the statehood proclamation, the cavalry fired their guns in the air in reply, and the procession headed down Oklahoma Street to the library.

For the reenactment, Jack Love's group was made up of schoolchildren from around the state and their parents. We had to be properly attired in Edwardian dress, and it took some doing to find all the pieces: Some of it -- my suit, my son's jacket, my daughter's pinafore -- we rented from Top Hat at 41st and Yale; other pieces we bought. My wife had a skirt and blouse made, and she took a plain hat and adorned it with a feather boa. My daughter's dress was rented from Theater Tulsa's collection, and our school's drama department had a top hat we could borrow. Because I couldn't find the kind of shirt collar I needed, I took a tuxedo shirt with a standard collar and flipped the collar inside out. I'm not sure how authentic we were, but a four or five people were impressed enough to stop and ask us to pose for a picture.

(In case you're wondering, the 22 month old was with Grandma and Grandpa. The day would have been too long for him.)

Reenactment of the wedding between Mr. Oklahoma Territory and Miss Indian Territory
Oklahoma Statehood Centennial: inaugural reenactment: The second set is at the Carnegie Library: the reading of the statehood proclamation, the mock wedding between Miss Indian Territory and Mr. Oklahoma Territory, and the swearing-in of the new state's first officers. Mr. Oklahoma Territory was appropriately melodramatic in declaring his proposal of marriage to Miss Indian Territory. I hope to find that speech online somewhere -- it's an interesting spin on the debate over whether Oklahoma should have been admitted as one state or two.

Many of the reenactors were state officials, including the three Corporation Commissioners representing their 1907 counterparts. Oklahoma Historical Society chairman Bob Blackburn narrated, and Lt. Gov. Jeri Askins spoke briefly. (Gov. Henry was strangely absent.) Our group was seated very close to the action, on the lawn of the library. Afterwards we stayed there to watch the parade.

Steiguer Bldg, Guthrie, Oklahoma
Rooflines of Guthrie: The third set is a collection of roofline photos of Guthrie's 1890s buildings. I loved the contrast between the red brick and terra cotta and the cloudless blue sky. The day could not have been more perfect, with temperatures in the 70s.

Other Flickr photographers have posted plenty of photos of the parade and the rest of the day's festivities:

If you find other blog posts or photosets about the Guthrie centennial celebration, please post links to them in the comments.


It couldn't have been a more beautiful day for a celebration. We were in Guthrie for the Centennial celebration of Oklahoma's Statehood Day. Here we are after witnessing (and participating in) the reenactment of Gov. Haskell's swearing in on the steps of the Carnegie Library.

More words and photos later this weekend.

J. & M. at the Texas Cowboy Reunion paradeAs exciting as it was to see our 10-year-old win the Harry Potter costume contest last Friday night (thanks, Dawn -- we think so, too), we were even more excited and proud about something he accomplished earlier this month.

Right before Independence Day, we drove down to Stamford, Texas, to visit my wife's relatives there -- her dad grew up on a cotton farm northwest of town, and she still has a few aunts and uncles around.

At the same time, Stamford was hosting the Texas Cowboy Reunion, four days of activities including the world's largest amateur rodeo, a grand parade on the 4th of July, nightly western dances, chuckwagon barbecue dinners, and a fiddle contest.

We watched the fiddle contest when we were last there for the TCR, and when we began making plans for this visit, my son decided he wanted to enter. He's only had a year of classical violin training, but his performance piece for last fall was the fiddle tune "Old Joe Clark," and like the rest of the family, he loves western swing music. Once his spring performance was out of the way, he began working up a few more tunes.

IMG_2488We were six hours into the drive to Stamford when we realized that all of us had forgotten to bring his fiddle. We had music and a stand, but no instrument. The boy was heartbroken. The next day, my wife called the contest organizers and someone that her family knew to see about borrowing a fiddle for the contest.

He had been used to playing a half-size, and the size affects your finger positions. Suzanne Walker, who used to teach, had a quarter-size she could lend him, along with a book of fiddle tunes. Ray Clark of Tru-Sound Studios downtown lent him a full-size, painted silver. Neither were exactly what he was used to, so he practiced with both to see which would be the easier adjustment to make. In the end, he felt more comfortable with the full-size. He learned from his great-uncle that for the contest he'd need to play two breakdowns and a waltz. He didn't have a waltz, so in two days he learned "Streets of Laredo" from Mrs. Walker's book. He knew the song from years of listening to Riders in the Sky.

For the next couple of days, he worked in practice time in between the TCR parade, a night at the rodeo, a visit out to the old farm, a look at the artifacts in the Texas Cowboy Museum, games of Chinese checkers and Wahoo, and one delicious home cooked meal after another, each one featuring fresh peaches from the farm. The temperature was in the mid 80s all week, unseasonably cool for Texas in July, and we've never seen the fields so green.

At one point in all the practicing, I told my wife she needed to quit stopping him when he slipped up. It was more important for him to have the confidence to recover and keep going after a mistake.

All hat and no cattleSaturday morning came. It was not a huge field -- only four entrants in the under-18s class. Two were older teens, both excellent fiddlers, and there was another boy about our son's age. There were about 100 people in the audience. Former Congressman Charlie Stenholm was the MC, telling old jokes to break the tension and fill time as each fiddler got ready to play.

J. and K. with Charlie Stenholm at the Texas Cowboy Reunion fiddle contestOur boy was sixth to play: "Bile Them Cabbage Down," "Streets of Laredo," then "Old Joe Clark," which he had relearned with double-stops (playing two strings at once for harmony). He got a bit lost on the first one, but recovered, restarted, and got through it. The waltz was solid, and the final breakdown gave him a strong finish. (You can see his performance on Google Video.) Our son was the only one to play without a rhythm guitarist accompanying him; guess I'm going to have to learn to play.

When the judging was over, our son finished third in his class, behind the two older teens, one of whom won the playoff to be grand champion. The third-place finish was good for a $25 prize. After the contest, all the fiddlers gathered up front for a jam session, playing songs like "Maiden's Prayer" and "Faded Love." Since he doesn't know that many songs yet, the other musicians kindly let him call a couple of tunes: "Cotton Eyed Joe" and "Little Liza Jane." We celebrated with an authentic chuckwagon lunch before setting out for Tulsa.

(By the way, the prize money was donated by the local Wal-Mart, which also covered the entrance fees. Wal-Mart helped us out again later that day: When the van lost a tire tread south of Chickasha, just after 8 p.m., my wife called and asked if they could stay open late and sell us a new tire, as we couldn't drive home on the compact spare I'd installed. They were very nice about it, and we made it home that night, albeit later than planned. Paul Harvey likes to say that if you've got a Wal-Mart in your hometown, you couldn't ask for a better neighbor. Mom-and-pop stores might dispute that, but there's no question that Wal-Mart, along with the good people of Stamford, made our 07/07/07 a lucky day.)

Our son still has a lot to learn about fiddling, but we're proud that he persisted in the face of some setbacks and kept his composure in front of a big audience. It was satisfying, too, that he now has a stronger connection to his roots in Texas cotton country.

I've posted a whole pile of pics of our trip on Flickr, including as many blurry rodeo pictures as a person could want. There are also some shots of our brief browsing stop in Archer City, Texas' version of Hay-on-Wye, home of Larry McMurtry's multi-building Booked-Up bookstore and the movie theater that inspired The Last Picture Show.

Toddler and peachesThere's a separate set (for the historians among you) of photos of documents and artifacts from Stamford's museum, including pages from the 1940 town directory, a 1950 semi-centennial book about the town, a 78 rpm disc of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys performing "New Spanish Two Step," and a scrapbook presentation (a low-tech Powerpoint) that the Chamber of Commerce made in 1923 in their unsuccessful bid to become the site of Texas Tech.

I've also posted some video of the calf scramble at the rodeo. They let all the children 12 and under into the arena, then let loose some calves with ribbons tied to their tails. The kids who manage to grab a ribbon win a prize. My 10-year-old had done it three years ago; this year he was joined by his six-year-old sister. After it was over, I asked them about the experience and got reaction from the toddler, too. For more flavor of the event, here's someone else's video from the wild mare race at the 2006 TCR rodeo -- teams of three cowboys catch, saddle, and ride a wild mare to the other end of the arena and back.

Accio book!

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Harry Potter contest, Midtown Tulsa Barnes & Noble I'm live blogging from the 41st and Yale Barnes and Noble, where about an hour ago my son won first place in the Harry Potter costume contest, entitling him to be one of the first seven in line to buy a book when the clock strikes twelve. He was up against some tough competition. It didn't hurt that he had been Harry Potter for Halloween, so we already had the robes and the glasses, and he and his mom had a pretty good idea of what was involved in dying his hair.

Harry Potter and DumbledoreAll of us were here for the first three hours of the party. My wife took the little ones home after the contest. There are a lot of people here, but not so many that you couldn't move around. I spent most of my time keeping the toddler entertained in his stroller, trying to keep him arms' length from all the books. We looked at a beautiful new book of historic Tulsa photos, including many from downtown's heyday. (There's a picture of a tree-shaded art deco cafe that once stood between 14th and 15th on Boston; wish I could just step into that photo.) The toddler was worried when I put on a set of headphones in the music department, but enjoyed taking all the "Cars" DVDs off the shelf as he made his "b-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-m" car sound.

While we roamed the aisles, the big kids had their picture taken with the advertising board for the book, listened to a classical ensemble play movie themes, watched a magic show, and listened to a bit of the live feed from the B&N on New York's Union Square, where the narrator of the audio books was giving a reading.

J. as Harry PotterWhen the toddler and I grew weary of steering between shelves and people, we strollered down to Reasor's -- I bought him a banana and some cookies and got myself a Coke Zero.

When I told a co-worker how we'd be spending our evening, she told me that she was allergic to hype. Normally, I am, too. But it's fun to be part of a kind of mass event, in this day of hundreds of TV channels and millions of websites.

And as mass events go, this one isn't bad. It marks the end of an excellent series of children's fiction, and there's been a minimum of standing in line.

Of course, it helps when your son is a powerful wizard.

UPDATE: They had the seven winners line up at the registers about 5 minutes before the boxes could be opened. We watched them open the first boxes, and my son got his book right at 12:01. I threw in a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. We paid, left triumphant, and headed to Shades of Brown for something to drink. I read the first couple of chapters to my son there. (We read the first book together, before he zoomed ahead of me and worked through the remaining books in short order.)

As I've mentioned briefly, last month I visited Britain with my son, who was part of the Tulsa Boy Singers' first international tour in many years. The boys performed at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, at York Minster, and at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, in London ("the Actors' Church"), and they also sang a couple of anthems in Durham Cathedral, near the tomb of English church historian St. Bede. The tour also took us to Stirling and Oxford.

The photos I took of the Tulsa Boy Singers' tour are up on Flickr. I used Flickr's very cool map feature to pin down the locations of each photo as best I could. You can click "Map" on an individual photo page, and it will show you where it was taken.

I also took video of at least one anthem at each performance, and these have been posted at Google Video. I was using the Canon S3 IS to shoot both stills and videos, and it's not the easiest thing to hold still for long periods. Someday, when I find a decent video editing package, I'll edit a slide show of still images over the shaky and jerky parts of the video.

Here's video of two of my favorite anthems -- Thomas Tallis's "O Nata Lux and Richard Farrant's "Lord, for Thy Tender Mercies' Sake" -- in the north transept of York Minster, the largest Gothic church north of the Alps.

TBS is always looking for new singers. If you have a son eight years or older who loves to sing, learn more at You'll find phone and e-mail contact information on the website.

This may look like a souvenir from my recent trip to Britain with my 10-year-old for the Tulsa Boy Singers choir tour, but it's not, although the trip reawakened an interest in it.


This is The London Game, a strategy game based on a map of the London Underground. The object is to be the first to travel to six tourist destinations and return to your starting point at one of London's main railway stations. There are "hazard" cards that either delay you or allow you to delay another player. Each "souvenir" card has a drawing and a description of the point of interest and the name of the nearest Tube station.

I remember playing this game with a friend of mine when we were probably 10 or 11. His family subsequently put it in a garage sale or otherwise disposed of it. I had always thought it would be a fun board game to have.

Three times in the past I've been to the London Transport Museum gift shop in Covent Garden, and three times I've balked at paying the asking price, not to mention wondering if I had room and sufficient spare weight in my luggage for the box. Last month, the museum shop had a special edition in a metal box for the low, low price of 25 pounds sterling -- about $50, and too dear for me. Once back home, I checked eBay and found a copy of the 1972 edition. I was the only bidder and price and shipping combined came to $15.

While my wife and our 10-year-old went to hear Weird Al Yankovic in concert last Friday, and after I put the 18-month-old to bed, the six-year-old and I played the game a couple of times. We opted not to use the station blocking rule and instead concentrated on getting familiar with where everything is on the board and how the basic rules work.

We added a rule that you have to say the name of each station as you pass through it. I figure it'll help the kids learn to pronounce Gloucester, Leicester, and Tottenham correctly and how to interpret a map and plan a route, and we'll all build a mental map of London which will come in handy when we go back as a family someday. There have been a few changes to the Tube map since 1972, but not many to the central London section that makes up the game board.

London Game closeup

We had fun playing it, and we each won a round. I'll have to try the more cut-throat version, where you can block stations to delay your opponents, with the 10-year-old.

A couple of summers ago our family visited my wife's uncle and his family in Little Rock. He raises AKC Registered German Shepherds on a farm north of Little Rock. His dogs have been trained for police and drug work, home and family protection, and as companion animals for the elderly and disabled. We spent time around some of the dogs at their city house and the puppies out at the farm. They were sweet-natured and affectionate animals.

My wife's uncle has just learned that he won't be able to care and train the dogs for a while. His family is looking to sell the puppies they have as quickly as they can. The puppies are around six to seven months' old.

If you are interested in purchasing and could provide a good home for a German Shepherd with these qualities, please contact me by e-mail at blog -at- batesline -dot- com. Please DO NOT use the contact information on the farm's website at this time.

This is how he describes his dogs' heritage and character:

When we bought our breeding stock we required the following:
  1. Temperament. The dog must be gentle and loving to all members of the family especially children.
  2. Courage. If the dog senses that you are in danger it must get between you and that danger and do what is necessary to chase it away and not follow it after it runs away.
  3. Size. We did not want giants, but we wanted large dogs that can do their jobs.
  4. Conformation. We required that all dogs have excellent conformation by a German judge.
  5. Color. We have about all German Shepherd colors except white.

Here's how he describes the training program:

  • All puppies are born in someone's home
  • Puppies are handled daily to imprint a good temperament and trust
  • The dogs are worked with daily to develop courage, love and trust
  • The dogs are developed to be loving family pets and strong protectors

No home protected by one of his dogs has ever been burglarized, and no owner has ever been injured by an intruder or the dog.

If you have a good home for a loyal canine companion, please send me an e-mail ASAP at blog at batesline dot com.

Saturday, after attending the three public hours of a five-hour City Council meeting on whether to move city offices to One Technology Center, I called my wife and suggested we head up to Woolaroc for the remainder of the afternoon. I picked up my son from a sleepover, and, after the usual hour or so required to prepare for the long trek (approx. seven hours away from home), we left, following a stop at McDonald's to get food (lunch at 2 -- kids were on a late schedule) and the library (needed to renew some books).

Got a bit lost trying to navigate the Matoaka shortcut, which heads west from US 75 on Road 24. The landmark used to be (35 years ago) a Moose Lodge, now it's a Christian school. My handy "Roads of Oklahoma Atlas" helped get me sorted out.

We got to Woolaroc about 3 -- two hours before closing. (We were told our admission would be good through Sunday, if we wanted to return. 11 and under are free, adults are $8, $7 with a AAA card.)

They were having a kids festival. The day was sunny and muggy. The big kids tried their hand at hurling spears with rubber points, then played at giant croquet, rolling rubber balls almost as big as they were through four-foot tall wickets.

I took the little one inside the museum, while the big kids explored some of the other special outdoor activities. He was very amused by the moving diorama of the Crow Indian dance.

Woolaroc Museum is home to the bronze models submitted in the design competition for the Pioneer Woman Monument in Ponca City. I'd seen them before, but it was interesting to look again since the pioneer woman concept appeared in so many of Oklahoma's state quarter designs. There are some impressive alternate designs -- one shows a woman and child pressing on, with her husband, shot through with an arrow, lying dead at her feet -- but I think they chose the right one, with the right balance of optimism and determination.

Jim Hamilton's statue, Dance of the Mountain Gods, with the antenna-like headgear and the long knives, looks to me like an ancient astronaut come down to do some serious cattle mutilatin'.

With only one kid in tow, and him in a stroller, I had time to take a closer look at the beautiful patterns on the Pueblo pottery.

We browsed a bit in the shop. There's a new book out called The Royal Air Force in Oklahoma, by Paula Carmack Denson. It is a detailed account, with many photographs, of the RAF flying schools in Ponca City and Miami, with complete rosters of the students. (You may know that two RAF flyers, who died in a training accident near Tulsa, are buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa.)

The big kids and I finished our brief time at Woolaroc with a walk along the rocky paths between the lodge and Lake Clyde. They remember walking down there last summer when we came up for a cousin's wedding. We bought a couple of snow cones and headed back to the van to meet Mom and the toddler.

Next stop Bartlesville. The intention was to look around, eat dinner, then go to the Bartlesville Playground (aka the Kiddie Park) when it opened at 7. The toddler would be big enough now to sit up and ride most of the rides.

As the weather turned from sun to gloom, I gave the kids a tour of Dad's historical sites -- the house we lived in on Delaware Street (demolished) which was walking distance from Dr. Denyer's office across the street (demolished), the Thunderbird Cafe (now an antique shop), our church (First Baptist), the Sani-Pool (demolished), Johnstone Park, and my dad's office (the Cities Service Bldg., now home to RSU's Bartlesville campus). We drove south past Aunt Connie and Uncle Dan's house on Dewey Street, McKinley School where cousin Kelley went to kindergarten in 1968-69 (I was 11 days too young to start the same year), and then to 1617 Rogers, near Jane Phillips Elementary School, where we moved in 1967 after my little sister was born. Our family lived in Bartlesville from approximately May 1965 to July 1969, when we moved, following Cities Service, to Tulsa.

As heavy rains moved in, we headed to Mr. Limey's Fish and Chips (est. 1969), in the once ultra-modern Comanche Center at the corner of Comanche and Frank Phillips. We all had fish and chips. With a late lunch, their half-order (one filet and a few fries), was plenty for me. I used my Treo to check the weather and learned there was a storm headed our way. I began to consider options. One possibility, quickly dismissed, was to drive another hour north to Independence, Kansas, and Riverside Park, which has a train and a carousel and some wonderful retro playground equipment, but we might get there only to hit more bad weather.

Although the rain had stopped by the time we left the restaurant, the Kiddie Park had decided to close to be on the safe side. The backup plan was to head to the Red Apple Bowling Center for some indoor fun.

The clerk at the desk presented me with a confusing and expensive array of options. We could rent a lane for a couple of hours -- about $55 for five people. We could buy individual lines of bowling. We could rent a lane for the rest of the night. I just wanted for four people to bowl a game, maybe two each. He wound up charging me $34 for one lane for an hour, with shoes, for four people. (Little Bit can't manage a 6 pound ball just yet.)

The kids had a good time. Eventually we figured out we could ask to have the bumpers put up. The six-year-old was offered the ball ramp to use, but she preferred to shove the ball down the lane by herself.

The balls were marked to make it easier to spot one that might work. The weights are printed in big numbers, and different colors are used for different weights. There are five or six standard hole sizes, which were also marked in large letters. I learned that for me a medium is too small (couldn't get thumb all the way in) and a large is way too big (thumb had too much space).

No one else there seemed to be familiar with bowling etiquette. I remember being schooled on where you could walk, where you couldn't walk, when you could start your approach and when you should hold off, how to pick up a ball, etc., when I took free lessons at Sheridan Lanes as a kid. The lessons were reinforced during the years I bowled in a youth league at Tiffany Bowl (now Plaza Santa Cecilia). Many customers seemed to think the area between the foul lines and the ball returns was just another walkway. Parents let their kids wander around on the approaches when they weren't bowling, heedless of the danger.

Even though it took some time to get shoes on, find bowling balls, and get the scoreboard setup, our hour started right away, and promptly one hour after the clerk rang me up, the lane went dark, about two frames into the second game. It was just as well -- it was nearly 9 and time to head home.

It did occur to me that I could have let the kids go nuts in the bowling center's video arcade for an hour and probably spent less than we did on bowling.

The Kiddie Park being closed was a disappointment, but I think we managed to salvage the day.

ELSEWHERE: It looks like a couple of other bloggers had some great family fun this weekend. See Dubya found an oasis of red state red meat in the midst of blue, blue California -- a rodeo -- and he brought back some great photos and a very entertaining write-up, in which he tries to explain to leftists how thrilling a rodeo is to a patriotic conservative. (You just need to read it.)

In conclusion, I am still so high and aroused from the weekend's potent brew of vicarious testosterone, jingoism, and aerosolized horse poo that I'm ready to jump on a Brahma bull and go invade North Korea. Or vote for Fred Thompson. Yee-ha!

And fellow former Bartian Brandon Dutcher spent the day with his family at Frontier City and has photos.

Here's a timely start-of-summer safety reminder from Tulsa World sports editor Mike Strain, who remembers the time when his son (and my nephew) nearly drowned in their neighborhood's pool:

I grabbed my son’s limp body by the arm and pulled him out of the water.

His face was the scary kind of white you associate with death. His lips were purple. His eyes were wide open, but he wasn’t moving.

About 10 years ago, my son could have drowned in a swimming pool as I sat about 15 feet away daydreaming in the sun. I never saw him jump into the five-foot end. Never realized that a fearless 3 year old who couldn’t swim was under water.

He had taken the “floaties” off his arms. He never liked those. Undetected by me, my wife and a lifeguard at our neighborhood pool, he jumped into the water. I don’t know how long he had been there – less than a minute probably. My wife was in the pool, and asked, “Where’s Jared?”

And then I saw him. He was about a foot under the water, arms stretched to both sides like he was about to give a welcoming hug. He was facing the sky and his eyes were wide open. He wasn’t moving. I will never forget the image – that moment when you don’t know if your son is going to live.

You can't take your eyes off them for a minute.


On the left, Michael D. Bates, columnist for Urban Tulsa Weekly and proprietor of

On the right, Michael W. Bates, former Member of Parliament and Paymaster General, now director of the Northern Board of the Conservative Party.

In the background, Durham Cathedral on a brilliant June day.

I had the pleasure of spending a lovely but all-too-brief hour and a half in the company of Michael and his son Matthew, strolling along the Wear, having a light lunch in the cathedral's Undercroft Restaurant, and talking about British and American politics and the remarkable story of the Emmanuel College in Gateshead and how high expectations can transform an underprivileged area.

Last night we had an exceptionally noisy collection of creatures around our backyard pond. It has long been a popular gathering spot for American toads, but over the last three years it's started to attract tree frogs as well. We think there were at least four tree frogs at the pond last night, and at least a dozen toads. We discovered the frogs' favorite hiding places: They get a grip on the pond lining under the flat rocks that overhang the edge of the pond.

Pictures to come later, but for now, here's a 665 KB MP3 file of the toads and frogs singing. Better turn your volume down.

Not dead yet

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Yes, I'm still alive, despite not posting to the main blog in a few days. (You might have noticed that I have published some items on the linkblog in the meantime.)

It's been a busy (and sick) few days for our family. My wife has a chest cold. The 15-month-old is getting over an ear infection. Saturday I minded him and the six-year-old while my wife attended a church women's retreat. I spent most of Sunday going to and from Ponca City, where my ten-year-old son sang with the Tulsa Boy Singers at an evensong service at Grace Episcopal Church, a foretaste of their June performances at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, York Minster, and St. Paul's Cathedral.

A couple of happy memories from the past few days stand out.

Thursday evening the weather was in clear, calm, and in the 70s. My daughter doesn't have school on Friday, and my son had a field trip to Ft. Gibson the next day, so we didn't have the usual pressure of getting through homework. The little one was feeling miserable from his ear infection (trying to make the pain go away by saying "all done! all done!"), but he wanted to go out in the backyard. He walked around smiling, barefooted and barebellied, rolling a ball ("bah!") up the slide ("sigh!") with his big sister.

His vocabulary is growing at a rapid pace: He's been saying and signing for food ("foo?") for a long time. He likes to feed himself with a spoon ("boo" or, sometimes, "brrrrrrrrooo") and enjoys crackers ("gah"). The sound of a car or an airplane elicits a motorboat noise from his lips. He loves to "go-go-go" in the car. The signal for dropping something (even if deliberately) has recently evolved from "uh-uh-uh-uh" to "uh-uh-oh." He loves his "Dah," his big sister "K-k," and his big brother "Gng." (Hard to transcribe that last -- a kind of nasal grunt.)

By far, the cutest thing he says is "ma-ma-ma-ma" -- the vowel sound is midway between an "ah" and an "oh," and there's always a wistful look on his face when he says it. (It sort of goes down the scale, too, which is even cuter.)

My big son still had to get his violin practice in, but my wife let him do it outside on the deck. She brought out her own violin and tutored him on the minuet he's trying to perfect. When he was done with that, he worked on "Faded Love." The sweet sounds of the violins were mixed with the songs of mourning doves. (The little one says "click, click" and does the sign for "bird" when he hears them sing.)

The scene was enhanced by the bearded irises and tea roses in bloom and the lush, thick carpet of grass. A year ago, most of the backyard had been bare dirt. Our growing trees had shaded much of the bermuda grass to death. Last fall, we hacked up the dirt, and I scattered a bag of Pennington Enviro-Shade grass seed and a bag of lawn starter. The lawn has almost completely filled in, and it's as green as Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. That may be my most satisfying achievement of the last several months.

On Saturday afternoon I dropped the big boy off at a classmate's house, then took the girl and the little boy somewhere we could go for a stroll and enjoy the sunshine. We were down south, so we headed across the bridge to Riverwalk Crossing. We walked along the riverfront and bumped into Ray Pearcey (I run into him often enough and in enough different places that he's sure I'm tailing him), who was having lunch with Oklahoma Eagle publisher Jim Goodwin and his daughter. Jim had some very kind words for my work in UTW, a high compliment coming from someone who runs one of the longest-running newspapers in the state, with a proud heritage of serving the African-American community.

The kids and I had a very nice lunch on the patio at Los Cabos. The chips and salsa felt good on my scratchy throat, my daughter enjoyed her mini-corn dogs, and the little one shared the grilled chicken in my taco salad, and he didn't seem to mind the bits of sour cream and guacamole. Toward the end a trio of Mexican guitarists started playing, leading off with "Ghost Riders in the Sky." After working through some standards of the genre ("La Bamba," "El Condor Pasa," "Guantanamera"), they played and sang a Spanish version of Dion's car-crash classic, "Last Kiss." ("Where, o where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me.") We finished our excursion with Chocolate Butterfinger and Vanilla Oreo ice cream. Later we went to a garden store to buy some annual flowers for my wife's birthday.

So I have been busy, just not here.

A couple of things to look forward to this Monday:

It's the maiden broadcast for my friends Gwen Freeman and Chris Medlock, the new co-hosts of KFAQ Mornings. Listen live from 5:30 to 9:00 on 1170 kHz or listen later to the podcast online. Break a leg, guys, or... strain a tonsil or... something.

Also on the air and on the web: Two of my favorite bloggers, two that I find consistently challenging and thought-provoking, shared a microphone recently. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, interviewed Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On for his radio show today. From this description, it sounds like a conversation worth hearing. (Too bad another Kentucky blogger, Michael Spencer, couldn't have been there, too. That would have made for a fascinating roundtable discussion.)

The show should be available here later today, but in the meantime you can hear Mohler's recommendations for must-read Christian biographies (here's the corresponding blog entry).

Or you can read this essay by Mohler, which Dawn Eden recommends, about how Evangelicals can and should work alongside Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians in challenging an increasingly secular culture, yet without compromising the "Evangelical affirmation of salvation through faith alone by grace alone through Christ alone.... [W]e must be ready to stand together in cultural co-belligerence, rooted in a common core of philosophical and theological principles, without demanding confessional agreement or pretending that this has been achieved."

UPDATE: Here's a link to audio of Al Mohler's interview with Dawn Eden.

Flu; Barrs

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Our 10-year-old was running a degree of fever Friday morning, so we kept him home from school. This morning he was at 104, was coughing, aching, and congested, and he threw up, so I took him to the urgent care center. They were very efficient at processing us in, and it didn't take much longer to get to the examining room than it would have if we'd made a normal doctor's appointment. (I was surprised, however, that the urgent care clinic didn't have access to his records and our insurance information, since his pediatrician is part of the same medical system. We had to fill out all the paperwork again for the urgent care clinic.)

The doctor ordered a nasal and throat swab to check for flu and strep. My son went back to the waiting room while I walked the samples down to the lab. About 20 minutes later we were called back in for the results: Influenza.

For goodness' sake, it's March already! The daffodils are blooming! Flu season is supposed to be over!

So we've got him quarantined in his room, away from little sister and little brother. He and I and little sister are taking Tamiflu.

Since my wife is still nursing little brother twice a day, we're debating what to do for her. Tamiflu could help her not get the flu, but since they don't know if the medication passes into breastmilk and what effect it would have on a 14-month-old if it did, her taking it means not nursing him. We're reluctant to stop nursing, because it immunized him against the intestinal bug that ran through the family two weekends ago. (Also, my wife says, nursing is nice. It would be sad to have to stop.)

Flu means the 10-year-old will miss a sleepover birthday party. The backup plan, if he didn't feel up to a sleepover, but was up to getting out (this was before we knew it was flu), was to take him to the Bob Wills Birthday Celebration -- he wanted to hear Oklahoma Stomp. (I would have liked that, too, and to hear the Texas Playboys' longer set tonight. Would someone please go tonight and e-mail me -- blog at batesline dot com -- to tell me all about it?)

We're quarantining ourselves as much as possible, so the other thing we're going to have to miss is a special program at Christ Presbyterian Church tomorrow morning. Jerram Barrs, head of the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary, will be the keynote speaker for our church's annual missions conference. He will be speaking during worship at 9:15 a.m., and then during a combined adult Sunday School class at 11:00. After a catered box lunch, there will be a further Q&A session.

Barrs teaches apologetics at Covenant Seminary. The title of his talk is "Finding Grace in Unexpected People." The vision statement of the Francis Schaeffer Institute will give you an idea what to expect:

The Church is to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person. Unfortunately, Christians can retreat into a subculture due to fear of the surrounding society. Many do not understand or are unsure how to respond to secularism, postmodernism, New Age spirituality, and the challenges of science and technology. Instead of seeking to grow in understanding, Christians can withdraw behind defensive barriers for protection.

The tragedy is that the barriers work both ways. They not only keep the culture away from Christians, but they also keep the Gospel away from those who need it. We can begin to develop an "us versus them" mentality which isolates us from our neighbors and prevents others from hearing the Gospel and seeing it at work in our lives. We often are regarded merely as "religious," not as earnestly concerned for truth.

The goal of the Schaeffer Institute is to assist Christians in breaking down these barriers, to become more faithful and effective in evangelism, and to become more obedient to God's Word in all areas of life. We seek to do this by training Christians to observe and understand the culture in which they live, and by modeling respectful dialogue with those who are not Christians. In this way we hope to prepare Christians to be involved effectively as salt and light beyond the Church in the wider culture.

So while much of this missions conference will focus on the missionaries and outreaches sponsored by our church in Ukraine, Uganda, Mexico, the Philippines, Cameroon, Brazil, and Kurdistan, among other places, tomorrow morning's focus will be on effectively stepping outside of the evangelical subculture to reach our fellow Tulsans with the truth of Christ.

One of the things that attracted us to this church when we joined 15 years ago was the commitment to reach the world with the Gospel. Missions wasn't just a special offering collected a couple of times a year, or a small percentage automatically deducted from the budget. The church was directly involved in supporting individual missionaries and missionary families, in sending its own leaders and lay members on short-term missions, and in helping our own members to become full-time missionaries.

You can learn more about the missions program and the 2007 conference from the CPC missions conference brochure (PDF format).

In case you missed last week's FDA announcement:

On February 14, 2007, FDA advised consumers not to eat any Peter Pan peanut butter purchased since May 2006 and not to eat Great Value peanut butter with a product code beginning with "2111" purchased since May 2006 because of risk of contamination with Salmonella Tennessee. Salmonella is a bacterium that causes foodborne illness, and “Tennessee” is a type of Salmonella. All Peter Pan peanut butter purchased since May 2006 is affected; only those jars of Great Value peanut butter purchased since May 2006 with a product code beginning with "2111” are affected. Although Great Value peanut butter with the specified product code has not been linked by CDC to the cases of Salmonella Tennessee infection, the product is manufactured in the same plant as Peter Pan peanut butter and, thus, is believed to be at similar risk of contamination. Great Value peanut butter made by manufacturers other than ConAgra is not affected.

Slate's Explainer explains how peanut butter could be contaminated with salmonella:

Peanut butter happens to be a pretty safe food when it comes to microorganisms. That's because the nuts are blanched, roasted, and ground up at temperatures high enough to kill any salmonella bacteria that might have gotten into the raw ingredients. But the germs can still contaminate the product in the "post-processing" phase of production—when the finished product is loaded into jars and labeled for sale. The only other known outbreak of peanut butter-related salmonellosis occurred in Australia in the mid-1990s: Post-processing contamination with fecal matter was the likely culprit.

I checked our pantry shelf and was relieved to see a jar of Jif there.

Walt Kelly, A.D., B. P.*

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As a fan of the comic strip Pogo, I've read many biographical sketches of cartoonist Walt Kelly, but I never remember having read that he wrote and illustrated a comic book series based on the Our Gang shorts. (You might know them better as "The Little Rascals" -- Spanky, Buckwheat, Alfalfa, etc.)

Earlier this year, Fantagraphics published a reissue of Walt Kelly's Our Gang comic books from 1942 and 1943, volume 1 of a planned series. The ALA Booklist blurb has this to say:

Although the Our Gang film series was on its last legs in 1942, Dell Comics launched a comic-book version of it that is more than a footnote to the films because it was written and drawn by Walt Kelly, seven years before he brought Pogo to the newspapers. Ironically, while the films were by then slick and mannered, having lost their low-budget modesty after MGM took over producing them, in Kelly's comics they regained much of their earlier, unaffected charm, thanks to his winsome story lines, homey characterizations, and engaging cartooning.

(*After Disney, Before Pogo. Kelly was one of the animators on Fantasia (1940); the Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony segment, featuring centaurs, putti, Zeus, Bacchus, and other characters from Greek mythology, bears his unmistakable touch. As a two- and three-year-old, my now-10-year-old son watched this segment over and over again, and Iris, who brought forth the rainbow after the storm, was his first imaginary friend. He called her "the rainbow princess.")

Earlier this summer, the Branson, Missouri, Convention and Vistors Bureau asked about a dozen members of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS) to spend a weekend in Branson. They were filmed riding roller coasters at Silver Dollar City and clowning on stage at a number of Branson's theatres. The result is a three-minute promo set to a Beach Boys-like tune.

My dad, who went to his first AORBS convention in Branson earlier in the year, was part of the group brought back for the video. In the video, he's the Santa in the red ballcap and red shirt. (You can see him at the left end of the chorus line at about 1:49, and in the back row on the right when all the Santas call out "Merry Christmas" at the end.)

santadad.JPG This is Dad's second season as a Real Bearded Santa, and he's having a great time. He spent three weekends at Philbrook's Festival of Trees. Here's a proof sheet from his first Saturday there, on the website of photographer Ian B. Danziger. A visit with Santa can be intimidating for little kids, and Dad says that Ian is great at getting kids to relax and smile for the camera. (Dad does a pretty good job of putting kids at ease, himself.)

If you need a right jolly old elf to grace your Tulsa-area Christmas event, give David Bates a call at 230-6258 or e-mail him at He's already starting to field inquiries for the 2007 Christmas season.

UPDATE 11/08/2007: Santa David Bates now has his own website at

Here's a link to an entry from 2004, with links to some readings appropriate for Thanksgiving, including accounts of the first Thanksgiving, every presidential Thanksgiving proclamation, and the Wall Street Journal's traditional reprinting of "The Desolate Wilderness" and "The Fair Land".

66 birthday magic

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I started writing this entry last Saturday, November 11.

As it was the second Saturday in November, we headed down to the south side of Oklahoma City to Uncle Dan and Aunt Connie's house for an early Thanksgiving celebration with Mom's side of the family. Good food, a chance for everyone to get to see the baby, and some time to slump on a comfortable sofa, watching the Nebraska-Texas A&M game through closed eyelids.

Since it was the old road's 80th birthday, I had hoped to drive some Route 66 on the way down, but we got off to our usual slow start and had to stick to the turnpike to get to Aunt Connie's in time for lunch.

On the way home, close to dark, we decided to drive some of the old road anyway. The 10-year-old boy immediately began agitating for a dinner stop at the Rock Cafe. We drove the segment from I-35 east of Edmond to I-44 east of Wellston. I had seen some billboards which left me with the impression that Pops, a new landmark on the highway west of Arcadia was already open. (It's not -- opening is set for summer 2007.)

Everyone was getting hungry, so we jumped on the turnpike at Wellston and got off at Stroud.

(A note to the good people of Stroud: Those ridiculously bright "acorn" lights may look lovely and quaint during the day, but at night the glare from them actually hides your Main Street buildings from view. Much of the energy of the acorn lights is wasted, shining up into the sky or into the eyes of oncoming drivers, rather than onto the street where it's needed. Consider at least replacing the bulbs with something lower wattage, or better yet, replace the fixtures with full-cutoff IESNA-compliant lamps that will give you the historic appearance you want, without the glare. Here's an entry from my archives about good and bad streetlighting.)

As we walked from the parking lot into the cafe, I spied a familiar-looking orange VW van. "That looks like Fillmore," I said to the kids, referring to the hippie van from the movie Cars, voiced by George Carlin.

The Rock's owner, Dawn Welch, came by the table to say hello. We told Dawn about seeing Cars at the film festival and hearing Michael Wallis speak.

(As I was watching Cars, listening to Sally the Porsche give an impassioned speech about taking care of and taking pride in their bypassed and beleaguered town, I remembered the poster on the wall behind the east end of the counter at the Rock Cafe, a snapshot of a white board from some sort of brainstorming session on how to make Stroud a better place. Art imitates life.)

Dawn pointed out the gray-headed fellow with the bushy beard who was sitting at the counter. As I had guessed, it was Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire, owner of that VW van. Waldmire and his van were the inspiration for the character Fillmore. Waldmire travels the road much of the year. Dawn says he never calls ahead; he just shows up. He creates beautifully intricate pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors of landmarks and birds-eye-views along the old highway, filled with tiny, neatly-lettered descriptive text. (Here's a webpage with a picture of Bob Waldmire and several examples of his work.)

After a while we introduced ourselves. Bob went out to his van and brought back a couple of cartoons he had drawn, depicting a meeting between Fillmore and his own van, and he signed one for each of the kids, and also gave them his calling card -- a postcard drawing of his van, announcing that "The Unofficial Old Route 66 Mobile Information Center (piloted by R. Waldmire)" is "coming soon to your town!"

With some prompting from Mom, my 10-year-old told Bob about some difficulty he was having painting a watercolor of an owl for art class at school. Bob went back out to the van, brought back his watercolors, and told my son about some of his watercolor techniques. Bob also gave him a card with his drawing of a great horned owl (showing how he used pencil along with inkpen to create the delicate texture of the owl's chest feathers), a watercolor cartoon showing the Cozy Dog couple as bikers riding down 66, and a watercolor he did for TNT Engineering, Inc., in Kingman, Arizona, depicting a VW bug and two VW buses (both split window and bay window) in front of a stunning desert landscape. (Here are two in-progress photos of a mural Bob is doing on TNT's building in Kingman.) He also gave us a copy of his Route 66 Scenes map of Oklahoma.

While we were talking with Bob, Emily Priddy, Route 66 activist and Red Fork Hippie Chick, came into the Rock Cafe. (She was wearing a very cool jean jacket with a big 66 shield on the back, with big shiny sequins outlining the numbers like the reflective discs you see on some old highway signs.) Emily was helping with the Mother Road 100, a 100-mile ultramarathon, which had begun Saturday morning at 7 in Arcadia. Emily was helping to pace a friend who was in the race, and then would be manning the aid station at Kellyville. (She has a detailed account of her weekend on her blog: "I don’t know whether that was the most amazing weekend of my entire life, but if it wasn’t, it didn’t miss it by much.") Emily got some photos of the whole family with Bob (which I'll post later). When I went to pay for our dinner, I learned that she'd perpetrated another random act of kindness. What a sweetheart!

We said so long to Bob as we left the cafe -- we'd see him in Clinton next June if not sooner.

I decided to drive the old road the rest of the way to Tulsa. We watched with amazement as the ultramarathoners made their way along the other side of the highway. Emily had told us they were only expecting 30 runners to make it to Kellyville, 84 miles into the run, but it was apparent that many more were still in the race. The last runner we passed was at 9:40 p.m., near the Creek County Speedway, probably about 85 miles in. That's an average speed of 5.8 miles per hour, including rest stops, sustained for 14.67 hours.

It was a magical evening, a perfect way to mark the start of the Mother Road's ninth decade, on her birthday and mine.

End of a fine day

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Started an entry on today's events, but I'm too tired to finish it. Suffice to say, we encountered a bit of Route 66 magic on the road's 80th birthday (and my 43rd). I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.


We opted, as usual, for homemade costumes, which are more fun and usually look better than the storebought kind. My daughter's toothless fairy costume was a nice dress, a pair of butterfly wings, and a wand that she decorated herself. (Nature took care of the toothless part.) A neighbor sewed my son's Gryffindor house robe, and we added the house patch. We bought his wand, and a cheap pair of sunglasses and wash-out hair dye completed his costume.

About 6:30 last night, I took the two big kids around our block. Of the 40 houses around us, about 10 were open for business. We saw a few other families out as well -- but they seemed to have driven into the neighborhood from somewhere else.

My wife had mentioned a "trunk-or-treat" event at the church down the street. That's where people park their cars in the church parking lot, pop open and decorate their trunks and hand out candy. Seems kind of pointless -- stop at one trunk, get candy, take four steps to the next trunk, get candy, repeat. You lose the anticipation of walking up the steps and ringing the doorbell, wondering who will answer and what kind of treats they'll have. Making the circuit in a parking lot doesn't compare with deciding whether to turn the corner to the next block or head home.

Halloween was a neighborhood event when I was a kid. It was in the neighborhood, and it reinforced a sense of neighborliness. Nowadays we don't shop with, worship with, or go to school with the people we share a subdivision with. Attending Halloween events away from home severs one of the few remaining ties to neighborhood, and reinforces our membership in geographically-scattered communities.

(Take a map and mark the places you visit on a regular basis -- your church, your job, where you shop, where your kids go to school. That's your true neighborhood.)

That said, we next got in the car and headed to First Baptist Church downtown for their fall festival, where we took the above photo. My parents are members there, and we go nearly every year. They have carnival games, a pony ride, face painting, and a bouncy castle. $3 buys a 20-punch pass, and each game or attraction takes one punch -- it's not expensive, but the kids have to think about how they want to spend their punches. Win or lose, you get candy just for playing the games.

Grandma got a balloon for the baby and tied it to his stroller. He had the best time pulling down the string hand over hand to bring the balloon closer.

(I know, I'm a rotten dad: I let my son read Harry Potter, let my kids go trick-or-treating, with my son dressed as Harry Potter, and I let my baby have a dangerous balloon.)




(A bit of fun with the green screen at the KJRH booth at the Tulsa State Fair last Saturday.)

Fit to stay tied


I have a confession to make. For the last several years I have had trouble keeping my shoelaces tied.

I learned in kindergarten, same as most folks. (Mrs. Chambers had one of those wooden Playskool lacing toys to practice on.) For the next few decades, I had no problem tying my shoes and my shoes staying tied until I was ready to take them off.

But lately my shoelaces will not cooperate. Here's what I think happened: I started wearing shoes with round, waxed laces, which are more prone than flat laces to coming undone. When they did come undone, I started to second guess thirty years of muscle memory, and I tried different things to get my laces to stay put. I switched between right over left and left over right, did the two-loops method, did the normal method, and it got to the point I couldn't remember which was the way I had originally been taught.

Today I stumbled across a website that solves my problem: Ian Fieggen's Shoelace Site. In this amazingly comprehensive site, Fieggen illustrates 31 different ways to lace a pair of shoes, 16 ways to lace shoes with lugs, and 17 different ways to tie shoelaces. He explains what causes shoelaces to slip. There are tips for teaching your children how to tie their shoes, and pointers to tying and lacing methods more suited for different sports. There are even one-handed methods for tying your shoes. The illustrations are crystal clear, using different colors for left and right lace.

I tried Ian's secure shoelace knot tonight before heading off with the family to the Tulsa State Fair. We walked from our car, parked on the race track near Driller Stadium, to the Children's Building to see our kids' artwork on display. (The boy won a blue ribbon for his Lego car, and the girl entered two drawings and an acrylic painting.) Then it was off to hear Asleep at the Wheel at the Oklahoma Stage. After the show (during most of which the baby boy was happy-bouncing), we went on to Bell's to ride some rides, then walked all the way back across the fairgrounds to the gate. The parking trams were calling it a night just as the fair was closing, so we had to trudge all the way back to the car.

For all that walking, my laces stayed tied.

Ian's Shoelace Site is the sort of site that makes me love the Internet. Someone with a lot of passion on a narrow subject has put together a beautifully organized site full of useful information. It's not the sort of information you'll need every day, but it's awfully handy. And even if you don't need the information, it's so well done you could lose yourself for a while and end up saying to yourself, "I never knew there was so much to know about shoelaces."

I was curious about the sort of person who would create such a website. Ian Fieggen is an Australian, about my age, who works in both graphic design and computers.

Ian has a "long-time partner" named Inge, but they haven't yet tied the knot. If they ever do, I feel sure it will stay tied.

Show and kvell: Music scholarship


Last week we learned that our 10-year-old son has been awarded a scholarship for the Barthelmes Conservatory Music School. The school, based in 1st Presbyterian Church's Bernsen Center, takes students with an aptitude for music and provides them with lessons in music theory private instruction in an instrument, twice a week after school. Everyone accepted into the Music School program is granted a full scholarship. He plans to learn violin.

He's excited and so are we, but it's going to be a busy school year, as he'll continue two other nights a week with Tulsa Boy Singers rehearsals.

(By the way, Tulsa Boy Singers is still looking for more singers, and there's an added incentive to joining now -- a week-long performance tour of Britain planned for June 2007. If you'd like your son to audition, contact Jackie Boyd at 698-4029 or 585-BOYS. E-mail me at blog AT batesline DOT com if you have any questions from a parent's perspective about the program.)

Here's a Tulsa World story from last August about the Barthelmes Conservatory, the Music School, and director Aida Aydinyan.

Root, root, root


Another random childhood memory inspired by a recent family event:

My son had a root canal on one of his upper incisors on Friday. (Back in the spring, a baseball glanced off the tip of his glove and hit the tooth.)

I was amazed: I expected him to have a swollen mouth, packed with cotton swabs, and to hear him moaning in pain when I came home. Instead he talked with excitement about the procedure, and how weird it was to have a numb nose and lips for a while, and how he was so nauseous on the ride home that he.... ("That's enough! Please don't talk about that at the dinner table!")

The worst oral surgery I've ever had was a surgical removal of a wisdom tooth, but when I was about my son's age, or younger, I had to get an "appliance" to correct a crossbite. (Didn't work -- I still had to have braces a few years later.) There was some metal thing that sat in the roof of my mouth and it was supposed to shift several crowded teeth around. They used novacaine on me and maybe laughing gas, too.

The office of Dr. Smith, the dentist, was in the Warren Building, along with several other doctors we saw. Often after a doctor's visit in that part of town, we'd stop by the little dairy stand / burger place on 61st just west of Sheridan. (The building is a Goldie's now; it had another name when I was a kid.) After my appliance was installed, Mom bought me a root beer float there as a treat. I tried to drink it, but with my mouth so numb it was just too strange.

After other doctor visits we would go to the playground at LaFortune Park. I remember my sister and me playing there wearing our post-eye-dilation paper sunglasses, following a visit to Dr. Carroll the ophthalmologist.

One other piece of mouth-related family news: The baby is now making motorboat noises. Not just a raspberry, this is a sustained and vocalized lip-flapping noise, with pitch rising and falling. When he pauses, big brother can start the motorboat up again by blowing in his face. He still doesn't have any teeth yet, but as much as he's drooling, it shouldn't be long now. Meanwhile, big sister is reporting that her two front teeth are very loose; she may not be able to withth uth Merry Chrithmath thith year.

Slain in the bedspread

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Toddlers have these games and routines that they want to do over and over again -- "fly me like Superman," "hold me upside down," piggy back rides -- and the more you repeat them the more they giggle. Don Danz and his little son Drew have a game that is distinctly Tulsan. It's called "Heal me," and there's a very cute video of it on Don's site.

It reminds me of when my oldest was about two years old. We were looking at a shoe, and he was asking me the names of the parts of it. When I told him which part was the heel, he said, "Daddy heals it at church."

(On a completely different topic, Don also has some thoughts about former Judge Donald Thompson's conviction, along with a nice picture of the judge in an orange jumpsuit.)

New frontier (part 2)

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As I said in the previous entry, this was our first ever visit to Oklahoma City's Frontier City theme park. It was just us guys, so we were going to ride as many rides as we wanted to, as often as we wanted to, without slowing down for anyone else. We ate before we went to the park, and it was hot enough (104, I think) that we weren't interested in eating during the day. We bought the big refillable drink cups and went through three fills each.

Because of the heat, the crowds were pretty thin, and we never had to wait in line for long. We rode the Wildcat (the wooden coaster) at least five times, the Silver Bullet (a steel coaster with a loop) three times, and the Prairie Schooner (like Pharoah's Fury at Bell's) at least six times. (My son rode it six times; I think I stopped at four.)

Neither of us are daredevils, but we both pushed our limits. Neither of us had been on a looped roller coaster before. The tallest and most noticeable ride in the park is Eruption, the slingshot ride that launches the six-person capsule 240 feet in the air. It's easy to spot from I-35. About mid-afternoon we had worked up the courage to try it, and we liked it so much that we did it again. It was a bit creepy to see ourselves rise above the tops of the supporting towers.

The park seemed shorthanded. A few rides were closed the entire day -- the train, the Terrible Twister, the Tomahawk. I overheard one ride operator say that they had closed several shops and food stands to try to keep as many rides open as possible. At another ride, I heard a couple of employees talking about the number of hours they'd worked the previous week: One was over 70, and the other was over 60. Despite that, everyone seemed to be polite and efficient.

We saw three shows. The gunfighters show had some impressive stunts and lots of silly humor. The World of Magic was excellent -- a real magic show with illusions involving swords, boxes, locked trunks, and attractive scantily-clad young women. There was a psychic segment, where the fakery was exaggerated to the point of being obvious. Good showmanship all around.

The third show -- Merlin's Magicademy -- was a waste of our time. It would have been helpful if the description had said, "Very small children will be delighted...." Despite the name, no genuine illusions (oxymoron?) were performed. It was all puppetry, lipsynched music, and some animatronic effects. I didn't even notice any little children actually being delighted with the performance, but it's hard to tell. Hot weather seems to make audiences less than responsive.

Most unexpectedly interesting ride: Casino, which looks like a roulette wheel that does some tilting and turning.

Most nauseating ride: As always, the Tilt-A-Whirl (known here as the Tornado) brings me closest to losing my lunch. The Rodeo Round-Up -- a kind of centrifuge -- was a close second.

Most relaxing ride: The ferris wheel.

Most boring ride: Treasure Mountain, the oldest ride in the park, would only be fun if you brought your own entertainment in the form of a date to make out with in the dark. A close second: The Swingin' Six Guns, a spinning swing ride, didn't spin fast enough to be fun. You could hardly feel the breeze.

Most interesting exhibit: In the waiting area for the Wildcat, there are photos and descriptions about the history of roller coasters, famous designers, and famous coasters. Wildcat was rescued from Kansas City's Fairyland amusement park.

Best ways to cool off: Renegade Rapids and the Mystery River log flume.

Rides we skipped: All the kiddie rides, the carousel, the Mindbender, the Hangman (a free-fall ride), the Diamondback, and the three that were closed.

Costs: We bought our tickets online and printed them at home, $26 each including tax, plus $3 "shipping", netting us about $7 total saved. Parking was $10. The refillable soda cups were $8 each, and $1 for each refill. We managed to steer clear of the games and the add-ons, except for the photo you see above, which was just too good to pass up as a memento of our day together.

My oldest son just turned ten, and to celebrate, I took him for an overnight trip to Oklahoma City.

Saturday morning, we drove most of the way down the old highway, 66, and part of the way down some very old highway. I got off the turnpike at Kellyville. Just west of the 66-33 junction you can see what's left of the native stone tourist cabins that Max Meyer built.

About seven miles east of Bristow, on a whim, I turned back on an older 66 alignment, which rejoined the main road from the southeast. Turned out that this was the dead end segment that has an impressive native stone tourist court -- a single building with multiple units. It's less than a mile from the main road.

As we drove my son was telling me all about the Pixar movie Cars and the old Route 66 town of Radiator Springs where most of the action takes place.

We stopped at the Rock Cafe in Stroud for a cold drink. The cafe's souvenir stand next door had an impressive array of merchandise from the movie Cars. My son picked up the issue of Route 66 Magazine that featured the movie (he pored over it while drinking his root beer at the cafe's counter), and I bought a guidebook to 66 in Oklahoma, showing all the alignments and the years they were part of the highway.

That book led us to an old '20s alignment which had originally been part of the Ozark Trail, a named auto route that predated the U. S. numbered highway system. There's a tall obelisk (20 feet perhaps?) a few miles west of Stroud; apparently it had been a marker for the route.

We drove down Davenport's brick Broadway, got turned around trying to get back to the main road, and found ourselves going through an interesting arch railway viaduct southwest of town.

In Arcadia we stopped at the Round Barn. I remember visiting when renovation was barely started back in 1990. The loft, which has amazing acoustics, is used for dances and other events, as it was back in the day. Downstairs is a museum about the Round Barn and the town of Arcadia. Butch, the curator, is a local native, and has posted birds' eye view sketches of the town as he remembers it from his childhood.

One of Butch's displays is from the diary of the original barn owner, about a trip in the 'teens from Arcadia to California. It took three hours to get as far as Oklahoma City. It took from Thursday morning to Monday night to make it to Amarillo, with occasional stops to pull the car out of a mud hole or to wait for a ferry.

In Oklahoma City, we headed for the 45th Infantry Museum. The Thunderbirds have an illustrious history, fighting their way from Sicily to Munich during WW II and on Pork Chop Hill and Heartbreak
Ridge in the Korean Conflict. My son has been reading a lot of books about World War II lately, and he drank it all in. A highlight of the museum is the collection of over 200 "Willie and Joe" cartoons from the war which Bill Mauldin donated to this museum dedicated to his old outfit. It was the 45th that liberated Dachau Concentration Camp, and there is a special exhibit about the horrors they found when they entered.

Outside there are land and air vehicles from WW II and Korea on display. We spent over two hours at the museum and didn't have time to explore the place fully.

We went to Bricktown. I gave my son a choice between a movie and a ballgame, and given the temperature at the time, he opted for a movie. We got a bite at the Bricktown Sonic, then saw Monster House, a Dreamworks SKG computer animation done using the same methods that were used to such impressive effect in The Polar Express. Monster House has its scary and thrilling moments, deserving of its PG rating. My son really enjoyed it, and I have to say that it kept my attention, too.

Today we went to Frontier City, after a hearty breakfast (him) / lunch (me) at Cracker Barrel. Despite driving past it for nearly four decades, I had never been to Frontier City. We had a great time. Great thrill rides, a terrific magic show, and bumper cars that I was allowed to ride. I'll save details for another entry.

We had planned to stay 'til closing, but my son wanted to eat at the Rock Cafe on the way back to Tulsa, so we left early enough to make it there by 8:20. He had nachos, I had a guacamole burger -- both quite good. He was amused by the glass bottle that his Coke came in. "Where can you get these?"

We were home at ten, about 36 hours after we left, both exhausted and hot. (My car's AC stopped working, and I hadn't had time to get it fixed.)

Desi Wok, family-style

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Wednesday night it was just my wife, the baby, and I -- big brother was at choir camp, big sister was staying with Grandma -- so we decided to try dinner at Desi Wok, the Indian/Chinese restaurant on Hudson just north of 41st.

The food was very good. We had the chicken tikka masala and the shrimp Thai pepper stir fry.

The service was friendly, too. The baby got restless after a while in his high chair, so I took him out and tried to hold him on my lap while I continued eating while not letting him within grabbing reach of my plate. One of the waitress/order-takers, who had been flirting with him earlier, asked if she could hold him for a while. We said sure, and for the next 10 minutes or so, she or one of her coworkers held him behind the cash register. It was like being at a big family dinner and a cousin offers to hold the baby while you finish eating.

We wouldn't ordinarily pass our baby off to a stranger, but we were at the nearest table to the register, so I could (and did) keep a close eye, and there were enough people around that there would have been plenty of witnesses if anything bad had happened. And I think we felt more comfortable because it seemed to be a restaurant that, like a number of Asian places around town, was owned and operated by an extended family. At this sort of restaurant, it's not unusual to see aunts and cousins, older folks and small children around the restaurant, sometimes helping, sometimes just visiting.

Friendly place, good food, reasonable prices, and, as far as I know, the only place you can get Indian food around town without going to south Tulsa.

In 1983, after my sophomore year in college, I went on a summer missions project to the Philippines with Campus Crusade for Christ. I spent two months living in Quezon City and working alongside staffers at Far Eastern University in Manila, evangelizing students with the Four Spiritual Laws and helping to train the students involved in the CCC chapter there.

The project involved about 25 American staff and students, who were split up in teams between Metro Manila, Baguio City, Iloilo, and Cebu. I spent all but a few days in Metro Manila; our team took an R&R break in Baguio City and Bauang, on the South China Sea in La Union province.

The project director was Greg Ganssle. Greg was campus director at Marshall then; he went on to get a Ph.D. in Philosophy and is now involved in something called the Rivendell Institute. I met Greg the previous summer, when he was assistant director of the 1982 Ocean City, New Jersey, summer project. I didn't see much of Greg that summer -- he spent it in Iloilo.

Instead our assigned male staffer was Jon Rittenhouse, then campus director at Michigan Tech. Years later, Jon became the inspiration for a comic strip character. (He was much tamer, although rather uptight, in 1983.) My fellow students were John Parker "Beach" Ward (Marshall), Eric Christiansen, Mary Jane Carlson, and Christina West (Miami of Ohio). There were two staff women from the states assigned to Manila: Norma Valencia from CCC headquarters and Sara (whose last name I forget). Beach Ward and I kept each other sane and laughing that summer.

Some time ago I scanned in some of the slides I took in the Philippines. Tonight I posted them on Flickr, mainly for the benefit of my friend Jenny, who was a psychology student at FEU in 1983. She found me again a couple of years ago, courtesy Google, and she keeps me up to date on Filipino political intrigue. (Helps to keep the Tulsa situation in perspective.)

As a whole, the photos aren't all that representative of the summer; the set is weighted heavily toward special events, like an R&R trip to Baguio City in the mountains, but there are some photos of staff and students at FEU and of the house where we stayed and the Crusade staff trainees that we shared it with.

Click the coconut warning sign below to see the photo set.

(And yes, I'm aware that the pictures are horribly underexposed.)

Click the photo for a 3000x2000 (300 dpi) version of the photo of me that ran over my column during most of 2006.

Michael D. Bates, columnist for Urban Tulsa Weekly

Our little one is now six and a half months old. At his six-month checkup back on July 11, he was 17 lbs. 6.5 oz., 26" long, and a 45 1/2 cm. head circumference.

It was about that time that we started him on some solid food: oatmeal and rice baby cereal, applesauce, squash, and today for the first time green beans. There has been the expected change in diaper contents. The baby is a good eater, and my wife is happy that she is no longer his sole source for calories.

He can roll now, too -- both directions and for quite a distance. Strings are very entertaining. He occasionally makes a "ba" sound, although the consonant is about halfway between a b and a v, a consonantal compromise made famous by Amy Grant in her hit single "Baby, Baby" (aka "Vavy, Vavy"). Mostly he utters these happy squawks, like a parrot or a grackle. (All three kids went through this squawking phase, and it always reminds me of a fraternity brother who would emit loud squawks to startle people.)

He loves drinking water. He will sip it out of a cup or a bottle. I opened a bottle of Ozarka the other day while I was holding him: He grabbed it with both hands and latched his mouth onto the opening.

Our oldest had his first violin lesson with his Mom today. He's been anxious to start learning.

The nearly-six-year-old has mixed up baby food and fed the baby several times, and she is deservedly proud of being such a helpful big sister.

A week ago, the whole family made our annual trek with friends to the Bartlesville Playground, aka the Kiddie Park. This little collection of two dozen rides, mainly for kids ages 1 to 10, has been around for over fifty years. It was there when my family lived in Bartlesville in the late '60s, and it is fun to see my kids on the same rides -- the train (and the tunnel that everyone screams in), the carousel, the biplanes that you can make go up and down, the little ferris wheel where everyone sits in a kind of painted cage, the little boats, the little cars.

Here's a picture of me (left foreground) and my sister (just behind me, looking directly at the camera), in the summer of 1968. I am not positive, but I think that is my Uncle Robert -- six years my senior -- in the background, just above my head. In the left background, I believe, is my grandmother, my Aunt Connie, and my Aunt Gerry (pregnant with my cousin Mandy). Mom must have been taking the picture.


This year was a little awkward. The baby can't sit up for long by himself, so he was too small for the rides, while my almost-10-year-old was too tall for all but about six rides. The almost-six-year-old was the right size for everything, including being big enough to reach the bumper car pedals and to steer without getting stuck in a corner or in a circle. We did take the baby on the carousel, and I held him on a horse for a few seconds, which he loved, before I handed him back to nervous Mommy.

To keep the big boy from getting too bored, I took him for a walk. I led him under the Highway 123 bridge to Delaware Street, the path my mom used to take me to walk to the playground at Johnstone Park. I showed him the vacant lot on the east side of Delaware between 1st and 2nd, where my first house in Bartlesville had been. We lived in that house from May '65 to sometime in the spring of '67, when we moved to Rogers St. near Jane Phillips Elementary. My earliest memories are in that house: Watching Ed Sullivan and space missions on TV, having a cut-out cake for my birthday (one I wouldn't let Mom cut), having my first dog, a beagle named Easy, and -- my very earliest memory -- on Easter Sunday looking out the kitchen window with my Grandma Bates at a rainbow.

From that house, we could walk to our church, the library, the grocery store, the park, the doctor's office (right across the street), the Sani-Pool, and all of the downtown shops, and Dad could walk to work. That was a good thing because our family's Ford -- the last one we ever owned -- wasn't a very reliable vehicle. This early experience obviously warped my impressionable mind into believing that getting around on foot was normal.

So I told my son all about this. I pointed out where the Thunderbird Cafe had been -- they had the jukebox buttons at each booth. (The building's still there at 2nd and Cherokee.) We walked down Frank Phillips toward the old Santa Fe depot. (It now houses the local Chamber of Commerce HQ.) I'm told that when my family lived in Lawrence, Kansas, Mom and I would take the AT&SF to visit her parents in Dewey, but I don't remember that at all. We did ride the train on my fifth birthday, just as far as Copan, just because I wanted to. (Dad met us in the car and brought us home.)

My son and I walked back to the Kiddie Park past Doenges Stadium, the 76-year-old ballpark that hosted Western Association and K-O-M League teams (Class D minor league) in the '30s and '40s, and is now home to American Legion baseball and national tournaments.

Back at Kiddie Park, we stayed until the place closed, as we always do. We always have a great time there.

(Here's an account of an earlier visit to Bartlesville. And OCPA pundit Brandon Dutcher, another former Bartian, took his family to the Kiddie Park earlier this summer, and has pictures.)

UPDATE: Tom Elmore writes in the comments on this entry:

Seems to me Bartlesville's reverent preservation of a tradition as gentle and wonderful as the Kiddie Park is worthy of the thanks and praise of anybody who still cares about what we used to call "civilization."

Father's Day notes

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This draft was started a couple of days after Father's Day, but I never got around to finishing it. In lieu of something more substantive tonight, here it is:

We celebrated Father's Day by taking my dad and mom to lunch at Mexicali Border Café at Main and Brady downtown. It's one of our favorite Mexican places; Mom and Dad had never been there. Great salsa (sort of halfway in texture and heat between Chimi's salsa fresca and salsa picante) and some delicious non-traditional Mexican dishes.

My wife and I had the Stuffed Carne Asada. At $13.95, it's one of the most expensive things on the menu, and we always consider getting something else (the Shrimp Acapulco is very tasty too), but we can't stand not to have this: "Fajita Steak stuffed with Melted Jack Cheese, Mushrooms, and Onions. Topped with Sautéed Pico de Gallo, Bacon and Mushrooms. Served with Rice, Borracho Beans and Saut�ed Vegetables." It's big enough and rich enough we always have enough to bring home for another meal. The sautéed vegetables (carrots, yellow squash, and zucchini) were nicely spicy and just crisp enough.

The waitress, Heather, deserves special praise. She managed to be both attentive and inobtrusive. Instead of interrupting conversation every five minutes to ask, "Everything OK?" she passed by regularly, noticed if anything needed refilling, and just took care of it. When she noticed one of us dabbing at a bit of salsa that had landed on a shirt, she brought out some club soda and some extra napkins.

I gave my dad a new sports shirt and a Johnny Cash CD. My Mother's Hymnbook is a collection of traditional hymns and gospel songs, sung with only a guitar for accompaniment. Cash recorded it in the few months between his wife's death and his own. I had come across it in the CD return shelf in the library, checked it out, and loved it. These are songs that we sang in the little Southern Baptist church I grew up in, but don't hear much in our PCA congregation: I'm Bound For The Promised Land, Softly and Tenderly, Just As I Am, When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.

(I've found all sorts of gems on the library's CD return shelf, things I probably wouldn't have sought out on purpose: Spike Jones' Greatest Hits; Sam Cooke: The Man Who Invented Soul, a four-disc set; a two-disc set of everything Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters recorded together.)

The kids gave me a Louis Armstrong CD, a Patsy Cline CD, and the original version of Asleep at the Wheel's first Bob Wills tribute CD, along with a new clock radio that synchronizes itself to the atomic clock via shortwave.

I already had a version of this disc -- the "dance remix", which has a black cover. I bought it as motivation/reward when I refinished the kids' wood floors last summer, and I liked it, but some of the tracks (five of them, to be precise) seemed unnecessarily tarted up -- as if some producer didn't think classic Western Swing was good enough to get people out on the dance floor. On "Big Ball's in Cowtown," the dance version is almost double the length of the original, padded out with backup singers singing "Cowtown, Cowtown, we're all goin' to Cowtown" over and over and over again. Then there's the bizarre addition of the same two measures of "Yearning," digitally transposed into three different keys for the intro to the song -- somehow that made it a dance version. Similar weirdness is inflicted upon "Hubbin' It," "Corrine, Corrina," and "Old Fashioned Love." At least they left 13 of the songs alone.

I had heard the unadulterated versions of a couple of the tracks from the white-covered original edition, and put it on my wish list, a wish my wife and kids were kind enough to fulfill.

The album features famous modern country artists (e.g., George Strait, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks -- Huey Lewis, too) singing or playing Bob Wills tunes alongside Asleep at the Wheel and some of the original Texas Playboys -- Eldon Shamblin, Johnny Gimble, and Herb Remington.

"Yearning," sung on this album by Vince Gill, has become a favorite of mine. It was a Tin Pan Alley tune, published in 1925 by Benny Davis and Joe Burke. (Davis and Burke also wrote "Carolina Moon." Burke also wrote "Tiptoe through the Tulips" and "Rambling Rose." Davis also wrote "Baby Face.") Somehow this sweet little tune found its way into both the standards and Western Swing repertoires -- Nat King Cole, Tommy Dorsey, and Frank Sinatra, Spade Cooley and Bob Wills all recorded it. Merle Haggard sang it on the final album with Bob Wills (For the Last Time), but I like Gill's version a little better, if only because it includes both verses.

The songbird yearns to sing a love song.
The roses yearn just for the dew.
The whole world's yearning for the sunshine.
I have a yearning too.

Yearning just for you,
That's all I do, my dear.
Learning why I'm blue,
I wish that you were here.
Smiles have turned to tears,
Days have turned to years.
Yearning just for you,
I hope that you yearn, too.

When shadows fall and stars are beaming,
'Tis then I miss you most of all.
I fall asleep and start a-dreaming.
It seems I hear you call:

Yearning just for you,
That's all I do, my dear.
Learning why I'm blue,
I wish that you were here.
Smiles have turned to tears,
Days have turned to years.
Yearning just for you,
I hope that you yearn, too.

I've enjoyed the gifts from my children, but the greatest Father's Day gifts of all are the children themselves.

Our pretty flower

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Here's a photo of our almost-six-year-old, taken back on Easter Sunday.


This is one of the best photos yet of our nine-year-old, taken as his official baseball photo. (I cropped it to just his head for the website.) Kevin Bender, a dad at our school, took the team and individual photos this year.


Good looking kid, isn't he?

First consonants!

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My five-month-old boy is very talkative, but until recently all the noises have been vowel sounds -- coos, creaks, squeals, and squawks, but not a single plosive or stop.

But yesterday, on Father's Day no less, he looked at me and uttered "da!" followed by a lot of other noises. I tried to get him to say it again, but instead he regaled us with the first consonant he mastered, the old bilabial fricative. I'll try not to take that as personal commentary.

Cute five-month-old baby

It was a productive day, 'though you'd never know it by visiting here.

  • Ate a polish sausage with sauerkraut in the parking lot of Lowe's after picking up supplies for the day's chores.
  • Bought gifts and a card for my dad for father's Day.
  • Installed new valve and supply line in the master bathroom's toilet tank.
  • Installed new doorknob on the kitchen half-bath door.
  • Installed new digital thermostat.
  • Listened to five-year-old read the last of the second Dick and Jane compendium.
  • Read a chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to the nine-year-old.
  • Listened to the five-month-old blow raspberries.
  • Took a nap listening to the rain and the rumbling of the late afternoon thunderstorms.
  • Blogging. Still TBD.

There are a few new items on the linkblog. Be sure to check that out.

Gibson guys

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It has been a busy few weeks around our house, as school-related activities lingered on into the first couple of weeks after the end of classes, even as summer activities have already begun.

My nine-year-old son and I spent last night camping at Paradise Cove in Sequoyah State Park on Fort Gibson Lake with five of his classmates and their dads. My son got to ride with a couple of the other dads on Sea-Doo, and he spent a lot of time waist-deep in the lake, fishing.

At about 9:30 last night, I thought we were done for the day, ready for bed. My son wanted me to read another chapter of the second Harry Potter book to him, and we were getting ready to do that when someone starts a campfire. So we roast marshmallows. One of the other dads read a story from a missionary book and a chapter from Jim Stovall's book The Ultimate Gift.

So now we're done for the night, yes? No. It was time to set out the jugs. My son and I could either go out right then -- it was nearly 11 -- or we could wake up in the middle of the night to check and rebait the lines.

With jug-fishing, you take a heavy plastic bleach or detergent jug (well-rinsed and with the lid in place) and tie a length of string to the handle and a weight at the other end. For each weight we used half a brick, with a wire twisted through the holes to provide a handle for tying the string. A couple of shorter lengths of string are tied in between the jug and the weight, and a hook is tied to each of the shorter lengths. The string was just ordinary nylon string, like kite string, rather than fishing line.

We went out on that first run with two other dads and two other kids. We took the boat to the other side of the lake, then one of the other dads unwound each jug line, baited the hooks with perch and minnows and set it out. There was a full moon and it was nearly calm, so it was a nice night to be out on the water.

We were back in the tent at about midnight. I must have slept well, because I'm told there were some loud late night partiers nearby, and I never heard them.

This morning, we had a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and fried potatoes, cooked over a Coleman stove. Before breakfast, while I slept, my son did some more fishing along the shore. We packed up around 10 to head across the lake to Taylor Ferry Marina. A couple of the dads had Sea-Doos, and kids took turns going for a ride and fishing from the dock.

We all had lunch in Wagoner at Runt's BBQ. I had the pork tenderloin sandwich, which was much like the porkchop sandwiches you can get at the Tulsa State Fair. Someone had the catfish sandwich -- two enormous cornbread-coated filets on a bun. My son pronounced the chopped beef delicious.

After lunch we parted ways. My son and I headed to the town of Ft. Gibson to see the old stockade, which is a 1930s recreation of the 1820s frontier fort. (It would be fun to visit during one of their encampments, when re-enactors spend the weekend dressed in period uniforms.) The later fort buildings, which date from the 1840s, are still standing. I believe the town is the oldest continuously-settled place in the state.

In downtown Fort Gibson they were having their annual classic car show. My son said his feet were tired, and he didn't want to stop, but once we started looking around he was glad we did. We saw everything from a Model T to a Mazda Miata: a Dodge Dart Swinger, lots of Chevy Bel Airs, a 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood, a Willys Jeepster, Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs. We both goggled at a T-Bird with an amazing sparkling golden-green paint finish. (I think I had a Hot Wheels car that was just that color.)

So that was our weekend, or the first part of it, at any rate.

It was the close to a busy week, which is partly why I haven't written much here.

I fielded a lot of phone calls during and right after the filing period from candidates and prospective candidates. I was happy to see Bob Dick stand down and to see State Rep. Fred Perry enter the District 3 County Commission race. Cliff Magee, who ran a strong race for City Council earlier this year, and would have been another excellent candidate for the seat, filed on Wednesday, but has withdrawn his name from the ballot and has endorsed Fred Perry.

I was also happy to see former Tulsa City Councilor Anna Falling enter the District 1 County Commission Race. I got to know Anna when she beat me in the 1998 District 4 Republican primary, and we worked together during her term of office. I'm told that Tracey Wilson, another competitor for that seat, is the leader of the homeowners' association in unincorporated north Tulsa County. I don't know Tracey, but I have a great deal of respect for the other folks I've met from that group, who worked to stop annexation of their rural area.

On Tuesday, our part of midtown, near the Fairgrounds, was hit by the early morning microburst. We were without power for about seven hours, and we lost a few tree limbs, but we were relatively unscathed. Two of our neighbors had oak trees just fall over. One of the trees fell onto grass, but the other fell into the house and the next door neighbor's house, and when the roots popped up, they pulled the water line up, too.

I'm a member of the Downtown Kiwanis Club, and this is our big week -- the Miss Oklahoma Pageant, which the club has sponsored since the 1960s, providing the manpower for the event and raising the scholarship money that will be awarded to the winners. On Monday, at our regular weekly luncheon, we hosted all 44 contestants, along with the contestants in the teen pageant. I sat at a table with Miss NSU, Miss Skiatook Area, and Miss Claremore -- it was the first time competing for Miss Oklahoma for all three, and for Miss NSU it was the first year she had competed in any pageant. (The other two had competed in Miss Oklahoma-affiliated local pageants before.)

Also at our table was Miss South Oklahoma City Outstanding Teen -- one of the teen pageant contestants. Every contestant has to adopt a "platform" -- a cause to promote, and hers was one of the more interesting. Miss South OKC's adopted cause was the Ophelia Project, an effort to deal with relational aggression, a kind of bullying that can be even harder to take than physical aggression.

Early Thursday morning I did my little bit for the pageant, delivering several dozen donuts and sausage rolls from the good folks at the 44th and Memorial Daylight Donuts store to the ORU dorm where the contestants were staying, delivering them before the ladies were up for breakfast. I guess when you're in the midst of the competition a few donuts aren't going to spontaneously add dimples to your thighs.

My kids had Vacation Bible School this week, and my wife helped watch the workers' babies in the nursery. The two big kids had swim lessons in the afternoons, too. My son had an end-of-school class swim party. My daughter spent Friday with Grandma, playing and baking. Both kids went with Grandma and the cousins on Tuesday to see "Over the Hedge", but the theatre's copy of the movie had broken!

The baby is smiling more and more, laughing and squealing, and even coughing for attention, a trick he picked up during a recent cold. If he's sitting on someone's knee, he will rock back and forth when he hears music he likes. At last Friday's Tulsa Boy Singer concert, he started rocking during several songs and every time people applauded. When he started getting a bit vocal himself, I took him outside and for a walk with his stroller. We walked up to 2nd and Cincinnati and watched the bicycle race. He finally dozed off as we arrived back at Trinity, and I watched the end of the concert from the narthex as he snoozed in the stroller.

By the way, even though I haven't been blogging much, I have been adding a link or two every day to the linkblog -- that's an easy way for me to call attention to something I found interesting, without making me feel like I need to write a novel about it.

Viva Casa Viva


At the end of last September, Tulsa's Casa Bonita closed its doors, but only because the space was to be leased to the founder of Casa Bonita, Bill Waugh, for a new Casa Viva restaurant. Same concept, same decor, and the original ownership.

The restaurant reopened this Monday, and tonight, as a belated end-of-the-school-year treat, our family had dinner there.

Everything had a bright new coat of paint, but otherwise it is the same place, with the same basic menu. The system is slightly different; you pay when order, as you come in, which makes putting a tip on a credit card, a bit awkward, and makes it impossible to add something later (e.g. deciding you want a soda in mid-meal).

They are still working out some kinks with the system. They forgot to put guacamole on my all-you-can-eat dinner. There was some confusion at the order pickup window. We got hold of some sticky silverware, which was promptly replaced. When there were problems the staff were prompt and polite in fixing them. Everyone enjoyed their food.

After dinner, we walked around to look at the other rooms. It looks like they may have reopened some eating areas that had been closed, including the old jail. Here are my two big kids in front of the Treasure Room.


We played some arcade games, then went back to the old cantina for the magic show. We finished up at the arcade. My five-year-old liked the alligator-slapping game and the dragon-stomping game. (I helped on the alligator game, and we set the high score.) The nine-year-old played the Star Wars podracer game a couple of times. I played Centipede, and my wife had a try at Skee-Ball.

All told, we were there about two-and-a-half hours, and it was a fun evening for the whole family.

So said the Lord through the prophet Amos, and although the context is about the nation of Israel's walk with God, the verse has often been applied to marriage and friendship, and even business partnerships.

New York City radio talk show host Kevin McCullough asks an interesting question on his blog: Would you marry, or have you married, someone who holds radically different views on politics and culture? Click through that link -- Kevin would like to know your answer to that question.

Here's my perspective:

I can see political opposites being attracted to one another, but I can't see someone who is passionate about his political values and committed to bringing them to fruition yoking himself to someone who is just as passionate about the opposite values. I think it would even be asking for trouble if someone passionate about politics married someone noncommittal on the subject.

Before I met my wife, I had a mental list of a few must-haves and show-stoppers in a potential mate. Among the must-haves: It was essential that she be an evangelical Christian and a political conservative. I had been active in pursuit of my political and spiritual values, I expected that to continue throughout my life, and I thought it would be important for my wife to be pulling in the same direction.

My wife wishes I were less busy than I am, but she is very accommodating and patient of my various civic involvements because she agrees that what I'm working for is important.

I'm not sure which would be worse for someone like me -- to be married to someone actively working to defeat what I'm trying to accomplish, or to be married to someone who thinks politics is just dumb.

It's been a busy but fun couple of days.

Friday was "Oklahoma Day" for my son's grade -- they spent the day at a little farm in the south part of town, reliving the days of early Oklahoma Territory. There was a re-enactment of the 1889 Land Run, complete with covered wagons.

When my 3rd grade class had a land run (34 years ago, on the football field at Holland Hall's 26th and Birmingham "Eight Acres" campus), it was every man for himself. Chip McElroy had a motorized covered wagon, which he built with his dad. I think I pulled my little red wagon.

My son's school was much better organized. They put the students together in "families" of three or four. My son's "family" staked one of the nicer claims in the territory, a shady spot for the picnic. The girl in the "family" was supposed to be his pretend wife, but she opted to be his pretend daughter instead, which was fine with him. (The opposite sex is still cootie-infested at that age.) The girl had an era-appropriate explanation for the lack of a mother in the family: "She died in childbirth."

After a dinner out with my in-laws, in honor of my wife's recent birthday, the in-laws headed back out of town, and our family headed up to the Osage Casino north of Sand Springs to hear Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, one of a series of free Friday night concerts. Even though kids aren't allowed in the casino, they were allowed at the concert, and I was happy that my kids got to see these legendary performers in person.

It was mainly the same line-up that played the Bob Wills' Birthday Bash at Cain's Ballroom back in March, headed up by vocalist Leon Rausch and guitarist Tommy Allsup. (Here's Leon Rausch's tour schedule for the rest of the year.)

The steel guitarist this time was Bobby Koefer, who played with Bob Wills in the '50s. (If you've seen some of Wills' musical short subjects from 1951, that's Koefer on steel. I googled and found this comment on Koefer's style: "The amazing Bobby Koefer plays bare fingered, with an odd shaped bar.")

It was a thrill to get to see and hear Koefer play. Because I was holding a baby, we were allowed to sit right on the front row. My wife was concerned about the speaker volume at that distance so before long she and the baby sat in back while the big kids and I sat up front. It was fun to watch my kids' smiles as they recognized the intros to familiar tunes (familiar in our house, anyway) like "Cherokee Maiden" and "San Antonio Rose".

As old as some of these fellows are, they still have a lot of energy to put into their music. It was a wonderful performance. It was a hoot to hear Bobby Koefer sing "Hawaiian War Chant" -- he really threw himself into it.

This morning I fulfilled my duties as one of about 400 members of the State Committee of the Oklahoma Republican Party, as we elected a new State Chairman to replace Gary Jones. Former State Auditor Tom Daxon won out over State Reps. Doug Miller and Forrest Claunch. The consensus seemed to be that there were no bad choices in the bunch.

The State Committee is made up of the chairman and vice chairman of each county party, plus a state committeeman and committeewoman from each county, and every elected Republican who serves at the State or Federal Capitol. Miller seemed to have the support of many legislators, but Daxon evidently had the support of the grassroots party officers.

Over the course of the meeting, we heard speeches from Sen. Jim Inhofe, the many candidates for the 5th Congressional District, and several candidates for the legislature. There was a gubernatorial debate at lunch between U. S. Rep. Ernest Istook, State Sen. Jim Williamson, and Tulsa businessman Bob Sullivan -- more about that tomorrow.

One of the pleasures of the meeting was getting to reconnect with fellow activists, including several folks I got to know through the 2004 Republican National Convention. (Today I wore my official 2004 delegation blazer -- navy blue with the Oklahoma Osage peace shield on the breast pocket.)

After the meeting I reconnected with Charles G. Hill of Dustbury fame, and we had a pleasant and wide-ranging conversation, as you would expect if you're a regular reader of his blog. (If you're not a regular reader of Dustbury, you're missing a treat.) Our chat made this week's Saturday Spottings, his regular roundup of observations around Oklahoma City.

As we were leaving Gilcrease after the inauguration, Christi Breedlove took this photo of the whole Bates family, just outside the museum entrance:

Michael Bates and family

The little one was a bit upset. Just before the photo, former Tulsa County Democratic Party Chairman Elaine Dodd had been holding him. He seemed quite content with her until we took him away to take the picture. We will have to keep a close eye on him for any ideological deviationism. :)

Zs without Ezzo

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Two nights ago our 10-week-old boy slept 7 hours straight. Last night he slept for 6 1/2 hours.

We used Gary Ezzo's scheduled feeding method with our first two kids: A minimum of three hours from the start of one feeding to the start of the next, and if the baby starts crying before it's time for another feeding, let him cry it out.

The Ezzo method seemed to work well with the first, who slept through the night at six weeks, and never had problems gaining weight or nursing. It didn't work as well with the second; my wife had supply problems, the baby had trouble nursing efficiently, and we had to supplement with formula, going to all formula after about six months.

Over the last few years, we had read enough about problems with Ezzo's method (and Ezzo's character) to decide we weren't going to do things the Ezzo way this time. What we saw as the method's success with our first child was really just that it happened to fit his natural cycle. It's like assuming that the "see-say" method of reading works because some children do very well with it, even if most would be better served to be taught phonics.

This baby has been nursed on demand. He has been rocked and swung and bounced to sleep. He has been allowed to fall asleep right after nursing. (The Ezzo method insists on awake time after eating and discourages letting your baby become "dependent" on assistance in getting to sleep.) I have some really sweet pictures of my wife snoozing in the nursing chair with the baby asleep in her arms.

Some friends from church lent us this amazing hammock-like device called an Amby Bed. The bed hangs from a spring and is attached to a frame with some flex to it. I put the baby in the bed, bounce and swing him gently for five minutes or so, and he is sound asleep. If he stirs, it creates enough movement to soothe him back to sleep. The idea, of course, is to mimic the motion he experienced in the womb.

We've been helped by the concept of the "fourth trimester," an idea put forth by UCLA pediatrics professor Harvey Karp:

Karp's premise is that infants need a "fourth trimester" to finish developing -- a luxury denied because of the biological imperative for babies to hurry up and be born before their heads grow too large for safe passage

That concept should relieve parents of the worry that by doing whatever helps to soothe our babies' crying or to help them sleep, we're somehow establishing negative patterns that will have to be unlearned later. Instead, we're helping our babies be comfortable, secure, and happy during a phase that they'll soon outgrow.

My wife and I saw a video by Karp that we borrowed from the library. He teaches five techniques, all starting with "S", to trigger what he calls the calming reflex in a baby: swaddling, hold baby on his side or stomach (not for sleeping), shooshing (white noise), swinging, and sucking. Swaddling hasn't worked well with our baby -- he manages to free his arms pretty easily -- but the other techniques have helped, particularly white noise and swinging.

UPDATE: My wife corrects my recollection re: swaddling:

One clarification should be added. After we saw the video and before the two month mark, I really worked on swaddling our baby, to stop those flailing arms, especially at night. Swaddling was very difficult with our big baby boy, but I believe it was quite important before our 2 month - 13 lb. mark.

I actually bought fabric that was larger than all of our swaddling blankets, before I could keep his hands tucked in well. This actually did gain me some extra precious sleep at night, perhaps by keeping his flailing arms from waking him up. After I began -successfully- tucking his arms in, I was able to get more than the 2 - 2 1/2 hour between the start each feeding many nights. (I tried to keep daddy from noticing some of those nighttime feedings, so I don't think he noticed the swaddling change that month as much as I did.)

Any new nursing mother can sing the glorious change in schedule when the baby shifts from needing a meal every 2 or 2 1/2 hours to the "increased freedom" of the 3 - 3 1/2 hours apart schedule. (Of course this is a general shift - sometimes he wants the shorter cycle, but I have encourage those in the daytime hours when possible. I would like to fill the majority of his calories before the wee hours of the morning when possible.)

The first shorter cycle may allow 45 minutes to an hour of "free" time between each feeding, round the clock. (Don't expect coherent conversation or an orderly household here. Real sleep is only imagined at this stage. I even forgot how to turn on my car headlights for a moment during this stage. May God continue to bless the mom's who drove my kids home at this stage - they kept you safe on the road as well.)

The 3 or 3 1/2 hour typical schedule might mean that a mom has 1 1/2 to 2 hours that are not directly involved in feeding before the next cycle. That is a glorious graduation. I would not be surprised to find the size as well as age of a newborn has a role in this transition, but when they start as large as ours have, we have a good head start.

Perhaps the snuggly Amby bed has made a difference for us as well. This exhausted mom was willing to try any safe recommendations for some sleep help.

We haven't needed to swaddle much, or desperately resort to a swing as often lately. I am still going to be grateful, rather than expect the 5 or 6 hour break at night. It is a little too recent for me to claim it as a habit, but I am hoping for it. His big brother was a champ in this arena. They look alike, perhaps they will sleep alike as well.

The best thing about being free from the Ezzo approach is that there's no guilt in doing what you'd do instinctively -- pick up and comfort a crying baby. And our little boy is growing and healthy, and he gives us some precious smiles.

Baby Bates and Big Sis

Plenty to say

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... but no time to say it. We've been working with my son on his art report about Charles M. Russell and getting caught up on other household stuff.

(One of the things we love about our kids' school is that art education is a part of the curriculum from the youngest class on up -- learning about famous artists and their masterworks, not just names and dates.)

In the morning, I'll put up a link to my latest Urban Tulsa Weekly column. In the meantime, check out the linkblog above and the blogrolls over in the right-hand column.

The nine-year-old started, sometime not long before Christmas, rereading the first four books of The Chronicles of Narnia, which we had read together a year earlier, then finishing the last three, which he received for Christmas. He finished The Last Battle on Sunday, getting all the way through it in the course of the weekend. He wants me to get caught up, so now we'll read the last three volumes together for bedtime. We're thrilled that he's such a voracious reader.

Last week we finished reading the first Harry Potter book together -- first time through for both of us, and an incentive for him to get his homework done and ready for bed, so we might be able to get through two chapters before bedtime. It's a fun read, and yes, it has witches and wizards and poltergeists in it, but mostly it's about courage and loyalty and being a fish out of water. It's a great read, and we're looking forward to reading the next one together.

Finally, over the weekend I took the nine-year-old and the five-year-old to see "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." We all laughed ourselves silly. Like the best animated films, it can be enjoyed at several levels, and every scene is densely packed with funny details you might miss the first time around. The movie pays homage to monster movies -- a garden supply stand filled with hoes and pitchforks is quickly relabled "Angry Mob Supplies", and a vicar delivers the standard "this is what happens when we tamper with nature" speech.

If you're a British sitcom fan, you'll recognize some familiar voices. (I was not surprised but still disgusted to read that Dreamworks SKG wanted to replace Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace, with a recognizable American voice. They didn't get their way, I'm happy to say. Stupid Hollywood types have to Americanize everything.) You'll find a preview clip here. Here in Tulsa, it's in the dollar theatres, so you have no excuse. Go see it.

In case you missed it...

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For friends and family just now stopping by, scroll down to see a photo of our beautiful baby boy, who turned a week old today!

He had his first well-baby visit today, and the doctor was quite pleased with what he saw. We've been blessed to have the same pediatrician since our first was born, and in this day of frequent insurance changes, it's nice to have doctors, nurses, and office staff who know our family. It was funny (a very nice sort of funny) to be told, "We heard you talking about the baby on the radio yesterday with Michael [DelGiorno], and we were so excited!"

Oh, yes, and I finally awarded the prizes in the Name Game. Click that link and scroll down.


... a big, beautiful, boy baby!

He was born at 7:41 a.m., weighing 10 lbs., 0.3 oz., 21" long, with a 15" head circumference. Apgars were 8 and 9. Absolutely perfect. Mother and baby are fine. (It was a scheduled repeat C-section.) Praise God!

He was raising his head shortly after he was born. His foot barely fit on the inkpad they used for footprints. He has been able to nurse, although he's still in that first-day drowsiness and more interested in snuggling than eating. Around 7 tonight, he opened his eyes long enough to give us a good look. It looks like, for now at least, he has blue eyes like both his siblings.

This afternoon he met his big brother and big sister (who is very happy to be a big sister) -- both got to hold him -- his grandpa and grandma and grandmother, his cousins and aunt, and some family friends.

We are blessed to have three beautiful, healthy children. Thanks for your prayers.

Bottle Baby Boogie


The baby has been very busy. He/she must know that the big day is close at hand. A comment from my wife: "Imagine what feels like to have your belly button scraped... and stretched... from the inside." Your prayers for a safe delivery -- and for some good sleep before then -- would be appreciated.

I will announce the winners of the baby naming contest sometime by the end of the week. In the meantime, I will leave you with my favorite Western Swing song about babies -- from 1953, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys performing Bottle Baby Boogie. (1 MB low quality audio, soon to be removed)


(Bottle baby boogie)
I'm walkin' the floor.
(Bottle baby boogie)
Ain't gonna do it no more.
I told my wife, and I don't mean maybe,
This ain't gonna be no bottle baby.

Well, rock-a-bye baby, I'm still a-singin'.
When the baby starts cryin' my ears start ringin'.
My wife told me today,
"I got news for ya, honey, there's another on the way."

I fixed his bottles and I warmed his milk.
Things went along just as smooth as silk.
There'll be some changes made and not on the baby,
'Cause this 'un is yours and I don't mean maybe.

My fingers are sore from using safety pins,
While my wife just sits, looks, and grins.
And I'll hear those words 'til my dyin' day:
"I got news for ya, honey, there's another on the way."

That's Bob's baby brother Billy Jack Wills on the vocals, and on the solos you'll hear Billy Bowman and Vance Terry on steel guitar, Skeeter Elkin on piano, Eldon Shamblin on electric guitar, Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, and Jack Greenbach on drums. Billy Jack had his own successful western swing band based out of Sacramento in the early '50s -- even though this is Bob's band, this song gives you a good sense of Billy Jack's band's sound. (I just bought this album of songs from radio transcriptions -- his sound is a lot closer to rockabilly than the delta blues and Texas fiddle sound of his big brother. You can hear one song from the album, Caravan -- which isn't really very rockabilly -- played as bumper music for WFMU DJ Moshik Temkin. It's about 2 hours, 16 minutes into this archived broadcast.)

One last thing: There's potential for a parody of this song, if you substitute "Ezzo" for "Bottle" -- "told my wife, and I don't mean maybe, this ain't gonna be no Ezzo baby." Maybe Discoshaman and TulipGirl and the folks at can work up the rest of the lyrics.

Isn't modern technology amazing? Be amazed at this selection of boy names selected by the Baby Name Wizard at


Without knowing it, I must have selected the "name sounds like Grandpa clearing his throat" criterion.

Suddenly "Moe Tell" looks like a good alternative. (By the way, Jan, my wife said to tell you that she knows where you live.... :) )

(And, no, the baby isn't here yet -- just trying on the name for size.)

The website US Social Security Administration offers some fascinating statistics on baby names. Even if you aren't a parent or aren't likely to be anytime in the near future, you may find it interesting for what these lists reveal about the evolution of American culture over the last 120 years.

From the main page you can generate lists of popular names by birth year, going back to 1879; track the popularity of a particular name over a number of years; list the top 5 names for each state, for any year going back to 1980.

For any year from 1960 to the present, you can look up the top 100 names for each state.

My favorite is the top 1000 names by decade, from the 1880s to the present. It's striking that, in olden days, a much higher percentage of babies were given the most popular names. In the 1880s, 15% of boys were named either John or William, and 38% were given names in the top 10. For girls, 21% were given names in the top 10. So far in this decade, the numbers are 12% and 9% respectively. You can see the same trend in Scotland, although the percentages are almost double those of America both 100 years ago and today.

It would be interesting to combine the stats from different decades to see which names are the most timeless, which are tied most closely to their decades, and which display generational cycles. It would also be interesting to look at the top names for each state over the years to see how naming trends spread through the country.

Here's a question for you: In the top 100 girls names in Oklahoma for 2004, there's a name I've never seen before -- Cadence. Any idea where this name came from? Nationally, it was 958th in 2002, 474th in 2003, 218th in 2004. A cadence is something you sing when running or marching in a group, so why has it become a popular girl's name? Anyone?

Bananafana fo ... what?

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Must be something in the air, or maybe it's just aftershocks from 2004, the Year of the Blogger. Bloggers are getting well-deserved recognition from old dead-tree media. I know of at least two bloggers who are under contract for books related to the content of their blogs.

That good news comes at a cost to the Blogosphere, however. With book deadlines swiftly approaching, one of those two book-writing bloggers has cut down to one blog post a week, and the other, who also writes a weekly newspaper column, has put her blog in hibernation until the manuscript is finished.

You're about to see something similar happen here. I've already cut back on blogging. My column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is taking up a lot of my creative energy, and anytime I start writing a long blog entry, I think, "That could be a column." (I could write 1,000 words for free... or I could get paid for them. What a dilemma.)

My volume and frequency is about to take another hit. Like other bloggers who have cut back on posting, here at BatesLine HQ we've got a major project in the works that's about to come to fruition.

It's not a book, although it is a bit like writing a book. It all starts as a concept (a word related to "concept", anyway) and there's a good deal of time and labor involved in the production.

In one respect, it's easier than writing a book. If you have a book in you (everyone does, they say), it may stay in there forever. If you have a baby in you, after nine months it's coming out, one way or another, even if they have to slice you open to get it. (As far as I'm aware, there is no procedure analogous to a Caesarean section to get a book out of an author. I'm sure there are some book editors out there who wish such a thing existed.)

On the other hand, once you've delivered a book manuscript most of the hard