Family: January 2009 Archives

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.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from January 2009.

Family: December 2008 is the previous archive.

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