Family: April 2011 Archives

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from April 2011.

Family: March 2011 is the previous archive.

Family: June 2011 is the next archive.

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