Monday, May 31, 2010

We Are Family

On May 6, 1981, an Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA) tail number 61-0328 departed from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on a training mission with two spouses (non-crew members) on board; it was to be 328's be the last flight. The aircraft crashed at Walkersville, Maryland with 21 on board.

Three and months earlier (January 21, 1981) I had separated from the Air Force. I was an antenna operator on tail number 329, but sometimes flew on 328. I loved the job as antenna operator and flying to points around the globe - I literally got to see the world. But I tired of watching our daughter and now son grow up via something like time lapse photography with my frequent travels. So I made the decision to separate with just under 10 years service and refused to test for promotion knowing a promotion with 12 years of service would make it even more difficult to separate.

On that fateful day in May of the 21 people who died, I knew at least 14 of them. Maybe more, but the memories have begun to fade over the past 29 years. Nonetheless, I remember many of them very clearly and not just my best friend at the time.

But it wasn't just my best friend, I knew and respected almost everyone I had the honor to serve with - we worked diligently to do our jobs in the best possible way. And it was always a team effort.

At unit gatherings, the favorite song was "We Are Family" by Donna Summers. We looked out for each other - in the air, downrange, on the flight line, and when we were home.

At the Air Force Museum now known National Air Museum, you will find a memorial to those who died that day - 21 trees planted and a plaque with all their names. Including the two wives on board that day to share in the experience of what ARIA's mission was like and to help lower the divorce rate with the frequent travels. After all, this was a simple training mission - what we, the crew members, called flying around the flag pole.

Today, Memorial Day, May 31st, I salute my former crew mates as I do every May 6th as well. May their souls rest with God the father and Jesus.

Note: More information on ARIA may be found at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Empty, Very Empty

Everyone knows space is big, really big.

Most don't know though that space is empy, really really empty.

Almost everyone is unaware of just how empty space is. They are used to the elementary through high school displays of our solar system that makes it seem almost crowded - at least in our very on solar system.

However, there are a number of websites that help illustrate how empty the solar system is by building a solar system starting with something of size most of us are familiar with to replace the sun. Then the surprises come.

For instance if your build our solar system with the sun approximately 10 inches in diameter (roughly the size of a basketball), then the earth is approximately 9/100ths of an inch in diameter and 89 feet away. Again the earth is only 0.09 inches in diameter and one foot shy of being 30 yards away from the sun.

In between the earth and the sun (our basketball) are Mercury (0.03 inches in diameter and 11 yards and 1 foot from the sun (the basketball) while Venus - my favorite morning star - is 0.087 inches in diameter and just over 21 yard from the sun (our basketball).

So picture it this way: Set a basketball on the goal line of a football field then 11 yards out place the rollerball from a medium ink pen (0.7mm) follwed by 8.5 shot size pellet 21 yards out followed by 8.0 shot size pellet (our very own earth) at just under 30 yards out!

Of course you would have the largest planet, Jupiter, one inch (!) in diameter and 155 yards out. Then you have Pluto (almost the size of a BB here) on the outer edge of our solar system 1,280 football fields out from the original goal line.

So what inhabits our solar system that is 2,380 football fields in diameter measured to the furthest out planet?

The SUN - Basketball - size/10" - center

Then the planets
1 - Mercury - med ballpoint - size/0.035" - 34' to center
2 - Venus - 8.5 pellet shot - size/0.87" - 64' to center
3 - Earth - 8.0 pellet shot - size/0.92" - 89' to center
4 - Mars - med ballpoint - size/0.049" - 136' to center
5 - Jupiter - spinning quarter - size/1.00" - 465' to center
6 - Saturn - spinning U.S. nickel - size/0.84" - 854' to center
7 - Uranus - cooked green pea - size/0.034" - 1,718' to center
8 - Neptune - cooked green pea - size/0.033" - 2,694' to center.
9 - Pluto - BB pellet - size/0.016" - 3,540' to center

So if we think of our solar system not as the disc we usually consider, but as a sphere, we have a sphere 1.33 miles across with a basketball at the center, two medium size ballpoint pen balls, two peas, 3 pellets of different size, a spinning quarter, and a spinning nickel.

That's it. 1.33 miles in diameter and empty, almost completely entirely empty. The one thing that helps is the how our sun illuminates the entire solar system.

Bet you never look at those school displays of the solar system the same way again..

My Bride

It was an informal business dinner and there were six of us, two from out of state. My wife had not met the two from out of state, so I introduced her. “Chuck, Adrienne – this is my bride Sharon. Sharon,this is Chuck and Adrienne.” Everyone had a good meal and almost everyone told at least one good story and that was that, or so I thought.

A day later, I receive an email that said, “I like how you refer to Sharon as your bride. Where did that come from?”

Blank. Blank. Blank. Then blink … some of it started coming back.

As it is coming back, being an engineer and having a love for detail, I looked up the definition and synonyms for bride. The synonyms for bride are wife, spouse, partner, mate, helpmate, new married woman. Well all of those fit except the last one as we are approaching 39 years of marriage.

Then I ran the definition for bride and it was no help: a woman is about to be married or has recently been married. Okay, I think I will stick with the synonyms instead of the definition. As it is I simply like the feeling of affection behind the phrase, my bride, and it seems to add a sort of respect for our marriage and in some ways it remains new and fresh.

It helps to remember we eloped all those years ago, but it was only 14 years ago we got married in a church ceremony and dedicated our marriage to Christ. In that ceremony, bridal gown, tuxes and everything as if we were just getting married. It was the same as when a man first marries and sees his ‘bride’ as a gift. In this marriage ceremony, her father gave her away (and finally forgave us for eloping). He gave her to me! You have seen it on tv or in an actual ceremony where the pastor asks, “Who gives this bride/woman to this man?” Usually it’s a father, uncle or brother who gives the bride to the groom.

Oh, and one of my brothers, who couldn’t believe I had such a great catch and over the years would always ask me during a visit or phone call, “How is your bride doing?”

One additional thought that applies here. I had taken Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself to heart. Not so easy in practice, but in thinking about it, I asked myself who my closest neighbors were. Simple answer, my family. And the closest neighbor within my family – my wife, my bride. So If I was going to love my neighbor I was going to start with my closest possible neighbors and work my way outwards.

This had made a real difference not only with my bride, but with our children, our friends, our extended families. And in difficult times, I have only to remind myself, my bride is my closest neighbor and she is a gift from God to me for things to begin to get better.

Finally, it’s kind of simple, I just like it and so does she. So if we ever meet, don’t act too surprised when I introduce her saying, “This is my bride, Sharon.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review: Valley of the the Shadow

Have never read anything by this author before - Tom Pawlik, but the cover said "fans of Dean Koontz or Ted Dekker will appreciate Pawlik's debut novel, VANISH."

Well, I didn't have the debut novel, I had "Valley of the Shadow" and I used to really like Koontz's writing (especially liked his LIGHTNING and its treatment of time travel) and I am a big fan of Ted Dekker's writing when it comes to Christian fiction and a bit of Christian science fiction.

The title of this novel comes from Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" NIV. Odd that this verse is so familiar, but I never wondered or thought about 'the shadow' of death. In fact I had remembered it as "thought I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil" - I had dropped shadow off completely. Well, no more.

Pawlik had done an incredible job of providing a believable "valley of the shadow of death" and in doing so took me to book-world. For those not in the know, book-world is where you go when reading a book and the world around you dissolves and the world in the book becomes the real world - for at least a little while.

I recommend this book even though at times it jumps too often or suddenly from the "valley of the shadow" to one of two locations in the world we live in. I have to mention two powerful scenes, that stick with me still.

Number 1, the vision he presents of humans as they leave their bodily forms behind and "move" to join Jesus in heaven. Number 2, which makes number 1 possible, of one of the characters laying his hate, anger, and inability to forgiven at the foot of the cross. I wish I could say more about both, but I do not wish to give too much away.

Read it and enjoy your trip to book-world.


Married and then some

My bride's name is Sharon. This July 27th will mark 39 years of marriage. We got married before we knew God. Something difficult to imagine now. In fact we had only been dating about 8 weeks when I asked her, "Do you want to get married in one week or two weeks." It was two weeks!

Years later found out she thought I was going to ask her to go steady. Little did she know I had fallen in love with her over a year earlier when I first laid eyes on her. God had put her in my heart. But, she was dating my best friend. Finally they broke up and like a good friend - I waited 2 weeks to ask her out. After that I didn't waste any time.

We eloped on a Wednesday morning and got married in Marshall, TX. She was a military brat living on Barksdale AFB, LA and I was living in Bossier City, LA. And we got married in a fever not having the slightest idea on how to make it work.

But back to marriage.

Marriage gets better the longer it lasts ... if you make it past the first 10 years. Why do I say that? Sharon and a few other women were talking about marriage at church one Saturday afternoon. One of the ladies said, "I just can't figure my husband out and we have been married 8 years." Sharon and another lady started laughing, both said the first 10 years are the hardest. I didn't know that, although I can acknowledge their were some big rough spots in those years - and fewer in the years that followed.

Anyway, the point is, sometimes a marriage has to cook for 10 years or so before you know if it is going to last or not according to these women. There may be some truth to that. I would like to think so.

I know ours has been getting better each year for some time, at least on my end. Maybe that's because I see Sharon more and more as a gift from God in my life. I am grateful to God for the gift of Sharon and grateful to Sharon for sticking it out when I was way short of being a keeper.