Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Our bodies lie to us sometimes

It's true. How do I know this, you ask? Well, I had a little bit of unplanned excitement last Friday night that was exacerbated by the lies my body told me.

As you may know, I 'm a pilot. (There's an old joke: How can you tell someone's a pilot? Don't worry, they'll tell you.) Anyway, I was on my own Friday while Sarah and her sister went to St. Louis to see the Indigo Girls. I decided to use some time to get some night flying in (in order to fly passengers at night, I'm required to have completed at least three takeoffs and landings at night in the last 90 days). The weather all day had been scuzzy, with low lying clouds and some rain. However, that night, the weather conditions for nearby airports were reported as clear, so I figured that I'd be okay stying close to the airport and getting my takeoffs and landings done.

Not so, as it turned out. As I took off and started climbing, I was no more than 500 feet above the ground when BOOM! - I couldn't see anything outside. No city lights, no horizon, no nothing. Those clouds are sneaky at night - they're as dark as the rest of the sky. In aviation parlance, I was in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), which means that you can't fly by looking outside for references. Now this in itself isn't a problem - that's why airplanes have instruments. The problem is that I haven't completed my training to be certified to fly in instrument conditions.

Fortunately, I have received some rudimentary training in instrument flying, and fortunately, some of that training must have taken hold, otherwise I might very well have been in a smoking hole near the airport instead of writing this. What we're taught when going into IMC (whether it's accidental or on purpose) is to stop looking outside and start concentrating on the instruments. Unless there's been a catastrophic system failure, the instruments are your ticket out of this mess.

The problems start when we listen to our bodies instead of trusting the instruments. Without an outside horizon for our eyes to reference, our bodies become quite disoriented because there are no cues available to interpret what our balance organs (the semicircular canals in our inner ear) are perceiving. The results are frequently bad: a small aircraft accident caused by spatial disorientation is fatal nine times out of ten.

So, here I am stuck in the clouds. Airplanes don't have a reverse gear; you can't just back up and get down to the runway the way you left, so that option is out. Meanwhile, I look at the instruments and realize I am in a climbing left turn that is getting quite steep. I wouldn't have known it if I hadn't been checking the instruments. So I straighten the airplane out and start ticking off my landing choices and getting the radios set up. Then I look at the instruments and see that I'm starting a downward spiral (again, my body doesn't know what's going on). Level the airplane. Flying on instruments by yourself really keeps you busy.

I did get back down on the ground safely, after about a half-hour of intense excitement. That was enough flying for one day. I learned the valuable lesson that your body can sometimes deceive you. Be careful!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Watch out for funky lumps!

Found yet another TC site through Tim Stollery's page. It's aimed more at the younger crowd and has lots of quick reads for teens who might be going through the TC wringer:

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A blast from the past

Got this in my inbox today from my folks' former neighbors. This picture is so old, it should be in black & white!

The kid behind me (Robert) is now a freshman in college, and the one in front (Katherine) is old enough to ride a m/c herself.

Plus, I'm wearing a watch -- a Swatch diving watch -- to further date things. I haven't worn a watch since July 1998, which, not coincidentally, is when Sarah and I were officially engaged. (Our marriage was a foregone conclusion from the time we started dating, at least in our own minds.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'm wondering....

I've been reading about the disaster in the delta region of our country through a New Orleans paper that is miraculously still publishing, at least on the internet, giving much desired news about the devastation to those of us who sit comfortably from a distance in awe, shock and horror.

One reason our home has been paying such close attention to the situation is because, as you all know, New Orleans is Frank’s childhood home; he lived there until he was 14. The city that holds his childhood memories has drown and there is a certain amount of grief that accompanies that coupled with the empathy many of us feel for the plight of those who rode the storm out. Another reason is that I, like many watch searching for clues on how I can help.

We've all heard those being displaced by floods and the destruction of the hurricane as "evacuees" in the last day the term "refugee" has been used more and more frequently. Imagine, you've been told to leave your town, you have no access to basic necessities like food and clean water, you have no idea what the next few hours hold for you, let alone the next few days and weeks.

Then I recalled the experience I had with our church youth at the Heifer Ranch in 2000 in what they call the "Global Village". Our group, along with the others at the camp, spent a night in a situation that simulated the differences found between the developing and undeveloped parts of the world.

We split up into new communities of people: Appalachia, Africa, Honduras (they had access to running water!), the Barrio, Asia (the mosquitoes were very big), and a group of Refugees, one of whom was "pregnant" which meant a water balloon secured with duct-tape inside the T-shirt one of them wore. The adult leaders were told that our role was to be a 2 year old toddler; they youth were in charge of decision making.

We were left there with the instructions that no one was to leave the village for the night and that there was enough food in the village for everyone to eat, although the food was not evenly distributed among the communities. Honduras had the most resources, including food and didn’t have to share with the rest of us if they didn’t want to; the refugees had nothing, not even a place to lay their heads. As I recall none of the refugees were from our church, but I do remember what an impact in made on me to see a small group of three wander around, asking for work to earn some food, to earn a place to stay for the night.

Our plight was not nearly as desperate as the situation in the Delta. Human nature being what it is we too had our share of "looting"--a member of the Barrio snuck back to the Heifer Hilton's soda machine and brought goodies back for his community. We had our share of "cheating" too; members who'd illegally brought candy into the village used it to "bribe" the 2 year olds into being quiet about breaking other rules. But we also knew that when it was over we'd get to take a shower, get into fresh clothes, and be able to cook a meal where no one would have to even worry about going hungry. And within a few days back to our homes in Missouri with our families and our “stuff”.

As I recall the experience we shared as we spent a night in another world, I wonder: what will our response to the situation in front of us will be? There are so many resources for us to pull together to share, what are you going to do? I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Peace, the Rev