Friday, December 31, 2004

Tying up Loose Ends

2004 was certainly an eventful year for us,
and we managed to keep up the pace
right through to the end.

November Getaway to Seattle

After years of business trips to destinations all over Europe and the states, Dave finally had the opportunity to take Karen along on a conference trip to Seattle. We LOVED the city! While there we had a chance to watch the Seahawks win a nail-biter against the Miami Dolphins, we ate an evening meal in the Space Needle, watching the lights of the city as the restaurant turned, we went to church at Ken Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church, and we took long walks along the waterfront. It was a memorable trip and a great chance to get away for a while.


Thanksgiving in Kentucky

Thanksgiving was spent in Kentucky, in what has become a tradition at Aunt Kathy's house. The whole Burke side of the family showed up, including Dave's parents from Charleston, and sister Amy with her family from Atlanta. Grandma and Grandpa Burke were doing well, and Grandpa is gearing up to celebrate his 97th in January.

The food was awesome, the fellowship was great, and the football gave us opportunities to sneak naps.


4th Annual "Guy Road Trip"

Our fourth annual "guy road trip" to a football game took us to Atlanta this year, to watch the Falcons play the Raiders. The seats were the best we've ever had (right on the 50-yard line) and the game was,...well it wasn't so good for the Raiders. But there's always next year! The Falcons won the game handily and, as a result, sealed first place in their division. We made another attempt to lure the cameramen our way by wearing our Santa hats and proudly waving Tuck's sign saluting "St.Vick" (a reference to Atlanta's quarterback, Michael Vick), but to no avail.

We traveled to Atlanta on the day prior to the game this year, so we could stay with Amy and attend their church's Christmas program. The pageant included a "living, singing Christmas Tree, and an adaptation of the Dickens "A Christmas Carol" written by Eric that was brilliant! Eric also played the part of a Roman Centurion. The whole thing was excellent, and got our Christmas season started off in fine form.


Lots of Warmth But No Heat

Just days before Christmas, as Alabama temperatures uncharacteristically headed into the teens, our heat went out. Apparently our exhaust fan had been "laboring" for nearly a year, but it waited until December 18th to give up the ghost. We called a repair guy and he quickly identified the problem, so we thought everything was hunky dorey. Little did we know that getting the part would turn into a nearly two-week ordeal. Two days before Christmas it became clear that the part wasn't coming anytime soon. Christmas had brought the delivery system to a near halt and the holiday was upon us.

Once that sank in, we hung sheets in doorways and borrowed space heaters, and fired up the gas fire place to create pockets of warmth in an otherwise chilly house. The thermometer in the hallway read in the 40s for several days, and we started to get concerned for our water pipes during the overnight lows. But for all the adversity, we recognized early on that this was one of the most special Christmases we can remember. Something about those close quarters and facing adversity together brought a neat quality to the holiday this year.

The part finally came in on the 28th (Tucker's birthday), and now we just have to wonder what the utility bill is going to look like after running all those space heaters so long :-\


Maiden Voyage

Just before Christmas, Dave got a message from Kristen Barnett saying that her brother, Lewis, was coming to visit with his daughter, Lizzie, after Christmas. Lewis was Dave's school-mate, college roomy, and best man, and since Kristen and her folks live near Atlanta, in Kennesaw, Georgia, a plot was hatched to make some real use of that new pilot's license.

For days prior to the flight Dave scrutinized weather patterns, planned the route, and flew it repeatedly using the MS Flight Simulator program. Driving would have taken around 3 hours each way, but flying would take just a little over one hour. As Dec 30th approached, the weather started to look dicey. The forecasts finally got so bad on the night before that Dave was resigned to having to drive. It was a long night, but as morning broke, the forecast changed and Tucker and Dave headed for the airfield with their fingers crossed. By all accounts, the weather on the far end was good, so they took off and started the trip, knowing they might have to turn around if things deteriorated.

The flight ended up being wonderfully uneventful, yet totally exhilarating. There wasn't a single hitch in the plan. Tuck proved to be an extremely capable navigator, and his eagle eyes routinely saw checkpoints long before Dave could see them. He even spotted the buildings in downtown Atlanta as we neared our destination. When we landed at the Cobb County/McCollum airport (NW of Atlanta) the folks there treated us royally, and Kristen and Lewis picked us up just a few minutes later.

We spend a delightful few hours eating lunch with the Barnetts, reminiscing about old times, and wondering at how the years had passed so quickly. Dr Barnett presented Dave with an autographed copy of his second book, Pebbles in the Water, complete with a thoughtful note commemorating Dave's maiden flight. It was a great visit!

At about 3:30pm, we headed back to the airport, ran through our checks, and took off for home. The weather had cleared even more by then, so it was a delightful flight home, giving a fine finish to a great day.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Hurricane Ivan

Hurricane Ivan comes to Town
And Leaves a Lasting Mark on our Yard

After barely getting out of Venezuela before Hurricane Ivan blocked all flights out this summer, we thought we had escaped. But Ivan apparently wasn't giving up so easily!

Not long after we returned, Ivan made his way up through the Gulf of Mexico and barreled up into Alabama. The "Redneck Riviera" region of the Gulf coast was pretty much destroyed in places.

And, by the time the hurricane reached Huntsville, the winds were still pegging out at over 60 mph.

We were amused when the entire state canceled classes for the day, particularly given Huntsville's penchant for going hysterical over the slightest chance of snow or tornado, but it turned out the weather guys actually got this one right.

As the afternoon wore on, the winds picked up. The worst of it wasn't supposed to hit until around 10pm, but it moved in faster than expected and we ended up losing the tree in the front yard at about 3pm. Fortunately, the half that came down was the half facing the street, instead of the half hanging toward the house!

Dave came home from work, and with the help of the boys and our neighbors across the street we got the worst of it cleared out of the road before the height of the storm.

The next day, the remaining half of the tree had to be dealt with, since it was hanging ominously toward the house and the trunk was obviously rotted to the point where it wasn't going to stand long.

There was only one thing to do,...Dave had to get a chain saw. Don't you just hate situations like that! :-)

With the decision (and the purchase) made, Dave and the boys set about figuring out how exactly to cut the thing down without damaging the house or themselves. As the neighbors wandered by they offered lots of advise, and some of it turned out to be quite fortunate, since our original idea would surely have proved more exciting than we intended. So, armed with power tools and good advice, we tackled the task and when all was said and done, we came away victorious! The city came by a few days later and hauled away the remains, and all that's left (for now) is the stump.

The Tree Masters

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Private Pilot

Dave Gets His Pilot Certificate

Dave returns from his checkride with
his pilot certificate.

It was a long, sometimes frustrating journey getting there, but finally on Sept 23, Dave passed his checkride and is now a licensed Private Pilot!

Achieving that goal means that Dave can now fly anywhere (except into clouds), day or night, and without ever having to get an instructor's permission! And more importantly, now he can take passengers!

With the boys champing at the bit, Dave plotted out a nice little one hour round trip over the city of Huntsville and down to Lake Guntersville.

Tucker was the first to go up, and thoughtfully provided a cooler with "in-flight snacks". He also brought along the camera so we could record the event. The weather was perfect and the scenery spectacular. Tuck even had the chance to take the controls for a bit over the Lake.

Tuck snapped this picture just after takeoff. The Space & Rocket Center is right of center, and downtown Huntsville is in the upper left corner. (click for full-sized image)

Tucker at the controls

Gerrit was the next to go up (the next day), and he manned the video camera. We called home as we passed the house so that the rest family could come out to watch us fly over.

Circling Lake Guntserville, looking down at the Guntersville Municipal airport (8A1).

After all of that, Karen decided it as her turn. The weather wasn't great, with lots of haze and clouds beginning to move in, but we finally decided to go anyway. It was a slightly bumpier ride than the boys had, but still plenty clear enough to see the sights. It was another fun flight, in what is sure to be a long string of fun trips through the wild blue yonder!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Improbable Connections

Talk about your small world!!
How the demonstration of a new computer monitor at my job led to
an amazing connection with the governor's office in Kentucky!

As part of my job here at Lockheed in Huntsville I am currently working on a program to design an air defense command and control system for the UK. As a part of the program, we have a British army officer working with us on a day-to-day basis. In order to keep him from getting too homesick, we have all sorts of British stuff around the office,...a framed photo of the queen, lots of posters, and of course, the British flag. Just to keep things balanced, there's also a US flag, and somewhere along the way the guy who's our boss wrote to his governor to see if he could get a state flag. Well, he got one! And you know how things get started among office mates,...

That inspired another guy in the office, named Troy, to write to his governor for a flag. Troy wasn't so fortunate, however. Instead of getting a state flag he received a nice letter back saying they only did that for deployed military units. Left without a state flag, Troy framed the letter and proudly displayed it instead.

(click on the letter for a slightly better view)

Months later, during a demonstration of a new computer monitor that was positioned near Troy's cube, I happened to glance over at the letter and looked at it a little more carefully. I noticed that the state he had written to was Kentucky, and on further inspection, I was amazed to see that the letter had been signed by none other than Paul Gannoe, who just happens to be my cousin!

During Thanksgiving break last year, when we drove up to Kentucky to see my Grandparents and my Aunt and Uncle, I remember there being talk about Paul working on the campaign of some guy running for governor. I hadn't really kept track of how the election went, but judging form the letter, it must have gone quite well!

Well, I wrote to my Aunt Kathy about the amazing coincidence, and she forwarded the note to Paul. It seems that Paul even remembered Troy's letter and felt bad about not being able to send him a flag. Since that letter, Paul had received so many other requests from folks who didn't meet the official criteria for a flag that he acquired some others on his own. So not too long afterwards, Troy got his flag!

Below is a shot of his cube, now proudly displaying the colors of the great commonwealth of Kentucky! (And that's the letter, still framed, hanging just below the flag on the left)

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Summertime Adventures!

Our boys scatter across the country (and beyond)
until we all reunite in Venezuela in July

What a summer! Once school let out this year our boys started a dizzying series of trips and adventures that still haven't completely ended.

First, Dave had to go to England on business for the third time in four months (missing his birthday for the second straight year). While he was gone, Tucker took off for M-Fuge in Nashville with a group of youths from our church. M-Fuge is a mission camp designed for grades 7- college, focused on students putting their faith into action. After an intense weekend of preparation the students go into the local community for a week to participate in various ministries.

Philip getting ready for the rapids

Before Tucker returned, Philip started his own adventure, heading first to Texas and then Colorado with his grandparents. After soloing on the plane ride between Huntsville and Dallas (!), he was met by his cousin, Grace, and Karen's parents at DFW. They drove from there out to Colorado for a week-long adventure in the mountains around Aspen, including some white water rafting!

In the mean time, Tucker returned home and Gerrit departed for Venezuela with a team from our church that was going down to conduct Vacation Bible School for the children of missionaries during their annual meeting. Gerrit gets the prize for being the most adventurous of us all this summer, because when our church team returned to Huntsville, he stayed in

Venezuela! Pastor Jimmy, from the Miranda church we partnered with last year, took Gerrit in and kept him busy for over two weeks until the planned arrival of rest of our family with another group from our church in July.

The Willowbrook VBS team in Venezuela

When Philip returned from his trip to Colorado, he was thrown right into the all-star season withhis baseball team.

He had missed most of the practices and some seeding games, but was back in time for the tournament. Good thing, too! After a winless regular season, he was able to be an integral part of an all-star team that went undefeated, winning the tournament in three games! And the night they won it, just before the final out, fireworks were set off over in the Huntsville Stars stadium, just a couple miles away. It sure looked to us like the fireworks were for our all stars!

The undefeated All-Star team!

With that accompished, the next thing to do was pack and get the the rest of the family ready to head to Venezuela where we'd finally be all together again!

Oh yeah, then after that Tuck went to Kentucky on a spur of the moment trip,...

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Willowbrook in Miranda

Our church's first official mission trip
to our partner church in Venezuela

In the midst of an already hectic summer of trips and travel, we set out in July with the first group from our church to visit our partner church in Miranda, Venezuela.

The memories are still fresh, and there are far more stories to be told than can be captured here, but the following list may give you a glimpse:

  • making the best time through the Miami airport,...or not
  • Eric getting searched,..every timedifferent booth, different exchange rate
  • 24 people, one house, two bathrooms
  • "Te alabare, te glorificare!"
  • journaling
  • Pastor Jimmy
  • street evangelism"Whassup? Whassup wichu?"
  • Philip having a rough night,...all night
  • don't eat the lettuce or the tomatoes!
  • meditations at the new property
  • playing ERS
  • Marcial and Rachel
  • de-lousing
  • walking through the squatter village
  • Katie playing soccer in the street
  • racing Tim to the shower
  • nametags
  • Samuel the bus driver
  • the sloths
  • Pastor Roberto Tucker preaching
  • down time at the farm
  • teaching American football
  • arepas, cachapas, and tequenos
  • the parrot
  • balloon animals
  • Si bueno!
  • getting outside our comfort zones
  • Pequeno Juan! Grande Juan!
  • team picture!
  • chasing down scooters and cars with tracts
  • do I need to brush with bottled water?
  • Marcial's broken arm
  • end-of-trip party at Samuel and Ana
  • Maria Prato's
  • Dios te bendiga!
  • little David
  • the souvenir shop
  • we need to have a short team meeting when we get back!
  • is the pool water OK?
  • iguanas at the international hotel
  • hey Tuck, you feelin' the heat?
  • farewell gifts at the new property
  • does everyone have their buddy?
  • the saxophone and the trumpet
  • the bus can't get through, we'll have to
  • walk
  • line dancing on the football field
  • sleeping in hammocks
  • a total of eight checkpoints before getting on the airplane in Valencia
  • we're millionaires! (in Bolivares anyway)
  • Hermana Josefa
  • opting for ice cream instead of seeing a second park
  • testimonies at the temple
  • signing t-shirts
  • Miguel, Lenin, Manuel, and all the rest

Check out our slide show!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Famous relatives!

Maltsberger appears on the History Channel!

Our brother-in-law David Maltberger was one of the esteemed Biblical historians tapped to share his expertise during an Easter week '04 History channel show about warfare and technology in biblical times.
The show was an episode of a regular series called "Bible Tech".

Here's the teaser from the History Channel web site:

Easter Week Programming
Bible Tech
Arguably the most influential book ever written, the Bible provides a glimpse into the origins of ancient technology and its use to withstand the elements, build great structures, wage war, and conserve precious water. We examine the technological plausibility of biblical structures and machines--including the Tower of Babylon, the Temple of Jerusalem, ancient bronze and iron forging, and shipbuilding skills that might have been employed to build Noah's Ark.

Watch for it in reruns!