Megga Letter Number 13

Hello, Bulla, Aloha, Bonjour,

Hi again everyone. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (Even though you are reading this after both holidays! A good DEAL after the holidays! J ) Here is another fantastic, gripping, suspenseful, tiring (what?!) newsletter of what 1998 meant to me. Much of this letter will cover my travels because I discovered the wonders of a passport and government travel allowance (carpe per deium- seize the money). Ooooh --- travel--- mmmmmmm.

But first (before the adventuring)-

School and Teaching

I've completed my meteorology course work and now am working most of the time. I had three bosses this fall (yikes!). This first was Dr. John Snow, who is the Dean of Geosciences and the instructor for the class that I'm a teaching assistant (TA) for called GEOS-2004, Evolution of the Earth System. This class teaches how to use computer models to simulate climate and environmental issues and predict what is going to happen with things like global warming, the ozone hole, deforestation, etc. The main goal is to teach students how to use and not abuse computer models, and to understand their limitations. I was the TA for the lab and general helper for the five (very intimate) students we had. Five is a GREAT number for a class- you get to help everyone a good amount of time. The only drawback is they can get used to the great amount of help and come to depend on it rather than fighting through minor difficulties in the labs on their own. I had to do some independent-thinking-enforcing during the latter half of the semester.

One of my students was a celebrity - the Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics - Shannon Miller. You might not know of her unless you come from Oklahoma since she was born and raised in Edmond Oklahoma. Here there is a Shannon Miller Parkway (a section of toll road), Shannon Miller Drive, a statue in a park in Edmond, and Shannon Miller Day. Amazing. She missed a number of days near the beginning of the semester and I knew why because the local news was covering her trial to get a stalker to leave her alone. She won the case and the stalker moved out of Oklahoma. I'll probably never again be in a situation again where I'll not need a written excuse for a students' absence because I saw them on TV (at least I hope not). Weird.

Wow - the new Star Wars is coming out in the Spring.

Oops- I just had a random thought. Sorry about that.

My second boss was Dr. Susan Postawko who was the instructor for GEOS-4950, Mars: Fact and Fiction. I was the TA for this class as well. We taught all about Mars- from pathfinder stuff to War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells/Orson Wells). This class was cozy too- with four students--- but no celebrities. Yes, I was TA for two classes at once AND was teaching all the GEOS classes OU offers (that sounds more impressive--- hee hee).

Education Classes

I've taken one class in the education sequence (and it was pretty durn easy). The instructor's review was the test. The points she covered in the reviews were- in the same order- and with no exception- the questions on the multiple choice test. My only non-A grade was on the first test where I studied everything in the chapters. I learned to 'restrict' my studies after that. I also found that the demands of working and getting my research launched were more than enough to keep me off the freeways. So now that I'm in the education program- I'm taking a couple of semesters off to get over the work hump here in my grad life. OK- so ya live and learn.


What is this research you ask? It is happening on two fronts. But both fronts are concerning rainfall on a fine scale. What I'm looking at is how precipitation varies over short distances (just meters to less than a kilometer- mostly around 10s of meters to 100's of meters (dekameters to hektoemeters). I'm currently in charge of two raingauge networks.

Black Mesa (and astronomy) Photos

My first raingague network is out at Black Mesa Oklahoma. Black Mesa is on the New Mexico border just a few miles south of the Colorado border WAY out in the western panhandle. It is a six + hour drive from Norman, OK. (Houston is only 5 hours away, Kansas City is a bit more than 5 hours away as well). There are five of them and they are in a straight line roughly north-south over the top of the 700 foot tall - cliff defined mountain. I'm paired up with a geography student named Marco Micozzi. He is conducting more complete weather measurements at these same five sites. We go out once a month to collect the data on a laptop that we cart over the mountain top. It's a strenuous 2 hour hike (very fun and beautiful- bitterly cold in the winter- fantastically hot in the summer) over from one side to the other- especially since we are also taking 3 gallons of water with us to fill the evaporation gauges. Whew!

But the neatest part of the work is the Bed and Breakfast out there (called the Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast - BMBB). It is run by Vicki and Monty Joe Roberts and they are GREAT. It is an ideal place to rest, have a honeymoon or anniversary or just eat a good (excellent) meal. You can reach them at . I STRONGLY recommend a visit!!!

Another excellent thing about the Black Mesa area is the sky. I'm talking- dry, dark, thin, dark star studded to the horizon - texture in the Milky Way kind of sky. It is beyond amazing. Some friends of mine and I have gone observing out there with telescopes. Other than not dressing warm enough and being a wimpy-cold-boy--- I had a GREAT time. You can find what ever your telescope can theoretically see just by pointing at it. I do astronomy nights out there as well (see earlier newsletters) and once had much of the town of Kenton come out and watch. We even showed them a dim comet.


My other network is currently a work in process (but should be finished before I complete this letter!). It is a very detailed network of (presently) 16 gauges in a near grid setup. They will be set up near/in the town of Chickasha Oklahoma just 1/2 hour to the southwest of Norman (easier to just pop out to- by far!). It has finer resolution in time and space than the Mesa Net out west and is the cornerstone of my PhD research. If I can get some rain between now (Christmas) and Jan 10th, 1999, I'll give a talk on it at the American Meteorological Society in mid-January. Very exciting. If not- I'll make stuff up in mid-January (um- only kidding).

[Hey- it is REAL easy to type 1999! I like it! 1999 1999 1999. It's almost as good as 2000 except no one will get to type 2000 due to the Y2K bug. Ya better enjoy 1999 999 999999999 STOP IT!]

I've had some difficulty getting permission for land use out there- and my rain gauges are portable because of this. This also allows me to make it non-grid like- or finer in detail if need at a later date. It's new for anyone to develop a network like this- and we don't exactly know what we'll find about fine scale rainfall.

It's called a piconet, because it is a scale (pico) that is one down from a raingauge network in place near Chickasha where the gauges are about 5 miles apart. This network is a micronet. There is also a network all over Oklahoma where the gauges are about 50 miles apart. This is the Oklahoma Mesonet. So I have a network nested within a network nested within a network (nested within a network- the National raingauge network with gauges about 500 miles apart at airports all over (the Synoptic network)).

The goal of all this is to 1) make discoveries about rainfall on this fine scale, 2) figure out how well a raigauge represents the region around it in different kind of rain events, 3) work with improving Doppler radar data, 4) develop a method for getting a good idea of how rainfall bursts under thunderstorms and the energy released inside of thunderstorms due to this.


A big development over this year is the solidification of and establishment of a new research group at the University of Oklahoma called the Environmental Verification and Analysis Center (EVAC) which is run by Dr. Mark Morrissey (#1 guy) and co-run by Dr. Susan Postawko (#2 guy). Yes- both bosses of mine. Do you see the secret inner workings here? I'm sure the smoking-man is in on this as well as Krychec. [The preceding is an inside joke for X-Files watchers.] ANYWAY- we moved into our own building this year- and I have a slick, snazzy, office full of raingauge construction stuff and papers/textbooks for my Ph.D. exam studying. We were scattered all over the tall building on campus and couldn't function well. Often days passed before you could find a co-worker to ask a question. Now we can track each other down easily. It's kinda scary but a great working environment. (I'm kidding about the scary part.)

ROOMMATES - Jason and Mike

Jason Levit graduated with his Masters in Meteorology this year. YEA! He is working full time for a mesoscale (county sized) modeling group at OU that runs a computer model called ARPS. He is now part of the development of the first run of the Internet 2. It will be able to transmit a Terrabyte (1000 Gigabytes) of information a second. Good God. Stay tuned for that! See his page at and surf to Jason's page under the staff page.

Mike Bell spent a whopping 3 months in central North Africa (Niger). It was a long stay in a very poor country. Mike sums up the experience as "productive but eye-opening and sobering". You can find his page at .

Ceiling Cats, Carina

One weird thing that happened in our new building was 'kittens from heaven'. This has no connection with the heaven's gate cult- so just banish that though. Oh- you weren't thinking of that already- huh. Well- moving on- one of my co-workers (in the middle of the summer from hell where we had multiple days of 105+ temps- actually months of 105+ temps) heard a scratching noise on the false ceiling. When we investigated (especially my bosses who have around 8 cats, 5 dogs, 2 birds, and some lizards (one less lizard since the cats ganged up on one and ate it)) we found a kitten who had been born in the attic. This started the kitten flood. Two more kittens were found, taken to my bosses' home and eventually given away. One of these first cats (actually the first cat) was completely black- very scared kitten who I adopted.

Chester (the older male orange cat) is quite displeased with the newcomer. Cat fights (play for black cat- life and death battles for orange cat) are frequent for now. I named her after Lee Groves's (who died of cancer) choice for the name of his daughter and the constellation that he was also inspired by. I'm missing Lee.

Carina is a constellation that barely peeks for very long above the horizon in the U.S. and Carina spent much of her first month hiding and peeking out from under stuff. She is a love ball, lap cat, purr machine (Quite the photo negative of Chester).

After Carina's litter, I got the scratching sounds in my ceiling. When I lifted the tile, I was rewarded with a little hissing ball of fur. Later in the day- there was more scratching, and when I lifted the tile again- there were three pairs of eyes staring back (one higher up and further apart = Momma cat). It took a week but we got everyone down and the manager 'thinks' he has successfully sealed the attic area this time (yea- right). Anyone want a cat?

Last Christmas-the Sydney Flu.

I spent last Christmas in Arizona doin' the Christmas cabin thingey. I also got to run down to Tucson and visit Lee Groves. It was a good visit. We reminisced and laughed (Scott E. Long, Mark Frederick and I). It was a great way to see him for the last time. We somehow did get dog doo in the van. But that's a long story.

Across the Country Loop (tornado)

In the Spring, I took a BIG cross country trip for my bosses (at EVAC- the Environmental Verification and Analysis Center = cat source). I drove about 4,800 miles from Oklahoma City to Chicago (to visit Scott) to Iowa City to drop off raingauges and stuff and visit with one of my research PI's (principle investigator) and get direction on my PhD research. Then I drove 17 hours from Iowa City, Iowa to Black Mesa to repair some other equipment on my network there. I dropped off some equipment temporarily there, and went on from there to ABQ New Mexico, then on to Phoenix to help my Mom clean out her garage (of all my junk there). Then she came back with me to look over Oklahoma. We went through ABQ again and I dropped off some more weather networks for schools and the Department of Energy. Then it was back to Black Mesa to get my stuff and work more on THAT network- then finally home. My Mom visited Norman OK for a few days then went flew home to Arizona.

The neatest thing was the tornado I drove into in Kansas (near Oberlin). I was playing with a GPS unit I bought for and through work from a Wal-Mart in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was cold and drizzly in Nebraska and I wasn't paying close attention to the weather. But as I went south into Kansas, I crossed the warm front and drove into a 'moderate risk for severe weather' area. There was a big dark cloud to my south-west, but no rain, so I drove on.

I looked down at the manual for the GPS unit, then up at the road, then down at the manual and up at the road and suddenly there was a line going from cloud base to ground! I though it might be a land spout (a weak tornado like weather phenomena that is more powered from the ground than the cloud- and is not quite as amazing as a real tornado and severe thunderstorm producing it- just fluffy clouds can sit on top of a land spout). But it got bigger and bigger and began to form a BIG cloud of debris on the ground.

I got excited and started to accelerate to get ahead of it (south of it) so I could watch without fear of being hit by it. I was to the north east and it was south west of me moving (probably) to the north east. Not good.

I drove faster and faster. Debris flew higher and the tornado got wider and wider. All was going well until the road took a slight turn to the right and began to head more for the immediate path of the tornado. Ikes! It spun up a second (oppositely rotating) mini-tornado for a bit and that crossed the road less than 1/2 of a mile ahead of me. I could see things flying around. I slowed down and got ready to turn back when BIG hail started coming down behind me. It was a wall of solid windshield-breaking ice blocks. I couldn't go back into that. So I drove toward the tornado, away from the hail, then away from the tornado and back to the hail in what is called the 'bear cage' in a thunderstorm. A VERY dangerous place to be.

Eventually, I drove into the debris cloud at the tornado's base and got dirt on my car. Here are pictures of the tornado. That was too close for comfort and I wasn't even trying to chase anything!

Boston, Cheers, Duck Tours, Goddard  Photos

Later in the Spring, I flew out to Greenbelt Maryland again for the USRA/NASA environmental talks (global warming is becoming an unquestioned fact now (but is it a natural short term warming- or is it a warming caused by mankind- that is the question now)). As is my new tradition, I went to my favorite crab/seafood place near Annapolis MD, called Cantlers. I took a before and after picture of a crab - the first I've eaten like that (little crabby legs and all)- actually, I forgot to take a before picture, so the before picture is someone else's crab. But when you've seen one crab... you know. I didn't know HOW to eat a whole crab, so I had to get help from the waitresses. It was mostly unpleasant (and tasted ok, but…). I ate more white rockfish instead. Very yummy.

A week later, I was BACK on the East Coast for my first visit to Boston. Here I was presenting a poster for my Earth System Science stuff at the Boston AGU (American Geophysical Union) meeting. Here I stayed in a big hotel which was connected to the convention center via an all indoor series of walkways and an entire mall.

Boston is an amazing city. It is drenched in history with REALLY old buildings and historic spots all over. I loved it. It does not subscribe to the western (U.S.) philosophy of tearing down anything older than 10 years and building something in it's place.

The best way to see an overview of Boston is to take the Duck tours. You ride around in WWII amphibious vehicles (they are boat jeeps that can hold 20 people and a driver). They drove us around, told us all about the city and the history therein, and taught us to quack. Yep, if someone on the street quacks at us- the driver counts 3 and we all yell "Quack Quack" as loud as we can. I hungrily awaited MY turn to be a passerby and get to QUACK at a passing Duck Tour. I quacked. It was great. I also got to eat at a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream shop (B&J's is only in freezers elsewhere I've been).

Scott Shideler Engaged

In my spare time in the 48 hours between Boston and the next trip (below) I packed for the South Pacific travels, watched more tornados move through northern Oklahoma City live on TV (!) and helped my best friend in Chicago- Scott Shideler propose to his girlfriend. In the wake of the tornados (only 5 miles north of the planetarium - where I still am giving shows year round) I gave them a planetarium show (in shorts and a T-shirt) then raced back into the dark room- threw on a 1940's vintage long-tailed tux, brought up a BIG moon amongst the stars- laid out a table cloth on the floor with wine and chocolate covered strawberries. It was GREAT!

Oh yea- she said yes and the wedding is described below… J

Fiji  Photos

Twenty four hours later- I was on my way with Dr. Susan Postawko to Denver, LA, Honolulu then Nandi and then Suva, Fiji. We flew straight through for many many hours (about 18 I think). We had 5 in-flight meals and got to stretch out in rows overnight from Honolulu (departed 12am) to Nandi, Fiji (arrived 6am). The neat thing about international flights is wine is free- offered- and easier to get than water! (Well, water has to come in a bottle too!).

This was my first international travel- my first time with a passport and customs and money changing and on and on. It was GREAT. I've got international travel in my blood. J

As I said above - we arrived in Nandi at 6am, hopped into a small plane (picture) and flew to the other side of the main island to the capital city- Suva. We arrived at 7:30am, we got to our hotel at 8am (via taxi driving on the left side of the road!) and by 9am were escorted into a class room packed with people. We had a vague idea what to do first, but we were suddenly there- faced with 50 people absolutely filling the room. They had a formal ceremony for us and welcomed us then broke for morning tea.

The Fijians have adopted the British tea- with a vengeance. There is a morning and afternoon tea that has little to do with tea, and usually is like a full meal. When we reconvened, we were magically down to 13 or so students. All the others were employees in the building and guests there for the opening ceremony of our 3 day training session. [All this was done for GLOBE- a Vice President initiative (Gore) to get schools all over the world making weather measurements to study global climate change].

We taught for 3 days from 9-5. I got to explain the seasons (or explain how to explain the seasons is more like it) but in reverse of what I'm used to. The Summer months are Dec-Jan-Feb! And the Earth is closer to the sun in their summer (our winter)- so it is weird to explain it there.

Everyday I ran into downtown Suva at 5:30am to work out in a small - un-airconditioned - gym called Polaris. I was told it is not safe to go out in the evening in Suva- but at 5:30am- there is no one out- except people with outdoor grills cooking greasy meat on a stick for the breakfast crowd. It was winter then ( June-July) and it would drop to a chilling 68 or so- and the natives broke out the coats and jackets. It was very funny to see.

I did a lot of astronomy out there. I took a telescope that my Dad and Mom helped me buy with me and spent many evenings and pre-dawn hours (4am or so) observing the foreign and exciting southern sky for the first time in my life. At least 1/2 or more of the sky (south up) was foreign or tilted wrong and was very exciting. I spent hours and hours seeing the best galaxies, globular clusters and learning the constellations using a FANTASTIC program from Sienna Software called Starry Nights. I also got many mosquito bites (from which I might have contracted Dengue Fever. Yuck.

The television in Fiji was 50% travel guides and the rest was from Australia. There were no Fijian television stations in our hotel (The Centra- formerly the Travel Lodge). The FM radio dial was evenly split up with 3 US, 3 Indian, 3 Fijian, and 1 Australian stations.

Fiji is mostly native Fijian, but the next largest people group are Indians who were brought in to help in the 1800's sugar cane plantations. Now they are here to stay a few generations later. Indians are not allowed to own land- but they own most businesses. So the Fijians have the land, the Indians the commerce. There is a constant tug and pull politically and economically in the country. There was also an El Niņo induced drought in progress when we were there- and the sugar industry was hurting.

They drive on the left hand side of the road and use 220V AC in the wall sockets (I had to take an adapter with me). The land and the people have a distinct and interesting smell. The land (of all the S. Pacific islands) all smell strongly of the plumeria flower. It is intoxicating and ever-present. Bananas grow upward and pineapples grow on top of a stalk that shoots out of the plant like a yucca (for those in Arizona). Bananas are often fried before eaten.

Susan Postawko (my boss who was teaching and traveling with me) and I took a drive all around Fiji. Susan drove (it was a stick shift vehicle AND you had to drive on the left side of the road- a double challenge for me- and possibly deadly). It took about 7 hours (with stops) and we went from budding city to grass hut villages with no electricity or running water. Amazing. I've included some pictures from that trip.


Leaving Fiji was strange. We drove to Nandi (back on the other side of Fiji) and few off on different flights (Susan was going home, but I had many more islands to got to). I flew back to Suva (where I started) got off the plane- collected my luggage and went through customs and all again and boarded another flight. Here they opened all the luggage bins and walked down the aisle with two spray cans spraying the bins and US! There was no notice or explanation at all. I still don't know what I breathed. Spooky.

I didn't save any email sent from Fiji, but now I can use emails to pick up the trip across the ocean. I'll put any additions in italics so those who have already received these emails and have read them. Look for the italics so you can pick up the additions. I'll probably have more trips around the world this year, so if you want to be on my live update list- email me now at .



EMAIL From Early Western Samoa   Photos

Quick summary: The air is thick and sweet from the mass of growing tropical
edible plants! We went to the farmer's market and bought funny flower
tasting fruit that was hairy (like a sea urchin). I bought coconuts, BIG fat pink
bananas, mango and normal bananas. Very fun. The sky is totally different here and pretty amazing. In Fiji I had a end of 'Contact' scene happen on a beach at sunset with bright stars reflecting off the calm ocean and no discernable patterns (to me) in the sky.

Hello and Bula (which is hello +greetings in Fijian : I don't have the
Samoan way to say that learned yet),

Here I am in the middle court of the hotel: Aggie Grey. I'm demonstrating
my computer to the guys who work here. I'm demonstrating email! (Without the aid of actually being
on a phone line!).

I flew out of Fiji yesterday evening. It was strange, but I drove in a
rental car from Suva over to Nadi (pronounced Nandi- get it right!) then flew BACK to Suva and got OFF
the plane and then got back on (we had to go through the international gate and get our
passports and all checked). It was a short flight over to Western Samoa and they served big
hunks of smoked salmon. Yes, I'm liking fish now- for those of you in Arizona, fish CAN be
good- you just can eat fish that has been sitting in a truck for 2 days-- that's the only problem!
Anyway- I'm in a hotel/resort called Aggie Greys that is hard to describe.
It has a central court that is kind of like a scene out of a number of movies. There are tons of
plants around that steer you in walkways that are indirectly lit from wood roofs that run the
length of those walkways.
It is VERY quiet and you can see a bunch of stars straight overhead even
though we are located in the city of Apia. I've been told I can't drink the water, but my solution is to have a B52 or glass of wine in the evening- on the belief that it will kill any bugs that I drink through the day. *No
problems yet!!*

I spent the first day here setting up the weather instruments at the Apia Observatory- the home of
the W. Samoa weather service. The old instruments here were beyond dead- with sea spray/salt
corroding all the contacts and sensors. We are starting from scratch on most system.
It is hard to keep the mind on the work with the VERY beautiful surroundings
and coolish ocean breezes blowing across the lawn. Um- I can't wait to get back to work

They have tea here too in the mornings (and probably in the afternoons- but
I haven't seen any of that yet). Tomorrow's tea will be a meeting time between myself, the NWS staff,
some researchers from Australia and some other scientists from the U.S.

One last note---
I made a gallant effort tonight to go and see the stars (what stars I've seen have been VERY pretty) so I drove the rental car over the mountain top to the south side on the 'Cross Island Rd.' road. Sadly, I entered clouds (physically) about 80% the way up the drive, and stayed in the clouds and rain all the way down the other side. Clearly (pun intended) I need to find a spot to observe from- I work on that in the day tomorrow. Clouds are moving down the mountain further and everyone in the open houses here (seldom any real walls) are going to bed, and my headlights would NOT be welcome.

From the South Pacific, -
this is John Ensworth- the SPaRCE traveler signing off....

Second Email from Western Samoa   Photo

I'm sitting in the main hall at Aggie Grey's and the big Wednesday night show is about to begin. I'm working on this letter minutes before it starts in my seat. Hee hee (nerd!).
Oops. the show started....
[this message continued 24 hours later]
I had no problems with the flights. They DID make us hop off the plane with
all luggage and go through the formal visa thingey and reboard. The trip was quick and
easy. I had to open two boxes and show them the weather equipment and tell them that while they would be left
here, they were still mine and I will come back and get them someday. That made them happy. I got the
bus into town which was real full. My three big boxes needed to go up on top. That was a push!
Then the bus driver RACED down the roads to Apia. The speed limit was 35 mph (they are back to
english units here and people blink at me when I measure things in kg or meters. Actually they blink at
me most of the time. The default language here is Samoan NOT english like I experienced in Fiji.
(Observation time:)When people are not talking to me (most of the time) they do not speak english.
This makes it easy to know when you are being addressed, but it is kind of lonely- because I hear
english seldom). Anyway- back to the bus--- we bounced and banked amazingly- I was pretty sure there
would not be a full count of three boxes when I arrived. I checked into Aggie Grey's at 1:30am.
I met up with Aussie by phone, but when I arrived, he was gone. I sat in the office for about an hour
reading waiting for him to return so I could go through the correct channels. Then in the Samoan being
spoken around me I heard 'Niko', so I looked up at the new comer and introduced myself. He
smiled broadly and welcomed me. Immediately we set to work and bought a new battery (about SM$180!)
the tala trades at about 2.88 to the US dollar right now, so that is not out of bounds for a battery.
We surveyed the site and laid out the 30m chord- sorry 100foot cord. It reached to the wx service
window. Day 1- 11am - 5pm, we tore out the old equipment and ran abound looking for small items from the
shops. They don't have a wide variety of items- I know what you mean!

Day 2 - From 9:30 to noon I was in a ceremony, tea, and media thingey with some Australian tide researchers, some U.S. typhoon forecasters, and some other dignitaries. No work and all talk. Hmmmmm.
After that began the saga of the serial cable. 90% of the day was spent searching for a gender changer
(male to female) for the serial cable coming from the setup. The Australians lent me theirs so I could
try the system (it worked -mostly) but I could not get the signal into the computer without that changer. We
went to all three computer shops in town. No luck. I asked for old mouse's (not mice if it's a computer- right?)
so I could cannibalize the end. No luck. Finally one guy gave me (free!!!) a small serial cable.
In the evening at Aggie Greys- they had their big buffet and dance and native singing and fire dancing
show. Very spectacular. Sadly, I have no photo or audio record of the event. It was GREAT!
Day 3 I spent day diagnosing and removing the controller chip embedded in the serial cable (what
was it there for?!?!?) and soldering a serial cable by hand using duct as a vice and a soldering gun
made for the side of a ship to desolder the tiny pins and put the new wires on. At the end of the day- the
system worked! BUT !!!! Novalinx strikes again! EVERYTHING after the datalogger is working great,
but the instrument (which worked inside at Black Mesa and again in our office) has (NOW!) no
wind direction and no RH! Darn darn darn. Soooooo- I'm going to send him 20m (sorry 60 feet) of
proper serial cable AND a gender changer AND a new weather vane assembly (which I had him install
so he knows how to do it!).
I also forgot the serial cable for the hobo data logger on the raingauge- so I showed him the software- and
promised it will come. He is going to build a cement block for it and mount it. BUT I did get the old
SPaRCE raingauge working with the data logger- so they are getting rainfall data (calibrated?!) already.
I went to observe the southern sky for the last time tonight--- and it's raining. We are getting that data
though!! See ya all later- next stop- Hawaii.
John E

Other thoughts: The song "My Way" was played often on the radio as a complete song and also in the background of the weather report. Weird.

In Hawaii   Photos

I'm online fully now. The conference is organized very unusually- there is one talk in the morning
and one talk in the afternoon that is in the topic that is featured for that 1/2 day. Then everyone else's presentations are poster presentations in one big room. So we walk around- go to the posters we are individually interested in and converse 1 on 1 with the authors/researchers. Pretty free. You can also go snorkeling if you like!
My poster is this afternoon- I'm prepared to give a 20 minute talk though!!!! They changed it to a poster while I was in Fiji--- so there is a poster presentation coming with someone from my office... his plane had mechanical problems and was stuck in LA! He will be here at 12-1pm if all goes well--- my presentation will be on at 1:30. I'm not stressed though- I'll just stick up my overheads in the meantime!

How can you get stressed in a tropical paradise???

John E

Climbing the Mountain in Hawaii   Photos


I'm sitting in the parking lot of the visitor center for the Mauna Kea observatory. The elevation is about 9,200 feet. I'm letting my body adjust to the lower air pressure (I was at sea level 1.5 hours ago!). My goal is to get to the very top and see the observatory complex. It is 10 miles away and 5,000 feet higher (you could stack all the rock between sea level and Denver between where I am and where I'm going. Geeze.

I bought the only jacket in Hawaii at the Wal Mart earlier and I'm ready for cold. The snow (I've heard) just melted up there a few weeks ago. I'll look for some spots.

** here I go **
OK- it was REAL foggy! Drizzley! Near zero visibility. windy. DANGEROUS! But in a half hour- I got there! BEAUTIFUL view of the whole island, clouds from above, a dazzling hot sun with bitter cold air. I was a bit dizzy, but was able to jog and sprint around a bit. I took about 40 pictures- many panoramas.

The return trip was easier- the clouds cleared some at sunset. I even got to see the newest telescope that just got it's mirror.

Now that I have a rental car (for two days)--- I'm dangerous.
Tomorrow- I'm ditching the planned (tour bus) volcano tour (no lava) and I'm going to FIND LIVE LAVA. Somehow someway--- I'm going to see real hot flowing lava.

Until next time (from the burn unit)
John 'hot stuff' Ensworth

HAWAII - Letter Three  Photos

My last day (yesterday) in Hawaii had me working HARD to see lava. I was going to take a volcano tour- but they weren't going to see lava. So I ditched them and took the rental car out to go where I needed to go to see the hot red stuff.
I drove the saddle road (the rental car places make you sign a form that says you won't drive on the saddle road - or go to the top of Mauna Kea (telescope heaven). They didn't give me the form- so the FIRST thing I did was drive to the top (previous email!)- and the rest of the driving was 90% on the saddle road (cuts the island in
half east/west and makes it so you don't have to follow the coast all the way down south or all the way up
north to get to the other side.
So I took the saddle road to Hilo (on the rainy side) and headed straight into Volcano National Park. I stopped at a big public lava tube and hiked it. There I discovered another about 300m of tube that is open but unlit and undeveloped. I got my astronomy flashlight out of the car and entered. I met up with two other groups (one of them was an experience Hawaii tour guide) and in we went. It was drippy, dark and you had to watch for
forehead smashing rock protrusions. In the very end was a cup you could add your name to as 'one who
took the long spooky walk'. The guide guy gave me his number and said he'd tour me around anywhere I wanted to go next time I came to the island (free!!!). Cool.
But I wanted LAVA. So I asked his advice, checked in the visitors center and sped down the Chain of Craters road to it's end. This road didn't always end- it once was a cool coastal road to the best black sand beach in Hawaii, but from the late 80's to the present, lava flows have eliminated the road. The only flowing lava was 4 miles away from here over pathless rough, brittle, sharp, crunchy, fresh lava flows. Off I set- and a jog-
hopping from slab to bulge heading for the tower of steam rising from where the lava is flowing into the sea
and flash exploding. The sun beat down (85 degree day) and as I approached the flow- the ground itself began to give off a lot of heat. The lava itself is flowing in lava tubes below the surface.
Sulfur was in the air, and small vents on the slope a mile to the west were smoking. I got there in just over an hour (missing some shoe tread) and walked around and snapped a number of pictures. On the north side I met up with a family who were taking pictures. They showed me that if I waited until the waves pulled out and a gust of wind hit the steam- I could see the lava flowing out. Once every few minutes I could see bare glowing
lava. It was cool! (not really) A bit further along the coast (deeper into the steam tower) a blast of rock and lava would shoot up every now and then as sea water flowed into the tube too far and turned into bomb like phenomena.

The girls (early teens) took pictures with me- and we all hiked back. Over the hottest part of the flow (between the distant smoking vents and the raging sea entry) I glimpsed in a crack below my feet a red glow (I got a picture). A chance crack allowed us to see down into the tube carrying some of the lava. Then it got too hot and spooky to be out there - so we trotted off to cooler rock.
The return hike was slower but more fun since I had the parents and kids to talk to. Eventually us younger folk pulled out ahead. We got back 20 minutes before the father. When he got back- he was surprised that his wife
wasn't with us. He though she had gotten ahead of him! So we waited for her- lost out on the lava flow somewhere- with only 1/2 hour until sunset. The black jagged lava was a BAD place to be at night.
I stayed to help in the search for her- then, at sunset- I spotted her way off to the west out on the flow.
The middle son ran out to her with water and all was well. Through the time we realized that we were
all staying at the same hotel- so the father offered to do lunch me the next day (my leaving day).

The next day came- I worked out, packed and received no call. I returned the rental car at the Airport before 2:30p and went in and read and fell asleep sitting up. Around 4pm someone tapped me on the shoulder and it was the father! They guessed I'd be here so they came in and found me. (my flight leaves at 9:30pm (in one hour from when I'm typing this)) They took me out to see a painted church (shipped to this (west)) side of the island before the lava took it out on the other side where we had been hiking. AND they took me to dinner.
You may hear about this family- they invented something called the "Bear Hiker" or something like that. It is a water sport device like a big wheel you get into and walk around on water with. It's great for rapids and they have tested it in level 5 rapids with no problems. The father was on David Letterman talking about it in the last 6 month. Now I'm only one acquaintance away from David Letterman! I got back at them for the picture taking- and took THEIR picture before they got away. Ha!

That's all for now (yea was that enough?!) and it's off to Phoenix to pack up the Mom unit and take her to her new house in Oklahoma!

See ya all!
John E

P.S. The trigger fish in Hawaii are spawning now and they BITE! oh.


Here is the tale of two islands. Western Samoa and Hawaii. (Written at the end of the Hawaii Trip)   

I didn't get to tell you all about the final adventures from W.S. and so- now as I sit in the terminal (or outside- since there IS no inside to the terminal in Kona (it's ALL open to the breezes and jet fumes))- I'll recount the adventures from both...

On my final day in Western Samoa I struggled gallantly to get the weather instruments to work. FINALLY I got all but the Relative Humidity and the Wind Direction to work.
The company that makes the poopy weather instruments is called Novalinx- and it has cost me weeks of time and our group much $ to correct. Job #1 on my return is to find a new company to deal with. Sheesh!

I checked out of Aggie Greys and tooled around the city of Apia- changing tala back to American dollars (getting stronger all the time!!!) and getting one more workout at this rusty gym I was working out at.

The airport I left was not the BIG airport I flew in on, but a itty bitty airport in the middle of a
group of houses. Only small prop planes could enter and leave. I was told the runway was sooo short, that in the event of emergency landings- they land on a nearby golf course rather than at this airport! The terminal itself was only the size of a large house- and- of course- open to the air (do you see a theme here?). Here I met up with the two meteorologists from Hawaii who I met at the opening ceremony with all the dignitaries earlier in the week. (This s the meeting where I was trying to wear my lava lava (dress like thing guys wear here) to fit in- and when I stepped up on the platform- it dropped to the ground. Everyone was real cool about it- and turned a bit and kept drinking tea - in fact- I think the crowd turned so quickly, no one realized I was wearing shorts underneath (not the custom!)). ANYWAY- I digress....

The two Hawaii meteorologists who were there were leaving on a flight to American Samoa 40 minutes earlier then my flight- it had room -so I switched and went a bit earlier to travel with them. They were Jim, Tom, and Linda (Jim's wife). She called herself a weather groupie since she didn't know anything about the weather- but was tagging along. They adopted me and we went through paying the countries exit tax, and immigration and customs together.

After being stamped, examined, poked, and milked (for $) we were in the international waiting area (a small stuffy room- not outside, but not air-conditioned.) Linda went through another door into the duty free shop- we followed. She went through another door in the back of the duty free shop. We followed. Suddenly we were out on the runway next to the baggage handlers station. Some guy started to wave his hands and heard us down another hallway. We tried to tell him we belonged in the international room, but he couldn't understand us (or didn't want to). He kept shushing us down the hall--- out into the parking lot!
All our paperwork was done and we were all inspected, now we were illegal immigrants!

We brushed him off and headed back through the customs line. The guys there recognized us (whew!) and waved us back in. This guy came up behind us enraged. He was shouting and waving his arms and was quite red in the face. We ignored him, smiled at the customs guy and kept moving. His voice rose in pitch. The customs guys came from around the counter and took him by the shoulders and fired rapid Samoan (the language) at him to calm him down.
We shut the door on the scene.

But during this process- I lost my boarding pass! All I knew was my seat number. Once the (10 seater) plane was loaded- the only empty seat was the one I claimed was mine.
He let me on anyway. (another whew).

We flew to American Samoa and put our bags at the National Weather Service office and took one of their cars and forecasters and took a 5 hour tour of the island. We went to amazing mountain passes- saw sharp rock islands with a fringe of trees on top jutting out of a frothy deep blue misty sea and ship wrecks in the harbor left by a hurricane a few years ago.

One neat observation about American Samoa (a U.S. territory) is that family dead are buried in the front yard. It was quite common to see families eating dinner out front of their homes using grave stones to sit on and put heir plate on. A 'different' custom that here!

From there we flew to Honolulu, HI and arrived at 5am (all night on a CROWDED plane!). Then I hopped islands to the Big Island of Hawaii - the city of Kona. In the Honolulu terminal - I had to go through customs and immigration (as I did 12 hours earlier into and out of American Samoa and 14 hours earlier out of Western Samoa). Then I had to run my bags across a parking lot, up a floor and check them in again. Kind of crazy. I
'could' have had them automatically transfer, but some other late flight was mucking up the baggage system and
my bags 'probably' would have not made it to Kona that day if I didn't do the transfer myself!
One last trip email to everyone...
I'm home safe and sound. I took 300 to 350+ pictures which I'll cut to the best for public display! My Mom is learning her way around the town of Norman and is almost completely unpacked. She closes on the house next week. I'll be in the hospital in the next week for outpatient surgery (a hernia)- so I'll just page through the photos and wish I was back in time a few weeks.

Ensenada, Mexico

Dr. John Snow (the Dean of Geosciences) and I traveled in September to Ensanada Mexico (on the west coast of Baja B.C. about 45 minutes south of Tijuana Mexico. It was a fun trip but I was as sick as a dog with a cold- I mean really sick.

We were to run a educational seminar for 3 days on using computer models to teach Earth System Science (basically what I do for my undergraduate classes). I worked with a network- set up a virtual web page and ran around like crazy.

We were there for Mexican Independence day and were treated to fireworks and gun fire all night the second night we were there. Those Ensanadians know how to party!

I never found a gym here, but did some running on the last morning (once my symptoms had improved some).

Africa     Photos

I traveled to Cote de Ivoire (Formerly the Ivory Coast) in November to give a talk for my other boss Mark Morrissey. I flew into Brussels (overnight) and from there to Abidjan - the economic center of the country. I was to stay at the Hotel Golf where the conference I was attending was happening. I had a room and everything taken care of.

When I got there- I was met with chaos at the airport. We crossed the tarmac and went into the terminal. Immediately a man barely speaking met me and took (almost forcibly) my passport (with me in close tow) to a unused station (there were big lines at the other windows). He talked to the guy and suddenly I was through. He took me to baggage and through broken English told me that for $15 US dollars- he could get me through customs. When I explained that I wasn't bringing in anything secret and that I could get through for free- he suddenly didn't understand English. Yea right. I kept refusing to give him any money. He left for a while and I looked for and found a security person. He told me to point out the guy when I saw him.

The security guy stayed with me. I got searched at customs. Then again a few feet later by the military. Then I got to my window. Here the scam started. The guy at the Hotel Golf window (not a Hotel Golf employee) said they were full and I had no reservation. He then hooked me up with a rival hotel (his hotel)- the Hotel Ivoire- and a taxi (driven by a friend) rather than a free shuttle to the Hotel Golf. The Hotel Ivoire was also a more expensive hotel. I was milked/scamed.

I then took a taxi (the next morning) to the proper hotel. The organizer of the meeting was mad and made me switch (which was great- AND there were many rooms free). The meetings went well- and my talk went really smooth. I listened to short wave radio and CNN for English speaking stuff. The world around me was all French speaking.

For the end of the trip- I turn to another email sent out…


Email from Africa   Photos

Ok- I HAD to do use that as a subject.
I'm *almost* out of Africa (leaving in 24 hours) but a lot CAN happen in that time. I've fallen into a strange sleep pattern- I slept 3 hours Monday night, 12 hours Tuesday, 3 hours Wednesday, 12 hours Thursday, and 3 hours last night. I wonder how much I'll sleep tonight??? That means I'll be up almost all the time on the flight back! Ok, I can deal with that- I have some 45 journal articles to read for my Ph.D. research.

Thursday (when I finally woke up) was a read and study day. I didn't go farther than a block from the hotel to take pictures of fluted trees for my roommate.

Thunderstorms are BIG, awesome, HEAVY, and stationary. If it doesn't rain on you when it forms- that's too bad. Wait until the next day. The rains only form (for the most part) between noon and sunset. There is no weather channel out here (or radar, or Mesonet, or...) but there IS CNN and they put little cloud/sun/shower pictures over west central Africa. Um- yea. Moving on...

Today we went to the Grand Baassam which is the original French settlement in Cote-d'Ivoirey. We stopped and shopped a few times and took pictures of the crumbling buildings now used as open air stores. It was abandoned after Yellow Fever broke out and killed 45 of the 60 (or 45 of every 60 ????) settlers. (Did I mention I've had a Yellow Fever shot?). They (the 15 or 15*X survivors)moved to the location of the present day Abidjan (then a quiet fishing village) which is now a BIG city. The Grand Baassam is very impoverished with the only economy being coconut harvesting, fishing and selling stuff to tourists.

We did go to a great beach there and ate lunch ( shrimp flavored fried things, friend potatoes, fried bananas, cous cous--- and unbattered fried chicken with fish-kabobs on the side. The fish was GREAT!).
We also swam. Well, not all of us, I don't know the French word for swim- so I didn't bring a swimming suit.

I slept in the sun for a while wearing a dress shirt and long black pants. Finally I looked at the situation and realized I was passing up on swimming in the warm pool (climatological term for warm water) of the Atlantic ocean off the coast of AFRICA!!! I had to swim. The beach, surf, sand, sun was perfect. No rocks, jellyfish, anything wrong with it at all- except I didn't have a swimming suit. The only option was to do it in my underwear.
Most of the scientists in our group were guys and I could account for the women with us so I --- became water ready--- and made a run for it. As I came around the fence on the side of the restaurant- I was suddenly in a
group of African women all holding up beads, wooden masks and jewelry. WHERE DID THEY COME FROM!!!! I used my knowledge of French (No = non with only a hint of the final 'n') and continued my dash for the surf. The next challenge came from the fact that underwear is not made to stay on when waves crash over you.
But it stayed on. I swam for a long time- allowing myself to drift up the beach until I could land and sneak back to my clothing. Nobody seemed to notice (in fact the French men were wearing suits that were 10X worse - if
you ask me- but I'm just an American.)
Because of the Iraq thing- we've been told to not look like Americans when we are around and about. And we are suppose to be careful. Should I not get on the plane home if someone with an "I love Iraq" T-shirt is also in
line??? Hmmm.
Most (all?!) of the scientists are leaving tonight- but it was cheaper to fly me Sunday night- so I'll be here until then. I'm going to go take a shower and get the sand out of everywhere!

See ya all in the US!
John E

P.S. One of the helpings of Chicken I ate on Wednesday ( I was informed
today) was really Bamba. Deer meat/venison? Nope- a kind of rat. Hmmm

(Homer Simpson: OOoooohhhhhhhh, broiled raaaaat. Huhhhhhhhhhhh.)

A strange twist in the whole thing is that my roommate Mike also traveled to Abidjan for a conference-exactly the next week! I met him at the airport 6 hours before my flight out was to take place. I got the security guy to get him (and his boss) through with no hassles. It's a crazy place.

Scott Shideler Wedding

In December, Alexander P. Shideler married Beverly Austin in Chicago. I visited Mark Frederick and Diane in Lawrence Kansas on the way (he's doin' good!).

I was the co-best man with Scott Kelley, and the sound guy at the church, and the DJ at the reception, and the coffee guy at the reception, and the cookie baker for the reception. I ran around for the days before the wedding doing whatever was needed and planning the bachelor party. For the bachelor party we… [the details were omitted in case females ever were to read--- suffice to say- it was completely clean, decent and honoring to Jesus- but it's also completely secret. ]

The one really big adventure here happened when I went to the church at 4pm to meet the janitor to open up the place (early, but he was going to a Christmas show for his child around 5pm). When I got there (a full hour before the rest of the wedding party was to arrive), he wasn't there. God prodded me to go around the other side of the church and met two office staff just leaving. I told them I was here to set up the place for the wedding at 6:30. They laughed at me and asked if I had the right church. I told them yes, I had been there every day that week working on the sound system and we had had the rehearsal the night before.

They asked if I had seen the sanctuary. They took me there and the whole place had been transformed for a pagent and a giving program. There were set parts, stuffed animals and food on the front stage and the pews were filled with thousands of pounds of donated stuff- all numbered and personalized for families whose names were taped to the pews. There were tables down the isles and construction paper and junk everywhere. It was complete chaos.

Then the janitor said that we couldn't move anything! He offered the (white square) dining room (with folding chairs and no sound system). I was amazed he'd suggest it! The office staff, meanwhile, were calling down the church list on their cell phone. Soon (20 minutes) there were about 25 people there rapidly carrying everything out and cleaning up. When the decorator came in- he shouted "Oh My GOD!". Yep, it was that bad.

Before anyone else came to the church- it was cleaned and decorated. Whew. A best man's job is to make sure that the groom makes it through the ceremony. It was my job. J

House Church and TV, Radio, new Church

I'm not a house church pastor anymore (as planned last year). And the Norman house church is now being run by a man named Greg Johnson- who is a cool pastor. God keeps doing the neatest things there (people healed- lives turned around- people saved- you know- the good stuff!).

I was on the Radio on Halloween for 8 minutes. I was asking a computer question on a computer call in show about my triple boot system (Windows NT, Windows 98, Linux). I came on right after a computer call from Satan. He took responsibility for all viruses and Y2K. I smell litigation.

I was also on TV for 1/2 hour on public access. I was interviewed and told my story about my before Jesus and with Jesus life. It went really well (and a surprising number of people saw it!) until the last minute. I was summing up and the fake tree behind me fell over. The control room burst into laughter, but it couldn't be heard on air. It was a one shot live to tape- no edit affair. Fun but scary.

My church has also moved to a new building (of our very own) in Oklahoma City (about 15 minutes closer to Norman- woopiee!). We are growing like crazy. This was just 15 people meeting in a house 4 years ago- and I was there. It's amazing to see this thing take off. God is pretty durn cool if you ask me.


I'm still playing Viola- and am actually also playing Violin now (I found a great Violin for about $150 at a pawn shop actually! My band has put out a CD (the advertisement from the middle of the summer) and we have played a number of places around central Oklahoma. I'm also still playing in the band at Church. We have three complete bands revolving through on Sunday mornings. No body has to suffer performance burn out. Pretty cool.

Physique Contest, Wrestling, Weightlifting   Photos

This year, I also joined the EAS Physique contest (run by the company behind Muscle Media 2000 magazine). My goal was to get to a 6% or so body fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle over the course of the contest. It wasn't exactly a body building contest- it was a physique contest. I ate protein shakes (and few solid meals) and worked out and ran and wrestled like a mad man. In the end I had 13% body fat and had gained 12 pounds of muscle. I placed in the top 96% and can be a trainer. If I had won (place in the top 99.996% or so) I would have won a covett, a leather jacket, a gold ring and $10,000 in endorsement contracts. But as a trainer, if someone I am training wins- I win two. I have 3 possible entrants this year. I'll work 'em hard! The before and after pictures (plus a wrestling pose picture) are on my picture page here.

I was still wrestling through much of 1998 until I got my inguinal hernia. Probably a birth defect brought to the surface by fat loss, I had surgery when I got back from the Islands (my hernia showed up in Fiji!!!). I had to lay off the wrestling until the fall. Now as I pull into the comps and am traveling a lot- I'll have to skip out until after August. I have been wrestling under former OU wrestler Frank Trigg who is a GREAT coach - hard and good. He got married this year too- with a reception up at the omniplex where his wife works.

Short wave

I've also become a short wave radio listener (not broadcaster). I have a 50 foot tall 50 foot long short wave antenna in my back yard. No airplanes have hit it yet. I've picked up Japan, China (I think), Australia, Afirca, Europe, Mexico and Canada so far. With solar max coming- it is getting easy to pick things up world wide.

Star Trek Nights

Star Trek Nights are still going strong. We pull about 15 people (21 one night) a night and a pound of chocolate a person is guaranteed to be available. We now have Voyager live again (no more tapes need be sent in from Tulsa, Phoenix or Chicago- thanks Craig-Paul and Anna- and The Kelleys!).

House sold

Our duplex house we rent was sold to a new owner this year. It caused us some anxiety, and our rent will go up in April, but we still have a place to live. The bad thing was the sign was put up without us being notified by an over eager Century 21 rep. He was a real poop actually.

Mom Moving

My Mom moved here this year (though I'm not suppose to make a big deal about it). But it is great having her here. She's getting to know her way around really well. She has moved into Alex Shideler's childhood home sold by his Mom (in Corpus Christi). I guess that's all I say about it, but I would say more…


I'm still working at the planetarium and having a bunch of fun. I've done a lot of telescope shows recently- and had a bunch of telescope shows rained out as well. L

Future Travel/ School/ Research

What is in the future? Well I'll shut down 12/31/99 at 11:59pm since I'm not Y2K compliant. Sorry. I'm kidding. I have about 2 years of work left on my PhD. I'll take that scary comprehensive written PhD exam this August (I did not do it last year since I was traveling so much of the summer). I'll get back to the Education classes after the comprehensive exam (it's a big scary deal!). I'll collect more rainfall on my Piconet and analyze it.

This spring I'll be going to Iowa (to meet with my co-principle investigator) this week (the first week of February) then I'll go hang out in Chicago with Alex and Bev. I'll be going back to Black Mesa to fix up the rain gauges out there and do more astronomy in mid-February.

In March I plan to travel to Tokyo and then China to visit Dee Anne. In May I'll be going to the USRA/ NASA meetings again then I'll head off to southern Brazil to do another computer education class.

Then I'll spend all summer studying for the comprehensive exam. Is that enough? At the same time I'm trying to learn the Java programming language, burn CD's, work the planetarium, learn Visual Basic, write a program for computing solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere, teach class, develop my work web page, lift train, eventually wrestle again, write my novel, and - most of all- Know Jesus and be a closer friend to him more than I have yet.

Whew. Well since this is a web page- I can add on stories as I remember more- so check back here for updates (I'll build continually rather than write a big honking letter at the end of the year like this- this took 2 months more than I wanted it to!). I'll write immediately adventures I go through (kinka like an open journal).

Thanks for reading- and if you are the praying type- please pray for me.

I love you all!

John Ensworth