19 August 2009

Kayak: part 1

At the obligatory beginning-of-the-year majors meeting here at USAFA, one of the Mechanical Engineering (Mech) department instructors told us of a dream he's always had: to build his own motorcycle. He's never done it. So he urged us to follow through if we had a dream to build something: the best garage we'll ever have is at our disposal, in the mech lab.

So I went to talk to him afterwards, and told him I wanted to make a kayak. Do it! he said. We could draw a mold in 3D drafting software, cut it out in foam, wrap it in fiberglass, and voila! We have a kayak.

Of course, it's not that simple. Having never built a kayak before, I emailed my adviser for some advice. He put me in touch with a couple of guys who could help me out, a LtCol and a lab tech with a specialty in composites, like fiberglass.

So, after meeting with the LtCol, we've decided to draft a proposal for a 1/4 scale model, to learn the ropes and keep costs down. Our ultimate goal is to have at least two twelve-foot kayaks capable of multi-day trips on calm rivers and lakes before we graduate.

But who's we? Myself, and Tyler, a good friend and fellow mech major. Tyler has no experience with kayaks, but he's pretty excited.

And by golly, so am I.

08 August 2009

Mysterious ways

I thought the engines were running a long time as we sat at the gate. Then they spooled down.

The captain came over the intercom to tell us that one of the generators had failed to start. "Just give me a parachute," I thought. The other passengers of our wounded craft moaned. "Safety is our number one concern," the pilot said. Good.

We waited forty minutes at the gate for the COS contracted maintainers to show up and fix the plane. After they worked, the pilot spooled the engines up again. There was another mechanical issue.

At that point, they asked everyone with a connection earlier than 1915 to get off the plane - at this point, we wouldn't make the connection. So we got off and waited half an hour to speak to the manager.

By then, a second flight to Denver was getting ready to depart. The airline, Frontier, offered us a ride on this plane so we could try to find another flight from Denver, and I decided to see if that would work. They promised vouchers for a hotel and a meal in Denver. Before the flight left, I went to Quizno's and ordered a sandwich. Talking to the guy there as he made worked, he told me not to worry about it once we reached the register. "Don't worry about it?" I asked. "Yeah man, it's cool." So I thanked him, picked up my free sandwich and headed to the plane, surprised and thankful for his goodwill.

I got to Denver and talked to the customer service desk there: Frontier had no flights that would get in in time for the wedding. Northwest had a flight that would, but it was full. The lady offered me a ticket on the late flight and said I could give it to Northwest to try to get on their flight, standby.

Taking the vouchers and an overnight kit, I headed out to the hotel shuttle stop. After half an hour, a half full fifteen pax fro the hotel showed up. We let the people with little children on first, and the driver said it'd be thirty minutes before he could get the rest of us.

As we waited, I began talking to a man named Curt. He asked about uniform, my current status, and my future plans. He found out I was interested in missions; I found out he works for a police and fireman chaplain agency. We talked of our predicament, and he suggested I wear my uniform in the morning to better my chances. "I would," I said, "but I have no black socks." Reaching in his bag, he offered me a pair of his dirty ones. He prayed with me there at the bus stop, and his confidence reminded me of the power of prayer. A few minutes later, another man who had a car at the airport but found himself waiting for the hotel gave us a ride, as we were all tired of waiting.

At the hotel, I got a room and found out breakfast started at seven. My shuttle left at five fifteen. I thought about getting a Gatorade from the snack bar, but I decided it was too expensive. I told the man I'd pass, but Curt insisted on buying it for me. I thanked him, offering to give him a tour of the Academy if he came through the Springs again. I washed Curt's socks in the sink and ironed my blues shirt and pants, going to bed at midnight. I had a wake up call coming at 0445.

I checked my new socks after rolling out of bed: they were still wet. So I ran the blow dryer through them, and the water steamed out soon enough. One problem: it set off the smoke detector in my room. Oh, joy. A few pokes made it stop.

After a shuttle ride to the airport, I headed down to security. The TSA man said my ticket wouldn't get me through; I needed a boarding pass from Frontier. Frontier sent me to United. United sent me to Northwest. The line at Northwest was long.

When I got to the desk, Northwest put me on standby and gave me a boarding pass. I bypassed the security lines with the pass the TSA man had given me earlier.

At the gate, I talked to the man at the desk, who said he'd call if he had a spot for me. I grabbed some breakfast, quickly eating up the five dollar food voucher from Frontier. Five bucks just won't cut it, especially for a cadet, especially in an airport.

So I headed back to the gate and waited. After boarding had started, they called "Nathan Sabat" to the desk. Used to the outright slaughter of my last name, I headed up to the desk. The man handed me a new ticket, seat 04A. Could it be first class? It was. God had a hand in it, and I had leg room. Hallelujah!

After about seven phone calls in ten minutes, Grandma found me at the terminal in Detroit, and we made it to the wedding with time to spare, after one last prank on mom: I told her Grandma had a flat. Her light anger was soon overcome by relief, shared by the bride and everyone else.

God is great. People are good. And prayer works.

06 August 2009

Who do you know?

He looked like a dork. He talked like a military nerd. And he played volleyball like he was the last kid picked.

And for that, we dismissed him. We didn't listen to him. We didn't talk to him.

But we were missing out. This kid had a story to tell: He was adopted into an excessively fundamental Christian family. The father beat his wife daily, yelling about how women should be subservient. I guess in that case, the fundamentals don't include the Gospels.

So this outcast started making a life for himself at 18. He moved out on his birthday, and heard from a friend that the police stopped looking for him when they found out he was 18. He bought a car and got a college scholarship. He'll have a secure job for as long as he wants it.

His adopting family turned him away from Christianity: he's now an atheist, but an open one. Once we actually talked to him, he opened up and so did we. We were able to tell him - and, I hope, show him - what Christianity really is. It's not rules or dominance or arrogance. It's love, the original.

So, who have you dismissed? The dork? The nerd? The fat kid? Do you really know them?

God knows them. And He wants us to love them like He does.

Tell me: who do you know?