Flying Skybus

Over the weekend we journeyed to Ohio for Laura’s mom’s wedding, and became some of the first passengers of the recently launched Skybus airline. We got our seats for a whopping $10 each, which had me imagining a Korean War-vintage transport plane where we’d strap ourselves to benches alongside livestock cages and food crates, with someone handing us parachutes once we got over Columbus.
I have to say the whole experience was pretty cool, though. Since it’s well known Skybus isn’t paying their flight crews much of anything, their money obviously went into the planes, which are new and spiffy and nicely appointed, with leather seats in every row. Obviously not much expense went into uniforms for the flight attendants, who wear jeans and Skybus t-shirts with those little “wing” pins. At first I didn’t even spot them as flight attendants, and nearly asked one lady where she got the pin, so I could get some for the boys.

The flights both ways were smooth, with some of the best landings I’ve ever had, and with flight times a little over an hour each way it beat driving all hollow.

Rumor has it once things get swinging the interiors of the planes will be plastered with ads for whomever’s willing to buy space, and only time will tell what regular use of the planes will do to their condition, but this time out it was a pretty positive experience. And at $10 a seat, just about what air travel is worth these days.

A Pair of Jokers

Although this clip has a bit of age on it now (it was taken over a year ago), it’s one of my favorites as it captures perfectly the relationship of Jason and Scott, who each will try any stupid thing in the book to make the other one laugh. Back when this was shot, Scotty was too young to even have a vocabulary per se, but he could yell, so that’s what he did.

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The Thing About Boys

I turned up a neat quote today on what it’s like to have sons:

“A boy is a magical creature. You can lock him out of your workshop, but you can’t lock him out of your heart. You can get him out of your study, but you can’t get him out of your mind. Might as well give up; he is your captor, your jailer, your boss and your master, a freckled-faced, pint-sized, cat-chasing bundle of noise. But when you come home at night with only the shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams, he can mend them like new with two magic words: ‘Hi, Dad!'”

– Alan Marshall Beck

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Back Yard Adventures

Well, the back yard is finally shaping up for us. Last fall we had some guys come in and clear out the woods, taking down about 100 trees and tons of brush, roots and stumps, then bringing in some fill dirt and topsoil to smooth things out a bit. Next came a contractor to create a leveled-off play area for the kids, which turned out to be a walled-in “box” of sorts with 5-6 inches of wood chips for safer falls.

Finally this spring we located a playset with swings that (a) fit in the relatively small play area with the recommended clearance on all four sides and (b) didn’t cost more than the house. We looked at a lot of nice “play systems” in redwood, PVC and whatnot, all guaranteed to withstand a nuclear blast and last until the 23rd century, but then it occured to us we’ve probably got ten years max before the kids lose interest anyway. Maybe that other stuff would make sense if we were running a day care center, but it’s just the boys.

Anyway, Laura and Grandaddy got the thing together with a tiny bit of help from me and Jason and Scott have been having a blast with it, swinging pretty much every day it’s not pouring rain (and asking to go out and swing even then). Since we also added a fence, it means we can let the boys go nuts in the backyard without worrying about them wandering out front and into the street.

Tragedy at Tech

Yesterday a gunman took 32 lives at Virginia Tech in what they’re calling the worst such shooting spree in history. For now, anyway.

Every day I work on a university campus with a lot of young people very much like the ones caught up in yesterday’s tragedy, so this news hits close to home. I’ve also had dealings with Tech’s engineering program, so I know the victims were among the best and brightest of their generation. Three professors were also lost, each internationally renowned experts in their fields and one a Holocaust survivor.

I guess that’s what’s hardest about this kind of thing: not only did we lose children, parents, friends, but also all the untold, unrealized contributions these talented individuals might have made to mankind. All thanks to some walking sack of crap who could’ve done the world a favor by using the first bullet on himself, instead of the last. Like 9/11, it’s the lopsidedness of the loss that hurts the most; the fact that so few lowlifes can take so many good people with them.

The ordeal is only beginning for the town of Blacksburg, which has endured this initial tragedy only to begin the long ordeal of satellite trucks and cameras as the hoards of media vultures swoop down to clog their streets, at least until the next celebrity bimbo drops dead or some athlete kills his wife. Brian Williams and Katie Couric practically knocked each other down trying to get there first to offer their patented crocodile tears and somber head-shaking.

Not that I’m totally immune to ghoulish curiosity, mind you. Already I’ve Googled the two faculty members and perused their webpages, still residing unchanged on the Tech servers as the last piece of their lives untouched by what happened, until a webmaster gets around to adding a eulogy or taking them down altogether. As the names of the students are released, will I resist the tempation to look them up on MySpace?

For what it’s worth, I offer my support and sympathy to the students, faculty and staff of Virginia Tech. And I plan to hug my kids a little bit tighter when I get home each day, remembering there’s 30 sets of parents out there who won’t get that pleasure again.