I’m embarrassed to admit that Thursday was the first time I have visited OKC’s new Scissortail Park since it opened last year.
I had stepped on the grounds just a few weeks before it opened to shoot some photos of the new convention center under construction, but had not returned.
However, the park drew my son and me downtown late in the afternoon to shoot some photos of the OKC skyline and scenes around the park.
We arrived about 7:30 pm, and had no worries about social distancing. There were no crowds for us to negotiate, because we saw just a few families strolling on the grounds.
So, we parked in the boathouse area along Hudson Ave., and walked into the park.
I noticed two things in what turned out to be a fairly brief visit.
First, the downtown skyline vistas are awesome. You have unobstructed views of skyscrapers immediately north of the park. And it’s spectacular.
Second, this is a great place to walk for exercise. There are sidewalk/trails around the lake and throughout the park that invite you to walk or even ride your bike. We saw quite a few families strolling in the late afternoon light, along with a few bikers. Plenty of dogs on leashes, too.
Our walk took us across Scissortail Lake on the footbridge and then around the south edge of the lake back to the boathouse.
Although the park is a good 16 miles south of our house, I plan to return ASAP and walk a lot more of the grounds.
We watched our friend Zeke Brewer – Reggie Ezekiel Brewer – cross the finish line Friday night when he received his high school diploma from Irving MacArthur High School.
What made the ceremony cool and unique is that it was held at Globe Life Field in Arlington, brand new home of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team.
Instead of having a virtual, “Zoom” graduation during this pandemic, Irving school district officials figured out a way to have graduation at a location that allowed plenty of social distancing for graduates and their families.
The ballpark seats approximately 40,000 people, so the 400 or so grads and the five guests they each were allowed to bring meant that roughly 2,500 people were in the stadium.
But the really cool factor was the live stream allowed us to watch the ceremony from our living room in Edmond, OK. We got to see and hear the commencement addresses by the various dignitaries and the student achievers in real time.
We got to watch a Zeke receive his diploma in an up-close-and-personal camera shot.
Thanks to Zeke’s Mom, Carmen Oliva, for sending us the link. We couldn’t be there, but we could.
My grandson, Solomon (above), has brightened our lives as a happy 1-year-old
One year ago today, I woke up about 7 am in Capitola, California, and picked up my phone. There was a text alert on the screen from Jane Loafman back in Edmond, OK. It said something on the order of “congratulations on Solomon’s birth.”
Turns out that my daughter had given birth overnight, and I slept through her calls and text messages. So, I got the news from Jane, with whom I have attended church for many years at The Springs Church of Christ in Edmond.
Solomon’s mother, my daughter, Sarah, still won’t forgive me for not being present during the birth.
I had a great excuse for being 1,600 miles away.
My 86-year-old mother had suffered a heart attack and undergone emergency bypass surgery while visiting a friend in California about a week earlier.
So, I flew out to give her support from a familiar face while she recovered, first in the hospital, and then in a rehab center. She was unable to fly back to her home in Fort Smith, Ark., for about three weeks.
After staying with her for about 10 days, I flew back to OKC on a Sunday evening. My friend Ed picked me up at the airport and drove me straight to the hospital, where I met Solomon for the first time.
The timing of Solomon’s birth was a big surprise for all of us, because he was 8 weeks premature. He weighed only 3 pounds and change.
Sarah and my wife, Paula, urged me to hold him that first day, which I nervously did for just a few seconds.
I remained in Oklahoma for a week, then flew back to San Jose and Ubered down to Capitola to continue providing support for my mom until the doctor gave her permission to return home later that week. We flew back to Fort Smith together.
Now, a year later, my Mom is thriving as an 87-year-old widow who still lives on her own.
And Solomon has made tremendous progress, as well. He’s now a 20-pound, almost-toddler, crawling, climbing and bringing joy to our lives.
Editor’s note: Back in 2005, I covered the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in Boston as technology reporter for The Oklahoman. I was moved by an incident that happened on the flight back home and wrote about it in a column a week later. It’s short and not of anything of real consequence, but I’m proud of the message that it has. So, I’m sharing it in this blog.
I settled into my seat – row 24, seat D on the aisle – for a four-hour flight from Boston to Houston last week.
A woman occupied the window seat, and I was pleased to see the middle seat was empty.
Then I looked up and saw a really big man walking toward the back of the plane, and I knew where he was headed.
I mean “big” in the same way we envision Santa Claus as “big.” Rotund. My mom would be nice and say he was just big boned.
Anyway, I stood up and let the big guy into the middle seat. He spilled over into my seat and that of the poor woman in the window seat.
I resented every inch of his girth, but said nothing. I read my paper, listing toward the aisle.
I guess I couldn’t hide my discomfort because the flight attendant stopped and offered me another seat. She said she had only middle seats available. I said I was fine and went back to my paper.
Meanwhile, the big guy folded his arms, leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes.
The plane took off and here we were, swapping the cotton off our shirts as our bellies rubbed against one another. He slept. I read and fumed.
There he was, standing by the rear emergency exit adjacent to the two bathrooms and the galley. He was nursing a cup of coffee. ‘So there you are,’ I said, not knowing really what to say. ‘I wanted to give you some space,’ he replied.
About an hour into the flight, the big guy said he wanted to get up and stretch his legs. I gladly stood and let him out.
He went toward the back of the plane and disappeared.
Now I really could enjoy the paper and the book I brought with me.
But time went by and I began to wonder where the big guy was. An hour ticked off, then two hours. I decided to wander back to the rear of the plane and see if I could find him.
There he was, standing by the rear emergency exit adjacent to the two bathrooms and the galley. He was nursing a cup of coffee.
“So there you are,” I said, not knowing really what to say.
“I wanted to give you some space,” he replied.
I went back to my seat.
About 45 minutes before we landed in Houston, the big guy reclaimed his middle seat.
I didn’t mind so much now.
“I really appreciate what you did,” I said to him. “You certainly didn’t have to do that.”
“You deserved it,” he said. “Is your mother still living?”
“Yes, she is.”
“Then do something nice for her on Mother’s Day.”
I felt about one-inch tall.
The plane landed, and we departed with no more words. I regretted that I didn’t ask his name or even introduce myself.
So, on Sunday I called Mom, wished her a happy Mother’s Day and told her this story. She told me it made her day.
I’ve hit the age milestone where the first thing I do when I open the daily newspaper is head straight to the obituaries. First of all, there are some great life stories told in the obits, as we called them when I worked at The Oklahoman back in the olden days.
Second, you never know who’s passing you might stumble across. That happened to me in today’s edition of The Oklahoman.
Phil was founder of OKC’s Long Wave, a high tech company that provided communications services for the U.S. Military, specifically for the big Navy jets that fly around the world and communicate via “long wave” radio frequency with the nation’s submarine force.
The Navy has a presence at Tinker Air Force Base, and Phil located Long Wave here to accommodate it. The cool thing about Long Wave is that it was located in a historic building down in Bricktown because that part of town was an opportunity zone that provided some financial benefits.
“With me, if I don’t make my quarter, I don’t care. It’s more important to do the right thing for the customer than to make the quarter. And, oh by the way, when you do that, you end up making more money.” — Phil Miller
Anyway, I got to know Phil by writing about his company on several occasions. He had an unassuming personality that seemed to welcome everybody who crossed his path. He accommodated me every time I called him out of the blue for a story, a quote or even to write a letter on behalf of another entrepreneur
Here’s a quote from a story about Long Wave’s recognition in the INC500/INC1500 for being one of the nation’s fastest growing companies:
“These awards include winning the INC500/INC5000 ten times (representing the fastest growing businesses in America). Long Wave was also an eight-time winner of the Inner City 100 for Oklahoma City. Phil was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Governor of Oklahoma as Oklahoma’s Small Businessperson of The Year in 2006.”
You might also recognize Phil as one-time owner of the OKC Yard Dawgz Arena Football team.
OKC lost an innovator, entrepreneur and good person. Rest in peace, Phil.
Editor’s note: Along with Debbie Cox, my colleague from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), I recently interviewed Ella Luttbeg via the Zoom platform. Ella is a graduating senior at the University of Tulsa.
Ella Luttbeg was wrapping up some major projects as she prepared to graduate this spring as a mechanical engineering major from the University of Tulsa.
A senior capstone project neared its conclusion, as did an OCAST internship at Tulsa’s Triumph Aerostructures that she had held since October 2018.
A job at Boeing’s Oklahoma City operation awaited in June after her May graduation.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic threw some major roadblocks in her path. As the wave of Coronavirus infections washed over the nation in March, social distancing measures shuttered businesses, closed campuses and forced students like Luttbeg back to their homes to remotely complete the semester.
For Ella, home is Stillwater, where she graduated from high school before enrolling at TU as a freshman in 2016. Her parents are both biology professors at Oklahoma State University.
Luttbeg negotiated the roadblocks and finished out both the senior project and the OCAST internship.
“School wise, everything is remote, and our senior project kind of ended in a different fashion than we expected it to,” Ella told me in a recent interview over the Zoom platform. “So far, the pandemic hasn’t affected my job offer, which I’m grateful for.”
“I think something that really helps is seeing older college or professional women talking about their careers and getting excited about math and science and showing that it is a cool thing to be interested in. Having role models to look up to really helps people believe it’s something that they can achieve, as well.”
— Ella Luttbeg on inspiring more women to pursue STEM careers
During the OCAST internship, Luttbeg tackled a variety of engineering projects for Triumph Aerostructures related to fatigue and damage tolerance analysis in aircraft structures.
“I was lucky enough to be able to work from home for Triumph during the pandemic,” Ella said. “They were able to get me a laptop to remote in. It’s been different, but I’ve really been grateful to keep my internship.”
Luttbeg was one of two OCAST interns this academic year working at Triumph Aerostructures, a division of Triumph Group. Triumph is a publicly traded, global leader in manufacturing and overhauling aerospace structures, systems, and components.
“My time at Triumph Aerostructures has been super valuable to me, because it’s given me the opportunity to supplement my school studies with real world experience,” she said. “At Triumph, I worked with really smart engineers who taught me a lot about stress and fatigue and damage tolerance analysis. It exposed me to a whole different side of engineering.”
Luttbeg developed her interest in pursuing an education in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – while still in high school. She credits Larry Hesler, a high school math teacher, for stoking that interest, and college professors John Henshaw, Ph.D., and Steve Tipton, Ph.D., for mentoring her through the engineering program.
“I’ve always been interested in math,” she said. “Both my parents are scientists, so I’ve always been kind of exposed to the STEM world. Then at TU, my classes have shown me what engineering is all about.”
She learned about the OCAST intern opportunity through an email that TU’s engineering department sent to its students. TU is a long-time participant in the OCAST Intern Partnership program, which places students in real world R&D settings on a cost-share basis.
“I would definitely tell future/current college students to be on the lookout for the OCAST internships because they are a great way to be able to work part time during the school year and over the summer,” Luttbeg said. “I’m so thankful to have this opportunity to have this OCAST internship. It’s meant a lot to me and supplemented my education.”
Editor’s Note: Along with my colleague Debbie Cox from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), I recently had the opportunity to interview Elliot Anderson, an attorney in the Tulsa office of Crowe & Dunlevy, about steps needed to ensure information and communications are secure in home and remote working locations. This is my report.
Back in the olden days, Elliot Anderson had only the foggiest notion what a “Zoom” meeting was. We’re talking way back there, maybe as far back as February 2020.
Anderson is an attorney in the Tulsa office of Crowe & Dunlevy, one of Oklahoma’s oldest and largest law firms. He provides legal counsel in business disputes, contract litigation, oil and gas matters, and securities and insurance disputes.
Like the rest of the business world, Anderson’s job meant that he drove to work every day and practiced as a litigator in Crowe’s office in downtown Tulsa. Or maybe in a courtroom.
Then the pandemic happened.
The Coronavirus shut millions of workers out of their offices and forced them to work remotely from home. It’s no different for Crowe and its team of attorneys and support staff.
Most days now, Anderson works from the home he shares with his wife and four children.
And he’s learned how to navigate the world of work from home and remote business meetings through platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype.
“I didn’t really know what Zoom was until the school sent all the kids home and, suddenly, the kids were experts at Zoom because they’re meeting with teachers, studying with friends, taking drum lessons, ballet lessons, dance lessons,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s role with the law firm also includes loss prevention and data security. So, I took the opportunity over a Microsoft Teams virtual interview to ask him about maintaining a secure working environment while working remotely.
Turns out, he’s had a brush with the hazards of online meetings through one of his children. An uninvited guest crashed one of his daughter’s Zoom meetings as she took a virtual dance lesson.
“Nothing inappropriate happened, but this was a random adult person who decided they wanted to crash the party and learn some dance steps,” he said. “I think one thing we’ve learned from the Zoom experience is not to assume that an online communication is secure just because nothing bad has happened.”
So, how do you ensure your meeting and your data is secure while on an online platform?
“Zoom was designed to be open and easy, as easy as walking into a hotel lobby and talking to someone,” he said. “But it turns out it was just about as private. Microsoft Teams and Skype are alternatives and are a little harder to access with more barriers to entry. There are definitely concerns there, and making sure you are in a secure environment is important.”
Anderson suggested an even more secure method. Make an old-fashioned telephone call instead.
“I think one thing we’ve learned from the Zoom experience is not to assume that an online communication is secure just because nothing bad has happened.”
Here are some other suggestions Anderson has for the work-from-home crowd during the pandemic:
Make sure it’s a secure environment: “I live in a household with my wife and four kids, and at any given moment when I’m conducting business online, people are walking through the room. If I’m on a phone call I have to lock the door to keep my kids out. Making sure that you have a secure environment and can control who’s in there to see what you are doing or hear what you are doing is important. If I’m on the phone at my house working on a call, I don’t just have four kids and a wife in the house, if my kid is taking a drum lesson I basically have the drum instructor in the house too.”
Use a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure a secure connection: “Sometimes people will think, ‘well, it’s too much trouble to go through all that hassle of logging into my secure environment. I’ll just email this from my work account to my Gmail. I’ll work on it on my home computer and email it back.’ But the copy you worked on, on your home computer is still there if you didn’t remember to delete it and then empty the trash. And things like that accumulate over time. We all have old work stuck like barnacles to our home computer, and when the computer ages out you will give it to a kid or donate it to a church or a charity. That data that you didn’t even know was on there gets out and you don’t have control of it anymore.”
Don’t throw away documents at home: “I’ve had to remind the other lawyers in my firm a couple times, because we can’t do everything online, some things need to be printed, something need to be typed out and read. Then we generate garbage. When we generate paper waste at the office, we just put it in the shred bin and don’t worry about it. But at home, just this morning I found myself with two copies of an old document that I didn’t need. I can’t throw confidential information away in my kitchen trash and I shouldn’t put it in the recycle bin. What we tell our employees to do is keep a box or folder at home of any sort of office trash you are generating and save it there until your next trip up to the office and you can throw it in the shred bin.
Dress for success, even for a Zoom meeting from home: ‘When I’m preparing for a meeting online, I remember the words of a senior attorney who mentored me. He said ‘casual dress leads to casual thinking.’ He very much took the position that if you take the effort to make yourself look like a professional, your work is going to be more professional. And I think with an online meeting it’s exactly the same. If my plan is to roll into the business meeting at the last minute with pajama pants and a Velcro tie, well, … if I’m neglecting my appearance, I probably haven’t built in enough time to pay attention to other things, too.”
Final thoughts: “Working remotely has been a big adjustment for everyone who has had to do it. By and large, I think that everyone who has had to do this is far better at it now than they were a month ago. Even old dogs can learn new tricks. But I think it’s more important now than ever to slow down and be careful and be deliberate. When you are in a remote environment when you might be in a house with children or you might be in a car in the drive-thru line or you might be waiting your turn outside at Walmart until enough people come out so that you can walk in, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to security and be aware of who’s listening or may be able to get access to your information.”
Editor’s note: I recently was invited to a virtual meeting with Sean Bauman, Ph.D., CEO of Norman’s IMMY, and facilitated by Debbie Cox of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). This is the report I filed after the Zoom interview.
When the Coronavirus pandemic made its way to Oklahoma in March, the state’s ability to test suspected COVID-19 virus infections in Oklahomans was limited by the number of tests available to health care providers.
And when patients were tested, health care providers had to wait days for results to be returned from out-of-state laboratories.
“The turnaround time was just a big problem,” said Sean Bauman, Ph.D., president and CEO of IMMY (Immuno-Mycologics, Inc.), a diagnostic manufacturing company based in Norman. Bauman recently joined OCAST’s governing board, the Oklahoma Science and Technology Research and Development (OSTRaD) Board.
“You have a patient sitting in a hospital, and you are having to don and doff Personal Protection Equipment numerous times a day to care for that patient,” Bauman said. “And to get a COVID negative result three to five days later, you can imagine how much the wasted PPE costs.”
So, IMMY stepped up to develop a solution at its Norman laboratories. It developed and validated a nasal swab-based test known as PCR that allowed laboratories to provide results in a matter of hours.
“We dove in and literally from idea to reporting our first test result was 10 days,” Bauman said. “Crazy fast.”
But not crazy as in sloppy or low quality, Bauman clarified. IMMY was able to quickly develop its own test because it is an FDA and ISO manufacturing facility in a highly regulated industry. Its 85 employees are skilled professionals capable of overcoming challenges to develop a test to FDA standards.
“The other thing that happened, we had an incredible partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Health,” Bauman said. “They were fantastic, helped us get up-and-running as fast as we could. Just a great story of partnership.”
IMMY since has added a blood test for COVID-19 antibodies, which can confirm if a person has had the coronavirus and is potentially immune to further infection.
“This is actually an important test, in my opinion, because Oklahoma is now in a unique position, with both the antibodies test and the PCR test at our disposal,” he said. “So, two tools in the tool belt.”
IMMY’s tests were part of a random sampling of 1,000 Oklahomans in early April to assess how widespread the virus is across the state. The sampling revealed that approximately 1.4 percent of the Oklahoma population had the virus at that time.
So, what does that mean?
“At that point in time, I think the conclusion from the study was that COVID-19 is just not in the general population to any large extent,” he said.
Bauman recommends random sampling across the state for COVID-19 at weekly intervals.
“Now that we have these two tools at our disposal we can start to ask different questions,” he said. “When is it safe for people to go back to work? When is it safe to relax some of the restrictions on people being out and in the community? Lots of different questions are going to be ask in the coming weeks and days.”
When I was a kid, one of my favorite things was looking through stacks of old black-and-white photos at my grandmother’s house. It was a trip back through the decades before I was born, seeing my grandparents as young adults and ancestors I never had the opportunity to meet.
In my mind, I can still hear my Grandmother say “Daddy, get the Kodak” whenever there was a photo opportunity at a family gathering. Those “Kodak moments” created some precious memories.
So, now I’m an adult with a stack of old photos of my own. And this past weekend I pulled a couple of my favorites out of the digital drawer and posted them on Facebook in honor of my late father’s birthday and for “Sibling Day,” as if that’s really a thing.
The two photos I posted are the favorite snapshots in my possession.
The one posted at the top of this blog post is No. 1 on my personal hit parade. It was taken (by my grandfather, I think) at the Fort Smith, Ark., airport moments before my mother, sister and I boarded a Braniff Airways turboprop to begin our journey to the island of Okinawa.
I told my mother that I loved this photo because of all it represents. Traveling 8,000 miles to join my father, who was in the military and stationed on the island. We would live there for about 18 months. I would begin high school at an American school for military dependents on the island.
There’s more. All three of us were dressed in our Sunday best like we were headed to church on Easter because that’s how you traveled in those days. At least in our family. I’ve never let my mother forget that she made me travel 8,000 miles in a suit coat and clip-on tie.
The second photo, posted to the left, shows my dad and me in the front yard of our home at Fort Buckner, on the island. It was military housing, with my dad’s name and rank posted near the front door.
I don’t remember the circumstances of the photo. It’s obviously early in the morning because of the shadows. I’m clowning by putting my dad’s pipe in my mouth as we pose. Ha ha. But it’s a moment of time that I now cherish more than 50 years later.
The point of all this is that these two photos have motivated me to find those old photos that were my grandmother’s and digitize as many of them as possible.
I want to share those precious memories with my children and grandchildren.
One of the fascinating things about watching the daily Coronavirus briefings from President Trump is anticipating certain words or phrases he says repeatedly. “Fantastic. Tremendous. We’re doing a great job.”
Unless you are wearing a Make America Great Again cap, you realize it’s all bluster and BS.
Now, I’ve discovered that I can actually wager on the number of times he repeats some of my favorite words or phrases. My friend Ed forwarded an email to me with betting odds on some of Trump’s favorite words and phrases he uses when he has no real information to relay. It made me laugh out loud.
Thanks, Ed, for brightening my day. Now, I’ll watch the briefings even closer to see how close Trump hits the betting line.
Fantastic +Incredible + Amazing + Tremendous 24.5 Great 11.5 Big/Bigger/Biggest 10.5 More Tests than any other Country 9.5 Fantastic 8.5 Incredible 6.5 Amazing 5.5 Tremendous 5.5 Best 5.5 I/We’ve been treated unfairly 3.5 I/We inherited a broken system 3.5 Working Very Hard 2.5 We’re doing a great job 2.5 Not our fault 2.5