If it keeps on rainin’, the sequel.

Flooding is the natural-disaster story of the summer season, which is a definite upgrade from spring’s tornados, but, as anyone who’s lived through one can tell you, is no picnic.

Flooding was a hardy perennial in Fort Wayne, which sits at the confluence of three rivers, and despite its laughable name (the Summit City, technically true), floods like a toilet in a jail. When I interviewed there, in 1984, the paper had just won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the flood of ’82. I read the framed front pages that flanked the Big P on the wall and got the strong impression the flood was a rare event, although there had been one in 1978 that ranked right up there.

It flooded in 1985. It flooded so many times before I left in 2004 that the routine, and the slate of stories we always wrote, became familiar. First the parks filled, then certain neighborhoods, almost all poor — I know, I’m astonished too — then a few more neighborhoods. We did stories on the city’s flood command center, where the public-works people dispatched sandbags. We did stories on the sandbagging, on the plucky teens and other volunteers who would come down to the city garage to fill them and stack them. When the Army Corps of Engineers sent their heavy-duty pumps, we wrote about that, too. For a while, the paper went through metro editors the way Spinal Tap went through drummers, and one of them was an out-of-towner. We had a rare summer flood one year, and she said in a meeting she didn’t understand how the St. Mary’s had flooded, it didn’t rain that much. Someone else explained that 16 inches of rain had fallen in the watershed in the last 10 days or so, and from the way she blinked, he knew she didn’t know what a watershed was. I’m sure she learned. Everyone learned.

We had a storm here in May that dumped 2.7 inches of rain in an hour, and some people had basement flooding, much of it raw sewage. A public-works consultant came to the city council meeting to explain about combined sewers and pump failure and all the rest of it, and I felt like a Hoosier again. I was helping my intern, and explained in a whisper what a combined sewer was — storm and sanitary together, bad — and realized I’m a flooding expert. Sort of; I don’t need the jargon explained, anyway. I know what flap gates are. I know you can’t get let combined-sewer runoff go into a lake or river to save a few basements, at least not without a nice fine from the EPA. And I learned something, too; you can let runoff in, but it has to be a 100-year storm, and there better be documentation. (I know what a 100-year storm is; they happen about every five years.)

I covered Mississippi River flooding in 1993. One of the last gasps of ambition of our little paper was this form of foreign correspondence; we didn’t cover national political conventions, but we did cover floods in other cities. I watched people in Iowa reclaim their houses from floodwaters that had reached the gutters, and thought, all in all, I’d prefer fire, assuming everyone gets out of the house safely. Then you don’t have to look at your belongings through a thin film of sewage.

Writing that last line — looking at your belongings under a thin film of sewage — it occurred to me that I’d written all this before. And whaddaya know, I have. Almost at the same time of year. Three years ago.

Maybe it’s time to shut down this blog. Maybe I’ve run out of things to say. Oh, what the hell — it never stopped Mitch Albom or Bob Greene! Onward!

Actually, this is a good time to note that this is a particularly nutso week, and there will be no entry Wednesday. I’m taking Kate to summer camp that day, and we’ll be rolling out at oh-dark something. This is her first such experience, at a fine-arts camp on the other side of the state. (Not Interlochen. Thanks for asking, though.) She may fancy herself a rock ‘n’ rolla, but she’s going to get some discipline in jazz bass first.

So since this seems to be the place for it, some bloggage:

In 2003, a Fort Wayne doctor crashed the plane he was flying, killing his wife and two of his three children. He survived, along with his son, 8 at the time. Terrible tragedy. He rebuilt his life, he and his son recovered, and he remarried. On Friday, he crashed another plane, killing his second wife and himself, although the son survived. Again. He’s very badly hurt, but expected to survive. What are the odds, Pilot Joe?

Did I mention my man Mitch a little while ago? He feeds the needy cookies. Someone else’s cookies, but oh well — I’m sure he paid for them.

Virginia Heffernan at the NYT on content farms, and Google’s new algorithm that allegedly freezes them out. The details are almost unbelievable, but are all true. One of my students had a brief interlude with one. He wrote one article, and was paid 38 cents. A couple CFs picked up the porn principal story, and ran it through some weird copyright-cleanser; a ‘bot changed every few words to synonyms. But there were lots of ads. I hope it paid someone.

OK, off to drink a lot more coffee and see if I can make sense of the day. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 9:18 am in Current events, Media |

65 responses to “If it keeps on rainin’, the sequel.”

  1. Peter said on June 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Well then, is Kate going to Blue Lake?

    38 chars

  2. Joe Kobiela said on June 27, 2011 at 10:03 am

    If you don’t put fuel in them it will happen a lot. Just speculation, but the witnesses said the engine was sputtering and it didn’t burn. The ntsb will have a preliminary out in 10 days or so. No mater what its a tragic deal.
    Pilot Joe

    237 chars

  3. Connie said on June 27, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp? My brother went there for voice long ago, though he is a bassist in all ways: voice, upright and guitar.

    132 chars

  4. brian stouder said on June 27, 2011 at 10:06 am

    In 2003, a Fort Wayne doctor crashed the plane he was flying, killing his wife and two of his three children. He survived, along with his son, 8 at the time

    I read that story , too; and although Roger Ebert would advise against it, my overwhelming reaction is to say “what a jackass”. The picture that accompanied the story was of the remains of this guy’s airplane, smashed squarely into a person’s garage. And (if I remember correctly) they gave the doctor’s age as 46. So – he was smart enough to get through medical school, but too stupid to realize that he wasn’t a pilot. More is the pity, I suppose.

    630 chars

  5. Joe Kobiela said on June 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Don’t jump to conclusions. Did you know Dr Hatch?
    Pilot Joe

    70 chars

  6. adrianne said on June 27, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I, too, am grateful for the boot camp in flood coverage that I received at the old News and Sentinel. Served me well in subsequent posts in Syracuse, N.Y., where it’s all about the snowpack on the Tug Hill plateau, and in the Hudson Valley/Catskills where I now make my home, where we’ve actually had people swept away in flash floods (2 inches of rainfall an hour makes the tiniest creek a menacing torrent).

    409 chars

  7. brian stouder said on June 27, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Don’t jump to conclusions.

    Joe, of course you’re right.

    My reaction is uninformed, beyond what I read in that one article.

    It is strange, really, but that story evoked a sort of hostile reaction within me. (I think I would not have felt anger if he was the only person in the crash)

    I recall having a somewhat similar reaction when the golfer guy suffocated himself in his private jet a few years ago

    422 chars

  8. alex said on June 27, 2011 at 10:19 am

    True, Fort Wayne has hundred-year floods just about every other year anymore, but it wasn’t always this way. The Flood of ’78 was really the first big one after the Flood of ’13, which was the first such flood on record.

    I’ve been told that the increased flooding since ’78 is the result of no-till farming, that the ground doesn’t absorb water the way it used to and so it has to go somewhere.

    398 chars

  9. Bitter Scribe said on June 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Your passing reference to Bob Greene reminded me that a few months ago, I saw something with his byline on the CNN website. It was a story about, yes, child molesters/murderers. That was his favorite and pretty much only subject by the time his career went splat–for having sex with a high-school kid. That guy was a piece of work.

    332 chars

  10. basset said on June 27, 2011 at 10:28 am

    We had what was supposed to be a thousand-year flood here in Nashville last year – definitely two 500-year rain events in three days, whatever you want to call it, sixteen inches on our backyard gauge if I remember right.

    Nance, I reported on the ’93 Mississippi River floods down at the other end, around Cape Girardeau and Olive Branch. Even used the “when the levee breaks” line from Led Zeppelin/Memphis Minnie in one of our live! on the river with Satellite Five! standups, it went over.

    498 chars

  11. MichaelG said on June 27, 2011 at 10:53 am

    One of the awful things about floods is the slow motion aspect of the disaster. Those poor people in Minot are looking at several weeks of flooding before they can get back into their ruined houses.

    199 chars

  12. prospero said on June 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

    From my very first exposure to the perversion of the word content, as in “content farm”, I’ve found the entire idea odious. Why not just tell the truth and call it random words? Or some shit. It reminds me fairly exactly of Bud and Otto going into the Store 24 and purchasing six-packs of Drinks.

    296 chars

  13. baldheadeddork said on June 27, 2011 at 11:08 am

    “God created the Beechcraft Bonanza to keep the world from being overrun with doctors.” – old airport joke.

    @Joe: “If you don’t put fuel in them it will happen a lot. Just speculation, but the witnesses said the engine was sputtering and it didn’t burn.”

    Yep. That’s what I thought when I saw the picture of the crash. It hit at a very shallow angle so he did a good job trying to get it down. He clearly didn’t stall from any significant altitude. But I’d be really surprised if he hit hard enough to kill three people and not have a fire if there was fuel on board.

    Dork the ex-ramp rat

    608 chars

  14. Dorothy said on June 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

    In ’93 I remember our vacation being impacted that year due to the flooding. We changed our plans and ended up driving from Pittsburgh to Chicago to visit my brother. We went to see a White Sox game and a museum or two in downtown Chicago. Then we turned around and stopped in Cleveland to catch an Indians game. I can’t even remember what the original destination was but we had fun in Chicago anyway. One helluva rain storm blew in when we were at the new Comiskey Park and it tossed around some heavy trash cans on the upper deck of the ball park. At least Josh got to see Frank Thomas play in a game. It’s fun to make wishes come true for 8 year olds, when you can. That was the trip when we stopped at Notre Dame and walked into the stadium on what happened to be Media Day. We snapped a bunch of pictures and then we were asked to leave (as were the other 30 or 40 other people who waltzed in the open, unsecured gate).

    930 chars

  15. 4dbirds said on June 27, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Brian, I too had a hostile reaction when I read the story. You run out of gas and kill your wife and two kids and then kill your second wife, yourself and darn near kill your only surviving kid in ANOTHER plane crash? Unless there are a hell of a lot of extenuating circumstances, I’d say he’s a poopy poopy pilot.

    316 chars

  16. baldheadeddork said on June 27, 2011 at 11:45 am

    @Brian Stouder: “And (if I remember correctly) they gave the doctor’s age as 46. So – he was smart enough to get through medical school, but too stupid to realize that he wasn’t a pilot.”

    It’s not about stupid. The most common source of problems is that a lot of private pilots don’t fly enough after they get their license to stay proficient. According to Plane & Pilot magazine, the average private pilot flies 40 hours a year. And that’s the average, a large percentage of pilots are going to be below that.

    That’s bad enough if you only rent a basic, low-performance plane like a Cessna 172 to put around in on days when the weather is perfect. Even in that situation, if a problem comes up it’s really easy for a pilot who doesn’t fly enough to get overwhelmed and fall fatally behind the curve.

    But it’s made a lot worse when you’re flying a high-performance plane like the Bonanza. The plane itself isn’t dangerous. To the contrary, the Bonanza is renown for its benign handling and flying characteristics. It’s really great for IFR flying at night or in reduced visibility if you have the training and skills to do that. But even though the Bonanza inspires a lot of confidence, it is a big, fast, complex airplane that can get you in deep trouble quickly if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

    The doctor joke I made in the earlier post is shorthand for most planes in the Bonanza’s class. You have to have a job that pays incredibly well to afford a half-million dollar personal airplane. But that often means you don’t have the time to devote to flying after you get your license. Mix in a little hubris (“I’m a very successful doctor/lawyer/whatever so I know what I’m doing here, too.”) that becomes a recipe for disaster.

    I love flying in small planes, but I won’t fly with anyone who has less than 500 hours or flies less than an hour a week.

    1891 chars

  17. Dorothy said on June 27, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Crashing a plane is a whole lot different from crashing a car, so I’m guessing his piloting skills could have come into play in these sad situations. But mechanical problems could have also factored in so I’m not going to judge a guy so harshly. My cousin Steve was killed in a hot air balloon accident about 3 years ago – it drifted into some power lines and he was electrocuted. He had years of experience but then he had some really bad luck. I’m guessing that might be the case with this poor fellow. At least I hope so.

    529 chars

  18. mlberry said on June 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    If I killed my wife and two kids in a plane crash — whether due to mechanical or human error or simple bad luck — that would absolutely be the last time I put myself in a pilot seat. Case closed.

    197 chars

  19. Connie said on June 27, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    The big news about that airplane crash here is that the injured surviving son is an incoming UM basketball recruit. http://www.detnews.com/article/20110627/METRO/106270350/U-M-recruit-Hatch-in-a-drug-induced-coma-after-surviving-2nd-plane-crash

    245 chars

  20. velvet goldmine said on June 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I hate to keep being the web content apologist, but the NYT piece is pretty skewed. She’s mixing up the major sites with a phenomenon known as scraper sites, which steal from something like SF Gate (a “farm” client), run it through a strange language thing, and use it — with the original byline. Panda will be a godsend for that reason. She’s really vague in her sixth graph, but those last-minute deadlines are kind of the the opposite of web content writing. She may be mixing up CFs with something like Patch, or she may be describing an awfully specific experience with the higher-fee assignments for such sweeping generalizations.

    Whenever I read these anti-CF pieces, I keep wishing I could be blessed with the sites described as typical, which apparently don’t even require English. Instead, I have editors who send back a health piece because I only cited two accredited medical institutions, or who find a simple piece on eco-friendly living unacceptable because I used university fact sheets rather than the original studies from a difficult to unearth German college.

    As for your student — yes, it’s better for most writers to sign up for a web site that pays by the piece, rather than by viewer hits. Your student could have been a little smarter in choosing clients. Apparently, if you have the patience and industry to write dozens of articles on targeted topics you can eventually start making passive income from something like Suite 101. But much like quitting your job to write a book, that’s not an option most people can afford, and it’s just one aspect of web content writing.

    1613 chars

  21. MarkH said on June 27, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    On the plane crash, and further to baldheadeddork’s informed comments:

    Statistics show that the vast, vast majority of plane crashes, at least private planes, are due to pilot error. Most light aircraft are well-maintained with proven flight characteristics. But it is usually shown that the pilot in command misses something on a checklist, or shows poor judgement pre or in flight. Here is an example of the latter from this area last Fall:


    Two pilots I know were at the Jackson airport that day and saw this guy take off…in a blizzard. Weather reports showed the storm system stretching to the southeast and high altitude, where deadly Gannett Peak awaited. And flight operations at the FBO confirmed the pilot knew of the conditions. Hubris. Maybe he thought he could out-fly the conditions. Not out here. The mountains are very unforgiving.

    Also (Pilot Joe and bhd, correct me if I’m wrong) statistics also show the most common occupations of part-time pilots involved in private plane crashes. They are high-earning individuals in complicated or stressful jobs. They have so much skull-chatter from the occupations, these people have a propensity to not keep their minds on the job at hand (flying the plane!). They miss something. The big three are top level executives, like CEOs, doctors and lawyers.

    1419 chars

  22. Kath said on June 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Here’s the NTSB’s finding from the pilot’s 2003 crash which also involved a Beechcraft Bonanza:

    The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

    The pilot’s inaccurate preflight planning which resulted in an inadequate fuel supply and subsequent fuel exhaustion. Factors associated with the accident were the low ceiling, dark night conditions, and the utility pole which the airplane contacted during the forced landing.

    481 chars

  23. Snarkworth said on June 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    “God created the Beechcraft Bonanza to keep the world from being overrun with doctors.” – old airport joke.

    Evidently he really has it in for doctors’ wives.

    180 chars

  24. jcburns said on June 27, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Dear GoPro shooter: be careful where you leave your camera, especially after taking some cheap shots at birds in your blog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIu5B3Fsstg

    I watched this and then thought “they must have faked this somehow,” and then, well, not sure.

    265 chars

  25. Jason T. said on June 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    @baldheadeddork wrote:

    The doctor joke I made in the earlier post is shorthand for most planes in the Bonanza’s class. You have to have a job that pays incredibly well to afford a half-million dollar personal airplane. But that often means you don’t have the time to devote to flying after you get your license. Mix in a little hubris (“I’m a very successful doctor/lawyer/whatever so I know what I’m doing here, too.”) that becomes a recipe for disaster.

    Bonanzas are gorgeous, amazing airplanes, but not for nothing are they called “the fork-tailed doctor killers.”

    I’m not a pilot, but I am a longtime airplane and airport buff, and I live on final approach to a busy GA field.

    For a while, I covered a string of general-aviation and lightplane crashes, and decided to educate myself.

    I highly recommend the book They Called it Pilot Error by Robert Cohn, which reconstructs small plane accidents using FAA and NTSB records and interviews with the pilots and passengers (or, um, the survivors). (Cohn changes the names to protect the guilty.)

    A disturbing number of the crashes involve fuel exhaustion or VFR*-rated pilots encountering IMC* (bad weather). Often the pilots have “a case of the hurry-ups” and don’t want to stop to re-fuel, or to wait out a storm.

    In the fuel exhaustion cases, pilots regularly convince themselves that the fuel gauge is lying, or that they can stretch their fuel to the next airport, or else they turn on a avgas-fired cabin heater and forget that it’s going to reduce their range significantly.

    They’re just like drivers who won’t stop for gas until the “LOW FUEL” light is blinking on the dashboard. It’s just that in a Cessna 172, the gas stations are a lot further apart, and you can’t just coast to the side of the road and wait for the AAA.

    (* VFR = visual flight rules, meaning people rated to fly in fair-weather … essentially “see and be seen.” IMC = instrument meteorological conditions, meaning to fly in them you must be certified as an IFR-rated pilot. IFR = instrument flight rules, meaning someone who can fly and land in bad weather using only their cockpit instruments and radio.)

    2435 chars

  26. MarkH said on June 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Jason — You make excellent points.

    I also have a book I recommend called just “Pilot Error”. It is only brief incident summaries and transcripts of radio communications between aircraft and towers prior to the dreaded end result. There is no forgiving of carelessness once you’re off the ground.

    Like you, I am not a pilot, but a huge aircraft and airport buff. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I used to love to hang out at Allegheny County Airport, near McKeesport, when my dad would take me.

    499 chars

  27. basset said on June 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Buddy Holly was killed in a Bonanza… inexperienced pilot, no instrument rating, took off in a snowstorm.

    Mrs. B. used to work across the street from Beech Field in Wichita, where the doctor’s plane was manufactured, and under the approach path to the Boeing and Cessna plants and McConnell AFB… and we lived on the other side of town with planes going over us on final to the commercial airport and the Learjet plant. You could see just about anything out there, most interesting. Beech Starship test models, Lockheed Orion, B-52, B-29, no telling what might show up.

    576 chars

  28. brian stouder said on June 27, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    See, now THAT would make for some great YoutTubes, Basset

    57 chars

  29. Jason T. said on June 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    @MarkH: From my back porch, I can read the tail numbers as they land on 10/28 right.

    84 chars

  30. Bob (not Greene) said on June 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I’ve covered two 100 year floods in the past three years and have written the companion piece — storms wipe out trees all over town — probably three of four times in the last three years, including — ta da! — last week. And you’re right Nance, after a while they start to write themselves. You know where to go to get that photo of a car under water or people filling sandbags or someone paddling a canoe down the street.

    425 chars

  31. LAMary said on June 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Mitch Albom just pisses me off.

    31 chars

  32. nancy said on June 27, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    To those who asked: Yes, Blue Lake.

    I’m not sure what to think about the doctor. His partner is out there defending him and his flying abilities. He points out that the first crash was a fireball, and how could that happen if he’d run out of fuel? (I, meanwhile, seem to recall hearing once that near-empty tanks can explode just as well, as they’re full of fumes.) I defer to Pilot Joe and those of you who know general aviation better than me. I’ll only say what a goddamn shame, and repeat something a pilot friend and journalist liked to say in these situations: Even more than the sea, the sky is intolerant of mistakes.

    Mitch Albom pisses me off, too. What’s worse, once again Brian Dickerson had a nice column yesterday that wasn’t promoted on the website or anywhere else; you just had to find it. It was a great deal more inspiring than that stupid I-give-cookies p.o.s. Mitch filed.

    1051 chars

  33. Deborah said on June 27, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    The airplane crash story reminds me of my husband and motorcycles. It took three crashes in his lifetime for him to realize he’s lousy at driving them. His last one was about 10 years ago,he totaled a gorgeous BMW touring bike and lived to tell about it, with only a couple of broken ribs and a few cuts and bruises. He was really good at jumping off of them and rolling, thank God he at least learned how to do that. You’re not supposed to drive a bike you can’t lift by yourself when it tips over and he never could do that with any of the bikes he crashed. He had no business owning much less driving them and he knows that now. He’s a super smart guy in many, many ways, but he was really dumb about his ability to operate a motorcycle.

    740 chars

  34. Joe Kobiela said on June 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Usually one thing happening will not cause a airplane crash. Most time you will find a chain of events leading up to the accident. John Kennnedy was a perfect example, low experience, late start, hazy weather over water, had to get there for a wedding, magazine going bad,wife bitching about going, if one things breaks the chain then no accident. Golfer Payne Stewart did not suffocate himself Brian, he was a passenger sitting in back of a plane that had a pressurization problem, he had nothing to do with it, he wasn’t even the owner. Alex no till doesn’t have as much to do with flooding, its the over building of housing and especially strip malls, the run off goes into the rivers instead of being absorbed in the soil. In the first crash he had a couple gallons left but not enough for the fuel pickup to work right, the fire got started then reached the onboard portable oxygen he had onboard and that fed and intensified the fire. A very good friend was working approach controll that night and tried to talk him into the airport, its chilling to hear him tell the story of that night and what my friend was doing trying to get them on the ground.
    Pilot Joe

    1168 chars

  35. Sue said on June 27, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    ‘They are high-earning individuals in complicated or stressful jobs’
    You may be missing something here. Doctors, lawyers and CEOs got where they are on brainpower but stay where they are because they rely heavily on other people to take care of the details. They may be able to do complicated surgeries, court cases or mergers but more often than not they walk into a room where most or all of the prep work has already been done.
    Consciously or not, they might just feel that checklists are for little people. How else to explain how you have what it takes to get a pilot’s license but can’t figure out that you have to make sure you have enough gas?

    656 chars

  36. nancy said on June 27, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks, Joe, that was the other thing I wanted to say: No-till farming has little to do with runoff. Wetland destruction and asphalt paving over what was once topsoil does.

    And ironically, Sue, Atul Gawande has written extensively lately about how a simple checklist procedure has reduced surgical errors and other medical malpractice sharply in places where it’s been tried. Doctors sneered at it, then were compelled to adopt it, and changed their minds.

    459 chars

  37. coozledad said on June 27, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    It might be a good idea to have a look at Shelley and Marcus’ crawlspace.

    157 chars

  38. Bob (not Greene) said on June 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Meanwhile, my former governor is guilty of something like 16 out of 20 counts against him. Blago is going away for awhile it would appear.

    138 chars

  39. prospero said on June 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    The plane crash discussion reminded me of this great scene from World According to Garp. “The chances of another plane hitting this house are astronomical.” We’ve got a copy of this movie and watch it periodically. Exellent adaptation of a wonderful book, although I always wished they had included an animated film within film for The World According to Bensenhaver.

    Also, the crazed uncles in Secondhand Lions, a very fine movie with a great airplane scene. Tremendous performances by Robert Duvall and Michael Caine, and excellent by the dead people kid.

    704 chars

  40. Colleen said on June 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I’ll second “They Called It Pilot Error”, and what Pilot Joe says about the chain. I think when I was learning to fly I heard something like “you get three mistakes, and the fourth one will get you”. Tragic, any way you look at it.

    233 chars

  41. velvet goldmine said on June 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Prospero — A wonderful film, I agree. I remember writing a paper for film class about novels turned into movies, and cited that plane scene as a great example of a newly-invented scene that captures the spirit of the book, even though it didn’t come from the book. There are literal adaptations of novels (which the authors probably prefer)that have nothing of the spirit of the original book , and then there are kooky adaptations like Garp that take their own artistic risks, for good or for ill.

    499 chars

  42. Maggie Jochild said on June 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I am now waiting for Tengrain to create a cartoon of Michele Bachmann singing “Kinko Kinko the Kid Loving Clown.” Maybe wishing for it will make it so.

    152 chars

  43. basset said on June 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    >>its chilling to hear him tell the story of that night and what my friend was doing trying to get them on the ground.

    Share what you can on that, Joe…

    162 chars

  44. prospero said on June 27, 2011 at 4:36 pm


    Sure. The plane crash scene in Garp is an ampification of the entire “undertoad” theme. Also, John Lithgow’s performance as Robert/Roberta Muldoon is spectacular. I don’t know that I’ve ever detested a fictional character the way I did Helen Holm (home) for taking up with Michael Milton, who got what he deserved. Cider House Rules is another nice adaptation of a John Irving novel. Hotel New Hampshire, not such a hot book, despite the excellent first chapter (the Bear called State of Maine), and the movie was dismal (not easy to accomplish with Jodie Foster in the cast). Until Insomnia came out, I thought Garp was Robin Williams’ best movie.

    Wetland destruction is epidemic in the Appalachians so long as coal companies are allowed to lop off mountaintops and dump the spoil in hollers. And now those evil entities are compounding this short-sighted deleterious behavior by fouling as much as 1 million gallons of water for each wellhead trying to extract natural gas from shale. The Entire Eastern seaboard will suffer from a fouled aquifer if this not not regulated much more stringently. All of this profiteering in shale gas is also quite likely to produce another Enron-esque energy bubble to further put the US economy in the crapper. This whole business isfracking nuts.

    1412 chars

  45. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 27, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Personally, I know I need more checklists.

    Runoff problems are a) paving, b) paving, and c) monoculture lawns that become hard as d) paving. Hard surface means quick flow, and usually routed right into a storm drain (hence the profusion of those otherwise odious “ponds” on the edges of new development, which have had the lovely unintended consequence of a Canada goose population explosion).

    396 chars

  46. brian stouder said on June 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    (hence the profusion of those otherwise odious “ponds” on the edges of new development, which have had the lovely unintended consequence of a Canada goose population explosion).

    Jeff, and to compliment the explosion of Canadian geese, we also have a diminution of impaired drivers, who often plunge into those murky waters, never to be seen alive again

    368 chars

  47. mark said on June 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I’m told by someone who was present for the skullduggery that Ft. Wayne’s modern flooding problems can be traced to the development of Glenbrook Square mall and the millions of square feet of pavement it introduced with nary a single retention pond, that this was a concern at the time, and that the concern was shelved due to enthusiasm for all of the anticipated economic benefits.

    383 chars

  48. velvet goldmine said on June 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Prospero, I don’t know if anyone deserves THAT, but I agree on most of your other points, including the luminous Roberta Muldoon in the Garp film, and the pointlessly bleak feeling of Hotel New Hampshire. Great cast, bad casting. The book, though, was really important to me, so whether from nostalgia or lack of literary perception I’ll disagree with you there. But keep passing the open windows!

    397 chars

  49. Dexter said on June 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    And I’m nervous because my wife and daughter are flying two hops tomorrow on those goddam farmed-out regional jets that Delta employs. I hope the pilot is over 18 years old.

    174 chars

  50. MichaelG said on June 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Some years ago when I owned half an airplane (a ’69 Champion Citabria 7ECA) my partner ran dry somewhere east of Reno and landed on I-80. A kind person went and got him some gas, the cops closed the freeway for him and he took off. He always did have a tendency to push the envelope.

    MarkH and BHD make very valid points about pilots keeping current and active. The doctor/Bonanza thing was widely talked about here on the West Coast as well. Here it was “What’s the most dangerous thing in the world?” “A doctor in a Bonanza.”

    There is a prescribed method for making an approach to an uncontrolled airport which involves calling your pattern legs (downwind, base, etc.) on what’s called a unicom frequency. It wasn’t so important to identify your tail number as to give an idea of what you were so another pilot would know what to expect to see. I would identify myself as “the yellow Citabria”. One day I was making a pattern approach to Gnoss Field in Novato, calling my legs, when I caught a flash of light straight out from the runway. I simply extended my downwind. Sure enough. What I had seen was sunlight reflecting off a Bonanza that was making a long, straight in approach without a single radio call. And yes, the guy turned out to be a doctor.

    1276 chars

  51. lisa said on June 27, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Ah, Bob Greene. I grew up in Chicago, and so read quite a few of his columns. His wife had a baby, and he wrote a book on it called something like “Good Morning, Mary Sunshine.” That was my first exposure to the “look at me, I’m a sort of involved dad who is just gobsmacked by the preciousness of parenthood” genre, the kind of book that women never thought of writing and no one would have been interested if they had, anyway. For some reason, a dad writing about changing his baby’s diaper seemed so … charming! Aw, what a great guy. What a lucky woman his wife was to have such an involved partner, except for the whole screwing the student thing and all.

    “Good Morning, Mary Sunshine” seemed to spawn a whole litter of those “look at me, I’m a dad” types of books. Gack.

    Greene wasn’t a bad writer when he started. Or maybe I was just young. I dunno. He was never a Royko, but he didn’t start out as an Albom. It was a gradual process.

    948 chars

  52. Bill said on June 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Coupla” things: In my flying days I was on a tower controlled VFR approach to DPA (DuPage airport) when another plane filled my windscreen. I reported it to the tower and they said, in effect, we didn’t hear from him or see him. My two kids were in the back seat. I stopped flying shortly thereafter.

    Re: Albom: Don’t know much about him or his work, but coincidentally my wife and I volunteered at a homeless shelter Saturday evening. I helped set up the mattresses, linens, towels, etc., and she worked in the kitchen fixing and serving the evening meal and the next day’s sack lunch. There were about 37 people. All were polite, nice and obviously in need. I was awake most of the night thinking about what a crappy way those people have to live. They move from one place to another every night carrying their possessions and their issues with them. I think Albom had it right about how close, yet far, we are from them (and vice-versa). He had it wrong about how much snack foods from him mean to them.

    1020 chars

  53. LAMary said on June 27, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    When I was very young, maybe three or four years old, I knew how to sing two songs other than Happy Birthday and Jingle Bells. One was “Let the Sun Shine In” and the other was “Good Morning Merry Sunshine.” Bob Green ruined one of my nice little kid memories for me. Jerk.

    272 chars

  54. baldheadeddork said on June 27, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    @MarkH: “Also (Pilot Joe and bhd, correct me if I’m wrong) statistics also show the most common occupations of part-time pilots involved in private plane crashes. They are high-earning individuals in complicated or stressful jobs. They have so much skull-chatter from the occupations, these people have a propensity to not keep their minds on the job at hand (flying the plane!). They miss something. The big three are top level executives, like CEOs, doctors and lawyers.”

    I haven’t seen any research on general aviation crashes and the pilot’s occupation. I’d be amazed if business owner, doctor and lawyer weren’t at the top of the list – because those three professions (plus professional pilots) cover the vast majority of small plane owners in my experience.

    I can’t buy in to the statements like “so much skull-chatter from the occupations, these people have a propensity to not keep their minds on the job at hand”. GA planes don’t have cockpit voice recorders, let alone mind readers. Sometimes an accident investigation will report that the pilot was distressed or distracted before the flight began, and it is something NTSB will look at, but that’s not limited to certain professions. It’s just as easy for a 20,000 hour airline pilot to be distracted as a lawyer. From my experience, maybe more likely.

    Full disclosure before this next bit: I’m not a pilot. I worked for about ten years in line service (refueling, tugging planes from place to place) for corporate and general aviation at two airports in Arizona. I still have a lot of great friends who fly professionally, and what I’m going to say next is from conversations with them.

    Every pilot will have things go wrong. The more you fly, the more problems you’ll encounter. Instruments will fail or, sometimes more tragically, give incorrect readings. If you fly at night sooner or later you will have the entire cockpit go black. Radios die at the worst moments. Engines that you check methodically during your preflight and maintain religiously will sputter or spit, or stop working altogether. And that’s just the things that can go wrong with the plane. Traffic controllers can give you incorrect instructions, or you can hear them wrong. The weather will close in way faster than flight service told you it would. And so on and so on. Even if you do everything perfectly (you won’t) shit will happen.

    The difference between crashing and not crashing is how quickly you recognize the problem, identify what it is, decide the right course of action, and execute it. There are very few catastrophic, sudden events that come up out of nowhere through no fault of your own. In the overwhelming number of crashes (and this goes for cars as well as airplanes) you have time to do something. The more quickly your recognize it, the more time and options you’ll have to work with. Good flying is good risk management.

    This is why proficiency is so important. New pilots are focusing all of their attention on what they are doing at that instant. If you keep flying regularly after you get your license, the basics become second nature and you can begin to take in the bigger picture. What’s ahead that I need to plan for? Are the fuel gauges indicating what I expect for this point in the flight? (A more important question than “Do I have gas?”) Of all the things that can go wrong, what is most likely and what would be the most serious? What do I need to do for each? What would happen before that I need to check into now? Wash, rinse, repeat.

    That’s when you start to become a good pilot. But if you don’t keep flying, you don’t give yourself the chance to get there. If you only drag yourself to the airport every couple of months on a Saturday to get a $100 hamburger or visit your family on the other end of the state, a big part of you is learning to fly all over again every time you get behind the controls. Try to imagine if, after finishing drivers ed, you only drove for 45-50 minutes a week. How good of a driver would you become? That’s the average for private pilots in the US.

    But wait, it gets worse. When I say proficiency, I mean proficiency in the highest skill level you’re achieved. This is where the stereotypical Bonanza owner screws himself. He usually has total proficiency in the basic skills he learned flying a little, fixed-gear Cessna. But now he’s licensed to fly a plane that goes twice as fast and can use instruments to fly in reduced visibility. That’s his new base level of proficiency, and the time investment needed to become and stay proficient rises sharply with the complexity of the plane and flying on instruments.

    It might be impossible. There’s a long-standing debate in general aviation if non-professional pilots can ever get enough experience flying in reduced visibility to become safe, proficient instrument pilots. (FWIW, my vote is no.) Anyway, that was the base level of proficiency for this Bonanza pilot. Was he proficient? Two major crashes, at least one caused by running out of fuel, say no.

    I should have apologized for rambling a thousand words back. If you made it this far I hope it wasn’t too painful.

    5174 chars

  55. Deborah said on June 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Lisa, I too read Bob Green in my youth and liked him then. I haven’t read him in a long, long time except for an occasional piece here and there. None of the recent stuff seems especially good or bad, just nothing special. Everything I’ve heard about him here makes me think he’s a jerk for sure. But as I’ve said before, when it comes to graphic design, I see a lot of sappy crap out there, so I imagine that if I was a writer I could tell the difference like I can with design.

    479 chars

  56. Dexter said on June 27, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I was over in Indiana today in my van and I tuned in the Cubs game. A bulletin…as the WGN reporter relayed the counts…guilty, guilty, on and on, and he reported at the end how Blago was found guilty on 16 of 20 counts, but he missed one, and it was 17 of 20.
    Blago was stunned, as was I. I thought he might catch one count and maybe do a year away. Now, damn Blago, you’re in the big leagues.
    He’s going to do some time over this jackpot he’s in.

    457 chars

  57. brian stouder said on June 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    baldheadeddork – excellent post; thanks very much for the perspective.

    I thought this part was especially striking –

    Try to imagine if, after finishing drivers ed, you only drove for 45-50 minutes a week. How good of a driver would you become? That’s the average for private pilots in the US.

    Our 15 year old son has his beginners permit, and is attending driver’s education every day, and we’ve been driving across town; a genuine life experience, this is.

    The other day we were leaving grandma’s neighborhood, and he rolled up to a stop sign and stopped. Looked left, saw a car coming that was signalling for a right turn, and I felt him release the brake – whereupon I immediately exclaimed “BRAKE BRAKE BRAKE!!” – and he came to a stop again, just as the signalling car blew past our front-end.

    As we gabbed about that, I told him that I don’t know why that other motorist caught my attention, but that after he drives enough, he, too, will just know (or rather, feel) when things aren’t right.

    1036 chars

  58. JayZ(the original) said on June 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Jeff (tmmo), you are the only one who correctly calls those nuisances Canada geese instead of Canadian geese.

    109 chars

  59. MarkH said on June 27, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    bhd@54 — No aplogy necessary. That “rambling” is about as good a synopsis as any of the realities of GA and what makes a good pilot (practice, practice, practice). A thousand things to be aware of, for sure. While “skull-chatter” may be too strong a term, my earlier point was that these types of people have a lot on their minds out side of the job at hand and piloting the plane may not be getting the attention it deserves from them. Your point is well-taken about lack of voice recorders and mental telepathy in not being sure what exactly happens in GA mishaps. Am I safe in standing by my statement that pilot error, in one form or another is the predominant cause of accidents? I know I read it prior to taking a few flight lessons years ago. Oh, yes, Flying Magazine. See below.

    Also, now that I am home, I have in front of me the book I referenced earlier. It’s called “Pilot Error” published by Flying Magazine. It’s a compilation of some of their regular columns of the same name. Compelling reading with chapter headings such as these:

    “Uh, Having a Little Trouble…”
    “Please Keep Talking to Me…”
    “We’re IFR; your intentions?”
    “Use Any Approach You Like…”
    “At Least we Saw the Runway That Time.”
    “…Can’t Continue on That Left Engine…”

    In the preface to the book, it talks about how student pilots have it drilled into them that if they have a mishap, it’s alomost always their fault:

    “Fear is not dealt with at all in instrument instruction. At the very early levels of flight instruction it is swept under the carpet (“…you see, there is nothing to be afraid of…”), and there it remains. The pilot is conditioned to believe that, if he proceeds according to the rules and is competent, nothing will go wrong. When something does go wrong, he learns, it can always be traced to some error on the part of the pilot. Again and again, pilots are found to show little sympathy for their colleagues who are hurt or die; some simplifying explanation is immediately hit upon to reassure the others that the same fate will not be theirs.” — Peter Garrison in “Pilot Error”, published by Flying Magazine.

    Dexter @56 — Right on. Damn Blago, you always wanted to be in the big leagues. And now, well….

    2243 chars

  60. Joe Kobiela said on June 28, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Drift over to flightaware.com and put in 98dm on the tail number slot then click my flight tonight from hts to dtw. Thats what 5000hr in the last 4yrs will let you do.
    Pilot Joe

    178 chars

  61. baldheadeddork said on June 28, 2011 at 12:16 am

    @MarkH – Yeah, you’re definitely safe about saying pilot error is the cause of most crashes. I just don’t like to make broad statements about some kinds of pilots having more on their mind than others.

    I’m a regular reader of Flying, too. I haven’t seen the book your referring to so maybe I’m taking the excerpt out of context, but I disagree with the tone. I’ve never seen it as always blaming the pilot when something bad happens. This is a very high barrier when talking about pilots, but I don’t project ego onto it. I see post-mortem crash reports as a way of keeping that loss from being in vain. Sometimes they’re seemingly big, dumb, and obvious mistakes, like running out of fuel. But as hard as it is, it’s maybe even more important to have an honest accounting when a handful of small errors or oversights sets the stage for a disaster.

    AF442 is a great example. I don’t think anyone can call that flight crew negligent, but at a critical moment in the middle of a brutal thunderstorm they failed to correctly see and respond to what was happening and just a couple of minutes of responding incorrectly sealed their fate. That will show up in simulator training for years to come and lives may well be saved because of it.

    About instrument training, if every CFII does drill into their students not to be afraid it’s because they’re already scared to death. I’ve known several flight instructors who took the instrument certification, each with over a thousand hours of flying, and to a person they were all scared during their instrument training. It’s tough, very expensive, very, very easy to fail, and flying under the hood (where you can only see the instrument panel) is incredibly stressful.

    1722 chars

  62. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 28, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Bill, I think you found the seam on Albom’s column. I really, really wanted to like it, because he had his thumb on something important, but he couldn’t figure out how to get his fingers out of the way to finish the knot. In preaching, it’s called “don’t make yourself the Christ figure.” There are stories and moments that are true, and valid, and just too dang good to not use in a sermon, and then (if you know your craft well enough, and are honest with yourself) you stop and say “but if I use that story, I’m making myself the Christ figure.”

    Maybe once or twice in a multi-decade career can you get away with it, said a wise old mentor of mine, but probably not even that. Partly because — it’s like potato chips. Making YOU the Christ figure is tasty and crunchy and everyone says “oh, that moved me so much” and encourages you to do it again, and again, and next thing you know you’ve made yourself a cardboard cutout, easy to drop into any story on cue.

    It’s not the same as thinking you’re Jesus (messiah complex is a whole ‘nother porfessional liability in ministry), but it’s related. Brother Mitch can’t resist, and maybe doesn’t quite realize it, but that’s what he’s doing.

    (JayZ, I get all itchy when people confuse swallows and sparrows, too; this is what earning Fish & Wildlife merit badge too young can do to one.)

    1349 chars

  63. baldheadeddork said on June 28, 2011 at 8:26 am

    @Joe – Nice job working around those storms. Tip of the hat to Indy Center, too.

    Did the 310 have radar?

    108 chars

  64. joodyb said on June 28, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    cool, pilot joe! thanks!

    24 chars

  65. Andrew J. said on June 29, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    There was satellite infrared imagery of watershed in the Fort Wayne/Indiana/northwest Ohio area to determine how much water was around when the Talking Heads were singing, “take me to the river.” But for the neighborhood bloke along Spy Run Creek, technology was a big old dipstick ruler stuck in the water to guide the sandbagging/evacuation planning.

    356 chars