Merry Christmas!

 The only reason there is a Christmas if because God loves you (it's personal!).


Here is my first shot at writing a newsletter straight onto the web site (a year end one at least).  It is Christmas Day as I write (too busy to type over the last few months).  I'll keep this letter a bit shorter than past letters since the first few months' high points are covered in the accounts of my trip to China, Japan , the May 3rd Tornado, and Brazil.  If those were the only adventures of 1999, that would be enough- but WAIT! There's more...  (actually this is a whirwind letter only 5 pages long... you CAN read it!).

PhD Exam/Work/School

    Much of the middle of this year (May through August) was spent with me studying for the PhD qualifier.  It is a two day exam that is made up of 5 topics two questions Each.  The material covers all classes offered by the school of meteorology over the past five years.  I spent more and more time studying and less and less time doing anything else through May-August until in the end I was pulling about 15 hours a day studying.
            September 1 and 2 were the days for the exam.  I had fun (believe it or not) taking the exam and felt I had done well.  The short of it is I did not pass.  I scored about a point per question (10%) below the minimum for a qualified pass.  It was rough.  Where do I go from here?  Check out the section called THE FUTURE below to find out.
            My piconet is still collecting data near Chickasha (deployed last Christmas/New Year's).  I have one year of data on fine scale rainfall data from my piconet.  I'm working on it over this Christmas break getting the first statistics out of the data.  The setup is going very well!  See the details about it by going to my web page for it .

I also taught GEOS 2004 again this Fall (the class is an introductory course in using computer models to diagnose the earth system).  You can go the the 1,000's of pages of content on the web site for THAT class at  (yes everything I do is becoming web based--- kinda like MS windows!  yikes.).

I'm still working at the Oklahoma Omniplex science museum's planetarium.  You can see details about that at .  The sad thing is I didn't get to do the Christmas special this year.  :(  Soon we will have a real Imax theatre at the Omniplex.  The technological advances of civilization are inching their way into Oklahoma. 

Church & Viola

Since I'm still focused on the earning of the PhD and all the trappings that go with that endeavor,  I'm not pastoring a house church or part of a regular ministry (excepting the day to day Jesus reflecting I pray I'm doing!). The emphasis of my Church is still Jesus and the lost and poor.  It has not been stolen up into programs, elitism, rules and regulations.  It is wonderful.  It is holding onto its first love and keeping simple.  They are sticking to their own policy of not letting people commit to more than one task/ministry in the church - so as not to overuse and burn people out. 
   I am taking viola lessons from Standrige Music in Norman.  My instructor is a very talented Violin and Viola player named Daniel.  I still play many weekends at Church (including tomorrow).  Travel is the main reason I miss band playing.  My band "These Stones" has disbanded since our band leaders (Jeff and Vivi Hall) have had a child and our cello player (Kelley DiMarzio and husband John) have moved to Ohio.  I miss playing in public with them, it was a GREAT time.   

Mike & Jason- the Roommates and Scott Shideler

Mike and Jason are doing on the up and up.  Mike is still working on his Masters work under his main advisor.  He has a new computer this year and is cooking at 450Mhz.  His dinner group stopped 5 years of making dinners for each other once a week.  I guess if we have to start putting 20 before the year now, then all bets are off.  (what AM I talking about anyway?).    
            Jason is working for CAPS still on computer models that will get to the finer and finer details of weather forecasting.  He is getting into photography (large format and 35mm velvita (spelling!) and the like).  You'll want to go to their web pages to see more about their lives!  Go to my links page for them...

Scott Shideler got married last December (great adventure!) so we're up to an annaversary!  Beverly is pregnant with twin girls now!!!  I've lost my bedroom to a nursery.  :)  She is due in February.
     I've been up to Chicago a few times to visit.  One visit occurred in June/July where I was told prepare to camp for a week upon my arrival.  (Yes, I took a break from studying to do this!).  We went to Cornerstone in Illinois.  It is a Christian Woodstock.  Many stages and bands playing (often all night).  We had a tremendous thunderstorm on our second night with cold temperatures.  These were replaced by record high temperature by the end of the stay.  It was extreme.  It was here that Scott introduced me to the idea of running the Chicago Marathon in October. I'll go into detail about that below.  We did run a 5K (3.1 miles) race here and it almost killed me (my first 2 miles with Scott were deadly!).  My next visit was the Marathon itself (again, coming up). 


Again due to time I've cut back a bunch on organized exercise. I'm not wrestling anymore with Sunkist Wrestling under Frank Trigg (no time!).  I'm lifting when the time allows (3-4 times a week and various times) usually with my friend Eric Fooshee (no web page yet). And I have been running described below.  The rest of my exercise time was spend doing this running...

The Chicago Marathon

Starting with the Cornerstone Festival, I began to follow Hal Higdon's training program for Novices for the marathon.  It involved 4 running days a week with low mileage on Tuesday and Thursday, a medium distance run on Wednesday and a long distance run on Saturday.   Scott and I trained virtually (I just had to use the 'v' word).  We emailed our times to each other daily and discussed injuries and difficulties.  It was HOT here so I ran after 11pm on most nights.  I ran around 380 miles up to and including the race.  On the longer runs, my Mom followed in the car and we talked via hand held CB radios.  The longest pre-race run was a 22 mile training run a month before the marathon. 
            I can't say I enjoyed all the training, it was long and painful at times.  But there was a neat mood/experience that was new to me doing all this running. At times I even had runners high (which is strange, but kinda fun).  I averaged 9 minutes a mile in all my training with my fastest mile from each run averaging just a bit more than 8 minutes a mile. 
            When the race time came, I drove up to Chicago a few days early.  We did the standard carbo-loading the night before (a bunch of tasty Bev-made pasta) and drove to the race in the wee hours of the morning.   Due to a poor decision on the part of the race organizers, only one person was taking the $10 parking fee.  We got stuck in traffic on I-55.  We changed in the car and hopped out onto the interstate and walked/trotted to the start line.  We arrived at the starting crowd just about as the horn went off and the elite runners began.  It took 10 minutes for the crowd movement to get to us.
            It was amazing to be part of a crowd that consisted of just shy of 30,000 runners.  We flowed in a continuous moving ribbon of humanity over hills, through tunnels and over bridges.  People dropped 100's of articles of clothing (since it was about 33 F and breezy) along the way.  The road was littered with cups, food wrappers and clothing.  Quite a mess.  Scott and I determined to stay together through out the run as his knee was hurting him a lot.  Our times at the start, 7, 13.1, 17 and the finish line were sent automatically to a web site as we ran. 
            We had to pee in an alley (along with men and women) around mile 7- it was quite messy. There were live bands on street corners playing for the runners as we went and goofy people in costume (including a 4 person cow with runners connected by Holstein colored bed sheets). 
             We had the CB's with us to talk with Bev and Tarra as we ran.  We accidentally (in the rush to get to the race on time) checked the other CB with our coats. We finished in just over 5 hours.  The winner finished in 2 hours 3 minutes, the last people came across in more than 7 hours (we finished ahead of 25% of the field).  It was an INCREDIBLE time - a Scott and John thing!

You can check out the  results of the race by clicking there and entering our names (Ensworth and Shideler- and yes he finished a second ahead of me most of the time- BUT NOT NEXT YEAR!!!). 

Dad Move

I also went to Florida in the summer to help my Dad move to Illinois (now I have Scott in the same state as my Dad- my evil plans are working wonderfully!).  We stayed on the beach for a number of days as the house got packed up, then we headed in a four car caravan from Jacksonville to Bloomington (yes the HOME of State Farm). We battled stinky dogs, fog, and late night driving, but we got there. The beach house was GREAT, but the trip was quite a haul.  (I guess there are not free lunches! :)   ).    This was the same trip that included the Cornerstone trip above.

San Francisco

    In other trips (yes I'm rushing through this letter so I can get SOMETHING on the web before Christmas is over!), I went to San Francisco last week to present my budding research at the AGU (American Geophysical Union) annual meeting.  The highlight of the visit was getting to visit my Uncle Tom, Aunt Genie and Cousin Lisa.  They picked me up at the airport, fed me Thai Food and delivered me to my ultra cool 19th floor corner hotel room (two views!). 
               I presented my poster on Wednesday, attended talks 4 of the other days (until my butt hurt) and programmed on my computer and project.  In addition to the official things- I got to ride a cable car (not a trolley car- that is a different thing).  The cable cars are the rice-a-roni cable cars. I visited Alcatraz, ran to the Golden Gate Bridge and sunset and visited the Ghirardelli chocolate factory.   (The founder of this delicious chocolate learned chocolate making in Europe, moved to S. America to make a fortune, met a man from San Francisco who bought wood from Ghirardelli for furniture making.  He talked G. into moving to San Francisco.  G. arrived in San Francisco 2 days before gold was discovered.  Quite a life!).
               I visited and ate in Chinatown with Pan Neal from OU, and with my uncle and cousin, I went and visited Miur Forest (redwoods!) and ate at a really nice restaurant called the Cliff House.  A bunch of hiking and eatin'.  That's livin'!  San Francisco is an amazing city with an awful lot of neat stuff to see and do.  You just have to watch out for earthquakes and other dangers.  :0   I'll eventually scan pictures of this trip and get them online (if I have enough memory to do it!).

Maryland *2

In 1999, I visited the Greenbelt MD Holiday in twice.  Once was back in May for the yearly USRA/NASA Goddard environmental talks (I should link the notes in here...) and again two weeks ago with a co-worker from EVAC (environmental verification and analysis center).   This time I was looking for people doing the same kind of research I am for my PhD.  I'm trying to set up a 2.5 month stay at NASA Goddard to do research and rub elbows with leaders in my field.  You'll have to check back next year to find out what happened!


I did become a lawyer briefly this Fall.  I received a speeding ticket in a school zone where my van could not accelerate to the stated speed if it were 10 years younger.  I appeared for my arraignment and pleaded not guilty and a court date was set.  I read a few hundred pages of traffic court cases and studied traffic law for a month and went in with 9 exhibits and 5 minutes of questions to cross examine the officer with.  It was VERY hard and nerve racking. They do NOT make it easy to beat a ticket- no matter how innocent you are. AND if you are found innocent, you still pay court costs- so when the lights flash behind you- your local municipality has pulled in some more tax revenue. 
        Though the officer was chastised for arguing with the defendant, and most of the prosecutors objections were overruled, the judge felt that he couldn't pass on the testimony of the officer and found me guilty.  BUT the maximum fine was $200 (what the prosecutor was going for), the plea bargain (no contest plea) was $100, and the judge complimented me on my presentation and only charged me $50.  I guess that's a small win- AND I got to face a VERY scary situation and survive it.  Whew. 

Wheel of Time Books

         Dee Anne (see the China trip) lent me the book series "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan.  I'm addicted and have infected Eric Fooshee and Scott Shideler.  They are well written, deep and BIG (1000's of pages).  There is even a video game out on it now.  I strongly suggest you read them IF you like fantasy (which I'm a new comer to!).

Star Wars

This was also the year that Star Wars Episode 1 came out.  I camped out a week before the first showing on the theatre sidewalk in a cool drizzle. I arrived at midnight.  Some of the people already in line had a TV and VCR set up playing the original movies, some people were playing Dungeons and Dragons, and somebody drove up with a grille and cooked hotdogs and hamburgers. Friends of mine met me in the morning and we purchased more than 50 tickets (we owned 10% of the theatre).  I ran around with a light saber in a black jumpsuit.  Yes, I nerded out.  I enjoyed it, but would like the next film to be more 'adult' like the first three.

Computer Upgrade/Cable Modem

         I also rebuilt my computer from scratch with every part ordered over the internet (  is a GREAT site for bargains). Only the case came from a local dealer.  It is a dual processor Pentium III 466Mhz with 128mb of RAM and 52 gb of hard disk space (yes 52).   It is ready to carry me into the next millennium (a year from now).  I'm also dual booting into Windows 2000 (Beta Release Candidate 3) so I can try it out.  Nice changes, but for the average person- Windows 2000 will look the same (but crash fewer times).  It really is the operating system for system administrators dreams. 

My 15 mega-bytes of fame

            You can quote me on that (I'm trying to coin this phrase).  You can see all the stuff I'm doing on this page, on and  I'm learning more and more about web page design--- it IS where the future of commerce and education is going.  Kinda scary and exciting at the same time.  We'll see what Y2K does to it (hee hee). 

         We did grow a BIG garden this year with tomatoes, pumpkins, melons, corn, peppers, cucumbers, garlic, onions and spices.  Due to business though, it did turn into a food AND weed garden (read Jungle).  We ARE helping to restore the rainforest though.  I nice contribution- no?

The Planetarium/Leonid Meteors

    I'm still working at the planetarium now and then (VERY fun) and waiting for the new Imax theatre to open here (I want to see Fantasia 2000 !).  The Leonid Meteors (a bust this year in Oklahoma even with clear skies) saw me spending the night in a school yard with Eric Fooshee lecturing sleepy kids on astronomy while they watched for meteors.  All the local TV stations were out there turning on their camera lights now and then blinding kids while they looked up or through my telescope.  It was sad (but funny in a sadistic way). 

Friends new and old 

         Major new friends in closeness and such are Eric Fooshee a former OU student who works for a mortgage company at present. He is also my workout partner.  Gregg Johnson is my house church pastor, new running partner and accountability friend.  He is a great guy to get knowing. Mark Lindsey from the planetarium is also becoming a good friend (and is a GREAT author- hopefully I can advertise his first book here soon!).  Vicki and Monty Joe Roberts who run the Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast are just like family as are Marco and Melony Miccozzi who work with me at the Black Mesa raingauge network. Dee Anne Anderson and I are presently long distance email friends (kinda like Scott; distances suck!).   I also got to see Mark Frederick (who is back in Arizona) when I visited Arizona in September AND Scott E. Long.  Those are two solid friends that I don't get to spend enough time with (much like Matt Mercer, Kevin Dean, and Uwem here in OK). My roommates and I are close and have a GREAT home life (lots of late night talk).  Of course Scott Shideler is my brother- just with non-matching genetic material.

The Future 

 I'll be working on slightly different tasks at the office (SRCD grant) through the spring with no at-OU teaching this semester.  I'll be continuing on my PhD research data collection and statistics through this spring +.  I'll work at the planetarium now and then, I'll teach an intro to astronomy class to adult education classes for two weekends in Feb/March and maybe go to work/study/research at NASA Goddard in the summer.  I *might* take the PhD exam again this September (but not if the summer job is too demanding).  If I skip it this time, then the September 2001 test will be the end of my PhD career one way or another (if I pass then I'll quickly defend the completed thesis- if I fail- I'll publish my research and move on to plan B - whatever that is.)    

Thanks for sticking with me and reading all this!  Happy New Year (and next year - happy millennium).

I love you all !

John Ensworth