Surgery tomorrow

It may be minor, but it’s still surgery.  Men with knives will be attacking my left elbow in an effort to bring relief to my tingling fingers.  Seems that I have managed to damage the nerve that wraps around the point of my elbow and it needs to be re-routed somewhere else.  It is straightforward surgery – but I will refrain from calling it ‘no-brainer’ for obvious reasons.

I have to stay overnight in the hospital, which isn’t a real hardship because it is for my own good to make sure there isn’t any post-op infection.  The hospital in question, by the way, the the base hospital at Wright Patterson AFB.  I live very close.  In fact, if there weren’t any trees I could see it.  When the wind is right, we can hear the music at Reveille and Retreat.

When I get back on Friday evening, I won’t be of much use here at the keyboard since I have to type with one hand.  I am very fast even with this handicap, but I think I just won’t feel like it so bear with me.


Not in a good mood…

I have no idea how long this post will be today.  It all started (the day, that is) at the horrible hour of 0600.  The wife could only get an appointment to see her Doc. at 0710 so we had to get up and ready for that.  At this time of the morning, I am bleary-eyed and definitely not bushy-tailed.  We joined the throng headed for Wright-Patt AFB and headed for the hospital.  They tell you to arrive 15 minutes early, but what they don’t tell you is that the clinic opens at 0700, so being there at 0655 is counterproductive.  We stood until five after for it to open.

Then the receptionist opened the door, wafting out a cloud of toxic stuff she had dipped herself in.  This immediately slapped my sinus openings closed.  In seconds, the noxious cloud had spread to the entire waiting room.  Fortunately, we weren’t there very long before we had to leave for the lab, then her PT session for her shoulder.

For those who don’t remember, she had shoulder surgery to re-attach a tendon she tore while out in Colorado trying to corral a feisty grandkid.  She is wearing what I can only describe a sling on steroids.  It consists of many straps, clips, Velcro fastenings, and a huge foam pad under her entire forearm.  I don’t know how comfortable it is, but I do know I wouldn’t like to wear it.

. . .

My truck (1996 Nissan Frontier) is rapidly converting available iron/steel into rust.  The latest thing is for the tires to very slowly lose air.  I might not notice it until I have to fight the steering wheel as I drift towards the right side of the road on a semi-flat tire.  My only means of pumping it back up (save changing a $10 bill into quarters to feed the greedy “free air” machines at filling stations) is to try and use my old 12v pump.  I’ve had it for a while and, at first, it used to work rather well.  Over the years, however, it has slowed down considerably.  Now, I can attach the clip, start the compressor, and go read “War and Peace” while the pathetic thing puts a few pounds per hour into the tire.  My regular service guy(s) tell(s) me that older wheels will develop what they call ‘rusty rims’ and start gradually losing air through them.  This is what is happening.  So, the next time I have to buy tires, I’m going to have to spring for a wheel cleaning and refit.  Bleh!

. . .

It is apparent now that I bought some really cruddy suet blocks for my feathered friends.  I found some at a place called “Ollie’s” that were marked down to $0.75 each.  I don’t know what they were made of, but none of my usual birds or squirrels will touch them.  The same suet block has been out there, hanging on the tree, for a week now and had just a few peck holes in it.  I tossed it on the ground and it’s still there a day later.  Even the squirrels won’t eat it – and it’s supposed to be a tough winter this year.  That’s the main reason I don’t have any animal antics pictures lately.

. . .

I have also been beating my head against the wall trying to figure out what is wrong with one of my computers.  At first, I just thought is was some playfulness of Vista, but that was not the trouble.  What happens is that it will suddenly, for no reason at all, freeze.  The mouse stops moving, the keyboard stops responding, and it just sits there looking stupid.  I have to power down to recover.  Then, during power-up and re-boot, it may or may not stop responding yet again.  At first I thought it might be memory but overnight tests say no.  Then I tried power supplywent from a 250W to a 475W unit.  Still does it.  Then I bought a new video card for the PCI-X slot – no change.  Then I tried a new 500G hard drive – no change.  Finally I threw caution to the winds and yanked all the connections and pulled the motherboard.  I examined every square inch of it by magnifying glass.  Couldn’t find a thing except one of the hundreds of pins on a RAM-stick slot was bent.  As a test, I pulled the stick out and firet the computer up.  It ran for two days and I thought I’d ficed it.  BOOM!  Still halts again.

Now enter the big guns.  I fired a salvo of Ubuntu LINUX at it.  This ran nicely for three days, then started halting again.  So, unless I can come up with the cosmic force that has inhabited my computer and making it fail, this one is headed for the old graveyard in the closet along with my 8″ floppy drive and my tape backup units.



Why draft the young?

I received this email from a friend and thought it might make a good blog post.  I do not know the original creator, but I can identify with him very much:

I am over 60 and the Armed Forces thinks I’m too old to track down terrorists.  You can’t be older than 42 to join the military.  They’ve got the whole thing ass-backwards.  Instead of sending 18-year olds off to fight, they ought to take us old guys.  You shouldn’t be able to join a military unit until you’re at least 35.

For starters: Researchers say 18-year-olds think about sex every 10 seconds.  Old guys only think about sex a couple of times a day, leaving us more than 28,000 additional seconds per day to concentrate on the enemy.

Young guys haven’t lived long enough to be cranky, and a cranky soldier is a dangerous soldier.  ‘My back hurts! I can’t sleep, I’m tired and hungry!’  We are impatient, and maybe letting us kill some dude that desperately deserves it will make us feel better and shut us up for a while.

An 18-year-old doesn’t even like to get up before 10 a.m.  Old guys always get up early to pee so what the hell.  Besides, like I said, ‘I’m tired and can’t sleep and since I’m already up, I may as well be up killing some fanatical terrorist.

If captured, we couldn’t spill the beans because we’d forget where we put them; in fact, name, rank, and serial number would be a real brainteaser.

Boot camp would be easier for old guys.  We’re used to getting screamed and yelled at and we’re used to soft food.  We’ve also developed an appreciation for guns.  We’ve been using them for years as an excuse to get out of the house, away from the screaming and yelling.

They could lighten up on the obstacle course, however.  I’ve been in combat and didn’t see a single 20-foot wall with rope hanging over the side, nor did I ever do any pushups after completing basic training.

Actually, the running part is kind of a waste of energy, too.  I’ve never seen anyone outrun a bullet.

An 18-year-old has the whole world ahead of him.  He’s still learning to shave and start up a conversation with a pretty girl.  He still hasn’t figured out that a baseball cap has a brim to shade his eyes, not the back of his head.

These are all great reasons to keep our kids at home to learn a little more about life before sending them off into harm’s way.

Let us old guys track down those dirty rotten coward terrorists.  The last thing an enemy would want to see is a couple of million pissed off old farts with attitudes and automatic weapons; who know that their best years are already behind them.

How about recruiting Women over 50 … in menopause!  You think Men have attitudes!  Ohhhhhh my God!  If nothing else, put them on border patrol.  They’ll have it secured the first night!

48 Short Years

Today, August 1st, is the 48th Anniversary of our marriage.  Over the years, we have been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, and done a great many others.  Throughout this 48 years, through lean and rich times, good and bad times, and even war times, we’ve remained on an pretty even keel.

As I’ve remarked to a few close friends, I absolutely cannot remember ever having an argument longer than perhaps ten minutes.  This is the truth because we decided way back when that we would never go to bed mad at each other.  This meant some late night conversations, but we never broke the rule.

Contrary to male stereotypes, I can vividly remember our wedding and who wore what.  It was a military wedding actually.  My best man was a close friend who had flown back to the States with me from the Azores.  We were in uniform.  My dad, a Colonel in the Air Force, wore his.  My four ushers were from three services: Army, Marine, Air Force.  Enlisted men don’t have sword arches, but when we left the ceremony we ran between a file of rice-throwers.

After the reception, we headed out in our trusty little Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible for our honeymoon to the West Coast.  Trust me, you really get to know someone when you are in the confines of a small car for thousands of miles.  It was a wonderful trip.  We even managed to win a little money in Las Vegas.  Neither one of us was old enough to go into a casino, but some of the slots were accessible.  We did a lot of camping since it was August.

We had a couple of large bumps in our relationship when I went overseas unaccompanied, but when we got together in both the Philippines and Japan we managed to have our two girls.  They were seven years apart, but that is a good thing I think because we tended to enjoy them more.

Over the years since I retired from the navy, we bounced around the country and finally settled down here in Ohio.  We’ve been here now twenty years and don’t plan to move further.  We grow old, but only in years, not in any other way.  I still look upon my wife with pleasure when I see her walking towards me.  We still jibe at each other playfully, finish each other’s sentences, and drive our kids and grandkids nuts with our offbeat sense of humor.

It’s been a grand tour and here’s hoping it goes on for a lot longer than just 48 years.  We’d like to take a good cruise on our 50th, so we have to get ready for that in 2013.  If someone back in 1963 had told me that I’d still be married to the same person in 2011 I would have looked askance at them.  And, now, here I am.

I love you, Babe.

My Birthday

Well, here it is again; another birthday.  This one is a milestone though.  It isn’t a decade gone by, but an end to a decade – my 60’s.  Today I am 69.

I will have to cram a load of stuff into this year because once I trun 70 it’s supposed to be all downhill.  I thought of starting a bucket list, but couldn’t think of anything I’d really like to do that I already haven’t done.  Normal stuff seems a bit mundane and some of the more exotic things are now memories.

Like, for instance, driving a steam locomotive; I’ve done it.  Not one of those amusement park rides, but a real, honest-to-goodness, smoke spewing, steam hissing, black-painted locomotive coupled to a string of three passenger cars, a diner, a generator car, and a kitchen galley car.  This was while I was on vacation up in Connecticut, on the scenic rail line known as The Essex Steam Train (Or, the Valley Railroad).  Their web site is found here:

If anyone else is interested in doing something like this, check out the part of the web site called “Your Hand on the Throttle”.  It is an awesome experience.

Here is a shot of me in the hot seat:

For years I wanted to do some flying.  Not in an airliner (although I’ve done a whole lot of that) but doing it myself.  One of my past birthdays my daughter and a couple of friends set me up at a local airport for a series of sailplane lessons.  The introductory package consisted of three launchings (and, hopefully, an equal amount of landings).  The first, from 4,000 feet was handled completely by the instructor who sat behind me.  He guided the plane upwards behind the Cessna towing us and yanked the T-handle to disconnect the tow rope.

Then he showed me some basic plane-handling maneuvers.  I followed him with my hands and feet lightly on the rudder pedals and the stick.  We turned for the home field and landed.

The next launching went up to 4,000 feet and I got to pull the disconnect handle.  The instructor then showed me how to use the wind indicators to find thermals to keep us aloft.  I had to “unlearn” some things from powered flight in order to learn about gliding.  For instance: when you feel a wing lift in a powered plane, you try to stabilize the plane.  But, in a glider, you turn INTO the rising wing and gain lift.  It’s not quite that simple, but that’s the general idea.  You look down and try to overfly light-colored fields and roads as thermals will rise off them and take you upwards.

The third, and best, launch took us to almost 6,000 feet.  We couldn’t go higher because of the runway patterns from Greater Cincinnati Airport (in Kentucky) or CVG for short.  On this flight, I did pretty much all of it from release to even attempting a few mild aerobatics.  I was too chicken to try a full loop, so the instructor took me through a series of three of them in a row.  It was grand.  I turned for home and lined up for the landing and then he took over.  I even have the logbook to prove it.

Here are some other things I’ve done (and some of them I don’t want to do again).

I spent five, almost-year-long tours in a war zone (Vietman &Thailand)

Gone through a major typhoon in an old Liberty ship (USS Oxford – detailed in this blog).

Been in two larger-than-normal earthquakes (in Japan – also in the blog)

The wife and I have taken 4 wonderful cruises (East & West Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Mexican Riviera) for a total of over 30 days.

Lived in Alaska back long before it was a state (1946-1950).  While I was there I learned how to drive a four-dog sledding team at age 7.

I’ve milked many a cow.

Been present at the birth (finally) of a relative.  My granddaughter, 21 years ago.  Holding that pale, squirmy little girl was indescribable.

Watching that self-same granddaughter pass her driving test for a license 20 years after her birth.  The grin was ear-to-ear (hers, too).

Watching a huge thundershower cross the Continental Divide when I was higer than it at almost 14,000 feet.

After hunting in Colorado for over ten years, bringing down my first Elk.

And, finally, the most awesome one of all:  being married to the same wonderful person for just under 50 years.  We will celebrate that in 2013.

Wal*Mart Greeter

Charley, a new retiree-greeter at Wal*Mart, just couldn’t seem to get to work on time.

Every day he was 5, 10, 15 minutes late. But he was a good worker, really tidy, clean-shaven, sharp-minded and a real credit to the company and obviously demonstrating their “Older Person Friendly” policies.

One day the boss called him into the office for a talk.

“Charley, I have to tell you, I like your work ethic, you do a bang-up job when you finally get here; but your being late so often is quite bothersome.”

“Yes, I know boss, and I am working on it.”

“Well good, you are a team player. That’s what I like to hear.”

“Yes sir, I understand your concern and I’ll try harder.”

Seeming puzzled, the manager went on to comment, “It’s odd though, your coming in late. I know you’re retired from the Armed Forces. What did they say to you there if you showed up in the morning so late and so often?”

The old man looked down at the floor, then smiled.

He chuckled quietly, then said with a grin, “They usually came to attention and said, ‘Good morning, Admiral, can I get your coffee, Sir?'”

Reader’s Choice

So there you have it.  All of my overseas duty stations covered.  I suppose I could do the same thing with my stateside stations, but that might get a bit personal for the natives even though I retired from Skaggs Island, California way back in 1980.

I encourage readers to scan through my blog and pick out any special place they might like more details on.  I am sure I can supply things of interest for each and every one of them.

Just leave a comment and I’ll do my best.  With the nice spring season creeping up on us I might take a while though.  My camera is at the ready to capture some more bird/squirrel antics this year as they kick seeds onto the ground from the feeder and try to get into the cage with the suet.



Beautiful Thailand, Pt 5

One of the most entertaining (and wet) festivals I’ve ever been involved in is called Songkran.  Songkran is celebrated from April 13 to 15 (The New Year period) and consists of free-ranging people armed with buckets of water or power soakers.  No matter who you are, where you are, or how much you duck you cannot dodge a blast of water.

My introduction to this really fun fest was when I walked out of my bungalow and stood beside the road to catch the Baht bus for work.  A ‘lao-lao’ (literally – fast-fast) truck passed me but as it passed several passengers leaned out and pasted me with water.  In the background, I heard Nang go into hysterical laughter as I stood, dripping, with my mouth open.  My first reaction was one of rage, but, then I remembered Nang warning me several days ago.

Fortunately, the Marine utilities I wore dried off pretty fast in the heat.  Plus, the driver of the bus didn’t allow any water-throwing while in motion.  Now I understood why everyone was dressed in tee shirts, shorts and thongs.

I made it through the main gate of the base and stood my watch.  On my way home, I stopped by a friend’s room in the barracks and changed into my gym stuff.  Leaving the gate, I was primed to have some fun.

The next transportation to come by was another lao-lao truck.  I hailed it, dodged the water, and climbed aboard.  These trucks were a standard Toyota pickup, but was fitted with seats and a canvas cover in the bed.  This one had a big vat of water and spare buckets.  I joined in the general merriment as we waterbombed everyone along the way.

When I got home (thoroughly soaked) my friend Phupit, the taxi driver, Nang, and two other girls were ready to go out and soak some serious butt.  They’d located a pickup and filled a big plastic tank in the back.  Armed with huge water-soaker, pump-action squirt guns we headed for the center of town.  This video was taken in Bangkok but can give you some idea of the chaos during this New Year celebration much better than I:

– – –

The one good thing I liked to eat you can’t really get here.  That’s a nice juicy steak.  Very expensive restaurants can get it from Australia, but the little mama-sans and their charcoal braziers haven’t a chance.  What you can get, and is surprisingly good, is a water buffalo steak.  One weekend, myself and several of my neighbors planned and executed a block party.  Celebrations of all kinds always drew hordes of kids, and this was no exception.  To this end, we bought two hundred hot dogs to grill on our backyard grill.  We had two halves of a fifty gallon drum lying flat and covered with a cast-iron grill.

While we held off the kids with their hot dogs, we grilled a mountain of buffalo steaks marinated in teriyaki sauce.  Everyone on our street came to the event bringing lots of side dishes.  On my street alone, there were quite a few retired US servicemen and their families.  Add to this a bunch more active-duty types on their weekend, and we had a real party.

An actual Singha beer truck parked at the end of the street (since it was too narrow to turn around in) and we schlepped seven cases of beer down to be dumped into galvanized tubs filled with ice.  Add to that about six cases of assorted soda pop for the kids and a huge pot of green tea for those who didn’t drink either beer or soda.  We stayed away from the bottled napalm I previously mentioned.

By the time dusk arrived, lights had been strung and several local bands began tuning up.  One such band played professionally at one of the bars called The Golden Horse.  They were hugely popular and when they started their set everyone listened.  Their specialty was the current rock being played in the ‘70s; mostly from Deep Purple.  They did a version of “Smoke on the Water” that couldn’t be distinguished from the original group.  Well, maybe you could if you were half in the bag.

The bands playing American favorites were interleaved with pick-up bands of local Thai talent.  They were very good also.  One such band played a special tune that was composed just for our party.  It was done in the Mor Lam style I described in a previous post.  Somewhere I have it on reel-to-reel tape and I will find it sometime.

Parties, as opposed to festivals, run until everyone poops out.  Ours ran from Friday evening until Sunday morning; sometimes waning, but never completely stopping.  I don’t think I got more than three or four hours of sleep during the entire period.  We made a lot of friends during that time.  Nothing untoward happened because we’d also hired four off-duty Thai cops as security.  Nobody messed with them.  Tired, but happy, we just relaxed in the bungalow Sunday evening.

– – –

My tour of nearly thirteen months was coming to an end.  Nang and the housegirls were quite somber as they went about their duties.  Packers came and boxed up what items I did have to ship to California – my next duty station.  It was going to be very hard to leave this place.  I’d had so much fun and made tons of friends, but it was time to get back to my own family.

The morning of my last day, Nang hired four Monks to come and hold a brief ceremony.  It was touching to see all the girls sniffling as they tied yarn around my wrist.  This is a sign of respect and friendship.  By the time they and my neighbors had finished, I had a huge knot of threads on both wrists; and a lump in my throat.  I stood, made a small speech, and bowed over the food I’d given to the Monks and then walked out to the taxi for my ride to the air base and my flight home.

I haven’t been back since, but I would really like to do so.  I made a lot of friends over there.