Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I joined the Reserves for a whole 'nother blog entry's reasons. I trained on M-60A1s at Fort Knox; when I got to my unit, Troop D, 5th Armored Cavalry at Fort Devens, they had 'straight' M-60's, the first version of the M-60. Later we were issued the last version of the '60, the M60A3. A sweet shooting and scooting tank. It was our first 'digital' tank,with an excellent main gun fire control system. After the hand cranked range finders of earlier models, just pushing the button to get the range with the laser range finder was swell. Excellent tight turret stabilization helped with firing on the move, a big plus.
We had two training cycles: gunnery , followed by a maneuver year. Gunnery cycles were spent on the tank range (think a 2 mile wide by 5 mile deep gravel pit); maneuver training was spent in the boonies.That was when the black berets came out. See, other NATO tankers have worn black berets since before there was a NATO, so some of our older tankers thought American tankers should do so. In the New England spring and summer, maneuvers were great, knocking down trees and conducting tank and wingman exercises. Winter training was more rigorous. No bumping trees, the tc hated it when the snow fell on him..... We had excellent cold weather gear , but 58 tons of steel can hold a lot of cold. The tanks had heaters, which worked most of the time. After a night road march, crews would sleep on the back deck of their tank, above the warm diesel engine. An extreme violation of doctrine (if an rpg hits a track one is sleeping on, all bets are off), but in that flip dark chill winter night it felt great. Nothing illustrates the expression 'hog on ice' better than a tank on the road in winter. I never lost control while driving one, but had a couple interesting rides. A tank commander told me the tanks have less ground pressure per square inch than a refrigerator, even though they still had a tendency to pack snow to ice.
There are other aspects of tanking I have not jabbered about; that will have to be a future post. I would like to wish all 7 of my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, with special greetings for Barret Bonden and The Crow, two people who inspire, entertain, and inform me. Thank you.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Speaking of sure things: conversations run from football and deer hunting to pissing and moaning about President Obama. Unless there are black people in attendance; then there is no whining about the President. There is a radio, not always on, thankfully. Sessions last 45 minutes without a class, and an hour with a class. I enjoy the rowing machine, makes me feel all a-viking, and detest the Satan bicycle. Going for the gestalt here folks; we also get training on diet, stress relief (HA!), etc. I learned there is one thing no cardiac patient should do: shovel snow. It was news to me . Theories are the arteries constrict in colder weather, exacerbating even minor build-ups of plaque, causing blockages.
Being up to greet the sun, even to shovel snow, is good medicine. My first job in 1968, ink still wet on my Social Security card (thank you, Franklin! ), required me to be there at 0430. Newspapers to sort, count, and bundle for the delivery boys and stores. A great time o' the day. I felt, even those days I froze walking to Columbian Square, that I was getting one up on the day (o foolish youth!). Dad, a reticent Yankee, gave me one piece of advice: "mouth shut and ears open.". It worked at McGaw News Agency, APA Transport, Time-DC Trucking, The Tufts Library, Plaza Men's Shop, and Kellaway Transportation. It worked in the US Army, 3 colleges and two, no three, model clubs. It is working for me now in rehab. Nope,I don't mind being the FNG atall atall.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The coast of NC was a jumping area during the Civil War, the name I was taught to call it growing up in the North. Down Here, 'bout the best moniker you can get is The War Between The States. Big topic: pops up all the time in one form or another. NC has 1 0f 3 extant ironclads; the timbers of the CSS Neuse were dug out of the river she was named for and dragged to a park in Kinston. There is also a 1/1 wooden mockup of her nearby, really cool. The Confederacy, with about 4,000 miles of coast to defend, a blockade along that coast to circumvent, and a big ol' river serving as a spine, had two shipyards: 2. The Federals put the kibosh to them, so the Southern ironclads were built in cornfields along a river. Live oak was the wood of choice; by the 1860's they were rare and in hard to reach areas, so pine had to suffice. Many a time an ironclad, steaming downriver like a snapping turtle, rang with the sound of hammers as she chugged into harm's way. The ironclad design of CSS Virginia and her brood are best for brown water operations, not the open sea. See, they were built like a house. A rectangular box, with angled iron (rarely more than 2, never more than 4 inches thick) casemates over them. A section of armor on the lower side prevent waterline shots. The armor worked: one story, I won't bore you with more. A Yankee lieutenant pulled the lanyard on a rifled 100 pounder gun (see, a revolution in gunnery is occuring with 2 other maritime revolutions: steam screw power and armor);to his dismay the round ricocheted off the reb ironclad 20 feet away, up into the air and landed on the deck of his ship. It exploded, killing him and several other men.
Bibliographic note: an excellent concise introduction to ironclads may be found in War at Sea in the Ironclad Age , by Richard Hill. Civil War Ironclads: The Dawn of Naval Armor, by Charles MacBride , is an excellent overview of the construction and use of ironclad ships by both sides. It is hard-to-find and often cited; talk about fetching up on the Isles of Serendip, I found one at a bookdealer at a local antiques show. A very interesting and quite well written one volume history of the reb navy is Raimondo Luraghi's A History of the Confederate Navy, translated by Paolo E. Coletta. It is very readable, and good scholarship by someone with no axe to grind.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Well, if the HR dementers find me, I will suck it up and put the Master Plan into operation. Whatever that is. Large food garden, get crackin' on my threatened novel, and assorted other retirement projects will keep me occupied. I hope.
Once the tedious dust settles , I promise some screeds on fun stuff again: Henry Knox, a very interesting Revolutionary officer; a journey to New England across my family's Styx; where the stimulus money is going; and triplanes.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Fascinating place, Pompeii. Yes, a tourist trap; to me an interesting one.I have had a lifelong interest in ancient history, and had not been to Pompeii when I was in Italy in 1973. This day we were on a two hour tour, not enough. Andiamo, andiamo! Architecture, especially old or ancient architecture, fascinates me. I wanted to be an architect when I was young; that was before my dis-interested adolescent brain encountered geometry. Now I like to look at buildings.
The box hanging around my neck is a clever device. It was new to me: obviously, I do not get out enough. It is a radio receiver through which one can hear one's guide over a limited range. Saves wear and tear on the guide's voice.Worked quite nicely. One cannot read a guide book while sauntering through the ruins--too many stones to trip the unwary.
Stones trip us at all stages of life. The trick is to be wary.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
This is the first of an occasional succint series about some photographs from Flickr that I have saved as 'favorites'.
This photo is labelled "Peruvian anti-riot police" by the photographer. The tight composition caught my eye, along with the armor. A good thing to have when people are throwing bottles and bricks your way.It takes eight pounds of pressure per square inch to break human bone. So yes to armor, however ant-like. They remind me of ant-men. Myrmidons: created from ants by Zeus. Loyal. Swarming. Lots of them.
Another aspect of the photo appealed to me. I like groups; working with and achieving goals with a group. O I can go off and read a book all 'on my oddy-knocky', but it is the group, whether it be a tank crew, library staff, or model group that gets things done.
Then, as always, there is the word: Myrmidons. The tribe Achilles led. Created by Zeus from ants, wrote Ovid. Later, it came to mean 'robot-like'; then, 'mindless ruffians'. Shakespeare did not think much of them. I prefer the ant-men etymology: my fascination with Formicidae goes back a long way. That is another story.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Thank you, BB, for the kind words.
I have been more frugal lately as I have been grappling with the black dog. I have that old familiar feeling of the baseball bat across the shoulder blades, accompanied by the radiating pain down the arm; signs of a blockage. I have 3 stents in me, one for each heart attack. I know the signs. Tomorrow I see the sawbones: he will look at me like a Schnauzer that has heard a funny noise, and maybe run some tests. Tired of that. Tired of being tired.
"Tho' much is taken, much abides;"....so I try to have the guppy's outlook: each day is a new trip 'round the bowl for me. Inspired by my exchange with BB, today I picked up a new-to-me author, a good reason to get out of bed. Alexander Kent, a pseudonym of Douglas Reeman. I have passed over his work many a time, and thought I would take the plunge. By the time I get underway, The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea ( acquired for $7.98 instead of the SRP of $41.00, my Yankee ancestors would be proud) will have arrived, and it will help this 'lubber suss out the nomenclature. I enjoy that. BB mentions the theme of class as a possible block to my reading O'Brian's tales. Perhaps; it will need mulling over.
"I cannot rest from travel:"..... Missus RR loves to travel, she has been to more places than I. She lived in Iran, working at the American School, pre-Ayatollahs. She has seen Persepolis,a city dreamt of in my youth. Cleared to fly by my cardiologist last year, the Missus and I went to Italy. I would like to see France, not just Paris. I read an interesting book this spring about how France was assembled, sometimes unwillingly. Burgundy springs to mind. BB stayed in the land of, literally, the language of Oc: Languedoc. The very name trips lightly off the tongue. Cassoulet? Too heavy for this time of year, hot, by his report; perhaps some decent seafood a la languedocienne? French regional cooking, filtered through Canada and New England via my mother is truly my mother cuisine.I do not know of classmates in Weymouth MA who had boudin noir or pissenlit too. Lord knows where mother ever found the sausage in those days of the A&P. She got the dandelions right outside our door.
I have other,mistier, travel plans: to follow the Kidnapped trail of David Balfour and Alan Breck would be an adventure; to see Greek temples in Sicily; to see fiords and,oddly, to visit the North German coast ( I blame Buddenbrooks). And yes, after learning to sail, to sail the wine dark sea, even if it is just for a day:"that which we are, we are." It will do.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Mrs RR and I ate at one of Their eatin' places;Ted Peters' Famous Smoked Fish in nearby South Pasadena. It was a very good lunch. We had the mahi-mahi,smoked perfectly (not too dry), German potato salad and coleslaw. We used just lemon juice,no need for a salsa or such. The waitress slipped us a sample (Eddie Murphy was right: white people give each other things) of the smoked fish spread; it would make a tasty appetizer or sandwich. Alas, we were flying so we had to pass on the spread.
We saw pelicans, a treat. I enjoy watching them fly a loose sine wave a foot off the water, tuck a wing down and under, like those early defective Fokker Dr1's, and plop gracelessly onto the water. They come up with a fish 'bout every time. It was stingray mating season, so the front desk had handouts warning beach fans. The trick is to shuffle, rather than step the usual way in the shallows. The pain from a stingray sticking is intense, I heard.
St Pete Beach does not have the gamey elegance of Key West; it maintains a light sprinkling of cracker houses and first wave seaside resorts. Ours, the Grand Plaza Hotel, was comfortable and accomodating. Along Gulf Boulevard Street ( apparently named by the FL Department of Redundancy Department) there are still wee houses amongst the looming hotels and condos. I have an interest in vernacular architecture, and Florida still has some unique and interesting buildings.
A complex of buildings we visited in Sarasota was interesting: John Ringling's house Ca d'Zan, "the last of the Gilded Age mansions", and the museum built to house his art collection. And what a collection: Rubens, Velazquez, Titian, and Tintoretto, not to mention the El Grecos. We also re-visited, after 20 years, the Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg. Dali proved "art is what you can get away with" years before Warhol said it: he became the artwork.
Milling around waiting for the wedding to start, I asked one of the wedding consultants how many weddings they do on the beach. I was told four a day. A much more joyous occasion than the "one a day in Tampa Bay" phrase I learned many years ago. The phrase came about because of the frequency of crashes at nearby McDill Field of young Lieutenants flying the then-new B-26 bomber. Things got so bad Congress bestirred itself from the usual idleness to hold hearings on the matter. They discovered what happens when you combine inadequately trained pilots with one very hot ride. The B-26 had to land at higher speeds than other twin-engined aircraft; hence, 'hot'. The 'Marauder' ( 6 ft. was added to the wing on B models after the hearings-- it helped) had high wing loading (98 lb/sq.ft.): it had a bomb bay as big as a B-17. Add in fuel weight and two big Pratt and Whitney's and you can see where the 98 pounds comes from. The B-26 had a rough start; it proved to be the 'safest' American twin with the lowest loss rate. The bulk of the aircraft were scrapped after the war.
The pelicans, thankfully, are still on Tampa Bay and the Gulf. They squat on poles, sine wave over the water, and catch fish. After the 'bustle bustle' of the wedding, it is good to sit quietly with the Missus,watching Pelicans backlit by the sun sinking into the Gulf.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion, as performed by the Richmond Symphony, with two, count 'em, two choruses filled the air from my radio last night. Regardless of one's religious thoughts, it is great music. It was sung in English last night, a mid-brow solution . My German is non-existent beyond bitte and danke; the translation enhanced understanding of what was going on with all those different voices. Mark Russell Smith conducted and offered many helpful insights during the intermission. I am not a musicologist, so I lack the right words to describe music beyond gut reaction, a rookie crutch.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Magic Mountain has been removed from the Shelfari widget, left, as I finished reading it. The thing was a wen on the page. I read a chapter or two a night,as I did with Vanity Fair years ago. A rinse in the river of words before lights out. The book has a nice heft. A new translation by John E. Woods, it seemed to flow better than the earlier Lowe-Porter translation; though some sections of text were very similar. I enjoyed every degree of fever, Mann's speculations on time, and the realist style of the novel. Dr. Faustus is out in a new translation by Woods.
I will have to buy it myself, as the whack to public libraries referred to in an earlier screed has landed. Just in time for increased use by job hunters, computer users, and readers. I do not know about other grid coordinates in the Old Dominion, but in our 914 sq.mile service area, relatives of prisoners MUST make an appointment online to schedule a visit. Now let us think about this a minnit, Deputy Bubba. Given the backgrounds of those in jail, do y'all really think there is a computer at home for Grandma to schedule a visit to her grandson? Can you say "Guan-tan-amo, USA"? The library is the place many families of those in prison turn to; we have the statistical and anecdotal proof.
Idiot regulations like the above make me look forward to my rinse in the river. I'm casting about for the next Big Read; maybe another run through Mark Twain's works. There was a pen "warmed in Hell". He appreciated, respected, and knew, as only a River Pilot can, The River.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The Missus and I are planning our Victory Garden.Less grass to mow. I can hire my unemployed neighbor to be a scarecrow and my unemployed brother-in-law will take swing shift;graveyard shift is still open.
There are still some interesting things going on , if my daily saunters through the Web are any indication. Here's a man who built a 1/3 scale Spitfire Mk.IX. Amazing; he talks of building 1/3 scale working Merlin and Griffon engines. We shall see on that one.
Smaller and lower power will be the key in future appliances. Nanotechnology firms are building the foundation needed before the incredible things found in K.Eric Drexler's Engines of Creation, read many years ago, can come to fruition. A 12 year old boy works on increasing the efficiency of solar cells by their absorption of UV light along with visible light. My professional duties this week have required me to read up on 2D barcodes (think vertical arraying of information) and 3D scanners and printers.
It is an amazing world.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.
These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from four days to four years to complete.
Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years; It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.
In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.
This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.
When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.
Monday, February 16, 2009
1. I wish I had more time. I asked the dr. after my heart attacks how long? and he said 10-20 yrs. It's been 10 now. Yeah, more time would be nice.
2. Irregardless of swimming lessons at Whitman's Pond, I cannot swim.
3. The fastest I have ever been in an car is 120, on a crappy NE street, not the highway, in a Sunbeam 8. You want to talk of ass clenching fear.....
4. I wore an ascot in 9th grade. Ass. I could easily be a dandy (but never a fop).
5. I have fired many rounds, from .22 short to 105mm main gun. Loved it.
6. I love classical music and instrumental jazz; I am too familiar with Pat Boone's work.
7. I dislike practical jokes.
8. I have seen the Aurora Borealis.
9. The highest award I have received was being asked to go pick up my boss's and a colleagues' children.
10. I jus' loves a good explosion.
11. I would have liked to have a couple daughters to help me at the recycling center, etc.
12. I grew up in the best time to be a kid.
13. I can kick your ass at Jeopardy.
14. I am having a hard time deciding retirement projects:
I.Raising the meanest rodeo bulls in Christendom.
II.Owning a theater in a college town that shows really cool films .
III.Owning a laundromat.
IV.Getting that greeter job at the recycling center so I get first dibs on the giveaway pile.....
15. Movies in a one screen small town theater, well kept: heaven.
16. I miss my brother. Lots.
17. But not MA: now, it is a nice place to visit....
18. I was the oldest man (31) in my Basic Training Company.
19. The high tolerance for exercise PT gave me probably saved my life in 1998.
20. My brother fishes; I do not. Used to hunt with my brother, not any more.
21. I own a shitload of books.
22. I have run over 7 automobiles while driving a tank. My TC ordered me too.
23. Best years of my life: 1984-1990.
24. I reallyreally like working with smart creative people.
25. I want to recreate the banana breakfast from Gravity's Rainbow, the greatest 20th cent. American novel.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
I don't know about your grid square, here in the Yellow Tavern Quadrant we have several "Super" or "King" or even "Golden" Chinese buffets. Henrico county has a Brazilian buffet; meat eater's paradise I'd imagine. The clever boys have taken food and mass production techniques and slapped 'em right down on my streets.Always a decent trencherman, I investigate so others may be spared the tedium or calories. Swell. Let's eat.
Sorry,chowhounds: the best hot and sour soup on the planet may be found at Little Hunan, a Mom and Uncle place in Ashland, 'Center of the Universe'. They don't need no stinkin' buffet there.
My fa-vo-rite in the Richmond area is the "Super King Buffet" on West Broad. The place has a quarter mile of food, and is pleasantly decorated. It is America's bounty boomeranged, with a Chinese return address. Step across the bridge over the stream, look down on the carp. On the other side of the bridge there is a great "v" of food, steam rising; on the side the Sushi guys are rolling and cutting.The always busy Mongolian barbecue sizzles in the back . "Heaven on the half shell".The night I took my brother,down on a rare visit,they had frog's legs and Alaskan King Crab legs.If you want to avoid fried stuff, there is always a roasted or grilled whole fish available. Vivid green Chinese vegetables in all kinds of sauces abound. The waitresses seem right out of the container:they know just enough English to work there, start making the transportation nut. I bet it is a beaut.
The Missus and I attended my youngest niece's wedding in Snow Hill, NC, this past weekend. Sunday,on our return up the road to Richmond, we stumbled across Ruth's, a Barbecue (NC style: pulled, slowcooked to fallin' off the bone pork with a vinegar based sauce.There is a shhhhhhhh now,softly, ketchup based school,considered heretical thereabouts; I am sure people have been shot over this topic) buffet. The pig was ok, with a nice sauce; another item,the fried chicken, was sublime.The coating was light and well seasoned,while strong enough to hold in the moisture, the pieces perfectly fried. We had to get a movin', so my leisurely pace of an afternoon at the buffet will have to wait for a revisit.