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13 Mar

Can We Ever Really Know When Real is Real?

Just finished reading Neal Stephenson’s In The Beginning…Was the Command Line.” Very interesting 151-page “essay” about computers, IBM, Apple, Linux, BeOS, and all the rest. Some interesting notions and observations, as always in Stephenson’s polymathic  screeds. But here’s what jumped out to me:

“When Ronald Reagan was a radio announcer, he used to call baseball games that he did not physically attend by reading the terse descriptions that trickled in over the telegraph wire and were printed out on a paper tape. He would sit there, all by himself in a padded room with a microphone, and the paper tape would creep out of the machine and crawl over the palm of his hand printed with cryptic abbreviations. If the count went to three and two, Reagan would describe the scene as he saw it in his mind’s eye: ‘The brawny left-hander steps out of the batter’s box to wipe the sweat from his brow. The umpire steps forward to sweep the dirt from home plate,’ and so on. When the cryptogram on the paper tape announced a base hit, he would whack the edge of the table with a pencil, creating a little sound effect, and describe the arc of the ball as if he could actually see it. His listeners, many of whom presumably thought that Reagan was actually at the ballpark watching the game, would reconstruct the scene in their minds according to his descriptions.”

Stephenson then goes on to say, “This is exactly how the World Wide Web works: the HTML files are the pithy descriptions on the paper tape, and your web browser is Ronald Reagan. The same is true of graphical user interfaces in general.”

Typical good writing from Stephenson, but the anecdote sent my mind in another direction.

How do people know when real is real or a facsimile thereof? The Reagan example is to my mind a sort of audio Photoshop, which I will describe generally as presenting something  as  real that is not real. Or not entirely so. The game was real enough. Reagan being there was not, yet clearly he was attempting to create the impression that he was at least for those listeners who didn’t know better. Is this ethical?

We had an interesting situation when Upjohn merged with Pharmacia of Sweden and we discovered our Swedish brothers and sisters were sending out photographs with press releases showing their CEO and our together and presenting a story as if they had physically met and decided x, y or z. Wasn’t true. The photo was photo shopped. I got onto it by seeing a photo and calling the CEO’s assistant who told me he was in an entirely different part of the world when the event in the release happened.

I then asked our Swedish colleagues about it and told them, you can’t put out a photo that  isn’t true. They countered with, “But it can be done technically.” True, but you are telling the media (and our employees and shareholders, etc) that they met to do x when they didn’t.

They were not too happy with me or us, but the photo practiced stopped. Just because one can do something doesn’t not necessarily mean it should be done.

When I think of the President to be in that room I think wow, what a tough job of sustained creativity that must have been, and then I think, he was living a lie to his listeners by not  proclaiming the facts of the representation. Had he, he might have lost his audience, or his station’s audience, so I have to think the decisions was made to gloss over reality in the interest of potential sales and audience size, one equally the other down the business model line of those says.

Then I wonder how much reality is there in today’s so called “reality television.”

As a writer of fiction I do the same thing the president did, but label my work either a novel or  short story, which tells everyone it’s made up. Then I have to find a way to make the story seem real so folks will suspend their disbelief throughout the offering. What I’m writing may be factually accurate viz the  real world, or not, but it’s my job to make it seem so, at least in the sort of writing I’ve done to date, and as I think about it, this holds true for all writing.

An interesting aside here is that over time, writers develop a sort of style, a quickly recognized  and unique way of putting together thoughts and words. This has always been true of writing and writers, fiction and nonfiction. Stephenson talks about his brother-in-law, a theologian who reads 3250 year-old cuneiform tablets and Stephenson says “he can recognize the handwriting of particular scribes and identify them by name.”

Stephenson at the time was describing a massive manuscript loss due to computer malfunction and concludes, “It’s easy enough to buy little converter programs that will take care of this problem. But if you are a writer whose career is words, who professional identity is a corpus of written documents, this kind of thing is extremely disquieting. There are very few fixed assumptions in my line of work, but one of them is that once you have written a word, it is written, and cannot be unwritten. The ink stains the paper, the chisel cuts the stone, the stylus marks the clay, and something has irrevocably happened.

He finishes up, “But word-processing software – particularly the sort that employs special, complex file formats – has the eldritch power to unwrite things. A small change in file formats, or a few twiddled bits, and months or years’ literary output can cease to exist.”

“Eldritch?” I had to look it up too. It means “weird, sinister, ghostly.”

Now to work.  I’ll close with this, from Robert Anton Wilson’s Nature’s God:  “Is,” “is,” “is”—the idiocy of the word haunts me. If it were abolished, human thought might begin to make sense. I don’t know what anything “is”; I only know how it seems to me at this moment.”

Prolly as good a take on reality as we are likely to find.

Over.

09 Mar

Sunday Funnies and Boo Hoo Blues, And Sew 4th.

I was very, very sad to read in today’s Gazette that Michael G “Mike” Martin, 72, has died. Haven’t seen Mike in years, but for a quarter of a century we saw a lot of each other at WMU games, at K-Wings games, in the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association,  SW Michigan High School Hockey League, and Portage Northern H.S. Hockey, and in the Over-30 Fat Boy Adult leagues. At WMU and the K-Wings, we were just fans and pals. The rest of time we opponents, of sorts. I was either a coach or player or minor team official. Mike always did the job and always made me laugh. By the way, he was always Martin on the ice. He had his own way of communicating. To say the least.

Me: Why the hell did you call that, Martin?”

Mike: “Your tie color sucks.”

Me: “I’m not wearing a tie.”

Mike: “There ya go.”

 

Another time:

Mike: “Heywood, your player speared the goalie.”

Me: “You don’t know a spear from a darning needle, Martin.”

Mike: “Yah? I know that goalie’s my son. Any further questions?”

 

On the ice in a fat boy league fracas, in the aftermath, bodies here and there, Mike trying to assess penalties. He turns to me:

Mike: “You’re getting old, Heywood. Took you two punches to knock that sucker out.”

Me: “You need glasses. I didn’t punch anybody.”

Mike: “Well, you should have because you’re getting five and a game.”

Me: “See you at the bowling alley after the game?”

Mike: “Yah, sounds good. Now, Yooooooure outtta here!”

He was a fine and memorable man who gave decades of his life to hockey and kids in this county and state.  He will be missed. My condolences to his family. There are legions of us out here in the darkened stands who are so sorry for your loss.  I expect when we meet again, he’ll still be wearing stripes.

We took a circuitous route to the grock store today for our Sunday papers (NYT, Chi Trib, and Kaz Gaz). In an approximate three mile radius of our house in Portage we counted 15 churches. They are: Prince of Peace Lutheran; Victory Baptist; Cross Community Church; Greater Faith Empowerment Center; Kalamazoo First Assembly of God; Chapel Hill United Methodist; St. Michael’s Lutheran; Oakland Drive Christian Church: Kingdom Hall /Jehovah’s Witnesses; St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church; The Bridge; Portage United Church of Christ; Cornerstone Pentecostal and Valley Family Church, which has an annex in the radius but has moved main ops to church once called the Cathedral. Valley is a megachurch. All those churches and not a single family bar. Too bad. It appears to me that Christianity is a badly segmented, split and tied up in disagreements as the factions in our political parties.  A republican is not just a republican, or a democrat  just a democrat, but some other subgroup/category. Same for the Christian churches.

Then I read in the Chicago Tribune how Pentecostal style worship and wealth gospel have proved popular across Asia. America invented the mega-church, but Asian countries now have the biggest. Prosperity gospel blends the spiritual and the material. Kind of like predestination once declared that our spiritual faith would be known by our worldly status and no, the meek-and-poor did not inherit the earth in that scheme. The Trib story says the Singaporian churches are “working to export it to the world and turn Singapore into a hub for evangelical Christianity.”  For some years now Christian denominations in Africa have been sending missionaries to the US, while the US continues to send same such folk that direction. Who is trying to save Whom?”

I also read in the Trib that rain dances are being held in San Juan Bautista, CA. “In a small town, when you call a rain dance, word gets around,” said Ray Sanchez, a barbecue chef, construction worker of Apache heritage.

Trib also reports half the states in the US are considering decriminalizing or legalizing pot.

Sad item. One Ebony Wilson of Somewhere, South Carolina, 32, pregnant, told her Fam she needed a break. There was talk of an abusive husband in the story, but not much detail.  Ms. Ebony some of her kids, 3,9 and 10 to Florida for a “break.” Drove out onto a beach near Daytona Beach, and got stopped by cops. She seemed normal, and  police let her go on, whereupon she  promptly told her kids to close their eyes and go to sleep and aimed her minivan for the ocean. She got to a depth of 3 feet, before being stopped.  Her nine-year-old fought her for the steering wheel the whole way. Others noticed the erratic  driving, pursued and caught up.  At some point she reportedly told authorities, she was” taking her children to a safer place.” The kids reported she started talking to Jesus and qall when they got to Florida. The news report says there is no known history of mental illness. May I suggest away from her is a safer place and I wonder, as a writer, what life holds for those kids, what sort of PTSD will live in their neurocells. Her marriage was not characterized as a happy one. We live in a sad, strange world.

We have some snow melting under way here. Supposed to be in the fifties tomorrow. I read  in the Trib today, “So much ice coverage in the Great Lakes will not effect spring. Data from 1973 now suggests little or no correlation between the max amount of lake ice and mean spring temperatures. Rationale: Because the surface area of the Great Lakes is so  small compared to the large-scale airflow over the continent. The paper cited 1976-77 which had 94 percent ice coverage and up until then, warmest spring on history.

Working memory is linked to IQ and is the first brain function to decline as you age. It is central to your ability to manipulate stored information and can be improved by practicing a series of simple exercises, which of course you must pay for in order to use them.

On a somewhat more serious note, a piece by Kyle Bibby of the Kazoo Nature Center says today, Robins don’t really migrate. They  move into the woods when neighborhood food production falls off, or slightly south. Interesting.

I am now trying to close up taxes, but am also thinking about writing. The magnificent Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash talks about language. Character says, “Well, a French-speaker’s brain starts out the same as an English Speaker’s brain. As they grow up, they get programmed with different software – they learn different languages.”

Another character then explains, “Yes. Therefore, according to the universalists, French and English – or any other languages – must share certain traits that have their roots in ‘deep structures’ in the brain. According to Chomskyan theory, the deep structures are innate components of the brain that enable it to carry forward certain formal kinds of operations on strings of symbols. Or, as Steiner paraphrases Emmon Bach: These deep structures eventually lead to the actual patterning of the cortex with its immensely ramified yet, at the same time, ‘programmed’ network of electrochemical and neurophysiological channels.

Another character concludes: “So Lagos was trying to say that the newborn human brain has no structure – as the relativists would have it – and that as the child learns a language, the developing brain structures itself accordingly, the language gets blown into the hardware and becomes a permanent part of the brain’s deep structure – as the universalists  would have it.”

How much of this is out of Stephenson’s mind I don’t yet know, but will take a look. The notion that language can shape the brain is intriguing. And if true, what effect does multiple language-learning have? Or learning drastically different kinds of languages?

Fascinating stuff. Appropos of nothing but pure curiosity and the high state of Huh.

On a more practical side I have all my topo maps for five counties this summer. Soon we will be out in the bush marking up the great fishing and animal sighting-spots.

On a less practical side, I realized that when Zip drives went bye-bye and flash drives and CDs became all the memory rage, I failed to transfer 6-7 manuscripts to the newer storage methods, and now I must get that done in the next few weeks. It never, never ends.

Friends Joe (“Griz”) and Nan Harris sent me the attached photo. A shelf all to myself. Funny. A true honor.

Over. 

Michael G. Martin,  1941-2014  RIP, Michael Me Boyo.

Michael G. Martin,
1941-2014
RIP, Michael Me Boyo.

Harris Bookcase

 

01 Mar

Reading to Start the Year

Reading Through February. Actually I’m in he Wellington book now, and several of these I read last year and again this year, largely to transfer marginal notes to my Commonplace book.

(1) Carolyn Ells, Michael G. Flaherty, Eds. Investigating Subjectivity: Research on Lived Experience. (1992) [NF]

 (2)Welker Givson. Tough, Sweet & Stuffy: An Essay on Modern Prose Styles.(1966) [NF]

 (3) Mary Ann Glendon. Rights Talk:  The Impoverishment of Political Discourse. (1991) [NF]

 (4)Edward H. Crane, Intro. Speaking Freely: The Public Interest in Unfettered Speech: Essays from  Conservative Research (1995) [NF]

 (5) Websters. Picturesque Word Origins. (1993) [NF]

 (6)James Salter. There & Then; The Travel Writing of James Salter. (2005) [NF] 

(7) Greg Grandin. Fordlandia.(2009) [NF]

 (8) Jane Emery. Rose Macaulay: A Writer’s Life (1991) [NF]

 (9) Tad Tuleja. Foreignisms. (1989) [NF]

 (10) Marshall McLuhan. The Gutenberg Galaxy. (1962) [NF]

 (11) Ford Madox Ford. Parade’s End (1924-25-26-28)

 (12) Richard Davenport-Hines, Ed. Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Wartime Journals.(2012) [NF]

 (13) Hugh Trevor-Roper. The Letters of Mercurius. (1970) [NF]

 (14) Adam Sisman. An Honourable Englishman: The Life of Hugh Trevor-Roper. (2010) [NF]

 (15) E.B. White. Essays of e.b. white. (1977) [NF]

 (16) Phillip Lopate. Portrait Inside My Head (2013) [NF]

 (17) George Packer. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. (2013) [NF]

 (18) Elizabeth Raum. The Aztec Empire. (2013) [NF][Juvie]

 (19) Allison Lassieur. The Battle of Bull Run (2009) [NF]

 (20) Allison Lassieur. The Middle Ages. (2010) [NF]

 (21) Scott Andrew Selby. A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin: The Chilling True Story of the S-Bahn Murderer. (2014) [NF]

 (22)Amir D. Aczel. The Jesuit& the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man. (2007) [NF]

 (23) Robert M. Gates. Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War. (2014) [NF]

 (24) John Dos Passos. Three Soldiers (1921) [NF]

 (25) Marcel Proust. On Art and Literature. (1954) [NF]

 (26) Hilton Als. White Girls (2013) [NF]

 (27) Rimbaud. Illuminations and Other Prose Poems (1946) [NF]

 (28) Paul D. Staudohar. Baseball’s Best Short Stories (1995) [NF]

 (29) Michel de Montaigne. The Complete Essays. (1994/1568) [NF]

 (30)  Diane Osen. Ed. The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews withi National Book Award Winners and Finalists(2002) [NF]

 (31) Jincy Willett. Winner of the National Book Award (2003) [NF]

 (33) Edmund White. Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel. (2008) [NF]

 (32) Logan Pearsall Smith. Unforgotten Years (1939) [NF]

 (33) Stillman Drake, Trans. Discoveries and Opinions of Gallileo (1957/1610-13-15-23) [NF]

 (34) Ann Roiphe. Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason (2011) [NF]

 (35) Grace Tiffany. Paint. (2013) [NF]

 (36) James McBride. The Good Lord Bird. (2013) [NF]

 (37) Jim Harrison. Brown Dog. (2013) [NF]

 (38) John H. Ritter. The Boy Who Saved Baseball. (2005) [NF]

 (39) Liza Picard. Elizabeth’s London (2003) [NF]

 (40) Neil MacGregor. Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of An Era in Twenty Objects (2012) [NF]

 (41) Gail Kern Paster, Intro. Shakespeare: The Essential Guide to the Life and Workds of the Bard (2007) [NF]

 (42) Neil MacGregor. Shakespeare’s Restless World: An Unexpected History in Twenty Objects (2013) [NF]

 (43) Emile Zola. The Ladies’ Paradise (2008) [NF]

 (44) Maxine Hong Kingston. Tripmaster Monkey: His Face Book (1987)

(45) Ian Mortimer. The Time Traveler’s Guide: Elizabethan England (2012) [NF]

(46) Paul Dickson. Words from the White House (2013) [NF]

(47) John Smolens. My One and Only Bomb Shelter (2000) [NF]

(48) Albert Camus.The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (1955) [NF]

(49) Jim Nye. After Shock: Poems and Prose from the Vietnam War (1991) [NF]

(50) Norman F. Cantor. In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death & the World It Made (2001) [NF]

(51) Leo Damrosch. Jonathon Swift: His Life and His World. (2013) [NF]

(52) George Simenon. Maigret in Holland. (1940)

(53) William Benzon. Beethoven’s Anvil. (2001) [NF]

(54) Robert Mason Lee. Death and Deliverance: The True Story of an Airplane Crash at the North Pole. (1993) [NF]

(55) Jim Wallis. God’s Politics: A New Vision for Faith and Politics in America. (2005) [NF]

(56) Neal Stephenson.  Snow Crash. (1992)

(57) Willa Cather. One of Ours (2008)

(58) James Dale Davidson & Lord William Rees-Moog. The Sovereign Individual: How To Survive and Thrive During the Collapse of the Welfare State.(1997) [NF]

 (59) Joseph Heywood. Harder Ground: Stories From the Distaff Planet. (2014) [SS/draft]

(60) Rory Muir. Wellington: The Path To Victory, 1789-18-14 (2013) [NF]

 

01 Mar

Michigan Loses One of It’s Own

Michigan conservation Officer William Cherry of Missaukee County died last night. Natural causes, no details. RIP. When one goes down, all feel the pain.

27 Feb

Manuscript Status

Just this morning printed out the new short story collection HARDER GROUND.  We hope for spring 2015. 30 stories. I pulled a 31st for another story collection be called UNCHARTED EDGES.  As soon as I finish revising HARDER GROUND stories, I’ll get at BROWN BALL, which has been sitting as a first draft since last March. Be good to get back to that. Progress. Kalends of March coming soon to a snowbank near you. Great chat with pal Dave Wagner this week. His second Rick Montoya novel will be out by Poison Pen in September and he’s already laboring on Number 3.

Over. 

27 Feb

Air Tales from Airline Aircrews

From pilot pals, from the civilian airline side. Airline Crew Stories:

Some of these stories are somewhat unusual to say the least but the closest I experienced was as a brand new Captain at age 38, I flew a flight with the number 1 flight attendant , Ida Staggers, in the back who referred to me as sonny, ha, ha.

 — The Capt on my flight pointed out Meteor Crater to the pax.  The young #1 came into the cockpit for a better view. “Wow” she said, “It just missed that road”….

 — As a soon to be off probation FO on the Airbus, came to the jet and met a very senior Long Island momma who was already in the galley building her nest.

 It was 0530 in the AM and she had a cigarette lit with a 3 inch ash hanging off it that moved as she talked. She had her hair up in a bun that looked like it could have housed 5 of her 12 cats that she shared a one bedroom apartment with. She sounded like a frog-throated Paris Island DI as she barked at me in a thick NY accent, “Hey sugar-britches, I been here 30 years and gave up sweating 20 years ago so turn on the Air Conditioning, alright?” The F/A shows up and we get ready to go.  About ten minutes before scheduled out time, she pops her head in the cockpit and says to the boss “Hey junior, we ain’t in this for the sex on layovers anymore so how about you pop the brakes so we can start getting paid, alright?” She was a classic.

 — I had a #1 that came up going into Seattle and wanted to know what mountains those were. Well I said that’s Mt Baker off the right and Mt. Rainier on the left.  But you know recently they changed the name of Mt Baker to Mt Fuji. Yeah, the guy that owns the Fuji film company moved there and donated a bunch of money to the local town so they named the Mt after him. She said OK thanks, someone wanted to know. 

 — Flying DC 10 out of DFW … Capt is 59, FE is 70 and I’m 35. Very senior FA (in her 60s) comes up and takes drink orders.  Capt and FE give theirs and she turns to leave. I say “Wait, what about me?” She turns and says “I’ll be back to breast feed you later kid!”.

 — Even earlier, when I was a new FE on DC 10, A senior F/A kept complaining about the cabin temp being too cold.  I thought I was doing great.  After several complaints, she finally came up and said “It ain’t the hot flashes, it’s just too cold.” With that she unbuttons her shirt and lifts up her bra. She says ” When these ole nipples stick up like this it ain’t because o’you, it’s because I’m fickkin cold.  Now can you you warm it up?”

 — In a previous life, a particular FO did not have the best of landings on one of our trips.  After clearing the runway the interphone rings, it is the #4 who proceeds to ask whose landing that was.  I tell her the FO’s, why? She says to tell the FO “if his dick is as hard as that landing that she is on her way up to the cockpit”   I almost ran off the taxiway laughing my ass off.

 — Most of my stories would involve Brenda Ward (Star-later).  If you ever had the pleasure of flying with this wonderful woman-you have stories. Rule 32 was designed around about 20 things Brenda is famous for.  You Chicago guys are lucky if Brenda is still around.  I’m only going to tell of my very first encounter with her as I am sure bringing up her name will result in stories from others.

 — As a new engineer, the Captain ‘warns’ me in ops about our #1-Brenda.  She sizes up new-hires by grabbing them by the ‘package’.  Sure enough, I walk on the 72, and there she is, standing in front of the cockpit door.  I stop in front of her.  With a hint of a smile, she grabs a hand-full of my manliness and says, my name is Brenda.  I sit my kit bag down, put one hand on each tit, and say, “Hi-my name is Greg.”   With a loud laugh she tells me that she and I will get along just fine, and we did – for the next 20 years. miss you Brenda – and I miss the Airline we used to fly for.

 — So here I am … squeaky FNG (F-ing new guy) on the 767 … triumphantly returning from Paris as the FO…flying back to Miami. I roll onto the ILS to 9R, fly a perfect profile … and then planted it like I was going for carrier landing of the year. The closest thing I could use to describe the touchdown would be the sound the guys make when they are emptying trash dumpsters and put them back on the ground at 0500. Anyway, we get to the gate, the skipper clicks off the seatbelt sign and 1/1000 of a second later, the cockpit door pops open (pre 9/11) and a pair of leopard spotted panties fly up onto the throttle quadrant.  The Captain grimaced and looked away…the FB said “Uh oh” and I just sat there dumbfounded (typical for me, BTW).Anyway … the #1 walks in a few seconds later and booms loudly “God dammed kid … if you wanted to get my panties off … all you would have had to do is ask!”  She then told me to get my ass out there and take credit for that crash landing.

 Ah yes…the good old days…

 – Prior to 911 when FAs came into the cockpit and on occasions stayed awhile, we were in a B-727 westbound on a very clear day when the sun overhead and behind us showed a very distinct shadow of the contrail on the ground just ahead of us. A young F/A asked what that line on the ground was. Without thinking, I told her it was the border between Kansas and Nebraska , to which she replied “OH, I always wondered how you guys always know where we are!”

 — Chicago to LA 15 years ago, young FA comes up to tell us that Eddie Van Halen is on our rather sparsely occupied jet. He gets up to use the lav. She calls him into the galley and closes the curtain to ask him for his autograph, which he provides using a black sharpie marker.  She comes into the cockpit to show my FO and I his signature and penmanship by unbuttoning her shirt and undoing the front clasp bra to expose her entire chest with “Best Wishes, Love Eddie Van Halen” Classic stuff. She says ‘I can’t wait to show my Mom, she loves rock and roll’

 –Two women get onto the Fokker and sit in 1st class, they are obviously strippers/hookers by the way they are dressed, seriously trampy. The #1 comes flying up to the cockpit mouth agape.  Having spotted them in the boarding area I tell her they are famous adult film stars …. “Amber Waves and Tiffany Crystal”. The #1 runs off to find the manifest to get their real names. I am now giggling to myself. The Captain who was in his late 40’s, never married due to anal/ego/complete lack of humor/personality issues and will remain nameless overhears the exchange and says to me ….”you know they are not porn stars right? I would know, because I follow that industry very closely and I have never seen them”…..Yikes.

 — DC 10 trip LAX-HNL-Number 1 comes in and tells new young FE (now a CA) to turn on the blowers.  He tries to tell her it is his panel. She pinches his cheek — Says “Right now Sonny, I use to baby sit you when you were a year old.” He couldn’t get them on fast enough. Good old days on the 10.

 — I’ve also had one believe (at least for a few minutes) the irrigated fields were “pizza farms”.

 — Nope, those are the fields used to graze special cows that produce round steak … I would gladly add more to this thread but I would get fired, divorced or both.

 –Flying RDU-DFW with a group of new hires doing their work trip, Capt. is Rox Moyers.  Long, tall Texas sorta boy with a really dry sense of humor.  Dinner’s over and each of the new girls visits the cockpit. The last little girl is barely “out-of-the-box”, blond (what else?), pixie cut, 5 foot nothing. She’s on the jump seat in the -80 and we’re about over MEM when Rox says “ain’t that a beautiful sunset ma’am?” Eyes as big as saucers she replies (and I’m not kidding): “I’ve never seen a sunset before.” Rox and I both turn around and look at her. He says “excuse me ma’am?” To which she replies: “I was born on the East Coast in Virginia Beach and you have to be on the West Coast or on a mountain or in an airplane to see a sunset!”  After a while she leaves.  Rox ponders all of this, turns to me and says without cracking a smile.  “Someday some young feller’s gonna think he’s got himself a hellova catch there”.

‘Nuff said.

 Over.

22 Feb

Berkut?

This is an odd one. a friend sent me a reference to the Ukrainian Berkut, a kind of special police used to cause all sorts of trouble at he orders of bad-news bosses? Sound familiar? From what I can read, this  unit name did not exist as a unit until after the Russians were gone from the Ukraine. I copy a BBC report on recent activities. The golden eagle, Berkut (BEAR-COOT) is used in the Stans to hunt wolves. That’s where I got the name from. Odd, odd, odd.

Ukraine’s Berkut police: What makes them special?

One of the anti-Yanukovych protesters addresses Berkut anti-riot police force officers in Kiev, on December 11, 2013.

The name “Berkut”, or “Golden Eagle” in Ukrainian, is synonymous with police brutality for many protesters in the capital, Kiev. Berkut is an elite riot police force that has been at the forefront of recent deadly clashes there.

Its members have now been accused of beating, torturing and even shooting demonstrators. Unprovoked attacks on journalists and medical workers have also been alleged. Most recently, a video clip emerged, showing a naked protester apparently being abused and beaten by riot policemen who had stripped him in below-freezing temperatures.

While food and hot drinks were offered by sympathetic demonstrators to police officers and army servicemen amid the stand-off in late 2013, Berkut members have borne the brunt of anti-government ire after tensions flared up in January.

What is Berkut?

Berkut members are reported to be more carefully selected, better trained, paid and equipped than ordinary police units. They are also said to have more senior officials as commanders.

The force was set up in 1992 and has its roots in Omon, the notoriously ruthless Soviet “special-purpose police”. Initially, Berkut’s primary goal was to fight organised crime, but it has now changed to ensuring law and order during “mass events”.

The Interior Ministry itself is headed by Vitaliy Zakharchenko, a steadfast supporter of President Viktor Yanukovych. Mr Zakharchenko hails from the president’s home region of Donetsk and is also reported to be close to his son, Oleksandr.

The media in Ukraine describe Berkut as an elite riot police force, whose members are carefully selected and rigorously trained. To be accepted into Berkut, army service and at least two to three years of law-enforcement experience are said to be compulsory.

Chances of employment with Berkut increase if the applicant is an athlete with a proven track record, the media report.

Berkut has about 4,000 to 5,000 members stationed across Ukraine. Local units are directly subordinated to the heads of regional Interior Ministry departments, instead of lower-ranking police officials such as district police chiefs.

It is not unusual for Berkut units to be dispatched from their bases to other regions. Report say that many of them have been brought to Kiev from eastern Ukraine, which is more supportive of President Yanukovych.

Berkut members from more opposition-minded western Ukraine, meanwhile, have complained to the media that they were “mistrusted” by top commanders.

Berkut has some serious hardware at its disposal, including machine guns and armed personnel carriers. Its members are also reportedly paid 1.5-2 times more than an average police officer.

Over and out.

22 Feb

Infamous Aircraft Accident

Boom operator forwarded this to friends from 46 ARS, who forwarded to me. I don’t remember the incident. But the report is instructive in a drone world.

 

[INTROs WITH THE EMAIL]

I graduated UPT at Laughlin on 3 Sep, 1967 in class 68-B. This accident happened in front of the next graduating class 68-C. Later in my AF career I ran into several of the guys from that class that I knew. According to them a couple of the graduates, after witnessing the F100 come apart, took off their wings and refused to ever fly…I received this article from the guy that was the Boom Operator on my KC135 crew ’69 – ’70.  His comments are below…………….. “Don’t hold back Jimmy”… ;o))]

[“This is the asshole that started the AF on it’s death spiral.  nothing against fighter pilots, but fighter pilot thinking was the only way he new how to move his brain.  when he became chief of staff AF he started changes even fighter pilots could not understand.  he didn’t even like the uniform he wore.  officers were charged with and thrown out of the AF on charges that had not been used since the civil war.  he was on a crusade to revolutionize the AF and remake it in the thunderbird fighter image.  bombers and their crew were scum, tankers were grudgingly only slightly better.  don’t get me started on this bastard.  jim   ]

 Del Rio could be the movie set of a West Texas border town. It’s windy, and the weather tends toward seasonal extremes.

 A large U.S. Air Force Base 6 miles east of town is named after Jack T. Laughlin, a pilot and Del Rio native killed over Java within a few weeks of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Our Thunderbird’s Team flies into Laughlin on Oct. 20, 1967, for an air show the next day, honoring 60 or so lieutenants graduating from pilot training.

 We go through the standard pre-show routine. Lead and 5 do their show-line survey routine, while the rest of us walk the rounds of the hospital and school and give interviews. Next day, proud parents watch as new pilots pin on wings. 

 At noon, we brief at Base Ops. As usual, an inspection team comprising base and local dignitaries joins us for a photo session before we step to the jets.

The film Bandolero ! is in production near the base, and its stars, Jimmy Stewart and Raquel Welch, show up in the inspection team. Jimmy’s a USAF Reserve brigadier general, a founder of the Air Force Association and a big hero to all of us. Raquel Welch is . . . well, she’s Raquel Welch. 

We’re wearing white airshow suits, my least-favorite outfit. Lead can choose from among gray, blue, black or white. But today, we look like Good Humor ice cream men dressed in white.

Plus, I work hard during the demonstration and sweat deep soaked my collar. This would not matter much, except we do a lot of in-trail taxiing. And with only 6 ft. between the end of my pitot boom and No.5’s afterburner, I take a load of black carbon engine ex-haust in my cockpit. Soot clings to the dampness, leaving a noticeable ” dirty ring around the collar ” when I wear white.

At Del Rio, I follow my usual routine and I roll the collar under once we have taxied away from the airshow crowd. After the show, I’ll roll it back out again, the chimney-black dirt still there, but now underneath and out of sight for the picture takers. 

We taxi short of the active runway for a ” quick check ” pre-takeoff inspection by a couple of our maintenance troops. I’m flying my soon to be acid-etched memory . . as No. 6 Super Sabre F-100 D . . # 55-3520.

We take the runway, the 4 aircraft Diamond in finger-tip and Bobby Beckel and I in Element . . 500 feet back.

At precisely 1430 the Diamond releases brakes. Bobby and I run up engines, my stomach tightening against the surge of singular isolation. 

And thrill that comes before every air show takeoff. 

 By this time in the season, the Thunderbirds’ Team is really ‘ clicking along.’

We have a lot of shows under our belt.  And know what we are doing. Twenty-one minutes into the event, it’s going well–a nice cadence and rhythm of a favorite song.

 We approach the climax, the signature Bomb Burst. My job is to put “pigtails” through the separating formation, doing elevator-unloaded, Max-rate vertical rolls. 

The vertical rolls require establishing a perfect up-line. And more than a few rolls requires beginning the rolls with a ton of entry airspeed. 

 I grab for altitude as swap for diminishing airspeed as the Diamond pirouettes into their entry for the Thunderbirds’ well-known ‘ Bomb Burst.’

 And at just the right moment, dive after them, hiding behind their smoke trail.

The steep dive builds airspeed quickly after clicking in the afterburner.

 The Thunderbirds had switched to the F-100, making us the world’s first supersonic flying team. I have to be mindful of a hard-and-fast rule :  DO NOT GO SUPER-SONIC  DURING THE AIRSHOW.

 No booming the crowd. So, I want to be subsonic.  Just barely. Let’s say . Mach Point  = 0.99. 

 However the biggest mistake I can make is to be early in this ultra-coordinated maneuver. The Diamond is about to break in all four directions, so if I get there too soon, I don’t have an exit strategy.

 Today, my timing looks good, so I light the ‘ burner and start a pull into the vertical. We don’t have a solo pilot’s handbook on board.  But if we did, the handbook would say this maneuver at this high rate of speed would be allowed a 6.5 G pull. 

 If I get it right, I’ll hit the apex of the Bomb Burst [5] five seconds after the Diamond separates, snap the throttle out of ‘ burner, ‘ turn on smoke, then go perfectly vertical . . moving the ailerons to full detent . . as the Diamond pilots track away from each other to the four points of the compass, I’ll put on those lazy, lovely pigtails. Then I’ll click off the smoke and figure out how to do a slow-speed vertical recovery to that quick upward move. 

But at Del Rio, it doesn’t turn out as planned.

 I made the aggressive pull into place the Super Sabre in the vertical.  And the aircraft . .EXPLODES !     F-100 pilots are accustomed to loud noises. Even in the best of circumstances, the F-100’s afterburner can bang ‘ pretty hard when it lights up.  It’s also fairly common for the Super Sabre’s engine compressor to stall, sometimes forcing a violent cough of rejected air back up the intake. A dynamic flame belches forward from its oval nose . . and definitely gets your attention. The resulting shock can kick your boots right off the rudder pedals.

Any F-100 pilot who feels/hears a loud ” BANG ! ” automatically thinks : ” compressor stall.”

 And he unloads elevator pressure to get air traveling down its oval mouth . instead of the other way out.  So, instinctively, the explosion causes me to relax stick-pressure to unload the airplane’s centrifugal G load.

 But now, I’m fully into one of those fast-forward mental states where seasons compress into seconds . . and allows Fall colors to change . . as you’re watching. Fairly smoothly, I move the stick forward.  I even have time to think” HEY !  THIS  IS  NO  COMPRESSOR   STALL  ! ” 

In retrospect, the airplane had already unloaded itself . . making my remedy superfluous. 

 But there was some pilot lore and wisdom at work here : No matter what else happens . .FLY YOUR AIRPLANE . .ALL THE WAY . .INTO THE DIRT !

 Forget all that stuff about lift and drag and thrust and gravity, just fly the airplane until the last piece stops moving.

 The good old Super Sabre F-100 # 55-3520 . . . has QUIT flying ! 

 But I have not.    

Now flames envelop the inside of the cockpit. I have to eject or ‘ get fried.’  I grab the seat handles and tug them up, blowing off the canopy and exposing ejection triggers on each side of the handles.

 I yank the seat triggers and immediately feel a no-nonsense kick in the rear out into into an almost ridged slipstream. 

Seat separation is automatic.  Too fast to track, the ejection seat was disappearing as I curled into a semi-fetal posture to absorb the parachute’s opening shock. Jump school helps here . . and I nod in agreement to my brain on good body position.

Then the chute snaps open.  But at a very high speed.  The parachute harness jolting me back to real time . . short-circuiting the transition from borderline terror ‘ to giddy elation . . the evil Siamese twins of leaping out of an airplane without a secondary chute.

  My helmet is missing. Where did it go? I look up and see a couple of chute panels are torn, several shroud lines snapped.  And there’s one large rip in the 28 ft. canopy. I’ll come down a bit quicker than necessary. Going to land in the infield . . near show-center. Have to figure out the wind, get the chute collapsed fast so as not to be dragged.

 Heck !

  I’m on the ground and being dragged already. Get the damn chute collapsed ! Pick up handfuls of shroud lines as you roll right side up and begin running on to the yet inflated canopy.

 Finally, I stand up, unhook and perceive I’m in one piece. And here comes a blue van with several of our wide-eyed people in it. 

Then it begins to sink in. In 14 years and 1,000-plus air shows, the Thunderbirds team has been ‘ clever ‘ enough to do all its metal-bending during its training sessions.

 This is our first accident in front of a crowd. And that dubious honor to have thousands of eyeballs watching. . is mine. 

I gather my gear and climb into the van. Somebody wants to take me immediately to the base hospital.  But I say : ” I don’t want to do that right now. Let’s go over and tell the ground crew I’m OK.”

 So we stop, I get out of the van, shake hands, toss the Thunderbird’s crew chiefs an insincere thumbs-up.

Jimmy Stewart is still there and comes over to say nice things, but Raquel hasn’t stayed for the show, so no air-kiss. As I’d given our narrator, Mike Miller.

That’s when I learn that I’d jerked both wings off F-100 Super Sabre.

 Of course, I had been watching the Diamond, ahead and well above me. I hadn’t seen the wings come off. All I knew was . . it blew up. 

The F-100 has a large fuselage fuel tank, on top of the wing center section and forward of the engine.

 When the wings folded, a large quantity of raw fuel from that fuselage tank dumped into the hot engine.  Then exploded.

 The shock wave from the fuel blast blew off the Super Sabre’s nose. And as the fuselage separately fluttered down, many in the awed crowd thought I was inside. 

The engine instantly shot flames through the cockpit-pressurization system. Conditioned air enters the cockpit at the pilot’s feet and also behind his helmet.

  My flying boots, ordinarily pretty shiny for an ROTC grad, were charred beyond repair. I never wore them again. Above where I had rolled my collar underneath, my neck got toasted. 

I have no idea how fast I was during ejection. I was barely subsonic when the wings failed. But with the nose blown off, the F-100 is a fairly blunt object and would have slowed quickly. On the other hand, I had remained with the aircraft no more than a second or two after it exploded.  So there wasn’t much time for me to decelerate. When I came out of the jet, the near sonic wind blast caught my helmet, rotated it 90 degrees and ripped it off my head. It was found on the ground with the visor down, oxygen mask still hooked up and chin strap still fastened. As the helmet rotated, its built in neck protector scuffed my burned neck causing substantial bleeding. The Thunderbirds keep a zero-delay lanyard hooked up during airshows, giving us the quickest possible chute deployment. And that explained why my chute opened fast.  Too fast, as it turned out. The parachute’s immediate, high-speed opening was much harsher than normal, and as my torso whipped around, the heavy chute straps did further damage to the back of my neck. 
  Walking into the base hospital, I was startled by my image in a full-length mirror. Above it . . a sign says :” Check Your Military Appearance.”

  The white show suit is a goner, the flaming cockpit had given it a base-coat of charcoal gray accented by blood . . with a final dressing of dirt, grass and sage-brush.

 Being dragged along the ground accounted for this camouflage.  I looked like the main scene in a slasher movie --‘ The Solo Pilot From Hell.’ 

After I jumped out, the F-100 continued on a ballistic trajectory, scattering parts and equipment. The engine and the main fuselage section impacted 2 miles away.

 All the bits and pieces landed on government soil with  no injury or property damage.

 My aircraft was destroyed–I signed a hand-receipt for $696,989. 

 On the other hand, if there is a good kind of accident, this was it. Nobody was hurt, and all the scrap metal was collected for ‘ post-game ‘ analysis. 

When my aircraft’s wing center box was inspected, the box was found to have structurally failed.

 North American Rockwell, the manufacturer, tested the box on a bend-and-stretch machine.  And a section recently off Rockwell’s assembly line also broke under

an equivalent load of 6.5 G wing loading. It shouldn’t have happened, since the F-100’s positive load limit is 7.33 G.  But my F-100’s wing center box broke along a fatigue crack . . and there were about 30 additional fatigue cracks in the vicinity. 

Some then-recent F-100 losses in Vietnam looked suspiciously similar. The recovery from a dive-bomb pass is a lot like my high-speed, high-G pull-up into the Bomb Burst.

 In the Vietnam accidents, the pieces had not been recovered, and the aircraft were merely written off as combat losses. 

Later, specialists discovered considerable fatigue damage in the wing center boxes of other Thunderbird Super Sabres.

 Immediately, the Air Force immediately put a 4 G limit on the F-100 and initiated a program to run all the aircraft through depot modification to beef up the wing center box.

 My accident almost certainly saved lives by revealing this serious problem.

Merrill A. (Tony) McPeak

Note : USAF General Merrill A.McPeak flew F-100, F-104, F-4, F-111, F-15 and F-16 fighters, participated in nearly 200 air shows as a solo pilot for the Thunder-birds and flew 269 combat missions in Vietnam as an attack pilot. He commanded the Misty FACs, 20th Fighter Wing, Twelfth Air Force and Pacific  Air Command, and completed his career as the 14th USAF Chief  of Staff. -30-

 

22 Feb

The Many Meanings and Uses of U.P.

People talk of the U.P. as if it is unknown, yet we refer to it every day in much of what we say.

UP is defined as toward the sky or top of the list, but when we wake in the morning, we wake UP.

At a meeting, topics come UP.

We speak UP when something concerns us. Candidates are UP for election and it is UP to the secretary of an organization to write up a report of meetings.

We call UP our friends.

We use area to brighten UP a room and we polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.

We lock UP the house and some people fix UP old cars and broken down snowblowers, which blow the snow UP the snowbank.

People can stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets,work up an appetite, and think UP excuses. Dressing UP is taken as something special by some folks. A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close UP at night.

UP don’t seem such and easy concept to look UP

To understand UP, you might want to look it UP in the dictionary, which in a major word work can take UP to a quarter page and UP to 30 definitions. If you’re UP to it, try making a list of the many ways UP is used. It could take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP easily you may wind UP with a hundred or more entries.

When it threatens rain or snow, we say it is clouding UP.

When the sun comes out, it is clearing UP.

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When we are in a drought, everything dries UP.

An airplane that explodes blows UP.

Somebody with nefarious motivation is UP to something.

Most people see only the UPside of things.

Modern palaver for curiosity is What’s UP with that?

When we endure we put UP with stuff.

We walk over to where our fishing partner is looking down into the creek and ask What’s UP?

This is not of my own creation but sent to me by fellow Bullshido Lars Hjalmquist who hails from UP in Ironwood in the U.P. and he comes UP from Florida to Bulshido Camp every year where he is a major cut-UP we are constantly telling to shut UP. He’s also got old timers and we constantly have to remind each other to ante UP. The UPside of camp is seeing all your friends still UP and breathing.

UP and Over.

14 Feb

I Heart Day: Camo, Cleavage & Carhartts

 It was our intent to have late breakfast at the Crow’s Nest near old Kazoo Central H.S..  After circling block 2 x to find parking, stepped into the building with people lined down the stairs to the front door. Plan B, coffee in the disctinctly Third World Fourth Coast.  Wonderful whack-a-doodle signs.  Buck fifty for a glass of coffee. People banging on laptops all over the place, listening to headphones. Outside –  on way in – guy ties his liver lab lookalike to a tree and is singing happily, “Where the poo poos gonna go.” Zenny Koan sort of deal, I think. We are inside in near darkness with mouth-breathing caffeine aficionados and addicts, cadaverous slump-shouldered slurpers, each in his or her own little cocoon world. Sign on wall says, FOURTH COAST CAFÉ PURCHASING POLICY: BUY SOMETHING. At the cash register another sign directs, BE POLITE: NO CELLPHONES AT COUNTER. Apparently it’s okay to be impolite at other café locations?  Signs advertise all sorts of weird things, all reminders of how many centuries I am from the so-called 21s. Tats, nose rings and nostril-zirkons,  various colored Ozzie Ugg Boots (I fit right in). Tennis shoes for most folks, old folks in Irish Motoring Caps. Sort of a gangsta-pranksta-don’t-be-inno yanksta-feel to the joint, and what, pray tell is an IZZE?

Also noticed that a handwritten sign was taped below customer counter: Cooks Wanted by Crow’s Nest. Now the food has always been eclectic and good at the CN, but this is how they hire their cooks? Weird.

Onward to Summer Thyme, but alas, no breakie served  there. “We do serve quiche?” Thanks, but….

We ended up at good old Bucky’s where real Portagers meet, wear hats during meals, sweatshirts, canes, septuagenarians with ball caps tilted at 40 degrees, same old dudes (like me) bitching about kids and how they wear their hats. Carhartts, tennies with Velcro straps, a place redolent of Camo, Cleavage & Carhartts.  Waitresses in high-tops with Day Glo laces.

We had Bucky’s Breakfast. Yum-yum good. Then it twas onto the hardware store. Is this a fairytale V-Day, or what? Over. Pix follow.

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Fare.

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Bellysticking Good

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Signage Galore (Comprehension Zero)

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Great Name for a Band.

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Another Band to name.

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Cocoons.

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Da Counter.

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I am clueless.

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Note the cop in the policy sign.

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I am fascinated, which is to say, even more clueless.

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“We have quiche?”

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The old Portage Standby and the name of one of my old pals and teammates from Bulldog Days.

 

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