Friday, November 26, 2010

New "How I Would Have Died" post

Today's post in my new series about how I would have died if I lived 100 years ago:

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving--or just a good Thursday if you live in another country.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How I Would Have Died--If I Lived 100 Years Ago

Here's another of the posts from my day job on the How I Would Have Died theme:

In his Pulitzer-Prize-winning book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies, Jared Diamond says Native Americans were killed off in massive numbers—possibly 95% of their population—by smallpox and other germs brought by settlers who would soon begin attacking the Native Americans with weapons. They eventually armed themselves, but the history of North America would have been very different if they had also been vaccinated.
I was born in 1953. My sister was born in 1955. My mother was worried sick during both pregnancies. Polio was sweeping across America, claiming more victims every year from 1920 to 1957. In 1955 Jonas Salk began widespread testing of the first effective polio vaccine. By 1957, the upward trend in polio cases had reversed. By 1960, polio had all but disappeared. 
Vaccination is one of the real triumphs of modern medicine, all but eradicating deadly diseases. But a new and disturbing trend threatens to undo centuries of progress. An anti-vaccine movement has sprung up in America based on the belief that certain vaccinations cause autism. Parents keep their children from being vaccinated and hope enough other children will be vaccinated to keep their children from contracting deadly diseases. The movement has celebrity spokespersons like Jenny McCarthy, but no support from leading researchers in the medical community.
I have five children who get all the vaccinations their doctor prescribes and I am thankful they can get them. If they couldn't, their histories may ultimately prove very different today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Almost on the Fat Boy Program

On Sunday I took  PT Test.  I was one point lower than last time.  I went over max on the situps (82, 64 is max) and the pushups (just barely) but was 28 seconds too slow on the run.  So my score was 296.  BUT, I almost flunked the AFPT before I ran.  At 8am we went in for height and weight.  My weight was 191, up from my usual 186 because I had not ridden the bike for almost a week and was eating a lot the night before the PT Test.

Since I am getting old, I am slowly shrinking.  The first time they measured me, the medic said I was 71 inches tall.  According to Army height-weight standards 186 pounds is the maximum weight for a man 71 inches tall.  The medic sergeant rechecked and said I was 72 inches tall.  Then the max weight is 197.  If I had not passed height and weight, I would have been a No Go on the overall fitness test even with a score of 296 out of 300.

Actually, if the measurement had gone the other way, the medics "tape" you, checking your waist and neck.  With my waist and neck measurements, I would be allowed up to 203 pounds.  So I am good.  For now.

But I have to make sure I am not a Fat Boy in the future!!!!!!

Riding in NYC Tomorrow--Bought a New Lock

Tomorrow I will be riding in NYC.  I will be taking my other Iraq bike, the GT Peace 9er with me.  To be sure that bike is not stolen, I bought the best Kryptonite Lock--the Forget About It New York model.  I keep the bike in my hotel room anyway, but if I would need a lock--this one is the best.  And at 8 pounds, it is just one pound lighter than an M16A4 rifle.  So even the weight will be like being back in Iraq.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Air Assault Training

On Saturday 2-104th Aviation trained 55th Brigade Combat Team.  We flew 70 feet over the tree tops up and down steep hillsides on the way to Medina Ridge where we put two rifle squads in position.


Saturday, November 13, 2010


More than 1200 pictures of soldiers in my unit since we got back from Iraq are here.

If you are looking for photos of 2-104 Aviation photos, look no further.

How I Would Have Died--If I Lived 100 Years Ago

[The following post is on the blog Periodic Tabloid. I will be writing weekly about how I would have died if I lived 100 years ago.]

In honor of Veteran’s Day, which was yesterday, let me explain how I could have died at 9:30 a.m. on November 9, 1973 had it been 1873 instead:

I enlisted in the Air Force in January 1972. After eight months of school I was assigned to Hill Air Force Base in Utah. My job was live-fire testing of missiles. We were 8,000 miles from the war in Vietnam, but several days a week we bolted rockets into test -firing rigs and set them off.

Our job was officially aging and surveillance testing. We froze missiles, heated them, shook them in 750,000-watt machines, put them in altitude chambers and humidity chambers, then fired them.

Most of the missiles burned just as they are supposed to. Occasionally, the mistreatment we gave them caused the propellant to crack. The air gap could make the missile explode rather than burn. We hated that. When a missile blew up a test pad we would get behind schedule and be out on the range longer. Some actually worried about the concrete and steel raining on the bunker we waited in—mostly the older guys. The single airmen, most under the age of 20, only worried about their weekend plans.

On Friday, November 9, 1973, we were testing inter-stage detonators on a Minuteman 3-stage missile—the kind that carry several warheads across the poles to the other side of the world. Back then they were aimed at Russia and China.

In a multi-stage missile, detonator cord separates the stages. When the first stage burns out, the detonator cord burns through the skin allowing the spent stage to fall away before the next stage fires. I was connecting test wires to the detonators when I saw a blue-white flash and flew back against the wall of the test bay.

I stood up and saw my crew chief lying on the floor. I could see, but I could not blink and my vision was tinted red. A wire was sticking out of my right eye, holding it open. The first two fingers of my right hand were hanging at a strange angle. Bits of wire, screws, and aluminum from the test clamp peppered my body from my waist up.

After six eye operations and surgery to reattach my fingers, I recovered months later. If the same accident happened 100 years ago, infection would have left me blind, or dead. And without the high-tech eye surgeons who cleared their schedule to operate on me, I would have been blind just from the injuries.

Modern medicine depends on chemistry. Not just drug development, but the materials that make high-tech surgery possible and the instruments that make labs so accurate and efficient.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Iraq Bike Stolen on Veterans Day

Today I went to lunch with a friend in Center City Philadelphia.  I rode my bike to lunch.  Chained it to a u-shaped metal pipe for locking bikes and went to lunch.  When I came out from lunch the bike, my helmet and the lock were gone.

Which bike?  The one I bought for Iraq and rode for almost my whole tour--a red Trek T-1 single speed.  If you ride in Philly, bike theft is going to happen.  I'll miss that particular bike like an old friend because I rode it in Oklahoma for the train up and for almost the whole deployment--I broke the crank with a month to go on my tour, but Bike Line of Lancaster fixed it when I got back.

I don't suppose I'll ever see it again, and I do have other bikes.  But I really liked that bike and will always remember the looks I got from turret gunners in MRAPS and Humvees when the say me riding with my rifle on my back.

Homesick for the DFAC

Three times in the last two weeks I stopped for breakfast on the way to work in Philadelphia.  Usually I don’t eat breakfast.  I drink coffee at home.  I drink coffee when I get to Philadelphia and sometimes buy a loaf of bread from Fork (a local restaurant that bakes its own bread). 

Today, I stopped at the buffet in The Bourse in Philadelphia.  It’s just any buffet.  It is an American buffet run by an Chinese family.  They have creamed beef, fried potatoes, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, bagels, toast and all the greasy starchy stuff anyone could want for breakfast on the hot line.  But they also have six or seven different kinds of just-cut fresh fruit:  watermelon, honeydew, mango, kiwi, pineapple slices, grapes and then everything mixed together in fruit salad.  Its all fresh and bright colored on an immaculate serving line.

I miss the cut-to-order fruit every morning at the DFAC.  I only eat a little of several things because it is expensive.  If I ate breakfast in Iraq DFAC quantities, it would cost $25.  But for $5 I can get enough to remind me of one of the really good things about Iraq.  The best thing here is when I walk outside there is no sand and no dust storm.

Maybe around the holidays if I am really hungry, I’ll eat like a soldier one morning.

Happy Veterans Day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Late Update on Half Marathon

Reached my goal Saturday.  I finished in 1:58:18--under two hours.  To go any faster I will have to train specifically for the the run--intervals, hills, etc.  This one also made me wonder if I should go for a full marathon.  But again, lots of training.  At the end of the half marathons I can speed up.  My lungs feel great.  My legs don't.  I think a full marathon will likely end in injury.

But I might do another half if I can find one close by.

The best thing about this event was the water stations.  Every two miles or so, a dozen Amish kids were lined up handing water and Powerade to the runners.  This event could not be held anywhere but Lancaster PA.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"This Job is for Young Men"

As some of you know, way back in 2007 when I re-enlisted I thought I would join a WMD detection team as some kind of chemical weapons detection specialist.  It never worked out at the time, but when I got back from Iraq, I started getting weekly listings of full-time jobs available at Fort Indiantown Gap.  One of those jobs was the job I was looking for four years ago.

I looked at that job every week and thought 'Do I really want to be full time?'  It turns out that the team members have to be full time, which makes sense.  I called the office last week and talked to a senior officer in the unit.  He told me that the job involved a lot of travel, a lot of chemistry and was physically demanding.  He asked how old I am.  When I told him he said I could apply if I wanted to, but almost everyone else on the team was in their 20s.

I suppose I could apply anyway, but the unit gets to decide who they interview from the applicant pool.  And when I joined, I was thinking I could do this kind of thing part time.  Since that's not the case, I'll sty where I am.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Infection is Getting Better

At least that's what the doctor said tonight.  It is still more swollen than two days ago, but is less swollen than last night.  He took a culture so in a couple of days I should know what kind of bacteria were swelling my arm up.

They switched antibiotics and the second one seems to be working.  They gave me the first one because I had a MRSA infection in June.  But this one is likely to be a strep infection for which Clindamycin works better--which is what I have now.

For the last two months I have been writing the Friday post in the blog at the museum where I work.  Up to know the posts have mostly been about events.  They are a complete pain in the ass to write because our company uses a CMS system for posts.  They take 15 minutes to write and another hour to do all the crap necessary to enter the post into the system.


But starting Friday, my posts will be under the new heading "How I Would Have Died if I Was Alive 100 Years Ago."  Breaking my neck, shrapnel in my eyes, seeing inside my knees after a motorcycle accident and all of the infections that go with my less-than-safe lifestyle mean I would have been dead at least a half dozen times if I did not have the good fortune to be alive today in America.  I send links.  My doctor thinks I am the perfect candidate to write these blog posts.

It may even make CMS easier to deal with.

The Model Scientist? | Books and Culture

I just had a review published in Books and Culture

The Model Scientist? | Books and Culture

Military Pilots Really Have "The Right Stuff"

Tammie Jo Shults, F-18 Fighter Pilot Today I listened to the audio of pilot Tammie Jo Shults calmly speakin...