Friday, February 27, 2015

And Then There Were 49


BP and PA, aka FNGs 47 and 48, it's time to turn in your "FNG" name patches and don the ones with your actual call signs on them. (No, you have to buy those yourself. Yes, I am cheap, though I prefer the term "frugal.")

Yes, we have a new member, Erin of Lurking Rhythmically has signed on and will henceforth be known herein and upon the premises as FNG 49.

In her own words:
I am an author, blogger, gun owner, wanna-be game designer, and all-around geeky gamer girl.I will write for money, geek swag, or just my name in lights if the subject intrigues me.
And what's not to like about that?

I've been reading her stuff for a while now and have been most entertained. For example, how cool is a .22LR belt-fed, tripod-mounted machine gun? (Here.) Want one.

(Yeah, yeah, not really tactically viable but it's cuter'n Hell ain't it?)

So welcome aboard Erin, er I mean FNG 49.

Oh yeah, one more thing, the "G" in "FNG" can stand for "Gal" or "Girl" it's not just "Guy" - or so my daughter, The WSO, was informed the day she joined VFA-32. Yes, I was there. Yes, alcohol was involved and oh yes indeed it was fun. Patching ceremonies usually are. I've been to two, one at Oceana and one at Lemoore. That is all...

Der Käfer

Robert Couse-Baker Photo CC
Before I get too deep into this post, I need to blame credit fellow blogger Joe, his post about the Bug is what sparked this particular memory.

So with that in mind...

My first automotive conveyance was a used 1968 white Volkswagen Beetle. (The Bug in the photo is a '66 for those who must know, the '68 had a different bumper. Very similar though. The car, not the bumper.) Can't remember how much I paid for it, probably around a thousand bucks. He was in pretty good shape and ran like a top. (Not sure how a top is an apt comparison but I use the tools the English language provides. I didn't invent that metaphor, I just use it.)

Warning! Digression... You may notice that I referred to that car as "he." The car also had a name, Hans as I recall. When I drove VWs, I always referred to them using male pronouns, much like the Russians refer to ships as "he" (at least according to Captain Marko Ramius in the novel Hunt for Red October). And so it remained until about five years ago when The Nuke gave me her 2005 Honda Element. I had always referred to her car as Big Girl. So now my vehicle is a she. So to speak.

Slightly off topic... The Germans call it "der Käfer" which literally means, "the beetle." Volkswagen is pronounced "folks vagon" not "volks wagon." Yes, I am picky about that. Don't get me started on Porsche. (Who just so happens to be the guy who designed the Beetle. And helped out on the Tiger tank, among other things.)

Anyhoo...

Over time Hans started to experience various malfunctions. The first occurred one morning when I was headed out the door to go to work. At the time I lived in a marvelous little place out in the country, known (even to this very day) as Buckingham Palace. The place got the name from the property owners. (Buckingham was their family name, just so we're clear.)

The sign out front says so!
(Google Street View)

The "palace" proper is to the right. Where I lived is pretty much center stage. As it were.
(Google Street View)

Normally I parked the car nose towards the house, in the morning I would back up, executing such maneuvers as were necessary to point the nose towards the main road. On one particular morning, putting the stick into reverse did nothing. No gears were engaged. no rearward motion occurred.

Why that is most odd, I remarked calmly to myself. (Those who know me are even now scoffing at that remark.)

So rather than back up, I just drove around in a circle (on the lawn, don't tell the Buckinghams) and headed to work. At work I made sure to park in such a way as to not have to back up at quitting time.

At work I mentioned my automotive dilemma to a colleague who recommended that I take my car to Wolfgang, a guy trained in the mysteries of the VW. So I did.

Upon arrival at Wolfgang's place (out in the woods, but then again, it's Vermont, what isn't in the woods?) I note a rather large canine on a dog run (think overhead wire with a sliding leash thingee attachment). Said canine appears to be a German shepherd. A German shepherd from the Ice Age. He's freaking huge and very shaggy.

He is also attached to the overhead "wire" (it actually looks like a cable on a suspension bridge) by what appears to be a battleship's anchor chain. I mean this is a really, really big dog. He is also apparently unimpressed with my desire to get my vehicle repaired and is baying and snarling as if he wishes to rip me into my component parts and perhaps even devour said parts.

Just as Wolfgang dashes out to see what all the commotion is, I turn to the dog and in my very best "command" voice bellow, "Halt die Klappe du Hund!" (Shut your mouth dog!)

Immediately Hasso, for that is the dog's name, sits down and goes quiet.

Wolfgang: "You speak German?"

Me: "No, I speak dog, it sounds like German."

Wolfgang got all silent for a moment, then proceeded to have a look at my car. He indicated that I would probably need a new transmission. I said I'd like a second opinion.

"And you're ugly..."


So I drove off, resolved to never back-up ever again.

A different work colleague suggested I pick up a copy of this...


Which I did, this book taught me that there was a cable running from the stick clutch back to the transmission and if I was only to tighten a wing nut on that cable, I should regain my reversing capability. (H/T to Glenn for that correction! Wasn't the stick it was the clutch.)

I found the cable, I tightened the wing nut and BINGO, I could reverse once more. Without needing to purchase a new transmission.

Unfortunately...

I was still ugly.


At any rate, it was a fairly simple vehicle to maintain. And yes, I did consider buying Wolfgang a copy of that manual. Apparently he wasn't as much of an expert as he claimed to be. Apparently being an actual German isn't really sufficient to fix German cars. For that you need training. Or a really good manual.

Eventually a hole developed in the floor board, just to the left of my left foot. The foot which controlled the clutch.

Said hole in the floor board became large and noticeable during a major snowstorm. It was also a period of extremely cold weather. Not too much of a problem until I got a phone call which necessitated me driving from my domicile to the farthest reaches of northern Vermont.

The snowstorm didn't dissuade me. The Beetle is very good in snow. (As long as the tires can reach the roadway. Don't ask me how I know that little tidbit.)

It was the hole in the floorboard which had the unfortunate effect of letting cold air into the cabin. Right by my left foot.

So, in order to make the trip I had to dress something like this...

NASA Photo

Well, something like that. Without the helmet and without the massive backpack. Though Vermont was somewhat rural in those days, and it was shortly after the Earth had cooled, the atmosphere was breathable.

I suppose I was dressed more like this...

Public Domain Photo

But without the big furry gloves. I think I had better boots too.

Okay, so neither of those photos is a totally accurate picture of how I was dressed. But I was bundled up pretty good. It was really cold in my car, what with the draft and all coming up from the floor.

Oh yeah, the heat didn't work either.

An odd "feature" about the old Beetle was the two levers between the front seats. One for the left side of the car, one for the right. These levers controlled the heat. Pulling the lever up would pull on a cable running back to the engine compartment which would allow engine heat into the cabin. (No, not the exhaust silly, that would be dangerous!)

If you didn't exercise those cables periodically, they would rust and stick in the channels running back to the engine compartment. The end result being no heat in the cabin.

I had forgotten to exercise those cables for a couple of months.

Hence, no heat, hole in the floor board, long trip during a snow storm.

The drive was epic.

Cold but epic.

Soon after that adventure I bought a new Beetle, a brand new 1974 Super Beetle. (No, it didn't have a cape.) Rest assured, I made sure that I exercised those heat levers often. I actually did it whenever I got in the car.

I miss the Beetle. Good in snow, great gas mileage.

Of course back then gasoline was only about 33 cents a gallon.

Yes, it was a long, long time ago.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho...

0700, 25 February 2015
My smart phone has a weather application built into it. Normally I'll check the weather-guesser prognosis once a day (or more) just for grins. I'm curious about the weather but tend to avoid the television (aka idiot box) as it seems that the weather people have recently gotten rather hysterical as regards the weather.

When did we start naming winter storms? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question...)

Tuesday morning, I checked the weather on the smart phone. Precipitation was predicted a few days in the future. Not for Wednesday.

So Wednesday morning I woke up at my usual time, after a rather fitful night's "sleep," shaved, showered and clad myself in my normal sartorial splendor (jeans and a nice shirt, I don't like "dress" pants, despise them as a matter of fact) and headed downstairs to don my outdoor clothing to head off to my place of employment.

Gazing out the windows of Chez Sarge to what did my wondering eyes appear? Snow. Approximately 6 to 8 inches of new snow. Totally unexpected.

Yes, it was pretty (as evidenced in that opening photo, all sparkly it was).

It would have been a lot prettier had it been a Saturday morning, that is, a day I didn't have to go out first thing in the morning.

Surprisingly it wasn't that cold outside, upper twenties I believe. (No, that's not cold. Not really. Below zero is cold. Anything above ten is tolerable. BTW, that's Fahrenheit, we don't do Celsius. The metric system is weird and was invented during the rather nasty French Revolution, making it, in my book anyway, suspect.)

So after brushing what felt like three feet of snow off my car I headed off to work. Down the unplowed boulevards and by-ways of Little Rhody. Seems that the plows were still working elsewhere. Not a problem, I have all wheel drive and the snow was light and fluffy and melting on the highway. Where over the past few storms they have put down approximately 300 pounds of salt and sand per square foot. (Yes, I exaggerate, but not by much.)

Heading down the road, I note that the vehicles in front of me are flinging wet mush and salty/sandy fluid all over my vehicle. Visibility was less than optimal.

Why is it that the passenger-side windshield wiper and the passenger-side spray thingee for the windshield washer fluid always perform superbly and without flaw? Whereas the driver-side wiper always leaves horrible streaks and the spray thingee always manages to be plugged with a few minute ice crystals. Even after the vehicle owner-operator has paid particular attention to cleaning that little sum-bitch thoroughly?

'Tis a conspiracy I tell you.

Now my troubles eventually subsided and the little spray thingee on my side of the car cleared itself. Of course as soon as I would clean the windshield, the guy in front of me would throw up another wave of nastiness. I do believe I may have used an inordinate amount of washer fluid on the way to work today.

I arrive at my place of work and notice that the minions are busy clearing the back of the really big parking lot where almost no one parks. Whereas the lot where I park is only half plowed. The half they plowed is away from the road. Between me and where I normally park is a whole lot of fresh powder. Unmarked.

Yes, the joy of a twelve-year old boy coursed through my veins as I turned the wheel and drove into that wide expanse of fresh, new fallen snow. Fun, fun, fun. Short-lived as it was.

I'm in my spot and ready to begin my daily labors.

What I really wanted to do was have a nice long nap.

Sigh...

They don't pay me to nap.

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

After Juvat, After Tuna

Anya Discovers Her Tail
Here's how my week seems to go:
  1. Sunday - Ah, I can take the day off, Juvat has Monday covered.
  2. Monday - Wow, excellent story Juvat! Okay, Tuna has something queued up, so I can take today off as well.
  3. Tuesday - Saturday. Nose to the grindstone, trying to come up with good stuff that you, my faithful readers, can enjoy. (While working my day job as well!)
Blogging ain't for the timid, I can tell you.

Trying to come up with really good material after Juvat and Tuna have had their turn at the wheel is sometimes a bit difficult. They are getting "scary good" at this blogging thing.

But when in doubt, when a dearth of ideas stands in my way...

There's always stuff on the Tube o' You...

('Tis longish, but there are Tomcats, Phantoms and Intruders. Oh my!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuna's Tuesday Trivia- And now for something quite similar.



 A 'blog' button on my computer would be so very nice.  I'd like one that would automatically formulate a post for all of you, but alas- Bill Gates is far too busy with his philanthropic endeavors, and Steve Jobs is possibly in that great computer lab in the sky.

I read a post on the NepLex Facebook page where several writers discussed what blogging program they use, and the time commitment that the hobby requires.  I'm not sure how Lex did it- posting at least once per day, and often more, while also working full-time in cubicle hell.  I suppose his work back in the cockpit gave him more time to write though.  Sarge usually gets a post out daily, sometimes two, also while working hard for the man, at least when the New England weather allows it.  Just like them, and probably many of you, I too have a full time job, and this volunteer position I have as a part-time pithy political blogger is far less than even a part-time gig.  However, I find that it still keeps me from things I should be doing- like yard work, among other things.  I'm very good at procrastinating.

We renovated our front yard last year, taking out two ficus trees, the lawn, and the white picket fence that the then-new wife wanted oh-so-long ago.  The minnow and teenangster are older now, far past the time in their lives when they wanted dad to chase them around the yard. Even the loyal pup seemed indifferent to the grassy area, and his desire to mark every inch of it had apparently lessened.  He has hip problems now anyway, brought on by his very old age (16+), so while the idea of fetching the  tennis ball might get him excited, he'd surely pay for it afterwards, and I'd regret even bringing the ball out of it hiding place.

Mickey in earlier times.

So, in a defensive measure against the ever-increasing water bills here in drought-prone San Diego, we decided to put in a mix of hard-scape and landscape.  This included a cozy seating area, fire-pit, and putting the plants on a drip irrigation system that reduced our H2O footprint. Yes, those usually go in the back yard, but ours is about 3 feet wide before dropping off steeply into one of the many canyons around San Diego.  While I was glad to no longer need our lawn mower, that monthly chore was far less time consuming than the constant fight against overgrown plants, ground cover reposition/replacement, and acidic neighborhood doggie urine.  Last weekend, my wife pointed out to me that we still have a little grass- although it's growing out of our rain gutters.  The neighbor's Jacaranda tree dropping its leaves over our house is to blame, but it's yet another blog-deferred responsibility of mine.

So, with those lame excuses out in the open, and some much-needed yard work ahead of me, not to mention a severe lack of creativity, I relapse back to a tried-and-true trivia post staple for me, Guess The Cockpit.

1.
Interesting canopy.  It's not an F-16, but sounds similar.

 2.
It's not US-made, but the exchange rate is about 1.14 to the dollar.

3.
If you don't know what this is, maybe a small flying animal will tell you.

4.
This Army cockpit is just jammed with switches.

5.
This is only a simulator cockpit but that's partially because there aren't any of the real ones in service yet.

6.
I saw several of these when I took my daughter on a tour of SCAD.

7.
Not a medium-sized hound, nor a diurnal hawk, but a person who engages in persistent attacks on others sort of works.
8.
An asymmetrical cockpit?  It's a cliché, but this thing is ugly and weird.
Here's where his buddy sits:

9.
It's named after a Catholic college in Nebraska, but it's really only his first name.

10.
This picture isn't very humerus, but it's sort of femur, tibia, or metatarsal.

11.
Visit McMinville to take a gander at this one.

12.
Are those portholes?  Well, it is a type of ship.

13.
They're still using that ugly green?  I thought that would end with these newer aircraft.
14.
Ugly cars, but cool looking jets.
15. 
Dorothy, these are in the UK, not Kansas. This is the rear cockpit.
************************************
The clues probably gave some away, the pictures- a few others.  Some were probably too tough to guess.  Here are the answers.

1.  
AH-1Z Viper (upgrade to the Cobra)
2. 
Eurofighter Typhoon
3.
AH-6 Little Bird
4.
US Army EH-60C helo that jams signals. This is an EH-60A, but I couldn't find a C or E.
5.

 6.
Gulfstream G-650.  The company's HQ is in Savannah

 7.
AV-8B Harrier

8.
Mi-24 Hind
9. 
M-1 Abrams
 10.
B-1 (B-One "Bone")
 11.
The Spruce Goose
 12.
Spaceship One
13.
Tornado GR-4
 14.
Saab Gripen
 15.
Su-35 Super Flanker
Ok, enough for now.  Back to the yard work, right after I check Facebook.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Inertia

Growing up, I was a strange child.  For example, I liked Math and Science.  My folks gave me a chemistry set when I was about 10 with real chemicals.  The horrors!  Gosh, I’m sure I could have made some concoction and wiped out life throughout the universe.  

For my 13th birthday,They gave me a Daisy Model 94 BB gun.  My San Francisco born and bred Mother put up a heckuva fight, but ultimately my Dad won.  Mom, of course, used the “it’s all fun til someone loses an eye” routine.  Dad just took me outside and gave me the four rules speech.  Those made more sense to me.

Our house on Webb AFB were part of the original base housing, built during WWII, there were three buildings and 5 dwellings, 4 duplexes and the Wing King’s house.  Old, and out of the way, but they were (and still are) right next to an undeveloped part of the base.  Cedar and Mesquite trees, hills and washes, the perfect place for a kid with a BB gun to have fun.  Then, my best friend Mike got a gas powered pellet rifle.  No red ant hill nor abandoned beer bottle was safe.  We had a blast. 
Home Sweet Home.  Ours was to the left of the street and closest to the bottom.
Source Google Maps

But, as Sarge keeps telling me, I digress.  Where was I? Oh, right, I was weird.  I got Math.  Algebra was easy and I really loved Geometry which stood me in good stead later when I began flying fighters.
 
Beyond Math, I loved to read (still do with 225 books on my Kindle at last count).  This was a good thing.  Mom’s rule was only 1 hour of TV a day and then only during Summer.  During School, it was 1 hour a week, and even then that had to be diplomatically decided on by the body politic, AKA my siblings, as we all had to watch the same 1 hour show.  Other than that, it was homework, outside play and or reading.  I was a big fan of WWII history books specifically air war related and even more specifically fighter pilot related.  As I said, I was weird. 

At the time, my method of getting around the base was feet or bike.  My bike was a metallic blue stingray with a banana seat and ape hanger handle bars.  It was also from time to time a P-51, Spitfire, Corsair, P-38 and, if I wanted to get exotic, a Mosquito. 
My first fighter!
Source flickr.com

 Mike and I used to have some epic dogfights weaving in and out trying to get behind one another. (Wonder if that had anything to do with my tendency early in my flying career to think two dimensionally?)


Those battles also taught me that rarely does one “win” in a mid-air.

Got to High School and like everyone else in my class took Physics as a Senior.  I’m serious when I say, I think the teacher was in his 80s.  He frequently fell asleep in class.  All that having been said, I got Physics.  I mean I GOT Physics!  It might have had something to do with a practical example of Newton’s Laws I had as a child prodigy when I was flying an F-4 at age 12.

But first, Class we’re going to have a review of Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Newton’s First Law.

 “An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

Celebrex commercial notwithstanding, this law pretty much is the one immutable law of flying.  In Fighter Pilotese, it says, “You ain’t gonna fly until you light the engines.  You’re going to go in a straight line until you change the pressure level around a portion of your aircraft.  And you’ll only stay flying as long as your engines stay running and you avoid hitting anything.”

Newton’s Second Law.

Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).

Mongo say “Small fighter, Big Engine.  Trees go by fast.”

Newton’s Third Law.

For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action.

Newton must have been married.


Now, Newton was a smart man.  According to legend, he got all that from an apple. 
H/T Angel 

I, on the other hand, needed to perform some experimentation.

So, There I was…..* 12 years old, and bored to tears.  It’s spring break and my best friend Mike and I are trying to figure out what to do.  We’ve shot our way through our allowance in BBs and Pellets and the Red Ants are breathing a sigh of relief.  We’ve conducted numerous Physics experiments with our Hot Wheels cars using some very intricate, albeit carefully laid out, test tracks in Mike’s living room.  His was much bigger than ours.  Mike’s dad was a Lt Col, mine was a Captain.  I have successfully proven that my McLaren was the car to beat once again.  Mike’s mom tells us to tear it down and pack it up, but it’s only 1200!  Her party doesn’t start til 1900.  Even us kids told time that way. 

Anyhow, my Mom calls and says Dad’s home and Lunch is ready.  So I go home for my Baloney Sandwich.

Dang! Life was good back then!

We’re all sitting down at lunch and Dad’s talking about his day so far.  He’s been out in Mobile all morning, grading landings and making sure his student pilot assistant is checking every airplane to make sure their gear is down.  Newton’s first law says that the landing roll will be unusually short if not.

Anyhow, an F-4 has come in on a cross country and during his landing roll, his drag chute separated from the aircraft.  It being a gusty day, the drag chute was out in between two busy runways and just in front of the Mobile Control.  Dad sent the student out to get the chute.  It was in Dad's car, would I like it?
Drag Chute
Source en.wikipedia.org


Now, this was during the period when having a parachute hanging from the ceiling as room decoration was the absolute height of Air Force Brat, Male, 1 each, coolness.  Yeah Baby!  (No, I did not say that to my Dad!  “Yes, Sir, Thanks!)

Lunch is over, I’ve retrieved the chute and dragged it over to Mike’s house to show it off and enlist his help in hanging it in my (well, my brother and my) bedroom.

Mike is enthused as we open it up outside, then he gets a great idea.  How about if we have a dog fight?  Juvat, you can be the F-4 and we’ll tie the cable to the back of your banana seat.  Then when we come in for the landing, you can deploy it and that’ll be really cool!

So it is written, so it shall be.  We go round and round for a bit and then head back for landing.  I’m headed into about 15-20K of wind and decide it’s time to deploy the drag chute.  I reach behind me and grab the rolled up chute and throw it behind me.  Nothing happens for a second. 

Then….

A body in motion (mine) tends to stay in motion, even if his bicycle has come to a complete stop and in fact is being drug by a fully inflated chute capable of stopping a 20 ton fighter travelling at 160K.  

Well, I stayed in motion until gravity overcame what aerodynamic lift my body provided  and then friction between it and the asphalt brought me to a halt.  The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Webb AFB clinic putting my left arm in a cast.


In one short, but vivid, episode, I experienced all three of Newton’s laws in a very effective learning environment. But, by the time I was a Senior in High School, I GOT physics!


*SJC

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Five Hundred Thousand

U. S. Air Force Photo by MSgt Michael Ammons
I started this blog almost three years ago. The first month the blog had 648 hits.

Six hundred and forty eight.

Now I'll see that many hits in a day.

Nice.

I have to say, I'm having fun with this little experiment in story telling, historical discourse and the occasional trivia session.

Oh yeah, the occasional rant. Sometimes we have rants.

I have two co-bloggers now, Juvat and Tuna.

Both, like me, are retired military. Tuna was Navy, Juvat was Air Force. Both, unlike me, were officers. Both, unlike me, were flyers. Juvat flew Phantoms and Eagles, Tuna was a Naval Flight Officer in the Mighty War Hoover.

U.S. Navy Photo
U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Kenya Shiloh
In my early days, I maintained the Weapon Control Systems (think radar and gunsight) on old Double Ugly, the F-4C and the F-4D.

We couldn't have made this place work without the good folk who "tune in" every day to read what we have to offer. We really appreciate you, our Dear Readers. Even the ones who don't comment. Hey, every blog has to have "lurkers," right?

Anyhoo. I'm going to go rest on my laurels for a while. I might be back with more later today. Hard to say.

I need to kick back and savor the moment.

Seriously, my (our) thanks to all of you.

You keep reading, we'll keep writing.

In other news, it snowed again on Saturday.
Oh boy...
Feeling blue?
(Nah, just a trick of the light...)