It’s a gas, gas, gas…

During the Viet Nam era, many of my colleagues went through “boot camp”. Boot camp for me meant a basic training in the arts and skills required to be member of the U.S. Navy. Two of the basic skills that were “cancelled” because of weather were “Firefighting practice” and “Gas Mask experience”. The Navy training then was in my opinion, then, and, in retrospect, very good. Given the broad cross-section of young men (only men in my company), an instructor explained the the background of each element of the important knowledge. We took notes in an notebook that was always with us because it was tucked in the top of the legging that we wore to keep our uniform pants from dragging in the ever-present slush on the parking lot like areas where, when we were not busy with some other activity, we learned close-order drill.
I sincerely hope that those in my boot camp company escaped both the firefighting experience and the gas mask experience in serious situations.
In the Spring of 1969, the country was at war with itself over the War in VietNam. Students had been killed at Kent State University in Ohio. I remember where I was when I heard that news because my sister was a student at Kent State. In the pre-cell phone era, I had to wait until I could get off duty and get to a payphone to call my folks to find out that my sister was all right.
So, when I was “volunteered” to protect the old “Main Navy Building” ( from a peace march, I was less than thrilled. When the crowd control training started, OK, I can do that. When the weapons training started with “strip this weapon and reassemble”, I was less than enthusiastic. The big weekend arrived. They gave us a gas mask and a rifle and loaded us on a bus, drove us to Washington D.C. First person I saw when we got off the bus was a First Class Petty Officer, who said, “we are putting these away unless we need them”, took my weapon and tucked it in a closet. Prayers answered.
The building was closed. All of the doors and windows were supposed to be locked. They assigned “watch’s” as the Navy calls what the other services call “guard duty”. My watch assignment was as a messenger. While on my 4-hour watch (4-on, 4-off 24x?) I circulated to each doorway on the ground floor. I guess in those days we did not have to worry about drones and roof invasions. The guys watching the doors got to see lots of hippy guys and GIRLS going by. I got to see lots of hallway. Late one evening, while walking this endless hallway, I smelled a strange and pretty awful smell. “That’s tear gas” he says to him self, half-way through a breathe-in event. STOP. Mask out of the bag, onto the face, breath out to clear the mask, fix the mask to the head, continue breathing, continue duty. I rouned the corner to discover that the “command center” had opened the window to permit fresh air while the officers and senior petty officers smoked.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the National Mall, the Weathermen had vandalized the Treasury Building and the police/guard/NationalGuard had responded with a massive tear gas response. Prevailing winds and pervasive gas, probably gassed the entire area including the command center.
In reviewing the situation, I find that the Navy has moved the fire fighting and gas training to a large indoor center. My wish is that the Navy boot camp training continues to prepare our sailors for the unexpected events they may encounter.

Forward., ?, ¡#%@!

Today’s WSJ called to my attention that Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has adopted the slogan “Forward.”.   I read this initally as a command as in “Forward, March!”.

Picture of Ship's Engine Telegraph set to Ahead Dead Slow
Ahead Dead Slow

Of course the problem here is that the part of the command that results in execution is missing.


Next I tried reading it as “Forward (full stop)”.  While this might seem like something from a ship’s engine telegraph, it is not. And somehow I do not think that this is what the campaign had in mind.

If we read the complete sentence literally and diagram it:


(implied "I",
"you", "we", or "they") | forward | (implied object)

Here, the ill-defined actor subject adds to the confusion of who is doing what. That sounds familiar in this President’s administration.  But what is clear is that the implied object has been misdirected. Perhaps it has a future, eventually being delivered, that is if the Post Office survives bankruptcy.  I suspect the more likely result is that the false promises of the current administration and Congress will be “lost in the mail”. Again.

More likely, a continuation of the “blame someone else” and “kick the can down the road” that have become the hallmark of Barack Obama’s presidency. Three years into an admistration, it is past time to be blaming your predecessor. The president should be leading Congress, but both parties in both the House and the Senate seem to have no strong desire to follow the President off a fiscal cliff.

I am reminded of the slogan of Peabody, the dog who had a time-machine and a pet boy, Sherman, in the “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” feature. The two would shout “Forward…into the past”. I say, “Oh, no, not again, not 4 more years”.


I listen to Public Radio and I note that it is now apparently OK to refer to “poop” without a “bleep”. Tremendous progress. Most of us animals consider this a normal function, so normal that is not often talked about. But as HEALTH and NATURE become more popular topics, maybe we need to listen to the audience and not to the government censors.
This is a test. This is only a test. If the idiots that choose words for my former employers’ web censor cut this out, maybe it is time to move on.
Those of you who may have been Regular Navy may equate poop=straight skinny=the gouge. That is, the truth.

Health Care

With the secret House-Senate committee sorting out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the so-called Health Care bills, it may be the time to say that what was needed was a lot less and way more than what is being discussed.
What is needed less is government imposed price controls ala Medicare and Medicaid. Price controls lead to shortages. But you are probably too young to remember Jimmy Carter’s government induced gasoline shortage.
What is needed more is supply. So end the government supported insurance oligopoly. Reduce state regulation to fiduciary oversight. No imposed benefits. Allow companies to sell insurance in other states. Just make sure that the insurance companies deliver what they contracted to deliver. The rest will take care of itself.

Windows 7

My long-time friend Bob sent me news to help understand Windrows 7. Hay-Hay-Hay.
Fortunately I only have to use Window at work. The company I work for can afford to pay lots of smart people to protect me from folks who would do bad things to my computer. At home, I use Ubuntu, a Linux based system. Much less worry about invasive software problems.

Bad News, Good News

Saturday, my son and I were cutting up the accumulated brush and fallen limbs from 3 years of dry weather. I try to keep the pile small so it is not unsightly. But with the drought that we have had, I did not feel it was safe to burn. I had started on it a year or so ago when my old McCulloch chainsaw went bust.

Bad news: New Homelite chainsaw in hand, we were cutting off small lengths and burning to make a pile of coals to grill some hot dogs.  We had got about 20% of the pile done, and actually about all that we could do in that afternoon, the exhaust note changed from a motor sound to a sharper, harder sound.  I thought at the moment that it sounded like a large model airplane.  My son pointed to an object on the ground where I was cutting.  I quickly stopped the saw.  It seems the screws had come out of the muffler and the muffler had fallen off.  No wonder it sounded like a model airplane.  It was just like a 2-stroke model airplane engine with no muffler.  As in a model airplane engine the combustion chamber is open to the world when the piston clears exhaust port.  Big noise.  And the screws were nowhere to be found in the rubble and stubble under the brush pile.

That was on Saturday.  I was busy Sunday and Monday but had Tuesday off.  I called the Homelite toll-free help number.  The menu options had changed to better serve the customers.  The number one option on the first menu was “…to get the correct fuel-to-oil ratio for your power tool”. Option 2 was anything else.  The second menu was “Order parts or supplies press 1” and “Talk to a representative press 2”.

There was a hold as all representatives were “serving another customer”.  But that hold was less than a minute.  Shana was very helpful.  I gave the model and serial number.  She responded that “If it has been less than 30 days, you can take it back to Home Depot.  If more than that, you will need to take to an authorized service location”.  Now that is some information system.  That indicates that that lot of tools was sold through Home Depot.  She further suggested that she get my zip code and gave a choice of two locations for Authorized Service, both about 10 miles away.

Next to find the receipt.  My wife went through a pile of recent receipts.  Not Found.  Then she remembered that that receipt was on a magnet on the side of the refrigerator.  It turns out that I had bought the saw 32 days before.  Receipt and map to 5 Points Mower Repair, I headed out.

Home Depot is about 2 1/2 miles away.  I took the saw in to the returns desk, setting off the loss prevention alarm on the way.  A young woman named Meg listened to my story and asked what I wanted to do.  I suggested exchanging just the saw since I had used the oil and written in the book.  She suggested that I just get a similar saw off the shelf and exchange the whole thing.  So that is what I did.  She typed in the return reason in the register and gave me back the old receipt. About 3 minutes elapsed time. Homelite customer service and Home Depot return experience are pretty Good News!