Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sold out to the Rooskies!

I journeyed to Cheyenne for my annual medical check-up Monday. My appointment was at 0700 so I was on the road at 0530 to make my 0645 show time. The drive is an hour, and as we all learned in the service, actual show time is 15 minutes prior to published show time. It's the kind of thing that weirds civilians out.

The drive over was nice. It was still dark and there was a lot of ground fog but you could clearly see the moon. Horizontal viz varied from 200 yards to two miles, but vertical viz was nearly unlimited through the rather shallow fog layer.

The check-up was great although I had to add some blood pressure meds as the ol' pressure has started creeping up. I hate the idea of having to take antihypertension medication because that path is highly correlated with being old, and I don't want to be old. I'm well known for wanting a lot of stuff though, a great deal of which is unrealistic. Been that way since I was a kid.

As it turns out, I've basically got two choices in how I deal with this new reality. I can sign up with America's 2019 zeitgeist and join the growing ranks of the professionally and perpetually victimized class, or I can accept reality on a rational basis. The natural arc of my corporeal existence is aligned with reality. My physical self is exactly what it is, and not anything else. It's certainly not a projection of my wishes and desires. I can throw all the temper tantrums I want, I can demand the government provide me with a hypertension-free safe space, I can go on television and screech about Trump's part in a vast Russian conspiracy to attack me personally by raising my blood pressure, blah, blah, blah. Or I can take an incredibly effective and laughably inexpensive pill every morning and get on with enjoying the fruits of liberty. I'm very fortunate indeed to live in a place and time where hypertension can be treated.

I also got a flu shot and pneumonia vaccination. By the time I got back to Kimball I was feeling like dogshit; very sore arms, aches and pains, a bit of a fever, and the general feeling of getting sick. That stuck with me all day and well into the night. I still felt a bit wobbly when I crawled out of the rack Tuesday morning, but generally I felt better.

I was pretty sure that the best cure for my lingering vaccination malaise would be to work out, so I hit it pretty hard. Three mile sprint/walk followed by 160+ flights of steps. It was a good one! By the time I'd finished the workout I felt supremely human once again. And my but it was a lovely day to be an individual human being at liberty.

A nice workout bonus yesterday was finding the snow drifts at the underpass diminished enough that I could run all three flights of steps. In the wake of the blizzard the two flights on the north were completely buried in deep snow. Due to the vagaries of wind and snow deposition during the storm, the south flight of steps remained open, so I never lacked for steps to run while waiting for the big melt. Nevertheless, I do like to run all three sets of steps. There's more variety that way, and switching flights allows for a few moments of recuperation between sets. Yesterday the northwest flight still had crusted snow and ice on the bottom 4 steps, so that was a bit of a challenge. Challenge is good. I only took one header, and I was quite pleased with the way I fell and the way I recovered from the fall. It was essentially a trivial thing. I don't have to fear gravity or the ground. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Today I got over to smokebong hill, which had been drifted shut until yesterday. This morning there were only remnants of rapidly melting snow drifts and so the only hard part of running the hill was, well, running the hill.

I also ran some steep embankments.

Nona enjoyed the outing, though she wonders why I waste so much time with all the running and puffing when I could be throwing the ball for her. Life don't always make sense.

A few of last season's sunflowers are still upright, but they'll be down and decomposing soon.

Later on I ventured into the world of electricity. I replaced the motor on a bathroom exhaust fan and I swapped out a pair of 15 amp wall outlets for 20 amp outlets. I didn't get zapped, and the breakers didn't pop when I was done. Hopefully the big billboard LCD television will stop clicking on and off now, though I suspect the problem is more with the TV than wall outlets. Time will tell I suppose.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Corpsman Chronicles XIV: Zuki and the E-5 Mafia

But first, a word from our sponsor, Suck It Up And Drive On.

It was a good winter for keeping to the new and improved fitness regime. Some days were a challenge, but with the exception of a week's illness and two days of actual blizzard, I was able to work out outside every day. Going into winter I was secretly worried that I'd just wimp out and say screw it when weather conditions were a little bit rough, but that didn't happen. There were days I really didn't want to exercise in the freezing, blustery cold, but I could never quite convince myself that the inclement weather should be dictating terms. And with rare exceptions I found that if I dressed correctly most of the cold associated misery disappeared once I got warmed up. So an issue that turned out to be mostly a non-issue.

Coming up on eleven months since I began a systematic, daily workout routine. I started with baby steps. I progressed pretty quickly, in fact much more quickly than I'd hoped. Although I've tracked my progress with numbers -- reps, steps, miles, flights of steps, etc. -- I've never tried to set firm numeric goals. My daily goal has been to do just a bit more or just a bit better than yesterday. Over the last couple of months the daily little bit more has been pushing me hard enough to get into the "yes I can" zone, and that is something I relish. It takes me back to the tough navy training courses of my youth, training that allowed me to find a way to dig deeper and do more than I believed I could. Today when muscles burn sweat pours and heart pounds and lungs scream and I prepare to quit, that old, lovely spark ignites in my core and I know for certain that, yes I can. Just another blessing that I tend to take for granted.


One of the ebootewe channels I enjoy is PeriscopeFilm. They put up a lot of old military training and recruiting films and many of them are great fun to watch. One that caught my eye this morning is called "1400 Zulu." It's a Royal Navy recruiting film from away back in 1965. And despite being "recruiting propaganda," I liked it a lot. Of course I still enjoy watching the "recruitng propaganda" films produced by our own Colonial Navy, particularly those I watched in the decade or so before I embarked on my own naval career. Go figure. Anyway, "1400 Zulu."

Now I happen to think that was a great little film. I was always a big fan of the County Class Guided Missile Destroyers -- probably because they were the easiest to pick out during a ship recognization test. No other warship ever carried such a big Jungle Gym on the fantail, making the Counties easy to pick out.

I also loved the Buccaneers. Hideously ugly to my American eye, the Bucc was and all-weather bomber, sharing a similar mission set and unsightliness with our Yank Intruder. The Buccs in this film were the S.1 variant with Gyron Junior engines, easily identified by the smaller, round intakes. When the S.2's came along with their Spey turbofan motors the intakes grew much larger and took on a distinct oval shape.

But none of that is what this is about. What this is about is the title of the film, "1400 Zulu."

Way back in the mists of time, before the internet and even before the Bug entered fleet-wide service with the Colonial Navy, there lived an interesting group of navy corpsmen at the Branch Medical Clinic at Naval Air Station Oceana. There were about 10 or 12 of us who were friendly and hung around to a certain extent. We were all very different people with different jobs, yet we shared a similar outlook on life and naval service and we were all at a similar place in our careers. We were the E-5's Mafia.

Being an E-5 is (or was at that time) a pretty good deal. You're senior enough to have a significant quantity of horsepower while at the same time junior enough to avoid any real major responsibility.

Our group was quite diverse, and evenly split between boy sailors and girl sailors. I was the only airwinger in the club, and the only one who did clinical and emergency medicine. The others worked in Admin, Records, Preventive Medicine, Lab, X-Ray, Supply, Pharmacy, and Physical Therapy. Only two of us had ever deployed on a ship, but those who hadn't had done tours in overseas hospitals.

It took more than a crow with two chevrons to be part of the E-5 Mafia though.

To be a member in good standing you had to be a hard charger and very competent. You also had to have an extremely low tolerance for chickenshit and a major aversion to sucking up.

Lest you think we were god's gift to the navy, we were not. Oh, we excelled in our assigned duties and in that sense gave the service a great deal more than most any other double-handful of mid-level enlisted corpsmen. But we also took a lot in return. None of us were shy when it came to taking advantage of the leeway our competence bought. Simply stated, we got away with shit that very few -- read "none" -- of our peers could get away with. Our immediate superiors, and their immediate superiors in turn, valued our competence, our dedication, and the trust we had earned highly enough to let us color well outside the lines.

It was a lot of fun.

Who were we?

Other than myself, Mikey (he hates everything) from the ER, we had Q, (last name started with Q and went on for several days) from Admin. Babs, from Records. Notso (last name Sharpe) from Preventative Medicine. P-Boy (AKA Piss-Boy) from Lab. Tits (you had to be there) from X-Ray. Cookie from Supply. Rat (play on last name) from Pharmacy. Boards (big ears) from Physical Therapy. 

And then there was Zuki. She was from Admin too. She'd only just made E-5 and If you'd been around the clinic a little bit you'd be surprised to find her hanging out with the E-5 Mafia. She was very quiet and shy, and I'm guessing rather self consciousness about her thick Tagalog accent. She was also extremely smart and curious and an absolute master of administrative regulations. When she let her hair down a bit, among friends, she had a great sense of humor and a supremely caustic wit. When it came to all-in barb slinging, Zuki usually won by miles.

Zuki earned her nickname soon after checking aboard the clinic as a newly minted E-4. She was a "Quad-Zero" or basic Hospital Corpsman (HM-0000), having attended the basic A-School only, with no advanced or specialist C-School training. For comparison, I was at this point an HM-8404/8294/8406/8409. Zuki had gone from A-School in San Diego directly to the wards at Naval Hospital Naples, Italy. There she'd spent three years as a basic ward monkey, something along the lines of today's civilian Certified Nursing Assistant.

When she showed up at Oceana, Zuki would have been a good fit for the ER, or Sick Call, or Family Medicine. Naturally, she was assigned to Admin, where she had zero experience or training. So she rolled up her sleeves and pretty much took the place over.

On one of her first days in the office, however, she transcribed a handwritten form into a clean, typed copy and turned it in for signature. I've no idea what the form was, but I do know that it included a time rendered as Greenwich Mean Time, or in the military, as Zulu time. For instance, 1400 Zulu. When Zuki transcribed the time from a handwritten scrawl, her typed copy read -- you might have guessed it -- 1400 Zuki. She'd never before worked with or even heard of the 25 more-or-less universal military time zones or their phonetic identifiers. Everyone had a good laugh, the new girl learned something new, and a nickname was born.

And yes, there are 25 military time zones. When citing local time it's rendered "Juliet" rather than the phonetic of the local zone. Because military reasons. For instance, it's just now 5:18 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time here, and the military time zone "here" happens to be Tango. If I was writing it in a message addressed locally I'd render the time "0518 Juliet." If my message was going out to addressees in multiple time zones I'd render it "0518 Tango," or more likely convert it to universal, or Zulu time. At least that's the way it was back in the day.

And that's about it. A simple film title rang a memory bell and I was off to the races, visiting people I've not seen and only rarely thought about in nearly four decades. Funny how the mind works. I think I'll try to revisit and write down some amusing tales of the Oceana E-5 Mafia. There are some good ones as I recall.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

As the snow melts

A week ago today -- March 13 -- we got hit by the blizzard. The forecasters were very accurate in their predictions, and just as they'd warned, the storm began with overnight rain. Once the air temps fell below the freezing mark, what would have otherwise been a wind-lashed deluge of liquid water became a howling blizzard. As predicted the storm lasted about 36 hours, When it left there was a lot of snow on the ground.

It was kind of a mess.

Now, a week later, a great deal of the snow has melted. There are still a lot of drifts remaining, and some of them are still huge, but they are rapidly disappearing.

Over at my favorite step-running viaduct/underpass, for instance, a huge drift completely covered both sets of steps on the north side of the tracks immediately after the storm, and both the roadway and walkways underneath the tracks were completely choked with snow. I should have got some pictures but I didn't. Interestingly, due to the vagaries of the wind, the single stairway on the south side collected no more than a foot of snow, and I've been able to run on that one since Sunday.

Working out has been tricky since the storm. Scooping tons of snow last Thursday and Friday provided a solid total-body workout, and that was good, but I missed the high level cardio of running. Through the weekend my usual running paths were walkable but running was pretty much out of the question. Need is the mother of invention though, and I found a lot of places to run through smooth and relatively shallow snow. That's some good cardio right there.

Speaking of working out, a few weeks ago our local VFW had an annual PFT challenge. The idea was to see if any of us olden codgers could meet the active duty PFT standard. Eight of us participated and I was the oldest by 15 years. The local Chief of Police, a good Navy man, was the next eldest, but he's only 43. The other six were former dog-faces in their early to mid 30's. Interestingly, the standards haven't changed much since my day back in the black and white cold war era. There's the 2.5 mile run (19 minutes), as well as pushups, situps and -- new to me -- pullups. The standard for those is 40/40/20 in a two-minute period.

Surprising everyone, including myself, I came out on top. I didn't have the best time on the run but I was middle of the pack at 18:13. I crushed the pack on everything else though, with 61 pushups, 49 situps, and 41 pullups.

It'll be interesting to see how it goes next year. The youngsters should be able to beat me handily, now that they've been warned that the old dude isn't as creaky as he's supposed to be.

The downside to the whole thing is that in my zeal to show the youngsters how we did it back in the stone age I managed to tweak my shoulder pretty good. I'm resting it to let it heal, but it seems to be taking forever to get back to normal. I'll have to be careful with rehab and pay more attention to proper form rather than trying to power through on strength alone.

Now, about that flooding...

First of all, there's no flooding here. That's all well to the east of us, at least 200 miles away. Second of all, and most importantly, the flooding is just flooding, and not the end of the world. It's exactly what happens in this part of the country every time there's more precipitation and/or runoff than the ground can soak up. It looks bad on the tee-vee, and it does a lot of damage, and it inconveniences lots and lots of people, and it even kills a few folks. But it's just nature doing what nature does. It's not climate change. It's normal climate variability. A pox on everyone who is sensationalizing the situation for fun and profit. Bad people!

And I need to wrap this one up if I want to actually get it posted. Spring arrives at 4:58 p.m. local today, and the forecast is for sunny and warm. I plan to enjoy it.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nature's majesty

Nature just does what nature does. I don't see any evidence that nature is conscious in any way we would recognize. I don't see any evidence that nature is aware of what she does or plans and executes any natural strategy. It doesn't seem plausible to me that nature plays tricks on us or appreciates the irony I detect in the way her majesty plays out.

I could certainly be wrong though!

After the last cold snap, when temperatures crashed down to minus 20 and it was very, very cold and wintry, we had some lovely warm days. It didn't quite feel like spring yet, but with the warming sun ever higher in the sky and days growing noticeably longer, it felt like we were on the verge of spring.

And indeed were were, indeed we are.

On Monday the weather forecasters began telling us of a pending winter storm, due in on Wednesday (yesterday as I write this). Tuesday was lovely and warm, with temperatures climbing to near 60 and much of last week's snow melting away.

By Tuesday morning the forecast was calling for a blizzard, and as the storm approached Tuesday night it began to rain. The temperature hovered near 40 degrees all night and by morning we'd had about 0.35 inches of rain.

At about 10 a.m. the temperature began to fall and a brisk northwest wind picked up.

By 11 a.m. the rain became snow and we were experiencing a legitimate blizzard.

The wind howled and the snow fell and there was nothing to do but hunker down. I was snug and warm inside, the power stayed on, and so did the internet. Not bad at all.

By 8 a.m. this morning most of the snow had ended but there was still a powerful northwest wind, 30-40 mph sustained and gusting to near 60 mph. Overnight the wind and snow combined to create significant drifts, which were a lot of fun to dig out of.

Snow plows had been out already, so the roads were passable, though technically closed.

All together we had 11.75 inches of snow containing 1.78 inches of liquid water.

I stopped by the hospital to arrange for Dad's albumin infusion tomorrow. As I arrived I had the opportunity to dig a lady out of the snow drift she'd parked in. I can't help but wonder of nature found the situation as amusing as I did.

The wind is still howling but that's supposed to taper off around sundown. The forecast predicts a warming trend over the next few days. That will be welcome.

And now it's time to go drain Dad's abdomen. I'll get back to this later.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Winter returns

Here in Kimball County the first half of winter was rather mild, but that all changed shortly after February arrived.

Winter began on December 21, and while there was some occasional snow and cold through the end of January, conditions were generally sunny and relatively warm, with temperatures averaging about 4 degrees above the long-term average going back to 1893.

While much of the nation to the east of us shivered as Arctic air flowed down from Canada, we enjoyed sunshine and relative warmth. The mercury topped 60 degrees on the first three days of February, in fact.

But winter returned with an icy grip beginning on February 4. Since then the daytime high has averaged 32.1 degrees, the daily low 7.5 degrees, and the 24-hour daily average 19.83 degrees. To put those numbers in context, since 1895 Kimball’s February daytime averages 43 degrees, the low 15.7 degrees, and the 24-hour daily average 29.4 degrees. Simple subtraction reveals that Kimball has been about 10.5 degrees colder than average since February 4, and the near-term forecast suggests that there are plenty more below average temperatures in store.

Night before last (March 1) we had snow. About two inches. At 7 a.m. the snow had stopped and I was out scooping. The forecast called for more snow, but who am I to turn my nose up at a good workout? As usual I did the neighbor's sidewalk and driveway too, as well as the sidewalk in front of a storage building down the block. I'm not trying to be a nice guy, you understand, I'm only in it for the workout. Out at the ranch I scooped the sidewalk and driveway and deck and porch. By the time I finished I'd had 1:15 of nice exertion and could survey the results of a job well done.

Then it started snowing again, just as promised. We had another 5 inches by 7 a.m. this morning. It was also very cold. Minus 13 degrees cold. But the sky was clear and blue and the sun was bright and warm, so I repeated my snow clearing workout. The air temperature stayed cold -- I think we had a high of 3 degrees today -- but with little or no wind it was a brilliant and beautiful day.

Nature gave a brilliant demonstration of the power of the sun. While the air temperature remained very cold, the sun was busy melting snow and making puddles of liquid water. By early afternoon a fog of water vapor was evaporating from every puddle. Everywhere you looked you could see water in all three material phases -- gas, liquid, and solid. Gorgeous.

This morning at the ranch my Dad's dog Jeter had managed to become hypothermic. He's an outside dog and refuses to take shelter inside regardless of the weather or temperature. He was very definitely chilled this morning though and I think he would have perished had I not taken him inside. He warmed up and dried off throughout the day but as of this evening he's still pretty droopy. Hypothermia can really drag energy reserves down, and it often takes more time than you'd expect to recover. He'll stay inside tonight, and we'll see how he's looking in the morning.

Speaking of cold, as the sun set this evening the temperature went from +3 to -10 in 2 hours. As I write this the mercury continues to tumble and the forecast is for a low of -16.

No one likes the cold. I certainly don't. But there's beauty in the cold, and in the contrast between the cold we've got today and the gentle warmth of spring which will arrive in short order.

As for other stuff, Dad continues to hang in there. He has good days and bad days. He's slowly losing the battle but he's still in there swinging.

I've had two mild injuries recently which have forced me to modify my exercise routine. I gave myself a stupid a/c injury in a sophomoric push-up contest with a young whippersnapper police officer. I won by miles but at a stiff cost in pain and stifling restrictions on arm resistance training for a month or so.

The other morning I was running and stepped wrong in a shallow depression, straining a hip flexor and aggravating a chronic hammy problem. I can still walk and run steps but regular running is out until the old body does its healing magic. I'd whine about the unfairness of it all but compared to so many people I know I'm in insanely good health and shape, so while I do grumble to myself a bit I'm trying very hard to be grateful for incredibly good fortune.

Here's a video some of you might enjoy. This Penrice fellow sure talks funny for a Tomcat pilot.