29 October 2011

R.E.M. Sleep Vs. E.M.S. Sleep

Here at our base, pilots make shift change at 0700 and 1900. My days of riding to work are coming to an end. Tonight I had to leave almost an hour early in order to arrive before darkness fell. Even at that, there were two instances tonight where I motored by deer grazing in fields only a football field or so from the roadway. We will change our clocks... "Fall back" soon, and when we do my ability to ride to work will be gone until March or April next year. Riding to work has been great this year... I think I've only had three or four days when rain precluded my coming to work on two wheels.

I've had a surprise. If you told me right now that I could only keep one of the four bikes parked in my garage, I'd want to keep the 800cc BMW airhead. It's a comfortable machine to ride, gets good gas mileage, is "flickable", and even though it only has two cylinders it doesn't vibrate. This morning on my way home at 60 mph I decided the proper word to describe the sensation in the handgrips and footpegs isn't "vibrate" or "buzz"... it's more of a "hum".
It makes me smile.

This is my first shift back since our trip to California and I'm finally back in stride with the routine of work. Weather set in on us my first night back and I was reasonably sure I wouldn't fly because of low ceilings and poor visibility due to rain. The phone didn't ring.
The second night was clear blue and twenty-two... and again the phone didn't ring. We all watched that marathon of a World Series game between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Tonight it is once again flyable. Game seven of the World Series is in the history books and we got to watch it in its entirety because the phone has once again remained silent.
So we have been able to "Earn Money Sleeping". And although it's nice to earn a nice wage while watching TV, reading, or resting, it ain't quite what a lot of folks imagine.

A long time ago in another life the second best wife I ever had, while working on her Master's degree in Education, did some research on kid's sleeping habits and the effect those habits have on learning. I helped her with the research and learned some interesting stuff:
We need to dream when we sleep. It's while we are dreaming that our bodies rebuild and recharge. When we dream our eyes move behind our eyelids. This phenomenon is called "Rapid Eye Movement", or R.E.M. sleep. R.E.M. sleep happens late in our sleep cycle... So if your sleep is limited to just a few hours, you may experience little or no dreaming and R.E.M. sleep. That's why you feel like a dog if you have a "toss and turn" night, and why you may actually begin to be a danger to yourself and those around you if you have bouts of insomnia several nights in a row.

Here at work we all know our sleep may be interrupted at any time, so we always sleep seemingly with one eye open... never allowing ourselves to fall deeply asleep. And then we go home in the day and try to recharge our batteries, only to sleep fitfully there too. After a week of a little sleep here, a little sleep there, we need a couple nights to recover.

This is a great job and I'll miss it like crazy when I finally hang up my wings...
But I won't miss having my sleep messed up all the time.

27 October 2011

Affirmative Action

I'm damned tired of racial issues.
I've said before, one of the things I hoped for when this man was elected President was that in our country, all would realize that all things were possible for ALL people if they applied themselves and were prepared to take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves. Say what you want about him...
Bozo certainly was smart enough to take advantage of the opportunities that fell at his feet.
But now we have members of the "Gimme" generation soiling people's lawns and businesses all over the nation.
Hope and change...
I'm sure we all hoped things would change for the better.
Is it better?
You tell me.

At some point a proud people will begin to realize you're not equal if you're a guy playing golf, competing against your friends while hitting your initial drives from the women's tees.
Then, and only then, will racial issues begin to improve in this country.

Racial minorities need a unifying leader.
That leader needs to be able to say "Yes we can!", and MEAN it.

26 October 2011

"No Drugs Were Found in her System"

CBS, and other news sources today:
"But her blood alcohol content was FIVE TIMES the legal limit."

I think we need more drug education in SOME circles.

25 October 2011

Unintended Consequences- The Airlines

We just got back from another trip to LaLa land. Every two years I make the trek to Torrance, CA, home of the Robinson Helicopter Company, to renew my Flight Instructor certificate. The school lasts three and a half days and includes a flight of at least an hour in either the R22 or R44. (For interested helicopter pilots, the company will be adding the R66 to the list of aircraft you can fly starting January.) I have been alternating the aircraft I fly each time I attend... two years ago I flew the R22, this year I flew in the R44. Next time out I'll probably fly the R66. I expect to find the R66 is very "JetRanger" like, only lighter, faster, and more fuel efficient.

We participate in the Frontier Airlines frequent flyer program and had enough miles to use on this trip. When I made our reservations I was surprised to find Frontier Airlines intended to charge us $20 for each bag we intended to check. This presents a problem for this family...
The bag containing Sara Jean's hair care, cleaning and moisturizing, and makeup products is about the size of a 15 cu. ft. freezer, and she is VERY attached to all of these products.
I worried that trying to convince her to limit her "stuff" to a single carry-on bag would be met with wailing and gnashing of teeth.
She surprised me. "Twenty dollars! That's highway robbery!"
And when we left the morning of our flight I was surprised at how well she had packed...
Her carry-on bag met the carry-on requirements... It just WEIGHED as much as a 15 cu. ft. freezer!

Getting to the gate to board our airplane was an adventure this time and I may bore you with the details later. But waiting at the gate to board we heard this announcement:
"Ladies and gentlemen this flight will be full and all the overhead compartments may be filled. If you are interested in checking any of your bags, FREE OF CHARGE, please see me now and we will insure your bag arrives at your final destination."

So SJ's bag, weighing half as much as a Volkswagen, went into the cargo hold of the airplane and cost us nuttin'. I can't begin to tell you how glad I was that I wouldn't have to lift that sucker up into the overhead storage compartment! (And it happened again on the trip home.)

Now, watch with me and see how long this "first checked bag" charge remains in effect. (I already wrote to Frontier and gave them my opinion on the subject.)

21 October 2011

City Mouse, Country Mouse

Waiting for the light to change I first noticed the approach of the lady with the dog, a mutt with his question mark tail wagging over his back. Only then I noticed the reason for the wag...
An old man, bent slightly forward due to age and bent even further because of a slight dowager's hump, was speaking to the dog as it and its owner approached. The lady stopped alongside the old guy, waiting for the light to change to "Walk", and the old man bent down to scratch behind both the dog's ears. It was VERY obvious that both beings, four and two-legged, were enjoying the encounter. It made me smile.

I was on a mission.
The donut shop that provided the delicacies I had been eating all week was just down the road. I'm once again in Torrance, California to renew my Flight Instructor certificate. The class is 3-1/2 days long and includes three days of classroom instruction and a half day in which a flight in either the two-seat R22 or the four seat R-44 is accomplished. Two years ago I flew in the R-22, so this time I needed to fly in the R-44. Yesterday morning I passed the end-of-course test. Sara Jean came with me this trip and after hearing my raves all week about the pastries, gave me orders last night to bring some back to the motel this morning.

Through "Thrifty Rent-a-car" I rented a Hyundai Sonata, wanting the chance to see if we might be interested in purchasing one in the future. When we arrived at John Wayne airport, my Hundai Sonata had magically turned into a new Chevy Malibu. We were running late and the rental agency was closing in 15 minutes, so I didn't complain. The Malibu looked like a nice car. But halfway in our 45 minute drive to the Torrance Ramada a bell sounded and these warnings appeared on the dash:
Rental agencies remove the owners handbooks from their cars so I have no idea what these warnings mean. I haven't noticed any change in the car's driveability, so we'll keep the thing and report the discrepencies when we return the car tomorrow.

Sunny Southern California... isn't. It's been overcast and chilly most or our week here. That's a real shame, because we are only five or so miles from some of the most BEAUTIFUL views of the ocean to be found. With this bad visibility, it's not even worth the hassle of driving there.

And then there is the traffic.
Surface streets aren't much different than anywhere in the U.S.. Traffic is busy and you just have to resign yourself to dealing with it. That means long, LONG waits at stop lights where you sometimes see chance encounters between man and beast. But the Interstates?
There are places here where there are 8 lanes on either side of the median and sometimes all those lanes are FILLED with cars. Sometimes all those lanes are moving at reduced speed. Sometimes those lanes aren't moving at all. We went to "Knotts 'Scary' Farm" last night and for the first time I heard "Carmen the Garmin" warn, "Severe traffic ahead, RECALCULATING."
And we were then redirected to the surface streets. The trip to the amusement park took 15 minutes longer than we planned. Still, we had a great time.

We're headed home tomorrow morning.
I'll catch you up on details soon.

18 October 2011


In that half-awake, half-asleep state thinking about these "Occupy Wall Street" folks I had one of those "Eureka" moments this morning:
The government is abusing ALL OF US!
We all need to retire and let GOVERNMENT take care of us.

"You may think I'm a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one.
Some day I hope you'll join us,
and the world will live as one!"

15 October 2011

Deal's Gap

Watch for these guys to pass the "Speed Limit 30" sign about 50 seconds into the video. Think they're exceeding the speed limit?
Both these guys are riding Honda GoldWings. These big bikes aren't supposed to be able to do this:

The now-and-then scraping sound you hear in the turns is the sound of something on the bike's undercarriage being ground away because the bike is being leaned at such a great angle.

Sent to me by friend Cary, who knew I'd be interested.

13 October 2011

Formation Flying Made Easy

Flying formation in a helicopter is stressful, hard work.
I have no fixed-wing formation experience, so I won't address that, but I can't imagine it's as tough as doing it in a fling-wing. But done well, both are beautiful to watch.
Still, we are amateurs at it.
Watch an expert:

12 October 2011

Revolvers Are Dead? Not So Fast, Bunky!

I thought I had bought my last revolver. Now I'm not so sure.
I'd appreciate your thoughts and feedback on this thing:

11 October 2011


There's a hole in the front bumper of that MG-A. Do you know why?

(Motorcycles have similarly done away with something no longer considered necessary, and for the same reason.)

10 October 2011

Heart Attack

Myocardial infarction...
When I started flying EMS, one of the smartest and most experienced flight nurses I know told me the single most important factor in avoiding coronary problems...
"Choose your parents carefully!" This, after I had related the story of distance runner Jim Fixx. Jim's father had died of a heart attack in his early 40's. Wanting to avoid that fate, Jim took up long distance running. He was mostly muscle and bone when he died at the age of 52... of a heart attack.

Last night as I lay in bed trying to doze off I was thinking about the term "heart attack".
An attack is an aggressive thing. Why would our hearts want to do something so openly offensive to us? These attacks are not good for the body as a whole, therefore they are not good for the "attacking" heart.
Why do hearts attack?

C'mon hearts...
All we are saying, is give peace a chance!

06 October 2011

Accessory To Murder

Two U.S. Law Enforcement Agents dead.
Countless civilians dead in Mexico.
All because of a program put in place, then overseen by this man.
Is this the most corrupt adminstration EVER?

You are a liar sir, and you've been caught in your lie.
Go to Jail.

03 October 2011

They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore.

Do you ever get the "urge to splurge" and go buy some piece of machinery that will SWEEP you back to those "good ol' days" of 50 years ago?
I do.
And then I think about THAT car.
One almost exactly like the one in the photo.
A 1957 Pontiac Chieftain, four-door hardtop. Two-tone, white with red trim.
347 cubic inches with a four-barrel carburetor. Automatic transmission, radio and heater. It was a nice car, for sale by another Uncle so I knew its history. I was already bored to tears with the '53 Ford Flathead V-8 Victoria even though I had been driving it less than a year. I wanted something faster.
The Pontiac filled that bill. So I bought it.

And it WAS fast...
The problem was that carburetor... The engine ran on two of the four venturis most of the time to conserve fuel. The only time the additional two "barrels" would open was if you pushed the gas pedal to the floor... then that big-for-its-time engine would bellow like a castrated bull and the car would LEAP forward, gathering speed (and burning LOTS of premium gas) at a frightening rate. It was a lot of car for a 16 year old.
The two extra barrels on the carburetor were vacuum actuated, and something about the system on my car wasn't working right. Pushing the pedal to the floor would sometimes produce the desired result... Thrilling.
Sometimes the two extra barrels wouldn't open... Disappointing, and sometimes, if I was depending on that extra power, dangerous. I tinkered, wrenched, cursed, spat, and chanted incantations suggested by friends... all to no avail.
The carburetor still worked intermittently.

There was another problem with this car. Fast and HEAVY, the four-wheel drum brakes weren't up to the job of stopping it effectively.
I should qualify this statement...
The brakes worked fine so long as someone like my Uncle was driving the car. With a 16 year old maniac behind the wheel, this car needed the stopping power of a Ferrari. It would stop just fine if it wasn't traveling at Warp 9. But during a panic stop from anything above the speed limit the brakes would heat up and fade, and it didn't make any difference how hard you mashed on that pedal... the car would slow, but at about half the rate you needed. And it would let you know it was not happy being treated that way by inundating you with the smell of overheated brake linings.

So here's the scenario-
I'm headed for school one morning and I am BARELY on time when the phone rings. A sister of one of my closest friends says, "I overslept and missed the bus. Can you come pick me up?"
She lives a couple blocks in the opposite direction I need to go to get to school, and I'm already nearly late. But I'm a nice guy and don't want to disappoint...
"I'm on my way."

I collect her and figure Warp 9 may still get us to school on time. Gas pedal down, tryin' to get those two additional venturis to open, we're probably goin' 70 in a 35 zone. There's a school bus stopped out ahead of us. I take my foot off the "loud" pedal and wonder what the bus is gonna do... It's just stopped there. No flashing lights. No "Stop" sign extended.
Then the little girl comes out of the adjacent house and the school bus driver goes all "lights and stop sign" on me.
I push that brake pedal hard as I can and pray.

And the damn thing lets me down. By the time I get stopped, smoke from the brakes swirling all around the car, we're about 10 feet past the bus' extended stop sign. I look up at the driver, shrug my shoulders, and continue to school.

We're not late! I'm actually sitting in my seat, ready for class when the announcement comes over the P.A. system:
"Will (Greybeard) please come to the office?"
In the office sits Officer Sheek from the Indiana State Patrol. Sitting in his drive warming the engine on his cruiser when I pulled my bonehead stunt pretty much right in front of his house, all he had to do was follow me at a leisurely pace, watch me turn into the school grounds, and do a 10-28 on the license plate.

Reckless driving.
Loss of license for 6 months. (Which would impact my life in some interesting and positive ways in a few years.)
... At a time when driving/riding meant the world to me.
All because I was an idiot, driving much too fast in a car equipped with brakes I KNEW were not up to the task demanded of them.

No, they don't make 'em like that anymore...
Disc brakes.
Fuel injection.
Better lighting.
Better tires.
Better electronics.
And to top it all, less expensive too.

When I start getting the urge to buy a "classic" car, I think of that old Pontiac...
And then I lose that urge pretty quickly.

02 October 2011

A Word For Our President(?)-


You promised 'em. Where are they?
We've experienced our "recovery summer".
You've thrown money at companies racing into bankruptcy.
You've rewarded unproductive behavior.

Do you know the definition of insanity, Mr. Obama?
This country desperately needs some Hope and Change.

Can you change?
I hope you ARE changed.

01 October 2011

On Two Wheels, Part 2- Starter Bike

There's always a special place in your heart for "firsts", isn't there?
You're looking at one of mine in that photo. At 15 I found out a trusted Uncle was selling his car, a 1953 Ford Victoria. I bought it from him, then stored it until I could drive it legally. When I turned 16 and became a legal driver I started driving the Ford, but I also wanted to upgrade my two-wheeled capabilities. I wanted to go distances that would be impractical at 35 mph on the Cushman. Now, let's back up a moment...
My first experience with things "Made in Japan" was with the cheap toys we got from that country. You could actually look inside some of these toys and see the labels from the beer cans the toys were made of. The phrase "Made in Japan" meant cheap and fragile. That reputation worried me about some of the first Japanese motorcycles that hit our shores. For me, the "Harley-Davidson" name printed on the gas tank meant quality and dependability.

Shopping around bike shops, I saw a used bike exactly like the one pictured above for sale... a 250cc Harley-Davidson "Sprint". The Sprint was actually Harley's response to Honda's invasion...
H.D. realized they needed a small, entry level bike to draw folks to Harley shops and hoped when they moved up to a bigger bike they'd stay under the H-D roof to make that purchase. So Harley bought the Italian company Aermacchi (who made airplanes during WWII), and simply added the Harley-Davidson name to the small, decent motorcycles being produced by that company. How well that venture worked out for H-D is debatable... everyone knew these little bikes were not made in Milwaukee and looked at them skeptically. But I liked the looks of the Sprint and hoped if I did have problems needing service, my local H-D dealer would treat me right.

I owned the bike three years and put almost 10,000 miles on it, finally selling it when I was drafted into the ARMY.

With some minor complaints, it was solid, dependable transportation. It had a single-cylinder, pushrod engine and came up short on horsepower when compared to the efficient vertical-twin overhead cam engines being produced by Honda. In a 1/4 mile race, the Sprint would always fall a couple bike lengths behind a comparable Honda. It vibrated so badly I couldn't feel my hands after an hour of riding. But the Sprint would go 85 miles per hour, (and the speedo needle pointed to 85 on the rural roads I traveled FREQUENTLY!) It had an exhaust note like a shrieking banshee, (which I loved then but would HATE if my neighbor had a bike that sounded like it now), and would go forever on a tankful of gas.

It actually turned out to be a great starter bike, and in spite of its shortcomings I still have fond memories of it. If money wasn't an object and I had a place to store lots of bikes, I might buy one to tool around town on today.
(But as we've discussed earlier, 250cc bikes being offered by manufacturers today are better in EVERY way, and I'm also tempted to buy one of those simply because they are a SUCH FUN to ride!)

Later, I'll tell the story about moving up in the motorcycle world without having to worry about the money factor. Come on back!