Friday, July 24, 2009

Crawl... Walk... Drown...

Taking a break from our resent weeks of sitting at a computer and reading about other computers, the Navy regulations decided that several of our class needed to go through an impressive bit of training that will probably start to seem fun again in about four to five years… probably about when we are due for it again. It was a two day combined refresher for Hypoxia, Water Survival, and Dunker.

This really is some of the better training that they send us through… and is worth describing it in some detail. It seems the better training is always the most hands on… though it seems also that this is a trend we are getting away from in most things. Dread the day when this sort of thing becomes an online powerpoint presentation that must be viewed biannually!

Anyways. The first day was for the most part Classroom review of all the standard ways aircrews get messed up and fly perfectly good aircraft into the ground. The afternoon was a bit more interesting. A hypoxia lab of sorts. The idea behind this is to remind you what the beginnings of hypoxia feel like while your brain still works so that you can recognize it and fix what ever the problem is before you loose the ability to fly the aircraft. The old way to do this is to put you in a altitude chamber, suck out the air while you do math problems or play cards. After you can’t figure out what beats two of a kind or answer “4 + 4 = YOUR MOTHER TRABECK!” you are done… hopefully able to recognize the onset of Hypoxia before you chucle about “FAMOUS TITIES for 500!” at the controls of an aircraft. Interestingly, they came up with a new way to teach this particular lesson. Instead of using the altitude chamber and sucking the air out… they put you in an F-18 simulator, have you fly around, and slowly replace the oxygen you are breathing with nitrogen. The point is eventually you stop being able to fly the aircraft well, you recognize the onset of hypoxia, and push the 100% emergency oxygen button… restoring your brain to normal function. The best way to describe trying to fly an F-18 with most of the oxygen depleted from your blood is that it is like drunk sledding… The vehicle isn’t quite doing what you want it to, but you don’t mind that much and are still having fun. Overall very good training.

The next day was “Underwater Egress and Water Survival.”

The first thing they did was introduce us to a piece of ninja gear that I am very impressed with. It is basically a mini SCUBA tank to use if you end up underwater in a sinking aircraft. It is designed to give you just enough air to reach the surface if you can’t get out with just what is in your lungs. This little scuba tank is about the size of a redbull can and has a mini regulator on it. The last time I went through this training, we were shown one, but didn’t get to actually use it much. This time we would carry it with us underwater and at the approved times were aloud to use it. Before we get to that… a few exercises that as far as I can tell were designed to get anyone with a fear of water over it… and anyone that didn’t have a fear of water to instantly grow some aqua-phobia.

Just to add to the fun you are in full flight gear. Flight suit, gloves, helmet, survival vest, steel toed boots, and an inflatable life vest that you are not allowed to actually inflate. I barely float as it is. With all that shit on, I sink like a ten penny nail! There is a technique they were teaching us with the euphemistic name of “Drown Proofing” but it is the same move that used to go by the much more real name of “Dead Man’s Float” Either way… I have no doubt that this was invented by a person significantly more buoyant than myself. When I do it, I pretty much sink for a while, struggle back to the surface, cough in some water, then sink for a while again. Obviously it is a calming and energy saving technique!

The first exercise was they attached you to a sunken steel pole. The pole is at the bottom of the pool. You have to go down to the pole, release yourself from your attachment belt, follow along the pole to a sunken hatch with about six different latches on it. After manipulating each latch, you open the hatch and swim through back up to the surface. Mot much problem there. We only had to do that one once without our magic scuba bottles and once with them. It was a warm up.

The next bit of fun was a cage with two chairs over it. The roughly 25 by 6 foot long cage is submerged under water. You sit in the chair blindfolded (simulating night time) and strapped in like it is your aircraft seat. On the count of three, they flip both chairs over and plunge the both of you upside down underwater into this sunken cage. You have to extricate yourself from the chair and find your way out. The nearest hatch to you is always blocked… so you have to make your way blindfolded through the cage to find the hatch on the other end, then manipulate the mechanism, and swim back to the surface. It is easy enough when you just hold your breath and do it… though it is a little less comfortable than the first one. Eventually they make it so your seat belt won’t release you from the upside down seat. Luckily on this iteration you get to use your magic SCUBA bottle though and once you are breathing from your bottle, they release you from the seat to find your way out of the sunken cage.

Fun stuff!!!

Next came a sort of swim with your shit on exercise. After about one and a half laps with all this junk on I thought to myself, “this is stupid! The easiest stroke is the back float! I should just back stroke my way around here.” So I there I was back stroking my way around the pool… Unfortunately I got told I had to redo the swim portion. Apparently the only approved strokes were the breast stroke and the side stroke. There were no points for style! (to be honest, I didn’t look that stylish even back stroking… more like a bobbing half sunken helmet.

After all that, we were ready for “The Dunker” itself. It a mock up of the front of an aircraft that they strap you into in your normal crew position, lift it out over the pool, and drop the whole thing into the water. It of course flips upside down and sinks to the bottom of the pool. Your job is to make it out of the aircraft before you die. They have divers in the pool waiting incase it looks like you are not going to pull that off. Everything went fairly well for me except my first time through. (we did it 5 times.) The way we were supposed to do the first iteration was that we would stay in our seats, use our little scuba bottle, then escape calmly out of the aircraft. Well, I had set my bottle up wrong…(No better teachers than experience and adrenaline, right?) so I was strapped upside down in the sinking aircraft with no air. It isn’t bad itself as we had to do it without extra air too, but was a shock when I was expecting to be able to use it. So I then jettisoned my window, released my belt, and started swimming out and to the surface just holding my breath. My lungs were already burning as I had been dicking around with the stupid bottle that didn’t work and my window didn’t open very easily… Just as I was inches below the surface… BOING! My leg was snagged in the seatbelt and still stuck inside the aircraft! I wish I had had something witty to think about my situation, but I’ll tell you what, being trapped only inches underwater with your breath running out, snagged to a sunken aircraft has got to be one of the most terrifying feelings in the world. I could see the surface only inches from my face, but there was no way I could get to it. “About to drown” is a terrible, terrible feeling! After a moment of paralyzing panic I shook it off, swam back down to the sunken aircraft, unsnagged myself, and then finally made it to the surface. It felt like I had been underwater for a week! Fuck that shit! Though the rest of the times went fairly incident free.

The last time through we had to escape the sunken aircraft, swim across the pool, and huddle up with each other and wait to be rescued. This went just fine… Much better than the first time they did this with us 5 years ago or so. Last time they sprayed us with fire hoses to simulate waves and rain.

All this has made me completely sure that I don’t ever want to crash an aircraft into water. Two-engine failure 50 miles out to sea… to hell with ditching in the water brother, I will glide that bitch back to the beach on will power alone!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Little Italian Thing liberated!

I arrive in the Detroit airport. Jonny Moto, after some “dude… what terminal are you at?” type problems picks me up. It was iffy if he would make it when I talked to him earlier in the day as he was drilling holes into his exhaust manifold and wasn’t sure he would have any vehicle that two dudes could reasonably ride in… (later we would abandoned the “Two dudes and two wheels is not enough wheels!” convention, but we were not quite there yet.)

From DTW we go strait to The Greek’s house. Like Rupunzle, the Ducati is hidden away in his garage. Unfortunately, we discovered that the garage is locked… and The Greek is also not home… he was out running scams on the west coast so it wasn't convenient at all. No problem, I remember from previous conversations that the keys to his garage should be on his kitchen counter. To borrow a term from the auto industry, we used some “keyless entry technology” to access the kitchen and were thus able to open the garage. Later on Amateur-Sophist would ask, “why didn’t you just break into the garage… instead of bothering with the house?” The answer… we just didn’t think of it.

Anyways, back to the garage! After a brief examination of the bike all seems to be in order, except one thing. It still has temporary plates on it… though not a problem itself, the problem is that the number on the temp plate is actually its expiration date. The plate said, 2009 02 07… technically the date was 2009 03 07. It had expired the one day before. Well shit. At 9 O’ clock on a Friday night before a holiday weekend is not the time to get an extension for temp plates. Lukily, Jonny Moto had a brilliant idea!

JM: “That is nothing a magic marker can’t fix… that two looks like it would make a very nice seven…”

N: “Shit, it looks like it would make an even better eight!”

So after Department of Markers on Vehicles, DMV for short, gave me an extension, my plates now read 20090807. Problem solved again! The weirdest part was that earlier that exact day my mother called me out of the blue concerned that I was going to ride the bike with expired temp tags! Her intuition has kept me from a life of crime no doubt and is for sure the reason I have absolutely no capacity to lie to women. (I feel very handicapped because of that.) It was like growing up with Sherlock Holms as your mother only with women’s intuition. She is like a ninja of knowing when you are planning to break her rules! Either way... the bike now had non-expired looking tags.

I rationalized it as this: 1. The bike actually is registered, 2. It does have insurance, 3. The only real rule I am breaking is that the current plate has to be physically attached to the vehicle. (The real plate was somewhere between Michigan and North Carolina in the custody of the US Postal Service. There was really nothing I could do.) This was probably the best solution. Besides, with my new no speeding philosophy I shouldn’t have any reason to get into conversations with jonny law on my way back to North Carolina anyways!

So, to celebrate the rescue of the cute little Italian thing we decide to go to bars in Royal Oak. My “SCIENCE, It works bitches” t-shirt was even a hit with the ladies! ...though they were all elementary school teachers with relationships… My, “a ring never plugged a hole” philosophy was also of no use. Oh well.

Due to the prodding of some chick Jonny Moto knew but neither he nor I were sleeping with… we ended up drinking to many shots with sexual innuendo type names. Lots or blow jobs and slippery nipples for everyone! We cabed it back to his place. :-( <------- because="" br="" face="" is="" morning.="" next="" not="" notice="" of="" smily="" that="" the="">
So the next morning: I wake up around 7 or 8 and wait a few hours for J. M. to wake up. I attempted to wake him earlier but the only coherentish thing I got out of it was his claim that he has no towels. Obviously he needs to practice this shots thing more often…

Finally he wakes up and we are faced with the obvious problem that the not smilely face alluded to earlier… that is right… we have two dudes, a garage full of motorcycles… and we have to go pick up another vehicle. This is streaking toward the two dudes on one bike quite quickly and neither of us could figure out a way to avert this disaster. Unfortunately for me I didn’t have much of an argument why I should be the driver. I didn’t know where he parked his truck, I didn’t know where I was even now, I also am lighter, and my bike’s back seat is pretty much designed only for girls to cling to you on as you try and find the right RPM to give them an orgasm. Shit, so on the back I went. :-( Riding bitch on another dude’s motorcycle….

Shortly after that, I rolled out and headed down to Dayton. Met up with Amature-Sophist and what appears to be his female slave.

The Forth of July was basically some beer and watching amateur pyros play with fire. The next day it was time for me to make it back to North Carolina so I wouldn't get in trouble for being AWOL. It was 13 hours strait of riding in the rain. Cold, wet, mountain roads filled with traffic… I considered stopping, but after the first 6 hours in the rain I almost wanted to do it just to see if I could! I got off that bike after that horrible ride and was one data point more sure that there is absolutely nothing I can’t do!

Break, Break!

On a different note I have undoubtably met a Jedi Knight of aviation. Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we had the class “Tiltrotor Aerodynamics.” It was taught by one of the test pilots that took the V-22 from prototype through production. He is now retired from active flying, but still teaches this one class... mostly for his own entertainment as far as I can tell. It was like Obi Wan Kenobi telling you how to survive your battle with Darth Vader… he told us shit like, “the bank limit and pitch limit are totally bogus made up by ninnies in your chain of command… If you need to bank the shit out of this bitch to get away from some missile you just go do it!” and, “The G-limit on this thing is for real! You exceed them and you will sling an engine!”

This video is footage from one of his test flights.

After the first day and a half of listening to this guy, I decided to start writing down the finer points of his wisdom in direct quote form!

“They were smoking their socks when they decided that!”

“you are thinking, ‘alright catfish breath! That isn’t how turbine engines work!’”

“that cockpit will go dark like you have your head up the ass of a cow.”

“I’ll bet you Dollars to turds, and you can keep your shit…”

“You do this and your commander will tap dance on your pecker with golf shoes… but the aircraft won’t care.”

“he was jacking off the controls…” (imagine with arm movements)

“Your sphincter will swell up and cut off blood to the brain!”

“if there are female flight crew, you can’t call it a cockpit anymore, that’s impolite… then it is the box office!”

“Don’t jump through your anal area!”

“You don’t need to slam dunk the bitch!”

“That makes sense like wiping your ass then taking a dump!”

“effective as a polish mine sweeper!” (Covers eyes and stomps blindly at the ground)

“You do this and you will install a smoking hole in the dirt!”

“In CONV mode this thing wants to mate with tankers… and she wants the bottom!”

“It will be, “Kate barr the door!”

“It doesn’t matter how you get there, you can navigate to Paris with an astrolabe, a duck, and a cat as long as you get there!”

(He later went on to explain how a duck, a cat and dog tags could be used as improvised instruments incase of primary instrument failure.) Either way, all of what he said was the most useful thing we have heard so far and I am sure that someday some of the shit he said will save my life! Probably the box office comment!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Not a regularly scheduled broadcast.

Greetings from the world without regular internet access!

Last we talked I was still up in Montana practically with snow on the ground… Let me catch you up!

I have been getting pulled over quite a bit since I got back. Five times in five weeks seems like a lot to me. I figure you have more chance to get pulled over the more time you spend on the road right? So if I drive faster, I am on the road for a shorter amount of time, so I should get pulled over less often. Though logically sound that really isn’t the logic I was using. What I have come to the conclusion is that racial profiling is absolutely true. How did I come to that conclusion you might ask? Granted, I may have exceeded the posted speed limit at times. But I will argue that if I had been in a gray Honda I would never have gotten to have so many Socratic discussions with so many law enforcement officers.

I think the problem is that when I drive, the cops think I am black. I have for the most part been driving mid seventies General Motors Luxury vehicles. In fact I may be the only white guy left in the world driving mid seventies GM products by choice. Right, I know… I am a racist bastard… how can I say that? Well it is years and years of experience rolling these things. When I am stopped at a light and a black guy pulls up next me he often says, “That is a fine car! Is it for sale?” Where as a white dude pulls up and says, “WOW that is a big car! What kind of gas mileage does it get?” That digression was only to demonstrate that I am driving cars predominantly driven by black people… obviously blacks have more style!


Now let me tell you two stories about being pulled over in the last few weeks.

First of all, after the first three times getting pulled over in the last month, I had decided that I absolutely want to follow the speed limit! I am actually NOT trying to break any laws! Not so much because I care about laws or respect cops more than the consequences they can inflict… but I am tired of getting harassed. So I am going what I think to be the speed limit just north of Cheyenne, Wyoming. I say “think” because the Buick has sort of an open for interpretation speedometer.

For demonstration purposes only, take your finger and hold it in the air about a foot and a half in front of your head. Now shake it back and forth from right to left like you are telling a small child “NO.” That is what my speedometer does! I had been under the impression that about the middle of the shake was probably about the speed I was actually going. As it turns out, I should have taken the upper limit. Whatever… So again I am on the side of the road with a cop car behind me. Once he comes up to the window he sees that I am just a white dude with a lead foot so he takes his hand off his gun and we talk for a while… he gives me another damn ticket… blah blah blah. I go to leave… and I get this vision in my of my car not starting. (I can honestly see the future. Unfortunately it is only about a second and a half before it happens, but I really can! How else could I always win at “Egyptian Rat Screw” when I never start with any cards? It is sort of an impression that I feel with my entire body… but for real it exists.) So I touch the key and I realize that the car is not going to start. Turn it… CLICK… it doesn’t even turn over.


I get out of the car and walk back to the cop car.

“Hey, I think I may need a jump.” I say.

“No can do… we are not allowed to jump off the squad cars. Might damage the radios” he says, “I’ll call a tow truck for you.” He then drives off.

So there I am, staring at my engine compartment confused. I know for sure that my battery is not low… there is not a damn thing wrong with my car! Why the hell won’t it start! So I stand there looking at my car for a few minutes… try and start it… nothing… etc. I do this drill for about 20 minutes with no luck. (Granted the whole thing about doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results being the definition of insanity may be applicable… but watch this shit!)

After making no mechanical adjustments to a vehicle I know to be in working order, I stand in front of the Buick, look her right in the bug covered headlights and say, “Listen you bitch! Stop fucking around! We have shit to do and you throwing a tantrum out here on the highway is going to give both of us problems! START NOW or you know the consequences!” (I am paraphrasing for all the little kids that read this… but that is pretty close.)

I got in turned the key… “VROOOMMMM!!!!!!!”

Right on! Apparently Stacy was right about women! (And Machines because they are obviously the same thing.) *See Note:

Onward! With my car now started, I didn’t wait for the tow truck. Fuck that shit! I even squealed the tires leaving the side of the road! As a side note, I read the ticket while I was waiting. Apparently part of the laws I had broken was “violating the dignity of the peaceful people of the sovereign state of Wyoming.” I didn’t want to have a charge laid like that against me and not have actually done it!

BREAK BREAK>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Checked in there at Kirtland… Shit, I am a student again.

So, even though 4 weeks ago I was commanding an aerial armada across the skies of Afghanistan with near impunity! That I was… (INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK TO BE FILLED IN OVER BEER.) I am now undoubtedly back to being a student. No more briefing at dawn with an M-4 slung across my back for missions out to the Pakistan boarder… no… now it is plain black student name tags and the “flaming snow cone” of Air Education and Training Command. After the Afghan Army, AETC is a tough pill to swallow. Oh well, nothing to do but shut up, listen up, and try not to make a fool out of myself. Back to the bottom of the pile… again.

Oh yea! You guys are probably wondering about the second time I got pulled over after the first three. So there I was… driving a bright orange 75 Cadillac Eldorado across Louisiana. I am ABSOLUTLY not speeding. As far as I know, I am the most law abiding driver on the road! FUCK! Lights in the mirror! I pull over as well as I can without falling off into the swamp.

I get the loud speaker from the cop car. “STEP OUT OF THE CAR!”

“Dang old dang!” This is new! I have never been asked to step out of the car like this before. I look down. Damn it! I only have my socks on. I took off my shoes somewhere in the last 3 hours of driving. Disappointed at the tactical situation I have put my self in; no shoes on, surrounded by swamp, and the cops are behind me and barricaded behind their car doors… I get out. I could visibly see the disappointment on the cops’ faces. I could see the thought, “shit, a white dude in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and only socks… he even has short hair!” go through their heads. They came out from behind their barricades looked at my license, then told me not to change lanes without using my blinker. I was free to go.

BREAK BREAK>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I am now at training in North Carolina.

Technically I am out here on TDY status. I am not realistically able or even supposed to set up a household here, I am expected to just live in hotels for the next however many months. Luckily I heard some good ideas from previous students in this program… Basically, I found a condo on the beach for less than the cost of staying in a hotel for the next few months. I save Uncle Sam money and get paid to live on the beach!

I have taken up surfing.

Just so you don’t all get too jealous let me tell you this. This is the first “furnished” apartment I have ever lived in. Furnished it is! Decorated as well! Unfortunately it is decorated in a style I like to call, “Un-cool Aunt.” Everything in this place is either pink or covered in flower prints. I didn’t even know you could get this many things with matching pink flowers on them! Even the light switch covers! Oh well, I can put up with that for the only thing between me and the beach is a sand dune!

One last comment: It is the most unbelievable mind fuck to go from a year living in half a shipping container in Afghanistan to drinking beer looking at the beach and surfing every day in under 6 weeks.

*NOTE: Stacy always would say mean things to helicopters to fix their mechanical problems. His infallible philosophy being: “You should treat whores like ladies and ladies like whores… they both will love you for it.” He reasonably extended this philosophy from women to aircraft and cars.

**NOTE: He did always say sweet things to 68-10776…

***NOTE: I didn’t rename Stacy because he is already a seven foot tall giant bearded helicopter mechanic former Navy Chief-Master-Chief-I-C from the mountains of Montana whose real name is already Stacy. Where could I even go with that?

****NOTE: For the female readers: If I am nice to you, please don’t assume I think you are a whore. It is best if you believe I don’t subscribe to this philosophy.