Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The worst thing that happened when I was in the marines.

A couple weeks ago, we were in the mountains in Utah having a fun family reunion.  Every evening after the young kids were down for the night the boys built a huge fire in the fire pit and the adults and older kids pulled folding chairs around it for a gab session.  On the last evening, we were all relaxed and let some of the not-quite-old-enough kids sit in.  My granddaughter, Winnie, came and sat on my lap and asked me a few questions about small things.  She is turning into a young lady and I was aware it may well be the last time she would crawl into my lap to talk to me.
After a bit, she asked me to tell her about the worst thing that happened to me when I was a marine.  I don't have to think very hard to identify the worst thing. The experience is difficult for me so I wasn't very comfortable with her request, but since she asked so nicely I decided to do it.  The other people around the fire were chatting about this and that, so it was just her and me involved in our conversation.  This is the story I told her:

I almost killed a man one day.
When I was in the marines, every low ranking marine had to serve 30 days on mess duty every year.  Shortly before I got married to Liz, my turn came up and I was assigned to work in the salad room.  We started early in the morning and worked until late at night, cutting up vegetables, shredding, mixing and doing whatever the day's menu called for.
  There was a particular cook who took a dislike for me, and he harassed me every chance he got.  He'd pinch me, call me names, accuse me of being homosexual, or try to start a fight with me.  I just walked away from him each time and that seemed to make him mad.  I didn't worry about him too much, but I avoided him whenever I could.  TROUBLE was written all over him.
  One day, we were especially busy in the salad room, with a lot of vegetables to be cut into small pieces.  We often had recruits who were going to be discharged from boot camp, working wherever they were needed and that day a lot of them were in the salad room with me.  They were using all the paring knives and other small knives, and when I got out a sack of carrots to cut them up, the only knife left was a huge, thick-bladed knife with a curved blade about 20-25 inches long.  I have no idea what the knife was intended for.  It was too big for normal cooking chores, and was really more like a sword than a knife, except that it had a plain, wooden handle. But because it was the only knife left, I was using it to cut the carrots into thin discs.  The curved blade actually worked nicely as I rolled it over a bunch of carrots.  The salad room was square, with counters all around the walls and we were standing shoulder to shoulder around the room, working steadily.

Vtg VILLAGE BLACKSMITH Large Butcher Knife Meat Cutting Blade #3290 19-1/2
  As we worked, that troubled cook came into the room for something.  He was carrying a steak knife in his hand, which was odd, but I really didn't give him any thought.  He got whatever it was he was looking for and as he passed behind me he stabbed me in the small of the back.  It wasn't a bad stab, not very deep, but it hurt a lot!  I yelled and lifted both hands above my head, turning to see what was hurting me.  As I turned to my right, I saw him grinning at how clever he had been and my mind instantly realized that I had the perfect weapon in the perfect position to cut him in half.  I focused on the point where his neck met his right shoulder and I knew I could hit him squarely and take his head off.  I pivoted on my feet and started to swing at him, but then pulled back.  All the young marines in the room had seen what happened and they gasped as I started to lunge at him.  He saw me too, and we both knew that if I'd swung at him he'd have been dead.  That cook's eyes were big, wide open, and full of fear!
  Instead, I turned back around and went back to cutting carrots.  He came back at me and stuck his knife in my butt, leaning on me and pushing it in.  Ignored him for a couple seconds then growled at him to, "Get the *@!* out of here!"  He leaned on his knife a bit more before hustling out.  I was surprised, I expected more trouble from him, but I just didn't care what he did at that point.
  Some of the young guys ran out during this time and brought back a senior cook, who questioned them about it.  He had the whole story before he got to me.  When he asked me about it, I was still cutting carrots and still mad and all I could say was that he better keep that guy away from me because I didn't want to kill him.  He took care of it, too, because I never saw that guy again.  My time on mess duty was almost over, (I think I had one more day left) so maybe it's just that I went back to my normal duties after that, and then I went home to get married.  I didn't eat at the mess hall much after Liz and I got married.

  Winnie was pretty wide eyed by my story, but she didn't understand it all.  I didn't want to go into it too much, especially the part about the cook being a repressed homosexual making trouble in his frustration.  Then she asked me, "But why was he like that?"  I was pretty tense, so all I could say was, "Because he was an asshole!"  I might have been a little loud.
  All of a sudden, everybody around the fire burst out laughing.  That was the first I realized they were all listening.  Winnie buried her head in my shoulder, shaking.  Laughing, or crying?  I don't know.
  The laughter lasted quite a long time.  Somebody said Winnie just learned that her perfect Grandpa was human after all.  I was pretty embarassed.  As the laughter continued, it actually became quite helpful for me.  I unwound a bit and laughed, too.  I've always hated remembering that episode, so I haven't shared it much.  I didn't like that he'd put me in that situation, and I didn't like that I came so close to killing him, nor that I really wanted to.  In hind sight, I wish I hadn't shared it with Winnie, but I have to admit that I feel a lot better having gotten it off my chest.  Now that all my kids and some of my grandkids know about it, maybe it won't haunt my dreams anymore
  BTW, it isn't like I've had PTSD or anything over it.  I think about it occasionally, maybe 3 or 4 times a year, and then I will lie awake at night until I get up and read or something to take my mind off it.

  Moral:  Be sure you really want to know before you ask a marine about the WORST thing that happened to him.  Lots of us have much worse stories than I do.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The news

  1. Monday was the last day for me selling Medicare insurance in 2012.  Last year the company made a big deal out nobody got Christmas Eve off, and then they let us all go on Dec. 28.  This year they started letting people go as soon as the Annual enrollment period was over (Dec 7).  I felt bad to be let go, again, but I can go back again next year if I want to.
  2. Last year was a bad year for me in the medical dept. and I had to go on antibiotics 3 times, which messed up my intestinal fauna - those little friends who keep everything working properly and clean down there where the sun don't shine.  So I was searching for ways to re-establish active colonies.  I took probiotic pills every other day to keep the colony alive, but it didn't seem like it was quite enough.  I discovered that some probiotic pills only have 1 culture, some 3, and I knew the normal person has hundreds of different critters at work.  Then one day I noticed a weird bottle in the dairy section at the grocery store and that's how I discovered Kefir cultured milk smoothies with "10 +2 live & active cultures".  They made an immediate difference, so it was effective.  My favorite flavor is pomegranate, but sometimes they don't have it.  So I recently bought some blueberry flavored Kefir.  It upsets my stomach for some strange reason.  Well, it's the Christmas season and I love eggnog, and I discovered that eggnog will dilute the flavor and make it so I can finish off the bottle.
  3. After I had a policeman come over and run his lights in front of the house, we went a whole week before one of my strings of Christmas lights was cut again.  I fixed the string, but didn't put it back by the sidewalk.  Instead, I strung it up in a bush, which doesn't seem to offend the neighbors as much as the ones by the walk.  That was about a week ago, and today I noticed that one wire has been cut in another string.  I have soldered those strings of lights together so many times now that I must have mixed up the connections, because the entire string still works with that wire cut.  Strange.  Strange that the lights work, and strange that the miscreant stopped after cutting only one wire.  Maybe this one really was a rabbit.
  4. Our Christmas tree was getting old and the pre-wired lights were burning out.  There were sections here and there with no lights at all.  And, it was only 9 feet tall, which Liz always thought was inadequate for our entry.  The base was 3.5' wide, which is a tight fit in the nook at the base of the stairs, so a bigger tree was out of the question.  But the lights were a real problem.  I was moaning about the sheer drudgery of cutting out all the old lights and putting in new ones, and Liz and I were having our typical, oft-repeated discussion of why I'd like to use never-ending LED lights and how she doesn't like the color of them.  The result was Liz looked online at new Christmas trees and we discovered that Sam's had a new slim tree that is 12' tall and only slightly bigger at the base.  So we bought one.  BONUS:  It came with a wireless remote control.  Very cool, and I was able to astound the missionaries by turning it on with a wave of my hand.  They figured it out when I turned it off by snapping my fingers, though.

5.  Ruth got the old tree, and by using just the top sections where only a few lights are out, made it work in her apartment where it looks fantastic.
6.  Did you know that if you mis-spell dairy as diary, your spell checker won't catch it?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Battle of the Lights

A couple of Tuesdays ago I was home (I have Tuesdays off) and the LDS missionaries stopped by.   We chatted for a bit and they asked if they could help me with anything (I think that makes me officially one of the elderly members of the ward).  That caught me off guard and I said they could set up the Christmas lights on the little stakes along the sidewalk and in front of the house.  Then I realized I shouldn't have said anything because the poor guys were wearing suits.  They insisted though, so they set them up while I put lights in the bushes.  That took about a half hour, and then they left and I went in the house and did something else for a while - perhaps 1.5 hours.
So imagine my surprise when I peeked out there and one of the strings of lights was out.  I went outside and found that the end of the string of lights nearest to the Crazy Chinese Lady neighbors had been cut and pieces of wire were all over the ground.
  I removed the string of lights and took it inside to solder the wires back together, then re-installed them outside.  Everything looked good again, and I went back in the house.
A little while later, Liz got home from work and we went out to look at the lights.  The two strings along the sidewalk were out this time.  Both had been cut neatly, right next to the stakes so that 6" of the 3 wires were laying on the ground, still twisted together.  The two missing sections were directly across the sidewalk from each other.  I checked the wires to see if there was any sign of gnawing like animals would do, but the cuts were clean, diagonal, single cuts on each wire.
We were amazed, to say the least.  We get along with our neighbors, and I've had the same setup at Christmas every year for the 10 years we've been in the house.  So what set this off?

It was a several days before I had time to fix the wires again, and by the time I set them out, it was Tuesday evening – a week after the first cuts.  Again, within an hour the wires were cut on the two strings along the sidewalk, in the exact same places.  Liz threatened to call the police, but left for a church meeting before she could.
I thought about it for a while.  I didn’t want to have them actually do anything to anybody over a $3 string of lights, but I also didn’t want to have to worry about my wires getting cut faster than I could fix them.  So after thinking about it for a while, I called the police and they sent an officer right over.  A big, burly, officer who looked like he might have been a marine, or Delta Force. Somebody you wouldn't argue with.
The officer looked the damage over and declared that it was rabbits.  Rabbits?!?  Really?  He suggested I set up a game camera, so I would learn about rabbits.  (I have a couple of them, so I did set one up and got NO photos of rabbits.)  Meanwhile, I explained why I didn’t think it was rabbits, so he said he would put my views in his report and if it turned out to be kids or neighbors that would come into play.  That’s when I surprised him.  I told him I didn’t care about a report, I just wanted him to turn on his flashing lights for a few minutes.  I figured that if it was a neighbor, they had to be watching (judging by how regular they cut my wires).  So if they saw the lights, it would communicate that I didn’t appreciate the wire cutting, and that I had official backing.  He was happy to do that, and even joked that his lights were the best Christmas lights in town.  I agreed.

Next day, I fixed the lights again, and they’ve been on every evening since then.  No worries.  Liz is convinced it was the Crazy Chinese Lady, but we have no evidence so I am willing to consider it no-harm, no-foul from this point on.
Merry Christmas everyone, and a big thank you to Officer More.  Your lights are awesome!

Friday, November 23, 2012

More weird medical stuff

I may have previously shared that while in Hawaii last August I got an abscess in a molar and had to get emergency palliative treatment.  Since the endodontist didn't do a complete root canal (just enough to drain it and relieve the pressure), he gave me a prescription for antibiotics to keep the infection from growing until I got back home.  I didn't use three pills at that time.

This week I started getting pain in the tooth next to the one that abscessed in Hawaii.  Wednesday I called my dentist and they made an appointment for treatment on Monday.  I'm not a big fan of waiting days and days for treatment when there is intense pain involved, but I couldn't break through that wall.  I could go get it fixed somewhere else, but I'd have to pay the full amount on my own.  So, in desperation I tried taking the antibiotics again.  Voila!  They worked quite quickly at reducing the swelling and headache, and I was able to get a good night's sleep.  The Hawaii prescription had 1 refill, so today I had CVS call and transfer the prescription here so I could get enough more to carry me over until Monday.  And that worked, too!
Hooray for our team!  I may even go in to work tomorrow.

(And I did, too.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My weird medical problems season

WARNING:  if you don't like photos of weird medical problems, don't look at the photo below!

Liz says that each Fall I have weird medical problems.  She has a point.  Last year my list included pneumonia, torn achilles tendon, and some other minor weird stuff.   This year I got a new thriller - a wart growing very fast between my little toe and the next one.  There isn't any extra room in there, so it was growing into me like a plantars wart, and it hurts!  I could barely walk for a while.  It is on its way out via a strong formula of salicylic acid that is supposed to burn off warts within 3 weeks.  So what if it's been 6 and still has a way to go?  At least I can walk again.

The latest is an encounter with a lurker in my garage.  I have been aware I was sharing my work space with these sneeky little predators for several years now, but I haven't worried about them.  They are affectionately known as brown recluse spiders and they mostly keep themselves out of the way.  I was even aware that one of them had a web about a foot or so away from where I stand when I work at my lathe.  That should be plenty of space, right?
Apparently not.  Last Monday evening I worked out there and when I got inside my leg started to itch.  There was a little red spot right at the top edge of my sock, and I thought it was a mosquito bite.  It looked like a mosquito bite, it itched like one, and it acted like one for a couple of days, except that it itched like the dickens!  Then I noticed that the red spot was growing.
It seems that a spider crawled onto my shoe and up my leg until it found a place to bite, and it probably crawled off again to watch and see if it was going to get the biggest hunk of meat it had ever tasted.  At least, I think that's what happened because I never saw the actual offender.  I suppose I will have to spray noxious poisons in my workshop and kill everything in there.  Oh the agony!

The wound area was strange because the little red spot where the bite was, was right at the edge of the larger red area.  By Friday it was so painful it kept me awake at night.  Saturday I realized the red spot had grown to the size of a quarter or a bit larger, so I used an old Indian trick for measuring such things - I drew a circle around the red area with a pen.  Good news!  This morning it was clear that it was shrinking - not growing.  However, there is a much larger area under it where there is swelling and that whole area is quite sensitive and itchy.  I also drew a line around that area, with a green marker.  I have concluded that I will likely survive another weird medical issue.
The question underneath all this is simply:  What weird, obscure, seldom heard-of thing will crop up next in my Fall weird medical problems season? dark red spot - the source - is at the top-left of the general red area.  Ink marks where the red extended Sat. night and you can see that it has retracted a bit, although there are now small red spots just outside it, too.  The green marks the underlying swelled area.  Photo taken Sunday night.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

We are back from Hawaii

We had a great time on The Islands.  We swam in the open ocean with a pod of untrained dolphins, we visited Pearl Harbor, we boogie boarded, kayaked, and swam in the warm ocean.  We gloried in the greenery and the flowers.  One of the funnest things we did was spend an afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu.  They bring young people from all the Islands of the Pacific to Hawaii to go to college, and they have the opportunity to work there to pay their way.  We sat and watched as boats came along a canal with performers on them, doing native dances from the various islands.  We saw these hula girls coming and briefly wondered if the girls still know how to really hula.  Shortly after they started, Liz commented, "These girls have it figured out."  and they did!

I was pretty relaxed while we were there, because I had to go to an endodontist that morning to get an emergency root canal.  The codeine had me kind of mellow.  Liz says I was very nice that day.  Still, I recommend getting dental work done at home.

I wish we had photos of the dophins.  At one point, I thought about getting some waterproof cameras to take with us on the boat, but I didn't carry through, and I am actually glad, because it would have distracted us from watching them.  There was a pro photographer with us and she was selling DVDs with photos and videos of the whole thing for $55, which I wish we'd bought.  Anyway, one of the cool things with this pod was that they had several small calves, including one little fellow who sadly had a bite cut in his side from a shark.  The rest of the pod must have rallied around him to beat other sharks away after that.  He seemed to be doing fine.

Our last day on the Island we visited the National Tropical Botanic Garden.  It was great, but there was a curious fountain there.  It looks kind of tame at first.  It is a long (about 40 yards), narrow fountain with alternating narrow and wide areas, and the whole thing drops a total of only 2 inches.  The water flows into it at a constant rate, but as it passes along it starts a wave action and the water pulses as it leaves the fountain.  You have to have a lot of money to build a fountain for the novelty of having it pulse at one end, but it was way cool.


They filmed part of Jurassic Park there, including the scene where they are snuggled into the roots of a big tree and then find hatched out raptor eggs on the ground as they leave.  I saw the very spot where the eggs were - it is right under the hand of the park guide who is pointing off to the side.  The trees have grown some since that movie was made. There are places where you can follow the roots up to the bole of the tree and are hidden from everybody unless they are right in front of you. 

A hundred yards away, they filmed part of Pirates of the Caribbean IV where Captain Sparrow and friends waded across a little river to invade a pirate camp.  They start out in the bamboo grove you can see on the right side of this photo, and end up in a clearing on the other side.  In that scene, you briefly see this distinctive coconut tree leaning across the river.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

I captured a swarm this spring, and it turned out to be Africanized.   It is all the queen's fault, because she is the mother of all the mean little heathenish girls in the hive. 

I ordered a new queen, which arrived promptly and in good shape.  Here is the cage she was shipped in.  It is simply stapled to the inside of a paper priority mail envelope and sent off.   There are a few worker bees in there with her, because she can't feed herself, or clean herself, or do any of the other normal maidenly things most bees do..  It takes a while to get a hive to accept a new queen, so the cage has a big blob of candy at one end.  After the bees in the hive eat all the candy, the hole that is left will let the queen escape.  By then, the hive should be used to her distinct pheromone and will accept her as their new matriarch.  I left the queen in her cage, between two frames of honeycomb, where the hive bees can get at the candy and release her

Of course the hive won't accept the new queen if their old, trusted queen is still around, so, I captured the old, Africanized queen with a queen catcher.  You can pick them up with your fingers, but this device is more gentle.  You simply squeeze it to open it, slip it over the top of the queen, and let it close around her.  The slots are scientifically sized so that worker bees can escape, but queens full of eggs cannot.
   After I got her home, I released her on my desk for a publicity shoot.  Queens can fly, but when they are full of eggs like this one is, they are heavy and can't fly very well.  I like queen bees.  They have a beautiful, golden color and seem to glow in the sun.  And they are gentle as little lambs.  Pity her daughters are such nasty brutes.  I let this one run around on my hand and arm for a while, just to prove how gentle and meek they are.  Queen bees never sting to defend themselves.  They are only known to sting other queens.  It is a very good thing they don't sting beekeepers, because they have a wicked long stinger!  But bee stingers are actually ovipositers (that means it is the tube used to lay eggs.)  Worker bees don't oviposit as long there is a queen in the hive, so they are free to use theirs as a stinger.  The queen, though, uses hers for laying eggs, hundreds of times a day this time of year.