Paul’s Bag o’ Wednesday

What does that title even mean?  Is the cat named Wednesday?  Sure, why not?  Let’s go with that.

My son can’t believe I haven’t said anything about the F-22’s oxygen problems, or about the two whistleblower Raptor pilots who appeared on 60 Minutes last weekend.

My first excuse comes easy: I know very little about the F-22’s oxygen system.  In the F-15 (and all the other jets I flew), the oxygen we breathed came from a liquid oxygen reservoir and was delivered to our masks through time-tested oxygen regulators dating back to the 1950s.  The advantage was that the O2 we breathed was clean; the disadvantage was that the LOX had to be replenished between flights, and on a really long flight you could conceivably deplete your supply.  The F-22 uses an onboard oxygen generating system (OBOGS) that extracts O2 from engine bleed air.  The advantage is an unlimited supply of oxygen (as long as the engines are running); the disadvantage, it seems to me, is the possibility of contamination.

Military pilots visit the altitude chamber every few years to relearn their hypoxia symptoms.  My symptoms were always the same: lightheadedness and dizziness.  I valued the training and believed that if I ever had an oxygen problem in flight I’d recognize my symptoms and do something about it.  But there were always one or two guys in the chamber who didn’t recognize their symptoms and would keep trying to put the pegs in the holes until they passed out … or until the chamber safety monitors clamped the masks back over their faces and set their regulators to 100% O2.  The good thing about hypoxia is that when you start breathing oxygen again you’re instantly cured; the bad thing is that if you’re alone in a single-seat fighter you might not recognize your symptoms until it’s too late to do anything about it (those guys especially).

One of the two 60 Minutes whistleblowers said that when it happened to him he recognized the symptoms and wanted to do something about it.  There’s an emergency oxygen bottle on the side of the ejection seat: when you activate it O2 under pressure is forced into your mask for about 10 minutes, plenty of time to descend to a lower altitude.  But one of his hypoxia symptoms, frighteningly, was that he couldn’t remember where the emergency oxygen bottle was, or how to activate it!

As for my opinion on the whistleblowers, well … civilians may cheer when a CIA whistleblower steps forward to expose abuses and wrongdoings within the agency, but fellow agents close ranks against the whistleblower.  And that’s before the higher-ups retaliate.  The military is no different.  These guys spoke out of school, and they’re going to pay a price for doing that.  Never mind whether they’re right or wrong.  It’s just the way things are in tight-knit professions.

On to North Carolina and the state constitutional amendment voted in yesterday, the one limiting marriage to heterosexual couples only.  One of my favorite bloggers, Nancy Nall, had this to say today:

Looks like the North Carolina gay-marriage thing went down (snerk) too. This is bad news, but not the worst news. I feel, more than ever, that this issue is over, and what we’re seeing now is just the final skirmishes. But never say never.

Doesn’t this remind you, just a little, of Rumsfeld and Cheney back in 2004, describing the first of what became thousands of Iraqi resisters as dead-enders?  When it comes to gay marriage, America is full of dead-enders.  Actually, though, I agree with Nancy.  The day is coming when same-sex adult couples in America will be able to marry or enter into legally-recognized civil unions granting them the same rights as married heterosexuals.  When?  I think another couple of decades, and that’s if we re-elect Obama.  If we elect Romney, add another decade or two.  Remember, in his first term Bill Clinton wanted to remove restrictions on military service for homosexuals.  Intense public and political reaction forced him to settle for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and nearly two decades passed before President Obama ended DADT.

People who think embedding anti-gay marriage prohibitions into their states’ constitutions is some kind of unbeatable trump against gay rights need to take at look at Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution of the United States of America; you know, the one that grants Congress, not the Executive, the power to declare war.  No one’s tried to play that card in years (least of all Congress); I doubt any recent occupant of the White House has lost so much as a minute of sleep over it.  Women thought the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision guaranteed them the right to choose whether or not to abort a pregnancy; states all over the country are carrying on as if Roe v. Wade never happened, and no one in the Department of Justice is doing a damn thing about it.  Just sayin’, constitutions are increasingly seen as mere pieces of paper.

In the wake of the latest underwear bomb plot, is there any doubt those naked body scan machines will now be installed at every airport and we’ll all be forced to walk through them? You can bet that if you’re young and sexually attractive, regardless of gender, the men and women of the TSA will find excuses to make you walk through twice. At last, being old, fat, and ugly will give me a slight advantage: I’ll get to the gate before all you good-lookin’ youngsters.

Personal stuff: actually there is a cat in today’s bag, our daughter Polly’s late Buckley, who was put down today.  The poor thing started getting skin tags a couple of years ago, and after Polly took him to the vet to have them removed they came back as horrible swollen cancerous lesions.  He was covered with them, and left blood stains wherever he went.  He couldn’t tell us whether he was in pain, but he sure looked miserable, and Polly finally came around to the thought that he was only going to get worse, so she hired a vet to come to the house today to euthanize him.  He’s buried in our back yard now, the second of Polly’s pets to come to rest there; the first was her cherry-headed conure Skipper, who lived almost 30 years before dying of a stroke.  It’s all very sad, and everyone has a long face today.  I know I’ll be a basket case when my dog’s time comes … our beloved pets have such short lives.

End on a downer?  Not if I can help it!  Donna’s hosting her bridge group tonight, which means I get to watch whatever I want on TV.  What I really want to watch is the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which arrived today, but Donna leaves tomorrow morning for a four-day trip to Las Vegas and wants to watch it too, which means I have to hold onto it until she gets back, so I guess I don’t get to watch whatever I want after all, so, shit, I’m back where I started.  Let me try again.

PW R4360

Pratt & Whithey R-4360 Wasp Major

Behold the pinnacle of reciprocating aircraft engine design. They called it the Corncob: 28 cylinders in 4 rows, 4,360 cubic inches. Early versions produced 3,000 horsepower; later versions 3,500; one version put out 4,300 hp. This is a cutaway engine used to train mechanics; it has a hidden electric motor to turn the crankshaft so that all the connecting rods, pistons, and valves operate. I want this so bad. I want it in my living room. Imagine six of these at full throttle, lifting a B-36 into the air. Windows would break for miles around. If they’d had car alarms back in the day, a whole city’s worth would have gone off all at once, whoop-whoop-whoop. Giants walked the earth.  Damn.  Just damn.

© 2012, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.


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