Sunday Bag o’ Updates

Halfway through my post-surgery physical therapy sessions at Tucson Orthopedic, and already starting an off-the-books PT regimen at Anytime Fitness. I dropped by this morning to spend half an hour on the stationary bicycle and some of the leg machines, the ones that help with bending and straightening my new knee. Getting over the top of the pedal stroke on the stationary bike was painful at first, and I probably shouldn’t have started my exercise routine with it. Next time I’ll work up to it. It’s just that over the years I’ve learned that if you don’t grab the stationary bike when you first get there, some asshole will be camped out on it when you do want it … I sure wish they had more than one.

The hospital gym has wall-mount TVs, but they’re always set on a sports channel. Anytime Fitness has wall-mount TVs as well, but the remote’s out where anyone can use it, and all too often they’re set to Fox News. Assholes were scarce today: only one TV was on, and it was set to CNN. Not that CNN fans aren’t assholes too.

Anyway, it’s time to write. I owe a letter to a friend. I owe Paul’s Thing readers, friends too, a fresh post.

I’ll put in a full day at Pima Air & Space Museum tomorrow. There’s one way to get there from the east side of Tucson, and as of the middle of last week that way is blocked for road construction and will remain so for a year. Which means I have to loop around Davis-Monthan AFB and come in from the west, adding a few miles to the trip. Well, I can use a change of scenery on my commute, so that’s okay. There’s a new aircraft on display, a WWII-era P-40 Warhawk, and I hope to take some good photos of it between tram tours. If the timing works out (it rarely does), they’ll be towing the freshly-repainted F-100 from restoration back to its spot on fighter row, and I’ll get some photos of that as well.

Mr. B, our rescue dachshund, turns ten later this month. Adopting an older dog, a male dog in particular, can be a challenge (and Mr. B certainly was), but he is just the best damn dog now and I want to go out and adopt several more.

Something is wrong with our Comcast DVR. I had it set to record The Expanse and Better Call Saul, and it didn’t record a single episode of either. I suppose both new seasons will be on Netflix before long, but what the hell is wrong with my DVR? Is it going to miss Fargo too? It had better not!

I swung a leg over the motorcycle yesterday and tried to get comfortable with my feet on the pegs, but my right knee, the new one, doesn’t want to bend that much yet, so I’ll have to be patient. At the same time I’ll have to keep working at it, because one of my recovery goals is to be riding again before the end of August. I hope that doesn’t have to slip into September, but if it must it must.

More soon!


Thursday Sleeve o’ Freon

IMG_6088The best part of physical therapy is icing down afterward. They have this pro football rig that pumps coolant through a sleeve wrapped around your leg, chilling your sore muscles and ligaments while giving you a massage, alternately squeezing and relaxing. Heavenly!

Days drag between twice weekly outpatient physical therapy sessions. I do knee bending and stretching exercises at home on off days, but progress is hard to measure. I must be doing something right, though, because progress on PT days is dramatic. During my next to last session I was able to pedal a full revolution on the stationary bicycle, but only backward. Yesterday I was able to pedal forward, just one or two revolutions at first but finishing with five straight minutes of pedaling. The knee has to bend 105 degrees to make it over the top of a pedal stroke, so this was a major milestone. Clearly, the home exercises are helping.

On my way home from yesterday’s PT session I stopped at Anytime Fitness to renew my membership. I first joined when my left knee was replaced five and a half years ago, in order to maintain a physical therapy routine after Medicare-paid outpatient PT ran out. So same thing this time around. Medicare authorizes eleven outpatient PT sessions; so far I’ve had five.

What did people do before Medicare? Someday, I hope, we’ll be asking what people did before single-payer health care.

I went down to Pima Air & Space Museum Monday to do half a volunteer shift: I helped prep the trams, then drove and narrated the 10 AM tram tour. After helping the other driver get the 11:30 AM tour underway, I drove home. Next week I’ll be back on my regular full-day shift.

Speaking of the museum, one of our two new electric trams is in, but it’s sitting unused in the back lot. Maintenance has yet to set up a charging station (or even decide on its location, I suspect), nor have they checked out any drivers. Maybe they’re waiting for the second unit to be delivered. They don’t tell us much … as with every organization I’ve been a part of, information is currency, jealously hoarded.

My current bathroom book is Michael Palin’s “Diaries, 1969-1979: the Python Years.” It’s a fascinating read, and Palin comes across just the way he does on TV, as a genuinely nice person. Netflix has rights to all the Monty Python stuff now, including the movies, Ripping Yarns, and the rest, but except for Fawlty Towers they have yet to make any of it available to American subscribers. Some time this year, they say. Reading Palin’s diary, I’m fired up to watch. Some of it will be new to me … I never saw the Ripping Yarns shows back in the day, for example, nor do I think I ever watched Life of Brian all the way through. When Netflix does come across with the goods, I promise not to quote Python sketches here on Paul’s Thing, even though I know I’ll be tempted.

Them’s the news. More soon.


Air-Minded: IL-2 Restoration Photoblog

Work continues on Pima Air & Space Museum’s IL-2 Shturmovik. The fuselage is largely finished, the engine is in, the wings have been fabricated from original blueprints and are awaiting installation, and the propeller, damaged when the Shturmovik’s pilot crash-landed on a frozen lake near the Russian village of Zamejie on January 28, 1944, is being hammered back into shape.


Mikulin AM-38F engine installed (photo: PASM)


IL-2 completed fuselage (photo: PASM)


IL-2 prop blades as recovered (photo: Paul Woodford)


IL-2 prop blade being straightened (photo: PASM)


IL-2 prop blades on hub (photo: PASM)

If Wikipedia is correct, when PASM’s IL-2 is restored it will be one of only ten on display worldwide (out of over 36,000 built during WWII, making the IL-2 the most-produced aircraft in history).


Air-Minded: Son of Non-Starter (Updated 7/25/18)

See my earlier speculations on the possibility of new F-15s for the USAF:

The first post addressed three “legacy” fighter aircraft still in production for overseas customers (F/A-18, F-16, and F-15), and wondered if the US military might be talked into extending the lives of its own fleets by buying new ones. My specific interest was in the US Air Force’s F-15C, the aircraft I flew, small numbers of which are supplementing an even smaller F-22 fleet in the air-to-air role.

In the second post, I shared the news, reported in AeroSpace Daily in November 2015, that the USAF was actually considering buying new F-15s and/or F-16s. I never heard an outcome on that decision (and frankly doubt it was anything more than an aerospace industry pipe dream), but I will note that the US Navy bought into the concept: it’s buying new F/A-18 Super Hornets to extend the life of the current fleet and to supplement its planned F-35C fleet. With that success in mind, Boeing is now pitching a similar idea to the US Air Force: buy some new F-15s to replace the old F-15Cs currently serving in the air-to-air role.


F-15X with air-to-air load

The F-15 being pitched by Boeing is a notional model called the F-15X, based on the F-15E Strike Eagle, but with improvements that have been developed since the Mudhen was introduced in 1989 (in export models for Korea, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia). The artist’s concept, above, looks like an F-15SA, the model currently in production for the Saudis. Presumably it would add a lot of USAF-only extras to make it more fully compatible with our current F-22 and F-35 fighters.

The original single-seat F-15, the mid-1970s A model and the late-1970s C model which followed it (and is still in service), was dedicated to the air-to-air role. It had air-to-ground capability, but that was rarely used. The two-seat F-15E, introduced in 1989, was dedicated to the air-to-ground role, but could fly air-to-air as well. The new two-seaters, the ones currently in production for overseas customers, can easily fly a dedicated air-to-air mission for the USAF.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Previously, any talk of buying new F-15s or F-16s was seen as a threat to the F-35 program, and I imagine that’s still the prevailing view at the Air Staff. The idea of buying more legacy aircraft as a hedge against a slower-that-expected F-35 buy makes sense to me, but obviously I’m biased in favor of a jet I flew and loved.

More to come, I’m sure, as this non-starter of an idea keeps trying to start up again!

Update (7/25/18): More information today on the F-15X and what’s behind it, per aviation correspondent Tyler Rogoway.

Exclusive: Unmasking The F-15X, Boeing’s F-15C/D Eagle Replacement Fighter

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Boeing F-15X

In November 2015, Aerospace Daily reported that the USAF was considering a new buy of F-15s to extend the life of the existing F-15C fleet and to supplement new fighters like the F-22 and F-35. I discounted this story. Then, last week, I passed on news that Boeing is pitching a new version of the F-15 to the USAF, the F-15X, as a replacement for the old F-15C fleet, now numbering around 230 aircraft.

More details are emerging. The USAF really did propose buying new F-15s in late 2015, and Boeing’s F-15X is a response to that proposal. These things take time, apparently.

The article at the link goes into great detail, but the one thing that immediately jumps out at me is that the F-15X is to be a single-seater, like the F-15C it is meant to replace. MacDonnell-Douglas (now Boeing) hasn’t built a single-seat F-15 since the last C model rolled off the line in the early 1980s. Since then, the factory in St Louis has built variants of the two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle for the export market. The return of single-seater Eagles, to my thoroughly biased mind, is huge.

I won’t try to duplicate the article. If you’re into Eagles, you’ll be fascinated by everything you read there. And there’s an outstanding video to go with it, which I will duplicate here, of Louisiana Air National Guard F-15Cs and Ds taking off from Naval Air Station New Orleans, refueling from a KC-135R tanker, joining up with two USAF F-35As, then flying around the Superdome in downtown NO before landing.

Am I excited? You bet your ass I am!


Wednesday Bag o’ Staples

Progress report: my knee still aches (with occasional sharp nerve twinges) and I still walk like Festus, but the home exercise routine is going well, the outpatient physical therapy at the orthopedic institute even better, and the swelling has almost disappeared. Tomorrow I see the surgeon who replaced my knee and who will, I hope, remove the 30 metal staples from the 8 1/2-inch wound on my leg. You scoff? Count ’em. I’ll wait.


Sorry about the cheesecake. I don’t normally expose myself that way.

I’m increasingly restive, what with nothing to do at home but sit or nap or do knee bending and stretching exercises. It’s hard to sit at the office desk and write blog posts or letters … unless I get on a tear over something or other and distract myself enough to forget about my knee for a while. Donna continues to be a saint, which means I’ll have to be a saint to her if she ever needs one, and I hope I have it in me.

We bought airline tickets for our trip to Missouri in October, along with a rental car for the drive from St Louis to Cape Girardeau and a few days in Ohio (Dayton and Elyria, then a long drive back to St Louis and the flight home). Now to book motel rooms, and we’ll be set.

I committed myself to working at the air museum for half a day next Monday: one tram tour. I plan to be back on my regular all-day schedule (which, this time of year, amounts to two tram tours) by the following Monday, the 6th of August. In my absence (actually only two Mondays so far) one of our two new electric trams has arrived and they should have started checking out tram drivers on the new equipment. One new aircraft has gone on display, a T-34 trainer, and by Monday the P-40 Warhawk should be out of restoration and on display in one of the WWII hangars. So expect another air museum photoblog soon!

Speaking of which, when people call blog posts blogs, it’s fingernails on a blackboard to me. Paul’s Thing is a blog, and the entries I put up here are blog posts. But then we come to photoblog. I suppose if you have a blog that is all photos, it would be a photoblog, and individual photo posts would still be posts, but for some reason I’m okay with calling a photo post a photoblog. Probably because everyone else does it. Back in the day blogs were called diaries, and individual posts were diary entries, and if everyone had stuck with that formula none of this would be an issue.

The naked emperor seems panicky and desperate lately, his act more of a clown show than ever. I just can’t take anything he says seriously, though I know I must. The man has a lot of power, and he’ll use it if he feels threatened. I would never ask for a coup, but I sincerely hope our military leadership is prepared to resist an impulsive order from what Putin now calls the “supreme commander in chief.”

Trump’s desire to replace the Kennedy paint scheme on the new Air Force Ones is worth watching. Nothing stays the same forever, but I deeply distrust this man and plan to follow the story closely. I don’t think he’s making all these changes out of any desire for change or improvement. He’s merely destructive, spitefully undoing what previous administrations have accomplished, especially previous Democratic administrations. He can’t stand it that he isn’t admired the same way previous presidents are. I don’t think he’s quite figured out that most of us don’t think of him as president, what with him and his masters stealing the election from the president we voted for and all.

The last two days have been super hot and I’m thankful the electricity hasn’t gone out. Two or three years ago, it likely would have, and at the hottest time of day. We must count our blessings.


Thursday Bag o’ Schnozz

IMG_6053I steeled myself for a stern lecture and a return to white pads and tape, but the dermatologist’s nurse practitioner (the nice one!) took one look at my skin graft Tuesday and said “Let your nose shine out upon the world for all to see.”

So here it is, in its bumpy, slightly discolored, W.C. Fieldsian glory. Children may clutch their mothers’ skirts and ask “What’s wrong with that man’s nose?” but at least they won’t run away shrieking. And I can live with that.

Two hospital gym PT sessions down now, both leaving me feeling better than before. For hours, in the case of the second workout. Eight to go, spaced out twice a week into mid-August. I’m getting into the home exercise routine for the days in between and feel I should soon be able to drive myself around again. I keep the walker at my bedside for when I get up in the night and first thing in the morning, the times when the painful shock of putting weight on the new knee can still make me wobble; otherwise I get around with a cane. So. Progress. And as I remember from my first knee replacement in 2013, once progress becomes apparent, getting back to normal follows quickly.

My motorcycle guru and buddy Ed called while Donna was driving me home from PT yesterday. He had just caught up with my blog and wanted to check in on me. And I him, since he had some pretty serious eye surgery a while back. It was wonderful to talk with a friend, and on top of that I had just exchanged letters with another friend back East, and written to yet another old friend in California. Inspired by all this friend activity … the real kind, not the Facebook kind … Donna and I sat down with the October calendar and mapped out a day-to-day itinerary for our upcoming trip to Missouri and Ohio: Woodfords Tour Trump Country 2018 (Good Thing We’re White). More on the big trip as we close in on it.

Pima Air & Space Museum, where I volunteer as a tram tour guide, is prepping two military helicopters for display. Before each tram tour I ask visitors if they want to see or know more about any particular aircraft, and as often as not they ask about helos we don’t have: these two in particular, the Sikorsky Blackhawk (or one of its many variants) and the Sea Knight.


Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk


Boeing-Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight

During the past year we’ve added two British military helos, Royal Army and Royal Navy versions of the Westland Lynx, but we haven’t had any newer American helicopters to show since I’ve been volunteering, eight years now. Visitors want to see helicopters they or a loved one flew, crewed on, or maintained when they were in the service; most of our helicopters flew in the Vietnam and Korean Wars but the bulk of our visitors served (or know someone who served) during Desert Storm and the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’m glad we’ll soon have helos of their era to show them.

As you can probably guess, I’m itching to get back to doing tram tours at the museum, but it’s going to be a few weeks before I can handle all the walking that’s involved.

Donna and I are as wrapped up in the news as anyone else, and as frustrated. Didn’t we know all this stuff about the Russians and hacking into DNC databases and interference with voting machines back in 2016? Maybe not the names of individual Russian agents, but most of the details of how they were doing it? Wasn’t it obvious from the start that Putin dictated changes to the Republican platform in the lead-up to the GOP convention that nominated Trump? Wasn’t it also clear to everyone at the time that Putin forced Trump to change his choice for secretary of state from Romney to the unknown Tillerson? Yes, we did know all that stuff. Rachel Maddow among others has been reporting it from day one. Hillary Clinton outlined the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia in detail. All this stuff was covered, then forgotten, then remembered again, but reported on as if new. We knew. And we know. The election was stolen, and Trump is quite literally Not Our President. Nor was he ever.

And what are we going to do about it?

Vote in November, I hope, but I sure worry about that. What are Democrats doing to inspire voters? Not much.

Damn, I hate to end on a gloomy note, but I have a book review to write and knee bending and stretching exercises to do, and have to move on. More soon!


I Wouldn’t Join Any Group That Would Have Me

Why the Groucho Marx title? I’m thinking about social media groups this morning.

A friend recently encouraged me join a Facebook group called AtomPunk, where members post graphics and photos from the Atomic 50s. I like that sort of thing so I signed up, and my news feed was immediately flooded with Leave it to Beaver and Jetsons stills … the sort of crap 20-year-olds think of as AtomPunk, I guess, but far from what I thought I was getting into. No one seemed to be curating the group. I wasn’t there long.

Other groups I’ve briefly joined have been over-curated. A Neo-Noir film group endlessly debates what can and cannot be posted there. Another, Lurid Men’s Magazines, can’t decide how many clothes distressed women on the covers must wear, or whether to allow depictions of Nazis (I seem to remember Nazi villains on virtually every lurid men’s magazine cover from the 50s through the 60s). I left both groups within days.

The Pulp Covers group on Facebook has been good. Everyone seems to agree on what pulp fiction and magazine covers are, and members stay on topic without anyone having to intervene. By the way, the last book cover in the Reading Now section on my right sidebar alternates between pulp and parody (and is not a book I’m actually reading, like the others).

I love Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin historical novels. I’ve read the entire series four times and plan to embark on a fifth voyage soon. I was a member of Facebook’s Aubrey-Maturin Appreciation Society for a couple of years, but new readers destroyed it. When I joined, it was populated by people who had read the series and wanted to discuss details. And then the “no spoilers, please” yahoos showed up and now it’s all people shushing one another. I left reluctantly and with a bad taste in my mouth. What kind of person won’t read a book or watch a movie if someone drops too many hints about the plot? Picky eater types, that’s who. Contemptible worms.

Real life update: I’m still recuperating at home, doing leg extension and bending exercises on the bed, icing my knee down, walking from one end of the house to the other, and so forth. Boring but necessary. First real PT session is tomorrow morning.


Home from the Wars

If you visit this little blog, you probably know I had my right knee replaced Tuesday morning. They had me up and walking in the hallway of Tucson Orthopedic Institute later that afternoon. But not much. They pushed me harder Wednesday, when Donna took this photo:


Yesterday they sent me home. So far this morning I’ve done some leg and knee exercises, taken a most welcome shower, and have now decided to update this little blog.

I’ve never taken a selfie of my nether parts before. Anthony Weiner, eat your heart out!

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Fresh dressings over the sutures, feeling almost normal … until I try to bend the knee, that is, but that’s what the exercises are for. The first of several outpatient PT sessions is Monday morning.

Another selfie. I’ve been soaking the skin graft on my nose every day, swabbing it with vaseline, and taping it over. Well, it’s looking like normal skin again, no longer an open wound, so I decided to cover it with a regular bandage today. I go in to have it checked Tuesday morning and they’ll probably yell at me, but I think it’s healing nicely now and could probably even do without the bandage. The goatee? This morning I started thinking about shaving it off, which normally means it’ll be gone in 24 hours. At the outside.

2018-07-13 09.41.34 copy

Donna’s a saint. She kept me company and sat at my side in the hospital; now I’m home she’s helping with all the little things I can’t yet do for myself. Talk about the uber-solicitous one, though, that would be Mr. B. He lived with an elderly woman his whole life and lost his home when she died, which is when we took him in. From what we heard, his lady went downhill fast at the end. She may have used a walker during that period, because from the moment Mr. B saw me shuffling up to the front door with one yesterday, he’s been at my side. I do believe he thinks I’m going to up and die on him too and I wish I could hug him but can’t risk getting dog hair in the wound.

The Tucson Orthopedic Institute now has its own building on the Tucson Medical Center campus. That was not the case in February, 2013, when they replaced my left knee. Then, I spend two days recovering in a shared room, rather drab and dingy. This time I was one floor up from the operating room, nicely ensconced in a single room with a view of the Santa Catalinas out the window. I don’t think there’ll be an infection scare this time around … my  care and treatment was first-class in every respect. And this was on Medicare (supplemented by Tricare, which military veterans get). I cannot imagine what people are going to do if they take Medicare away. Suffer and die that the rich can have three Lamborghinis apiece?

Anyway. It is So. Good. to be home again. I plan to hit the PT hard and get back to normal as quickly as possible, and I’ll try to keep the blog up to date. You kids be careful with your knees, and always wear sunblock, you hear?

Update (two hours later):