Love and Sacrifice

Tiffany was one of my neighbors in Tennessee.  She’s a great person and a wonderful neighbor.  Over the last few years, she’s gone through some rough times.  A nasty divorce, trying to sell her house during the crash of the market, and the list goes on for a bit.  During this time, she met an Army helicopter pilot named Matt.  A jovial fellow who’s fun to be around, a handyman like me, generous and again, the list goes on.

Matt and Tiffany fell in love, got engaged, and tried to live a normal life after Matt got out of the Army.  Unfortunately, the tanked economy was not easy for a helicopter pilot to find enough decent work.  The Army called up Matt and begged for him to re-enlist as they needed good pilots and he was an experienced combat pilot they hated to see leave.  He agreed to return to service at the same time he and Tiffany tied the knot.  Shortly afterwords, he shipped out to Afghanistan for another tour of duty.

Once Matt’s tour of duty was up, he was going to train helicopter pilots by conducting training exercises based on his experiences to better prepare our newer pilots for what they would expect out in the field.  It was a job he wasn’t really looking forward to performing because like most pilots, he loved to fly and had considered the teaching job a “grounded desk jockey” position.  On the bright side, though, he could spend more time with his wife and he was looking forward to that more than anything.

I just learned that a few weeks ago, while a passenger on this flight and only one week from returning home, the helicopter Matt was riding in crashed, killing him and eight others. My heart goes out to Tiffany and to Matt’s family.  Here’s to you Matt! /salute  Thank you for your service and the ultimate price you paid us. You will be sorely missed.

Humid Androids

My current residence does not have air conditioning.  I didn’t think I would miss it, but record heat waves send me out to my local library for most of the day.  Luckily, this is a big library with ample seats with nearby electrical outlets and free WiFi.  A perfect setting for using my laptop (which is how I normally work anyway).  The only downside is the relative silence one must have in a library, but that isn’t too much of a problem unless I need to talk on the phone a while.  Oh well, a small enough sacrifice for free A/C on super hot & humid days.

The weather outside looks kinda nice right now.  Maybe I’ll go for a stroll before that thunderstorm in the distance rolls in.  I need a break from working on my Android apps anyway.

Revisiting an old injury I did not miss

Since Monday, I’ve been living with an old injury that has resurfaced – Rotator cuff tendinitis.  During my last ordeal, the doctors were amazed that someone so young had it, that my background did not fit their risk profiles, and that my particular case also had a rare twist with it.  The injury, they explained, was the result of too much stress on the shoulder muscles to the point where they become inflamed and rub against each other.  The rubbing causes the pain.  There can also be some tearing, which causes scar tissue to form and that scar tissue will rub against the other muscles and also cause pain.

I had to attend a class on this injury to learn more about it and what were my options regarding treatment.  I was the youngest one present by a span of decades.  I learned that the injury “almost always” occurs in relation to your occupation or if you are a certain kind of athlete that needs to routinely raise their arms in the air (think tennis player, traffic cop, hairdresser).  Those kinds of professions and activities over a lifetime can lead to rotator cuff tendinitis.  None of these kinds of activities describes what I do or even anything I regularly perform, let alone having done them over a lifetime.  I also have a twist upon the normal tendinitis in that my muscle scar tissue calcifies… becomes tiny bits of bone.  I was told it was like having very rough sandpaper sprinkled throughout the muscle and it causes severe pain whenever the muscles flex.

There are two basic treatments for this kind of injury – surgery or rest.  Surgery came with a 50/50 risk vs. reward, with the risk being that increased damage to the shoulder is just as likely as not and that any damage incurred during surgery is likely permanent.  Just getting rest is both long (6 months is common) and complicated by the fact that relaxing the shoulder is damn near impossible.  You see, the shoulder is a ball and socket joint with muscles all around it.  It is one of the few joints the body has which allows extreme movement in any direction.  This means that no matter what position you are in (sitting, standing, lying down, etc.) at least one of the muscles in the shoulder is flexing just to counteract the weight of the arm against gravity to keep the ball joint centered within the socket.  This also means that at least a few of the muscles are constantly being flexed and cause pain.

I do not wish to choose surgery, I do not want to risk further injury.  I have lived with it before, in 2006, and fully recovered, so I plan to do so again.  The pain was much worse then and I took nearly 10 months to fully recover.  It was during that time that I learned to play WoW with one hand.  I eventually got to a point where I could prop my right arm such that I could use the mouse, but it was still limiting with having to type with one hand.  This time, while still quite painful, I already know the symptoms and the treatment process and have taken steps already to minimize the effects, but they are still present.  I hardly sleep more than 4 hours since that’s how long it takes for the ibuprofen to wear off and the pain to come back in force.  I cannot use my right arm for just about anything and merely holding my cell phone is enough to cause pain – lifting my arm is impossible at this stage.  I am able to prop my arm up so that I can play WoW and use a mouse, but typing is severely hampered by having to use just one hand.  I’ve recently managed to use my left arm to lift my right arm from the mouse and place it on the keyboard in order to type, but by doing so, it also means a brief pause when I finish typing to move my arm back over to the mouse.  Such back and forth movements during combat are prohibitive, which forces me to be quiet or have slow reactions to written communication.  If my dwelling had thicker walls, I could use a microphone without disturbing anyone, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

Getting dressed using just one arm, brushing teeth with my offhand, complications using a computer… I’ve gone through this all before and it lasted many months.  I am hoping that I’ve learned enough during my previous experience that I am able to adapt quicker and hopefully recover in a much shorter time than before.  This time I do not have to retrain my body to not sleep on my injured arm, which is what I had to do last time.  You don’t realize how hard it is to train your body to perform, or not to perform, certain actions while you are asleep, but it can be done. I used to require placing my head upon my right arm as I went to sleep each night.  Once that became impossibly painful, I had to retrain myself to avoid doing so, usually waking up many times a night wracked in pain from having rolled over and back onto my arm.  Sleeping is still painful though since nothing is ever comfortable or relaxing for my injured shoulder.  Thankfully, Advil works to lessen the pain enough most times so that I get some form of sleep until it wears off and I need another dose.

Apologies in advance to those who group with me in WoW.  Playing can be painful at times, but I hope it has little impact on my reaction speed… though it definitely has an impact on my communication responsiveness.

The Value of Freedom

America’s freedom may be purchased through her military strength, but how many realize that it is just as important for everyone, not just those in her military, to be ever vigilant about retaining those freedoms?  How many can look at any proposed law change and see such a change as bolstering or eroding our freedoms? I guess one way is to learn from someone else’s successes and failures. A friend emailed me a part of an eyewitness account of what occurred in Austria around the time of WWII.  I found it quite thought provoking since it was not a “what if” – rather it was “this happened”.  Instead of reprinting it here, I will just supply a link for those interested in a little bit of history as told by someone who lived through it:  America Truly is the Greatest Country in the World. Don’t Let Freedom Slip Away.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction – Episode 2

Driving along the east coast in October, I came across a strange sight.  I found myself northbound on U.S. Highway 9 taking the scenic route (and avoiding the toll roads) along the coast.  The highway meanders up through small towns, colorful autumn forests and crossing river outlets to the ocean.  Rounding a bend in the road 7 miles south of Tuckerton, NJ and just south of the New Gretna Post Office, in field to the west side of the road at mile point 55.8, I came upon a strange sight.

Wine Bottle Statue

A 20 foot tall concrete wine bottle statue.  Off the side of the road in a small field between two houses.  No historic marker around, no signage, no liquor store nearby, no winery nearby, nothing that would indicate a reason for such a monument.  And yet, there it was – larger than life.  After some searching on the net, I found a link that seems to shed some light onto this strange subject. Apparently, this is an old promotional statue for south Jersey’s Renault Winery and now sits abandoned.


I have been trying to take the final test in my Private Pilot’s license, known as a “check ride”, for nearly a month now.  The first delay was due to thunderstorms.  The next delay had to do with the airplane I had been using this whole time breaking down and being retired instead of fixed.  After an hour of two of familiarity training in the replacement plane, a Cessna 172 m, it went in for repairs for over a week.  In the meantime, the company also reorganized, so red tape slowed everything down.  A week ago, my scheduled check ride was in process: oral interview went fine; computer problems were being overcome with a printer I yanked out of storage; a 1/4 inch splinter that jabbed itself under my right thumbnail was painful, but still workable; even the weather was turning from crappy to nice… and then came the pre-flight check of the airplane.  The alternator belt had snapped in two.  Wonderful.  On the bright side, a new belt was already strapped in place just for an occasion like this so that the propeller need not be taken off in order to fix it.  A mechanic is called out and we can hopefully finish my test.  Unfortunately, after waiting for a mechanic to check things out, he declared the alternator bearings shot and nothing would get fixed for 3 or 4 days anyway.  Test postponed… again.

Which brings us to today.  I prepare yet again for a check ride, staying up late and waking up early to go over the flight plan, weather information, map checkpoints, fuel calculations, etc.  I drive out to the airport early to fly out to some other airport where the test will take place… and… the keys to the plane are not on their normal hook.  In fact, they are nowhere to be found in the office nor in the airplane itself.  I don’t really panic about that since the weather is not cooperating anyway.  I wait at the airport for 5 hours hoping the weather will clear up enough for me to fly out and take my test.  I wait in vain as I see the sun for 5 minutes during that whole time and by afternoon, it is raining and we postpone everything until Monday.  The keys are still missing, but I found out one of the resident mechanics has a spare and I can borrow it if need be if the missing keys are not found by Monday.

On a side note,  I really like Jack Johnson.


Automobile Gadget Holders

We have so many portable electronics these days: cell phones, mp3 players, GPS units, dashboard cameras, Sirius Satellite radio handsets, DVD players, hand held game units like the PSP and Nintendo DS, and the list goes on.  So many portable gadgets that can be used inside a car and yet we have no standard means of securing them and providing power for a all of these devices in any kind of standard fashion.  Where are my “cup holders for gadgets”?  I’m so very tired of suction cups falling down, weighted dashpads sliding off the dash, air vent mounts blocking my AC or just letting my expensive device dangle by it’s power cable because there’s no place to put it while using it.

I want to see the auto industry provide us with the gadget form of a cup holder.  Instead of holding our favorite beverage container, these gadget mount points would provide us a means to secure our portable electronics so that they can be used in a hands free fashion and yet won’t slide around the car or dashboard while in motion.  I envision several anchor points around the car so that the driver and passengers can enjoy them.  We don’t even have to develop a new standard for these anchor points since we can use the same design as picture cameras already enjoy  with tripod mounts.  I wish every car contained several female anchor points for a 1/4-20 screw with a small depression next to support an anti-self unthreading mechanism that could hold a few pounds (this is what all cameras already use as a universal tripod mount, so a standard already exists… use it!).  Put a couple of these anchor points on the dashboard, a couple in the center console and a couple for the back seat would also be nice.  I also want USB power supply ports near these anchor points as well so I can plug my portable device into the car’s power supply.  Lets move away from requiring the old, clunky 12 volt interface we currently use to power/recharge our devices and adopt the much more portable USB cable.

Aftermarket device holder manufacturers can make us flexible stalks to mount on these anchor points to hold our various devices if our device doesn’t have a means to mount itself directly to these anchor points.  Some of these flexible stalks could even incorporate a USB power cable to help ease the cable jungle that might develop.  Maybe even provide an “audio IN” jack near the front console mounts as an easy means to plug satellite receivers and audio player devices into the car’s stereo system, too.

C’mon automakers, give me my gadget anchor points already!