Saturday, May 30, 2015


Matism, in the comments of the last story, suggested the acronym. He's right, they make for a longish tale, but I have lots of them and at Borepatch's urging, I'm going try a few more. This is no sh*t, I was there, now acronymed to TINSIWT.

 This is a two part story. It all happened in about a month, but it is two separate events. F4s have mounting points on the centerline and the wings. All sorts of things can be mounted, external fuel tanks, missile pylons, bomb racks, etc. One thing they all have in common was that they can be jettisoned in an emergency. Electrically detonated explosive bolts clean up the bottom of the plane, releasing whatever was being carried.

Electricity will release just the bombs at the command of the pilot, with switches in the correct configuration and the release pulled. All of this involves wires. Wires that had to be regularly tested. Connect each cannon plug to the box, throw the appropriate switch, press the right button, see the needle move and the light come on. Simple enough. Ordnance checked their own connections. They had written procedures, meant to be closely followed. If a problem was found, they called the electricians. Might be equipment, might be wires.

If an aircraft was going to be moved into the hanger, every cannon plug connection to every explosive bolt was disconnected and connected to a dummy fitting with a red streamer or flag. Safer that way, part of the procedure to prevent bad things from happening in a hanger. Once that was done no electricity could reach the explosive bolts. In it's own way, it was like checking for a clear chamber before trying the trigger on your rifle.
In the cockpit, behind a bit of safety wire, was the trigger a big button with the label EXT STORE EMER REL.One quick troubleshooting step electricians would use in the hanger, if testing showed a fault on any particular station, was to push a screwdriver past the safety wire and depress that EXT STORE EMER REL button. Since the actual purpose of this button was to send an electrical signal to every explosive bolt on the underside of the plane, if the tester lit up with that button pushed, you knew the wiring was okay and the problem was elsewhere in the equipment.  This was a common practice and you can see the screwdriver marks on the face of the button behind the safety wire in this image.

 So, one afternoon, a young ordnanceman was sent out to perform the bomb release checks on a plane on the flightline. Not a plane in the hanger, mind you, just another F4 on the flightline with a loaded centerline tank ready for the next launch. He disconnected all the bolts on the bomb racks and proceeded to run his tests. And when he found one that failed the initial check did he call for an electrician? No. Did he realize that neither he or anyone else had disconnected the cannon plugs on the centerline tank mounting bolts? No. He took the next step, the one he had seen others take. He pushed his screwdriver past the safety wire and depressed the EXT STORE EMER REL button. I don't know what result the tester gave him.

 Boom, boom! Both charges worked as designed and the centerline tank left the aircraft, jettisoned as it were, to fall a foot and a half to the concrete below. Everyone in the hanger and the shops came running out to see what the sound was. What they found was a stunned Lance Corporal, a cracked centerline tank on the deck, and a wave of JP,  maybe 8 or 10 inches high, rolling down the flightline toward the storm drains. 600 gallons, give or take a few.

 Crash crew responded, although there was no fire. Even back then, there was some environmental reporting and cleanup. The tank was no longer of any value. The plane was down for a couple of days. There was a medium sized tree's worth of paper used in the follow-up reports.

In the end, as part of his non-judicial punishment, the young ordnanceman got to sew different rank insignia on all his uniforms and was sent off to Siberia to the barracks for 60 days of police detail. Away from the flightline and off to somewhere he could do no harm.
And so ends part one.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Seems Like A Good Idea

Let's make a robot that runs like a cheetah and jumps obstacles. It's a DARPA project, so later we can wrap it in Kevlar and add the weapons.

Damn Soccer theatrics

Always trying to draw a foul ...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Once Upon A Time

If it's fairy tales, the expected opening is "Once upon a time...". If you sitting around with a group of veterans and some assorted libations and the stories start, the opening line is "This is no sh*t, I was there...". So the following story, written at the request of the Borepatch himself, might be true. I was there and personally witnessed parts of it. I heard some of it from one of the pilots, who was also my OIC. And the rest was told and retold around the squadron.

Or maybe not. Maybe I made it all up, even if the statue of limitations is long past. In any case, here we go. I think OldNFO should be sitting here to hear this one.

Man, I hadn't thought about this one in years. This is no sh*t, I was there.

We were deployed to a base in Japan. Twelve F-4J Phantoms, a couple of dozen pilots and RIOs, a couple of hundred enlisted. The planes were 20 years old. They took a lot of maintenance to keep them flying and parts were sometime in short supply. In this case it was generators. The planes had two engines, each engine had a generator. NATOPS, the rules that governed Naval Aviation, mandated that F4s had to have two working generators to take off. Because two is one and one is none, doncha know?

There were no spare generators in the Far East. None. Zilch, zip, nada. If a plane had a generator failure, it sat on the flightline or in the hanger and waited.

This was double plus ungood to the officers, especially the Aircraft Maintenance Officer (AMO), Executive Officer (XO), and Commanding Officer (CO). This being peacetime, more or less, if you ignored the Cold War, officers weren't being rated by combat effectiveness and how much stuff they blew up. They were being rated by things like hours flown, safety, and aircraft readiness. There was no check box for unavailable parts, if a plane was down, it was a negative hit on efficiency.

As in all things, the effluent flows downhill. A down airplane was ungood for everyone. And yet, there she sat, down, waiting for the supply system to bring us generators from across the ocean.

And one day while the generator shortage persisted, above a carrier off the coast of Japan, a pair of F4s were circling and could not land. The decks were fouled for reasons unknown to me, but fuel was still being consumed. Our runways being near enough, the Navy F4s were diverted and landed without incident.

F4s won't self start. They need high volume air to spin the turbines and external electrical hookups until the generators are running. We had these things. The Navy birds were parked on our flightline to sit overnight. We agreed to launch them the next morning.

And now we get to the meat of our little tale. Because there the Navy planes sat, with no more security than what we provided. NATOPS rules provide for paperwork, lots of paperwork and aircraft inspections, and signoffs any time panels are opened. Touching the aircraft of another Squadron simply wasn't done. But still, some Marines unknown went out in cover of darkness and removed one of the good generators from one of the Navy F4s and replaced it with one of bad generators we had waiting. Our plane up. Their plane down.

This could be justified, in it's own way, by saying that the plane wasn't going to fly anywhere. It would get started and then shut down for a bad generator and sit on our flightline until a new crop of generators could be harvested and shipped. The first part of which is exactly what happened. The Navy crews strapped in, everything followed, and then they shut back down for a generator failure.

The pilot climbed back down and walked over to Maintenance Control, walked past everyone into the AMO's office and said, "You took that generator." The AMO, not having arrived on site yesterday, had to have known, his squadron's availability having gone from 91.6% to 100% that morning. But the game must be played, "What generator?"

The game of "What generator?" played out several times, bouncing from location to location up the ranks structure, far above the ranks of the Sergeants and Corporals that may or may not have been involved the possibly fictitious unauthorized appropriation of an F4 generator.  Where finally it came to rest with the command structure on the carrier. Things have taken a bad turn when a Navy Rear Admiral is discussing aircraft parts with a Marine Colonel (Base CO) and a Marine Lt. Colonel (Squadron Commander).

A day goes by, and a couple of Navy personnel show up for a face to face. A Commander and a Chief, if memory serves. And in that extended game of "What generator?", the Chief had the trump card. Because shortly into that discussion, some time before honor and manhood was brought into question, the Chief quietly said, "Sir, I'm guessing that the Marines don't track the serial numbers on generators."

And so the full sadness of all that had gone before was complete. Because the Chief had it true. We did not track serial numbers on generators. They had them, but since they weren't a classified part, those fields on the VIDS/MAF were blank. It had not occurred to anyone that that the Navy was more thorough.

And now, to see all the cards, "Either we get our generator back, or the Admiral calls NIS." Making it time to roll over and bare your throat. The Navy flew in their own techs. A cart with a working generator and the appropriate serial number appeared. They fixed their plane, launched their plane, and left without a goodbye.

Another call from the Navy Squadron Commander came in for the Marine Squadron Commander. The names and ranks of the Marines involved in the initial pilfering, the charges files, this dispositions of those charges, and perhaps pictures of their heads on spikes along the runway would make it all better.

In a short time, the Master Sergeant in charge of Power Plants found himself standing in front of the CO to be held to account and tell what he knew. He was known as a good guy, with almost two decades of experience, always willing to go out on the line and turn wrenches, to teach. A Marine who stood up for his men. He knew that this time, they hadn't thought it through, but they were trying to do what seemed right, and they were going to take a pretty hard hit when they had meant no real harm.

He said what I wish I would say if ever faced with such a situation, "I did it, Sir. By myself. I came in and went out there and swapped those generators. No else knew about until after it was done. I still think it was the right thing to do. I'm a Staff NCO and I request a Courts Martial."

I don't know what would have happened if the actual guys had been identified, but that Master Sergeant jammed a wrench in the gears of military justice. A Courts Martial, with Navy Officers brought in from the carrier to give testimony? The CO and the AMO being questioned by the defense about how much they knew and when? No, no, no. All of this started to look worse and worse the more it got considered.

I don't know what was said, or by whom, or at what level, but it simply went away. Like a puddle of rain on the flightline when the sun came out at Cubi Point, it just dried up and vanished. Leaving a (possibly mythical) Master Sergeant a hero with all the guys in the Squadron. Someone who put his career and stripes on the table to protect his Marines.
No one was there for all of it. What I offer you here is the story as I pieced it together, as it was retold to me, and as best as I can remember it.

Generators showed back up the following month. Parts shortages continued to plague us, and we tried a different means to keep some spares around, but that's another story for another day.

Damn kids

Silicon Graybeard lays it out.

Get offa my lawn, punks.

M-1 Carbines

Here's an article in American Rifleman about the M-1 Carbine. Don't just read the article, in this case the comments have a lot to say as well.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Lawrence on social justice warriors and Twin Peaks restaurants: there's a business opportunity for the SJWs:

Lots more top shelf mockery at the link.

Breaking the Big Four

Weaponsman has a post up about a young man who decided that only half dropping the magazine out of his Glock and then re-seating it after cycling the slide was a time saving shortcut. This has the bonus effect of making double checking the chamber impossible.  The inevitable happened.

No word on why he was pointing the gun at his leg when he heard the sound of inevitablity. If he had at least pointed the muzzle in a safe direction when he pulled the trigger, he could have learned his lesson with a little less emphasis.

Kudos for sharing this to the Hopalong Kid, though. He deserves our respect for publishing his experience. Perhaps someone else will decide that a bucket of sand in the corner of the shop is a good place to point your muzzle when pulling the trigger.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The science is settled!

An epidemic of false claims in science:
False positives and exaggerated results in peer-reviewed scientific studies have reached epidemic proportions in recent years. The problem is rampant in economics, the social sciences and even the natural sciences, but it is particularly egregious in biomedicine.
Exaggerations and bogus results getting published.  Now how could that possibly happen?
The problem begins with the public’s rising expectations of science.
Ah.  It's all the public's fault.  Got it.
Being human, scientists are tempted to show that they know more than they do. The number of investigators—and the number of experiments, observations and analyses they produce—has also increased exponentially in many fields, but adequate safeguards against bias are lacking. Research is fragmented, competition is fierce and emphasis is often given to single studies instead of the big picture.
Now that's more like it.  Scientists (like other people) are tempted to sometimes shade the truth in order to get their career ahead.  And the scientific establishment is lousy about picking up on that.
Much research is conducted for reasons other than the pursuit of truth. Conflicts of interest abound, and they influence outcomes. In health care, research is often performed at the behest of companies that have a large financial stake in the results.
In climate science there's pressure from politicians to get the right results.  The more right results you get, the more grants you get.

Nah - that's crazy talk!  The politicians are pure as the driven snow and absolutely have no ulterior motives!  And the scientists [who hid the decline - ed] are noble pursuers of holy truth!  Settled!  It's all settled, I say!

Back to Scientific American:
The crisis should not shake confidence in the scientific method. The ability to prove something false continues to be a hallmark of science. But scientists need to improve the way they do their research and how they disseminate evidence.

First, we must routinely demand robust and extensive external validation—in the form of additional studies—for any report that claims to have found something new. Many fields pay little attention to the need for replication or do it sparingly and haphazardly.
Or in the case of climate science, they pay absolutely no attention to how the actual results track the predictions:

And the SciAm article ends with this interesting tidbit:
Eventually findings that bear on treatment decisions and policies should come with a disclosure of any uncertainty that surrounds them. It is fully acceptable for patients and physicians to follow a treatment based on information that has, say, only a 1 percent chance of being correct. But we must be realistic about the odds.
A big complaint about climate science is the lack of discussion about uncertainties.  Perhaps the best article on this is Judith Curry's Uncertainty Monster, but the climate science establishment won't discuss the subject.  Rather, we keep hearing that the science is settled.

Of course, Scientific American won't discuss these issues in climate science, or Dr. Curry without slandering her.  There is something deeply broken about science as it is practiced today.

Dutch town tends American war graves for 70 years

There's a waiting list to get a grave to tend.  Wow.


Tired, stressed, busy

Work, kids, siblings, the house - everything is hitting all at the same time.  got completely exhausted last week at work, then over the weekend, now looking at more of the same for work plus a family crisis.

Bah.  I'm getting too old for all this.  And I need to ride more, damn it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Heroes Part II

When someone says, "Yea, I was in the service. I was a clerk typist.", and tells you funny stories of boot camp and maybe the stuff he and his buddies did in Japan in 1975, you can believe that.

We've all heard of Stolen Valor and there are groups of veterans that dedicate a lot of time exposing guys who claim to have been super combat vets, SpecOps operators, Navy SEALs, wearing uniforms with rows of ribbons they bought on-line.

What isn't as obvious is the guy who was in the service and just embellishes what he did. Now he can talk the talk, knows the units, lingo and details. Maybe he was on the base in a non-combat role but in a support unit that fixed the boats. It might start out no more than saying, "Yea, I served with the SEALS. No, I don't want to talk about it.", to his friends at the bar. That's true in a way, if you squint. It makes his boring job a little better story.

I ran into this with a WWII vet recently. I am now about 99.5% sure the story he's sharing is bovine excrement. The internet changes how easy it is to check. I heard his stories and it was both believable and a great story, so I went looking. Where he said he was and what he said he did seemed like it would lend itself to a story for the blog, if not a book. I wanted details. I found the unit, found mission histories, found a real live historian in England that I spoke on the phone with last week.

And what I found is that a man with the right age and right name was there, but he wasn't what he claimed to be and couldn't have been. I suspect he made this fiction up right at the end of the war. He started telling it real early and kept telling it until he had it down pat. I don't know what he gained from it and it doesn't matter any more. He's 93. I left out all the details because I am not trying to out him. That 0.5% of uncertainty is enough for me to leave this alone.

What is verifiable, is that he served in WWII in England, came home, worked for 45 years, married and had a family, served in local government, volunteered in the community and in all the small normal parts of his life, seems to have been part of the generation that built the post-war world I grew up in. A likeable, mostly honorable, man.

The English  historian I spoke with told me they find a certain amount of this. He told me about a (deceased) WWII fighter pilot whose family had contacted him with stories of air to air combat, a crash landing in France, details of the ride across the Channel, being returned to the base to fly again, and so on. Great stuff. The family wanted to get it in the historical record.

Well, the man was a fighter pilot. But the mission histories are complete, they all exist, and by the time this man was flying there were no German fighters rising to meet them, no desperate dogfights in the sky over Germany. By the last months of the war, the Luftwaffe was pretty much defunct. He had flown his missions, escorted bombers to targets, and flown back. No record he ever fired his guns in combat. He had wanted to be a hero bad enough to tell pieces of other people's stories.

I suspect it has always been this way. That after the battles between Rome and Hannibal's army, guys who had been cooks and farriers went out and collected swords and armor and took them home to tell great stories of their bravery and how they had singlehandedly turned the tide of the battle.

Heroes Part I

Since 9-11, the default position on people in uniform is that they are all heroes. It's wrong. They aren't all heroes. People in the military may be hard working, honorable, and dependable and still not be heroes, except maybe to their kids. But even that isn't what I mean. People in the military are just people.

Smucks, some of them, slackers that do just enough to skate by. Some are guys you couldn't trust not to empty out your wallet while you're in the shower. Others are guys that will hit on your wife the weekend after you leave on deployment. Some are drunk as often as possible, rowdy troublemakers that make the towns outside the bases what they are.

Even the ones that are recognized heroes, like a guy that got up off the ground and attacked a group of pillboxes, shot and blasted an opening in the enemy's position, managed to both be seen doing this by people that survived, and survive himself, and have the paperwork go through so that some politician could hang a light blue ribbon around his neck might not be someone you'd want to leave alone with your daughter.

The one thing they have in common, from the best to the worst, is how young they are. Most of them are just kids, a year out of high school, that's who goes to war.

It's also who just goes to boot camp, puts on the uniform, and ends up issuing gear out of a supply depot in Alabama. Or serving as an MP on some big base full of the rowdy drunks I mentioned. Or fixing radar, radios, computer systems, trucks, tanks, jet engines, and so on. Even if you have one of the cool jobs like being a fighter pilot, what percentage of fighter pilots ever even see an enemy plane in the air?

When I was a Marine, I worked on radar on F-4s. I got a lot of electronics school. I went to Japan, Korea, and Philippines on 3 West-Pac tours. I wasn't a great Marine. I drove my boss nuts because I would be the guy to ask "WTF" when the truly stupid was being served to us. I was just there a lot of the time. And sometimes I skated. I was not a hero. The other Marines I served with, many of them far better Marines than me, were not heroes.

I did 6 years active and got an honorable discharge. I have my paperwork, lots of pictures, certificates, etc. I did exactly what I say I did and have plenty of proof. It was all during the Cold War. The riskiest thing I did was work on a flightline, not a zero risk location by any means, but nowhere near dangerous as going on liberty in Olongapo.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Motorcycle ride: success!

More to follow, but scooting around the block led to going around town.  It's much heavier but is very stable.  The weight makes me ride differently but that's likely a good thing.

I need to keep upping the miles I ride, but this works nicely.

Johannes Ockeghem - Requiem

Memorial Day honors the fallen soldiers, and nothing quite brings a tone of reflection like the Missa Pro Defunctis, the Requiem Mass for the Dead.  This version by Ockeghem is the oldest surviving Requiem that we know.  It is an a capella performance in the newfangled (at his time in the 1400s) polyphonic style with multiple singers singing different notes at the same time (as opposed to the old Gregorian style where all singers sang the same note).

This Memorial Day weekend remember the fallen.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat aeis.  Amen.