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Frozen Bubbles

Way back about 30 years ago, when I was a passionate and dedicated hang gliding Instructor, (with passionate and dedicated students), I only had an East facing training hill, which limited the number of days we could get out.

One of the ways we increased the number of training days was to get out very early and set up the gliders before the sun rose enough to hit the hill (which was a little bit later than actual sunrise). Then, when the sun first hit the hill, there would often be a little bit of upslope flow that would allow for a few flights before whatever the prevailing direction for the day set in.

The flow was so light that often the windflags would not stir enough to give any reliable indicator of direction, so I used soap bubbles to find suitable launch windows. Yes, Virginia, it is harder to launch in “still air” when the bubbles are going down the hill than when they are going up the hill. frozenbubbles.jpg

As it turned out, the soap bubbles provided a fair amount of entertainment beyond the flying activities of the day. They allowed new students to better visualize air flow. Blow bubbles upwind of a glider wing and watch the ones above the wing speed up while the ones below slow down - to provide an excellent demonstration of the Bernoulli effect. Or watch the airflow (and turbulence) around obstacles and terrain features. And then there were other surprising things that were pretty cool - like a bubble hitting a dew-drenched thistle. Instead of popping the bubble, it would often come to rest with the sharp thistle points inside of, or even poking through it.

As it also turned out, we ended up blowing bubbles on some very cold mornings, which brings us to the point of this long winded post. When it was well below freezing, the newly blown bubbles would transition fairly rapidly from clear to milky and opaque. When one popped it did not disappear as they normally do, but simply deflated, like a balloon with no air, and would then flutter to the ground.

No longer being a dedicated instructor (neither part any longer applies :-), it has been a long time since I have seen, or even
thought of, frozen bubbles. Fortunately, Jean thought about them on this cold morning, and a balcony off of a warm living room gave ample opportunity to play and take photos of frozen bubbles, as you can see in this collage.

High School Days

(Written late at night to some younger friends while my wife was out of town) I was sitting here going idly surfing before bed… Came across a movie sound track and one thing led to another. It (Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket) had one track that played a key role in my (mis-spent) youth (high school version). And that led me to a couple of others that also figured prominently. Not all that sure why you’d care, except perhaps as a glimpse into a long-ago time ;-)
Anyhow, in high school (’65) I had a ‘56 Chevy convertible, which I thought was a pretty cool set of wheels. There were no tape decks (or even FM radio) then, just a few Top 40 AM stations to listen to. Sears had a car record player that played 45 rpm records. It actually did a pretty good job and didn’t skip unless you hit really big bumps, like rail road tracks. There was also no stereo then, but you could ‘enhance’ the mono tracks with a ‘reverberator’ (basically a tunable-delay echo track). Richard_64.jpg I imagine today that would be done electronically, but back then it got the delay by vibrating one end of a spring, then picking up the signal at the other end of the spring. It also had it’s own amplifier, so between the player and the reverb you could generate some respectable (for the time) volume. Although the same railroad tracks that would cause the record player to skip would also cause the reverb spring to hit something, adding some extra loud echoing twangs to the noise.

In case you have not yet gotten the idea that these were different times, perhaps this pic of yours truly from about that time will help clarify ;-) On weekends there were about 3 or 4 of us that would regularly get together to ‘raise hell’. We were still trying to figure out exactly how to do that, but we were getting some pretty good OJT by investing in large quantities of beer and then sort of letting things work themselves out from there.
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2010 Vietnam Reunion

(Written August 16, 2010) Jean and I just got back from my 4th Viet Nam reunion. We had attended my first-ever reunion in 2004, which was also the first reunion of my Recondo platoon in over 20 years. That was a memorable event ( http://wind-drifter. … Nam/ReconReunion.php ). In 2006 the first reunion of the 2/502 Infantry Battalion (101st Airborne Div) was held, and we went to that too (the Recondos were part of the 2/502). They had been having yearly reunions through the early 80’s, then the guy who had been organizing them died, and his wife had thrown out all the records (which were simply index cards back then) - and no one had tried to put things together again until a couple of guys organized the one in 2006. That was held in conjunction with the larger 101st semi-annual reunion. It was also where I agreed to take over setting up a new web page ( http://2nd502.org ), and so became much more involved. This was the second reunion since then, both of which were held together with the 101st reunion.

Our numbers have grown, and there were 190 guys from the “O Deuce” alone signed up for this reunion, with many more on our roster who didn’t make it. Together with the other 101st vets, there may have been close to 1000 guys at this Indianapolis reunion, including a number of vets from World War II and Korea. These two guys were from the Easy Company that was featured in Band of Brothers:

They were a hoot - the guy on the right was a tiny little shriveled and bent gnome of a guy - and they both were running around looking like trouble searching for a place to happen. They had a lot, if not all, of their meals paid for by other vets at the local restaurant.

This was a year that a lot of loose ends and stories came together. Late Friday night, all seven of us from the Recondo platoon that were sitting at a table figured out that we had all served together for at least a few months in the summer of 67 (the Recondos typically operated at ~40-50 guys total).
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40 Years Ago (MLK Assassination - DC Riots)

(Written April 6, 2008) In early 1968 I had just gotten back from Viet Nam a few months before. I still had a year to go in the Army, but I was on medical profile (from injuries in Nam) and so managed to get stationed at a base close to home - Ft Meade, Md. At that point I didn’t really need to use the cane anymore, but I used it anyway, because it helped me get and stay in an office job.

An office job was particularly appealing at the time, because if I hadn’t been in the office, I would have been doing what everyone else was doing - riot control training. The summer of ‘68 we were on riot control standby alert, and had to be ready to roll within hours. ‘Training’ consisted of hours of being side by line in a line, rifles with fixed bayonets held in front of you, and moving together, as a line, yelling “Back!” “Back!”. Hours of this, often in the hot sun, with full gear. Next day, do it again. The office was a really good place to be. I probably had not needed to use the cane, as they pretty well left me alone anyway. I was the only Nam vet in the company, and I had more stuff hanging off my uniform than the officers. They seemed to be OK with me just riding out my final year in relative comfort.

I think the rest of the guys were kind of happy when Marting Luhter King Jr got killed, or at least excited. Not that they had anything against King, but it meant that they would actually get to do something besides walking around in an empty field in the hot sun yelling “Back!”

We were on the road within hours of getting the call. It was evening rush hour, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was nearly a parking lot. No matter. We had a lot of Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s), big trucks and jeeps, none of which cared if they ran on pavement or not. We roared into DC riding in the center grass median strip, raising clouds of dust and kicking dirt and stones over the cars parked in the traffic jam.
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Long Term (Vehicle) Relationships

(Posted to a local email group in February 2006) A few days ago I reached another one of the Mileage Milestones           on my 89 Plymouth Voyager, which got me to thinking about when it would be time to move on to my next vehicle, and about my long term relationships with past and present vehicles in general (I think a lot of female readers just went on to the next email - hey, it’s a Guy Thing).

I was one of those kids who took everything apart to figure out how it worked. Reassembly success was spotty, especially in the younger years. We had a Sears two-wheeled “garden tractor” with a big old Briggs and Stratton single cylinder engine on it. It, too, succumbed to my youthful wrenchings, and I was fascinated to discover all the shiny parts inside that made it go. I even managed to get it put back together again. The first time I pulled the starter rope and it went chuff!-pop-chug-chug-chug… well, I’ll never know what it is like for a woman to grow a baby in her body and deliver it to life - but for a young guy that was probably about as close as he’ll ever get. Going from a collection of oily pieces of metal to a running engine - Wow! - brain surgeons had nothing on me! I found the whole thing so thrilling I pulled that engine apart a number of times, every time learning more about what each part did and how they all worked together.

My stepfather had a Gulf Service Center (you did not call it a “gas station” unless you were in the mood for a long and boring lecture). When I was in high school and had my first old clunker (1952 Plymouth) I’d go down to the station (in DC) and use the lift, tools and service manuals at night. CobbsGulf63.jpg One night I decided to see what was in my transmission (I knew how to have fun!) There was a full set of Motor’s Auto Repair Manuals there, so what could go wrong? With the car up on the lift it was easy to drop the transmission and it came apart pretty quickly. After I had satisfied my curiosity about the innards I was starting to put it back together, reading the pages of the manual as I went. I came to the part about setting a big cluster gear in the case, although first I was supposed to put in a “dummy shaft” to hold about 30 or 50 little needle bearings in place. I looked all over the parts blowups trying to figure out which was the “dummy shaft”. I should have been looking in a mirror. [Read More…]


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