Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The usual physical fitness test was yearly, and it involved running a mile and half in under 12 minutes. That was about it. Yup. Since we only did the tests once a year, it was unsurprising that people were keeling over from the sudden stress.
So enter the BMI tests. That means "Body Mass Index", and they test 5 rolls of fat all around your body, add your height, and take the square root of the added up total to come up with the BMI. Honestly I don't think I could come up with anything better....but it is a truism that BMI is not applicable when a group of athletes is being tested. The error is that General DeC. wanted to make us all into athletes. Ten years later, the results are in. The BMI system is pretty much discredited since not ALL of the techies being subjected to compulsory PT were slack asses....many of them WERE athletes. If running 5 miles a day makes me an athlete, then I flatter myself that I was one. And I never once passed my BMI.
The compulsory PT was kind of neat....the usual suspects would show up, run around the gym for awhile, wait for the bored supervisor to go into his office, and they would duck out the door to have a smoke. At one point, I was the only one running in a gym which had about fourteen people only a few moments before. They thought they were unobserved...ha!. I just ran. And ran. And ran. Then I would hit the gym, lift weights for a couple of hours, then shower, chow down, and show up for a full days work. The slack asses of course were slack asses on their jobs, and they got cycled out in the normal course of events in any case. Though I do have to admit to learning a valuable lesson from those slackers....the guy who never does anything never does anything wrong! Its hard to get rid of a guy who never does anything wrong!
I got my first BMI test in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, and when my promotion came through, my Warrant Officer had to have a letter from my physician that I was losing weight. And was likely to continue to lose weight. His phone call that morning was priceless since he called me really early, told me not to eat breakfast, nor drink any coffee. That if possible I was to have a really good sxxx because they would be weighing me that morning. The weight was the lowest I had ever had, and they gave me my rather overdue promotion to Master Corporal....a rank equivalent to tech sergeant, and in my opinion a very big deal. In civilian life, that would be considered foreman, or straw boss.
Upon the closing down of Summerside Base, I was transferred to Ottawa, where I seemed to hit it off badly with every single supervisor, and this led to the incident I outlined in the first part. And by request, here is the rest of the story. Its not pretty. And there are no winners. There may be lessons though, so it is worth writing it all down.
I will make a statement that seems very strange, but I have plenty of reason to back it up...and that is it seems the only real way a newly minted Sergeant or for that matter, a Master Corporal can get ahead is to prove that they are ruthless enough to destroy some body's career. The rungs of their ladder of success is made up of the careers of people they have destroyed on the way up. Somebody likened it to the "Eye of Sauron" which you avoid at all costs, and then when it focuses on you, you feel like an ant in the focus of a burning glass. The BMI program just gave these people another weapon they can use for their nefarious purposes. Oh, I am sure that this doesn't REALLY happen...but it is a solid bet that if you treat every situation that comes up as an eye of Sauron situation, you will be okay. Rather like defensive driving....you know...where will I drive to if that guy coming up the road suddenly swerves into my path, that sort of thing. In this case, I found it helpful to write down every single order in my notebook and my response to it because I had discovered the hard way that the guy giving the order really WAS out to get me!
And the spin they can put on it! I had a Sergeant come up to me one time and tell me "You know you have to electrically ground the airplanes." I was in the process of doing just that, even to holding a grounding cable in my hand, and it was such an odd thing that I made a note of it. Some three months later, that same sergeant was referring to her notes and among other things, stated "On the 23rd of June, had to be told to ground the airplanes". Another time, she said "You know, you need 6 people on a tow crew." I looked out at my crew, counted a full six plus one extra I had just called up to help manoeuvre this big plane around some equipment. Again, I made a note of it and the names of the crew, and sure enough, it came out later "Master Corporal needed to be told the correct number of people to tow an aircraft safely". I had to refer to my notes to be able to refute those absurd statements, but without my notebook, I would have been sunk!
And its a darned good thing that I photocopied that notebook. I had to turn it over a dozen times, never to be seen again! As was the medical report that said my BMI was just fine for the athlete I clearly was. That report was supposed to be on my record, but every year when I was called in to review my record, I had to re-insert a copy of that deferment because it had somehow gone missing!
That summer, every single Master Corporal ended up on charge, heels together, hat under the arm. Not a court martial, but a lesser drum head trial called a "summary trial". Including me. And even now, years later, I still contend that another fellow did me in and wasn't man enough to admit it. My notebook was unaccountably silent for the time in question. Just rushing that day, didn't bother to write it all down. But...to avoid the Eye for two years was pretty good!
I can't say I enjoyed those four years, but it was the most intense four years of my life. The game was clearly laid out, and I was playing it pretty well. And from what I can tell from people who are still in, that the game is still being played much the same way, with much the same results. I am still not sure what I did to piss off so many people, but I THINK it was because I was always the loose cannon...the one they barely had control over. I don't have any hatred for those people...they just picked on the wrong guy, and I generally played better than they did....though sooner or later, you come to the proverbial "horse which never bin rode"*. They only have to win once....you have to win every time.
I guess the only thing that kept me going during that time was the old story about the Tsar and the Cossack. Seems the Cossack had been caught stealing the Tsar's horses and the Tsar sentenced him to death. "Wait, your majesty, wait....there is something you should know!" What is that? asked the Tsar. "If you spare my life, your majesty, although I have no treasure to give you, I can do one thing....and that is, I can teach your horse to talk". I see by the look on your face that you don't believe me! Well, you know, we Cossacks have a way with horses, and if you spare me for a year, I can teach your horse to talk!" Truly! Well, the Tsar spared the wiley cossack for a year, and forced him to live in the stables to spend every day teaching his horse how to talk. The stablehand saw him doing that, day after day, and scoffed "You can't teach a horse to talk!" The cossack answered...well maybe...but you see, I have bought myself a year. A lot can happen in a year. I might die, or the Tsar might die. Or maybe, just maybe...the horse will talk."
*(old cowboy quote..."aint never been a horse that never bin rode, aint never bin a rider that never bin throwed")
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The Bomarc was the choice of airframe for Northern Defense when the AV Roe Arrow project was cancelled.
The Arrow was the most technologically advanced fighter aircraft in the world....the project started in 1953 and was suddenly terminated six years later. It is hard to imagine such an advanced machine so early...a huge delta wing fighter with two huge axial flow engines in an era which was still rumbling propeller airliners traveling across the ocean!
This was the big Iroqois engine made at the Orneda plant. It was not the first axial jet engine, in fact, it wasn't the first anything, but it broke records for weight vs power which has not been exceeded even today. It never got installed in the Arrow....good thing since events overtook the project. Even with the less powerful test engines, the Arrow broke every record on its test flight. The only thing it could not pass would have been a gas station.
In 1957, the Canadian Conservative government was annoyed enough with the slow pace of development and the cost overruns (400%, steep by even government standards!) that they shut the project down. The leader of the project was so pissed off at the cancellation that he had all six completed airplanes brought out into the apron in front of the hanger and cut up into bits. His team of engineers and aircraft workers went on to Florida, to Cape Canaveral, to put a man on the moon. He actuated his golden parachute, and retired to the Muskokas. The Conservative government under John Diefenbaker was rocked by this scandal, and eventually fell.
Even now, 51 years later, I cannot forgive the people involved for their incredibly bad decisions. The government still paid the whole amount because of early termination penalties, so they saved zero money. The Bomarc missile sat idle for 30 years with US warheads on them guarding the permafrost, so Boeing made their pile. AV Roe restructured and became Avro, which still bids on repair contracts in Toronto, and Boeing took over their hangers to make airliner wings for about 40 years.
You can't prove a negative....maybe the Bomarc missile was the correct choice for the cold war, and its very threat was good enough to prevent the nuclear conflict we all worried about back then, or maybe it was not. Certainly the Arrow was not needed for defense. A few years later, Defense doctrine changed yet again, and we bought a bunch of used fighters from the States, which again, were never needed. But I can't help but wonder that if the AV Roe team of engineers had completed that contract, and gone on to other contracts, what Canada would have accomplished in the field of battlefield aviation.
Somehow fire fighting water bombers don't have the same romance.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Some 14 years ago, my Warrant Officer called me into his office to tell me that they were going to have to fire me for being too fat. Oh, the military has its own terminology, but that was the gist of it. Apparently, I had gone through the whole testing rigamarole, and they determined that my BMI was just too high, and that I was refusing the direct order to lose weight.
At the time, I was running five to 8 miles a day, mostly around the parking lot, the hangar floor, and the gym. So clearly the weight was not a handicap. In fact, because of the muscle being layered onto my shoulders and legs from all the exercise, I had reversed the weight loss trend and was in fact going back up in weight, though my BMI numbers were inching downwards. But they seemed to think that it was a problem...and who was I, a mere Master Corporal, to tell them otherwise?
The military is a funny organization...very much a nanny state. You are supposed to roll over and take what they shove at you and only squawk in approved ways. I take the road less traveled (of course) and therefore when they presented me with all the release documents and paperwork, I realized that "hey, this is for real". So I refused to sign the documents which would give me the easy way out, the ones that would have me leave quietly and under my own steam, and thought as fast as I could about how I could get out of this. Fists were pounding on the table about how I was "yet again refusing a direct order", and "its that kind of attitude which will get you in trouble." Actually this last line stung under the saddle a bit, and I retorted "You are firing me from my job. How much more trouble can I be in?" Apparently plenty, since I was heading for a court martial, which would mean pension implications as well as a "dishonorable discharge" on my record.
A D.D. ...for being 3 points too high on a BMI index. Well, stupider things have happened.
My answer at that point was "I have never refused a direct order in my life. I will sign these papers at the headquarters building. Thats about 7 miles away. I'll run there. You can jog along beside me, if any of you are still with me when I get there, I will happily sign any of these papers with no squawking or complaining!"
This provoked a bit of a silence since in actual fact, these guys were actually not "out to get me", but rather, were simply trying to impliment a stupid policy, and besides, not one of them could jog to their car in the parking lot let alone run to the headquarters building!
In the silence that followed I let the other shoe drop. "I'll take these documents to my lawyer and he will advise me on a course of action." I'll have his answer, and mine, on your desk tomorrow by close of play". Its amazing how eloquent I can be when the stakes are high!
Of course, you are not supposed to fight back. You are supposed to yell blue murder, and complain, and bitch, but to quietly ask for a lawyer....well....its just not done you know! That not fighting fair! The inner dialogue went something like this "Hey beeotch....thats my career yer farkin wit here! My mouthpiece will sort ya all out!", while the outer dialogue went something like "My lawer has asked to see any paperwork before I sign." Note that I didn't say "its my right" because of course a military member has no such rights.
The Warrent Officer looked at his Sergeant, and told me to get back out on the floor and fix something and they would look over the paperwork and decide what they were going to do with me. This wasn't over! But I had won that battle!
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Here I am demonstrating physics.
(click on the images to enlarge)
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Great Tits of England are adapting to global warming....
The whole story is here...
Monday, May 12, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Weekend Demo at the State University of New York. Not really spectacular, no swords n stuff, (homeland security is funny about furriners with weapons...grin!) but lots of armour and chain mail. I brought a nice anvil, and a few hammers and didn't do nearly enough work, instead I put all kinds of people into armour, chain, and had a lot of interested SUNY students swinging a hammer. It is in support of SUNY's medieval club, their "May Day" celebration. Nice club....and heavily supported in Potsdam by the local SCA group, providing a good "town-gown" continuity. Really good people there, need more support...more people to go down and help them with the armour and such. Certainly they need no assistance with the fighting...those fellas were awesome fighters! I put the "fighting" posts up on my armouring blog http://southtowerarmouringguild.blogspot.com
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008
You can see that they decorated this modern building rather nicely!
Difficult to take a picture with inadequate lighting, but fortunately, I can add some light to the picture. You can see how the lobby was transformed into a Ren Faire. My armour display is on the right, and the shiny floor really reflects the thousand ceiling lights really well.