31 December 2006

Why can't we have good anti-drunk commericals like this?

This was just too funny and I just wish we could have more commericals like this one showing up in the States. Instead we getting the sappy, tug at your heart type, that I have been seeing on TV for the past day and a half.


A short rerun

Back in April while digesting Rep. Charles Rangles attempt to push for a reintroduction of the draft. I did some digging around and found that the US DoD has been for the better part of twenty years doing demographics on the people in the military and covering everything from how old they are coming in, color of skin, to education, even what state they join up from (California is first followed by Texas). It is all put out here in the latest (if you consider 2002 latest) in the FY2002 Population Representation in the military services. I took some of this apart and looked hard at it and found some interesting stats that someone could use to challenge the debate that the military takes the poor, uneducated, colored masses from the inner city and thrusts them to be the cannon fodder for Americas wars. Read my break down in the post titled ""The demographics of the US Military or how anti-military folks have it wrong. "
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness then check out their military personnel policy page to look at a couple of the older studies going as far back as 1997.
Again just take a look at these demographic studies and look at how typical of the US in general the military is. Not at all like some of the rabid anti-military folks like to portray it to be. However they don't care about what the stats say only what the believe in their hearts to be true. That is military recruiters go through the inner cities promising college and tons of money to poor dumb kids and in turn force them to become the cannon fodder for rich white capitalists.
Oh well I and plenty of the other mil bloggers let alone the number of military folks out here right now know the truth about the type of people coming in and why they come in. Those on the outside don't or won't understand nor will they even attempt to understand and that is their lost.

A plane's history

I have to admit something right here and right now. I am an addict, I love playing war games. I have spent whole nights up doing nothing but drinking large amounts of soda (or beer) and eating pretzels or chips while sitting around with friends on a large card table and play games such as Harpoon, Rising Sun, Command at sea, Flat Top, or some of the old Fleet series of games by Victory Games. I also play computer war games. The two that I am most into right now are War in the Pacific and Uncommon Valour.
In playing some of the board games and even the computer games I became interested in the units involved and platforms, along with the history they were trying to represent.

One of the more interesting aircraft that I saw in these games and learned more information about was a little known plane called the Brewster Buffalo.

This is a controversial little plane. It was built by the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation to fill out a new US Navy fighter requirement of a monoplane that had an enclosed canopy, retractable gear, and wing flaps. This requirement came along in 1936. Now the US Navy has at times been behind the times when upgrading itself. Consider the fact that by 1936 the USAAC has just ordered to be built aircraft such as the P-35 and P-36 Hawk were being introduced and had superior performance to what was then the top of the line USN/USMC fighters the F3F

. Mainly because they were monoplane aircraft and along with superior engines were able to fly faster and maneuver better then the bi-planes that the Navy and Marines were using. So the Navy had to update itself. In turn when they put out the request they got three entries, the F2A from Brewster, the XF4F-1 by Grumman, and an entry by Seversky. The Navy picked the F2A since it had superior performance to the other two entries. Wait you say, what about the XF4F-2, didn't that become the famous F4F Wildcat? Yes and no. At the time Grumman was still pitching the XF4F-1 as a bi-plane and a further improvement of the FF-1 line and after the rejection Leroy Grumman took the drawings back to the plant in Bethpage and as they say the rest is history.
Back to the Buffalo's history. The Navy ordered production in 1937 and deliveries started to occur in June of 1939. The first squadron to receive it was VF-3 which flew off the USS Saratoga. They only received 11 of the initial production F2A-1's, it was found out during actual operations that the landing gear design was not up to snuff for the hard carrier landings that actual Naval Aviators were going to punish the plan with. After a few accidents and realizing that the anemic engine that was installed was also not powerful enough the Navy stopped production and ordered an improved model which was also supposed to have improved handling characteristics. The rest of the initial buy was instead sold to Finland to help the Finns during the Winter war. However the plane didn't arrive in time and was used to fill out holes in the Finnish Air Force.
The improved F2A-2 started to hit the fleet just after the War in Europe started. It filled out the ranks of the VF-2 on board the USS Lexington, VF-3 part of the USS Saratoga Air Group. However it was learned that as the Navy added more and more equipment to turn the plane into a war time fighter the more its performance was affected. The final version that was being used at the start of the World War 2 was the F2A-3. By this time the plane was realized to have major problems with its structure, mainly the landing gear which always seemed to collapse under a hard landing, again with additional armor and survival gear the plane was just too slow and maneuver to compete against planes such as the ME-109 or even the Japanese Nate and Claude which were being flown in the skies over China.

One of the more interesting trips that a bunch of Brewster Buffaloes took was an order of F2A-2's that were sold to Belgium just a few months before the war started, they were designated B-339 by the company. However, Belgium fell days after the majority that was on loaded on board cargo ship made a stop in England for fuel. So the British took the order instead tried a couple of them out against the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire before realizing that it just couldn't compete. So instead they sent them order to fill out the upgrade the RAAF and RNZAF in places such as Singapore, Rangoon, and other places in the British Commonwealth's Asian territories. So that they could free up Hurricanes and Spitfires for defense of India, Egypt, and the Home Islands. They preformed well in the hands of the RAF, RAAF, RNZAF pilots and where able to achieve a 2:1 kill ratio against the Japanese planes. The best pilot for them was a New Zea lander named, Geoff Fisken who became the highest scoring commonwealth pilot in the Pacific.

The other nation to use the Buffalo was the Dutch. They bough 144 copies of the F2A-2 and F2A-3 , also called the B-339C and B-339D. However they only got 71, which were mainly employed in defense of the Dutch East Indies. Which is now called Indonesia. Just after the war started with Japan. Some of these aircraft were pushed forward to help defend Singapore. After that fell they were used to some success by the Dutch pilots to defend Java, they were able to shot down 55 aircraft to a lost of only 30 of their own in aerial combat. Again almost a 2 to 1 ratio. But like rest of those early and dark days against the Japanese, they were basically a speed bump. Use to help buy time as the Allies could get caught up.

The USN had completely phased the F2A out of service by the time that the war had started. It was still being used by VF-2 and was actually on board the USS Lexington on December 7th after she had help deliver VMF-211 to Wake Island. VF-2 is famous for being composed almost completely of Naval Aviation Pilots. Enlisted members who were cleared to fly Navy aircraft. This was a way by the US Navy to get over congressional restrictions on Officers and aviators. VF-2 was known as the Flying Chiefs and they use to paint up their aircraft with a Chief NAP rating badge on the side of their aircraft. After the Lexington returned to Pearl following the attack on Pearl Harbor and VF-2 had all of their aircraft replaced with F4F-3's. The F2A's that were landed ashore were instead used to help fill out upgrading of Marine Units that were then flying in defense of the Hawaiian Islands.

Some of these aircraft were then pushed forward to help defend Midway Island. They were with VMF-221. However due to the inexperience of the Marine aviators and out dated tactics they had, lead to them being massacred by the more experience Japanese pilots. It was this incident that lead to the mythology about the plane being absolute dog in aerial combat.

The Finns were the other as I said to use the F2A and they use it well during defense of their lands from both the Soviets and the Germans at the height of World War 2. The Finns used the plane from 1941 till 1948. Even though by the late 40's they were shown to be completely outclassed by more modern fighters. It was Finish ingenuity and mechanical skill were able to correct some major reliability issues with the engine and portions of the airframe. They were also able to use this well enough to achieve almost a 20 to 1 or 26 to 1 kill ratio against German and Soviet aircraft. One of the top pilots in the Finnish Air Force was Hans Wind who achieved 39 of his 75 aerial kills in the Brewster B-339. He also pay attention to the results of the Battle of Midway use of the Buffalo and wrote the combat manual that the Finnish aviators were able to use on how to combat while flying the Buffalo.

Overall this was an airplane that was outclassed by the time the war started but was able to hold its own in combat with a well compent pilot.

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Views of Japan or how I spent my summer vacation.

So this past summer I spent time at a USMC airbase in Japan. It was interesting in a number of ways. We were billeted at a town called Iwakuni which is about an hour train ride from Hiroshima, or Hiro in local terms, and about 2 hours south of Sasebo where the amphibious forces were at that support 7th Fleet. There isn't that much to the down-town area of Iwakuni. Just a large shopping center around the train station and then homes and office building growing up from there. The biggest industry to Iwakuni is the heavy port and fishing.
We share the airbase with elements of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force naval air units. Of which are primarily P-3's and some rescue planes called the US-1 and finally some anti-mine helos based around the MH-53 that the US Navy uses. The US-1's are the ones that really impressed me the most, just at sun up at least 2-3 of them left and went out on missions and I wouldn't see anymore until about 1400 when the dawn patrol finally returned and the afternoon patrol went out. These things are huge, they look like an older flying boat that the US Navy use to have called the P5M Marlin but with turboprops instead of radial engines. Oh and the US-1 is an amphibian since it takes off and can land on the runway.
Living arrangements weren't that bad for us. It wasn't open bay, that was a temporary holding barracks until public works could find the keys for ours. However the showers were high school locker room style though. Just a bunch of shower heads sticking out of the tiled wall. On the other side of the room was a bench with some coat hooks above to hang your towel and shower kit on. Other then that there was 6 swinging johnsons out there. It became an issue of trying to get in and out in time with out scoping out anyone else. The only other issue for a few people was the cockroaches. These suckers were huge, at least 2 inches long. I remember standing watch as BPO a couple of times and see some of our females running out of a room because a couple of them came out of the walls to play. We got most of them cleaned up after a giving up a weekend to pull everything apart and get rid of all the eggs, food, and living relatives. I know that we can't beat the suckers but we did get it to the point that is was manageable. The only other thing that I could complain about was that the building wasn't wired for cable completely, so if you had a TV in your room you were lucky to be able to catch cable. Cable on a US military station overseas isn't much, in case you are wondering. One of my friends had a TV and had Cable. He got two local base channels, 5 AFN (Armed Forces Network) channels, and 2 local Japanese channels (and one of those was pretty static filled). The 2 local base channels weren't much one was like the community access channel back in the states it ran a scroll er of events and at 6am and 5pm would run about 30mins of base news from the local media guys. The other base channel was our own version of the weather channel. It constantly showed a map of the region with diagrams showing the fronts, then skip to the satellite views (both visual and radar), before running to a 7-day graphic. However, this had no audio beyond playing the local base radio station on the air, so you sort of had to guesstimate or wait for another graphic to show up before deciding what the weather was going to due. I just found it easy to look out my window and play it by ear.
AFRTS and AFN programming isn't that bad either you just don't get a chance to see commercials. Just propaganda commercials. These are things similar to talking about the history of a uniform item, explaining a right a military member has, or talking about general service history. They do this because the major production companies sell AFRTS as a well discounted service most some of the top 25 television shows to be shown overseas. I had seen AFRTS on the boat and was use to what they show. Basically they have 2 regular programming channels one for Europe and one for Asia. Then they have one dedicated just for sports sort of like the US military's version of ESPN but they use ESPN/NFL Network/MLB Network/Fox Sports and a NASCAR to show things such as baseball games and NASCAR races along with presenting sporting news. We also get just one all news channel which shows important shows from the major news networks along with the services own internal news programs. The funniest thing is depending on who was on top last year in the ratings games will depend on who was shown first in the morning of the three major morning shows. However we don't get 3 hours of it, rather a hour individually of GMA, Today, and This Morning. The same is true at for the nightly news shows, then they will show important news programs such as Bill O'Relliey, Larry King and 60 minutes. The final station that AFRTS provides is something similar to the generic syndication station on your cable dial. We get movies on it for about 75% of the time and at other times TV shows will pop up on the sucker.
The 2 local Japanese stations were split between one from Iwakuni itself and the other was coming from Hiroshima. We really didn't understand that much which was being explained on those stations. The only thing me and a couple of my friends use to watch those for was to catch the Hiroshima Carp games.

Hiroshima. I had a chance to go in town there and saw the museum and the atomic memorial. It was something that made me think for a little bit. Mainly about the horror inflicted by the use of the nuclear bomb on that city. The museum is really awe inspiring, it sits about a football field from ground zero and the first half of the museum has scale models of the city before along with panels up talking about the importance of Hiroshima from the days of Shoguns up to the military government in the 30's. They talked about the war and even had some of the monitoring equipment that was dropped that day which was recovered. From there after walking over a glass bridge to the other half of the museum. The other half of the museum talks about the human toll. There are bamboo dummies wearing clothes of school kids that were killed that day or days after words, pictures of the people suffering the burns, and stuff on a whole that makes people feel disgusted. It was too much of an American lady in one near one of the displays. She actually tosses her cookies all over the floor after looking at a display of a school girls clothes and hair, all the while while a TV near it showed a movie produced showing the progression of radiation sickness on her. The day I went which was a couple of weekends before the anniversary day. So the public park all around the museum and memorial were only slightly full of various protest groups looking for people to sign their petitions outlawing nuclear weapons and had signs up about North Korea. I was told by a local guy on the base that on August 6th that park fills up with all sorts of people coming to pray and protest about the bombing. He said it reminded him of something similar to the 4th of July celebration in the States.
North Korea god what a mess. The day I show up they were making noise about launching missiles and with in a couple of days they did launch a couple of missiles. That same day we drew our field gear from the air wing supply folks. The field gear for in case we went into the field in some place such as Korea. We drew a ton of stuff too, things that at the time didn't make sense like 3 sets of thermals and a couple fleece tops. It was the high point of summer when I was there. Anyhow, the Korean thing was the constant item on the front page of all the newspapers on the base and on the all the local Japanese news (which I started to learn how to decipher with the help of a bar keeper). We had people in the squadron that were afraid of what was going on. The best part was explaining that even if we did deploy there it would probably be at an Air Force base and sort of being living some what high off the hog since we would start to draw all sorts of additional pay. Let alone probably be living in USAF barracks. Even if we did have to live in tents they would be nice tents. Similar to portable class room size, which is even still more room then what the boat would provide. The biggest downsize would be running around in MOPP gear. Anyhow, none of that came to pass and at least for me I kept a little pot cooking in the back of my mind to know how to build up a box to ship home of crap I didn't need if I did have to go to war.
The only thing to worry about besides the Koreans was typhoons. Because it was the summer and the summer in the Western Pacific is typhoon season, just like it is hurricane season on the gulf coast. We were indoc'ed into the Tropical Cyclone conditions and warnings with in days of us arriving. So every so often we had to listen to a commercial on the AFRTS radio station again explaining what those conditions were and what our jobs were supposed to be. Basically were were to take cover with our body armor on and then after the all clear was given go out and clean up. Almost similar if the base came under attack, hmmm. So except for a bunch of close calls that just gave us a ton of rain we didn't have a that much to worry about. Then when it comes close to us leaving we get word that depending on how quickly a bunch of High pressure over the Sea of Japan and Okinawa collapse a typhoon was coming straight for us. The talk went from what we were going to do for the weekend, to what we were supposed to due for this cyclone thingy. I spent part of the night up because of nerves, but also because everyone else was up. The hardest thing to deal with was that 2 days before the base quit selling liquor, otherwise myself and few other people would of started a hurricane party. Through out the night we listened to the local radio station and ate what food we had in our rooms, let alone tried to keep ourselves entertained. In the end this typhoon came close and then hit a couple of islands near Kyushu and made a bee line for the Koreas. So it basically ended up being a bunch of rain and wind. Which coming from the Seattle area I had grown up use to.

Those are my glimpses of Japan and basically how I spent my summer vacation. It was almost like a 3 month port visit with some of the rules, but if I had the chance I would try and come back to the area. Those this time with a Navy command under a Navy chain of command. I also know this long and scatterbrained, but I am writing it down as I remember it. My mind is scatter brained at times.

30 December 2006

A cool couple of Christmas gifts

As the song goes it is another Saturday Night, I just got paid, and don't have a girl on arm. So I am sitting at home taking care of bills and watching a couple videos that I got from my parents as a kid. The first one is a bunch of Popeye the Sailor cartoons produced after the war by Famous Studios. These are ones that I remember watching on a saturday morning with a bowl of cereal in front of me and getting excited to see the hero win the day. I was a big fan of Popey to the point that when shopping with my mom in the supermarket when we got to the can veggies aisle I would ask for the Popeye Spinach, then after getting home I would try to eat some and squeeze the can with my muscles. Didn't seem to work though. I am still a fan of Popeye Spinach. Though the only thing as I am now older I don't get is how Popeye or Bluto were interested in such a plain jane of a girl as Olive Oyl.
Oh and I am still a big fan of Popeye the Sailor. In fact a poster store near where I live right now is selling a carboard standups of the whole Popeye crew. Now if I could I just find a hundred dollars to get them all. Maybe I will just have to settle with having the Popeye.
The other cool gift that I got with that was a table top book of the "Thimble Theater" drawn by E.C. Segar. These are reprints of all the dailies and Sunday stripes in chronological order from the introduction of Popeye in 1929 up to 1930. These are awesome. Seeing how Popeye was initially introductions as a bit player in a story line of Olive Oyl's brother Castor Oyl attempt to take a lucky bird called the Whiffle bird to a casino and win all the money there. I didn't realize this until I read the introduction this book that until the introduction of an alien vistor from another planet in the comic books. That Popeye was the biggest superstar on the comics pages and the one that most kids wanted to be like. E.C. Segear also had a funny sense of humor. Just for your knowledge the family of Oyl as laid out in a couple of the comics is: Olive Oyl, Castor Oyl (her brother), Cole Oyl (Oyl patrarch), Cylinda Oyl (Olive's Cousin), Lubry Kent Oyl (Cole's Brother), Nana Oyl (Olive's Mother). Nearly all of the Oyl family's names are a play on some sort of oyl...I mean oil.

The other cool gift that I got was a DVD filled with all of the Fleischer studio productions of Superman. I was also a big fan of Superman, having grown up to Christopher Reeves playing him in the movies and seeing such shows again on the Saturday morning TV of the "Super Friends" and the "Batman and Superman Hour".
Anyhow, these Superman cartoons produced in the early 40's are just so cool to watch and the animation is awesome. Such life like drawings and some of the things that the Fleischer crew were able to do, I think give Disney at the same time a run for thier money. I would recommend folks that if you have a chance to watch these Fleischer Superman cartoons you take the chance or if you see a DVD of them in the budget bin at the local movie store or electronics warehouse. Though I will warn you this some of these cartoons were designed in the early part of the war years and some of them show racial sterotypes and eptiaphs towards the Germans and Japanese.

What is really intersting to me is how much two of my favorite heroes as a kid were almost exactly similar to each other exept that Popeye didn't wear a cape or could fly. Even cooler was how the Fleischer studios did Popeye in the Cartoons as well through out the early 30's and through to the middle of the World War 2 before being bought out by Paramount and being folded into thier in house cartoon studio Famous Studios. Now I just wish that the Fleischer Popeye cartoons could be released on DVD and not be bootlegs off TV or copies of copies like I have seen for sale some places.

So here is to a couple of my heroes! They are still keeping me entertained and believing in the ideals of the America even if real life supposed heroes fail me.


22 December 2006

Sorry for the delay folks

Sorry for the delay folks. Been tied up with trying handle life and work. What is really funny was that upon return from the land of Nippon. I spent more time away doing my part to support various maintenance dets that few days I was home was spent catching up with my creditors (the only people that I think love me or is it my money?) and the dust bunnies that live and breed under my couch. Got to love being a highly qualified person in a high demand, low density (to use the latest buzz word in the community) platform. So hopefully the flood gates will being opening up for my writing to this blog. It unfortunatly fell off to one of those low pri items during catch up.