Sunday, August 29, 2021

Inadvertent aircraft crashes

Apropos of someone referring to the XB-29's crash into Frye's meat packing plant in Seattle in 1943 . . . 

Although I'm a retired Boeing Engineer, it was only during the last tiny sliver of time I was employed as an engineer that I actually worked for Boeing, it having purchased McDonnell Douglas only a short time before I departed.  Working for Douglas and McDonnell Douglas I was involved in a lot of government proposals in competition with Boeing.  Boeing was always the enemy.  No hard-feeling apparently.  They regularly deposit handsome amounts of retirement money in my credit union account. 

I have no recollection of the XB29 crash in 1943, for reasons you indicate, but even if the newspaper accounts were more forthcoming, I was only nine years old and much more interested in what the Marine Corps was doing in various Pacific Islands. 

A mere ten years after that crash I was in Korea, and for the Marine Corps, and probably the other branches of our military, our equipment hadn't been improved since World War II.  One of my jobs while the Korean War was still going on was to drive a Jeep to the nearby Air Force base, get a copy of their bombing intentions for the evening and return with it to our base in Kunsan.  Someone at the Air Force base was paranoid about sabotage and so had their B-26's located close together in order for them to be more easily guarded.  One evening we saw a brilliant light coming from the direction of the Air Force base.  We soon learned that one of the B-26's exploded for a reason I don't recall (if I ever knew) and because it was so close to another B-26's, that aircraft exploded also.  That went on until all the B-26's were destroyed, and there were no more bombing runs, at least from the Air Force Base in Kunsan, for a while.  I sent a couple of letters back home asking if anyone had heard about the B-26 explosions and no one had.  It was easier to keep secrets back then.

I couldn't remember which bombers exploded, thought they might have been B-29s and so checked Wikipedia:   They apparently had no B-29s there in 1953, only B-26Bs.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

What Help's Creativity


"What helps creativity?"

Creativity is indeed tricky.  So many of the novels I'm encountering seem largely autobiographic in nature.  If you are just saying what happened, is it creative?  Perhaps the autobiographic story is cleverly and attractively arranged.  Is it not then a product of genius and creativity?  One thinks of poor Thomas Wolfe excoriated by Bernard Devoto:    

It was during his tenure as editor of the Saturday Review that DeVoto produced one of his most controversial pieces, "Genius is Not Enough," a scathing review of Thomas Wolfe's The Story of a Novel, in which the novelist recounted his method of writing his autobiographical Of Time and the River, as essentially submitting undigested first drafts to be transformed into finished work by others.[4] According to DeVoto, Wolfe's writing was "hacked and shaped and compressed into something resembling a novel by [his editor] Mr. Perkins and the assembly-line at Scribners."[5] Although in passing acknowledging Wolfe's genius, DeVoto excoriated his lack of artistry, "Mr. Wolfe ... has written some of the finest fiction in our day. But a great part of what he writes is not fiction at all: it is only material with which he has struggled but which has defeated him." "Until Mr. Wolfe develops more craftsmanship, he will not be the important novelist he is now widely accepted as being." DeVoto's essay was a decisive factor in Wolfe's subsequent cutting ties with Scribners and editor Maxwell Perkins shortly before his death in 1938[6] and had a devastating effect on Wolfe's posthumous literary reputation."

Alas, Wolfe never had a chance to follow DeVoto's advice, instead dying at age 37 in 1938 of miliary tuberculosis.  

Since I left the Marine Corps for it, I took college seriously.  I didn't feel a need to go to a major University since I mistrusted them all (something I got from my grandmother but can't remember exactly what).  Wolfe was treated with disdain in some class I took; so I decided to read him on my own.  I read Of Time and the River and You Can't go home again -- huge time-consuming works.  I was entertained by them, but also read DeVoto's comments, and so ended up not having an opinion of my own.  Thinking about Wolfe now, didn't the same thing happen to T. S. Eliot?  Eliot wrote a voluminous Waste Land and had it whittled into a masterpiece by Ezra Pound.  One doesn't hear a DeVoto-type criticism of that. 

Where is the novelist or poet who doesn't write autobiography?    I suppose poets and novelists who have a political ax to grind don't write autobiography, but writing for a political end was at least at one time consider the most heinous sin against creativity.

Afterthought:  I didn't mean that all novelists wrote autobiography, but I seem to have encountered quite a lot of autobiography in novels considered "serious," and perhaps I haven't been as impressed by them as though who publish them.  

Monday, August 9, 2021

Not my first rodeo --RIP


 "Not my first rodeo" is a common expression nowadays.  Each time I hear it, I think of Bill Salois, a fellow Marine.  We were stationed together in Korea and while we weren't in combat, he made do by challenging someone to fight each time he got drunk.  He was part Black Foot Indian and got drunk much before I did.  I was a lot stronger than he was and so, as these "fights" developed would let him fight until he was losing, split he and his oponent-for-the-night apart, declare the fight a draw and haul him off. 

His father had a ranch in Montana.  He proposed that after we got out of the Marine Corps we start our own ranch.  "With what money?" I asked. 

"That won't be a problem," he said.  "We can pick up all the money we need in rodeos."

"I've never been in a rodeo," I warned him.

"That won't be a problem either.  It's easy."

I had my doubts about that.  We were sent to different duty stations after we got back from Korea.  Then I decided to go to college, etc., etc.   While I was in college, he had another Marine look me up.  He hadn't utterly given up the ranch idea, but I had. 

I looked him up on the internet and found:

William 'Bill' Salois

William "Bill" Salois, 68, died Dec. 29, 2001, at IHS of cancer.

Funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 1 at Little Flower Parish with burial in East Glacier Cemetery.

He was born Dec. 2, 1933, worked in construction and was self-employed. He served in the U.S. Marines and was a Korean War veteran.

Surviving are his wife, Shannon; daughters, Kerrie Salois, Dale Rae Salois and Dee Omsberg; sons, John Salois, Will Salois and Gabe Salois; and five grandchildren.

Day Family Funeral handled arrangements.


I wasn't surprised that he died at age 68 from cancer.  We all smoked back in Korea and he probably never gave it up.  We all drank beer as well.   Beer isn't necessarily life-shortening, but if he kept picking fights it might well have been in his case.

I note that his obituary doesn't say he was a rancher.  It says he worked in "construction and was self-employed."  That could mean almost anything.

He had a lot of kids and I did find reference to his boys having entered rodeos.  "Easy money?" I still doubt it.


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Flying, motorcycling, and Jeeps


After retirement, I planned to buy a Jeep Cherokee.  I never considered the Wrangler inasmuch as at the time it had a canvas top and was too open to leave at trail heads while I took my dogs hiking.  But in 2002 when I was in a position to buy a Jeep, the Cherokee had been replaced by the Liberty.  In Europe this replacement was called the new Cherokee model, but here in the U.S. for a reason I can't recall, the name was changed to "Liberty." 

Earlier, in Aerospace, there was a new management technique in play.  Those of us on the C-17 were sequestered (not the right word since it was a huge facility) with our own assembly-line and told to make a success out of the C-17 or fail, lose our jobs, and have our plant put up for sale. 

Subsequently, the same technique was used on the Liberty.  Engineers and workers were inspired to do their very best.  The 2002 model was the result, and after all these years it has behaved almost flawlessly.  It is built well enough, if one has added all the off-road options (and I did that) to tackle the most difficult Jeep trails.   

The C-17, as well, has behaved flawlessly, taking troops to and from more battle-fields than the trailheads I've taken my Jeep to.

But I did considered a new Jeep when my son's 2003 Chevy Trailblazer which has 150,000 miles on it developed a few problems beyond his means to repair.  I considered giving him my Jeep and buying a new one for myself.  However, after much anguish I backed away from that plan and decided I would have my local mechanic fix his Trailblazer's problems and keep my old Jeep.  Whatever the cost it would be less than buying a new jeep, and it would enable me to avoid any befuddlement caused by a new Jeep's features. 

As to your motorcycling and its proverbial dangers.  I have over the years had many friends and relatives ask me whether I thought they should buy a motorcycle.  The key consideration I told them was their "accident-proneness."  They knew whether they were accident-prone or not.  If they were, they shouldn't buy a motorcycle.  They had to have excellent reflexes and believe that they could ride day in and day out and never make a serious mistake.  Also, they should never insist that they had the right-of-way -- regardless of what the motor-vehicle brochure told them.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

On flying and motorcycling


    The New Yorker has categories for all its contents.  In the August 2nd, 2021 issue under the category "Personal History" I read "Flight Plan, When a marriage is up in the air" by Ann Patchett. 

    Ann Patchett's husband, Karl VanDevender, is a doctor who loves to fly.  Before they were married, he bought a motorcycle.  She looked out her front door at it and said she was going to start smoking again.  In a huff he got on his motorcycle and returned home, which was three blocks away.  He skidded in the ice in front of his house and the motorcycle fell on top of him.  With difficulty he got out from under it.  Ann feared motorcycles.  Next came airplanes, and last was boats although Karl went on a voyage with friends in an 80 foot boat and encountered some life-threatening heavy weather. 

    She writes, "When Karl and I met, in 1994, he was divorced and had a 1976 Beechcraft Bonanza, a model commonly referred to as 'the doctor killer' because the plane was so streamlined that it was hard to control.  'Doctors have enough money to buy them,' Karl said. 'But they aren't good enough pilots to fly them.'"  Karl, thanks to early training with his father, was a good enough pilot.

    "The Bonanza he bought had been on the cover of American Bonanza Society Magazine, he'd been told.  He loved that plane, then loved it less, then sold it.  Later, he bought a 1962 Piper Comanche (loved, loved less, sold), followed by a 1982 Beechcraft Sundowner, and then a 1959 Cessna 175 -- each one a gorgeous piece of junk.  They were the kinds of planes that compelled other pilots to stride across the tarmac and offer their congratulations. The planes Karl had were the planes that other men wanted.  They would have been real bargains, too, except that the Comanche needed a whole new engine.  The 175 needed a new propeller.  The Bonanza needed new gas tanks, which meant that the wings had to be taken apart.  The new gas tanks and the wing-panel removal and replacement cost as much as he'd paid for the plane.  Then it also needed a new engine. . ."

    Over in aerospace, if one were a self-respecting engineer, one gravitated toward airplanes or sailboats.  In my case I knew better than to develop an interest in flying.  I have a terrible sense of direction.  I imagined being to able to take off and land, but flying into clouds, coming out, and having to figure out where I was and which direction I ought to be flying was beyond me. 

    So I gravitated toward sailing.  My first sailboat, a 14-foot West Wight Potter, was mostly a platform for free-diving.  The Potter was designed for rough-weather sailing in the North Sea.  But I discovered it to be unacceptably sluggish in the usually lighter California winds.  But it was a satisfactory diving platform.  Also my kids liked it, and then later on Susan liked it, but like Ann Patchett's husband, I sold it and bought a Catalina 22, a boat designed for Southern California sailing.    I would have probably gone on like Ann's husband with bigger and better sailboats, but Susan's illness but an end to that. 

    Back to motorcycles:  Over the years I encountered many people who while not being motorcyclists themselves, would warn me about how dangerous they were.  Susan's mother, Ruth, once chastised me for putting her daughter in danger, although I once gave Ruth a ride home on the back of one and she enjoyed it thoroughly.  There was one time however, when a semi-truck moved into my lane without signalling and I was forced to put my motorcycle down against a curb to avoid being struck.  I ruined the front tire and wheel and had to walk my motorcycle home.  Susan was sick in bed when I told her what had happened and burst into tears.  She had never before imagined that I might be killed on a motorcycle. 

    Ann Patchett also seemed to worry most when Karl was flying by himself.  She writes, "At some point, I'd had a revelation; it would be better for him to die in a plane than to keep talking about whether or not to get a plane.  That isn't exactly a joke.  At his worst, Karl was like a sad parakeet sitting on a swing in a cage year after year.  It was unnatural."

    "Karl was seventy when we bought the Cirrus.  The plane had a fixed landing gear.  Karl told me that it was prohibitively expensive for pilots over seventy to be insured for planes with retractable landing gear, because pilots over seventy didn't always remember to put the landing gear down."

    I gave my Yamaha XV920 to my son when I retired at age 64.  Although I was good at it, I didn't enjoy riding as much as Karl enjoyed flying.  Besides, when Susan became too ill to work, I got her a Rhodesian Ridgeback to be her companion while I was at work.  Part of getting the Ridgeback for her involved taking responsibility for his exercise.  I took care of that by jogging with him as soon as I got home from work. 

    At some point I no longer regretted not having a sailboat or a motorcycle.  My 2002 Jeep Liberty is in excellent condition and will take us to places where we can hike -- when the weather cools -- and if my gimpy leg doesn't cause me too much trouble.  I am sad-parakeetish about not having hiked in a long time, but am thankful that until that happens I have an excellent library and a fondness for using it.  Karl (at 73) doesn't seem to have that alternative although Ann (at 57) will when she gets older.

    In the days when I was traveling back and forth to work, down between the lanes on my Yamaha, I would make a concession and take one of our cars if I wasn't feeling at the top of my game.  After retiring, when I woke not feeling so well, I would say "if I were still working, I would not take the motorcycle this morning."  Karl at 73 presumably wouldn't take his Cirrus to visit his mother in Meridian if he weren't feeling at the top of his game.  He no doubt will relax and day-dream on his flights.  I didn't have that luxury on the motorcycle. 

    I occasionally think about buying a more-modern Jeep, but I've been using mine since 2002 and know all its idiosyncrasies.  The "improvements" I would encounter in a new Jeep might, I fear, find me occasionally "forgetting to put the gear down."