Saturday, July 14, 2012

3574 The 648th

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Everyone takes the limits of their own vision for the limits of the world.
-- Schopenhauer --


This post will be of interest mainly to my sister.  I'm posting here rather than writing her an email so I can keep the links handy for myself, too.

A while ago another blogger mentioned the "Endless Mountains" in northeastern Pennsylvania.  I was in high school in that area when the contest was run to name the mountains (which are not mountains at all, but an eroded plateau).  I searched the internet to see if I could get any information on why that was the winning entry (we all thought it was a stupid and arrogant choice), but the contest isn't mentioned anywhere.

However, I did stumble on a lot of info on the 648th Radar Squadron, Benton AFS.  Seems like a lot of alumni of the base want to remember the place - unbelievable, but true.

(For those reading this who are not my sister and don't already know, the base was on top of Red Rock mountain, next door to Ricketts Glen State Park, in a deserted and man-forsaken section of northeastern  Pennsylvania.  That's where I lived through high school.  It's isolated with a capital "I", with some of the worst weather anywhere.  We actually had an Independence Day picnic cancelled one year because it snowed.)

What I've found:

Wikipedia entry:

Unit page (sorta like ""), 20 members, plus me - I joined so I could see the roster and read the notes.  Nobody there I remember.  There's an email address in the notes for some guy who is looking for information on commanders, history, etc.  If you have info, Sister, maybe you could contact him?

Wilkes Barre "Times Leader" article on the history.

The most interesting pages:,+PA
Has links to photos (snork!  I've got better ones!  Maybe if I can locate them, I'll send them.) and all kinds of info, including a roster of 80 people who had been stationed there (including email addresses for most).    80 isn't many, considering that at any one time there were at least 200 men stationed there, and they rotated in and out every two to four years for twenty-five years.  The list does not include:
Lt. Burchard (on whom I had the worst crush)
Sgt Joe Prevost
Sgt Giddens
Sgt Obie Philpot
Maj Warren Munson
Airman Tom Nichols
Our father, who was head radar honcho and commander for most of that period!  He was the first radar officer when the base opened in 1951, and was off and on associated with the base for the next umpteen years, including as commander.  But nobody remembers him?**

There are a lot more missing whose names I can't recall, but if I saw them on the list I'd recognize the names.  There's a button for adding names, but I hesitate to add any because I'm not sure of dates, first names, functions, ranks, and so on.  I think people have been adding themselves and their friends.

By the way, I'm pretty sure it was Daddy who designed that early emblem with the bat.  The really ugly one that embarrassingly displays no understanding whatsoever of a bat's anatomy. 

So, Sister, do you remember anyone else who was there and is not on the list?  Are there any on the list you'd like to contact?  Know a guy named Dave Schwartz whose father was stationed there (his email can be found at

I also found this bit of special interest at  It's a bit more detailed than the item you, Sister, had sent me about the same topic.  Since few people follow links, I'm incorporating it verbatim:


BENTON AIR FORCE STATION --I retired from the Air Force in 1990 as a Chief Master Sergeant. I was on the SAC Nuclear Disablement Team for many years. We would respond to any incidents/accidents or problems with nuclear weapons. I know of an incident that occurred on March 5, 1965, at Benton Air Force Station, Red Rock, Pennsylvania. Benton was part of the Air Defense Command Interior Radar Defense Zone. Two radar technicians (one being my brother) were repairing the height finder radar antenna located northeast of the 648th Radar Squadron site. An "object" described by my brother as being a small saucer shaped object landed nearby. The two technicians decided to investigate. As they approached the saucer, a beam of light came out and struck both technicians. That was the last they could remember, and they failed to report to their command post. Air Policeman went to search for the two technicians, but they could not be found. All their tools and equipment were located near the antenna they were fixing. The Pennsylvania State Police were alerted and a search of the area began. Sixteen hours later, a state trooper found the two technicians walking on Route 487 about 10 miles from the site south of Lopez. The two technicians seemed dazed and were transported to a hospital in Williamsport. They were examined and found to be dehydrated and confused. No alcohol or drugs were found in their system. They were later transferred to an Air Force Hospital at Stewart AFB, NY. Trace amounts of alpha radiation were found on their clothing and strange marks were discovered on their necks.
Special Agents from the Office of Special Investigations interviewed the technicians. They related their story up to the point of the beam of light. They could not remember anything after that. A psychiatrist wrote in the report that each technician experienced something they could not fully explain! They both spent two weeks in the hospital and were released back to their unit. My brother was reexamined at the Air Force Psychiatric Center, Sheppard AFB, TX in 1966. During a session with an Air Force psychiatrist, the doctor asked him if he thought he was abducted by extraterrestrial visitors! That was the first time anyone ever mentioned a UFO connection to my brother. My brother thought the Air Force knew. He told me years after the incident, he had nightmares about creatures poking instruments into his eyes, ears, and mouth. My brother served out his tour and was honorably discharged. He went onto college and worked for Boeing Aircraft Corporation until he retired in 1994. He won't speak about the incident. Thanks to CMSgt. Walter.
You do know that Daddy had been working on Project Blue Book during that period he was at Wright-Patterson?


**Actually, I did meet someone once who did remember Daddy.  When Jay and I went to Daughter's graduation from Penn State, we stayed at a B&B in Bellefonte.  The host asked where we were from, and when I said I had grown up on Red Rock, we learned that we both had been there at the same time.  He'd been an airman.  When I told him who my father was, his face darkened, and he said, "I hope you don't mind, but I have to say, your father was a tough SOB.  A royal bastard."  I said, "Yeah.  I know.  I can show you scars."

Friday, July 13, 2012

3573 Sense

Friday, July 13 (Eek! Friday the thirteenth!), 2012

"Realistic" and "afraid of failing" do not mean the same thing.


Wow.  Really think about that green quote.  It can be interpreted and applied several different ways, all instructive.


I'm reading a book of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which includes "The  Curious Case of Benjamin Button".  In that story, I found the following sentence:  "In addition, Benjamin discovered that he was becoming more and more attracted by the gay side of life."

I can't help wondering what today's youth make of that.

Fitzgerald uses the word "gay" at lot, in the 1930s "carefree fun" sense.  It has completely lost that meaning now.  Also, I wonder what younger folks make of the expression "social intercourse".  Do they think it means friends with benefits?


Hal, the BMW, "threw a code" the other day.  Ever since they put computers and sensors in cars, my cars have "thrown codes" with scary indicator lights which required a trip to a service bay, pretty regularly, it seems.  They tell us that the purpose of the sensors is to warn us of problems before they get big enough to damage the cars.

Yeah.  Uh-huh.

I'm ready to yell "BULL POOPY!" to that.  It seems to me that the sole purpose is to create service business, because not once, ever, has the sensor indicated a real problem!  In every single case, without exception, it has been diagnosed as a "bad sensor", which gets replaced.

I think we're getting ripped off.  You'd think that if the sensors were doing any good, in the past twenty years they'd have come up with better ones that didn't crap out and cry wolf all the time. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

3572 Rant on a very scary platform

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What you think, you become.
-- Buddha --


I know a few people who are worried about Sharia law creeping into US courts.  Well, if that worries you, don't look at your Muslim neighbors - look at Texan Republicans.  The Christian Taliban is here, and it's centered in Texas.

The Texas Republican Platform is downright scary.  It hates everybody, especially gays and people of non-northwestern-European extraction.  It wants a very high national sales tax (something like 25%?) instead of an income tax.  (Note that rich people spend a much smaller percentage of their income on taxable goods than poor people, so that the burden of a high sales tax falls most heavily on those who can least afford it.) If you can't afford health care, and can't manage to keep a full-time job with a company that provides it, then you obviously don't deserve to live.  It guts education budgets.  Lots of scary stuff. 

From the platform (the link is mine, and the red is my emphasis):
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification)[Silk note -], critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority"
{Note - since the furor, they have claimed the "critical thinking" part is an error - note that it's still there - but they stand by the "challenging the student's fixed beliefs (a buzz word for indoctrination?) and undermining parental authority" part.}

They want to stick to teaching only rote facts, and their approved "facts" only.  They want to raise a generation of children who cannot think logically and critically, who have actively been taught not to think for themselves.  Well, of course.  People who are taught to obey authority and not think logically and critically for themselves are much easier to control.

Fiendishly clever.  Dumb down the populace, discourage critical thinking, teach them to believe what they are told by the authorities (while your own children go to private schools in Switzerland or even Canada), then you can control them, and they will like it!  They'll even think you're taking care of them.

Turn them all into sheeple. Good little sheeple.

Louisiana school textbooks are also in the news.   They have been reducing school budgets, too.  They really want to change from public schools to all private (read that as conservative Christian) schools, run on a voucher system.  Yeah, Christian, and ideally only Christian religious schools.  Jewish and non-sectarian schools are finding it difficult to get approved for the vouchers, let alone Muslim schools. (An aside - is that even constitutional?  Vouchers is still tax money.)

There are three publishers of textbooks approved for those schools, and those books are ridiculous.  For example, one of the books teaches that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons. Another claims that the Loch Ness Monster is real, and has been proven to be a pleisosaur (even the Scots are laughing at that).  Therefore, since man and dinosaurs are currently coexisting, this conclusively disproves evolution.


Do they even know what the theory of evolution says? Do they have any concept of what it means to "prove" or "disprove"? Are they aware that there are many living dinosaurs, near-dinosaurs, and dinosaur-era flora and fauna all over the place? Like the coelacanth? Alligators and crocodiles? Cockroaches? Ginko trees? Ferns? Bacteria? Oh, foo. I forgot - we're not allowed any logic or critical thinking.

I almost wish the south would just secede again.  You know, I think the north would just let them go this time.

There's commentary on the topics of the Texas Republican Platform and Louisiana textbooks all over the internet.  The weekend's coming.  Take some time to do some reading.  The US is becoming the laughingstock of the world.

Something to think about: What other countries oppress people's thought processes and allow ingorance to continue, with the approval and support of the government? 

The answer is frightening.


It's best if you look up stuff yourself, but if you're unfamiliar with the use of search engines, here's a start:

3571 Throwing out books

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Everything we ever buy is either an investment or a liability.


Every time I go to the country house I am overwhelmed by stuff, like, oh, say, the books.  I have literally thousands of books.    It has to be close to or over 5,000 books.  I am absolutely not bringing them all down here.  Maybe a few hundred of the best - the valuable ones, the ones I want to read again, the ones I haven't read yet, and a few of the reference books (like the Black's law dictionary, oriental rug and vintage jewelry guides, the encyclopedia of needlework, etc. - ones that address stuff the internet isn't as good at).   But I was stumped as to what to do with the rest.  There's just so many, and I couldn't bear the thought of throwing them out.

Then I read this:   She's a librarian.  She throws out books.  At the link she describes why they are no good for donation, and her criteria.

She has given me reasons and courage.  I'll pick out what I want to keep, a few sets and modern bestsellers I'll sell, then open the rest to vultures.  Anything left over after vultures have picked through I think I can throw out without too much pain.  Hey, vultures didn't even want them.

3570 Being evil

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Some people are energized by conflict.  If you aren’t, you will always lose if you play by their rules.


Search hits:

I've got four posts (out of several thousand) that get repeated search hits.  In the fall and winter, the one on  how to pronounce Ashokan gets several hits per week, sometimes several a day.  Why fall and winter?  I don't know.  In the spring and early summer it's the one about tiny ants, again multiple hits per week, lately several per day.  Why spring and summer is obvious.  Year-round it's the one about the odd error message, maybe two hits a week.

The only other one that shows noticeable activity is the brain cancer timeline.

No one ever leaves a comment on any of them.  "Gee, thanks for the info" would be nice. 

Now I'm chuckling evilly to myself, because future searches for those terms will land them here, where I say nothing about those topics. Notice I didn't include links.  Snork.


A "game" I never understood:

Telephone.  Where someone starts a sentence or two and it's whispered from person to person around the circle, and at the end it's very different.  The times I've participated it was presented as "an illustration of how gossip gets distorted in the telling".

Bull poopy.  The times I was in the circle it did not illustrate how gossip was honestly distorted.  It was an illustration of how people will perversely TRY to distort information.  They cheat.  Always, in every case, the person who whispered it to me purposely mumbled, spoke super quickly, and ran words together at an unnecessarily low and breathless volume.  It pissed me off because it was obvious that they were trying to make sure I didn't hear it. 

It would be more illustrative of the purpose if everyone in the circle could honestly say they'd tried to pass it clearly.  Then it would be a surprise that it still got distorted.


Word confusions:

Along with loose/lose, sight/site, and all those others, add wander/wonder and in tact/intact.

At least four times in the past few days I've come across "professional" writers describing people as "wondering around" when they are walking aimlessly.  Hey, they aren't even pronounced the same.

I'm getting tired of people describing something which is unbroken as being in tact.  I should be grateful it's not "in tacked" I guess.

The telephone game is nothing.  Soon people won't understand each other at all.  Or worse, THINK they do when they don't.


How childhood misunderstandings get stuck:

I was washing dishes and stacking the rinsed dishes in the drainer to air dry.  I was less than 8 years old - not sure how old, really.  My mother noticed I was rinsing them with cold water.  She got angry at me and said, "Cold water!  They'll NEVER dry!" and grabbed a dishtowel and started to dry them, slamming things around angrily.

That stuck.

It's stuck in my head now that if things get wet with cold water, they'll never dry.  Of course I know better now, but logic doesn't count. I think of it every time I wash dishes, rinse clothes, step in a puddle, get splashed by the garden hose, take a bathing suit off.  I'm still afraid they'll never dry, and there's a faint residual fear of mold.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

3569 Kindle Battery Fix.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Don't wait. Patience isn't a virtue, it's a plague.


There seems to be a common problem with Kindle batteries.  They die.

When I first started using my Kindle, the battery lasted a very long time, like for weeks, even if I didn't turn it off but just let it go to sleep between uses.  Over the past few months, it's been getting very bad.  Now I have to charge it morning and night, and it's useless to take it with me anywhere I'll be waiting, because it will likely die in the waiting room.

Worse, if the device decides there's not enough power for WiFi (which eats the battery, so I keep it off) it won't start WiFi when you want it, which means you can't download any new books.  Even while mine is ON THE CHARGER! the WiFi won't start.

I searched both online and the info book that came on the Kindle.  It seems to be a common complaint.  The cure is Home->Menu->Settings->Restart.

Surprise.  My Kindle doesn't have a Restart under Settings. I bought it new for like 1/3 the regular price when the next upgrade was coming out, so I guess it's pre-"Restart" button.

I finally found a brief mention somewhere of an alternate restart procedure.  Turn it on, then hold the on/off switch to the right for at least 20 seconds, just like when you turn it off, but a minimum of 20 seconds.  When you next start it, it'll reload, and POW!  No more battery problems.

Mine is now acting just like new.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

3568 Fabric

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Do what you want, not what is expected of you. Otherwise you will hate your life.


Whatever was wrong yesterday seems to have righted itself.  I was already feeling better by late afternoon.

I had been trying to find a local fabric store, with little success.  The closest one, a JoAnn, is a good 25 minutes south, so I went there yesterday.  I want to buy some fabric for some things for the Nugget, and maybe for some some curtains.  (I have always made all drapery and curtains for every house I've lived in.  I bought sheers and cafes for this house because --- I couldn't find a fabric store!)

I went to the JoAnn's yesterday evening, and I think I've found out why fabric stores are dying.  It's likely that no one is sewing much these days.  Not because nobody has the skills, but because the fabric prices are completely ridiculous! 

Think about a plain old simple lightweight woven cotton.  One yard.  Maybe with a print on it.  Woven by machine, yards and yards of it shooting out of the loom and into the print rollers, then out to a machine that rolls it around a slab of cardboard.  What is it about that fabric that makes it worth $12 to $16 a yard?

That's utterly ridiculous.  

That's almost $24 for enough to make an outfit for the Nugget (allowing for pattern matching and including waste).  $48 because the outfit I have in mind is reversible.  An outfit that we could buy anywhere for less than $15.

At one time in my life I made almost all my clothes.  There's no way I could do it now.  I couldn't afford to.

Greed has killed the market.

I guess these days sewing and fabric stores are just for unique things, like costumes, or special outfits that may as well be costumes.  Something that cannot be found in a department store, and that you are willing to take out a loan to pay for.


I still don't understand English.  Singular is "wife".  Plural is "wives".  So why, if we changed the "f" to a "v", do we still add an "s"?  Same with "life", and "knife".

Is it because "wive" is a verb (as in to go a-wiving in Padua)?  But, but, but, why not "wifes" and "lifes" and "knifes" as the plural?  (Well, "knifes is different".  That is itself a verb, but "knive" is not.  Which is also confusing.)

Compare to "fife", and "strife".  There's NO RULE!

Why is English so arbitrary?