Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Optometrical Folks Just Don't Get Binocular Diplopia (Double Vision)

The Trip Through the System

I was driving home to Vancouver, WA from a physically tough night shift in Lake Oswego, OR on a bright, sunny Sunday morning in January 2012. I found myself struggling to decide which of two roads unfolding before me I should steer toward! I was seeing two images, one at a slightly counterclockwise tilt and displaced slightly down and to the left of the other. Fortunately, the two roads converged enough so that staying on the road did not prove to be a major issue. Still, it was a disturbing phenomenon. And it did not go away. As it turned out, it was my rather unnerving introduction to a condition the docs call binocular diplopia (in layman speak, double vision involving both eyes). In my case it has proven to be persistent and unchanging. My subsequent trip through the optometric industry has proven to be equally unnerving.

After a couple of days, I went to the Casey Eye Clinic at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU - up on Pill Hill, if you're familiar with Portland) to see what the heck was going on. There was quite a bit of somewhat hushed, instructional-type discussion between the Ophthalmologist and her assistant as they pulled out (dust-covered?) instruments during my exam. The diagnosis was that I had an 8 Diopter twisted displacement in my left eye. No explanation of what caused it was offered. The assistant applied a 4 D (Diopter) stick-on Fresnel prism lens by 3M to the left lens of my glasses. "We want to be conservative and just correct it enough so that the eye is able to accommodate 'naturally', as much as possible."

Well, that lens helped a bit. But the assistant had used tap water in applying it, and it developed water spots under it as that water dried out. (If you've ever watched water droplets dry out under a microscope, you'll understand that.) A few weeks later, I took it off, cleaned it up, and remounted it using distilled water. In the process of remounting it, I discovered that the assistant had mounted it upside down! So, mounting it correctly helped a bit more.  Basically, the 4 D lens would bring the images up to a vertical alignment, but still leave a little twist and horizontal displacement, which the eye would have to " naturally" accomodate for. (Alternatively, by twisting the prism lens a little more, I could get the twist out, leaving a need for both vertical and horizontal 'natural' accomodation.) Still, each day as I got more tired, it became harder and then impossible to keep the images locked together.

In June of 2013, I got a dedicated pair of computer glasses (which I highly recommend to anyone that spends quite a bit of time on your computer). Needing another prism lens for them, I bought a new one online. But I cheated a bit - I got a 6 D one for my regular glasses and used the old 4 D one on the computer glasses. So that was another incremental improvement. Still, I have had the same problem with fatigue and eyestrain later in the day.

Along the way, my wife Nancy put on my glasses by mistake one day and shrieked at how much better she could see. (Our refractive corrections are pretty similar.) I believe this was with the 4 D prism on them. At her next eye exam, we had the doc check her for binocular diplopia, and BINGO!  So, she had the prism ground into her new lenses.

Later, when she was having some other problems, she was scheduled for an MRI. I requested that they pay attention to the 4th Cranial Nerve to see if there were any lesions, tumors, or aneurysms impinging on it. (See the next section for why I made that request.) The report came back that they found no tumors and that the 5th Cranial Nerve was clear. (Gee, thanks!)

Since 2012, I have had two ophthalmology visits with refractory at the Northwest Eye Clinic at PeaceHealth St. Joseph's here in Bellingham. At the last, we had a discussion about the binocular diplopia, and it was clear that the doc really didn't have a clear grasp of it. Finally, last week I was very tired and, as a result, was having a lot of problems with the residual double vision and eyestrain. So, I thought maybe the 6 D prism was too much, and I switched back to the 4 D on my regular glasses. O.M.G.! It was horrible! So, I thought back to the original exam back at Casey, and the light bulb finally lit up! I immediately went online and ordered an 8 D prism. I got it yesterday and mounted it, and, viola, when I rotated it to locate the correct angle to mount it, the images came to a perfect overlay - with no twist! I am totally THRILLED!!!

The Science of Binocular Diplopia (Interesting Stuff - Really!)

To understand what causes binocular diplopia, as well as to gain an understanding of all of the muscles and nerves controlling the eyes' movements, settle back and enjoy this really entertaining 29-minute video on Cranial Nerve Palsies by Dr. Tim Root. While it is an instructional video aimed at young eye science students, it is easily followed by us lay folk, too.

So, armed with our new knowledge, we can make a pretty good guess that my sudden-onset problem stems from a little aneurysm that suddenly popped up during that tough night shift I had just worked in 2012. And since the onset of Nancy's problem was so gradual that she was never even aware of it or of the problems that it was causing her, that could argue for her problem being caused by a little tumor impinging on the 4th Cranial nerve. That could even be taken as a warning sign that she might have other tumors in her brain and/or elsewhere. Hence, my request re: her MRI.


The most obvious takeaway from our experiences is that binocular diplopia is not high on the radar of most eye professionals. In fact, it is so rarely encountered that any skills and equipment that they may have had must be pulled out of deep storage to be used. There is a perception that a routine screening for the condition would stretch out the length of the appointment too much. However, I would suggest that without the dusting-off and instructional steps, it would not take that long. And, considering that Nancy had to make a really serendipitous self-diagnosis in order to get the condition addressed, it just may be that this is a really common  condition that is grossly undiagnosed and that is causing a degradation in the quality of life in, literally, millions of people - perhaps without their even being aware of it!

Binocular diplopia caused by a nerve palsy is not a condition that can be improved by muscle strengthening exercises or forcing the eye to make "natural" accomodation. Failing to correct it fully only leads to eyestrain and the loss of clarity when fatigued.

Bearing in mind the fragility of the 4th Cranial Nerve and its long tortuous path from the back of the brainstem to the eye, how many injuries to it are sustained, especially by athletes and by people in, say, automobile accidents?

Often you will hear a baseball player get on a hot streak and say in an interview, "Well, I'm really seeing the ball well right now?" How often could that be due to his being particularly well-rested at that time, so that the eye is better able to "naturally" accommodate to a binocular diplopia problem?

What Needs to Happen?
  • Binocular diplopia screening should become a part of every routine eye exam.
  • When binocular diplopia is discovered, an effort must be made to determine the cause. Especially in gradual-onset cases, it could be an early warning of a more systemic problem, such as metastasized tumors. 
  • Sports organizations should routinely screen their players for binocular diplopia, especially as part of concussion protocols. And some of the streakiness of some athletes, especially hitters, could be improved.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Promotion Parties

🎊 🃏 Promotion Parties 🎉 🎇

I may be the only veteran of my era to have had real promotion parties for attaining the ranks of both 1st Lieutenant and Captain!
22 November 2017 - Quite a significant anniversary in my life. 50 years ago today, I had a rare event on any military post of the day - a promotion party marking my bar turning from butter to silver! In those days, graduating from OCS or being commissioned as an ROTC graduate carried a two-year commitment, with promotion to 1st Lieutenant occurring on the one-year anniversary of your commissioning. The first 11 months were typically served stateside (in my case, as a Basic Training Company Executive Officer at Camp Swampy (AKA Fort Polk, LA)), then after a month-long delay-in-route leave, you shipped out to Vietnam, with your promotion occurring during the trip or soon after arriving in the Jolly Green - not exactly the formula for a big gala. In my case, Nancy was pregnant with Rebecca (who was delivered two days after my party), so I had a two-month deferment on my little trip.
On the day of my promotion, I was up on North Fort Polk going through the Infiltration Course, a three-day session that was required for POR qualification. My CO, CPT Sherwood (Woody) Emory, arranged for a helicopter crew who were getting in some required flight hours to pick me up and take me to the Officers' Club on South Fort for my promotion party.
And a fine party it was!
Oh, my! Did I ever tie one on! Afterward, Woody took me out and poured me into the passenger seat of his TR-4, and we left for his house in Leesville, where his wife would pour coffee down me until time for my pickup back at the chopper pad. There was a little hitch, though, when an MP pulled us over as Woody peeled out of the O' Club access road onto the main artery to Leesville. After a little discussion, Woody agreed with the MP's suggestion that he let "your sober buddy drive the rest of the way". As we started our seat switch, the MP drove off, and Woody said, "Just get us off-post (about a half-mile), and we can switch back!" As I had never driven his car before, he showed me the shift pattern, and we were off, with my only killing it a couple of times before I got the clutch right.
And that has been the total extent of my wheel time in a European sports car.
A lot of water went under the bridge before my next promotion party, a year later, but I'll limit this narrative to those events that enabled that party.
I got to Vietnam with only ten months left on my two-year commitment. So, I spent six months as a Forward Observer in direct support of a grunt infantry company, (Whatever happened to that two-month normal rotation? Well, the Tet Offensive, along with some changes in the supply chain of us cannon-fodder types.) two months as AXO and two months as XO of another 105mm artillery battery. While I was an FO, CPT John Pipia, the CO of the company I was supporting talked me into going "Indefinite", which was an officer's way of reupping. His argument was that the Army needed some good guys to balance out the "ring knockers", AKA West Pointers. That carried a year's commitment and meant that I would be staying in Vietnam for a full year. Then the Field Artillery and the Air Defense Artillery split, with me coming down on the Air Defense side, presumably because I had been in Air Defense as an enlisted man.
Well, it was unexpected, but kind of understandable, when the Battalion Commander called me up on "Secure" one night about the time I became XO and informed me that I was getting a two-month drop and would be going home in late November. I would be reporting to the ADA School at Fort Bliss. He said it looked like I must be going to the same Career Course (ADA Officers' Advanced Course) as CPT (Jim) Sharkey, who was Battery Commander of a sister battery. Wow! Instantly "short", and I hadn't even been on R&R yet! So, after I met Nancy and Rebecca in Hawaii in October, we parted thinking I'd be home in just over a month!
After I got back from R&R, I really had a short-timer's attitude! That month really drug by - stuck out on a hill seven kilometers from the Cambodian border, firing contact missions just about every day and harassment and interdiction fires (H&I's) every night. But it finally got over, and I caught a resupply slick back to Battalion. And I tied another one on! This was three days before my DEROS, but the Old Man walked through the BOQ tent that night and, after congratulating me on making it through that mess, mentioned that he had not received my Port Call yet. He suggested I catch the supply convoy back to 4th Division HQ at Pleiku the next day and see what I could find out.
So it was that I was in a Jeep waiting to fall into the convoy the next day, when the Battalion Sergeant Major came out huffing and puffing at a dead run to tell me that he had just received a TELEX from MAC-V saying that I had been extended in-country for two more months. I looked at him and said, "That's really funny, Top, but please don't f__k with me right now. I have a really, really bad head today." And he said, "No, Sir. I'm serious, they finally noticed that you have only been in country for ten months." I was stunned!
I went back and talked to the Old Man, and he said, "I'm really sorry about this mix-up. But on the bright side, I'll be able to promote you to Captain, and we can have a great Promotion party!"
And a fine party it was!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You Are Your Cultural Influences

I was musing about technology advances, and got to thinking about stereo systems. What was your first stereo sound system? For many (most for my generation and earlier) of us, it was in our car. For me it was the first brand new car I ever bought - a 1971 Plymouth Fury station wagon. I bought it in Las Cruces, NM while I was stationed at Ft. Bliss, TX. (New Mexico exempted service members from the state excise tax.) I also bought a new Honda 350 CL Scrambler  motorcycle at about the same time. I was, indeed, living large! When they first came out, I added an 8-track to the car.

I started amassing a number of albums on 8-track, one of which was very instructive in a totally unexpected way. It was a "Favorites" compilation by a pretty poor cover band. Poor enough that listening to the album was pretty painful at first. But I persevered, and after awhile I got used to it.

Then I heard one of those songs being performed by the original group that had recorded it, and I (multiple choice here): a) realized just how bad the cover band was; b) realized that both of them really sounded pretty much the same; c) hated the original band's version.

Logically, we have good taste and can tell the good stuff from the bad - right? So the answer should be a), right? BUZZZZZZ! Wrong! My ear had been knocked so totally out of tune, that bad was good and good was bad. c) is the correct choice.

The same thing happens with our tastes in other areas as well. In Mexico, the people that harvest the high quality arabica coffee beans are not allowed to use them, because of their relative scarcity and value as an export crop. Instead, they are given the plentiful cheaper robusta beans. They learn to like them, and when they are given the chance to try the arabica variety, they can't stand it, so I'm told. Think, too of the folks down in Louisiana and their "coffee".

Our children grow up thinking McDonald's makes a great hamburger. Cubs fans grow up knowing you can never win it all. Yankees fans grow up expecting to win it all - every year. Little boys growing up watching sports nowadays know they'll have hard choices to make in the years to come - Bud Lite or the Silver Bullet; F-150 or Silverado; Viagra or Cialis. 

Increasingly, the media seeks out or fabricates conflict to win ratings to enhance the ad rates they can charge their sponsors. A good fight just reaps bigger audiences. Reality shows, the Bachelor, MMA. Even the mainstream news programs feature things like "Crossfire" where frothy-mouthed zealots from both ends of the political spectrum scream at each other over hot button topics. The worst part of this whole development is that the moderators, presumably (at least, ideally) level-headed intelligent types can't jeopardize their ratings by expressing their disgust with the whole panel of guests, kicking them off and then commentating on the issues. So they're becoming more like their guests - screaming and goading and trying to foment conflict. And viewers are never presented with any but the deep blue or the deep red views. What ever happened to well-reasoned, thoughtful, respectful conflict resolution? It doesn't sell Viagra, that's what! It was cancelled!

So folks lean a little one way or another and then go off and watch MSNBC or Fox News. Boy! There are a couple of places you can hone your diplomatic and negotiating skills. NOT!

We see clips of boys in extremist religious Islamic schools on their prayer mats doing their hypnotic head-bobbing chants and smugly think, "It's a good thing we're not into brainwashing in this country." Oh, really! Wake up and smell the chicory!

The first time you get shot at in combat is a sort of reality check. Here is some regular guy from another country, another culture, that hates you enough to want you dead, just because you are who you are. You may have a flash of realization that, except for the results of the crapshoot we call birthplace, our positions could be totally flipped. (Maybe you need to table that thought for right now, or he may succeed in his efforts to fulfill that deathwish on you. War is the ultimate "Him or Me" game. So don't do anything to jeopardize winning it. Think your profound thoughts after the battle.)

As humans, we are born helpless and ignorant. We reach adulthood mostly as a product of our upbringing. Nearly everything we think has been taught to us. 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, our societal attitudes and tastes are as pliable as our ear for music or our taste for coffee. With the right influence, we actually can refine and improve our tastes and attitudes. Or under the wrong influence, the exact opposite may occur. Our brains can be patterned, for better or for worse, through a process called neuroplasticity. We can be strongly influenced by those around us. 

The single best piece of advice a person can be given is this: Surround yourselves with the very best people possible. Because that neuroplasticity is, indeed, a sword that can cut both ways. 

Bike Helmets: Musings on Mandatory v. Voluntary Laws, Good Judgement, etc.

As the jackhammer slams away at the concrete on the sidewalk across the street - the first step in a process which I set in motion with my email to the city about my concern that a cyclist would drop his front wheel into the gap in between concrete slabs and take a header, I feel compelled to share this personal experience, which goes a long way toward explaining my consciousness of potential bike-related head injuries. 

On the first Sunday of January 1972, a crystal clear, cold day at Ft. Bliss, TX, I decided to forgo watching the NFC and AFC Championship games in favor of taking a good, long motorcycle ride in the desert. My "Career Course" (more formally, the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Advanced Course) classes resumed the next day, and I would have very limited opportunities to ride until leaving for Korea in a month and a half or so - our class would be very busy until graduating in two or three weeks, and then our family would be very busy clearing out of quarters, moving, visiting family, etc., until I left.

So I pulled on a couple of pair of bluejeans and otherwise bundled up, then struck out for the Hueco Tanks area, east of El Paso. And what a glorious time I had - mostly running the nearby pipeline right-of-way through the desert, which included lots of jumps! On the way back home, my bike started to lag just as I got back into the outskirts of El Paso, and I immediately thought, "Oh, crap! I've broken an oil line and run it dry!" So, I decided to wheel into the Border Patrol parking lot to check it out, as I had just passed a service station. When I turned the front wheel to the right, it jerked and locked against the right fork stop, and I went sailing over the handlebars at maybe 25 mph! When I landed on my head, that polycarbonate helmet sounded like a mortar round had hit it! Nope, it wasn't the oil. I had picked up a mesquite thorn in the desert, and my front tire had just gone flat!

So, I picked myself up, bushed myself off, assessed the damage - torn and scuffed jeans, scraped shins from the handlebars and mirror, severely scuffed jacket, scuffed gloves, bent foot-rest, broken mirror, shredded handlebar grip - picked up the bike, and walked it back to the service station to fix the flat. Thanks, helmet!! I've often reflected on how that helmet protected my wife, Nancy, from having to make the tough decision about whether to keep me on life-support or not. 

But - as Paul Harvey used to say, "Here's the Rest of the Story".

At the time, Texas had a mandatory helmet law, while my other riding venue, New Mexico, did not. So, one would think that my mature judgement and intelligence kept me in my helmet, regardless of which state I was in. After all, that is the argument put forth by the libertarian-minded folks who argue against mandatory helmet laws, right? To document my said qualities, allow me, without false humility, to enumerate a few examples. 

At the time, I was an almost 29-year-old Army Air Defense Artillery Captain, soon to be an Honor Graduate of the aforementioned Career Course, and soon thereafter to have my finger on the Big Red Button as Commander of a Nike-Hercules Battery in Korea. Just the previous June, I had graduated cum laude in physics from UT-El Paso, as part of the "Pilot Program" group of a new two-year Officer Degree Completion Program, which meant that DOD had picked me out of all the non-degreed (i.e. OCS-sourced) Captains with 2 or more years of college in all of the Army, to be in that first group. Heady.

After getting home from Vietnam, my first Air Defense Officer position was as an Instructor in Air Defense Tactics at the School at Fort Bliss. My students included ROTC and West Point Graduates in the Basic Course, other Captains and Majors in the Advance Course, and officers of all ranks, up to the occasional General or Admiral from other branches of the US DOD and foreign militaries in various familiarization and War College level courses. Heady.

Prior to that, while I was in Vietnam, the Air Defense Artillery and the Field Artillery branches split, and I became Air Defense Artillery. I then finished my tour in Vietnam, continuing to serve as a combat Field Artillery Officer - 6 months as a Forward Observer with Charlie Battery, 2/9 Artillery, humping the Kontums supporting Bravo Company, 2/35 Infantry, a grunt infantry outfit, 2 months as the Fire Direction Officer (AXO) and 2 months in charge of the guns (XO) of Alpha 2/9, a sister 105 mm Howitzer Battery, and then, after being promoted from 1st Lt to Captain, as Assistant Operations Officer (AS3) at the 2/9 Battalion, DS to the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Division. I earned bunch of little ribbons, including a Bronze Star, for my efforts. (OK, so the Bronze Star (no V-device, thank you very much) was kind of the Officer's "Participation Medal" for anyone who was actually in combat in Vietnam.)

As an FO, With a total of about two weeks in the field in what was my first Field Artillery assignment other than OCS, I brought the first high-explosive round of one fire mission within about 30 meters of our closest friendly element - with the full blessing of the Company Commander, CPT John Pipia, and to the relief of my supported troops, as we were pinned down by an enemy heavy machine gun. (This was in violation of the Rules of Engagement, which demanded 400 meters minimum distance for the first HE. But, while being incredibly lucky with the initial smoke spotting round falling about four hundred meters nearer than expected, my decision to immediately enter "Fire for Effect" was technically and tactically sound. Although without John's intervention, the little ring-knocker that was my BC, might have Court-Martialled my cowboy butt. John told him, "Why don't you just accept that my troops consider your battery our savior now, rather than the total bunch of screw-ups they thought you were after you had fired out on us twice in the two weeks before that mission?) About two weeks later, I faced down a veteran Field Artillery Major over his desire to fire a prep with a platoon of 8" howitzers, which had no smoke round available, into the middle of about a square kilometer area on the far side of a mountain from those guns, that we had twelve companies surrounding, hopefully. Actually, they had all fought through jungle, from different directions, over a period of about a week, and no one was really sure where they were - only two of the companies had linked up. (This was the area the machine gun had been deployed on the main approach to.) At this time, my supported company was on the fire-base, LZ Ryder, as "Palace Guard", and I was sitting in for the Liaison Officer to the Infantry Battalion, who had been medevaced with intestinal parasites. This had evolved into a brigade-sized operation, all under the control of our 2/35 Infantry Battalion, since it was in our Area of Operations. We were under the Operational Control of one of the 23rd (Americal) Divisions' Brigades - 196th, I think, I don't remember for sure - and the Major was the Operations Officer for that Brigade's Direct Support Artillery Battalion. After listening to my end of our discussion, the 2/35 Battalion Commander, "Wild Bill" Livsey, took the phone and pronounced, "Major, you're a damned fool!"" In that case as well, my reasoning and my judgement were sound and appreciated by the supported infantry, if not by my artillery fathers. I could go on, but for the sake of, ahem, brevity, I'll leave it at that.

So, I had proven chops in both intelligence and judgement, right? Ahh, well . . . Whenever I headed north on the I-10 toward Las Cruces, I would stop at the state line, take my helmet off, and strap it to the back seat. My goodness, how I loved to feel the wind in my face and the varied smells and tastes of the bugs, as you passed different kinds of crops up through the Rio Grande Valley! (The grasshoppers, on the other hand, really stung, but, oh, well.) Then heading back home - back on with that pesky helmet at the Texas line. That sissy helmet law, you know.

PS: Within a year or two, Texas "saw the light", as they are wont to do, and repealed that sissy law. So now, I thank God, not only for being in Texas when this header occurred, but for it being before I left for Korea, rather than later on.

Friday, August 12, 2016

My Luck in Observing the Leonid Meteor Storm of 1966

The current show featuring the Perseid Meteor Shower set me to reminiscing about my singularly envious, serendipitous opportunity to experience the full glory of the famous  Leonid Meteor Storm of November 17, 1966.

I was in the Artillery and Missile Officer Candidate School and we were six days from graduating and becoming prime fodder for Vietnam. (An Artillery Lieutenant's first assignment in-theater was for a couple of months as a Forward Observer (F.O.) in support of a combat unit of another branch, with a reported life expectancy (L.E.) of approximately two weeks. If you survived the first couple of weeks, the L.E. went up sharply. In my case, I walked with B Company, 2/35 Infantry for six months, since a dwindling number of  replacements were sucked up by outfits with F. O.'s who had been less fortunate than I, in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive of 1968.)

We were in Happy Battery - the final week of School - where we had no responsibilities but to navigate the Escape and Evasion Course and to run roughshod over the Lower and Middle Classmen. So, 16 November found us on the E. & E. Course, maybe 15 miles out from the lights of Lawton and the Main Post. The sky was crystal clear, and the moon was a thin waxing crescent, so that it set early in the evening.

The exercise started about noon. The hundred or so men in the Battery were divided into three-man teams, with each team being supplied one compass and one map with the intermediate checkpoint marked. We all took a long hard look at the map, especially noting the location of the checkpoint. Then, with the announcement, "Your position is being overrun! Run! Escape!", or words to that effect, we were off. The boundaries of the course were defined as the top of a rocky ridge line on the north and the middle of the valley on the south. we were to flee east and instructed to stay on the ridge for better cover. The Aggressors were dispersed along the course and would be looking for us. If we were captured, we would be taken to an Aggressor Camp and "interrogated". (This basically meant that these enlisted men would have a sanctioned free shot at guys that would become officers within a week! We had all been fed horror stories about the interrogation methods, so that was not in anyone's grand plan.) Two or three hours into the exercise, my group was spotted, and we flushed like quails in different directions. I'm not sure what happened to the other two, but no one pursued me, and I got away. Unfortunately, I did not have the map or compass, so, I was working on memory. An hour or so later, I came face to face with another Aggressor as I peeked up over a boulder. "Halt! You are my prisoner!" "Catch me, if you think you can, "some choice name"!" And I was off, bounding down the hill like I had nothing to lose! He did chase me, but, since he was in fighting web-gear and toting an M-14, I was able to put enough distance between us that I could cross a rise and disappear into a stand of bushes. He made a good effort to locate me, coming within about ten meters at one point, but finally gave up and went back to his post. I continued after a suitable wait, and was able to close on the checkpoint at about dusk. There I was fed, as I recall, and shown a map with the Objective marked. It was several kilometers further and up on the top of the ridgeline.

The best word to describe the next five hours or so is "gruelling"! A little moonlight early in the evening, but after that pitch black except for the stars and the occasional sweep of the Aggressors' spotlights, which, fortunately, were behind me. Those and the North Star were my navigation beacons. I stumbled and stumbled and stumbled through the loose rocky field that was the side of that ridgeline. At last, I stumbled into the Objective at about 10:00 pm, barely able to stand up on my tortured feet and ankles.

Three classmates had beat me in, but they had walked straight down the valley, staying ahead of the Aggressor deployments and spotlights. (I think mine is a much better story!) About an hour later, one other guy stumbled into the Objective. (As it turned out, we were the only five to close that night, and we had people coming in all of the next two days. My "Sick Puke" of a bunkmate, who got by on his father being a bird colonel, even after he was declared a safety hazard and banned from any contact with artillery, was located by a search party on the fourth day.)

After eating, we all fell into our racks, at least two of us totally exhausted. Then about 1:30 or 2:00 am, our Tach Officers rousted us all out of bed - "Get up! Get up!" "Wha'? are the Aggressors overrunning the Objective?" "No, no, no! You just can't miss this!" Outside the tent we were bedazzled by the most spectacular Meteor Storm of the 20th Century! Holy Cow! And we had the perfect observation venue - the top of a ridgeline relatively far from the small city's light pollution, with our eyes already adjusted to the dark, with a crystal clear sky, and the moon long since set! We were all simply stunned!

I have told an abbreviated version of this story to a few folks that I knew had some interest in the subject, and have, inevitably, drawn envious oohs and aahs. I thought it was high time I get the full tale down, for my family's sake.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Trump's Attack on the Separation of Income and Wealth in America - A Predictive Dream

I continue to be curious about what Da Donald's big surprise position that he will reveal after the GOP Convention, and it may have come to me in another one of my "predictive" dreams.
We see that his approach so far has been a populist appeal to the masses that have been denied participation in the fruits of our booming economy. (Yes, I did say booming - ask any rich guy.) We know how he has been using immigrants and "bad trade deals" as his "Jews". (This is, of course, a reference to Hitler's scape-goating of Jews as the cause of all of Germany's problems after World War I.) But, as I have said before, he has to make a broader appeal than to just the white-bedsheet crowd, in order to have any chance in the general election.
Give Da Donald his due - he is not dumb - he knows this. He is also not a hide-bound dogmatist. His "evolving" positions seem to make a mockery of the negative connotations associated with terms like "flip-flop" in the last few years.
It occurs to me that he might well steal a page out of Bernie Sanders' playbook.
Bernie is dead nuts right on about the separation of income and wealth being the biggest problem facing our nation today. It is what keeps us from having an Edenic society. And it is what makes our disadvantaged susceptible to the lure of extremists and fanatics of one stripe or another - left wing/right wing, Christian/Islamic, etc.
And don't try to float that one about people being lazy, etc. When the bottom 80% of the people own only 7% of the nation's wealth, something in fundamentally wrong.
When one family owns more wealth than the nation's bottom 42% of families COMBINED, something is fundamentally wrong.
And yet, the GOP has brainwashed enough people into believing that it is every American's duty to go out and buy an assault-type rifle , , , Oops, wrong brainwashing subject. Make that: And yet, the GOP has brainwashed enough people into believing that to attack income inequality is tantamount to high treason.
This extreme separation of wealth has accelerated in this country over the past 35 years. (BTW, 1981 is not some random date that I picked as the start of this phenomenon. And with all due disrespect to the late Great Communicator, the flaw in trickle-down (or Voodoo) economics is the plug at the top of the down spout - rich folks didn't get rich by being altruistic.)
Trump has said in the past that he thought the super-rich like him should pay more in taxes. That position has, of course, been stated more strongly and with much more conviction by Warren Buffett. And, to be sure, Trump hasn't said much like that lately. But once the convention is over, don't be surprised to see him roll out significant proposals about tax rates on capital gains, royalties, and other sources of extremely high incomes. Look for him to propose a significant increase in the top tier income tax rate. And look for him to put some teeth into eliminating off-shore tax shelters.
Yep, I think this is how Da Donald is going to attack the general Election - and it could work!
A Son-of-the-South got the Civil Rights Legislation done in 1964, so maybe a billionaire could get real economic reform done in 2017.
And then I woke up.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


It has been revealed that the whole Donald Trump campaign for the GOP Presidential Nomination is actually a sting by the Democratic National Committee to discredit the Republican Party. The plan is for Trump to reveal the sting when he is supposed to make his acceptance speech at the GOP Convention, and then for him to soundly berate the Party for being such a bunch of greedy, unprincipled pawns of The One Percent. Trump will then stalk out of the hall in much ballyhooed disgust, and the GOP will be, effectively, destroyed.

The germ of the whole idea was initially tossed out by Warren Buffett as a sort of cynical joke in a conversation he had with Trump about a year ago. They were wondering just how far right candidates in the GOP could be pushed, if a ridiculously extreme right winger were to pose a viable threat to take the nomination.

After musing on that joke for a couple of weeks, Mr. Trump approached Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida with a fleshed-out idea for a sting to reveal that limit (or lack thereof) to the American public. Trump added that he thought he might be the only man in America that could pull off such an audacious "dirty trick", given his name recognition and flair for showmanship. At this point, the snowball began to roll, and the result is the farce of a campaign that Trump is running.

Up until this week, the plan was working beyond anyone's wildest dreams, with Trump's blatantly racist and sexist stances being received with a scary fervor by enough knuckle-draggers to cause even the most dedicated DNC members to have second thoughts about revealing and (Horrors!) perhaps even abetting such a sorry underbelly of American society. Most of the candidates have been making such a mad dash to the right of the Good Ship GOP that it is has been taking on water from the starboard to the extent that it is in dire peril of capsizing. I'm sure our enemies are gleefully taking careful notes. Even Trump himself is beginning to be dismayed by the reception his sham of a campaign is receiving.

But then along comes Carly Fiorina, who is not buying any of Trump's malarkey. With her evisceration of his vile little persona in Thursday night's debate, she showed that there is, at least, a modicum of decency left in the party. And, with her command of the substance of the issues, she appears to present a refreshing contrast to the rest of the candidates. She's a little right for my preference, but, depending on who the Dems put up, she seems to be someone I could vote for.

So, what will Trump and the DNC do? Will they reveal the farce now, or will they play it to the originally planned end? 

Unfortunately, I woke up before that dilemma was resolved. Oh, of course. I guess I failed to mention that the source of this revelation was a dream. You who know me as an elite troubleshooter and enigmatist already know that my solution to a knotty problem often comes in the form of a dream, after my subconscious has untangled the knot. And so it was in this case. It was a dream. But - - - my dreams never lie!