Inking up the blogosphere. And no, I don't glow in the dark. But thanks for asking.

June 13, 2011

My New Hero

I read a news article today that made me proud to live in Oregon.  Proud to share the same geography as the extraordinary man named Robert Maxwell.  Mr. Maxwell is 90 years old, a WWII veteran, Oregon’s only living Medal of Honor recipient, and now the holder of a high school diploma – 73 years after the fact.

Here is the article from KTVZ news (bold emphasis in 8th paragraph mine):
BEND, Ore. -- He's the most highly decorated veteran in Oregon, but on Saturday, 90-year-old Bob Maxwell got an honor he's waited more than 70 years for.  On Saturday afternoon, Oregon's only living Medal of Honor recipient graduated with Bend Senior High School's Class of 2011.

At 15, he wasn't tromping down school hallways. In fact, he wasn't in school at all. After seventh grade, Maxwell was taken out of school to work on his family's farm in Kansas, during the Great Depression.  "It was just accepted in those days," Maxwell said Friday. "When a boy was old enough to do a man's work, that's what he did."

But don't call him a dropout. 

Maxwell's education didn't stop when he left school. He got his GED, even taught at Bend High back in the '50s.
One lesson the Medal of Honor recipient continues to teach every day -- modesty. He was awarded the medal of honor after he threw himself on a live grenade in France, saving the rest of his platoon from certain death.

"For him to consider walking with Bend High School as a great honor -- wow, we're the one honored," said BHS Principal H.D. Wedell. "Yet, because of his humility, he feels honored."

Honored, but not quite sure he deserved to toss his cap with the rest of the 2011 graduates.

"In some ways, I feel like it's a diploma that I haven't earned," Maxwell said. "But then I look back over the 73 years behind me, and I guess I have accumulated enough knowledge and skills to say that I've earned it."

A man with heroic accomplishments, yet still so humble. It's Maxwell's selflessness that allows his soon-to-be fellow graduates to chase the American dream.  "They can do that, because of the things that Bob has done," said Wedell. "He's laid his life down, so that our kids can be part of that."

But will there be room in Oregon's most decorated war veteran's home for his most recent award?  "I'm hoping to find a space on the wall to hang it up," said Maxwell. "It's a great honor."

 This is the most humbling thing I've heard in a really long time.  "...a diploma I haven't earned," -- Mr Maxwell:  I know kids who think they should automatically get an iPhone and unlimited text, talk, and web.  I know people who think they deserve 794 all-digital, HD channels as a matter of American Manifest Destiny.  For a man who knowingly, willingly, and unhesitatingly threw himself on a grenade; know this: YOU HAVE EARNED IT. You have earned this symbol of accomplishment and the right to be honored by us all because it has been paid for in blood, both yours and countless others.

Mr. Robert Maxwell of Bend, Oregon I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


***To read the Medal of Honor citation, head on over to This Ain't Hell.  Goosebumps.

March 11, 2011

Hot Rock, Boil Water, Make Steam

In response to a request from Kanani during a Facebook discussion about the nuclear reactor in Japan that was damaged in the 03/11/11 earthquake, I'm including some information here about what is likely happening at that facility, based on my time operating nuclear reactor plants for the Navy.

This is just a basic overview of the situation in Japan, but please feel free to ask me any questions you have and I can include them and the answers here below the main post.


What's going on is known as a LOCA--loss of cooling accident. Though the reactor is safely shut down it continues to produce decay heat from residual fission reactions that can take days to weeks to dissipate depending on how long they were at full power prior to shutdown. The plant would have an emergency cooling backup system that should take over, but if both systems were physically damaged from the quake then not enough coolant is being circulated to keep the core cool.

The coolant in many reactors is extremely pure water that has a high concentration of deuterium--a heavy hydrogen isotope. The good thing about heavy water is that as it gets hotter, the molecules spread out and fewer neutrons are reflected back into the core to cause new fission reactions thereby moderating the reaction (slowing it down).

One of the byproducts of heavy water is that neutrons hit an H2O molecule or a deuterium molecule and knock free hydrogens which will make hydrogen gas (H2). This gas collects at high points and must be vented periodically to keep the levels below the explosive threshold. Its likely when they talked about mild radioactive release they were referring to the gases that are building up and also some coolant in steam form. Radioactive gases are like Radon--they have short half-lives and dissipate quickly by the wind and dilution. They would pose no health hazard and wouldn't cause any "fallout" or stick around forever. Common radioactive gases formed in reactor coolant are Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Krypton, Xenon, and Oxygen. These elements in their normal form are stable. However they can become radioactive after being bombarded by high-energy particles from the core which in essence "supercharge" them.

The bad thing is that a LOCA is a catch-22. As the coolant heats the pressure goes up. You have to vent to keep pressure down but that causes more coolant loss which leads to more heatup, more pressure, more nauseam! The solution is to add more coolant and obviously fix the problem. The end result without intervention is that spots of the core get too hot without proper cooling and the fuel plates/rods rupture allowing radioactive fuel particles into the water. THAT would be bad!

Basically, it's the China Japan. 


Q: What is radiation?
A:  Radiation is when energy is emitted from something in particles or waves.  When you stand in front of your oven and you feel warmth, that is radiation in the form of heat energy.  Nuclear radiation is a collection of  neutrons (Hydrogen nucleii), gamma rays (photons), beta particles (free electrons), and alpha particles (Helium nucleii).  When something is "radioactive" it means that it is in a higher energy state than normal or has a larger number of neutrons than it has normally and is emitting one or more of those four things.  Those particles/rays have energy of their own and interact with other things by either physically bumping them, transferring the energy, or by ionizing--causing other particles to have a positive or negative charge they don't normally have.

January 19, 2011

10 Battle Tactics I Learned From My Cat


2. If no defilade is available, liberally use speed and unpredictable movement.

3. The intentional showing of a soft belly can be an effective lure.

4. Surprise ambushes can be effective, but always have a rapid exit available in case it doesn’t go as planned.

5. Having night vision is an asset, especially when your target doesn’t.

6. Lull the enemy into a false sense of security by appearing to be lazy and immobile.

7. It is important to occasionally show those in charge of you the results of your skills. They will likely not want to see or handle the gory guts, but can’t help but be impressed with your ability.

8. Always keep multiple weapons at your immediate disposal.

9. If the enemy is creeping up on you, never wait for him to arrive. Advance on him when he is committed to a movement and least expects it.

10. Never show the enemy your ass.