New teeth – invisible aligners

For the past few years I’ve been getting a chip in my front tooth patched by my dentist. This patch will last anywhere between 8 months to as short as one hour before it pops off and I have to get it done again. I’m not a fan of the look of this chipped tooth but I can’t keep getting it patched, either. My dentist, recommended I get orthodontics to help keep my teeth from smacking together and dislodging the patch.

The orthodontist recommended by my dentist put a hefty price tag on moving my teeth and I just couldn’t justify the cost. I put that on hold before I checked out Smile Direct Club (SDC). SDC would use the same invisible aligners (InvisAlign) that the orthodontist would use but the cost would be less than two-thirds the price. The downside is I wouldn’t receive personal care from an orthodontist. I decided to go for it, since I have had three years of orthodontics experience as a teenager and know what to expect.

So far, it’s been so good. I put in my first aligners a week ago Saturday and began my second one this past Saturday. My teeth ached a bit for most of the first week but by that Wednesday I felt comfortable enough wearing them that I didn’t mind them anymore. There’s no question that my teeth have shifted in the 9 days I’ve worn the aligners, so I have no doubt that they’re working. And I’ve become a bit obsessed with wearing them.
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Walking a fine line

I woke up early this morning, restless after putting Rocket down last night, and decided a walk would be good therapy. I stepped out of the house and began my usual route around the neighborhood.

As I approached a stretch of Plainview Avenue that’s bordered by cars on both sides and a construction dumpster on one side, a car passed me from behind without incident.

But a minute later I heard another car approaching from behind. Instantly I was filled with alarm. I was walking along the farthest left edge of the road that I could be but something didn’t feel right.

“Please don’t kill me,” I thought firmly in my head, not pausing for a moment to wonder why something so ridiculous would occur to me.

The car, an off-white Altima-type with California tags, came up quickly, taking up much of the left lane. It passed by so close to me that the driver’s side mirror actually gently brushed against my jacket.

If I had taken just one step to my right I would be seriously injured or dead right now. I’m so thankful for my spidey sense.

Now he belongs to the ages

The last photo of Rocket


“Now he belongs to the ages.”

Such was the quote of Edward Stanton upon the death of Abraham Lincoln. While my dog Rocket was not Abraham Lincoln, I could not help but think that he, too, now belongs to the ages. He died around 8:35 PM last night, surrounded by his Turner pack.

The veterinarian, Dr. Janelle Fenlason from Azure Holland Mobile Veterinary Services, showed up about 15 minutes early to our 8:30 PM appointment. This was added some pain for me as it meant there was less time left to spend with Rocket. Kelly hurriedly gathered the kids so they could have some time with him before the vet arrived. I offered to snap their photos with Rocket but the idea wasn’t well received. I didn’t care because I wanted a photo of myself with him before he was gone.
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Saying goodbye to Rocket

Rocket in 2014. One of my favorite pictures of him.

I’ve been dreading this day but now it’s here. It’s the day we say goodbye to our beloved dog, Rocket. Today we say goodbye to a dog who has been part of our family for over ten years. Yet sometimes the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do.

He’s been in decline over the past few months and took a sharp turn for the worse over the last two days. A few months ago we noticed an occasional drop of blood in his saliva. A trip to the vet found a large mass on the back of his tongue – possibly cancer. Yet while he was bleeding all over the veterinary exam room he was bounding all around, quite happily begging for more treats. Upon hearing the tumor was inoperable, Kelly and I realized we were looking at an indefinite amount of time where we would be essentially providing Rocket hospice care, cleaning up his bloody drips and making him as comfortable as we can. So, we covered our den floor with old towels, set up his dog crate in the middle of the room, and did the best we could.

Things seemed manageable until yesterday morning when Rocket struggled to lift himself off the floor. When Kelly took him out front for a bathroom break he staggered around, not knowing where he was or what he should be doing. He spent the rest of the day sleeping in the exact same spot on the floor, never budging for anything.
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Rocket has cancer

Our family dog, Rocket, has been a part of the Turner crew for ten years now. We’ve taken him on family vacations around the region, sailing at Lake Gaston, and on countless walks around the neighborhood.

We’d noticed recently that he was slowing down but some of that is to be expected for a dog that’s around 13 years old. He used to bound up and down stairs but now took his time. His hind legs appeared much weaker than his front legs. He sometimes stumbled, dragging his rear paw. We chalked that up to old age.

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Just a volunteer

It was the end of a long day volunteering at the polls when I arrived at the polling place with a young voter whom I’d volunteered to drive there. As she went inside to vote, I headed over to say hello to the campaign volunteers milling about outside.

“Hi, I’m Mark Turner,” I said as I shook the hand of Denise, a Democratic Party volunteer handing out slate cards. She kindly returned the greeting and turned back to greet more arriving voters.

Across the sidewalk stood a Republican Party volunteer, stumping for a Republican candidate.

“Hi, I’m Mark Turner,” I said with a smile, extending my hand. “Thanks for being out here.” Looking somewhat startled, he smiled and shook my hand.

I had continued towards the next set of volunteers when I heard a voice call out.
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USS Elliot shipmate meetup

L-R: Orlando Brown, Mark Turner, Robert Nordman

I got the urge last week to set up a meeting with my former USS Elliot shipmate, Orlando Brown. Orlando, or “OC” as we call him, lives near Creedmoor and so picked out a beer joint in that neck of the woods. It took me the better part of the hour to navigate my way there last night, with my T-Mobile cellphone losing its network signal in the thick woods.

When I walked in, 15 minutes late, there was OC along with another shipmate I hadn’t seen for over thirty years: Robert Nordman. I had been hoping that OC had thought to invite him, which was easy to do because he and OC live so close to each other.

We spent three hours catching up, telling sea stories, and being thankful that we’re still here to tell the tales. Rob was in very good spirits in spite of having been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. He has always worked his ass off at whatever he does and OC and I kept him out later than he would’ve liked as he was running out of steam.

I was also struck by Rob’s mention that many of our shipmates are dealing with illnesses, many of which sound like Gulf War Illness. Some of these guys can’t even walk anymore and they’re no older than 50. I’ll have more to say on this in a future post but last night served as a kick in the pants to pursue my own Gulf War Illness issues, get what I have diagnosed, and potentially get my VA disability claim filed. Life is too short, y’all.

Anyway, I love these guys like brothers.

RIP Burt Reynolds

Yesterday, legendary actor Burt Reynolds died. The star of Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, and other films was 82.

I got the chance to briefly meet Burt when he gave a pre-game speech to Florida State alumni on November 10, 2001 when N.C. State was the visiting team. He was of course mobbed by FSU well-wishers that day but kindly took a moment for me to take a photo of him with my starstruck mother. Meeting him meant a lot to my mom but what always struck me about the photograph is that Burt truly looks like it meant a lot to him, too. It wasn’t a faked smile, or a pained look like he had somewhere else to be. He truly seems like he enjoyed the moment, like he had known my mom forever.

You often hear of celebrities who seem nice in public but turn out to be jerks when the cameras aren’t around. Burt Reynolds was exactly who he seemed to be: just a funny, kind, down-to-earth guy.

Rest in peace, sir.

Brain scans in the name of science

Yes, I do have a brain.


I took the day off yesterday to travel to Boston University to participate in a Gulf War Illness research study. The study is looking to identify biomarkers that might indicate Gulf War Illness. It cost me a day off of work and paying for my travel expenses but I was able to add my information to the pool of data so that it might help other Gulf War veterans.

Part of yesterday’s tests included a structural MRI, after which I was sent home with a copy of my imaging data. Being a data nerd, this thrilled me and I couldn’t wait to check out what was on my CD. While the typical image tools available for Linux like GIMP were able to view the images, it wasn’t until I installed the MRIcron application that I was able to view my imagery in three dimensions. MRIcon converts the DICOM files that the MRI generated into an open format that can then be manipulated by MRIcron.

Pretty cool, although a bit disconcerting to realize I’m looking at tiny slices of my own head. There’s a strong part of me that keeps thinking “man, you’re not dead yet! You should not be seeing your brain!” Coupled with my image data, MRIcon is a really captivating tool for exploring the structure my brain (and my head as well).

Looking closely at the third image you can clearly see that my eyeballs are shaped completely differently. This probably accounts for my unusual combination of nearsightedness and farsightedness. Good times.

Down the memory lane rabbit hole with BBSes

I’ve been reading through Adam Fisher’s Valley of Genius book and got to the chapter about The Well, one of San Francisco’s first online communities. It reminded me that I, too, was online as early as 1982, dialing up BBSes from my family’s 300-baud modem. I think the first BBS I called was run by a guy at the University of South Carolina.

Of course, a few years later in 1986 I had set up my own BBS in Great Falls, VA called the Basement BBS. At its peak it had 350 members, two high-speed (19.2 Kbps!) modems, and an early consumer hard-drive (10 whole megabytes!). Good times.

Valley also reminded me of my occasional hobby project of figuring out how to get the Basement back online here in the age of the Internet. This has proven to be more challenging than I expected, because:

1. DOS is a strange world, indeed, with lots of obscure drivers, configuration files, and confusing syntax.
2. I have forgotten 90% of the DOS secrets I once knew.
3. Modern virtualization systems were not designed with DOS virtual hosts in mind.
4. Virtualized DOS systems run far faster and with far more memory than their 80s era computers ever had, which causes problems.

Building a virtualized DOS environment is akin to assembling a ship in a bottle. You’re building a replica of an ancient artifact using very limited tools. All this, and I haven’t even gotten to the magic of modem emulation that will connect my BBS to the larger Internet.

This is the perfect geek project, though: a completely useless exercise in technology exploration. I hope, though, that at the end of it I have something to show for my trouble. But if I don’t that’s okay because I will have learned something anyway.