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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As usual, I’ve had a ton of irons in the fire, squeezing as much out of the waning summertime days as I can. That hasn’t left much time nor inspiration for blogging but I’m hoping to get back on track with this.
Major stuff I’ve been doing around in my free time includes replacing the falling-apart wooden steps on my back deck with composite decking. This project took two sweltering Saturdays to complete but I’m very pleased with how the steps came out. Next up is the deck surface itself which, frankly, will be easier than the steps since there’s far less cutting needed. After that I’ll have to dream up a good plan for replacing the wooden railing but I’ve got a little time to figure that out.
I hope the whole project will be done by fall. Then I’ll combine the scrap wood from my deck with the scrap fencing from my fence job and haul it all away for a clean yard again. Yay!
Yesterday I pulled up some websites using Firefox on my Android phone and I was surprised to find two notifications on my phone that a file called “dbsync” had been downloaded. I do not download files without having some idea of what they are, so needless to say I was surprised. The files were zero-bytes, however, so I didn’t think they would pose much of a threat.
I later did some Googling which led me to this reddit page discussing the issue. Several others have had this happen to them. Some linked to dubious “virus scanner” software which would remove it, though this cure looks more dangerous than the disease.
I chalked it up to some fluke until I was reading the website of local TV station WRAL.Com from my Ubuntu desktop. After a while I had a Firefox prompt asking me to download dbsync:
I had my first drink in six weeks yesterday, in honor of achieving a goal I had set before Memorial Day to give up drinking until the Fourth of July. My dry spell wasn’t brought on by anything in particular. My VA doctor had before suggested that I cut back on alcohol, though I averaged less than a single drink a day so my drinking wasn’t excessive. Mostly the challenge was just to see how easily I could do it and if it benefited my health in any way.
My results? It was far easier than I anticipated and, well, I do think my health is somewhat improved but the results aren’t all that dramatic (probably because I didn’t drink much to begin with).
Today is the tenth anniversary of our moving to East Raleigh. A lot has happened between then and now but we’re happy to be where we are. It’s a great neighborhood and getting better every day.
Lost dog spurs action
Last night we had an unexpected guest as a dog followed Hallie home from her neighborhood run. It was a pitbull-looking dog named Dexter who turned out to live at a home just down the street.
When we first were presented with Dexter, the excited pup was all over the place, barely sitting still for me to take a photo. His excitement was contagious, it seems. As I scrambled to photograph the dog and then to ask the neighborhood for advice, both Hallie and Travis were excitedly barking out suggestions for what we should do.
I had to ask them to stop so I could think clearly but this morning I began to appreciate how awesome this really was. We were presented with an emergency event – a strange dog needed rescuing – and both kids jumped in right away with ideas for what to do. I’d seen them do this before – that time when Hallie jumped into gear when a classmate had a seizure, for instance – but it was great to see it demonstrated again.
The world won’t change unless there are people willing to change it. I’m super-proud that I’m helping raise two who won’t pass up the opportunity.