At 28, my brain was already fizzling out

I was searching for stuff on my computer tonight when I came across a diary entry I created back on my 28th birthday, 21 Jan 1997. I had started journaling then mainly because I had started having trouble with my memory. It is also why I began this blog, as I’ve said before.

This entry is from a time when I was young, single, fit, and supposedly at the top of my game, yet I was deeply concerned about my future. I post it today to remind myself of just how long I’ve been dealing with Gulf War Illness.

It has been three decades of pain and frustration but I am still here.

Looking at the old clock on the wall I see that I’ve just turned 28 years old. Here I am sitting at my keyboard on my 28th birthday, all alone save for a lazy cat. I didn’t feel like staying at the party because I’m feeling down, so I guess I really didn’t have to be alone. I can’t talk to those guys about what’s bothering me because they couldn’t relate. There are very few people who could. But the party was getting my down because I couldn’t seem to jump-start myself into the conversation, and I became alarmed at this inability to speak.
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Incredible Footage of Rage Against the Machine Performing at Berkeley Square in November 1992

On November 7, 1992, a really passionate Rage Against the Machine performed an incredible show at Berkeley Square in Berkeley, California. This powerful set included some of their now iconic songs such as “Bombtrack”, “Fistful Of Steel”, “Wake Up”, “Settle For Nothing” , “Killing In The Name”, “Bullet In The Head” and “Freedom”.

Commenter Mike4Metal was at this show and shared his excitement about seeing the band that night.

I was there that night!! The organization opened up that night, no one knew who rage was at this time, their debut was not out yet!! They surprised us all that night!!! I feel lucky to have witnessed their first Bay Area gig!!! Now they are legendary!!!

Earlier that year, the band performed an equally incredible show at Zed Records in Long Beach.

via reddit

Source: Incredible Footage of Rage Against the Machine Performing at Berkeley Square in November 1992

Let me tell you about Rocket

I’ve mentioned the sad ending of my dog, Rocket. Now let me tell you some cool things about him. Many of these I’ve blogged about over the years so some of these may be familiar to you.

Rocket was absolutely the chillest dog you would ever meet. He rarely got excited, wasn’t nervous except around thunderstorms or fireworks, and pretty much got along well with anyone, man or beast. Strangers came and went all throughout our recent home renovation and many times Rocket wouldn’t bother to lift his head.

If you could imagine a low maintenance pet, Rocket was it. I can think of only one time in the entire eleven years he lived with us that he peed in the house – and that was my fault for not reading his signals. Some of that is his fault, though, because his signal for needing to go outside was always to stand quietly in front of the door. If you weren’t paying attention you would miss it!

We brought Rocket home from the Lab Rescue of North Carolina group after seeing his photo on their website. A rescue volunteer brought him over on Travis’s fourth birthday (October 2008) so we could see how he fit into the family. Rocket immediately made himself at home, winning our hearts. It was clearly a good match.
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Rob Nordman


The wonders of Facebook has connected me with new friends and reconnected me with old. It has allowed me to connect with people I would’ve given up for “lost” just ten years ago. I have been especially happy to rekindle friendships made while I served in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Elliot DD-967. There is nothing like the bond built by shipmates, forged in the unforgiving environment of the sea.

My shipmates are family, and like families everywhere we may have our differences but there’s no denying that bond. This brings me to my friend Robert P. Nordman.

Nordman, as I called him, joined Elliot about the time I did. He was trained as a Gas Turbine Systems Electrician Fireman (GSEFN) – an engineer or “snipe” as they’re proudly known. Nordman and I worked on completely different levels of the ship, him workspace being the engine room and mine the topmost deck of the ship. Still, I would joke with him on the messdecks, chat on the fantail during a break, or see him out on liberty. More often than not, though, Nordman would be late for liberty (or miss it altogether) because of the demands of his job. He would spend a lot of his liberty either preparing the ship to depart or preparing it to be in port.
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Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

RADM Kevin Sweeney stepped down as SECDEF chief of staff this weekend. I served with Sweeney when he was a mere lieutenant serving as Combat Systems Officer (CSO) on the USS Elliot DD-967. Though some considered him an “arrogant prick,” Sweeney seemed to me to be a brusque-yet-squared-away sailor and I have been pleased to learn of his career success.

Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney, USN (Ret.), has stepped down as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense. He has served in this role since January 2017. “After two years in the Pentagon, I’ve decided the time is right to return to the private sector. It has been an honor to serve again alongside the men and women of the Department of Defense,” said Sweeney.

Source: Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

Raleigh’s Civil War Breastworks – the original “Beltline”

Raleigh’s original “Beltline” – the Civil War breastworks

Hours of toiling with Google Earth (GE) has allowed me to get a good feel for how the 1865 map of Raleigh’s breastworks matches up to local landmarks. I created an image overlay in GE, then marked with a pushpin landmarks that are still around today. A bit (okay, hours) of stretching and rotating the overlay image got me a close match of where things were as compared to today.

Enjoy!

Behold Camp Holmes

The Google Earth mashup of Camp Holmes

After messing with Google Earth for hours tonight I finally got a rough idea of the location of one of Raleigh’s Civil War “camps of instruction,” Camp Holmes. It seems to have been west of the modern-day intersection of Capital Boulevard and Wake Forest Road, where the Raleigh Bonded warehouses and Norfolk Southern’s Raleigh Yard are today. Being that most of the camp is now a railyard, poking around there is not feasible. Still, there might be interesting finds on the periphery, perhaps the treeline south of Georgetown Road.

Who knew that those dingy warehouses and railyard was once the site where 9,000 Confederate conscripts trained to become soldiers?

Camp Holmes – Raleigh’s Civil War “Camp of Instruction”

Camp Holmes (including “officers quaters”)


A friend shared a historical map this morning that caught my eye. It is a map of the old breastworks built by the city of Raleigh to impede approaching Union troops near the end of the Civil War. I’d seen the historical marker (H-30) a mile away from my home, mentioning that breastworks were nearby but I’d never seen them and didn’t think much about them until now. So, one of my upcoming projects is to trace the path of the old earthen walls so that I can visit these sites to see if there’s anything left (update: found them!). After 153 years, it’s unlikely I’ll find any remnants of the five-foot-tall earthen walls and gravel but you never know.

Another detail of the map caught my eye, however: Camp Holmes. Curious about what this is, I did a few Google searches and was surprised to learn that nobody really knows where it was. It’s plainly on this old map, however, so a bit of Google Earth magic should show me roughly where I can physically search for it (update: found it!)

My Camp Holmes searches brought up a few lonely hits, one of which is a letter detailing an inspection made of Camp Holmes by Confederate assistant adjutant-general LtC Archer Anderson in June 1864. It provides an interesting look at the camp. There are others online, too, in the form of handwritten letters which will take some deciphering before being posted online.

As the letter appeared in a US Congressional publication in 1900 it is now in the public domain. Here it is in its entirety. I’ll post more stories as I learn more about the camp.

June 16, 1864.

Report of inspection of Camp Holmes, a camp of instruction near Raleigh, commanded by Major Hahr, with the following: staff: One first lieutenant, adjutant; one first lieutenant, receiving officer; one assistant quartermaster; one assistant commissary of subsistence; one surgeon and one assistant surgeon; one chaplain; one first lieutenant, commanding guard; four second lieutenants, drill-masters.
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An Oral History of “We Built This City,” the Worst Song of All Time | GQ

I found this amusing. The members of Starship discuss “We Built This City,” arguably the worst song of all time.

Thomas: Bernie didn’t say “mambo,” he said “mamba,” which is a snake. Marconi created the radio. Maybe Bernie meant to say “mambo.” Maybe it means: If you don’t like this music, some really angry snakes are gonna come out of the speakers.

Thomas: At one point I did start to sing “mambo,” to try and be more grammatically correct, and after a while I thought, “Fuck it,” and went back to “mamba.”

Source: An Oral History of “We Built This City,” the Worst Song of All Time | GQ

Alan Frederick Swanstrom Obituary – Cary, NC


I learned last night that my friend Al Swanstrom died last week. I originally knew Al through my working with his wife, Pam, back at HAHT Software over twenty years ago. Al was so sharp, friendly, and funny. It was always fun trading quips with him. When he campaigned for a state senate seat a few years ago I did not think twice about standing for hours outside a polling place in “unfriendly territory” to help support him. It was sad to learn he was ill.

My thoughts are with Pam and her family in this difficult time.

Having been born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Al was an avid Packers fan. He was also very proud of his father’s Swedish heritage and recently connected with his Swedish relatives.

Al was an IBMer for over 30 years and traveled worldwide in various roles. During his career, Al was granted several patents. After retirement, Al dedicated his time to public service, including serving on the Town of Cary Planning Board, Wake County Planning Board (Chair), and North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Throughout, Al was a tireless volunteer for Triangle Wine Experience and Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.

Al was the architect of his life and many things of beauty. He was happiest sailing and diving with his family, woodworking, working on his cars, designing a new technical solution and spending time with the “Coffee Gang.”

He was an officer of the Triangle Bailliage de North Carolina of the Chaîne de Rotisseurs and a past Maître of the Triangle NC Chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux. Al shared his knowledge of wine and passion for culinary arts with friends in both organizations. He was a great host and welcomed friends into his home.

Source: Alan Frederick Swanstrom Obituary – Cary, NC