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A two-week boat ride to Japan . . .

In 1950 I traveled from San Francisco to Japan in 14 days, and back to San Francisco in another 14 days, with a considerable amount of time spent in Japan and South Korea between the trip to the Orient and the return to the United States, somewhere in the neighborhood of 22 months. Fifteen of those months were spent in bad neighborhoods—they were spent at Taegu in the south and Kimpo in the north, two of our US airfields in South Korea during the Korean War.

I refuse to call it a conflict. It was a war, one in which more than 40,000 members of our armed forces died during four years of fighting—that qualifies it to be called a war, not a conflict.

I traveled by bus from my mother’s home in Midland, Texas to Alpine, Texas, then by train to Los Angeles and up the Pacific coast to San Francisco. The month was April, and the trip up to San Francisco—a distance of almost 400 miles—with the blue Pacific Ocean on the left and the green mountain slopes on the right was memorable. In San Francisco I boarded a ferry and was taken to Camp Stoneman. I was quartered for a week or so before boarding another ferry to the Port of San Francisco where I boarded an army troop ship bound for Japan.

Camp Stoneman, located in the city of Pittsburgh some forty miles from San Francisco, was a staging facility for military personnel traveling to foreign destinations to the east from the Port of San Francisco. Arrivals from oversea assignments and those departing for such assignments traveled by ferry to and from the Port and Camp Stoneman. Opened in 1942, the camp was shut down in 1954. Click here for images of Camp Stoneman and its brief history.

We departed for Japan on the USS Daniel L. Sultan, a U.S. Army vessel named for an army general, a ship that on this voyage would be loaded with 5,000 troops, 500 dependents and an indefinite number of cats and dogs, pets of the dependent members. When we pulled away from San Francisco, we headed north instead of west to pick up the dependents and their pets in Seattle, Washington.

My brother Larry, an army Warrant Officer, was stationed at the Yakima Training Facility and I obtained permission to debark in Seattle—yes, debarking, that’s what they called it—in order to make a phone call to him. No, I did not have a cell phone—they had not yet been invented. Our conversation was brief, limited to expressions of how are you, how have you been, how is everyone else, where are you going, and good luck.

On my return to the ship I ran afoul of the Officer of the Day, the worthy that stands on deck by the gangplank to greet boarders, to inquire as to their reason for boarding and to ascertain whether contraband is involved in their boarding. I had no problem answering the questions, but I committed a serious breach of military protocol.

As any sailor knows, when one boards or debarks a military vessel, courtesy must be given by saluting the United States flag flown by the vessel. I had been briefed on that courtesy and I saluted accordingly, but I was chastised—chewed out—by the Officer of the Day. It seems that I saluted the prow of the vessel instead of the stern. I had been below decks ever since boarding the ship and had no idea which end was which, so I took a guess—I guessed wrong.

Other than that, the two-week voyage was uneventful. I was seasick for the first two days and spent a lot of time hanging over the rail, and I learned to gauge the wind—one had to watch one’s output closely because one’s output had a bad habit of almost reaching the waves and then riding the wind all the way back up, often to its origin. I learned early to heave and then quickly step back from the railing. Some others weren’t that lucky. There’s an old joke that goes like this: The admiral asks a young sailor if he has a weak stomach, and the sailor says, No, sir, I am throwing it just as far as the others are.

Every GI on the ship had a daily detail. Some worked in the galley, some in the heads, some did laundry and various make-work tasks, but I was one of the very privileged—I was assigned to the poop deck detail. No, not that poop deck, not that flat-roofed cabin that is erected at the stern of old-time ships for storage and to serve as an observation point. The word poop is derived from a French word poupe, meaning stern, the back part of the ship.

No, my detail involved poop, the real McCoy. People with pets were required to exercise them every day on the rearmost part of the top deck, and the poop naturally followed. Every morning the call came over the intercom—first a series of shrill whistles, then came the words, Now hear this, now hear this—sweepers, man your brooms, clean sweep down fore and aft.

I never knew what was swept down at the fore, but I learned over two weeks about sweep down aft. It wasn’t that bad, though. There was always a strong breeze, if for no other reason than the forward motion of the ship. We used high-pressure hoses to wash down the deck, and we used the brooms to loosen poop reluctant to go into the Pacific Ocean.

I was quartered on Deck 4C, four levels below the top deck and three compartments aft of the head, or latrine. My bunk was second from the floor in a tier of four canvas bunks stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I was lucky because the fellow in the bunk above me was slightly built. The unlucky ones were those with a heavyweight sleeping in the bunk above them. In some cases, it was difficult for them to turn over without bumping into the weight hanging above. Bummer!

Speaking of the head—it’s at the extreme front end of the ship, but it would have been far better situated for use had it been located amidships. The bow of a vessel rises and falls with every wave, and one that is urinating must be ready to stop and restart the stream as the bow rises and falls. If not, one will be hitting one’s shoes as the bow rises, and splattering the wall as the bow falls.

If you have traveled on a ship you’ll understand what I mean, and if you have not, just ask any seasoned sailor how the system works. In the event of heavy seas, one would be advised to perform the act in a seated position—not very manly, but much safer and much easier on one’s shoes—and the wall.

We arrived at the Port of Yokohama, Japan two weeks later and docked in a harbor festooned with jellyfish. Just form a vision of Monet’s ponds covered with lily pads, then multiple it by thousands, perhaps millions, and you’ll have a vision of the Yokohama harbor.

A short time later—oops, let me rephrase that. The words short time have a very different meaning in military lingo, so I’ll say that a bit later a dozen or so of us were on a GI bus headed for Yokota Air Base, near Tokyo in Northern Japan. The bus ride, Yokota Air Base, Fussa and Tachikawa merit a separate posting—stay tuned!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2010 in Military, Travel, wartime

 

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Bidets, bypasses, bulls and barbeques . . .

I awaken quite early every morning, regardless of the time I retire. I am a news freak, but since most of the news on television is a repetition of the day before, I use the wee small hours of the morning to cruise the internet and write. This morning at some time around 3:00 AM I found a very interesting web site—click here to learn how to never again need to use toilet tissue—well, perhaps just a bit of toilet tissue as opposed to reams of it.

I’m certain that most everyone is familiar with the adage admonishing us that The job’s not finished until the paperwork’s done. That slogan is true, particularly when considering the necessary clean-up job required following the elimination of our body wastes, specifically urine and fecal matter.

The web site shown above extols the virtues of using a patented version of the bidet to accomplish the necessary clean-up. Its makers claim that it is more effective, more sanitary and less expensive than using toilet paper, and that it will save an infinite number of trees, thus continuing the fight against global warming—shades of Al Gore!

In the interests of full disclosure, I must reveal that I have no female parts—nope, all male, so I am not restricted to any directions in which to move the paper—so to speak. I can go any direction I choose—forward, backward, inward, outward, left, right or in a circular motion. I can blot, rub, pat, scour, crush, or squeeze, or I can do a combination of any or all of the above, and when the paper comes up clean, I can be certain that the job has been well done.

I must digress here to ask the question, with due apologies to all, that I first heard voiced by the late comedian George Carlin: How does a blind person know when the job is done?

I have spent considerable time in thoughtful speculation on the subject, and have come up with several possibilities, none of which I consider completely successful or acceptable. I suppose that the best substitutes for sight would involve a blind person’s tactile or olfactory sense, or a combination of both senses.

But enough of the digression—I must return to my  solution for saving the trees, a solution that will negate the need for toilet tissue or for any other materials, whether kleenex, catalogues, newspapers, calendars, receipts, oak leaves, or other materials such as wash cloths, towels, shirt tails, corn cobs or currency.

Most of us are familiar with the term gastric bypass surgery, a surgical alternative to dieting in order for one to lose weight. The several bypass surgeries available include rouxeny, biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, lap-band adjustable gastric banding, vertical banded gastroplasty and sleeve gastrectomy. Click here to learn more about each procedure.

Once again in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I am neither a medical doctor nor a body mechanic—the procedure that I am suggesting in order to save the trees by eliminating the use of toilet paper must be developed by others such as the brilliant medical personnel that perfected the different gastric bypass surgeries—I am limited to offering suggestions that could possibly enhance our quality of life—suggestions made possible by my innate capacity to think outside the box.

This is my suggestion for saving the trees:

When we swallow, whether solid food or liquid, the epiglottis closes off the passage to our trachea and directs the swallowed material to our esophagus and thence to the stomach—click here for an explanation of the process. My suggestion is so simple that I wonder why it hasn’t been suggested—I suspect that someone, somewhere, may well be working on the same idea.

This is my simple suggestion, admittedly submitted by a simple person. Given the various definitions of the word simple, I would prefer that the positive ones be applied to me—some of the negative ones are quite depressing.

Ready?

Here it comes—I call it the FourM process—Master Mike’s Matter Manipulation.

The user—the sitter, so to speak—simply holds the business end of a water hose in the mouth, with pressure controls manipulated by the sitter, and flow of water being swallowed will be diverted through a surgical bypass system and routed directly to the intestines. The resulting pressure will force the intestines’ contents downward and outward. The user needs only to release the sphincter muscle periodically and contract it as required to allow the passage of the intestine’s contents out and into the toilet bowl—much as the sphincter muscle is controlled when one has inserted a suppository or is taking an enema. And here it must be noted that both in the case of a suppository and an enema, the user may sometimes inadvertently lose control of the sphincter muscle.

The stream should be made to swirl in a circular motion as it traverses the small intestine in order to thoroughly cleanse the passageway, and such swirling should also cleanse the immediate outer area of skin surrounding the final opening, the medical term for which, of course, is the anus—see diagram above.

I offer my suggestion with full recognition of the difficulties researchers will face in developing a procedure to divert water under pressure directly to the small intestine, but I believe that it can be done, given the miraculous bypasses that have been developed in other areas of the body, including the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other vital organs and areas of the body.

A warning: Precautions must be taken to control the pressure and volume of the flushing element, with attention paid to a system of overrides in case a user decides to experiment with higher pressures than necessary. Given the fact that the elimination of such body wastes is normally a pleasant experience, such attempts may be expected.

So there you have it. This is my gift to medical science. I offer it freely with no thought or hope of remuneration or recognition, although I consider it to be, potentially, one of the great medical discoveries of the world, comparable to the discovery of penicillin. Had I been immersed in my bathtub when I thought of this, I would probably have exclaimed, as did the great Pythagoras when he formulated the 47th Problem of Euclid, and upon on the discovery of which he is said to have exclaimed, Eureka!, in the Grecian language signifying, I have found it! You can read about his discovery here.

In fact, he was so proud of his find that he is said to have sacrificed a hecatomb of cattle to celebrate—to those that may not be aware of it, a hecatomb is 100. I have only one problem with such sacrifices—ostensibly in various religions, the flesh of animals sacrificed for religious reasons is not to be eaten. If that really happened, I would like to believe that the flesh was not wasted—with 100 head of cattle sacrificed, the ancient Greeks could have had the mother of all barbeques!

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Speaking English not good for you . . .

One of my three princesses, the one that was privileged to come into the world ahead of her two sisters, the one I love more than the other two but don’t tell them—yep, that one—sent me an e-mail with the following series of questions and answers concerning the importance of diet and exercise on health.

I felt obligated to spread this doctor’s take on diet and exercise as far and wide as possible. It’s an anonymous piece of writing, so I’m not too worried by the fact that I took the liberty of making numerous changes to the original. And I must say, with the usual humility that my viewers normally expect from me, that those changes improved the document significantly—nay, they improved it immeasurably!

What follows is a series of questions, asked by a patient and answered by Doctor Sum Ting Wong, the patient’s doctor during the two years the patient spent in China:

Q: Doctor, is it true that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life?

A: You heart only good for so many beats and that it. No waste beats on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer. It like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat, and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp theory of logistical efficiency. What do cow eat? Hay and corn. And what that? Vegetables. Steak nothing more than efficient mechanism to deliver vegetable to system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef good source of field grass, and field grass green leafy vegetable. And pork chop give you 100% of recommended daily allowance of protein.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

A:  No, not at all. Wine made from fruit. Brandy distilled wine.That mean they take water out of fruit so you get more. Beer and whiskey also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: How can I calculate my body fat ratio?

A: If you have body and you have fat, you ratio one to one. If you have two body, you ratio two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Sorry, can’t think of single one. Philosophy is, no pain—good!

Q:  Are fried foods bad for us?

A:  You not listening! Food fried these day in vegetable oil. It permeated by vegetable oil. How much more vegetable bad for you?

Q:  Will sit—ups prevent me from getting soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle it get bigger. Only do sit—up if want bigger stomach.

Q:  Is chocolate bad for me?

A:   Helloooo! Bean of cocoa plant is vegetable! Chocolate best feel-good food can find!

Q:  Is swimming good for my figure?

A:  If swimming good for figure, explain whale to me.

Q:  Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?

A:  Hey—round is shape!

This should help clear up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets, and remember this:

Life should not be a journey from the cradle to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, a tall glass of Chardonnay in one hand and dark chocolate in the other, with body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “Woo-hoo, what a ride that was!”

And for those that watch what they eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health—it’s a great relief to know the truth after all these conflicting nutritional studies:

Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Mexicans eat lots of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Chinese drink little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Italians drink lots of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Germans drink lots of beer and eat lots of sausages and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Conclusion: Eat and drink whatever you like. It’s obvious that speaking English is what kills you.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in death, food, grammar, Humor

 

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