Archive for August, 2014

Huba Huba

August 18 2014

Three and a half years ago, I cleaned out my grandparent’s apartment.  My grandmother, Nanny, had just passed away.  My mom had gone through the important paperwork, but there was still lots to do.  I boxed up many things, hoping to go through them one day.  And, slowly, I am going through everything.  One day, I may even find that banana-shaped spoon my sister keeps asking me for.

Today, I found a piece of history.  I found my grandfather’s list of WWII missions, typed by typewriter.

Mission LIst

Mission LIst

Just one week ago, I went to the WWII museum in New Orleans and spent hours with Debbie learning about Operation Overloard (the invasion of Normandy that started on D-Day).  As I read the document in my hand, I thought that I was looking at an artifact in the museum.

FRANCE  JUNE 8 – ETAMPS — Faireasy
FRANCE  JUNE 10 – CAMBRAI – Rough for some of the fellows
FRANCE JUNE 14 – Le BOURGETS (PARIS) Flack Gunners were hot
FRANCE JUNE 17 – LILLE – *Not bad
GERMANY JUNE 17 – HAMBURG – Flack – Plenty of it tough holes in ship
FRANCE JUNE 19 – BORDEAUX – Bad weather turned back – Flack Mild
FRANCE June 20 – WATT – Buzz Bombs Flack Moderate
FRANCE June 22 – ROUEN – Flack moderate to light
FRANCE June 28 – LEON – Flack light
FRANCE JULY 4 – TOURS – Flack light
FRANCE JULY 6 – CROSSVILLE – More flack – Not too close
GERMANY JULT 7 – LEIPZIG – Plenty flack – German must have been mad
holes in wings gas tank
GERMANY JULY 11 – MUNICH – Plenty of flack
GERMAN JULY 16 – Some more flack more holes sweater somemore
GERMAN JULY 18 – PEENEMUNDE – Flack not close long ride
GERMAN JULY 20 – LEIPZIG – Flack holes – rough worried for a while
FRANCE JULY 24 – ST.LO – Helped the ground forces no flack
FRANCE JULY 25 – ST LO – Went again really paster the enemy
GERMANY AUG 4 – ANKLAN – Flack light not bad
GERMAN AUG 5 – NEINBURG – No flack good trip
FRANCE AUG 8 – CAEN – Flack very heavy holes in ship engine hit
BELGIUN AUG 9 – MALMENDY – Flack light not bad
FRANCE AUG 11 – BREST – Flack light short ride not bad
FRANCE AUG 13 – LOUVIER – Flack light but fairly accurate
GERMANY AUG 14 – STUTTGART – Plenty of flack accurate holes in ship
GERMANY AUG 16 – LEIPZIG – Flack heavy rough holes in ship
BELGIUN AUG 17 – NAMURE – Flack accurate not too heavy
BLEGIUN AUG 26 – ANTWERP – Flack accurate not too heavy

My grandfather’s typed notes that read like a weather report, if only the word “flack” were replaced by “rain”.  I suspected that flack = enemy fire, but I looked it up on Wikipedia to be sure:  Flack is anti-aircraft warfare.  That means that every second of every mission, my grandfather and his crew did not know if they would make it to the next second.  War is horrible.

According to the typed notes, they flew 29 missions total. According to the 351st bomb group online records, my grandfather flew 31 missions (search for Edward Ryan or serial number 13099759).  There was a second mission on 20 June and a missing one on 12 June.  I am not sure whose records were more accurate — and both could be flawed.  I remember my grandmother saying “your grandfather flew X missions over Normandy and Germany”.  I just wish that I remembered what number X was.

Then, I remembered a story I was told about the plane my grandfather flew in, the Huba Huba.  I was told that it was shot down in the very next mission after my grandfather’s last mission.  So, I wanted to see if these records could verify that (I don’t remember who told me or when, so seemed like a good fact to check).  When I looked at the records, I realized that my grandfather’s crew flew on multiple DIFFERENT B-17s.  (If you look at the online records again, you’ll see that each missions lists the aircarft number).  The last plane he flew went on two more missions.  The last mission of that aircraft (mission # 199) was gunned down, killing all but two members of the crew (who became prisoners of war).  I was still a bit bothered that it was not “the next” mission AND the fact that I couldn’t verify the aircraft’s nickname.

So, I googled “Hubba Bubba” and found a plethora of links about bubble gum.  After reading two newspaper article that I found a year ago from my grandfather’s WWII reunion weekends, I realized the plane was the “Huba Huba” (sometimes written “Hubba Hubba”) and I came across a newspaper article about the plane that went missing.  

That was aircraft 43-37557.  During it’s fated last mission, mission 185, the plane never returned, presumed to have been shot down.  The previous mission, mission 184, my grandfather and his crew were on that plane.  Although mission 184 wasn’t my grandfather’s last mission, I know that this is the plane he was referring to.  First, the name of the plane matched.  Second, he would have known that the plane did not return to the base in England.  What he did not know was that 8 of the 9 crew members survived and became prisoners of war.


Sleepy Heart

August 14 2014

When living in Austria, sometimes special health screenings would come to the office. One day, they were doing EKG’s, so I decided to get one. The nurse performing the EKG was surprised by my low heart rate (that morning, it was 43 beats per minute).  Since I had just woken up (the exam was conveniently in the same building that I lived in), she suggested my heart was still sleepy.  

That EKG provided me a chance to learn a little more about myself.  In high school, I found out that I had a heart arrhythmia.  I had no clue what that meant, as I never felt it.  As I went through many tests, the doctors had shown me my EKG and explained the physical reason why the abnormality happens, but I didn’t really understand.  In particular, I had never had the chance to examine my own EKG with the aid of the internet.

With this exam in Austria, I was given the EKG printout.  So, I started to compare it against other EKGs that I could find online.  Looking at one beat, I can see what the doctors see (even though I still can’t feel it):


my EKG

The part highlighted in cyan is called the delta wave.  It’s not present in a normal heart beat.  The big peak should pretty much go straight up and down, but mine has a small slope at the very beginning.

Don’t worry though, doctors say my heart is nice and healthy!  The arrhythmia is just part of what makes me unique.

Washing the Dishes to Wash the Dishes

August 3 2014

I’m reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh.  One of the most well-cited lessons he offers in this book is to “wash the dishes to wash the dishes.”  This lesson is in the first chapter, The Essential Discipline.  This is what he says:

There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.

My first reaction was that this is ridiculous.  I can understand how to embrace every moment, but only for certain moments, for example when going on a hike with David.  But, who really wants to wash the dishes?  I especially loathe that task, ask Dave.

Then, I was in the car with my friend Nav.  He had one hand on the wheel and one on the phone, working with the GPS.  He refused to let me handle the directions.  His driving got me car sick, I had to close my eyes multiple times, and we went the wrong way.  Then it clicked.

There are two ways to drive a car.  The first is to drive in order to get somewhere (fast), and the second is to drive the car in order to drive the car.

The meaning of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes” became very clear to me.  In fact, it was a light bulb moment.  Even though Nhat Hanh provided an interpretation, I didn’t really understand it when reading the book.  So, I’ll explain in my own words (which now seem surprisingly similar to what I read a few days ago).

In order to really live in the moment and to be present in every moment, you need to fully experience of each moment (i.e., be mindful) , no matter how mundane the task is: washing dishes, driving a car, … As he said in the book, if you are washing the dishes thinking about the tea you will drink after you are done and thinking about what tomorrow will bring when drinking your tea, then there is no time left to experience the present.

I offer another reason to experience the present: it gets the job done better (and, in the case of driving, is just plain safer).  I’ve seen this when grading Calc III homework.  The difference between the students who do the homework to get it over with and the students who do the homework in order to learn is like night and day.  Sure, those who do it to get it over with have something passable written down, but the fact that they are not fully present when working is very transparent (especially if they are working with someone else and copy the answer down word-for-word, including the name at the top of the paper).

So, I tried to explain my thoughts to Nav.  I’m not really sure how that came across, but I hope he starts to drive the car in order to drive the car (maybe he will if he reads this and sees that I’ve called him out on his bad driving).