Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #195

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #195

…”When the shelling stops, I will provide you an escort to Paris,” orders General Henri Philippe Petain. “It appears the Germans are determined to take this position and we’re not in the mood to give it up…

“The Madhouse” by Louis Raemaekers

War slows down in the winter. Much of the energy necessary to carry on armed conflicts is wasted on trying to keep warm and in a war where progress is measured in yards, things do not move fast, even in warmer weather. Shells misfire, feet and hands freeze, the general will to fight disappears with the sinking angle of the sun. It makes you wonder why Russia is ever contested over.

But answers to these and many other questions are more easily obtained; just ask the shivering staff of the Pearson-Eastman Journal. Access to officers and conscripted alike accelerates with the thickening of engine oil and the congealing of diesel fuel. More stories are exchanged between comrades than gunfire with the enemy. There are general objectives to be achieved, but Mother Nature calls most of the shots.

Sometimes the cold causes brain cramps. Emboldened by the lack of fighting, fighting the urge to trade the field for a crackling hearth in Rochester USA, Harv and Judith take their crew to the city of Verdun France, an ancient fortress town, one of the country’s oldest. It turns into a sightseeing tour. In the area called the “Heights”, there are buildings that date back to when North America was just a gleam in a Viking’s eye. For all its obvious history, it continues to be what it was designed to be, a topographical stronghold, not easily breached by land.

Verdun German Artillery

In the days of the Roman Empire, when it was known as Virodunum, it represented stability, a constant in time of conquering, so no matter what country controlled the countryside, the Heights remain unchanged. Treaties are signed here, Europe parceled and re-parceled and still armies are forced to stay away.

Germany managed to do the impossible in the 10th century, the border with France drifting back and forth with the winds of time, and have once again targeted Verdun as the gateway to Paris.

On 21 February 1916, after a week of lens reflex and reticence, Pearson and Eastman-Pearson are shocked out of their beds before dawn. They had been staying in the rectory of the Notre Dame Cathedral, residence to the current Roman Catholic bishop, feeling quite at home.

  For the next 24 hours, there is not a minute that does not contain the whistle of 40 mm artillery shells and the crater creating explosions. Ground troops, led by one of the junior Wilhelms, are 8 miles to the rear, pushing hard against a French Army wall 20 miles long. But there is no stopping the formidable ammunition from arching onto the unattainable Heights at Fort Douaumont.

When the shelling stops, I will provide you an escort to Paris,” orders General Henri Philippe Petain. “It appears the Germans are determined to take this position and we’re not in the mood to give it up.

His message is clear, if understanding his thick French accent isn’t.

“We need to contact Bologna, General. We would like get to England before we head back to the States. Could you help us?” asks Harv hopefully.

“Oui, at our Paris headquarters, you may speak to anyone in the world. And while you are at it, tell your Woodrow Wilson that we could use his help, tout suite.”

“If he has been reading our magazine, he is already contemplating it. If he doesn’t, I am sure our readers may have something to say about it. The pictures of war can be a powerful thing. The very thought of a Europe under German control is unthinkable.”

“I hope you are right, Mon Amie!”

“Arrevoire, General and hold that line,” he points to the east.

“They shall not pass!” Petaine states with a leader’s conviction.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Verdun Trenches by Howard Gerrard

Episode #195


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #194

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #194

…Agnes Ferrell is still somewhat of a prize, but should the classically endowed “Gibson Girls” go out of favor, 25 pounds will need to be shed…

“The Gibson Girl” by Kasai on Deviantart

“We will discuss your father’s crazy idea after dinner, when the guests leave.”

“I get the hint, Mother. Feel free to torture me.”

“Oh, by the way, we invited Frankie, from…”

“The Dry Goods Manager, from store #3? You really must think I am desperate!”

“Your Father invited him to Thanksgiving, at the last minute. Seems he never had a father and his mother died two weeks ago.”

“Yes, I remember, very sad, but I do not view him as a possible suitor.” She is still somewhat of a prize, but should the classically endowed “Gibson Girls” go out of favor, 25 pounds will need to be shed.

“Don’t get the wrong impression, Agnes. He is a nice man, not altogether without merit, but he does not represent our desires for you. Be yourself around him; make him feel at home, that’s all we ask of you.”

 “You always manage to keep me grounded,” Agnes admits.

“Now Cyril Odz, he is a different story. We continue to hear nothing but good things about him from your brother.”

James has been on the lookout for possible mates for years and he has informed Martha that the Gadsden County Sheriff fits all the criteria.

“Look who is here, dear.” John ushers Ziggy into the kitchen, along with the bag of beets and rutabaga stalks he insisted on contributing. They will need special attention to fit in with meal, but no one will be the wiser.

While Doc Ziggy is in his eighties, his mind is still sharp as a tack, as adept are his arthritic hands. So don’t you dare — walk with bare — feet that is. “Martha, you must improve your posture,” he places a hand on the smallest of her back and one on her left breast, while lifting. If he were anyone else, a slap across the brow would be in order. “Laura, Alpha and Maggie Lou vill be by shortly and do not throw out za greens from za beets, boil zem is salt vater.” Advanced age does have its privilege.

Cross

  That afternoon, after all have assembled at Hillside Estate, there is so much to be thankful for. John Ferrell speaks for them all, with an inspirational grace for the ages, lifted to the heavens and direct from his heart. Unbeknownst to him, his prayer strikes a deep cord with Frankie, leading him to accept Jesus as his Savior. Agnes had wondered why he had been invited, this is her answer. The plans of man are mere pieces of the great plan of God.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #194


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Tape, Teflon, Velcro, Virility and Mastercard – WIF Simple

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Simple Technologies

That Changed

the World

There are numerous examples of breakthroughs that humans have used or discovered in their existence that have catapulted us to the top of the food chain. The wheel, the steam engine, the printing press, etc. These advances are known to most people, and we realize that without those things existing, we’re still in the dark ages.

But there are also lots of little blips on the timeline throughout human history of simpler things between the lines. These technologies may not have the same lustre as the heavy hitters, but if you tried to imagine your daily life without these things being developed and perfected, you would quickly see that they’re every bit as important. Here are some simple technologies that changed the world in profound ways.

10. Duct Tape

That sticky grey tape that seems to hold most of the world together these days draws its history back to the Second World War. The military used the tape to keep their ammunition boxes sealed, but quickly found that there were tons of other uses for it. What began as medical tape was found to have incredibly adhesive qualities as well as inherent waterproofing, which led to soldiers calling it “duck tape,” referring to a duck’s wicking feathers.

Once the war ended, soldiers returned home and began buying houses en masse. They also took lots of jobs with construction companies, and told their bosses about this incredibly sticky tape they used during the war. The tape was used for all sorts of HVAC applications, but mostly for holding ductwork together. So “duck tape” became “duct tape,” but in 1998, a test of common HVAC sealing materials was conducted. Duct tape came in dead last. Quack.

9. Teflon Pans

When scientists in the 1930s developed a new kind of polymer that was superbly heat resistant and uber-slippery. They used it in war, because that’s just what was going on at the time. But it took until the ‘60s when they decided that it would be great for keeping food from sticking to pans.

And it wasn’t just pans–the non-stick coating known as Teflon changed the home kitchen for good by also being applied to muffin and cake tins as well as cookie sheets. Clean up was a breeze. The coating could handle high heat. The only thing they were kind of bad at was not killing people. The workers that produced Teflon were basically poisoned by the material, and that sickness was passed on to lord knows how many consumers. One of the components in Teflon that was responsible wasn’t banned until 2014.

8. Smoke Detectors

Think of all the things you probably take for granted in our homes in the present day, and smoke detectors are likely near the top of the list. Those little gadgets have saved countless lives, yet you hardly notice them until their batteries run low. They’ve become standard and required in homes these days, so it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t around. And they happened by accident.

In the 1930s, a scientist in Switzerland was trying to make a device that detected poison gas in the air. While it failed to pick up the presence of the tested poison, when he lit a cigarette, the smoke did trip the alarm. It took until the late 1960s before they found their way into homes, and have now cut fire-related deaths by half.

7. Viagra

A little blue pill that’s only been around for twenty years shouldn’t have such an impact on the world that it’s had, especially since it’s not cured any major disease, instead letting men experience the wonder of full erections. But Viagra has basically changed sex around the world.

In 1991, testing began on what would become Viagra, but it was developed with the intention of lowering blood pressure. But during the studies, there was a certain side effect that the men involved could not ignore. The development of the drug headed in the direction of restoring sexual health to men, and within ten years, 200,000 prescriptions a week were being filled. It changed the way men confronted diminishing sex drives. It also helped unknown diseases related to erectile dysfunction become treated when men came to the doctor seeking Viagra.

6. Credit Cards

A fixture of every wallet known to man, the credit card is simultaneously boosting the economy and bankrupting countless people with no financial acumen. The concept of “pay us later, we’re sure you’re good for it,” and then tacking on insane interest amounts is a fairly new concept. At least in card form. But they’re ubiquitous now, with around 18 billion in use.

In 1949, businessman Frank McNamarawas at a restaurant and realized he had forgotten his wallet. This made him envision a kind of card that could be used at multiple businesses. He started Diners Club the next year, and within the next decade, more and more banks started making their own credit cards. Fast forward to present day, and Americans alone possess over a trillion dollars in credit card debt. So in less than a hundred years, we’ve done some damage, haven’t we?

5. UPC Codes

You’ve seen that little box of black lines on the side of every product you buy, even more so when you’re struggling to find them in the self-checkout line. The UPC code (Bar Code) gets scanned, the price shows up, and it’s a pretty expedient process. But how did that get to become the norm?

In 1948, Joseph Woodland (who had actually worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear bomb) was responding to a query from a local store owner about how to speed up the process of buying products in his store. Woodland thought about Morse Code and its simple way of giving lots of information with dots and lines, so he made that his inspiration. His innovation could describe an item and its price all at once, instead of the snail’s pace of non-automated operations that most stores suffered through. The only thing that held back progress was the lack of computers readily available to read the code, so it took until 1974 when the technology began to roll out to stores nationwide.

4. Barbed Wire

Two problems faced the American West as it grew and expanded: cattle were getting loose and trampling precious crops, and there wasn’t enough wood in those regions to build fences. The Homestead Act of 1862 made it so many people could get vast tracts of land for next to nothing, so it was important that they be able to work that land and have secure properties.

Enter Joseph Glidden of Illinois, who patented barbed wire in 1874. It wasn’t without its growing pains, as the wire trapped dumb cows by the thousands, and cowboys hated their herds being restricted by the artificial borders. And those very borders that marked a person’s property also screwed over Native Americans, as these practices left them with even fewer claims to their ancestral lands. The Homestead Act required that a person build a home and work the land for five years before it would become theirs to own. The barbed wire was a metaphorical and physical realization that their way of life was over.

3. Velcro

Zippers were still very much the rage in 1941, when Swiss engineer George de Mestral came upon an idea while walking his dog in the woods one day. He noticed how his clothing and his dog were covered in sticky burrs, the pointy little things that always prick your fingers are you’re removing them. Under a microscope, he saw how the curved hooks of the burrs met with his clothing in an almost perfect marriage. Zippers were no longer the only game in town.

Zippers tended to jam all the time. Velcro, as it would come to be in 1955 (from the French words “velour” and “crochet”) didn’t have that problem. Though originally implemented in clothing, it’s now used in everything from sporting equipment to NASA craft. And whoever began using it in little kids’ clothing should eventually get their own medal.

2. Daylight saving time

Ok, so maybe not exactly a technology, but the advent of daylight saving (it’s not “savings”, by the way) time has changed a lot about our modern world. First started in Germany in 1916 as a way to enjoy the sunshine and to conserve electricity, it began to catch on in other countries around the world soon after.

In the United States, it was started in 1918 as a wartime practice. It was repealed the next year after farmers protested; the next few decades saw back and forth fighting and different start times for daylight saving across the country. Finally in 1966, the Uniform Time Act made time, uh, uniform across the country. The central concept, energy conservation, doesn’t really seem to be a benefit though. The stuff that uses the most electricity in our homes are things that get used the more we are home, if that makes sense. It seems that the money that gets boosted into the economy by people enjoying more leisure “daytime” in the evening is enough to keep the practice in use.

1. Transistors

Think of the devices that power your everyday life: smartphones, computers, tablets, etc. They all have one thing in common at their very core, and that’s the very simple transistor. The development of the transistor signaled the developmental shift from hardware to software, and it’s why technology has surged light years ahead since its inception.

A transistor is merely a type of semiconductor that either amplifies signals or switches them. Invented in 1947, it was a device far ahead of its time, and as computing devices grew and became more efficient, so too did the transistor. Computers got smaller and became household items, while transistors shrunk down to the size of a few nanometers. Those tiny transistors are one of the only unchanged (aside from size) building blocks of the entire digital age.


Tape, Teflon, Velcro, Virility and Mastercard –

WIF Simple

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #193

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #193

…Martha Ferrell is letting her true feelings surface for the first time…

Preparing For Thanksgiving by Doris Lee

John ponders Scotish aid.

‘I wonder if he wants to go see where his family has its roots.’ She knows John is eager, knee-deep in his new project, but a look that would stop a charging bull in its tracks, halts his notion there and then. ‘No, I suppose he has better things to do… busy, busy, busy, always something,’

 Thanksgiving is the next day.

“And please do not spoil Thanksgiving dinner with too much talk of Scotland. It will be difficult enough dealing with the extra guests.” She is in the kitchen, preparing to prepare enough food to feed the Third Scottish Regiment, with Agnes’ help… as soon as she wakes up.

“Ziggy is old and alone.” John insists.

“He is not the problem. Neither is his friend, Doctor Alpha. It is who will be with them.”

Truth-001“Laura Bell and Maggie – I thought we buried that resentment years ago?”

“We buried? No, I have learned to forgive your adultery, but I may never understand your complete devotion to that child, I mean we could have paid Laura off and sent them away. Instead, they live across the lake and you spend as much time with them as you do me.”Martha is letting her true feelings surface for the first time.

There is the welcome sound of footsteps coming down from upstairs, much to John’s relief. “Agnes, darling, you’re up early, good, your mother needs help peeling the vegetables, I am going to stoke the stove. Let’s make this the best Thanksgiving ever!”John heads for the woodshed for enough fuel to cook six separate dishes and a 25 pound turkey.

“Daddy is unusually lively this morning, Mother. Did we put too much starch in his underwear again?”

“I will let him tell you himself, but suffice it to say he has a new project to work on, something to do with the war in Europe.”

“How exciting! Do you think I could help?” Agnes could use a little spice in her life as well.

“No, I mean yes, no I mean maybe.” It is hard for her to be clear, without appearing to oppose the one man whom Agnes overtly adores. “We will discuss this after dinner, when the guests leave.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

MimiEunice_60

Mimi & Eunice by Nina Paley

Episode #193


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #192

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #192

…The Lord asks us to share our brothers’ burden. I need to take up the cause, stand shoulder to shoulder with my kinsmen,…

“What does your cousin say?” asks Martha Ferrell of her husband John, who reads a letter from Scotland intensely. It is dated 22 March, 1915, received the day before Thanksgiving same year.

“Oh, Martha, they’re suffering great hardship. Nearly everything is rationed, living off their potato plot, they are. Most of the grain they grow goes to the cattle; the rest must be submitted to the war effort.” As he reads Sir James M. Barrie’s tale of woe, waves of guilt wash against his spirit, remembering the happy days of his youth, playing with James. John’s own son is named after his relative left behind, after the Ferrells abandoned the  Isle clan for a new life in Florida. “He fears his son, Matthew, will be drafted into the British Army, though a recent bout of consumption may disqualify him from battle.

“‘How ironic; spared the horrors of war by a disabling disease.’”

 “Those are his very words, aren’t they?”  She recognizes the work of a writer, albeit far from his wispy ‘Peter Pan’. “I so love his letters, every one a masterpiece unto itself.”

  “I’ve been praying about the plight of our people. We are so blessed by the lord, insulated from adversity, bounties beyond deserving. I ask myself, ‘what can I do to support my homeland an ocean away?’ My answer is never the same.”

Scotland      “What if we take a collection of goods, you know, foodstuffs, clothing, anything the Panhandle can offer that will help them survive hostilities.”

“Yes, yes, and we can hire a ship out of Panama City to carry them to Perth. How I would love to see old James again!”

It was a splendid idea until mention of him going home to the Central Lowlands enters in the back door. “Must you go to Scotland? Why put yourself in harms way?”

The Lord asks us to share our brothers’ burden. I need to take up the cause, stand shoulder to shoulder with my kinsmen, making a difference in their community.” John Ferrell lacks only a kilt. “Please wire Dundee with the news of our plan. I am going to begin gathering the cargo, I think Herb Love will jump right in with both feet, if I know him and Jacques Francoise will mix up some medicines, maybe help Matthew with his tuberculosis. And every farmer in Leon and Gadsden County will surely contribute something. I know we can fill a small freighter.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #192


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode # 191

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #191

…Harv’s condensed version of a coming epic is not entirely realistic, a story of nine months closer to hell than most sane people care to get…

Summer on the middle Atlantic is deceivingly pleasant, especially on the southern routeAtlantic-001 that the S.S. Oscar II has taken, seemingly sneaking up on France. Days of warm sun lends an aire of a leisure cruise… and then to quite the opposite. Soon, lounge chairs and cold drinks, will be replaced by trenches and bacteria laced water.

Passing the Straits of Gibraltar, entrance to the Mediterranean, proves to be the most challenging. A large part of the war is being fought in the landlocked sea, the east lying Dardanelles being the only marine access to Russia, and there is much attention where Spain and Morocco put the squeeze on open water. German sharks circle the area, waiting for defenseless prey, but dare not show themselves, lest the Allied fleet watching this isthmus spy them and secure their place next to the crustaceans and mollusks.

The sailor in the crow’s nest is an expert in identifying ships, the first to know whether it is safe to steam on, with scores of bobbing boats of all sizes to choose from. If they time it just right, Oscar II will pass through unnoticed, the plumes of smoke from their stack the sole record of a northerly course. Once clear of the maritime congestion, the final 400 leagues of sea separating them form the port city of Brest, goes quickly. The Bay of Biscay is tranquil, its water disturbed only by a knifing bow at twenty knots.

“Is there any chance that we can forget this madness and stay with the ship?” asks Judith, flooded by second thoughts at first sighting of a periscope; an initial taste of the SS OscarIIdangers of war.

“Don’t you think I can keep us safe? The real fighting is 600 miles to the east and we will not go past 500, at least not for more than a day – get a few pictures of the front, talk to a few soldiers and get out – head up to London, dodge bombs from a Zeppelin or two, talk to the Prime Minister, whoever that is at the time – and maybe we could cap things off by capturing a submarine in the English Channel, talk to the captain about what its like sinking a hospital ship.”

You really know how to comfort a girl!”

Harv’s condensed version of a coming epic is not entirely realistic, a story of nine months closer to hell than most sane people care to get, but he may not be too far off.

“If we don’t tell our readers what is really going on here, Wilson will sit on his hands and it will be too late. Europe will answer to Kaiser Wilhelm, thereby creating “North America Island”, with two huge bodies of water for a buffer zone, granted. Even castles can be breached, no matter how many alligators you put in the mote,” he relates. “I for one don’t want to find out.”

 “Never mind,” Judith bucks up, bolstered by Harv’s noble intentions. “Is that our launch?” she points to a sleek sloop speeding to meet up the S.S. Oscar II .

“That’s it! Time to go people,” he yells to the rest of the P-E J staff, taking Judith’s hand, turning to bid Captain Barnabas Silverio farewell. “Take care on the way back to America; you don’t want to keep Henry Ford waiting.”

“If you’re still in Europe in March, we would love to see you home.”

“You can have our business, any time, Captain,” he assures, adding, “but only if you can keep Oscar afloat!”

Good-bye to a friend of the P-E J, hello to months’ worth of tension filled material.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Brest Lighthouse photo by Alexander Riek

Episode #191


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #190

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #190

…Captain Silverio claims, “I have every issue of the Pearson-Eastman Journal filed away in my cabin.”

Theodore-Roosevelt-on-horse    “Welcome aboard, folks,” greets the captain, one Barnabas Silverio. “It’s a rare day when we have such famous passengers.” He points to a copy of the P-E J’s first issue, Teddy Roosevelt standing next to his favorite quarter horse, on the cover, as well as June’s arts issue featuring Pablo Picasso. “I have every issue filed away in my cabin.”

  …………..

Harv rolls around some numbers in his head. “That would be nearly 65, sir. We are honored to be in the company of such an avid reader.”

“Why do you think we volunteered to give you safe passage? Your magazine has shortened my every voyage, showing me what is going on, on land. So, when word was out that you wanted to get to Europe, we moved some of our trips back, including Henry Ford and his crazy idea about making us a peace ship. We have to take advantage of these open seas. We must keep the bullets coming or there won’t be a Europe to save, at least as we know it.”

“I guess we won’t be doing another Ford article anytime soon,” Harv surmises.

   “Woodrow Wilson may be out as well,” comments Judith about the President, who has done everything he can to keep America out of the war. He must have something to do with allowing Henry Ford to try his hand at diplomacy.

“Don’t you worry now,” Silverio assures, with a hint of an Italian accent. “He didn’t make up his mind soon enough, plus we will have to repaint the Oscar, with the flags of the Allies and the Centrals no less.  I might just put her in dry dock ‘til the war is over, wait to see if the Swedish flag still exists.”

“We look forward to safe passage, regardless and the chance to capture the essence of a world at war.” Harv shares his vision of untainted coverage.

  “I believe you will.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #190


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