Monday, October 04, 2010

A Sniff, A Smile, And Fond Memories.

Just got some sad news. Yep... once again the Loser has lost someone important to his life.
My mom got a call that one of my last two remaining Great Uncles passed away about an hour ago from pneumonia. He was my paternal Grandmother's brother, but oh... he was so much more than that.

Uncle Bill led a fantastic life that saw him creating one of the first horse drawn potato diggers ever made, to time spent in the wilderness of the Alaskan Territory, to work on the military's radar program, to carpentry, to building on the Alaskan Pipeline, to inventing anything and everything one could comprehend (self leveling ladder anyone?), to playing in the stock market his last couple decades here on earth.

He lived in Seattle, and so I didn't get to see him as often as I did the rest of the family, but when they'd come visit... oh boy... memories I'll never forget.

The first visit, my brother and I were fairly young, around 10-12 and so we got to get hugs, and hear wild tales of days gone by, but the next time... I was a bit older (probably 14) and my interests had changed to those of how many of the things we take for granted work.

We were all in the car heading up to see my Great Aunt, and as I looked at the car stereo... I wondered how it worked, so I asked him. "Oh! There's two different types of radio signals that your car can pick up. Amplitude Modulation, or AM, and Frequency Modulation, or FM." He then spent the better part of 45 minutes telling me about the sine wave and how the measurement from one peak to the other was the frequency while the overall height between the top and bottom of the wave was the amplitude. Then he went on to tell me how there were two crystals inside the radio and by turning the dial you were changing the distance between the two causing them to resonate to a different... see what I mean? He knew it!!! I can't think of one scientific question that he couldn't have told me the answer to.

Dad piped up and said he used to work on the radar systems (self taught), so he explained radar to me. How to generate and receive it. Want to know how gravity works? So did he... but he put together a little treatise on gravity one time on how there's no such thing as the pull of gravity, rather there's only the push of gravity, and if I can find it... I'll make sure to post it here for all of you to read. Just an incredibly fascinating individual.

My brother asked my dad why you were weightless in space. Dad's answer? "Write Uncle Bill and ask him. He'll be glad to tell you." So my brother did, and received a many page letter in reply. *edit* This just in from my bro... "I did not ask him how/why things were weightless in space I asked him how we create zero G here on earth. It was a many page letter on how we SIMULATE zero G here on earth." */edit*

But he was not without humor either.

On one of his visits... the whole Jimmy Swaggert/Jim Baker thing was in full swing and he had my dad, brother, and me all alone. So he looks over his shoulder to make sure none of the ladies were around and he said... "You know... preachers do more than laypeople..."

Then when my brother graduated from high school, he sent them a graduation announcement, so down he and Aunt Lois came. This time for a couple of weeks.

We were sitting down in my grandma's front room and my dad said, "Tell these boys about your Alaskan adventures." About 4 hours later... my mind was filled with all of his tales of adventure. From getting an unplanned visit from a couple Eskimo girls looking for sex, to his partner who was a crack shot and could shoot a pebble out of the air with a .22 rifle from his hip, to how he made canoes out of canvas, pine pitch, and candle wax, to an encounter with a grizzly bear. Vivid memories, those are to this day.

Then he told about how a whole group of them were all down on the dock visiting with a Navy Captain while waiting for their collective wives to arrive (circa 1947ish), and someone asking the Captain who'd just gotten back from Alaska how big the mosquitoes were up there. Unbeknownst to the Captain... the wives had just walked up behind him and could hear his answer. Now in that time frame as you well know, curse words were just not said around women, as men had a great amount of respect and deference to the fairer sex. The Captain in full blowhard mode, stood up tall and said, "Big?! Why they can stand flat footed and fuck a turkey!" But then as he saw the wide eyes of his compatriots, turned around slowly to see all the wives with their mouths agape, and was incredibly embarrassed.

I could go on for days. I could tell you about the rotary engine he designed that could generate more horsepower from the size of a lawnmower engine than a modern 460. Do any of you wonder where I get my lust for knowledge? He was a major influence.

When he heard I was going to college to study electrical engineering, he sent me a long letter thanking me for going into the field of science and not business. Any damn fool can graduate in business, but it takes a real sharp individual to graduate in the sciences. Oh yeah... I ended up graduating in business even after all that. I know... I'm a disappointment to all of you now... right? :P

The last time I saw him was at my Great Aunt's funeral well over 10 years ago. He'd gotten older, but he'd started playing in the stock market. He scolded me to get rid of those damn cows and start making money! "Dammit [my name]! T-t-t-t-t-t-t-there's so goddamned much money in the stock market it's not even funny! I'm not saying there's no risk, but one time... every time I hit the refresh key on my computer I made $10,000." Did you get that? Every five seconds he'd make ten grand...

He lost a bit during the various crashes, but a couple years ago, my folks went up there to visit and he told them of a little stock he'd forgotten about. It wasn't costing him anything, but it wasn't really producing either, so he just put it on the back burner and kind of forgot about it. Later on, he remembered it and checked in. It had made him about 100 grand. Maybe I should have gotten rid of the damn cows...

I wish he could have lived forever, but 101 was all he could muster. So long Uncle Bill, I'll always love and remember you.

Today's mystery lyric: (Remember the rules folks, no online searching of the lyrics, if you don't know it, you don't have the answer!)

Your mama told you that you're not supposed
to talk to strangers

Look in the mirror and tell me
do you think your life's in danger

Answer to last lyric: Sex on Fire by The Kings of Leon