Saturday, July 19, 2008

Zombie hordes: where to find 'em

I've been dabbling in the arena of the Zombpocalypse for a while now, from movies to books to Intardweb activity. That being the case, I've managed to find a few forums on the topic, which have been occasionally helpful and occasionally a source of frustration (just ask Top how many times his hair has been on fire. LOL!). Overall, though, there is quite a bit to be gained on a variety of topics...and its fun. Here's some of my regular haunts:
Zombie Squad

Hotel 23

All Things Zombie

There are some others out there, but I haven't visited them all...yet. Takes time, since I have other forums of interest to attend to. I can't put off washing the dishes forever.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Courage, strength, and perseverence. I gotta warn you, this will be humbling.

Mark Campbell is an officer in the Canadian Army. Recently, he was WIA in Afghanistan, The following is copied from his post at explaining what happened and what is happening now. I have to say, this post humbled me, and at the same time, confirmed that I have a lot of work to do on myself. His attitude in amazing and inspiring. This is the quality of service personnel we have in this fight. We owe them all a debt I fear we will never fully understand, much less ever be able to repay.

Howdy Fellow LFers,

First and foremost, I'm still alive and kicking so no "memorial" stuff is required at this point. Second, many thanks for all of your well-wishes and associated kind words. All is as well with me as can be expected under the circumstances. I had a "bad day" in Siah Choy (Zhari District) back on 01 Jun, but it certainly wasn't the end of the world. Indeed, I am quite thankful that aside from the loss of both legs above the knees, I am 100% good to go. In other words, the same old me - for better or for worse!

To satisfy any natural curiosity, I was hit by a comd-detonated AP mine that initiated a complex ambush against the ANA coy that I was accompanying on a village clearance op. The blast threw me straight up and slightly backwards such that I landed just behind the blast seat on my back. I did a crunch and saw that both legs were gone below the knees. I yelled for assistance and managed to get a CAT around my left stump before attending troops took over my care under fire. Both legs were tourniquetted and I was extracted under fire to a secure location while the coy engaged the enemy under the very capable guidance of one of my coy mentoring teams. I remained conscious throughout, which turned out to be a PITA due to the incredible degree of pain I was in.

Three other members of my HQ were evacced with me, including my Med Sgt, who provided life-saving treatment to me while simultaneously treating himself for blast-related concussion. There was a running gun battle back to the designated HLS that lasted about an hour, followed by a 25-minute helo ride to KAF and 30 minutes of in-processing at the Role 3 Forward Surgical Hospital. By that point I was literally begging to be rendered unconscious via anesthetic, as the pain was totally out of control. That was by far the worst part of the entire episode - feeling every single second of the 2 hours it took to finally get some pain relief.

I underwent intial surgery at the Role 3 in KAF, and was then air-evacced to Landstuhl Germany. Once I was anethesized at the Role 3, I was kept unconscious for the better part of a week aside from a couple of occasions where they woke me up for various assessments and phone calls. I was intubated and kept in intensive care due to blast damage to my lung tissue which compromised oxygen processing. Once I regained consciousness, I remained in the Landstuhl ICU for a further 5 days before being placed in the general ward. My repat to Canada was delayed as a result of the lung damage, which impacted my ability to fly at altitude under normal pressurization. Eventually all was well, and I flew from Germany to Edmonton via Airbus and Challenger.

I have been in the Isolation Ward of the U of Alberta Hospital for just over two weeks now, where my wounds have undergone follow-on treatment. Initially the treatment consisted of debriding and irrigating the wounds every 2 days IOT ensure the presence of healthy tissue suitable for skin grafting. I still had a lot of dead tissue in and around my wounds as a result of the blast and the Afghan "super-bug" that I contracted. After a week of dressing changes and cleanings the surgeons were able to conduct the initial skin-grafts required to create suitable stumps for prosthetic legs. The donor tissue came from my upper thighs, which added a whole new level of discomfort. Morphine, Dilaudid, OxyContin, etc, have become my new bestest friends! Anyhow, as of today the docs assess that the graft on my right leg is 100% successful. The graft on my left leg is only 85% healthy, due to the fact that my left thigh took the worst of the blast damage and therefore requires the most reconstruction. If all goes according to plan, one more surgery this coming weekend will sort out the graft on my left stump and put both at 100% so that I can get on with healing and rehab.

I will remain at the U of A Hospital for a few more weeks to let my stumps heal, then transition to the Glenrose Hospital (still in Edmonton) for 3 to 6 months of in-patient amputee rehab. The length of my stay in rehab will depend entirely upon my personal rate of progress through the recovery programme. The good news is that the Glenrose provides cutting-edge/state of the art amputee treatment. There will be plenty of hard work, but | can expect to see maximum return on my rehab efforts.

The support and assistance that I have received throughout every stage of my injury, evacuation and treatment to date has been superb. As you can appreciate, there are still many unanswered questions that need to be addressed, but for the most part my immediate requirements have all been met. My family, friends, co-workers and the various institutional representatives have all been incredibly supportive thus far. My Wife of 18 years has been a rock-solid port in some pretty stormy seas of late. My friends, spanning 27 years of military service, have rallied around my family and shown their true colours. One could not hope for better friends, and I consider myself a very rich man for their company. Likewise, the various military institutions that affect me have been tremendous in their support, starting with a personal visit by the Canadian Forces Chief of Defence Staff (Gen Rick Hillier) and working down the chain through the Army, my Regiment (the PPCLI), and my unit (3rd Bn, PPCLI). I honestly couldn't ask for more in terms of assistance and support in dealing with my current challenges.

Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know that I am doing fine despite my recent set-back. Yeah, the Taliban bastards managed to wing me. They didn't kill me though - just slowed me down a bit. I'm a partial mobility kill, nothing worse. My injuries will heal and my mobility will eventually improve. I am pleased to say that this is much more than a large number of former Taliban can boast. We did some very good killing on the ops immediately preceeding and during my injury with an extremely high "exchange rate". No doubt the lop-sided killing has continued in my absence....

Life has thrown some new challenges in my path, but at the same time there are new opportunities to be exploited. I just need to figure out what those opportunities are and how they apply to me in order to chart a suitable way ahead for myself and my family. First things first though - for now I need to focus on mending and regaining my mobility. I'll worry about the long-term stuff later.

That is about all I have to report for now. Many thanks again for your concern and your individual well-wishes! That means a lot to me coming from such a distinguished group of BTDT fellow warriors.

Soldier on, no regrets!

Mark Campbell (aka "Stumpy") :Smile:

PS. Here's a link to a recent article with embedded video featuring my mentoring team on ops. The op occurred way back in April before the campaign season really ramped up. As a result, there isn't any kinetic contact. Still, the reporter manages to pretty accurately capture the typical mix of friction-induced stupidity and tactical success. A good intro for those not familiar with ongoing NATO efforts to professionalize the ANA. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Zombie Mythos: distilling the suspension of disbelief

My bro Top and I have been on a quest of late to catch up on the Zombie movies we've missed. I've seen a few more of them than he has because our schedules for study (in a semi-reclined position, which is, of course, tactical because we typically have a carbine around) haven't matched up all that well of late. That will happen when one member of the team is married and the other is a slob bachelor. lol

Most of what we've been watching, re-watching, and studying have been Romero films. He's clearly one of, if not the, preeminent authorities on this topic. I think he's probably got more time invested in the whole theme than just about anybody else. There are others, of course, but some just don't make any sense. Part of the appeal is the ability to suspend one's disbelief, and if the mythos doesn't jibe with the physical laws and accepted norms, then suspension of disbelief becomes quite difficult.

That said, I've come to some conclusions as to the world of the mobile undead. I tend to dismiss the concept of voodoo zombies out of hand, mostly because they don't fit the definition very well. To be a zombie, one must die and be reanimated, while voodoo zombies are made through various non-physical means. They're created by some other nefarious force, typically an individual or group of individuals. That precludes the overtaking of the world with zombies: there simply won't be enough of them to do much more than to have their evil overlords overtake an island or other smaller geographic area.

There are a couple other theories that make a modicum of sense, but that will make this entry far longer than I intend for it to be. I'm trying to document my thoughts and not bore the hell out of the two people that read my musings.

So what does make sense? The virus idea holds the most merit, both in how it starts and how it is transferred between infected and non-infected. There seems to be equal credibility for both the most common theories: that the virus was man-made and a mistake that got loose, or that it is an exotic virus transferred through pests like bot flies. I was told by a medic friend of mine that the "bot" in bot fly is short for "botulism". If you've ever seen video of bot flies being removed from a person or critter (search You Tube), its pretty easy to see how bugs could be the original culprit. From there, a virus could easily be spread by way of the accepted means: the bite.

Which brings us to the most asked and debated question about zombies that there is: high speed, or slow and shambling? While I appreciate the emotional elements that high speed zombies bring to a film, the idea doesn't hold up to scrutiny in light of the subject being a migratory dis-exanimate. Because the virus is causing the re-animation, the body is not living in the accepted sense of the word. Therefore, there will be atrophy and decay, which would preclude the ability of the musculature and infrastructure of the locomotive partially-deceased to support high speed movement. Also, a virus always affects a body negatively. Ever had a cold or viral infection that made you feel better? High speed zombies, after a short while, must have failure of their sustentacular tissues. (Go ahead and look it up, its a real word.:))

To sum up, the mythos of the zombie appears to be best described by George Romero's conception of them. While he doesn't go into much detail as to how they become the ambulatory unresting, his conceptions of how they would move the actions they would take appear to have a basis in science. Along the lines of the T-Virus from The Resident Evil series, that they feed appears to be a deep rooted instinct, not a requirement. That, too, seems to be at least within the realm of possibility.

I may decide to delve into this further in the future, as there are a couple more things that I think need to be expressed. My mind is wandering a little too much right now to continue.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Holy cow, I can't stop myself!

I can't seem to stop myself. Granted, I stated I was going to do this, but...dang! Hello, my name is Haji and I have a gun parts addiction. lol!

As previously noted, I dig the Buffer Tech Battlegrip, but its too thin for my bear paw type hands. To solve that problem, I replaced it with a Magpul MIAD. I got the full set, which comes with the front strap that has the built in trigger guard. Problem is, it still has a finger rest on it, which I hate more than the thought of an Obama/Clinton ticket. So, I slapped the flat front strap on the MIAD. Now, though, I have a gap between the grip and the trigger guard. That was problematic, so I added the Magpul aluminum trigger guard. It fills the gap, which is what I wanted most of all, but it has the added benefit of lookin' cool. Since I don't have all that much ammo for the carbine, if I can't shoot it, I can make it look cool!

This isn't my rifle; the pics belong to Magpul. Take a look at that rifle. Does it look like the roll pin hasn't been put in the trigger guard yet?

July 4th: some perspective

I'm half watching, half listening to the History Channel's The Revolution as I write this. Taken in total, that our nation was ever able to be formed, much less succeed and prosper is an amazing thing, and shows divine intervention over and over again. In school, we get the textbook information of dates and names, which is boring. If I had been taught the truths of what was really going on, I would probably have a much, much different view of history in those days, and I would not have taken all these years to understand what was at stake.

The English felt that they were treating the Colonies fairly, and had just spent a whole bunch of money defending them by whuppin' the French in the French and Indian War. The Colonists, obviously, felt quite differently about it. They were being taxed without any representation in England for their concerns, problems, or grievances. The Colonists came to a place where they knew they were not going to have things getting better under the King of England, and they were being oppressed. They decided it was time to throw off that tyranny. As a kid, I remembered thinking, "Well, yeah. Of course they would. That's an easy choice". What they were really facing was much more grave than I was able to understand for a long, long time.

Simply by signing the Declaration of Independence, our Founders took their lives in their hands. Think about what was going on there: John Hancock, the first signer, put his name at the top, literally defiance writ large. The King will know his name and he's made himself a target. That doesn't just mean he can be arrested, although it includes that. No Miranda rights, no civil liberties being recognized. In addition to risking being killed, he also risked his family and friends. Mr. Hancock could have been tortured and maimed. Being declared guilty of sedition didn't mean they'd just haul you out and hang you or shoot you. Being executed didn't have to be quick and painless. It could be much worse than that. Given the rights we now enjoy because of the Framer's work, it's easy to neglect what a big deal that is. Try to imagine the consequences of what he was facing. If you don't at least think "wow", you're not grasping he situation.

But because he and the rest of the Founding Fathers knew what they were getting into and stood to anyway, we have the nation that we have now, the best place in the world to be. Don't let July 4th pass as just a day you grill some food and don't have to go to work. It is that, and I have cherished memories of celebrating the 4th with friends and family, but it is so much more. It is a day in which we must, as American citizens, citizens of the greatest nation ever to exist on the planet, reflect on what we've been given and what was risked to make it happen.

God Bless America.