Archive for January, 2011

“In this room: a door to the open road…” (& Full House, Season 5: Episode 3)

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Late one evening (/early one morning), I was sitting on my toilet, relieving myself of hours of Jameson and tequila consumption with the space heater on high and the usual mix of complete contentment and utter depression, when an idea came to me:

Maybe I can just stay in my bathroom.  Forever.

I sat there longer than my bladder required and rationalized this self-confinement.

As I mentioned, there is a space heater.  Its gentle hum somehow brings me comfort, and in the cooler months it creates an environment quite warmer than the rest of the apartment.  There is a small window above the bathtub that I can open for fresh air.

Additionally, there is running water, and Jayme can pass me food from time to time.  The four robes hanging on the back of the door provide different levels of coverage for a multi-seasonal wardrobe.

Also, now that the mold has been painted over, I find the pentagonal-shaped ceiling aesthetically pleasing.  That said, the corners of the floor are a bit dirty, but this is a project I can work on over time.

I am somewhat hesitant to allow a cell phone or laptop in my new abode, as my relocation is partially to limit my contact with other humans.  I do enjoy writing, so I could do this longhand like I used to in my old journals.

Recently I communicated this plan to some friends outside of the duck, and either Lauren, Becky, or Krystel responded, “Like Stephanie Tanner on Full House?!”

Full House, Season 5: Episode 3

DJ is absolutely fed up with Stephanie, so DJ petitions the guys to let her have her own bedroom. She mentions some good points, like her being in high school, and Stephanie and Michelle being perfect for each other because they are both in elementary school. The presentation DJ put together was called “Two Different Worlds”. The guys talk it over, and they decide to let DJ have her own bedroom. The new arrangement is that DJ and Michelle will switch rooms, and as a result, Michelle will be Stephanie’s new roommate. But Michelle creates a problem when she expresses that she doesn’t want to be Stephanie’s roommate either, making Stephanie believe that no one wants to live with her.  So, Stephanie moves into the bathroom, which the family does not appreciate. For DJ, this puts the prospect of having her own room in jeopardy, until she helps Stephanie accept the change, and they help Michelle accept the fact that she’ll be Stephanie’s new roommate.

Obviously I have left my bathroom since the night this plan was conceived, and I understand how absolutely unrealistic (and unenjoyable for Jayme) my never leaving our lavatory would be.

I just keep finding myself on the edge of something.  If I don’t disconnect myself, I might fall.  I guess I should just stop being afraid of where I’ll land.

Lori & George Schappell

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Forty-nine year old twin sisters Lori and Dori Schappell hated the rhyming names their parents gave them, so Dori, a country singer, legally had her name changed to Reba (after her hero Reba McEntire).

These days, Reba prefers to go by the name George.

While George enjoys making country music, sister Lori is an award-winning bowler.

And though they are twin sisters, Lori and George Schappell have only seen each other by using mirrors.  This is because they are craniopagus conjoined twins (joined at the head), and their heads face opposite directions.  The women share bone, vital blood vessels, and 30% of their brain (the frontal lobe and the parietal lobe).

The executive functions of the frontal lobes involve the ability to recognize future consequences resulting from current actions, to choose between good and bad actions (or better and best), override and suppress unacceptable social responses, and determine similarities and differences between things or events. Therefore, it is involved in higher mental functions.  The frontal lobes also play an important part in retaining longer term memories which are not task-based. These are often memories associated with emotions derived from input from the brain’s limbic system.  The frontal lobe modifies those emotions to generally fit socially acceptable norms.

The parietal lobe plays important roles in integrating sensory information from various parts of the body, knowledge of numbers and their relations, and in the manipulation of objects. Portions of the parietal lobe are involved with visuospatial processing.

Conjoined twins are a once in a 100,000 ocurrance.  They develop from a single fertilized egg.  Twins normally begin to separate into distinctive individuals 13 days after fertilization.  With conjoined twins, that separation fails.

They have argued that two minds can exist in a single fused brain.

Lori works part-time in a hospital laundry but frequently takes time off for her sister’s concert dates.  They live in an apartment in Reading, Pennsylvania, with George’s pet turtle and pet Chihuahua, who is paralyzed in the back legs and moves around on a wheeled device designed by George.  Each twin has her own private space.

“We’re different in every way,” Lori said. “Even when we bathe, I like to do it in the morning… George likes to do it at night.”  (They use a shower curtain as a divider so that the twin who isn’t bathing can avoid getting wet.)

Lori’s part of their apartment is disorganized; George’s is neat. And they respect that division of territories.

“Twins do what the psychologists call ‘individuation’,” says Dr. Alice Dreger, a bioethicist and medical historian at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.  “It means that they unconsciously develop aspects of difference between themselves so that they’re able to have distinct identities. Those things allow them to develop individuality even within the space of sharing a body together.”

Lori says she has had boyfriends throughout her life. George doesn’t interfere.

“She can’t see us, anyway,” Lori said. “If we’re on a date, she will bring something along that she has to do, or else she’ll read. She totally blocks us out.”

While Lori is able-bodied, George suffers from spina bifida, a developmental birth defect that has caused her to be four inches shorter than Lori.  There was no wheelchair that suited George’s unique condition, because to move around, she must be raised to her sister’s height to avoid excessive strain on Lori’s neck and back. The only thing on wheels that was the right height was a bar stool. Using this as the foundation, George designed the wheelchair that she currently uses.

Lori wheels her sister around on this specially made chair and spends most of her time standing.

When asked whether their lives were more or less complicated than other people’s lives, Lori said, “Less.”

If one died before the other, they say, the survivor would choose separation — but only under that circumstance.

Why I Need a Spacesuit (The Apollo 1 Tragedy)

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

During a launch simulation at 6:30 p.m. on January 27th, 1967, a significant voltage transient was recorded on the Apollo/Saturn-204 spacecraft.

  • voltage (noun) – The rate at which energy is drawn from a source that produces a flow of electricity in a circuit; expressed in volts.
  • transient (adjective) – Lasting only for a short time; impermanent.
  • transient voltage – A time varying voltage value. Transient says that the voltage value changes, especially from a steady state, to a new value, then back again.

Beginning at 6:31 p.m., the crew – Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee – gave the first verbal indication of an emergency.  A fire in the Command Module was reported.

“Fire, I smell fire,” Chaffee reported.

Two seconds later, White was heard to say, “Fire in the cockpit.”

After twelve seconds, Chaffee yelled, “We’ve got a bad fire! Let’s get out! We’re burning up! We’re on fire!”

Some witnesses said they saw White on the television monitors, reaching for the hatch release handle as flames in the cabin spread from left to right and licked the window. Only 17 seconds after the first indication by crew of any fire, transmission ended abruptly with a scream of pain as the cabin ruptured after rapidly expanding gases from the fire overpressurized the Command Module.

  • overpressure (noun) – A transient air pressure, such as the shock wave from an explosion, that is greater than the surrounding atmospheric pressure.
  • atmospheric pressure – The force exerted on you by the weight of tiny particles of air (air molecules).  Although air molecules are invisible, they still have weight and take up space.
  • Earth’s atmospheric pressure is about 14.7 psi (pounds per square inch).  The Apollo overpressurized to 29 psi.

The Apollo hatch could only open inward and was held closed by a number of latches which had to be operated by ratchets. It was also held closed by the interior pressure, which was higher than outside atmospheric pressure and required venting of the Command Module before the hatch could be opened. It would have taken at least 90 seconds to get the hatch open under ideal conditions. Because the cabin had been filled with a pure oxygen atmosphere at normal pressure for the test and there had been many hours for the oxygen to permeate all the material in the cabin, the fire spread rapidly and the astronauts had no chance of getting the hatch open. No chance.

Spacecraft technicians ran towards the sealed Apollo, but before they could reach it, the Command Module ruptured.  They were repeatedly driven back by the heat and smoke.  Many feared that the fire might set off the launch escape system atop Apollo.  There were also fears the fire might ignite the solid fuel rockets in the launch escape tower above the Command Module, likely killing nearby ground personnel.

Roughly 5 minutes after the fire had started, technicians succeeded in getting the hatch open.  By that time the flames in the Command Module had gone out and the astronauts had perished, probably within the first 30 seconds due to smoke inhalation and burns.

As the smoke cleared they found the bodies but were not able to remove them. The fire had partially melted the astronauts’ nylon spacesuits and the hoses connecting them to the life support system. Grissom’s body was found lying mostly on the deck. His and White’s suits were fused together. The body of Ed White (whom mission protocol had tasked with opening the hatch) was lying back in his center couch.  Chaffee’s job was to shut down the spacecraft systems and maintain communications with ground control. His body was still strapped into the right-hand seat.

It became apparent that extensive fusion of suit material to melted nylon from the spacecraft would make removal very difficult. For this reason it was decided to discontinue efforts at removal in the interest of accident investigation and to photograph the Command Module with the crew in place before evidence was disarranged.  Photographs were taken, and removal efforts resumed at approximately 12:30 a.m. on January 28. Extraction of the crew took about 90 minutes and was completed about seven and a half hours after the accident.

The name Apollo 1, chosen by the crew, was officially assigned retroactively in commemoration of them.

After the Apollo 1 tragedy, the Apollo & Skylab A6L spacesuit was upgraded to be fireproof and given the designation A7L.

In preparation for the new year, I’ve considered investing in one of these suits for personal use.  This would be to my benefit in that I’ve started playing with Fire again.

Sometimes I can feel her eyes on me.  She’s even showing up in nightmares.

I don’t want to get burned.