Saturday, January 21, 2017

Time


Friday was an off day for me. Not off as in "didn't have a good day" or to indicate something wrong, as in "this milk is off" (which sadly enough it was, morning coffee was disappointing), but off as in "I didn't have to go to work."

While I am never sad to not go to work, after all, as interesting as it can be at times, it's still work. As in, not fun, as in, yes, I would rather be doing something else. But that something else seldom pays very well. If at all.

The one fly in the ointment of the three day weekend was the necessity to get up earlier than usual, not "get up to go to work" early but "get up to go to church" early. (Though not to go to church, just get up at the same time as I do on Sundays. Which is 0830 for those keeping score at home.) The latter is 150 minutes later than the former. Both being earlier than "get up when I feel like it." So my Friday would not be a total leisure day, the trips to the dentist, while few and far between (normally every six months for a cleaning and a check-up) do have to occur. This particular visit was for a perceived fault in my chewing equipment which my dentist wanted to repair.

Having had more than my share of tooth aches in my day, when the dentist says, "we need to fix that," then I comply. A minor fix but a needed fix.

While fully prepared to go to the dentist at the not unreasonable hour of ten in the AM, I was not prepared for the idiot computer generated messages which came in on my land line at 0245, then again at 0415. While I am no expert on the law, I do believe that these type calls are patently illegal at certain hours. I'm quite certain that the wee hours of the morning are well outside those legal bounds.

The message was some rambling diatribe about medication not being covered by insurance blah, blah, blah. Totally irrelevant to me and completely non-applicable. My doctor's office and my insurance providers actually employ people to call me during normal business hours should there be an insurance problem or some other thing which requires my attention.

I realize that as I get older there are folks out there who prey on the elderly. They send them bogus magazine subscription requests which are boldly marked (in red) "SECOND NOTICE" on the envelope and is really a solicitation to buy their magazine. Not an indication that a payment is overdue. But if you make it look like an overdue bill some folks will just pay it, assuming perhaps that their spouse ordered that magazine.

The scammers will also have their computers call you to tell you that the IRS is "filing a lawsuit" against you or some other type nonsense. Which if you just call some number and pay some fee can be handled without the necessity of going to court.

How quaint, the IRS suing people over the phone. Yeah. Not.

Personally, for those who do this sort of thing, I think slaughter after a long period of torture is appropriate. The Missus Herself will often chide me for my instinct to go "a viking" on these sniffers of feces by saying, "they're just trying to make money." My protests that bank robbers and drug cartels are also trying to "just make money" echo in the air to no avail.

Anyhoo.

Went to the dentist, got the work done and got home and went through "the overnight mail" as Buck liked to call it. (Check comments on the blog, run through the blog favorites, and check koobecaF.)

After doing that I glanced at my timepiece and realized that the inauguration was not fifteen minutes away. So Mr. Computer was put into sleep mode and I sallied forth to the salle de TV. Switched on the set to see Chuck Schumer speaking, as he's not one of my favorite people I almost switched off the set, then Mr. Schumer began to speak of Sullivan Ballou (a gentleman we have met before in these spaces). I have to admit, I was impressed, my estimation of Mr. Schumer went up, considerably I must confess.

At any rate, when he was done, the new vice president was sworn in, followed by the new president. I have to say, it felt odd seeing Donald Trump up there. Odd indeed. But I truly liked his speech, thought it was apt, and necessary. After his speech, the singing of the National Anthem and the conclusion of the ceremonies, I switched off the set, but not before seeing Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama both stop to greet Bob Dole, a man I have a great deal of respect for. That was a lovely and fitting end to this transition of power. The end of one administration and the start of another. Peacefully. Something many nations don't get to experience in their time.

We do. Frankly, we do it pretty well, all things considered.

I'm sure some of my more liberal acquaintances will be rending their garments, gnashing their teeth, and wailing (oh dear Lord, the wailing) for the next few days as they have been for the last few days. So being out of work on Friday let me escape the last minute hopes that the Trump Presidency could be averted, yes, that was mentioned more than once last week.

Sigh.

Well, snowflakes, I had to grit my teeth and soldier on for the last eight years. But I did, the man chosen to be President back then was not my choice, but he was my President. Now Mr. Trump is our President. If you don't want that, leave, the exits are clearly marked.

It's time we all grew up.

Okay?

By the way, that clock in the opening photo was a Christmas gift from The WSO. I like it. A lot. Here's a picture of the clock, in context if you will -


The opening photo was Friday morning. The photo above was Friday evening.

A lot happened yesterday. But it happened peacefully. So let's move on, together.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Balaclava*

The Relief of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville (Source)
While many of the online dictionaries will make reference to it as a woolen knit cap or hat which covers the head and neck with an opening for the face, it's also referred to as "headgear" or a "balaclava helmet." So obviously it's meant to protect the wearer from cold weather. So I wonder, would you also wear a cardigan while wearing a balaclava? And yes, just where am I going with all of this...

The Crimean War.

What, like when Putin took Crimea away from Ukraine? No, not that one. (Which wasn't really a war, but tell that to the folks who lost their lives over there!) I'm talking about the war which began in 100 BS. (Which means 100 years Before Sarge, i.e. 1853.)

Now the Crimean Peninsula ("the" Crimea to some) juts into the northern part of the Black Sea, for those of you deficient in geography and not having a map to hand, here ya go -

(Source)
From the map you may understand why Ukraine thinks they should "own" the peninsula as it's not attached to Russia via land. But see that darkish blue piece of real estate to the upper left on the map? Yeah, that's part of Russia, not attached at all, but in the old Soviet Union days it was. Of course, that also used to be the northern part of East Prussia. In case you didn't know, real estate in Europe tends to switch hands from time to time. In the old days, that happened a lot. But during the time period of the Crimean War, Crimea belonged to the Russian Empire.

Now in those olden times (100 BS) there was a bit of a squabble over the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land (plus ça change...). Now the French (then under the nephew of the great Napoléon, known as Napoléon III, yes, I know, there was a Napoléon II but that's not on today's menu and... I digress) supported the rights of the Roman Catholics whereas the Russians supported the rights of the Eastern Orthodox Church (which in my day we called the Russian Orthodox Church to distinguish them from the Greek Orthodox Church, but again, I digress).

Well, at that time the Holy Land was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, or Ottoman Turks as some might say. (On the map Turkey is that bit along the southern part of the Black Sea.) As you might imagine, the Ottomans were Muslim. So there we have a religious "cause" which in actuality had more to do with the weakening of Ottoman power and the desire of the Russians to have a warm water port which wasn't obstructed by someone else's land. In this case the Ottomans. (Think of the outlet of the Black Sea to the Mediterranean which is the Bosporus, a narrow channel which runs past Constantinople Istanbul and is, as you have no doubt guessed, owned by the Turks. Or Ottomans back then.)

Anyhoo.

The Russians began pushing the Turks around and the French and their plucky British allies leapt to the defense of the poor Turk against the nasty Russian bear. Yes, of course it was much more complicated than that, it always is, but in essence that's what it boiled down to. After all, no one wants a Russian fleet in the Mediterranean. (What's that? We have that now? I know, and that is a much longer story which I won't go into now, perhaps not ever. Who knows?)

So there's Johnny Turk, harassed and harried by those mean Russians, so France and Britain declare war on Russia. No one thought at the time just where they would fight Russia until someone at White Hall broke out a map and said, "Oh look, the Crimea. It's just north of our buddies the Turks and it's right there on the water so the Royal Navy can just drop off the Army there. Bloody good!"

No, it wasn't that simple. Actually the allies initially landed near Varna (in modern day Bulgaria) where the facilities weren't that great and while near Russia, didn't really give any support to the Turks. Then everybody caught cholera and began dying. (Yes, I am exaggerating.) Most unhealthy climate, so they all climbed back aboard their transports and headed towards Crimea. At first they landed at a spot north of Sevastopol. where the Russians had (and still have) a naval base. Advancing south they had a battle (The Battle of the Alma) where they defeated the Russians who then fell back to Sevastopol. Advancing, the allies discovered that the northern approaches to the base were pretty strongly fortified. Far stronger than they cared for. So back to the ships and then down to a place south of Sevastopol.

Down to the little town of Balaclava (Balaklava today) which had a pretty decent harbor and was not far from Sevastopol. Time for another map methinks.

Google Maps

So the army went ashore near Balaclava. They moved cannon and siege equipment up and began to bombard the port. No, the Russians did not like that. Not at all. So they moved troops down to that plain just north of the town of Balaklava. Which brings me to the point of this tale. (I know, took me long enough didn't it?)

How many of you have heard of the Charge of the Light Brigade? You know, the one commemorated by one Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem of the same name...

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Yes, that one.

Plucky British cavalrymen charge to the guns and get wiped out. Not quite but near enough, they got battered pretty badly. All due to mismanagement and crappy commanders. There has been a lot of ink spilled over that battle and the charge of the Light Brigade is the only bit people know. Many have no idea that it took place in the larger context of the Crimean War and that two other notable incidents occurred during the same battle. Only one of which was ever commemorated in a way similar to that of the Light Brigade's famous charge. That, dear friends, was the Thin Red Line, commemorated in the following painting which I also used yesterday, though for different purposes.

The Thin Red Line by Robert Gibb (Source)
What I didn't mention yesterday was that that thin red line of Scotsmen (in bonnets and skirts, er, kilts) were equipped with rifled muskets very similar to those used in our own Civil War (which started seven years later). Rather than adopt the standard square formation to present a solid wall of bayonets to advancing Russian cavalry, the commander on the scene (one Sir Colin Campbell) felt that a two deep line and volley fire from those rifled muskets should prove sufficient to stop those mean Russians.

I should also mention that those Scotsmen of the 93rd Highlanders were the only troops (aside from a few assorted Turks) between the Russians and the harbor of Balaclava. Most of the army was off besieging Sevastopol.

Suffice to say, Sir Colin was correct and the Russians had to withdraw, precipitously. Not all of 'em mind you, just the ones who survived the volleys from those Scottish rifles.

(Source)
You can see on the map where the 93rd repulsed the Russian cavalry (B). Now the other incident I alluded to is the charge of the Heavy Brigade (C). Now in that part of the battle, the heavy cavalry accompanying the British army to the Crimea were commanded by a general named Scarlett (his last name, stop that giggling back there) who was notorious for being very near sighted. Now a large mass of Russian cavalry advanced on their position. The Russians were surprised by the presence of British cavalry in front of them, they hadn't seen them because of the vagaries of the rolling terrain. (Which comes into play later as well.)

The Russians halted. General Scarlett ordered his troopers forward. (He allegedly had no idea just how many Russians were facing his unit.) Much has been written of this incident but I have my own theory. Here it is...

The overall commander of the British cavalry was Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan. In the parlance of the day, he was called "Lord Lucan." To the army deployed on the plain north of Balaclava, he was known as Lord "Look On." For you see, at an earlier battle there was an opportunity for the cavalry to attack and perhaps do great damage to the Russians. But they did not advance. They sat on their horses and "looked on" as the rest of the army fought. This was primarily because of the orders of FitzRoy Somerset, Baron Raglan (Lord Raglan) who had been on Wellington's staff at the Battle of Waterloo and had lost his right arm there. He had a distressing tendency to refer to the Russian enemy as "the French," being more used to fighting the French than being allied to them.

So at the Battle of the Alma, where the cavalry had wanted (desperately) to advance, Lord Raglan refused to allow it. Well, and you know how soldiers are, the rest of the army mocked the cavalrymen (who were often looked upon as dandies, especially the light cavalry) so when Scarlett ordered an advance, the Heavies pitched into it with rather a will. The Russians, still wondering "Where the Hell did they come from?" now had these pissed off guys with swords attacking them. Uphill. Outnumbered three to one.

The Charge of the Royal Scots Greys, as part of the Heavy Brigade, at Balaclava, 25th October 1854: Engraving by Augustus Butler (Source)
After a short and not very bloody fight the Russians retreated. Not long after that incident, Lord Raglan on the Sapoune Heights had it pointed out to him that the Russians were hauling off some cannon which they had captured from the Turks along the Causeway Heights. It was pointed out that perhaps the Light Brigade (who were cooling their heels in the valley below) might advance and stop those nasty Russians from hauling off those stolen guns. The order was given and a staff wienie volunteered to take the message down to the commander of the Light Brigade, one Thomas Brudenell, 1st Earl of Cardigan.

Now this fellow Cardigan was the brother-in-law of Lord Look On, I mean Lucan and the two heartily despised each other. Cardigan felt himself to be the premier expert on cavalry in the British Army (why no one knows) but was considered by most of the army as a disagreeable ass. He was also rather known to be, shall we say, "not the brightest bulb on the tree."

Now the staff wienie, one Captain Nolan, actually was something of a cavalry expert and he despised both Lucan and Cardigan. When he delivered the message to advance the Light Brigade, Lord Cardigan remarked that he couldn't see which guns he was supposed to prevent being carried off. (The terrain obscured his view of the Causeway heights, which were perfectly clear to Raglan on the Sapoune Heights above the Light Brigade.)

"What guns?" queried Cardigan.

"Attack, sir!" Captain Nolan cried.

"Attack what? What guns, sir?" Cardigan petulantly asked.

"There, my Lord, is your enemy!" Nolan allegedly exclaimed as he pointed vaguely to the other end of the valley, where the bulk of the Russian Army was posted.

And with that the Light Brigade rode into legend. Out of approximately 670 troopers and officers present, 110 were killed, and 161 fell wounded, a loss of 40% of their strength. Many more horses were also lost. (After all, they are bigger targets and a smart gunner will aim for them anyway. Guys on foot with swords aren't half as scary as guys on horseback with swords.)

The allies eventually won the war. However, much was revealed about the maladministration of the British Army and many reforms were undertaken to fix those things. The troops had suffered greatly and for the first time many newspaper correspondents went into the field with the army. And reported on all the stupid things which went on.

Much could also have been learned from the Crimean War which could have been applied in the Great Unpleasantness of 1861 to 1865. But, in an early example of "well, those were Europeans, doesn't apply to us," we had to learn those lessons over again, particularly the deadliness of the rifled musket.

On the bright side we got to read Tennyson's poem in high school (or earlier) and we got the balaclava "hat/helmet/head covering" and the cardigan sweater. Yes, the sweater is named after that Lord Cardigan, commander of the Light Brigade, though he didn't invent it. It was simply a knitted vest popular with British officers in the Crimea. Because of the Charge of the Light Brigade (which Cardigan survived) and due to Tennyson's poem, Lord Cardigan became a celebrated figure in Britain after the war.

Unbeknownst to me prior to doing the research for this post, Rudyard Kipling had also written a poem about the Charge of the Light Brigade. Nothing glorious about it though, in his poem he bemoans the fact that years after the Crimean War, many of the common soldiers of the Light Brigade were living in poverty, and the British public didn't care. His poem, The Last of the Light Brigade, starts like this -

There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;

They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

Seems to me that poem might apply today as well. Just sayin'...

You can read the whole thing here.

And here (or there, if you will) endeth the lesson.



Captain Steve, those hussars in the first painting? They're wearing busbys.

*Not to be confused with baklava, the sweet Turkish pastry. 

I should also mention that Lord Tennyson wrote a poem about the Heavy Brigade as well. That's here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When Is A Hat, Not A Hat?

When it's a bearskin? (Source)
Or is it always a hat but perhaps called something else? Is a hat ever a cap, or is a cap a hat, but a special hat? Do cats wear caps? Or hats? (Hats, for proof, see the footnote.) And what the heck is a toorie? Can men wear bonnets and still be men? Stay tuned, for today I answer all of those questions in my attempts to remain non-controversial. (I was going to go down that whole "soda, pop, coke" path but decided that the country is divided enough. Also I didn't want to set Joe off. Again. And there is that vow not to discuss soft drinks. Which I have broken, if only in passing. En passant, if you will. As you are but pawns in my evil schemes... What? Never mind. Chess joke.)

So while doing my rounds of the blogosphere, I ran across this Althouse post. (And where, oh where does one put the link when there are multiple spots that will suffice? This, Althouse, or post? I went with post. Is there a protocol for that sort of thing? I've been blogging almost five years and I still get confused. At least now, with Buck's help, I know where American commas go. Yes, it's different in Britain. I know, I know, they invented the language, we just modified it. Oxford commas, I use those now as well. Or would that be "too"? English is hard.)

Anyhoo. I am a "hat" kind of guy. When I am out of doors (an older, and quaint, way of saying "outdoors" or "outside") I am always attired in some sort of chapeau. (Which en français can mean hat or cap. I make no claim to French being "easy." German, auf der Greifhand, while not easy per se, is easier than French or English.) Usually this is what is commonly referred to as a "baseball cap" or simply "ball cap." (Though in winter I will wear something other than a ball cap. Which are simply no good for keeping the ears warm.) This was not always the case. In my youth, when I had more hair, I didn't wear any sort of head covering, other than the hair that is. Which used to cover my head. (Which are now sparse, much like the buffalo, or American Bison, if you prefer.)

Then one day I went fishing in Korea, on the tidal flats not far from the city of Kunsan, which I later learned was off-limits to American military personnel. Didn't get caught, no harm, no foul.

"Uh Sarge, you know that area is off-limits, right?"

"And how the hell am I supposed to know that? There are no signs in Korean or English to advertise that fact, and it's not in the newcomer briefing."

"Oh. Okay, we'll fix that."

Anyhoo. While out there, after consuming vast quantities of soju with the Korean soldiers "guarding" the place, we all staggered out onto the tidal flats to "fish." I actually don't remember many of the details of that day other than it was hot, with a hazy overcast. Oh, and I was already well along in the balding process. Think on that for a bit.

So yes, the top of my head was badly sunburned. Yes, that hurts like hell, don't try that at home. From that day hence, I wore a hat whenever I was out of doors. Unless I was on the flightline, where hats are frowned upon as they might get blown off by the wind and sucked down the intakes of jet engines. No, I never saw that happen. However, as the unit cost of a General Electric J79 axial-flow turbojet engine will run you well over 600 grand (in 1960! and the F-4 had two of those), it was thought wise to keep things which might go down the intakes away from those intakes as much as possible.

Thank the good Lord I worked in a covered area most of my time on the flightline. (Otherwise I would have spent a small fortune on sunblock.)

As an aside, hats and caps are also barred from the flight decks of carriers. FWIW, the General Electric F414-GE-100 (of which the Super Hornet has two) will cost you north of 3.7 million dollars. Each. Yes, I said million, yes, I said each.

"So Sarge, when you went out on the Reagan a couple of years ago, did you protect your head somehow?"

"Uh no. We forgot our sunblock."

"Did you get a..."

"Yes, yes, I did get sunburned. Learned my lesson I have, won't do it again. I swear."

At any rate, that's why I started wearing hats, or caps if you will. Usually with some logo embroidered thereon. As of late those have been Air Force logos though I do have a large collection of U.S. Navy ball caps with ship names and crests embroidered upon them. But I got tired of explaining to people that I was in the Air Force, not the Navy.

"So why are you wearing a cap which says USS RONALD REAGAN on it?"

"Because my daughter gave it to me."

"But you weren't in the Navy."

"I know. Go away now."

It's easier to stick with USAF caps. Less explaining to do. Though I did have a civilian, yes, an American civilian, ask me what "USAF" stood for."

"Freedom and the American way."

"Huh?"

Yes, that's why.

Oh, and before anyone thinks I don't know, in the Navy (and among Uncle Sam's Misguided Children) it's called a cover.

"What's called a cover?"

"A hat, a hat is called a cover."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I was in the Air Force..."

So, what's a toorie? Well, originally it was that small woolen tuft on top of a Scotsman's bonnet. Which kind of looks like a pom-pom, but ain't. That ball o' yarn thing is called a toorie. Oddly enough, that little button thing on top of a ball cap (baseball cap) is also called a toorie.
Seriously, that's what it's called.
And when is it okay for a man to wear a bonnet? When he's a Scotsman.

The Thin Red Line by Robert Gibb (Source)
The guys on the left of that painting are Scotsmen, they are wearing feather bonnets. Seriously, that's what they're called. The guy on the right? Yeah, he made fun of the Scots wearing feather bonnets. And kilts. So they shot him. And the horse he rode in on.

So if you're a Scot, you can wear a bonnet and a kilt, which looks like a skirt but isn't. Only in Scotland are the men manly enough to do such things. What does one wear under a kilt?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Yeah. Scotland.

Oh, one last thing, the Marine in the opening photo, yeah, the guy wearing the bearskin (sorry, a bear, I am once again appropriating ursine culture), in French that's called a bonnet à poil, literally a "bonnet with hair."

So yeah, Scotsmen and Marines. They can wear bonnets. Also these guys -

(Source)
And these guys -

(Source)
And yes, they are in the process of shooting guys who are making fun of their bonnets with hair.



So, the short answer to the question posed in the title is, never. A hat is always a hat. Unless we're talking in the more general sense of headgear. Which might not be a hat but something else entirely. All of that stuff (verbiage if you will) which came before was the long answer. Man, I could use a coke right about now... (Sorry.)




Footnote: We all know about "The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss. Or we should, that might depend on how old you are. Anyhoo. That cat wore a hat. That is not the only cat I've ever seen wearing a hat. Our cat Pat, once wore a hat. A knitted hat, or cap, made for him by The Nuke. For The Nuke had taken up the hobby of knitting. Most of what she knitted tended to look like yarmulkes, she was less than amused when we, meaning the rest of her tribe, referred to them as such. In fact, yarmulke kind of rhymes with her actual name, her given, or Christian name, if you will. Anyhoo. She knitted a hat for Pat, our cat. He did not care for it at all. But because he and The Nuke were really good friends, he didn't maul her or attempt to get rid of the hat on his own. He just sat there and looked sad, even pathetic, until she took pity upon the poor feline and removed that woolen piece of headgear (which I believe would properly be called a touque in Canada and parts of Vermont. At least the part I'm from...). And that is the story of Pat, our cat, who once wore a hat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sex, Religion, and Politics

(Source)
I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. - Thomas Jefferson

Pretty obvious that Mr. Jefferson never had a koobecaF account.

Anyhoo. As of late I have avoided anything to do with politics. People across the spectrum of political persuasions, beliefs, dogmas, and ideas are losing their minds right now. The less said about that the better. No doubt I will, at some point in time, resume posting tidbits about politics. For now? No. No, thank you. Not a chance.

One thing I have become aware of lately is that for some folks, food and beverage can be subjects every bit as controversial as politics. So I will also avoid any soft drink posts in the near future. When I was in SAC, "Peace is Our Profession" was the motto, no really, it was painted on the sign at the front gate. Yeah, I know peace wasn't really our thing, the motto should have been, "Better Be Peaceful or We'll Nuke the Fire Truck Out of You." But I'm a peaceful guy, no really, so I will refrain from anything which smacks of politics. Or soft drinks. For the time being.

Sex is something we just don't do here. We don't have any "Rule 5 Fridays" (whatever Rule 5 is, I am completely unclear on that), we don't post pictures of nekkid, or semi-nekkid, ladies. I know, I know, it would really boost the hits we get here but that's not what we're about. While I appreciate the human form (especially the female version) as much as the next guy, well, as much as the next heterosexual guy, it's not something I wish to display here at The Chant. (A nickname which has grown on me. Much like diet soft drinks, oops, sorry, I'll stop now.) Not saying that I don't peruse other people's posts on that topic, not saying that I do. I'm no prude just won't do it here.

So I'm refraining from political stuff (to include soft drinks) by choice. Juvat and Tuna are free to engage on that topic whenever they wish. I'm refraining because it gives me a headache. As to sex? That's something I won't touch here on the blog. That rule is set in stone. I know Juvat and Tuna feel the same way, the infrequent appearance of the lovely Miss Elisabeth Shue notwithstanding.

Religion. Now this is something I have mentioned from time to time, as have my partners in crime, but none of us have ever gone on about it at length. I might do that at some point but I am not all that comfortable stating my heretical beliefs in a public forum. Which this is. Doesn't mean that I won't talk religion here, just not now. Not to worry, I won't be proselytizing, selling, or otherwise promoting any one particular religious belief. Rest easy on that score. As the Bard said, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And who am I to argue with Shakespeare? (I wonder if he would like Coke or Pepsi... Sorry, did it again.)

Incidentally, sex, religion, and politics are those topics which are to be avoided in: the wardroom, at work, in mixed company, with family, with friends, with enemies, with consenting adults, with your cat (they don't really care what you talk about, as long as it's about them, dogs on the other hand will listen, and not judge you, oh yeah, cats can be very judgemental), or just about anywhere, or with anyone. Good way to start a fight, ruin friendships, cause animosity, piss people off on koobecaF (though that can be fun), and otherwise be marked down in the "Plays Well With Others" category.

So expect my posts here to be somewhat whimsical (if not outright nonsensical) from time to time, some history will be examined, who knows I might re-instate the Friday Flyby at some point. (The editorial staff just mentioned that I haven't done one of those in a while. Those can be a mother bear of an effort to do, what with the research and the careful checking of copyrights on the photos. Many nights I'm just too damned tired to do all of that work. I ain't as young as I used to be, my patience has worn thin, and yes, yes I'll admit it, I'm getting lazy in my dotage. Besides which, I have Amazon Prime and Netflix shows to binge watch, those programs ain't gonna watch themselves dontcha know?)

I like being silly, life is too damned serious as it is. I want to lighten things up when I can.

So bear with me.

(Source)
Really.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

No Coke, Pepsi!

(Source)
Just to be up front about things, I prefer Coca-Cola products. The title is from an old Saturday Night Live bit which is tough to find on YouTube without running into a news report about the actual place in Chicago upon which the skit was based. Without going any further into that, as I suspect lawyers are involved, suffice to say that as a Coca-Cola guy the phrase "No Coke, Pepsi" always sends a shiver up my spine.

Why? Pepsi is just too sweet. Perhaps the same reason that I prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, the latter is just too sweet. No, no, no, not toute suite which is French for "right now" and sounds remarkably like "too sweet." Only with that snooty French accent, come on you know the one I mean.

Why yes, bring me a Coke and some dark chocolate, toute suite!

But I (predictably) digress.

Truth be told, these days I only drink the decaffeinated, diet variety bottled by Coca-Cola. Which, I know, I know, why bother? There's a bit of a story behind that and about which there will be a video in just a bit.

No. Do not scroll down and watch the video now, patience.

Some of you will do that anyway. Sigh...

Anyhoo. I used to drink regular Coke, not that Coke "Classic" nonsense, regular Coke. Back when it had real sugar in it, not high fructose corn syrup. (No, I didn't drink Coke when it had actual cocaine in it, while I am old, I'm not that old. Juvat might remember it though. Old NFO for sure, he might have been there when it first came out. Before my time.)

Anyhoo, back in '85 it was when the Coca-Cola Company changed the formula for Coca-Cola. I was in the Air Force out in Colorado, also in college, also in Colorado (long story which I might, or might not, tell some day). All I remember is purchasing my favorite beverage one day and it tasted "odd." I thought it tasted more like Pepsi than Coke. Which, suffice to say, rather upset me. I mean, if I wanted to drink Pepsi, then I would bloody well buy Pepsi. What the "h" "e" double hockey sticks was going on?

Found out that it wasn't a bad batch of Coke on the market, no, this was a deliberate attempt to bring down Western Civilization match Pepsi's market share. Apparently Pepsi was "more popular" than Coke, probably due to a rather slick advertising campaign by Pepsi which kind of implied that all the young, hip kids were drinking Pepsi, not Coke. (My personal theory is that that was true, the young and "hip" will always succumb to clever marketing. Witness the past eight years in the good old U. S. of A.)

At any rate, I suffered through the "New Coke" period and was overjoyed when "Coke Classic" came out. It was touted as a return to the old formula. Which may or may not have been the case. The Classic variety of my favorite soft drink did not taste as I remembered it tasting. Something was "off." Then one day after class, I hit up the vending machines for an ice cold Coke.

There were none. No Coke! WTF, over. Yes, they had Pepsi but I think I would rather go thirsty than drink that, ah, what's this? Diet Coke? Remembering earlier "diet" drinks, like Tab, which tasted like liquefied asphalt (or what I imagined liquefied asphalt tasted like) I hesitated, but damn it, I was thirsty. So I bought one.

Kind of tasted like Coke only with a sort of soapy after taste. No, not that pleasant. But still, I thought, better than Pepsi, or a sharp stick in the eye, not that the two are related or anything. Gradually though, I switched to Diet Coke full time, as The Missus Herself had also remarked that I could stand to lose a couple of pounds and wouldn't a diet drink be just the thing?

Fast forward a few years, after I had retired from Uncle Sam's Aerial Follies, I was having a great deal of trouble sleeping at night. I attributed it to my distaste for being a civilian, my doctor thought otherwise. So into the medical realm I went, note that The Missus Herself accompanied me to the appointment.

My Doctor: "So you're having trouble sleeping. How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?"

Your Humble Scribe: "Oh one, sometimes two..."

My Doctor: "Well then, that can't be it, how about..."

The Missus Herself: "How about the three or four Diet Cokes you drink every day?"

My Doctor: "Well there you go, those have a lot of caffeine in them. Cut down on those, you should be sleeping better in no time."

The Missus Herself: "I told you so, 'Mister Never Reads The Label.'"

Your Humble Scribe: "Yes dear, you're right dear. Thanks Doc."

So there I was, no longer able to drink my beverage of choice in the quantities to which I had become accustomed. Bereft I was, inconsolable I was, and...

The Missus Herself (to whom I have been married 39 years as of last Thursday, just to mention it) brought home a new thing, something called Caffeine Free Diet Coke. Hhmm.

Tried it, didn't like it at first but, as "regular" Diet Coke did, it "grew on me." I got used to it, eventually grew to love it. Well, love is perhaps too strong a word, but like it a lot fits. And it's still better than Pepsi. YMMV.

This post was indirectly inspired by ColoComment (again). Indirectly because she tipped me off to the whole "Today I Found Out" YouTube channel to which I have become seriously addicted. Even more than Russian dash-cam videos (don't ask, I'm not proud of it).

So with that YouTube channel, a six pack of Caffeine Free Diet Coke and some big chunks of dark chocolate, I could easily while away an entire afternoon. Not saying that I have, not saying that I haven't.


Truth be told, I'm still pining for that whole bourbon and eggnog holiday drink thing. No, really. The Musician and I put away a couple or three of those up at Mom's over Christmas. She's probably still wondering where all the bourbon went. Needless to say, devotees of the science of mixology we are not. "That looks good, oh dear that's a bit strong" works fine for us.

A bientôt!




Monday, January 16, 2017

Just lines on a map.

This past summer, the Parish I belong to got a new Priest.  Over the past few years, we've been cycling through Priests right out of the Seminary.  They come to our Parish for a year, maybe 18 months, to get a bit of experience at being a "real world" Priest and then get transferred to a Parish of their own.

Source

Seems to work pretty well.  We get a taste of "New Priest Enthusiasm" which is tempered with a bit of experienced Church Council and Pastor reality checking.

The new guys go on to their Parish but frequently come back for a visit.  Even Priests need a bit of time off, and we live in a very nice tourist town.  So, we get to see our "newbies" after they've been out on their own a bit.  Growth always seems to be evident, which is good.

In any case.....

Our new Parochial Vicar, which is the second Priest's official title, arrived last summer.  Unlike some of the others, he's not right out of the seminary.  Indeed, I'd say he's in his mid to late 30s, so he's been a priest for a bit.

Goes by Father Kris.

He's from Poland. Which means his given and surnames have lots of "Y's" and other unusual consonants with few vowels.  He speaks English with a Polish accent.

I speak English with a Texan accent and Polish not at all, so who am I to criticize?

I kind of like the fact that he has an accent.  I, actually, have to listen to the sermon and interpret what he's saying to understand what he's trying to convey.  I don't have to do that with our Pastor, an immigrant from Ireland long ago. By interpreting,  I find myself better understanding what Fr. Kris's underlying message is, and I like that.  (If I'm going to sit through a sermon, I want to learn something from it.  Lord knows over the last 8 years there have been enough sermons given by someone who, on Friday, will hopefully shut up. Very little value added was included with those sermons. /rant)

However, from the very first, I felt a kind of kinship with Father Kris.  Didn't know why, but felt like we had a bond.  Nothing I could put a finger on, just something about him that I liked (beyond Masses that ended on time and good Sermons).

Well hang on!  The roller coaster has stopped going clackety clack and we're starting the ride because I finally found out what the commonality was.

So, there I was *...

A brand new Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.  I've been assigned to Laughlin AFB, just outside of Del Rio Texas, for a few months.  I've had my first solo in the Mighty T-37, AKA "the Tweet".  That may not have been it's official name, but the Vark wasn't the F-111's either.  It was known as the Tweet because of it's head splittingly high pitched squeal when the engines were running.  Nobody ever went out on the Tweet ramp without ear protection more than once.
Tweet over Lake Amistad.  The lake has both a US side and a Mexican side.
Source

But I digress...

As I said, I've had my first solo.  That sortie was an Air Force tradition.  My IP and I went out to the Jet for a pattern only ride, practicing landings (yes, the pedantic out there will say we practiced takeoffs also, but the purpose of the ride was to successfully return the aircraft to the ground and taxpayers in a reusable condition).  Solo was not necessarily the only outcome of the mission, but assuming the IP was willing to risk his wings on the student's ability to land, at some point, he'd direct a full stop, taxi to the approach end of the runway where he'd disembark and direct you to take off and perform two touch and go's followed by a full stop.

Assuming success on your part, you were met in the chocks by the rest of your class and stripped of your flying equipment and unceremoniously dumped in a large stock tank filled with stagnant water.

A badge of honor!

I've had that ride, and now it's a few days later.  I've got another solo scheduled, except this time, I'm going to one of the practice areas and work on my aerobatic skills.  By myself!

I'm excited!  All by myself, in a jet aircraft.  Loops, Immelmans, Barrel Rolls, Aileron Rolls and maybe a Split S or two.  No spins, though, I still want to avoid them.
Oval is the portion of the Military Operating Area (MOA) I was assigned.  Dark Line is the Rio Grande
Source

It's a beautiful day, winds aloft are out of the South East, and the western edge of the practice area has a low cloud layer with the top about 3500'.  No problem,  the base is clear and a million, which is also my minimums (I've got just enough Instrument experience to fly in clouds all the way to the crash site).

But...The weather isn't a problem.  I'm out there doing my acro, tending to spend a lot of time in loops, using a long stretch of straight Texas highway to make sure I'm flying a straight Loop, Immelman or Split S.  Of course, if there was a truck on that highway as I passed through the vertical on the way back down....There might have been a ratta-tat-tat sound on the intercom.  Life was good.

Unfortunately, gas was finite and eventually, I've got to return to base.

Now, normal Visual Flight Rules RTB procedures dictated following the River (AKA the Rio Grande) offset to the east until the Base was in sight, then entering the traffic pattern.  However, that low cloud deck precluded seeing the river.  No problem, I had a good TACAN lock (a radio directional beacon) and I figured I'd just offset the heading arrow slightly to the right (east) of my nose.  The Base was reporting clear and a million still, so finding it visually would be no problem.

I'm headed home, keeping an eye out for other Tweets that were also recovering.  I figure I must be in front of them as I don't have visual.

I'm now down to about 5000' as I finally pass the edge of the cloud deck.  I see the base off to the east in the distance.  I drive over to the visual entry point for the pattern, make the appropriate radio calls, come down initial, pitch out and land.

I stuck the landing, yes I did!

Feeling pretty good about myself, I check in with the Supervisor of Flying (a Field Grade Officer who handled the actual flying operation for the squadron.  Solo students were required to check in and out with him so he knew how much exposure his career had at any given moment).  This one happened to be the guy I'd flown my first Spin Sortie with.  He asks how the sortie went.  I told him I thought it went well.  He asked if there had been any issues he needed to know about.  I said "No Sir."

He said, "Good, we had a report from RAPCON that one of our aircraft, squawking your transponder code seemed to have wandered over into Mexican Airspace."

"Uh-Oh!" I think.

He then looked at me with a baleful stare and followed up with "I said there was no way that any of our IPs would let someone wander across the border, so they might want to check their Radar calibration."

"Uhhh.  Yes Sir, I think I'm gonna go and review my recovery procedures a little."

"Good Idea"

So...You're undoubtedly wondering how this roller coaster ride about a Tweet sortie relates to a new Parochial Vicar.

Well, seems he has a YouTube Channel where his handle is ParaVicar.


What do I have in common with Father Kris?  We're both members of the Brotherhood of Mexican Airspace Violators.  Flight starts at 1:30.  I may be looking into a new hobby.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weather and Science. No, Not at the Same Time.

Last Saturday
This Saturday
Something I used to hear when I was a kid was, "Don't like the weather in New England? Wait a minute, it will change."

Well there ya go, photographic evidence.

Though I should have held a newspaper up in the photo with that day's date on it. Though I suppose that could easily be faked with today's technology. For instance, here's a photo of my driveway in 1857...


Nah, I just pasted that newspaper in there.

Or did I?

Hhmm...

Oh, one last thing. ColoComment left a link to a Tube O' You video in yesterday's Lego post. As I am a fan of both ColoComment and the guy who did the video, I reproduce that for you here. It's relevant, educational, and humorous. All things I am in favor of.

Without further ado, why does it hurt so much when you step on a Lego?



Science. I love it so.