Monday, October 22, 2018

Halifax

Much like Sarge, last week was back to the grind week for me.  Unlike him however, I am returning from a very nice two week vacation at various ports in the Canadian Southeast and American North East.  Sarge, during this time, was practicing for Halloween where he's going trick or treating as Popeye.  Muesli indeed!

In all seriousness, he's doing much better and we had a great, albeit short, time with them.

I'm also not going to regale you with how the shortened work week went when I returned to the saddle. (But...since you asked.  Fine actually, we had a team discussion on what they did not have appropriate permission levels to handle things while I was gone.  So an appropriate dry run for something that occurs in 40 work days.)

Nope.  It's another travelogue.

Hello....Anybody still there?

One of the things I really like about traveling with my wife and our friends (aka The Pharmacists) is we plan the trip, but that plan isn't set in concrete.  We do quite a bit of wandering around. That has led us to some spectacular discoveries over the years.

And it didn't fail us this trip either.

Our primary objective on our stop in Halifax was to take a "foodie" tour of the town, which we did, but that started in the afternoon.  To occupy the morning, we decided to hike to the Maritime Museum which was about a quarter mile from where the ship was moored.

Mrs J had heard they had a Titanic exhibit there and she wanted to see that. I was kinda "Meh" on that exhibit, but ships are cool. So....

Arrived and went through the Titanic exhibit and it was solidly ONG (Ok, Not Great).  They had an actual deck chair, but the rest was mostly models, and old photos.  
Source

They had a fairly interesting section that talked about how they had documented the descriptions of the bodies recovered.  The result there was that many bodies were identified and returned to Next of Kin, years after the fact.  As a Data Guy, I thought that was kind of cool. YMMV.


But Mrs J and the Pharmacists were entranced by the exhibit, so I wandered on ahead after deciding on a rendezvous place.  

Well, it seems the museum was hosting a display discussing the Halifax Explosion.  Not knowing anything whatsoever about this, I went inside.  

There went the rest of the morning.

Well it seems that on December 6, 1917, two ships collided in a portion of the Halifax Harbor known as "The Narrows".  One was a Norwegian ship, the SS Imo, carrying grain to Belgium.  The other was a French ship, the  SS Mont-Blanc, carrying ammunition to Europe.
Explosion took place inside the blue rectangle
Source

Due to a series of unfortunate events, the Imo was sailing on the wrong side of the waterway and neither Captain was willing to give way until too late.  The Imo hit the Mont-Blanc gashing her hull and splitting barrels of benzole, a highly flammable fuel.  Sparks from the collision ignited that fuel starting an uncontrollable fire.


The Captain of the Mont Blanc ordered the ship abandoned and the crew rowed to the opposite shore where all, save one, survived. The Imo was not so lucky.  Only 4 survived, two were undersea divers underneath the water.
Source

The ship drifted up against the docks and burned for about 20 minutes.  Just enough time to allow people to come and look at it.  Unfortunately, because of security concerns to protect the ship from U-Boats, very few people knew what the cargo was.
Source

Finally, about 9:05 in the morning, the ship exploded.  
Source

The exhibit stated that the force of the explosion was ~3 Kilotons.  I've sat alert with weapons that are measured in Kilotons, 3Kt would not have been the smallest of them.

Virtually all structures within a half mile radius were destroyed and 1600 people killed instantaneously.


Source

A large total, which could have...should have...would have been higher except for the actions of one man.  The ship was on fire very near the train station.  
Source

A passenger train due to arrive during that twenty minute window.  The dispatcher Vince Coleman was one of the few who knew the cargo of the Mont Blanc and stayed at his post telegraphing messages to get that train stopped.   His last message was "Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys."
Source

Not only did the passenger train get stopped successfully, but that was the first indication the outside world had of the disaster.  Trains from all over were rerouted immediately to Halifax to bring supplies in and wounded out.


Mr. Coleman died at his post.


In a somewhat macabre portion of the exhibit was a box with glass eyes in it.  I stopped by to see what that was all about.  Evidently, one of the more common, if survivable, injuries incurred was blindness caused by looking at the light of the explosion.   An Ophthalmologist named George Cox removed 79 eyeballs during a 48 hour period after it.


A final factoid that I found interesting was that the Mont Blanc's 1140 lb anchor was found 2.35 miles from the site of the explosion.  Gardeners in the area still routinely find pieces of broken metal from the ships while digging in their gardens.

Source

All things I wouldn't have known if I hadn't wandered off from the group.


I found this computerized re-creation of the event educational.




Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halifax_Explosion
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSuX9RvLq54
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/12/06/two-ships-collided-in-halifax-harbor-one-of-them-was-a-3000-ton-floating-bomb/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d8f76952bab4
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/newly-discovered-diary-tells-harrowing-story-deadly-halifax-explosion-180964066/
https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/halifax-explosion
https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/unearthed-first-hand-accounts-reveal-devastation-of-1917-halifax-explosion-1.2684931

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vince_Coleman_(train_dispatcher) 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Long Time Ago

London, A Long Time Ago
Seems odd to think that all of those kids in that photo are in their 30s now. Well, except the kid in the green hat with the gold lettering, that's me. While I am a bit of a kid, I am no longer in my 30s. Double that and there ya go, that's where Your Humble Scribe sits. I was in my early 40s then, seems decades ago. Well, it was, two decades and change to be precise.

It was a school field trip for the 5th and 6th grades from Geilenkirchen Elementary. The WSO (yes, she's in the picture) volunteered me to be a chaperone. Wasn't really a problem, I would have volunteered myself if she hadn't beat me to it.

Sweet gig. Five days and four nights in a youth hostel not far from St Paul's Cathedral (I've mentioned that in passing before).

Google Satellite View
The yellow arrow marks the youth hostel, the ginormous building up and to the left right is, of course, St. Paul's Cathedral. We could see the dome from the rec room of the youth hostel. Which is also where the Coca Cola machine was located. And yes, we Yanks have to have our amenities. (Down the lane to the left was the pub we frequented, they had Guinness, on tap. I think we went every night, me and the other dads on the trip.)

Of course, The WSO's class and the 5th grade class had fund raisers and we parents all had to kick in for the children. Yes, for the children. I, and the other chaperones, were going gratis, sort of. As we had all kicked in to get the kids to London, we kind of paid for ourselves as well. But not all the parents went as chaperones. So we felt like we were getting a deal. Which we really were.

The only requirement we had as chaperones is that each of us would have to teach a class to the kids. Well, that and get them all back to Germany alive and well. I taught an hour long class on the history of weapons and war. Wasn't all that in depth, but the kids seemed to like it. The boys did anyway and the girls were polite enough to pay attention and nod in all the right places. I did get to hear "That is so cool!" a few times from the boys. It's in the male's nature to like dangerous things. (I daresay The WSO and a couple of her mates liked the class as well. She did, after all, grow up to be a WSO. That apple did not fall far from the tree. Well, none of 'em did, truth be told.)

Anyhoo.

So one Monday we were up well before dawn to take buses to the train station where we would hop aboard the train for London. Went through the Chunnel, which was cool going into and coming out of but was rather boring in between, in a terrifying sort of way. After all, we were below ground and underneath the English Channel, any leaks and we would be done for, but there were no leaks, just my overactive imagination.

Going through customs at Dover the nice lady told me that I didn't need a stamp in my passport as I was military.

"Ah, but can you stamp it anyway? A souvenir of my trip to Dear Olde England?"

"Why, certainly luv, seeing as how you put it that way!"

Stamp applied, it was back on the train to London.

Upon arrival the real teachers divvied up the students and chaperones. My lot was five 12 year old boys. We had our own quarters on the bottom floor, sort of a sub-basement room with a window at sidewalk level, two single beds and two bunk beds for the lot of us. I felt like a sergeant with his own squad of young recruits, who were doing their level best to behave, though I did go out for a smoke once upon an evening and came back to discover that the boys had forced the runt of the litter (the smallest lad) in the window and were asking passers-by to "see the runt for just tuppence." (Where they picked up the term "tuppence" still puzzles me. But they were all military brats, who pick things up in their travels. I suspect one of 'em had been in Jolly Olde England before.)

Upon his release, I asked the wee lad if he'd like to, ya know, press charges against the others. Him, being a good lad hisself, said, "No sir, they were just having a bit of fun at my expense. No need to make trouble for anyone." I did give the others my very best "sergeant's look" and said they were to mind their manners the rest of the trip.

Which they did. Admirably.

We had a great time in London. On own evening I was out with the other Dads, there was always someone at the hostel to "mind the store" from our school, so we were alright. Upon returning to the room, the boys all had a chuckle as Your Humble Scribe may have taken aboard one pint too many. As I stumbled into bed, one of 'em said...

"Cool, Mr. Goodrich is drunk!"

"I'm not drunk boy! I'm buzzed, learn your terminology!"

Conspirators we were. Like I said good lads.

I do recall attending the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. I missed the actual change-over as The WSO was sitting on my shoulders and I was holding another of her friends aloft so that they could see the parade. I could hear the music and could see the backs of all the other tourists. Good times.

Anyhoo. Once the Guards were inside, I noted that at the very back of the formation, two radiomen were having a chat! While on parade! I turned to my charges and asked them what they thought of me bellowing out (well, in the UK it's more of a squeal, trust me, I know this, I've marched with the Black Watch) in my best sergeant's voice, "NO TALKING ON PARADE!"

The WSO said that that would be so cool. One of my roomies (squaddies if you will permit me) just looked at me and said, "I dare you Mr. Goodrich, I double dog dare you."

As I stood up to my full five foot eight inches tall and squared my shoulders, I felt a poke in my back and a female voice hissing, "Don't. You. Dare."

'Twas one of the teachers, she knew me well. I realized that bellowing at a full company of Royal Guardsmen would probably not be the smartest thing to do. So, discretion being the better part of valor, I desisted. Yup, the lads were sorely disappointed, as was The WSO, but they understood. After all, I was supposed to be the adult in the room, so to speak.

Sometimes being a grown-up sucks.

But yeah, good times.

See, those lads have rifles, probably not a good idea to yell at 'em.
And those are the Welsh Guards, ask me how I know.

(No, I didn't get it from the caption. Source)


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Musical Saturday

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull
(Screen capture)
As an amateur historian, I enjoy living in the past. Sort of.



If you had told me when I was a lad that the flute could be used in rock and roll, no doubt I would have scoffed at the thought. When I was a lad of ten, The Beatles came, they saw, and they conquered my musical tastes.

All you need, so I thought, were a couple of guitars, a bass guitar, and a drum set. I even thought that bands who had an organist were a bit too high brow for my tastes. Freaking keyboards, pshaw, who needs 'em?

Then this Tull thing came along, Jethro Tull to be precise...

Jethro Tull - British Agriculturist
Um, no, not him, these guys...

Well, that's what they looked like a while ago. Back when I still had hair, as did Ian Anderson. The members of the band have changed over the years, in fact Ian Anderson recently announced that Jethro Tull was "no more." After all, it was pretty much Ian Anderson and a revolving cast over the years. Guys would leave the band, other guys would fill in, but Mr. Anderson was the one constant, and truly the creative genius behind the band.

(Source)
Yes, my tastes have "evolved" over the years. For instance, as many of you know, the Foo Fighters are my "go to" band at the moment. I don't see that changing any time soon, their music fits my many moods to a "T" - heard this one for the first time Friday. Dang, those boys know how to rock. (Live they are incredible, the energy in the venue is palpable!)



But Tull and I go way back, I don't forget old friends. In the days when I was sure that I was going nowhere and I had some of the loneliest days of my life, Jethro Tull had a tune to match my mood, and somehow make it all better.

Music is what separates us from other life forms. Though truth be told, don't wolves and whales "sing" just for the joy that's innit?

I think they do.

And I still think that this is the prettiest song ever written...



Life is a long song, and truth be told, the tune does end too soon for us all.

I daresay, this song kept me going when all seemed truly lost.

Live life while it's there. Love, live. make music.

Peace to you and yours.

Have a GREAT weekend.



Friday, October 19, 2018

History as Entertainment

I just finished watching the final episode of Turn: Washington's Spies on Netflix. The series lasted four  seasons and is based on Alexander Rose's book, Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring. It was most excellent television, some of the best I've seen in the modern era (anything after about 1990).

While based upon the book very loosely in some areas, it evokes the period very well. I was enthralled by the settings for the show. The series was filmed in Virginia at Yorktown, Richmond, Petersburg, Tuckahoe, the campus of William & Mary, and Shirley, Berkeley, Westover, and Scotchtown plantations. Which gave it a really authentic feel in my opinion. I love a show which portrays an era so richly.

Costuming was excellent, military equipment looked very accurate (though I didn't delve too deeply into that aspect, which is odd for me and demonstrates just how immersed I was in this series).

Yes, liberties are taken with the historical record which I find frustrating as an amateur historian, but which didn't detract from the overall look and feel of the show. I loved the guys who played George Washington and John André, the former had a sort of intense gravitas which I had always assumed George Washington had. The latter made the person of Major John André come to life for me. I have written of Major André before in these spaces.

There were a couple of times they went pure Hollywood in the series (I won't mention those spots, if you watch, you'll see) but overall, very entertaining and very satisfying. The good guys and the bad guys are not always clear cut. There are characters you will learn to despise and those you will learn to love.

It's not all secret codes and skulking about counting cannons either, there are love interests and there are also some very intense scenes of combat. Grisly in spots, damned realistic for the most part.

Forty episodes over four seasons, but if you have even the slightest interest in the American Revolution, this is for you. It isn't as brainy or ethereal as the HBO series John Adams but neither is it as ridiculous as the Sons of Liberty miniseries which I attempted to watch but couldn't. It was unwatchable.

Turn, however, is very watchable. As the credits rolled on the last episode of the last season, I felt a sense of loss that it was over. But hey, I can watch it all again. And will.

Brilliant television isn't dead. AMC did well with this one.





Thursday, October 18, 2018

Huh? What?

"You mean there's a catch?"

"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy."

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. - Catch-22, Chapter 5, pg. 55, Joseph Heller
So yes, I'm back at work, been back for a couple of days now. Full days. Now things are different when you are out of work on a Medical Leave of Absence, or MLOA as it's called. If you go out for more than a week, one can get short term disability, both from Rhode Island, and the company's insurance. If you pay the extra dimes, you can get 100% coverage. Which I have.

How it works is that you contact Human Resources, er, sorry, now they're part of Global Business Services and they have a phone menu about 27 levels deep. What you need is on about level 15, I think. Anyway, they ask for the last day worked, and the day you expect to return. Did that and away we went.

The first five days is on you, you either take PTO (Paid Time Off) or you don't get paid at all. As I had it in the bank, I took it. I like my PTO, but I like getting paid more. After that five days is up, you are taken off the active roles and placed on MLOA. The insurance and the state take care of paying for the days you're on MLOA. Eventually.

Now Monday last, as you'll recall, was the great North-South Conclave of 2018. I was absent from work for approximately 3.5 hours. I had worked an extra hour before going out to get my eyeball repaired and I still had 2.5 hours of PTO on the books. Or so I thought.

Now when one returns to work, you can't fill in your timecard (more on that in a minute) until you are "activated" in the system. To do that you go see the nurse and the nurse (or you) contacts HR, er, I mean GBS and say, "I'm back!!" (I like doing that in a really creepy voice, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, you get my drift?)

Casually, I checked my timecard Monday at lunch before heading off to the Conclave, "Hhmm," says I, "where is my 2.5 hours of PTO?" System says zero hours available. As I know that's horse dung, I resolve to correct that on Tuesday.

Here it is Thursday, and it hasn't been corrected yet. Twice I was fobbed off by some goon at GBS with odd explanations of "well, you were on MLOA so we had to use the last 2.5 hours of your PTO." Uh, WTF, over? After several attempts I actually managed to get in touch with someone who actually knew what she was doing. Yeah, I know, hard to believe.

Rather than fob me off with some vague policy quote and made up corporate speak, she actually got to the root of the problem. Seems that some Poindexter entered my last day of work as the 9th of October. Which made the real last day of work moot. She has assured me that she will get me my PTO back, all 2.5 hours of it, within "24 to 48 hours." I think she actually will, but to be safe, I mentioned the words "fradulent timecard entry" and "ethics violation" here at the home office.

Yes, that got peoples' attention. If GBS doesn't fix it, my section manager assures me that there's someone here locally in HR that is keeping an eye on that. Hopefully.

Anyhoo. The timecard thing threw me when I fisrt started work here, a long time ago. I thought I was a salaried employee, no need to "punch a time clock" so what's this having to account for all of my time (at least 40 hours a week) on this "timecard thingy"? Well, I am a salaried employee but as we work on government contracts, Uncle Sam likes to know what we are squandering spending the taxpayers money on. As each contract is a different bucket of dinero, we need to track which buckets we're drawing from throughout the week.

By the way, making a "fradulaent entry on a timecard" is what you call a Federal offense. It's about the only thing which is a sure-fire trip out the front door with a security escort with an admonition to "never, ever come back." I've seen it happen.

So...

As my timecard wasn't unlocked until Tuesday, I entered Monday's time and Tuesday's time on Tuesday, when it was activated. On Wednesday I get an automated email from The Timecard System, telling me that I have been a bad boy for not doing Monday's time entries on Monday.

Uh...

"My timecard was locked on Monday."

"You have to fill out your timecard on the same day."

"Weren't you paying attention to my first statement?"

"You have to fill out your timecard on the same day."

"Ah, I get it, Catch-22."

"You have to fill out your timecard on the same day."

Bear in mind, I'm arguing with an automated syatem. Computers only do what they are told. Unfortunately, modern technology has made it so simple to program a computer that any old idiot can slap together a software program.

And they do.

Idiots programming computers, what could possibly go wrong?

Self-driving cars indeed!



Oh yes, we do, we do indeed!



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Back At Work


Well after nearly two weeks of being footloose and fancy-free, albeit one-eyed, it was back to work this Monday last. But only for a half a day, after all, there were visitors to greet, food to be consumed, stout to tipple, and stories to be told. Most of 'em no doubt true. Or approximating truth to some extent.

But Tuesday arrived far too early and it was time for my first FULL DAY back at my place of gainful employment. While work does provide funds for me to pursue my interests - such as eating, living in a warm and dry shelter, etc., etc. - and it is for many reasons interesting, it still is, ya know, work. I also like the folks I work with. So that's good too.

But...

Still and all, it's called work for a reason. Here are some synonyms and (naturally) some antonyms.

(Source)
No, no, no. "Antonym." Not "Antonov." Geez, you aviation types have one track minds...

Ah, who let the pharmacists in?


Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!

But I digress...

Synonyms and antonyms for work -
synonyms: labor, toil, slog, drudgery, exertion, effort, industry, service; informal grind, sweat, elbow grease; literary travail
"a day's work in the fields" 
antonyms: leisure, rest
Yeah, the OPPOSITE of leisure or rest. I get that.

But hey, it pays the bills.


Shh!

The eye is much better, Wednesday I shall drive myself to work. Already did a short turn about the neighborhood, managed to stay in my lane, not go off-roading, and no animals, humans, or other life forms were run over and injured.

So, Katie bar the door, and Hi Ho, Hi Ho, The Missus Herself can hang up her chauffeur's uniform and sleep in, it's back to work I go, driving my own damn self.

Any reports you may hear of massive accidents and conflagrations upon the highways and byways of Little Rhody on Wednesday, the 17 of October, did not involve Your Humble Scribe.

I hope...



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Quelle Affaire!


Well, much like the Battle of Waterloo, the day was a drizzling horrid mess. Chilly too!

But at 1315 hours local, The Missus Herself and I took up our position along the coast of Newport Harbor, awaiting the landing of Mr. and Mrs. Juvat. When we arrived the weather was overcast with a hint of rain, by the time the Great North-South Conclave of 2018 was over...

Das Wetter war scheiße geworden!
Upon the Juvats landing the drizzle began. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Juvat, unbeknownst to Your Humble Scribe, brought reinforcements with them! A couple of their acquaintance from their town in Texas. Bravo! The more the merrier!

Turns out the other couple (Garry and Cathy, I've cleverly disguised their identities by using less common spellings of their actual names - with my luck, that's probably exactly how they spell their names) were both pharmacists. I learned that in the following manner:

Garry: So this kid we knew was a pharmacist, but he went into the Air Force and became a C-130 pilot, did 20 years.

Juvat: He was a pharmacist, but the Air Force made him a pilot? Classic!

Your Humble Scribe: Well heck, I'd rather fly C-130s than be a pharmacist!

[Awkward silence, 3... 2... 1...]

Mrs. Juvat: Garry and Cathy are both pharmacists.

Your Humble Scribe: Uh, uh, uh.

Garry: Yeah, given the choice I'd fly C-130s. (Garry was a private pilot at one time.)

Your Humble Scribe: Well, there you go.

Great laughs all around, at Your Humble Scribe's expense, but that's okay. I love mocking myself, I enjoy a good laugh even when I'm the fall guy.

Anyhoo.

The party from Texas took quite a while to get ashore. Seems the cruise folks were running two tenders (which maybe seat 50 or so people) for a ship carrying 600. Oh, the folks on the ship "organizing" the loading of the tenders? Yeah, a real ya know fire drill. Of the far eastern variety. But I digress, they got ashore and we headed to the Brick Alley Pub, which is maybe a five minute walk from the dock.

Great grub, great beverages, and particularly awesome company. BTW, here's my new favorite beverage -

(Source)
Had a couple at my Mom's birthday dinner on Saturday, had a couple more at the Conclave. Juvat also had one, we both wanted another, but alas, only one bottle remained. Juvat said I could have it. I asked the waitress if perhaps we could arm wrestle for it?

Juvat: She could take you. [Grinning at the waitress, who smiled delightfully. Damned fighter pilots and their charm!]

But I did get the last bottle. So I've got that going for me. (Four stouts in 48 hours! Dear me, that's about 4 times what I drink in a normal week. Yes, I have lost a step or two in my dotage...)

As Juvat and his party had to get back to the tender before it was mobbed, we headed back to the pier and bid them farewell. The Conclave lasted only two hours, but it was great.

Though I've known Juvat via the blog for years, it's nice to have met him face to face. His wife is awesome, and they have superb friends, who I now count as friends as well.

No more in the "friends I've never met" category, now (as Juvat said) we're friends, no need to qualify, quantify, or categorize.

Of course, as The Missus Herself piloted us home (eye still has a bubble, check that, one big bubble, four little bubbles, the thing is like a freaking iceberg, it's starting to "calve") I realized that my cell phone (with its built in camera) had not left my pocket the entire time. I was having too much fun (and maybe too much stout).

I texted Juvat that it was a shame we hadn't done a photo op and Beans was going to be pissed.

Juvat texted back, "All is not lost."

From left to right: Your Humble Scribe, Juvat, Mrs. Juvat, and The Missus Herself.
One of those lovely pharmacists captured the arrival at the table for posterity.

Shortly after that text arrived, I got another -

"Nope, not lost at all. 😜"


I have no doubt that that is a remedy for crappy weather.

Sure looks tasty.

As to the title, it is allegedly how Field Marshal Blücher greeted the Duke of Wellington at the finish of the Battle of Waterloo. Blücher spoke no English, Wellington spoke no German. Odd that the victors only had in common the language of their defeated foe, French. But...

"Quelle affaire!" = "What an affair!"

Why yes, yes it was...