Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One Year Ends, Another Begins

Happy New Year to you all. May the new year bring you peace, happiness and prosperity.

On Autopilot, Relaxing...

Very Nice!
It's been a busy, though relaxing, few days so far in the DC area.

Had a nice lunch at The Wharf in old town Alexandria. Watched the ladies shopping. Met a sales clerk who told me that her Dad was retired Air Force, used to fly the F-111. Which was cool. (The Air Force ball cap is a great conversation starter, especially when the young ladies view you as a harmless old dude. Which I am.)

Buck used to be on me to try new beverages. While at Ft. Myer I picked up some of that beverage you see in the picture. Very smooth she was, very delicious. I can see why Buck liked the chocolate stouts. I will have more no doubt. In moderation, of course.

Gee, I miss Buck.

A lot...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sea and Sky

I think this is the first time I have ever posted without a leading photo. I have a few "photos" in my head, but yeah, they're in my head. What I mean by that will become clear as we move along.

Saturday last, (the 27th of December) The Missus Herself and I awakened long before the crack of dawn in order to motor on over to our local airport for to board an aircraft bound for Reagan National. It was still dark when the aircraft pushed back from the terminal.

The weather outside (no, it was not "frightful") was a relatively pleasant 40-something, but I gathered that the conditions aloft were conducive to icing. Why did I think that? Perhaps because after we were pushed back from the terminal a truck came out and started spraying deicing solution on the aircraft.

I notice these little things.

After deicing (which kind of annoyed me as it smudged up my window) we finally proceeded to engine start and began the long taxi from terminal to runway. I do believe we took off from Runway 23 and looking at a map seems to confirm that.

Public Domain

As you can see in the airport diagram, the terminal is on the left side of the diagram, Runway 23 on the right. (For those of you taking notes, we left from Gate 4.) As we taxied I noticed that the eastern horizon was just starting to get light. Just a faint redness off to the east, but dawn wasn't that far away.

Eventually we got onto the runway, the pilot advanced the throttles and within seconds we had lifted into the sky. The joy of flight was upon me as I looked out the window and cast my gaze over the beauty of Narragansett Bay and its environs. Off the port side I could see the lights of Mount Hope Bridge. On the ground it was still fairly dark, in the air the eastern horizon was painted red, with the reddest portion being where the Sun would soon arise.

(Yes, yes, I know. "Red sky at morning, sailors take warning." It did rain later. I was paying attention. Really.)

The pilot announced to us that due to various things, we would not be flying down over land but would be out over the Atlantic. Not much to see, I thought at the time. I was so wrong.

As we left the coast behind I began to notice lights on the surface of the sea. I really wished I had brought my binoculars, even though that would no doubt increase my geek factor, I didn't care. What were those lights? Had to be fishing boats I figured. What must that be like? Out there on the surface of the deep, attempting to pull a living from the sea. I'm guessing it's a tough life. Not a lot of money, bur perhaps a lot of freedom. I can see why people do it.

As we made our way down the coast, I noticed way out to sea, at about our altitude, a thin layer of cloud. Wispy and inconsequential though those clouds appeared, they were the backdrop for the show about to begin. To the left of the aircraft and well to the north, the Sun was just beginning to kiss the far horizon. I couldn't see the disk just yet, but sunrise was in the offing.

Then, creeping over the surface of the sea, I could see a low layer of thin cloud which seemed to be advancing towards us. Of course that was an illusion, it was the aircraft that was moving. But it looked pretty spectacular.

So we now have a cloud layer below us and another, out to sea, at our altitude. I couldn't see the surface, nor could I see the sunrise as the cloud layer out to sea was blocking that view.

It was then that I noticed what appeared to be an opening in the lower cloud layer which looked very odd from my position. Only after staring at it for some time did it become clear what I was seeing. There was a gap in the lower layer and a gap in the upper layer, it was like a window to the far horizon which was blood red and also revealed yet another cloud layer a long ways out.

That layer had a group of puffy cumulus clouds beneath it which looked dark gray against that red background. I almost broke the camera out but didn't want to tear myself from the spectacle laid out before me. It was too beautiful for words, ethereal and fleeting as we were moving south and the sun was headed up into the sky by now.

The hole in the lower layer framed the surface of the sea, the dark gray cumulus seemed to be rocks out on some far shore. The effect was that of a lake in the sky. Breathtaking.

I noticed now that the lower layer of cloud was rising to meet us. We were sailing along just above that layer. The feeling of motion, the feeling of flight was intoxicating. 'Twas then I noticed there was another layer of cloud lower down. What happened next was stunning. The sun was now above the horizon. I couldn't see it as it was between the two cloud layers. What I did see was amazing.

Hanging down from the upper cloud layer was virga,* curtains hanging in the sky.

Nimbostratus virga grey with hills by Simon A. Eugster
Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.
Because the sun was shining between the layers, the virga was tinted varying shades of red, it seemed like the sky was on fire between the layers.

Again I was tempted to dig the camera out of the back pack (under the seat mind you) but once again, I could not tear my eyes off the scene outside the aircraft. There are times when you'd like a photo to show others, but doing so would perhaps cause you to miss something. (Too many events in my children's youth I saw through a view finder. While I do have the pictures, I have no feeling for the actual event. I don't know how serious photographers do it.)

As we got further south we began losing altitude. I then began noticing ships. The first one looked almost like a flattop, like an old World War II carrier. As we drifted in and out of the cloud layer, I understood the feeling those PBY crews had searching for the Japanese fleet at Midway. I also realized that, as close as we were to that ship, had it been 1942, odds are the Combat Air Patrol of Zeroes would have been all over us at some point. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck to think of it.

I remembered an old trick while looking for ships, look for the wake, it will lead you to the ship itself. We were fairly low at this point so the ships themselves were easy to spot. Off in the near distance I saw what I thought was yet another ship, but it looked different from the merchant ships I'd been seeing.

Then I realized that to our south was the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. Hhmm, could that be a warship? I knew it was a ship and that it was moving, due to the presence of a wake.

As we got closer to the mystery ship we began to bank to the right, we were setting a course for thw approach to Reagan. While I couldn't be sure, I'm convinced that the mystery ship was indeed a warship. The superstructure looked right (from what I could see, where were my binoculars?) but it was far away and rapidly receding in the distance. So who knows?

Quickly we began to let down, heading into Reagan. Off our wing and perhaps a couple of hundred feet lower, I saw a seagull flying on a reciprocal course. Then another, and another. Cool, I thought. Then I remembered a program I had watched a few nights ago. Something to do with firing chicken carcasses into a jet engine.

Hhmm, bird strike.

Not cool, not fun at all.

As we came into Runway 1, I could see the tidal flats below. The tide was out, there were hundreds of seagulls sitting around, chilling. My thought?

Stay there guys, stay in the mud until our gear is on the runway.

Stay they did. Land we did.

A beautiful flight. Unforgettable.

Next time I bring my binoculars. And keep the camera handy.

* In meteorology, virga is an observable streak or shaft of precipitation that falls from a cloud but evaporates or sublimes before reaching the ground. (W)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last Guy on Base

So.  There I was…..*  It is the day before the start of an ORI (operational readiness inspection).  This event would serve as the wing and squadron commander’s report card as well as determine any future assignments/promotions in the USAF, no pressure. 

Maintenance will begin generating the deploying aircraft first thing in the morning and as they are available, the squadron will deploy its 24 F-15Cs to Kwang Ju AB.  The other squadrons are doing the same thing, although, they will only deploy to the Navy side of the base, a cost saving measure.  I prefer the deployment option, less distractions.

 On my last practice ride before the fun begins, I am flying an F-15C in a fuel conserving orbit somewhere in the low 30s with a mission to “protect” Okinawa from overflight by a Mig-25 that will supposedly make a run at the island. For this mission, the role of the Mig will be played by an SR-71.  Being based at Kadena, they have to slow down and descend in order to land.  While doing that, they pass through the parameters a Mig-25 would fly on an operational mission in Korea.  The Habu Bubbas call it their “low, slow” profile.
Yeah, Yeah…..
Brian Shul in flight

An operational F-15 tops out in level flight at about 55K (centerline bag configuration, don’t know what it would be for the current two wing tank config). The SR-71 will be in the low to mid 70’s and in the high Mach 2’s. This mission’s success is a matter of arriving at a specific point in space at a specific climb angle with a specific energy state.  A lot can go wrong and has, but a missed intercept on an ORI is bad juju.

As I was remembering details about this and researching, I came upon this article which talks about the maneuver I’m going to perform.  It is called the Rutowski climb profile and is all about energy management.  If you’re into complex math, go read the article.  Some of you will undoubtedly be able to figure out the equations.  Fortunately, there was a diagram I basically remembered.


I’m orbiting at Position C on the diagram.  Once GCI determines the target is inbound and reaches commit range, I will begin flying the rest of the profile (C-E), trying to arrive at E with my nose about 45 degrees up, still above the Mach, at launch range and about 45K’.  If I meet those parameters, I will have enough nose authority to keep the target illuminated for the time of flight of the missile(s).  There will be 4 in flight.
This is actually an ASAT test launch, but the parameters are basically the same.

Since the SR-71 is travelling at about 1NM every 2 seconds, there is no time for error.  

Commit range is about 250nm.  I will turn hot at 350NM. Once I’m pointed at him, I will begin accelerating in Mil Power while beginning a slight climb to gain as much total energy as I can prior to commit. (Total energy is airspeed and altitude.)  At 250NM, I will go Max AB and begin a zero g dive.  This eliminates the drag caused by the aircraft’s lift and maximizes the velocity I can achieve, while minimizing the altitude (potential energy) loss.  At 150NM, I begin a 4 g pull to a 45 degree climb and maintain that throughout the remainder of the intercept.  Oh, and by the way, the F-15’s radar only goes out to 200NM, so while in the midst of this maneuver, I have to locate the target and lock on.  GCI’s radar sweep is too slow to control the intercept.  The closure rate will cause them to tell me to pull too late for a successful intercept.

As I said, there’s a lot going on and no room for error.

I get the call to turn hot, and am now on the attack vector, I’m just under the Mach and in my slight climb around 35K.  I get the commit call, light AB and push over.  I’ve got the radar run out to max range and get the first contact there.  I get the lock on and, Mother Bear, this guy’s fast!  By the time the radar is settled in, he’s about 180.  I’m well above the Mach and down to around 27K.  150NM and pull.  45 degrees set, through 30K, 35K.  Everything looks steady, target is steady in the HUD (a good sign, if he was moving up the HUD, that would mean I was behind on the intercept). 

Coming through 40K, I suddenly feel as if a large nail has been shot through my jaw and into my skull.  The pain is blinding and getting worse!  I roll the aircraft what I think is about 180 degrees and begin a pull to get the nose coming back down.  I recognize the symptoms from altitude chamber training in Pilot Training.  I've either got air trapped in a sinus or a tooth.  In either case, I’ve got to get the aircraft down below the altitude the incident occurred as quickly as possible.

As soon as I get below 40K, it’s as if someone flips a switch, the pain switches from incapacitatingly sharp to dull residual.  I call “Knock it off” to GCI and the SR-71 and tell them I’m RTB.  As I continue to descend, the pain continues to abate, so I come down initial and land.  Get back in the squadron and find the Flight Surgeon.  He runs me through an X-ray, nothing wrong with my sinuses, so sends me off to the Dentist.  I've got a cracked filling on one of my molars.  No problem.  Drill it out and replace it.

Later that evening, I get a call at home from the Dentist.  “I’m not sure I got all the air out.  We should probably try an Altitude Chamber ride first thing in the morning.”  Well, there went my deploying in an Eagle!  Oh, and by the way, I’ll know if he didn't get it all with a repeat of this morning’s episode. 

I’m in the altitude chamber, watching the altimeter climb.  Just me and the technician in the box.  35K, 38K, 39K, 40K, 41K, maybe……42K BAM!  Holy Crap this hurts!  I don’t even have to say anything; the tech can see it in my eyes.  We start back down. 

To his credit, and mortal risk, the Dentist is waiting at the chamber door when it opens.  I ask him what’s next and he says root canal.  Perfect!  Can this day get any better?  I call the squadron and tell them I’m not going to be flying an Eagle up and what are the Airlift departure times?  They tell me they’re all today.  I ask the Dentist when he’ll be done with the root canal.  I can’t fly in anything, until tomorrow morning. 
Coulda been this, instead....

I get this.

Now, what?  I ask the squadron to find anything going to Korea tomorrow, and then go have my root canal.

I find out there’s a C-130 leaving for Kunsan first thing in the morning and I make arrangements to be on it.  

Wake up the next morning with the command post calling asking me to swing by the squadron to grab the mission planning computer that had somehow been left behind.  So, I’ve got my A-3 bag with my gear, and I’m going to carry a late 80s era CPU?  That would be ok, if I were getting off the 130 at Kwang Ju, but I have to take a taxi from Kunsan to the bus terminal, get on a bus to Kwang Ju. (Google Maps shows that to be 5 hour plus today, the roads weren’t as good back then).   Hail another cab to the airbase and then flag someone down to catch a ride to the squadron.

I drive by the squadron, and the entire building is empty.  Nobody around at all.  My squadron is in Korea, the other squadrons are on the other side of the base.  I am the last man standing.  I grab the CPU and depart for the MAC terminal and get on the 130.

I make it to the Kunsan bus terminal, (in flight suit), get my ticket to Kwang Ju and actually find the right bus.  I’m struggling a bit trying to get all the stuff going in the right direction, when a ROK Army Enlisted guy takes pity on me, comes up and offers to help.  I ask him to carry my gear. (The computer is NoForn.)  He does and on arrival at Kwang Ju, hails the cab and tells them where I need to go.  (My ability to order a beer and find a bathroom in Korean being of no use to me at this point.)

I arrive at the front gate, the SPs let me in and call the squadron.  The bread truck arrives and I load all the stuff on board and am climbing in, when the siren goes off.
Airfield attack, condition black!  Welcome to the ORI, Juvat!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Day Off

I decided to take the day off.

The photo will clue you in as to my location.

Family and football.

Life is good.

Did I mention that we've got beer?

Oh yeah, we've got beer.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A New Tradition

The Christmas Star which has topped Mom's tree since I was a little boy.
While I have a couple of hours in which to catch my breath before heading out into the world again, I figured I better get a post ready for Saturday. A day in which The Missus Herself and I will arise well before dawn and begin yet another holiday adventure.

No doubt the cats, Anya and Sasha, will be furious and shun us when we get home again. They were excited that we were back home but the quick turn around between trips will no doubt irk them beyond belief.

It's as if we launched a couple of hours ago, trapped and refueled and taxied back over to get shot off the bow once more. (Okay, I've never done that but the book I'm reading now makes me want to. A lot. At least once.)

We had a great time up north with Mom, The Olde Vermonter with his tribe and The Musician. My brothers seem to be aging far better than I. Well, they are at least within a few pounds of their high school weight. Hair-wise we are all a lot grayer than we used to be. The Olde Musician and I don't need to spend a lot of money on shampoo. If you know what I mean.

One new thing for the holiday was a beverage a native Rhode Islander that I work with tipped me off to. (I'm sure the grammar in that sentence is terrible. For now that is something with which you will have to up with put. To misquote Sir Winston.)

First of all I must tell you that as an outsider, it seems to me that everything in Little Rhody seems to revolve around coffee. At least it seems that way to me.

For instance, in my town by the bay, there are three Dunkin' Donuts outlets, with a fourth under construction not a quarter mile from one of the established three. But it's necessary, the old one is on the right side of the road when you're heading north. Tough to get to when you're headed south during what passes for rush hour in the morning. So the new one?

Yup, on the other side of the road. So there's one for each direction. Just like the town immediately to our north. Two Dunkin' Donuts, not a quarter mile apart. So if you want coffee in the morning, doesn't matter which direction you're going. You're covered.

Oh yeah, there's another local coffee and donut emporium in these parts, Sip-N-Dip, which I'd never heard of before coming to Little Rhody on the Bay. They are not bad. Not Dunkin' Donuts, but not bad.

Did I mention Starbucks?

Nope. We have them but Dunkin' Donuts rules. They are, in fact, thriving.

Oh yeah, coffee, more specifically, coffee milk, to wit:
Coffee milk is a drink made by adding a sweetened coffee concentrate called coffee syrup to milk in a manner similar to chocolate milk. It is the official state drink of Rhode Island in the United States of America.

While the precise origin of coffee milk is unclear, several sources trace it back to the turn of the 20th century and Providence's Italian immigrant population. The first coffee syrup was introduced by the Silmo Packing Company of New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1932. Coffee syrup is produced by straining water and sugar through coffee grounds. In 1938 Warwick, Rhode Island-based Eclipse Food Products began heavily promoting its own coffee syrup product, with Lincoln, Rhode Island's Autocrat Coffee coming to market in the 1940s. Autocrat purchased long-time competitor Eclipse in 1991 and today produces both brands of syrup.

In southeastern parts of New England it can be found in store dairy cases by other flavored milks. It is also a common item on diner menus, university dining halls, and paired with hot wieners at New York System restaurants. The popularity and availability of coffee milk remains concentrated in the New England region.

The State of Rhode Island named coffee milk its official state beverage in 1993, after a competition with Del's Lemonade, another Rhode Island institution.

In Australia, it is a common flavor of milk alongside banana, chocolate, and strawberry. (W)
Autocrat Coffee syrup is most important as a component of coffee milk. Also a most important component of...

Yup, Narragansett Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout.

Was I hesitant about trying this? No, not really. Buck's tales of chocolate stout and such set me up to try this. (Also I do love my coffee, preferably iced...)

The verdict? Delicious, absolutely superb. From the brewery's website:
‘Gansett’s limited-edition Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout, a unique collaboration between two iconic Rhode Island companies, is finally here. A custom blend of Narragansett’s bittersweet milk stout with dark, delicious Autocrat Coffee makes for a delightful beer that is more Rhode Island than Roger Williams himself. Since the 1890’s, Narragansett Beer and Autocrat Coffee have been home-grown Rhode Island favorites. With more than 100 years of shared heritage, the two local legends joined forces to celebrate the art of craft brewing and bring New England an emblematic brew that pays homage to their history. The full-bodied milk stout is enriched with the robust flavor of Autocrat Coffee to achieve an extraordinary taste experience. Brewed under the supervision of award-winning Brewmaster Sean Larkin, Narragansett’s Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout delivers a flavorful, smooth, dark brew with notes of roasted barley, chocolate malt and rich crystal malt. The exacting touch of hops provides just the right amount of bitterness to balance the sweet notes of the malts and milk sugar.
Yup, what they said. I loved it.

Apparently this is a seasonal thing (from what the website says and according to my buddy) so I'm thinking I have a new tradition. At Christmastime, make mine a 'Gansett Coffee Milk Stout.

Then again, eggnog with a bit of Wild Turkey 't ain't bad neither. (I know Buck, I know...)

Yes, I do believe I had some of that as well while in the Homeland.

(Or was it Wild Turkey with a bit of eggnog? Six of one...)


Great time, got to see some folks I care greatly about at a time of year that I love.

Christmas with family.

Nothing beats that.

Mom's Living Room
Some of these decorations are as old as me!
(Yeah, yeah, I know, antiques!)
Mom's cat Pepé, named after Pepé Le Pew. He likes his little comforts.
Mom's cat Spookie, all black, skittish but affectionate nevertheless.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day

Untidy living room after unwrapping gifts by Steve from San Francisco - Xmas 2005. CC
While I am writing this post two days before Christmas, you are reading it the day after Christmas. For such is the magic of technology, that I am able to write a post at one point in time, then schedule it to be published at some time in the future.

I'm not sure how far into the future I can schedule a post, not sure I want to try that. I could disrupt the space-time continuum and create a disastrous rip in the fabric of the very Universe.

Or something...

Okay, why write a Boxing Day post two days before Christmas?

Well, truth be told, I shall be traveling from Point B to Point A on that day...

Er, I mean today (I have to remember to write this in the present tense for the 26th of December and not the 23rd of December and... Did anyone else hear a tearing noise? No? Um, alrighty then...)

So it's the 26th and I'm traveling from Point B (which is me Mum's house) to Point A, which is Chez Sarge. Then on Saturday (tomorrow from your perspective, almost a half-week from now from my perspective... There's that tearing noise again...)

Yes, on Saturday we travel from Point A to Point C. So a lot of travel is on tap for this holiday season. 'Tis a gathering of a big chunk of the family near Our Nation's Capital for the dawning of the New Year to which we travel tomorrow.


Here's what Wikipedia has to say regarding Boxing Day:
Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers, in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other Commonwealth nations, as well as Norway and Sweden. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December.

In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. Due to the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical calendar, the day is known as St. Stephen's Day to Catholics, and in Italy, Finland, and Alsace and Moselle in France. It is also known as both St. Stephen's Day and the Day of the Wren or Wren's Day in the Republic of Ireland. In many European countries, including notably Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia, 26 December is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day. (W)
For seven years I went with that "Second Christmas Day" or Zweiter Tag von Weihnachten when we lived in Germany. Boxing Day was mentioned, but only by our British friends, of which we had a few, being in NATO and all.

I trust and pray that you all had a blessed Christmas and are well and truly ready for a New Year. I am not ready. I need new calendars as the old ones are all worn out and the days are all in the wrong place.


Blogging could be hit or miss over the next week as I shall be enjoying myself with family and friends. I will be thinking of you, my faithful readers, and hope to squeeze a post in here and there. (I will be bringing the tablet along and there is always the trusty smart phone. The latter upon which I cannot type to save my life. So if some of my comments seem badly spelled and/or formatted, it's because of that wee keyboard on the cell phone. Not because I'm ignoring everything Buck taught me and which Rumbear has vowed to keep an eye on. It's not always fun to have friends in the Grammar Police, but one tends to learn a lot.)

Enjoy. Be back soon.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Nebula in Taurus by ESA/Hubble and NASA
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. Luke 2:1-20, King James Version

I wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas.

Remembering those who can't be home for Christmas...

And in remembrance of those who have gone Home for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Frohe Weihnachten!

Joyeux Noël!

Buon Natale!

Feliz Navidad!

Nollaig Shona!

메리 크리스마스!

God jul!

Feliz Natal!

Candle on Christmas tree 3 by Gerbil CC

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Christmas Candles
by Michael Henderson - Flickr CC
Christmas has long been my favorite time of year. For as long as I can remember, the smell of evergreen, the glitter of the tinsel, the sparkling lights and the bite of the cold air tell me that it's Christmas time.

As a kid I always wanted snow on the ground. Yes, the "White Christmas" aspect was very important, I don't know why, but it's expected to have snow on the ground on Christmas Day where I hail from. (Vermont, for those who are new here.)

But from a more practical standpoint, without snow, you couldn't go sledding. You couldn't have snowball fights, or build snowmen, or have snow forts. Why, without snow winter was no fun at all! It was just cold, gray and miserable without snow.

Maybe you have to be a New Englander to understand that. Or from Michigan.

Speaking of Michigan (where part of the family resides and where I have a number of dear friends), last year we traveled to Michigan to celebrate New Year's with The WSO and her husband Big Time's tribe. Simply awesome people, fun to hang out with and they make you feel right at home.

Yup, I spotted it too. A digression.


When we flew into Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW on your navigational charts) I noted a rather alarming absence of snow. I mean, what the heck! It's late December, we're in Michigan for crying out loud. Where is the white stuff?

Big Time's Dad told us that they had had a little snow on Christmas Day but to be patient. More snow was in the forecast.

Yup. It started a day or so later and didn't stop. It was still snowing when we flew back to Little Rhody in early January. So I did get to see snow. Lots and lots of snow.

This year rain is predicted for much of southern New England.


At Christmas.


We shall see.

Anyhoo. I'm going to be traveling (a lot) over the next week or so.

I'm planning on having a few posts scheduled to fire off auto-magically while I'm on the road.

But that means I need to write them. Like now (now being Monday, the 22nd).

So far I've got one in the hopper. This one.

I better get to work!

Enjoy this day. I always have.

Even if I never could get to sleep. What with the excitement and all.

I know I'm 61. But in my heart, I'll always be 12. (A not very mature 12 I might add...)

May all your Christmases be Merry and Bright!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

So What Is It All About?

It's about service...

It's about commitment...

It's about family...

It's about friends...

And more friends...

And family who are also friends...

It's remembering the old days...

And the even older days...

It's about cats...

And dogs...

It's about air museums...

It's about chillin' at the driving range...

It's about being happy and you know it...

It's about hugs...

It's about cuddling with auntie and grandpa...

It's about watering cans...

And snow...

And colors...

Why yes, sometimes it's about beer!

It's about wide awake cats in the sun...

It's about sleepy cats in the morning...

But it's always about love.

And that my friends, is what it's all about.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Le Carte es Merde

So, there I was....* Retired from the Air Force almost 10 years, working in a school district now providing IT support after teaching a bit.  Owned and profitably sold two wine related retail businesses which introduced me to some fine friends, two of whom own one of the finest wineries in Texas.  In fact their 2006 Syrah was rated as one of 12 Excellent wines in the United States. We enjoy wine, so having friends in the industry has its perks.

A few years ago, we decided to vacation together.  For various reasons, November has worked for our busy schedules.  Their harvest is over and the hectic activities in the crush have slowed down.  School has started and we've gone through a couple of grading cycles so except for the occasional paper jam, most of the teacher technological panic attacks have slowed way down. So, November it is.

Destination--France.  Unlike Sarge, I've never been assigned to Europe and but thanks to a few TDYs, have been able to visit a bit.  Enough to want to go back. Paris, the City of Lights will be our base camp with day trips to various areas of interest around the country.

Vacation has arrived and we have arrived at CDG, transitioned to the train, then to the subway and have arrived at our hotel near the Ecole Militaire.  Check in was mercifully quick and we head to the elevator to go to our rooms.  The elevator was quaint.  You had a choice.  Either you, or your bags, could use the elevator, not both.  I go up.  Mrs. Juvat loads bags from below, then joins me.  "You Americans! This is not a bug, but a feature!"

Knowing that jet lag is minimized by staying awake until bed time in the new time zone, we go walking about.  

Given that this was the view from our hotel room, we decide on where we are going.

We spend the next couple of days exploring Paris with all the usual suspects.

We see some pretty ladies.

Go to Church.

Drink some wine.
For some reason, this resonates with my twisted sense of humor.

Spend a lot of time consulting maps.

Even ask for directions.  This fellow was helpful.

We did not get lost. I've never been "lost", that position where you don't know where you are, nor how to get where your going, or even how to figure out where you are.  Nope never!

A low level fly by of a ROKAF runway was simply a matter of practicing airfield attack tactics.  Their calls on Guard questioning my identity simply confirm the effectiveness of my tactics.
Gratuitous Airplane Shot
I digress.  We have successfully navigated in a very large city.  It is time to expand our horizons.  We decide to visit Reims.  As I said earlier, having wine makers as friends has it's perks.  We are going to get a private tour of Veuve Clicqout
Not usually a fan of Champagne, but this was excellent.
I wonder if they'd miss just one.
Successfully returned to our hotel, we plan the next day trip,  I'd always heard about the beaches in France, so we decide to visit one.

This beach is named for a town in Nebraska. Big Red One visited here. Quite a few decided to stay.

Returned from that trip, sobered, but emboldened of our navigational abilities, we decide we want to sample wine from the Loire Valley. We take a train to the town of Tours because that's what we want to do.( I know, "try the veal, I'll be here all week.")

Rent a car and drive to Chinon,  a French Castle astride the Vienne River near Anjou.

With drawbridges on either end, the castle has instant moat protection from an attack.  It was interesting, the gardens are beautiful, but it's time to find wine!  The castle gift shop has a map purporting to have all the local wineries on it.  I purchase it and we hop in the car and are off. The ladies are in the back seat and as good back seaters they have assumed the navigational responsibilities.  We get back on the road and they tell me to start looking for a major highway which we will cross.  We find it and do.  A defined starting point.  They tell me to drive for about 10km when we will come to a village.  We do.  "Take a right, 10 km to next village".  "Take a left".  "We should be coming into village named  xxx".  I can't find anything that says what village we're in at all.  Continue on in this manner for a while and finally come into a village on a river.  It's about lunch time, and we spy an Auberge.

We decide we'll stop and get lunch and ask directions while we're there.

We walk in the front door and are greeted, in French, by the Maitre D', the waiter, the proprietor, cook and busboy.

He speaks no English.  There are several, male patrons in the Auberge, one of whom comes up to us and says "I speak English!". Great,  I ask him if the restaurant is open and could we get lunch.  He says "I speak English! Your wife is sexy!"  Well, I think so, but....Those phrases seems to be his version of my fluency in 22 languages (the ability to order a beer and find a restroom, neither of which I particularly need at this time).

I pantomime an eating gesture and the Maitre D', the waiter, the proprietor, cook and busboy takes us to a table.  A couple of minutes later, he brings out a terrine of something and cuts off a slice, placing it on my plate.  Points at it and pantomimes eating.  Now, I've eaten balut and lived to tell about it, I'm not intimidated.  I cut a piece of what is probably the innards of some long dead animal and commence to chow down.  The bar erupts in cheers and clapping.  Having passed whatever test was presented to us, we are now old friends,  Wine is poured, food is served and lunch goes on for quite a while.  At some time, I approach my new friend, (the all in one Maitre D'...) with my map and explain our situation.  With the wine consumed at lunch, my friend's English and my French are improving rapidly, or maybe it was the pointing at the map and scrunching my shoulders while lifting my hands.  In any case, We've communicated and he starts unfolding the map from where I had opened it to our supposed location. And unfolds, and unfolds, and unfolds.  Evidently, we are about 30 miles from where we thought we were.

I point to where we think we are, and he shakes his head and points at the location on the map.  I look at him quizzically and he responds "Le Carte es Merde!" (Google translate does a reasonable job on the statement.) 

I point to one of the bottles of wine we'd consumed and then pointed at the map with my patented "Where the hell are we?" gesture, and he points out where the winery is and the route necessary to arrive there.  We pay our bill, thank him profusely and get back in the car. Crank it up and promptly turn the wrong way.

I don't get very far when I realize my error and turn around.  Drive past the Auberge and the clientele is outside, bent over in laughter!
My friend the English speaker on the right

We manage to find the winery and taste some very fine Vouvray.

I am certain that should we find our way back to that Auberge, they will still be talking about the Americans that came to visit.

*As Buck was wont to say, "Everybody knows this Juvat, get on with it!" Therefore, I will.