Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve

Special bonus post...

Let's party!

Oh, yeah...


A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post wherein I figured we were now a "big time" blog as we get spam. Consistent spam, three or four a day. Sometimes as many as eight.

Well, in the You Gotta Be Shitting Me Department, that post, which is about spam, received a spam comment. Somehow seems fitting.

There are days when I want to do something like this with the spammers...

Yup, launch a full airstrike, Weasels and all.

I don't get it, I just don't get it. Spam comments are typically on old posts, sometimes posts that are a number of years old. I am the only one who sees those (unless Juvat and Tuna are also peaking under the hood from time to time) so what's the point?

Really, you like the "fastidious content of this weblog".

I'm not sure you know what that word means.

Give it up lasertest, I am not  going to check out your site, ever.

If you're thinking "Damn, Sarge is just going through the motions today..." Well, you're partially right. The Muse is being lazy, I ain't much better and I just started a Director's Cut marathon of the Lord of the Rings movies. Yup, all three. All at least 3 hours long.

I tell ya, other than the spam, I'm having an awesome Twelve Day celebration. Oh, did I mention I hit Barnes & Noble while in possession of a $75 gift card? No? Well I did. It was magnificent.

Now run along, I have some serious goofing off to do. Not to mention getting ready for Hogmanay.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Twelve Days

The Morning of the 29th of December
Sometime in the night I heard what sounded like a large truck going down the street. As I live on a cul-de-sac, it's unusual for large trucks to head up our street, then back down again. Unless it's a snow plow or sand/salt truck (normally one and the same in these parts). Sure enough, lo and behold, when Sasha, the alpha-feline, poked me to remind me that I had not fed her (and her sister) yet, I figured what the heck, might as well get up, to discover that I had heard a big truck. A truck which had apparently applied salt to our street because it had snowed. Snow which had turned to rain.

A very cold rain I might add.

For you see, as I threw on my gym shorts I also grabbed my camera. I figured that I would get some photos of the snow after feeding the felines.

While I did throw on a jacket, I was still wearing gym shorts. Stepping onto the deck, camera in hand, I felt the rain, on my hat-less noggin. That's why there's only three pictures. It was cold and wet this morning. At 0730 when I fed the cats, went outside, and then decided to get out of bed and start the day.

Normally I don't get up so early when I'm on vacation. Yes, you heard that right, vacation. My employer shuts down between Christmas and New Year's, we forego five regular holidays in order to do this. While missing a three day weekend five times a year is a bit painful, it is more than made up for by having this time of year off, without having to take one's "vacation" days. (That bit is in quotes because calling them vacation days is officially frowned upon. Don't ask why, it confuses me. But most things civilian confuse me. I ain't wired that way.)

So yes, I'm off for most of the twelve days of Christmas, which does indeed start on Christmas Day, which is the first day of Christmas, not the last. Don't buy into that commercial crap, I don't. It's not about the song either. Though I do like the song, it doesn't describe what those traditional Twelve Days of Christmas are really about. You can read about that here.

While I am enjoying my time off I am assiduously avoiding Facebook, television, numerous "news" websites, and the like for a number of reasons.

Politics, dissension, name calling, and spurious news items are everywhere and are getting more annoying by the day. I have Facebook friends who will express or pass along the most odd things which serve to annoy me no end. I don't run around threatening to "unfriend" anybody, I just won't read those posts. People are, after all, entitled to their opinions, I am not required to read them.

When I get back to work I'll start reading that stuff again. Maybe, probably. I do like knowing what folks are thinking about, just not when I'm celebrating the holidays.

So I will continue binge watching Homeland (a series which I never thought I would get into, but I did), playing my new computer games, reading, playing with the cats, enjoying the company of The Missus Herself, and generally taking it easy. I am sitting on the bank of the river and watching all the nonsense float downstream. I'll gird my loins and rejoin the fray next year, which ain't all that far off.

But until Epiphany, color me contemplative, non-combative, and trying to stay above it all. We'll see how that works out for me...

Cold today, but very lovely. In an Arctic kind of way...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Product Slogan Trivia

If it's good enough for NASCAR, why not the Navy?  
Think of the marketing potential-  "The US Navy, A Global Force for Product Placement"

Yeah, it’s been a while, and I’m still busy, tired, and blocked - writer’s block that is, not from eating too many Christmas Cookies or Advent Calendar candy.  Speaking of which, someone in the Tuna household got a little hungry and ate ahead of the days on our calendar.  You've seen those right?  Here's ours. 

As far as "stealing" from the future on that calendar, I consider that either sacrilegious or just plain verboten, so I "fixed" it.  I refilled all the empty days ahead with various treats.  The next morning, the teenangster yelled out “HEY!  WHO PUT COUGH DROPS IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR?”  The following day, when it was the minnow’s turn to get the treat, he found a couple vitamins.  Neither of them admitted to the offense, but I think my point was made.  Or not.  Either way I had a little fun.

Speaking of fun, I figured I’d go with more of that for my first post in several weeks.  Or would you prefer some ranting about politics? 

And the angel said ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people.’ For unto you a post is born this day- a quiz for all to enjoy, and its name shall be Product Slogan Trivia.  Since it’s the Christmas season, no need to get all political - as peace and joy are in abundance around me, and maybe there’s a little bit of it in this post.  Ok, that’s a stretch, but you should have a little fun with it.

I’ll start with some easy ones.

1.  The Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyworld

2.  Leave the driving to us. Greyhound

3.  Betcha can't eat just one. Lays

4.  Believe In Your Smellf. Oldspice

5.  The taste of a new generation. Pepsi

6.  A Passion For the Road. Mazda

7.  We know money. AIG 

8.  Life's Messy, Clean It Up. Bissel

9.  Behold the power of cheese. American Dairy Council

10. Get your own box. Cheez It

11. Does she or doesn’t she? Clairol

12. The best a man can get. Gillette

13. Don’t dream it. Drive it. Jaguar

14. _____ December to remember sales event.  Lexus

So how are you doing so far? You might have noticed that these are all kind of a mixed bag- some old ones, some semi-recent slogans, a few very obscure ones; but that's what makes these fun. Some of our younger viewers might not have ever heard some of them, but that's what google is for.

15. One car company urged buyers to “Think Small.” Which brand lived by these words?  They also had one that was a little sophomoric- Relieves Gas Pains.  Volkswagen

16. Which car company called its customers' manhood into question with the slogan “Size Does Matter”? Mini Cooper

17. Quality is Job 1. Ford

18. Zoom Zoom. Mazda

19. This one is a bit older, and will require Sarge to keep his mind out of the gutter. There’s a Rocket to Fit Your Pocket. Oldsmobile

20. Let your fingers do the walking. Yellowpages

Hmm, time for a break. I'm getting thirsty anyway.


21. The Champagne of Beer. Miller High Life

22. It’s the Water. Olympia Beer
23. When you say ______, you've said it all. Budweiser
24. Weekends were made for ________ . Michelob

25. The best part of waking up is ______ in your cup. Folger's Coffee

26. Fill it to the rim with ______. Brim decaffeinated coffee

27. Good to the last drop.  Maxwell House Coffee

I hope your Christmas was joyful and you got your fill of Christmas Spirits. Unfortunately, Santa had a little trouble on the way home.

28. If It Doesn't Get All Over The Place, It Doesn't Belong In Your Face. Carl’s Jr.
29. Which company’s slogan assured you that “Nothing Sucks” like their vacuum? Electrolux

30. Fly the Friendly Skies. United Airlines

31. We love to fly and it shows. Delta Airlines

32. Going For Great. Hmm, too obscure? I didn't know it either. How about this- Something special in the air. Still nothing? We are an airline that is proud to bear the name: American

33. Now you're free to move about the country. Southwest

34. Some people just know how to fly. Northwest

35. See America at see level. Amtrak

Ok, one more beer commercial:

Well, that's enough for today.  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  We had a great one- gifts, Mass, Star Wars, and dinner with the extended family.  I would be apologetic for not writing more often, but I shouldn't be- that family is part of why I'm not writing more.  Maybe I get partial credit for feeling a touch guilty and that I should be posting more, but probably not.    

Anyway, Happy New Year to Sarge, Juvat, and the readership.  This is the 4th Day of Christmas though, so Merry Christmas is still in order.  And what do you get on the 4th Day of Christmas?  Well, four calling birds of course.

Have a great rest of the week.  Don't drink and drive.  AAA's Tipsy Taxi will come pick you up even if you aren't a member.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking.  Where are the damn answers?  Select all (Ctrl A) and all will be revealed.  For those of you followers out there using a Mac, try Command "A."  

Monday, December 28, 2015

“Lifeblood of the Navy”

Earlier this week, Old NFO had a tale of woe about the trials and tribulations involved in his move from the (ptui!) DC area to some as yet undisclosed location in God’s Country. (Those of you unlucky enough to not live here might refer to it as Texas.)  In that tale of woe, he mentioned that he had somehow misplaced his coffee pot.  

That harmless statement, as it always seems to, set off a flood of commentary.  One commenter went so far as to describe coffee as the “Lifeblood of the Navy”.  Included in the comments were the Top Secret procedures for making that Lifeblood.  (That should be good for an extra hit or two from the NSA.)

While most readers know that “back in the day”, I was in the Air Force as a Fighter Pilot, some may not have read these riveting posts on my first tour as a Joint Staff Officer.

One of the benefits of that job, other than, you know, being based at Camp Smith Hawaii, was spending time aboard the flagships of the USN’s 3rd Fleet and 7th Fleet, USS Coronado and USS Blue Ridge respectively. 
USS Coronado AGF-11 (decommissioned in 2006 and sunk in the Marianas during an exercise in 2012)
Public Domain

USS Blue Ridge LCC-19
Public Domain

 A small result of that time was getting to sample some of that “Lifeblood of the Navy”.

I also got to spend a good bit of time with 3 MEF on Okinawa. (I also spent time with I Corps at Ft Lewis WA, but that’s a different story).  All these deployments involved exercises in which contingency planning was the objective.  Coming up with an operations plan on short notice with a tight deadline necessitated some very long days.  Long days meant Coffee. 

I think I started drinking coffee in pilot training, but I was never more than a cup or two at a time person at that point.  Strapped in to an ejection seat and pulling G’s is not a fun thing with a full bladder, and the restroom facilities are sadly lacking in fighters.  (Never used a piddle pack! Not even on the Trans-Pacific drags.)

So….Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Coffee and “Lifeblood of the Navy”.

So…There I was*

Camp Smedley Butler, Okinawa Japan.  Deployed to 3 MEF for a Joint Task Force training exercise.  The Joint Staff (in the Pentagon, believe me nothing good comes out of that building) has decided to test USCINCPAC’s ability to stand up a Joint Task Force, develop an Operations Plan and have forces ready to deployon very short notice.  We get the Warning Order and, within 3 hours, my team is airborne on a C-141 bound for Okinawa. That's at least a 10 hour flight (more if it’s winter) and we couldn't afford to waste 10 hours of planning time.  This was back in the early 90s before airborne WiFi was commonplace.  We had a specially modified hatch panel that had a satellite antenna on it and so used that time to begin building the Plan, coordinating both with Camp Smith and Camp Butler.  Very exciting stuff at the time.  (Yeah, I know, it takes very little to get me excited nowadays.)

In any case (which, again, is Texan for “Anyhoo”), we arrive on Okinawa and continue to build the Operations Plan, sending drafts back through Camp Smith to the Pentagon.  We’ve been at it for about 36 hours and it’s me, another Lt Col (USMC) and a USMC Warrant Officer.  

My counterpart Lt Col referred to the Warrant Officer as “Gunner” with a high measure of respect in the tone of his voice.  I elected to follow his lead.  

We’re putting out the latest version of the Plan and it’s oh-dark-thirty.  The Gunner comes in and says he’s going to turn in and asks if we need anything before he does.  I ask him for a cup of coffee figuring he’d tell somebody to make a pot.  He walks off and shortly thereafter brings back a couple of cups. 

He’d made them himself. 

I didn’t sleep for at least 12 more hours. (At which point, the Joint Staff called EndEx as they couldn’t keep up with us.)

Navy Coffee was good, but I thought it was kinda weak thereafter.

We’ve had a Keurig in the house for a while, and my brew of choice was always Jet Fuel  for a couple of reasons, but the primary reason was it is as close to the Gunner’s coffee as packaged coffee could get.  Lately however, even that seemed to be getting weak and disappointing.

On our recent vacation, in the B & B we rented in Sydney, the kitchen came with a DeLonghi Espresso machine.  Now, I like Espresso, but I want my coffee in something other than shot glasses.  This machine had a setting that allowed you to make the Espresso as large as you wanted.  Suffice it to say, I was adequately caffeinated while in Sydney.

Coming back to the real world was tough, and the Keurig didn’t help.  However there was a posting on Instapundit about DeLonghi Machines being offered on Amazon at a special price.

Santa brought me one for Christmas!  Put whole coffee beans and water in the machine, push one button and Espresso comes out.  Life is good!

Hope Everyone had a blessed Christmas and has a Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

You Can Go Home Again

Christmas Eve started warm and damp. We drove north through intermittent rain showers and patchy fog. There was one spot on the Connecticut River where I wished my camera hadn't been packed away, inaccessible in the back of the car. Alas, there was also no place to pull over and get it out. For I saw that the river was as still as a mill pond, the mist rising up from the water to create a mystic scene which was quite pleasing to behold. It seemed to whisper that I was traveling not only in space, but in time as well.

We got to my Mom's house with little trouble, traffic was amazingly sparse, perhaps because we got away early, to beat the rush you know.

My brother's car was already there, he had gone up on the 22nd to help my Mom get things ready for the holiday as she had fallen the week before and cracked a couple of ribs. Mom is getting on in years, 85 to be precise, but she still thinks she's 25. You have to admire her spirit, though to tell the truth we kept threatening to tie her to her chair as she kept getting up to do "stuff."

"Mom, sit down, we'll get it!"

It's tough to get her to slow down.

Dad isn't around anymore, he passed away back in February of 2010. Feels like a long time ago, feels like yesterday, but he still has a presence at home. We will never forget him.

Christmas Eve we eventually ordered pizza, as no one could decide where to go out to eat earlier in the day. The first choice had already closed for the evening. Do we go with Chinese? Which restaurant? How about the one in Bellows Falls? Jeebers, that's like 15 miles from here, might as well drive to Beijing! (That last from me, after driving 155 miles I wasn't too keen about jumping back in a car for a while.)

The pizza was purchased locally, The Musician drove down and picked it up. The Missus Herself had directed that I accompany my kid brother, I conveniently pretended I didn't hear her. (Again, that whole get in a car again thing. Jeebers, give it a rest, my butt is still asleep.)

The pizza was quite good, for those who wonder.

It's good to see decorations older than me, the big snowman, the red sleigh, they've both been around longer than I have. They were there for my first Christmas. A long, long time ago.

Christmas Day dawned misty and warm. The temperature would rise into the sixties by afternoon, officially it's the warmest Christmas I have ever experienced. Even the one I spent on Okinawa in 1976 was colder! (Mid-fifties as I recall, had to wear a field jacket that day.)

Looking outside, I remembered a Christmas 24 years ago. We were home from Nebraska, on our way to Germany for the next seven and a half years. Dad was still alive, as was my Uncle Charlie and my maternal grandmother. It was cold that ten days we spent in New Hampshire before shipping off to Europe on New Year's Day, 1992 (a story of Air Force incompetence I need to tell someday).

We had fun that Christmas so long ago. Dad is gone. Uncle Charlie died when I was in Germany. That Christmas was the last time I saw him. My grandmother is gone. My kids were all there, my Lord they were so young back then. The Olde Vermonter and Mrs Olde Vermonter were there with their two youngsters. Again, they were so little. I got to see them this year again, they are young adults now.

Time flies.

Looking outside, I decided to take a walk.

The mist in the trees reminded me, somehow, of a snowy day 24 years ago. Back then the house was full of people, family, I was headed out to what would no doubt be my last assignment in the Air Force. I'd be gone from the old homestead again. I needed to think. So I went out in the snow. On that day long ago.

Dad had told me of a gazebo that The Olde Vermonter had built that summer. I should go see it. So I did. The gazebo is still there. It's still in good shape. The pond which lies in front of it is grown over with cattails now, the pond is still in there, it's just hidden. Like the past. Like the future.


After I retired from the Air Force I was at my parents for a couple of months, job hunting in a rather desultory fashion, my Dad and I would wander over to the gazebo and just sit and chat. You can see the step where we used to sit, just barely. That used to be a nice lawn around the gazebo, it's been a while since anyone maintained the area.

I stood in that gazebo on Christmas morning, in this year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Fifteen, and thought of many things as the sun began to burn through the mist. My talks with my Dad, he was retired, I was (for the moment) retired and he talked of things he'd never mentioned before. We talked one soldier to another, not father and son, but two old sergeants who had "been there, done that."

I thought of my grandchildren two thousand miles away in California. It would be a few hours before they were awake. It would be some time yet before their parents got to hear those squeals of joy which many parents, blessed by hard work and circumstance, have heard over the centuries.

My parents were so blessed, as was I, as are my children.

I would miss being with them on this most blessed of days. But I could hear them all.

In my heart.

You can just see an old tree which has fallen into the pond (to the right). I once watched a kingfisher perched high on a branch in that same tree, on a hot day in July. Watching as that bird studied that pond. Watching for the flash of a scale, a ripple on the water, waiting to strike. As I watched he launched, down from on high with a brief flicker of wing, then a splash. Then back to the tree limb, no joy, he had missed the small fish he had spotted. Back to his perch to begin his watch anew.

It all played out again, in my mind's eye. A summer long ago, before we all went our separate ways. A Christmas even farther back when the snow lay crisp upon the ground and the ice crystals sparkled in the December gloaming.

The sun was now breaking through the mist. It was time to leave the past and rejoin the present. There was food to be eaten, stories to be told, carols to be sung, and more food to be eaten. Yea verily, there was even ale and wine to be quaffed. Family and friends to enjoy the present with.

Oh yes, and presents too.

How was my Christmas?

Blessed it was, a day to remember in some distant and dim future. A day to be remembered, as I remembered times long ago.

By an old gazebo. On a misty Christmas morn.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day - On the Road


The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe are traveling today. Through the magic of computers and the tools of the web of world-wideness, this post was written on Wednesday, the 23rd of December and published on Saturday, the 26th of December, the day after Christmas, the day known in much of the English-speaking world (except for the U.S.) as Boxing Day.

At this point in time (when the post was written) I have no idea how my Christmas went. When you read this, I'll know. If I get the chance I'll tell you, so that you will know.

I have no idea if I saw snow up in the ancestral lands or not. That lies in my current future but which will be (when you read this) my recent past.

Anyhoo, I thought the picture was cool, if not downright frosty and do all the deer in Alberta use the highways in the winter? Jeebers but that looks cold.

Hope your Christmas was grand. I'll let you know how mine was when I know.

Time travel is confusing...

Friday, December 25, 2015

Let us now go even unto Bethlehem...

Luke 2 King James Version
1 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 Judaea, 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.

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 Savior, 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.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fiat Lux

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:1-3 KJV

It is Christmas Eve, it is a time to prepare for the celebration to come. The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe are traveling north to spend the Christmas holiday with my mother, my two brothers, a sister-in-law, a nephew, a niece, my Mom's two felines, and (so I've been informed) my niece's new beau.

It should be fun.

As you celebrate, please remember the reason why we celebrate. Spare a moment as well for those who are not feeling all that joyful this year. I know friends and acquaintances who have lost loved ones since the last time we celebrated the birth of the Savior. No doubt for them there will be little, if any, joy. They simply wish to endure this holiday and hope that things will be better in the year to come. Pray for them.

My prayer for you is that you know peace and that you know love.

The world has enough darkness, be a light unto the world.

Merry Christmas my friends.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:1-5 KJV

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Once Upon A Midnight Dreary*

Arabian Gulf (June 19,2004) – The Osprey-class mine hunter coastal ship USS Raven (MHC 61) cruises in the water while participating in exercises geared toward fighting the global war on terrorism. Raven is on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho (RELEASED)
While I am seldom at a loss for words when in polite (or otherwise) company, I will, occasionally stumble about and lurch hither and yon searching for a topic to write about here, on the blog. As it were.

There are times when I have just committed a post to the ether (usually by scheduling it to launch the next day at precisely 0400 Sandy Eggo time), have prepared myself to retire for the evening to my chambre à coucher, have spent a few minutes reading the latest tome I have my nose buried in, have paid my obeisance to the felines of the tribe, and have switched the lights off when it hits me...

What will I write about tomorrow?

I'm not sure if other bloggers suffer this quandary. I mean it's not like I'm not getting paid to do this. No one will starve or be sent off to live in the streets if I don't come up with a post. Those who write for a living have, I'm sure, suffered through such a thing.

I think that I might be a bit OCD when it comes to the blog. Yes, I enjoy doing this. Yes, I have lots of interests and I'm old enough to have plenty of stories to tell. I tell ya, it ain't a lack of material which troubles me, 'tis the presentation of that material. For I strive to be entertaining, informative, and (if at all possible) amusing. Sometimes (okay, most of the time) I will settle for amusing. Sometimes even if only I find it amusing.

Yeah, that happens. Don't tell me you haven't noticed.


Last night I kept having the strangest dream, someone had hacked the blog, loaded it with all sorts of colorful graphics which were intended to sell some objet d'art which I could not, for the life of me, remember, when the alarm yanked me out of a sound sleep at 0600 local. (Which would be New England time. For those keeping score at home.)

So being all haggard and weary, I dragged myself to work. On the way there was a driver proceeding merrily along at 25 mph, on a road where the speed limit is 45. If you're wondering, yes, I will admit to making some less than Christian comments vis-à-vis this chap's heritage, breeding, intelligence, and driving skills. 'Twas then that I realized two things:
  1. It's the Christmas season, I should be a bit more forgiving, and
  2. I was really in no hurry to get to work, why all the fuss?
For you see, it is the last week of the year at my place of employment. We are not in at all next week and damn few of us are actually manning the ramparts this week. Those who can are taking vacation this week, those who can't are unbothered by those things which normally get us spun up. The phones aren't ringing, there is a dearth of e-mail, and people are generally just winding down.

What it feels like at work this week. (Source)

Anyhoo, I start off work by looking for a spreadsheet I wanted to have a look at, for to plan next year's activities (as in vacation planning, etc.) and lo and behold I stumble across a spreadsheet of ship selections available to The Nuke way back when she was about to be commissioned. Being interested in things of that nature, I opened it up and began to peruse the various selections, listed were the names of the ships and their home ports.

The list began with a number of cruisers...

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 4, 2010) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) transits in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship is underway supporting Southern Seas 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Shelley/Released)

Made it's way through the available destroyers (one of which, USS McFaul she eventually got)...

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 18, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) transits the Pacific Ocean. Halsey is conducting a three-week composite training unit exercise in preparation for a deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Grandin/Released)

Way down at the bottom of the list were these...
  • MHC 52 HERON
  • MHC 54 ROBIN
Mine warfare ships. Of which one, USS Raven is the leading photo (way up top). Now the Raven is an Osprey-class coastal mine hunter. Which reminded me of a story. (Yes, I'm finally getting to the point of today's post. Long time readers should be used to these long-winded intros by now, with their many sidebars, distractions, and digressions. Like this one.)

The WSO and I were down Virginia way for to drive The Nuke's vehicle back to New England as she was out at sea and would be for about six months. Rather than let her car sit, I volunteered to take care of it. (The very car I now own, yclept Big Girl, thanks to the generosity of The Nuke.)

Headed northwards we stopped on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel for to dine, there being a fine little dining establishment just at the entrance of the first northbound tunnel. Which would be at the exit of the last southbound tunnel. Said information you really didn't need but which I give to you freely and without purposes of evasion. Or words to that effect.

Where we stopped to eat...


After we dismounted the vehicle, I noticed something to seaward, something small but something haze gray in color. My first thought? "Cool. Warship!" Fortunately near the restaurant there are these...


A few coins later and I'm looking at this...

MHC 51, USS Osprey (Source)

This was the spring of '06. I didn't know the ship I saw was the Osprey until I got home and looked up the hull number. I had figured her for some sort of mine warfare platform and I was correct.

Seems that The WSO and I saw the old girl (as she was commissioned in '93 she wasn't that old) coming in from her last days on the bounding main. She was de-commissioned and struck (on the same day) in June of that very year.

I will need to do some more reading and digging on these little guys. While any ship can be a mine sweeper once (BOOM! What the Hell was that?- I think we hit a mine!) these ships dedicated to that dangerous trade deserve a post of their own. We've talked about carriers and destroyers in these spaces before but those ships need these little guys out front, clearing the seas. Otherwise those big, sexy platforms are just expensive targets. I also have a few friends whose stock and trade is/was mine warfare.

It ain't all airplanes and big guns in the Navy. Or so I'm told...

* With apologies to Mr. Poe. No, not the guy who plays for West Point, the original one, ya know the poet...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Holiday Season

It's a time of year when we should appreciate all that we have. I know, Thanksgiving was last month, but seriously, is that the only time of year you are thankful for your family, your friends, and all you hold dear? I think not.

I saw something on the Book of Face the other day which set me to cogitating, never something to be approached lightly. Makes my head hurt it does. But regardless, I pressed on and let those remaining brain cells do their thing.

First of all, while many of us will be with family or friends to celebrate the birth of our Savior this Friday, and that is what we're celebrating, n'est-ce pas, there will be those who are alone, those missing a loved one who is gone, those who are far from home, and many who find the Christmas season depressing, for one reason or another.

Well, I feel bad for those folks, I will pray for those folks, but that's not what this post is about.

Now remember, before I go much further, I served 24 years in the Air Force, over half of that time overseas, but, with one notable exception (which I wrote about here), I was with my immediate family, starting with a wife. Then a wife and a son, then a daughter, then another daughter, then we added a couple of felines (in Germany). So while I was away from home, my ancestral home, and was missed dearly by my Mom, Dad, maternal grandmother, and two brothers (well, okay, I'm not sure how much they missed me, after all, with me overseas, they would be getting more attention, neh? Yeah, I'm sure they missed me, in a brotherly kind of way, but it's not the same as a parent or grandparent missing someone at the Christmas feast, I've been there, done that, on both sides of the equation), I was still spending the holidays with family. Just not all of them.

There are those in the military this season who will be miles, sometimes thousands of miles, from their families. Now for the single folk, it's different. When you're in a good outfit, the guys and gals you serve with become your family. You sweat with them, you eat with them, you sleep with them (not in that way you prurient types) and sometimes, yeah, you bleed with them. So while you miss mom and dad, the grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and the siblings, it's different from the married folk. Odds are, the single kids will figure out a way to enjoy the season. They're with their buddies. That phrase "band of brothers" isn't just a saying, it's real in many, many ways.

Now the married folks, if they're serving an unaccompanied tour (that is, someplace remote where you can't bring your family) have a much tougher row to hoe. Their spouse and kids (if they have any) are not there. While they are serving within that "band of brothers" and won't be completely alone, there is a special pain in being separated from the wife/husband and the bairns. Even the toughest troop will shed a tear or two while thinking of a loved one so far away. Don't get me started on how the kids feel when Mom or Dad are deployed. There is a certain age where they don't really understand. They get the concept of Mom or Dad having to "go to work" for long periods away from home, but it's tough when little Billy down the street always has both parents at home.

Military kids are tough, for the most part they learn to deal with it, but being "used to it" doesn't make it any easier.

There's another group of people, not in the military, who might be in town for the holidays, maybe even at home for part of the holiday. Sometimes they're in the same town or city as their loved ones for the holiday, but they're not at home. They're working.

I was struck by that thought on Thanksgiving Day. The womenfolk of the tribe discovered that we were missing some common, but necessary, element for the feast. Sure we could make do without it, but it would be "not as good." So I was dispatched to fetch that needed ingredient and The Sea-lawyer came with me. As we headed out of the house we heard the plaintive cry, "Oh yeah, whipped cream, we need whipped cream for the pie!" So now our mission was two-fold. That key ingredient (which the nature of escapes me) and whipped cream.

So we headed a quarter-mile down the hill to the Shell gas station. There is a mini-mart therein where folks may obtain any number of needful things. That mystery ingredient being one, whipped cream (I thought) being another. Yes, I have to say I panicked a bit until I saw one last can of Reddi-Whip (okay, not the finest of whipped creams but better than no whipped cream). Quickly I glanced about, ready to hip check, body check or otherwise impede any other customers from grabbing that last can. No one was near, I dashed over to the cooler, grabbed it, and did a little victory dance. Luckily no one was watching.

As I paid for the stuff (The Sea-lawyer had found the mystery ingredient, nope I still can't remember what it was, it'll come to me, five minutes after this post hits the inter-webs no doubt), I happened to realize that the kid behind the counter was working. On a holiday.

He was not home with his family. He was gainfully employed and providing a necessary service. Stuff needed by the forgetful (that would be me) and probably fuel for those driving to and fro on family type holiday outings.

So I thanked him for being there. For working on a holiday.

He was a bit nonplussed when I did that. Then he saw my hat (the one with "USAF" seemingly all over it, see below) and his eyes lit up. I said that I was very appreciative of the folks who worked the holidays (for whatever reason, be in monetary, be it lack of seniority, what-have-you), because they are the ones who keep society working. We can't all just knock off for a few days and trust that we have everything we need ready to hand. He smiled, we shook hands and he thanked me for my service. A classy gesture on his part. Another one of those good kids you usually never hear about.

Okay, it doesn't have "USAF" all over it,
but over most of the front anyway...

So this holiday season, remember the working folk, those far from home, perhaps those just down the street. The cops, the firefighters, the ambulance crews, the airline crews, the long-haul truckers, the train crews, the folks manning the innumerable gas stations, Kwiki Marts, truck stops, and the like. The doctors, the nurses, the hospital techs, the nursing home attendants, and others involved in tending to the sick and the elderly.

Perhaps you've "been there, done that." Wouldn't it have been nice if someone thanked you for that? It doesn't need to be a big deal, yeah, some folks will be pricks about it, but you don't have to be. After all, a favorite coach of mine in these parts is fond of telling people to "just do your job."

These folks are doing precisely that. They make society work, they make life better for the rest of us. After all, there is a lot of truth to that old saying, "Somebody's got to mind the store..."

Give thanks for what you've got and for what others provide. Anyhoo, that's how I feel about it.