Monday, February 29, 2016

There's no R in July

So, There I was……*  Holloman AFB NM, an instructor pilot (IP) flying the mighty AT-38B late in the first term of the Best President of the 20th Century.  The military buildup is going full swing and students are going through Lead In Fighter Training as fast as they can go.  Most are headed to new 4th Generation fighters, F-15s and Lawn Darts F-16s.  This means the IPs aren’t getting a lot of stick time to maintain our basic flying skills much less our fighter pilot skills.

The wing does recognize this and includes a few continuation training missions in the schedule.  These missions would have the IP in the front seat (it was up to him whether he wanted to allow a student to ride along in the back), and the mission would be anything from BFM (1 v 1 similar air to air) to 2 v 2 DACT with the F-15s across the field.  Occasionally, we’d even get a 4 ship Air to Mud sortie.  Quarter a bomb was the usual bet with the last place guy buying beer for the debrief.

Those sorties were highly prized, sought out and fought over. 

The other and main way we maintained proficiency was through the cross country program.  Assuming the squadron was meeting its training goals and Maintenance had the jets available, the squadron would schedule a 4 ship, or 2 two ships to leave the third launch (of 4) on Friday.  The requirement was to fly a minimum of 4 (6 if you wanted to leave on the second launch) sorties on each airplane and return the airplane by 4 PM on Sunday.  You could go anywhere you wanted as long as they didn’t charge a landing fee and had a compatible starting cart and JP-4 (jet fuel).

Depending on where we were going, we’d schedule an enroute low level, and sometimes did instrument work on the arrival, usually because the weather required it.  It was a chance to get away, go someplace new and chill, away from the IP rat race.  

It’s mid-July and I’ve been offered the opportunity to lead one of these cross countries.  I find another IP that wants to go and we decide on Tyndall AFB, Panama City FL.  Fly down on Friday, hit the club Friday night, do a little beach work on Saturday and a leisurely flight home on Sunday.  Two jets, two pilots, flying as it was meant to be.

Friday goes as planned, the club on Friday night was hopping, wake up on Saturday to a glorious Florida day.  Hit the pristine white beach for a little vitamin D treatment whilst visiting the OClub Beach bar for liquid refreshment.  A thoroughly enjoyable day.

The sun is starting to approach the yardarm, when my wingman, (let’s call him Dan) asks “Juvat, what are we gonna do about dinner?”

I look at him for a second, pondering and then we both chime in “Harry’s!"

Officially, it’s named “Harpoon Harry’s” but the 347th TFW (the wing at Moody AFB of which both Dan and I were Alum) had adopted it and renamed it to the shortened moniker on the wing’s numerous weapons deployments it made to Tyndall.

347th TFW F-4E dropping Mk-82s on Eglin Range

The pictures on their web site reflect a much nicer establishment than I remember from 30+ years ago.  At that time, the infusion of 40-50 fighter pilots and WSO’s actually added a measure of class to the place.  But the beer was cold and cheap, they had Boiled Shrimp and Oysters on the Half Shell for next to nothing, and they had a Crud Table.  (Ok, it was actually a pool table, but when your usual Friday clientele is a couple of beach bums nursing a beer, and 40-50, free with the cash, thirsty and hungry guys come barging in, it becomes a Crud Table.  Seriously, I think the 347th paid for most of the renovations.) 
So, Dan and I had been there.  There was also a distinct possibility that another deployment was taking place and another Wing might be at Harry’s.  A chance to see old friends or just hang out with kindred spirits, so Harry’s it is.

Alas, there is no other deployment in town, there are a few people in the bar, but none that we know, and a guy and his lady are playing pool (with cue sticks! what blasphemy) on the Crud Table.  Dan and I sit down at the bar and the first couple of rounds of adult recreational beverages are served and consumed.  We decide to have dinner there.  I order Boiled Shrimp and I hear Dan order Raw Oysters.

I jokingly remind him that there are no R’s in July **.  He says that’s an old wives tale, finishes the dozen and orders another.  I’m working my way through the shrimp (It’s a BIG order), when he finishes that one and orders a third. 

We finish dinner and savor a final refreshingly cold beer to cap off the night and head back to the base.

Wake up the next morning and head to base ops, plan our RTB as Tyndall to England AFB, England to Dyess AFB, Dyess to Holloman.  None of the Bases are reporting any significant weather although we will encounter the standard SE Texas Summer Thunderstorms.  

Tyndall to England is uneventful although as we begin to let down at England, we can see the beginnings of some T’Storms to the west.  Refuel, hit the head, down a soda, head back to the jets, crank them up and blast off.   

Headed towards Bergstrom AFB Austin TX as a waypoint and we’re leveled off at 39000’.  Airliners ahead of us are reporting that they’re in the tops of the storms at FL390, so I ask Houston Center for FL410.

41000’ puts us on the ragged edge of the engine envelope.  Not out of it, but close enough that you don’t want to make any abrupt throttle movements.  But that consideration is much better than flying through, near or under a thunderstorm which we would have to do at any altitude below FL410.

So, we’re cruising along at FL410, when Dan starts to feel, let’s just say, “uncomfortable”.  It’s becoming obvious to him that he needs to “use the restroom”. 

 Now, the T-38 is a dandy and fun little aircraft to fly.  It will roll two complete rolls in 1 second, pull 7.33 g, go 1.08 Mach.  But it doesn’t have a “restroom”.

Moreover, Dan’s current need cannot be resolved through use of a piddle pack.  He needs to go # 2.


As in Now. Bad.

Assessing the situation like the resourceful fighter pilot he is, he decides he’ll unfold a high chart (a navigational map), unstrap, take off his parachute, g suit and flight suit.  Do his business.  Fold up the map, put it in his helmet bag (sacrificing the helmet bag for the good of the team). Pull on his flight suit, g suit, parachute, strap back in.  No one’s the wiser.  

Image is all important when you’re a fighter pilot.

His stomach is telling him it’s now or never,  So Dan begins execution.  


Unstrap – Check

Parachute Off – Check

G-Suit off –Check

Flight Suit-  

He unzips it, gets his arms out of it.  It’s one piece, so he’s got to get it passed his posterior so that the firing port is unmasked.  He’s squirming around in the small confines of the cockpit to get it far enough down. 

He lifts his left leg, kicks the throttles and flames out both engines.

Now, the first thing that happens when the engines begin spooling down, is there’s a noted loss of thrust.  This means that staying at altitude is no longer an option.  Dan begins to fall back out of formation and below it.

The second thing that happens is the generators go off line and the radios fail.  

Switch back over to my aircraft.  We’re approaching an airway intersection that is usually crowded.  I check that we are on altitude and then glance over to check my wingman.  He’s not flying where he should be, so I give a little wing rock to tell him to close it up. 
Where he should be and is not.


I’m glancing around and happen to catch sight of him a couple of hundred feet below me.  I key the mike and tell him to close it up.

Nothing.  Give him a radio check, nothing. 

 He’s now about 500’ below me.

I pull the power back and rejoin him.  I notice that none of his lights are working and there doesn’t appear to be any exhaust coming out the back, but what really catches my eye?

The airplane is being flown by a Naked Man!

Being the master of the obvious, I deduce that something is wrong, but for the life of me, the only way I can think this could be happening is Dan wanted to Moon me over the top of the T’storm, somehow became hypoxic and is incompacitated.

I contact Houston Center and declare an emergency, asking to be cleared direct Bergstrom and to be cleared all altitudes.

They reply with the usual “State the nature of the Emergency, souls on board and fuel in pounds.”  There is no way on God’s green Earth that I am going to relay to them what I see right now.

“juvat 2 seems to be having some engine and electrical problems, stand by on the rest.”

He clears me to Bergstrom and we’re about a hundred miles out,  But the glide ratio of the T-38 is 9 to 1.  I’m about 38000’ now, which means we’re going to be hitting the ground about 43 miles short.

Switch back to Dan’s aircraft.  He’s just lifted his leg, hit the throttles and flamed out both engines.  Ordinarily, the primary focus in handling this problem would be to restart both engines.  However, the engines are designed such that they won’t restart above 28000’.  I don’t remember why, air density most likely.

In any case, Dan has a period of time when he can’t deal with the aircraft problem.  He does have an additional problem which compounds the aircraft problem.  

We have now descended into the T’storm.
For some (good) reason, I couldn't find a picture taken from INSIDE a thunderstorm.

Dan decides he can’t do much about that either, so proceeds to ruin a perfectly good map and helmet bag.

By the time that business is concluded, the aircraft is now at 28000’, so Dan begins the airstart procedure.  

Right throttle to idle, right start button depressed.  Nothing

Left throttle to idle, left start button depressed. Nothing.

Try the right again.  Nothing.

Left. Nothing.

Emergency Airstart procedure.  Right Engine -Afterburner. Nothing

Left Engine – Afterburner. Nothing.

By now, we’re below 20K’.

Dan realizes that he’s still got his flight suit around his ankles and nothing else is on.  He knows that he’s got to get dressed or else if he needs a nylon letdown, well, things might get “interesting”.  And the explanation might be difficult.

He gets everything back on and we’re now down to 10k’ about 8500’AGL.  

He tries the normal airstart.  Nothing.  

Tries the emergency airstart, nothing. 

About this time we exit out of the T’storm and we’re on an ultra-long 50 mile final for Bergstrom.  Dan figures he’s got time for one more try and then it’s over the side. 

Tries the normal airstart, and the right engine begins spooling up.  Left engine follows shortly thereafter.  

I see the lights come back on and feel our descent rate slow.  I give him a wing rock, pass him the radio frequency visually and check him in.  

“juvat check” 


I’m slightly (ok really) (ok unbelievably) peeved (and you know what word I'd be using if this wasn't a family friendly blog, it also begins with a P) at this point thinking that he'd been fooling around and did something to flame out his jet.

I ask him if he’s got any problems remaining.  “No”.

I rock him into close formation and keep him there as Houston hands us off to Bergstrom. I coordinate with Tower for a straight in, drop him off over the overrun, followed by a closed pattern full stop for me.
T-38s, but you get the Idea

I’m on the ground and get the shutdown signal from the transient crew chief, jump out and hurry over to his jet.  He’s still in it.  I drop the boarding steps and haul myself up, fully intending to strangle him.  As I clear the canopy rail, two things happen.  First, I’m overwhelmed by a horrible stench and two, he grabs the front of my flight suit and says, “If you tell anyone, anything, I’ll kill you.”

Been 32 years, Dan, your secret’s safe with me.  Nobody will ever know.


** BTW, this post suggests that there is some validity to the "Don't eat raw seafood in the summer" theory.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Six Years

Oakland Cemetery, Springfield, Vermont
It's pretty there.

There are quite a few folks there that I know.

One in particular, whose memory I honor every day.

For you see, my Dad is buried there.

He was a good man, served his country, worked hard for most of his life.

When I retired from the Air Force, after 24 years away from my home and my parents, Dad decided that he was retired too. He wanted to spend some time with us while I looked for work and we lived (once again) under my parents roof.

I got to know my Dad better. I had been out in the world and had done a lot of growing up. When I left home at 22, I still thought I knew everything.

Well, guess what? I knew very little. But as life went on, things my Dad had told me seemed to make more and more sense. (Well, a lot of Mom's advice was mixed in there too, my parents made a great team.)

Six years ago, living in a hotel, away from my family, I got to spend time with my Dad, even if it was just on the phone.

I remember quite a few nights, talking to him up there in New Hampshire, listening to him tell me to hang in there. Talking me through the landing so to speak, in those early days of what turned into two and a half years on the road.

Then there was the conversation about his recent hospital visit. Things weren't too good, Dad was in a lot of pain.

I forgot all about my trivial concerns.

I didn't know it at the time, but it was the last time I spoke to my Dad in this life.

The last thing I said to him?

"I love you Dad, hope you feel better."

His last words to me?

"Thanks son, I love you too. Bye now."

On a Sunday, six years ago today, also a Sunday, I got the call from my Mom. I needed to go up to the hospital. To see my Dad.

One last time.

I miss you Dad. The tears still flow from time to time when I think of you. But there are smiles too. Your grandchildren still repeat your little catchphrases from time to time.

"Top notch..."

"Oh God, yes..."

You were something, you will never be forgotten.

I miss you Dad.

I love you Dad.

Perhaps my favorite picture of my father.

"His" cat Skooter is buried with Dad. That beloved feline predeceased my Dad by a couple of years.
I miss both of them.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Look What I Saw at The Air & Space Museum

Hi, I'm the Old AF Sarge, the head cook and bottle washer of this here blog, the Chant du Départ, or The Chant as we like to call it when we're being all informal and such, and I'd like to waste borrow a few moments of your time.

Actually while I was scrambling for content for today, I was looking through some of my photos from Sandy Eggo. That one above and another I'll inflict on share with you at the end of this post.

Now I'll confess right up front that I'm not a "suit guy." I'm much more comfortable in jeans, sneakers, and a polo shirt. Not that I've ever played or even watched polo. Though I was once at a wedding anniversary celebration with The Missus Herself and a rather decent chap at our table (an actual, real live historian) said we should swing by the polo grounds in Portsmouth (yes, we have an actual polo place in Little Rhody) because it was just a grand time.

Apparently they tailgate and everything, though it's probably a bit more high brow than tailgating at a college football game, which I did do once. Out in Michigan at the Big House to watch the Wolverines play the University of Massachusetts. Big Time's parents are alumni of Michigan and have season tickets. We were out there for Little Bit's baptism way back in 2010, so we went to the game. The game was exciting, the tailgating was awesome. Yes, beer was involved. And bratwurst. A superb combination.

But I digress, we were talking about suits weren't we?

The Missus Herself dresses me up on those occasions when it's de rigeur to wear something other than jeans and a polo shirt. Personally, for formal occasions, I'd rather dress like this -
M. Fabry, a quartermaster for the 1st Hussars, was one of the last surviving veterans of Napoleon's army. He is shown here in full dress uniform, wearing the Saint Helene medal (issued August 12 1857, to all veterans of the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire). (Source)

Obviously that isn't going to happen, and it would be deuced hard to get that cavalry saber through check in at the airport. And without the sword I'd just be overdressed...


Like I said, not a suit guy and I don't go anywhere without the ball cap. I sunburn easily and when outdoors the hat is absolutely necessary. Not to mention which, my massive bald head tends to distract pilots when the sun is out. (All that glare dontcha know?)

When I beheld myself in that opening photo, I said to myself, "Damn but I look good." Then the other voice in my head said that I looked like I was running for office. Or selling used cars. But I am standing on the deck of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, which has a massive coolness factor. Well, it does to me at any rate.

Other than the two suit photos (patience, no skipping to the end!) I had a few photos of the Edwin J. McKellar Jr. Pavilion of Flight at the San Diego Air & Space Museum I wanted to share. It's a place I really enjoyed visiting and I need to get back there. We arrived an hour before closing and didn't really see everything, though we did see a lot. A whirlwind tour, we saw most of the displays but had no time to linger.

Man, I love Sandy Eggo...

That bird to the right of the PBY's nose is really cool but I am completely unfamiliar with it. Given more time I would have investigated further. Any readers know what this cool little bird is?
Update: It's a Wee Bee! (Seriously, read this.)

This Bell AH-1E Cobra is awesome, the main rotor blades actually turn. Slowly, but they do turn. My grandkids would love this!

Ford Trimotor 5-AT. An Old AF Sarge favorite. It's just cool looking with the corrugated metal fuselage and those thick wings.
The Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. I'd love to go up in one of these.

The mighty McDonnell Douglas F-4J/S Phantom II. I always look for these birds wherever historic aircraft are on display. This one is special (see below).

The Phantom displayed is an original aircraft with a significant historical background. It was assigned to Fighter Squadron 96 “Fighting Falcons” aboard the San Diego based USS Constellation, where it was used for combat sorties during the Vietnam War. In early 1972, pilot Lt. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and radar intercept officer Willie Driscoll became the Navy’s first aces of the Vietnam War by scoring two MiG kills in this aircraft, and three more MiG kills in a similar F-4 from the Fighting Falcons squadron. (Source)
Yup, old 112 is the real deal, a Rhino which has seen combat!

MiG-17 in North Vietnamese livery. You'll see in the next photo why this bird is ducking under the PBY's wing and running like a scalded ape.
The MiG-17 on display at the Museum is believed to have been built in Poland. It first served in the East German Air Force, was then transferred to the Egyptian Air Force, where it was modified for a ground attack role. It was retired by the Egyptians in the late 1970s or early 1980s and purchased by the Museum in March 1986. The MiG-17 is on permanent exhibit in the Pavilion of Flight after restoration at Gillespie Field. Its paint scheme represents the North Vietnamese Air Force, circa 1972. (Source)
Yup, the MiG has a Phantom on his six. Of course, the Rhino is a bit close for a missile kill and with no internal gun...
Still and all, Gomer doesn't know that!

I have more pictures which you'll get to see, eventually.

In the meantime,

Vote for me. This is my serious face. No, really.
(Actually I was tired, this was Saturday morning after flying in from New England the night before. I was in desperate need of an adult beverage...)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Liable to Change

Braddock Road trace near Fort Necessity, Pennsylvania. (Source)
In 1755, the land beyond the Blue Ridge mountains and the Shenandoah Valley was mostly wilderness. There were people living there, deep in the forests and along the rivers. There were even Europeans about, mostly Frenchmen.

For in those days much of the land from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, through the Ohio River valley, down the mighty Mississippi River, and on to the Gulf of Mexico near La Nouvelle-Orléans was part of New France. Lands claimed by the great King Louis XV in faraway Versailles.

Most of the land was populated by the tribes native to this continent. The French traded with the natives and, for the most part, got along well with them. For there weren't that many Frenchmen in the New World. Most of them were concentrated in Quebec. New France was large in territory but small in population when compared with British America. What we called the Thirteen Colonies in later years.

But that situation could not last. Britain and France had been mortal enemies for centuries, though they were at peace in early 1754, that could not last. War was inevitable. For many British Americans, the Atlantic Coast was getting "crowded." They had heard of rich lands beyond the Alleghenies, out there in the Ohio Country.

The first clash was fought at a place called (now) Jumonville Glen, near present day Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Neither side expected the clash, neither side could predict the repercussions which would echo down the years.

The British were building a fort near present day Pittsburgh, the French considered this to be a hostile encroachment upon the territory of New France. A detachment of French troops and Ohio Iroquois allied to the French chased off the men building the fort. Another detachment, under Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, marched to warn the British away from French territory. There was another small fort near Uniontown under the command of a Lieutenant Colonel George Washington. Yes, that Washington.

Washington had been warned by a local settler that a French force of about fifty men were in the area. So he moved with a force of colonials and Indians to intercept them. Which they did, killing or capturing most of the French force. Jumonville was wounded and captured, but was struck down and killed  in the confusion after the battle by an Indian known as the Half King (who was with Washington's force). A decent summary of the battle can be read here.

Tensions were high for the remainder of 1754 and into 1755. In the spring of that latter year, General Edward Braddock, with a force of two regiments of British infantry, a number of independent colonial companies, and a few allied Indians set forth from Alexandria in the Virginia colony to confront the French at the fort they had built where the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Rivers meet. Braddock's mission was to seize that fort and drive the French from the Ohio Country.

There were no roads to the Ohio, so Braddock had to build his own. Hauling wagons and cannon over mountains, across rivers and streams, and through the trackless forests of that country. 2,100 people went into the dark forests, building a road as they went, all under observation by their enemies before they had gone very far. Eventually Braddock had to split his force, one portion under a Colonel Dunbar would continue on building the road as they went. Braddock himself would take a "flying column" of some 1,300 troops to strike the French at their Fort Du Quesne (on the site of modern downtown Pittsburgh).

Before they got there, the French and their native allies ambushed the column on the site of present day Braddock, Pennsylvania.

It was a massacre.
Of the approximately 1,300 men Braddock had led into battle, 456 were killed and 422 wounded. Commissioned officers were prime targets and suffered greatly: out of 86 officers, 26 were killed and 37 wounded. Of the 50 or so women that accompanied the British column as maids and cooks, only 4 survived. The French and Canadians reported 8 killed and 4 wounded; their Indian allies lost 15 killed and 12 wounded. W
A stunned eighteen year old John Adams (yes, that John Adams), had this to say upon hearing of the news of Braddock's defeat on the Monongahela River -
"All that part of Creation that lies within our observation is liable to change. Even mighty States and Kingdoms, are not exempted." Braddock's Defeat by David L. Preston, page 328
It was a shock to British America that an army of British regulars could be so soundly defeated by a smaller force, mostly Indians with a few French officers and Canadians. Though the British would recover and go on to win the French and Indian War, though New France was conquered and absorbed by the British Empire, those who there would remember.

Twenty years later, a rag tag army of scruffy colonial soldiers surrounding an army of British regulars in Boston were given over to the command of a Virginia gentleman and survivor of the Battle of the Monongahela.

George Washington.

It was not the first time that a trained regular army had been defeated by irregulars and native tribesmen. It would not be the last.

We underestimate our enemies at great peril.

For a superb account of the Battle of the Monongahela, I highly recommend David Preston's book, Braddock's Defeat. I have just finished it and it is excellent. Cleared up a number of misconceptions I had about the battle growing up. Though I felt my early education was superb, there are always things to learn later in life. I doubt kids these days even know who Edward Braddock was.


His bones lie not far from where he fell in battle. The bones of hundreds of his men (and not a few women) still lie in the ground underneath the town of Braddock, Pennsylvania. It is said that those poor souls' bodies went unburied for many a year after the battle.

I remember. I learn.

Would that we could all do so.

We ignore history at our peril.

The mortally wounded Braddock retreating with his troops. (Source)

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Uh, what's that again Sarge?

TIFPA, Things I Find Particularly Annoying. I intend this to be a continuing, sporadic series of posts. Each will be marked by a Roman numeral, this being the first is adorned with an "I" - subsequent posts in the series will have "II," "III," "IV," etc. When (if) I get to number 50, I won't as the recent major football spectacle did, use 50. The post will be TIFPA L. Which, no doubt, will confuse some but I'm sure the well-educated and informed crowd here at The Chant will handle in stride.

(Some of us, ahem, Old NFO, actually learned to count using Roman numerals. So Murph has hinted at, more times than I can remember. And yes, TIFPA has been added to the Acronym Page. Yes, in alphabetical order...)


Let's launch TIFPA I with my rant/whine/diatribe/tirade concerning the ever growing presence of self checkout stands in various food and big box store emporiums.

While I personally have no problems operating this marvel (sic) of modern technology, I can't say the same for other members of my species. And therein lies the source of my fulminations vis-à-vis this ubiquitous piece of machinery.

Why would someone who is uncomfortable with technology even think about using a self checkout machine? First they stand there staring at it (thinking perhaps that the machine will talk to them, maybe), then they realize that no one is going to assist them. Hence the "self" in self checkout.

So they wave their first item at the machine. Nothing happens. So they do it again, and again, nothing happens.

Dumbfounded, they stare at the machine, then the item in their hand, then back at the machine. That's when some helpful soul will explain the concept of the barcode to them, you know, this thing -

"What does that do?" They just have to know.

"Well, it is read by the machine and the machine can tell what the item is and how much it costs."



"How does it do that?"


[grumble, grumble, smarta$$, grumble, grumble, stupid computers...]

And so it goes.

Most people, once they figure out the secret, get pretty good at it. Until the window on the bottom of the machine gets too filthy to read anything. In some stores, not all, they have an employee dedicated to assisting customers at the self checkout. Which I guess would make those a semi-self checkout. (Some of those employees, though dedicated, as in allocated to, that task aren't, shall we say very dedicated.) Those folks will also (occasionally) wipe down the glass so that it can actually read the barcode.

Sometimes I will point out to these customers who are struggling with the filthy, yet-to-be-cleaned-by-the-allocated-but-apparently-not-dedicated-employee, that there is a horizontal glass (ya know the filthy one) and a vertical glass. Puzzled they will look at the machine as if they have just discovered something wondrous and particularly exotic.

"What's the vertical one for?"

"Same thing as the horizontal one."

"Why have two?"

"Why not?"

[grumble, grumble, smarta$$, grumble, grumble, stupid computers...]

Yeah, something like that...

There are folks who just never get it, but apparently they enjoy not having to interact with a fellow human, or have someone bag their stuff, so they will wheel their massively overloaded shopping cart to the self checkout and spend the next hour trying to scan things, having the machine tell them "the bagging area is full, please bag some items..." Which they will do, after studying the item in their hand, the machine, the bagging area, their shopping cart, the item in their hand once more, before they sigh and go bag some items.

As the shopping cart is still heavily laden they now ponder where they are going to put the items they just bagged. For the self checkout stands don't really have this long belt for you to dump your stuff while someone else rings it up, someone else bags the stuff and either puts it into your original shopping cart or stacks it at the end of the register where (unlike the self checkout) there is ample room for four or five bags full o' stuff.

The number of self checkout lanes has grown in my local grocery emporium since they first introduced this novel (hey, we don't have to pay the machines!!!) concept. While there are still a "crap ton" of the normal, manned by a human, checkout lanes, the store seems to not want to man (person?) those. (Because they do have to pay the humans. A key point here in all this self checkout stuff.) Unless it's a peak shopping day. Such as when The Missus Herself makes her bi-weekly shopping run or it's the day before another predicted (but non-occurring) Snowmageddon which the Weather Channel is fond of predicting.

At that point the store is mobbed with the senior set who will purchase enough water, milk, and bread to last through an Ice Age, let alone a snow storm which may or may not occur and which may or may not be like The Great Blizzard of 1978!!! (Which to tell the truth was godawful bad, according to the old-timers in these parts. I wouldn't know, I was on Okinawa. Where it never snowed. Ever.)

So when I hit the store there will be two or three manned registers and all five self checkout aisles open for business. Back in the old days the senior set were terrified of those self checkout registers.

Maybe with good reason.

Now though they are overconfident and merrily hit those self checkout machines like they know what they're doing.


It's quicker sometimes to go to the human manned register (where someone is arguing that "this week's flyer shows that as 75% off, I'm sure...") and they have enough groceries to end hunger in some small countries. And when they finally have all their items rung up, totaled, bagged, and carted, they dig through their purse for their checkbook and ask the cashier...

"Do you have a pen I can borrow?"

Or the old guys who pull out their little plastic change holder and start digging for that two cents they need. Which they seldom have and which they will finally ask for all of their coins back and so that they can then dig for a paper one dollar bill, which they swear they had this morning. Before they went to the coffee shop where everyone else had to wait while they decided what size coffee they wanted and wondered should they have a donut or a muffin. Which they paid for with a five dollar bill, their last one dollar bill, a quarter, a nickel, and the two pennies they will look for later at the grocery store.

Yeah, self checkout stands and the people who don't know how to use them, but insist on doing so anyway.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Stuff That Spills Out


Life.  It seems to have caught up with me and I can't break free.  While not quite tearing me apart like some zombified person on The Walking Dead, it does keep me from sitting down in front of the computer and writing something for this fine site.

I've been distracted somewhat by those "walkers," or "biters" as the show calls them, since that show has recently become a guilty pleasure of mine.  No matter how prepared Sheriff Rick Grimes and his group are, armed to the teeth with their head on a swivel, those zombies always find a way to sneak up on the characters and bite them in the...leg, neck or shoulder usually.  Life can do that too.

Those of  you who've had a child closing in on the end of their last year of Free Public Education, will understand how busy life can get.  It's not just the teenangster that's busy with her Senior year, it's the whole family.  "Yesterday was the last day to order my cap and gown!" my daughter yells in a panic. "Thanks for telling us" I think sarcastically to myself. While I can't pretend to understand the logic of a school sending me multiple emails/texts/robo-calls about a lock-down (when some homeless guy drops a bag in the parking lot), yet only sends a single email to her only about something so important as graduation attire, I do understand my daughter and her ability to get spooled up.  While that deadline has come and gone, a quick call to the school led me to the OEM - which in Navy parlance is the Original Equipment Manufacturer.  They were perfectly willing to take my money and send us the required uniform.

I had a backup plan however, as my wife, her sisters, a niece, and two of my brother's kids are all alumni of Grants Pass High School.  That fine institution sports not only the same colors as the teenangster's San Diego High, but the same mascot- the Caveman. Caps and gowns of Royal Blue abound in the closets of my relatives. 

There's a lot more for us to do than than just applying for college and her taking final exams. There's AP exams and IB program final projects, Senior Portraits, Prom planning, and scholarship essays.  There's also the FAFSA- the wonderful Federal Application for Student Aid which to me is a HUGE waste of my time.  My daughter will be attending college using the almost criminally generous GI Bill.  Not that Veterans don't need or deserve it, but the fact that I get to transfer it all to my kid to attend a private college out of state seems almost too good to be true.  The waste of time stems from the fact that this is a benefit available to me that I earned, not a federal grant or a loan from the government.  And the FAFSA is irrelevant to that situation imho.  Based on my salary, I already know that the result of the application will be that she's ineligible for any loans or grants.  But even if she is, we don't need, nor will we use them.  I've picked up the form twice and still haven't finished it, frustrated over the uselessness of the effort.  It makes my brain hurt.  

Fortunately my wife is handling any prom-related issues.  However, my ever-artistic daughter can't make it easy.  I'd gladly shell out the money for a prom dress, shoes, dinner, the whole thing, but she wants to make her own dress.  An effort which I know from experience will result in our dining room turning into a sewing room for at least a month, fabric remnants and sewing pins all over the house, just waiting to impale a toe or the ball of my foot, and last minute stress coupled with a short temper as she frantically tries to finish it the night before the event.

Scholarship applications?  That's my job.  Sure, it's really her job, but it's in my best (financial) interest to ensure those essays sound like something a super smart high school senior, with a compelling life story I might add, would write.

Trying to keep the schedule for all of this in my head or on my phone, all the while deconflicting it with the other 9 lbs of stuff I'm cramming into the 10 lb sack of life, is challenging at best.  That too makes my brain hurt. 

Did I mention that I'm busy.  Yeah, yeah, you're tired of hearing it.  But that leads me to the premise for this post.   I think my brain is full and I really don't feel like compressing what's already in there to fit more in with it, so somethings gotta give.  I've been jotting down mental notes for potential blog posts for a month or so, but none of them are fleshed out enough to make a full post.  There's no room left up there so the rest of this post is the stuff that's spilling out.  I won't attest to how interesting or useful the following info is, but as your pithy political part-time blogger, that's not in my job description.

Source is listed
Eric Melrose Brown, a renowned British Navy test pilot who shattered records and made history with exploits that advanced Allied fighter power in World War II and quests for jet propulsion and supersonic speeds in postwar aviation, died on Sunday in southern England. He was 97.
Captain Brown’s test flights established the North American P-51 Mustang as the fast and maneuverable fighter-escort that smothered the Luftwaffe in dogfights over the Continent late in the war and gave top cover for Allied bombing runs into Germany.
He was also the most decorated pilot in the history of the Fleet Air Arm, Britain’s naval aviation service.                                                                                 Source

I thought that was significant enough to share as his contributions to the war effort definitely helped end it.  A Commander of the British Empire he was.

How about this?


The targeting crosshairs are focused on a dark building, tucked in the trees, when a missile dropped from the wings streaks down and the suspected terrorist base explodes in a fireball.
Nigeria thus joined the small but fast-growing club of countries — six so far, including three since September — using armed drones for targeted killing by remote control.                                                                         Source
That's quite an exclusive club.  While far from "Skynet" going active, and Sarge and I may disagree on the usefulness or ethics of drone use, I do like how we can take out baddies without risking the lives of our SpecOps guys.  No gals currently, although that sure has been a discussion item of late- if combat arms are open to women, shouldn't the selective service be as well?  I am positive America is not ready for our daughters to be drafted into the front lines of a war, but the equality mongers didn't foresee that side effect.  They might actually have to admit there's a double standard! 

Speaking of politics, what do you think of Trump?  While I might like the idea of Trump, a guy not beholden to the special interests or overly concerned with being PC, I don't like Trump.  I don't trust his conservative creds, which are really non-existent.  And he's so absolutely unpresidential.  C'mon dude, have some dignity and decency towards women and minorities.  On a long list of reasons why we need Trump, there was the point about Congress doing nothing since the GOP took over.  In their defense, they've sent a dozen bills to the President and he's vetoed every one of them.  It's not all Congress's fault and much of the do-nothing nature of the Legislative Branch will end if a conservative gets into the White House.

I like Cruz for his strict constitutional stance, but I think the youthful Rubio has the best chance of stealing some votes from the libs, gaining some undecideds and those in the Dem party who see Hillary for the liar and crook that she is. 

If it was Trump vs the crazy socialist?  Ugh, please God, don't let that happen.  Bernie wants to give everyone free college.  You want me to pay for it?  Then I get to pick your major.  No more Erotic Prussian Finger-painting degrees, or the like.  Telling our kids they can be anything they want and to do what makes them happy just doesn't prepare them for today's world.  The problem is you often end up.with lit majors, art majors, women's studies majors who can't use their degrees to find jobs in that real world once they been ejected from the coddled womb of academia.   I don't want to pay for someone to go to school to get a degree in something so narrow, I won't get a return on my "investment". If we ever do get to a point where we fund college for students, I would want it with the caveat that it will only be for certain degrees which have high job placement rates, and if you don't finish -- you are on the hook for the bill, government won't pay for it. 

By the way, check out this article.  Some wise words from someone at the ripe old age of 29.

All right, I've successfully cleared out some cobwebs from my brain.  Not the most concise or salient post I've ever put together, but like a walker after Rick's axe cracks open his skull, stuff sometimes spills out and it's not pretty.