Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Blast From the Past

Your Humble Scribe and one of his favorite birds, the SE-5a.
So there was this Friday Flyby I did back in October of 2013. For some reason it became a favorite place for spammers to leave their bogus, idiotic comments. The hits on that post grew to over 5,000. Cool right?

No. Bloody annoying.

The latest batch of spam comments all seem to start out, "I could not resist commenting..."

Try harder next time you scum bastards. Do spammers piss me off? You betcha. Why they comment on older posts is an approach whose logic eludes me. To get me to chase their bogus links? I'm far too canny for that.

As all posts are moderated when they hit the ripe old age of 7 days, only I see their stupid comments. And they are taken out and shot pretty damned quickly I can tell you.

Stupid spammers.

Anyhoo, I decided that it was time for another re-run Sunday. Why, you ask? Well, there are multiple reasons. One is that I want to share some of my older stuff with the new crowd. A lot of you weren't here 3 or 4 years ago and I don't expect you to chase the older posts. So, as a public service of course, I will, from time to time, post a re-run. As Tuna has pointed out, I give the old posts a new intro so at least there is some original writing included with the re-runs.

Such as my rant/whine/lament about spam commenters above. (A pox on their houses.)

Also, it's hard some days coming up with new material. This week has been rather tough on the old brain box, what with work and a frustrating inability to get a good night's sleep. And third, I must confess, I am inordinately lazy at times. Incorrigible I am.

Anyhoo. I really liked that old Friday Flyby but I had to send it back to draft status. Which did cut down on the spam. At least on that post. Trust me, they've found other posts to leave their dung on. Bastards.

The opening photo might give you a hint as to the subject of that old Flyby, which I resurrect here. World War I in the air, specifically the men who flew for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. You don't hear a lot about them, but they had some outstanding pilots and some very sweet machines later in the war. This post was too special, to me at any rate, to stay in the back room, as it were.

So here we go...

B Flight RFC No 7 Squadron 1918

The Raid on Haubourdin Airfield
Steven Heyen
The British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was the primary air arm of the United Kingdom during World War One. The other air arm was the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) belonging, obviously, to the Royal Navy. This was, mind you, before there was such a thing as an aircraft carrier.

On the first of April 1918, the RFC and the RNAS merged to create the Royal Air Force (RAF) which we are familiar with from World War Two and, of course, down to today. Both services (pre-April 1918) produced a number of outstanding aviators from throughout the British Commonwealth. Here are some of my favorites.

Air Marshal William Avery "Billy" Bishop
Victoria Cross
72 Aerial Victories

1894 - 1956
The top scoring RFC pilot was, oddly enough, Canadian.

From Wikipedia:
In November 1916 after receiving his wings, Bishop was attached to No. 37 Squadron RFC at Sutton's Farm, Essex flying the BE.2c. Bishop disliked the flying at night over London, searching for German airships, and he soon requested a transfer to France.

On 17 March 1917, Bishop arrived at 60 Squadron at Filescamp Farm near Arras, where he flew the Nieuport 17 fighter. At that time, the average life expectancy of a new pilot in that sector was 11 days, and German aces were shooting down British aircraft 5 to 1. Bishop's first patrol on 22 March was less than successful. He had trouble controlling his run-down aircraft, was nearly shot down by anti-aircraft fire, and became separated from his group. On 24 March, after crash landing his aircraft during a practice flight in front of General John Higgins, Bishop was ordered to return to flight school at Upavon. But before he could leave, Major Alan Scott, new commander of 60 Squadron, convinced Higgins to let him stay until a replacement arrived. The next day Bishop claimed his first victory when his was one of four Nieuports that engaged three Albatros D.III Scouts near St Leger. Bishop shot down and mortally wounded a Leutnant Theiller, (although Shores (1991) has 12-kill ace Theiller as being killed vs 70 Squadron Sopwiths on 24 March; therefore this claim does not match with known losses) but his engine failed in the process. He landed in No Man's Land 300 yards from the German front line. After running to the Allied trenches, Bishop spent the night on the ground in a rainstorm. There Bishop wrote a letter home, starting:"I am writing this from a dugout 300 yards from our front line, after the most exciting adventure of my life." General Higgins personally congratulated Bishop, and rescinded his order to return to flight school. On 30 March 1917, Bishop was named a flight commander. The next day he scored his second victory. Bishop, in addition to the usual patrols with his squadron comrades, soon flew many unofficial "lone-wolf" missions deep into enemy territory, with the blessing of Major Scott. As a result, his total of enemy aircraft shot down increased rapidly. On 8 April he scored his fifth victory and became an ace. To celebrate, Bishop's mechanic painted the aircraft's nose blue, the mark of an ace. Former 60 Squadron member Captain Albert Ball, at that time the Empire's highest scoring ace, had had a red spinner fitted.

Bishop's no-hold-barred style of flying always had him "at the front of the pack," leading his pilots into battle over hostile territory. Bishop soon realized that this could eventually see him shot down; after one patrol, a mechanic counted 210 bullet holes in his aircraft. His new method of using the surprise attack proved successful; he claimed 12 aircraft in April alone, winning the Military Cross and a promotion to Captain for his participation at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The successes of Bishop and his blue-nosed aircraft were noticed on the German side, and they began referring to him as "Hell's Handmaiden". Ernst Udet called him "the greatest English scouting ace" and one Jasta had a bounty on his head.

On 30 April, Bishop survived an encounter with Jasta 11 and Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. In May, Bishop won the Distinguished Service Order for shooting down two aircraft while being attacked by four others.

On 2 June 1917, Bishop flew a solo mission behind enemy lines to attack a German-held aerodrome, where he claimed that he shot down three aircraft that were taking off to attack him and destroyed several more on the ground. For this feat, he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), although it has been suggested that he may have embellished his success. His VC was one of two awarded in violation of the warrant requiring witnesses (the other being the Unknown Soldier), and since the German records have been lost and the archived papers relating to the VC were lost as well, there is no way of confirming whether there were any witnesses. It seemed to be common practice at this time to allow Bishop to claim victories without requiring confirmation or verification from other witnesses.

In July, 60 Squadron received new Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5s, a faster more powerful aircraft with better pilot visibility. In August 1917 Bishop passed the late Albert Ball in victories to become (temporarily) the highest scoring ace in the RFC and the third top ace of WW1, second only to René Fonck and third to the Red Baron. Soon after he was informed he had won the Victoria Cross for his June attack on the German aerodrome.
Billy Bishop in the Cockpit of His SE-5a

Air Vice Marshal Raymond Collishaw
61 Aerial Victories
1893 - 1976
The man tied for second place on the aces list for the Commonwealth is, again Canadian.

From Wikipedia:
Air Vice Marshal Raymond Collishaw CB, DSO & Bar, OBE, DSC, DFC, RAF (22 November 1893 – 28 September 1976) was a distinguished Canadian fighter pilot, squadron leader, and commanding officer who served in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and later the Royal Air Force. He was the highest scoring RNAS flying ace and the second highest scoring Canadian pilot of the First World War. He was noted as a great leader in the air, leading many of his own formations into battle. As a member of the RAF during the Second World War, he commanded No. 204 Group (which later became the Desert Air Force) in North Africa.
Collishaw's first recorded victory came while he was flying escort on the Wing's first large-scale raid into Germany, on October 12th, 1916. The raid was against the Mauser Rifle Factory at Oberndorf, Germany. The bombers had nearly reached their target when they were attacked by six German Fokkers. Collishaw got into position to allow his observer to fire on one, and he evidently damaged it. Lt. Collishaw then turned, gained height, and fired a burst with the front gun. The Fokker dived out of control, and, according to the British crews, crashed to the ground, a total wreck. According to the German authorities, they lost no aircraft during the engagement, but it was not unheard of for combatants to attribute their losses to accident rather than enemy action.

Major Edward "Mick" Mannock
Victoria Cross
61 Aerial Victories
1887 - 1918
Killed in Action at 31 Years Old
From Wikipedia:
Major Edward Corringham "Mick" Mannock VC DSO MC (24 May 1887 – 26 July 1918) was a British First World War flying ace. Mannock was probably born in Ireland, but of English and Scottish parentage.
Mannock went into combat on the Western Front on three separate combat tours. Although initially a social misfit suspected of cowardice in his first assignment to 40 Squadron, he began to accumulate victories. He took on the highly hazardous task of balloon busting for his first aerial victory, and by dogged concentration on his gunnery skills, tallied 15 victories by the end of his first combat tour.
After two months back in England, he returned to France as a Flight Commander in the fledgling 74 Squadron. He amassed 36 more victories between 12 April and 17 June 1918. He also gained a reputation for ruthless hatred of his German adversaries, delighting in burning them to death. He became phobic about burning to death in midair. The stresses of combat began to tell on him. He also became ill with a lingering case of influenza. When ordered home on leave in June, he wept.

He returned as Officer Commanding of 85 Squadron in July 1918; he would score nine more victories that month. By now, his phobias had spread to include excessive tidiness. He also had presentiments of his coming end. Just days after warning fellow ace George McElroy about the deadly hazards of flying low into ground fire, Mannock did just that on 26 July 1918. His fighter plane was set on fire, and he was killed in action. 
He was one of the world's first theorists of aviation tactics, and was renowned for his prudent but aggressive leadership in the air. By the time he rose to command of 85 Squadron, his subordinates boasted that he never lost a wingman.

Mannock won the Military Cross twice, was one of the rare three-time winners of the Distinguished Service Order, and would be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He is regarded as one of the greatest fighter pilots of the war.

Major Mannock

Sopwith Camel

Sopwith Triplane

Major James Thomas Byford "Mac" McCudden
Victoria Cross
58 Aerial Victories
1895 - 1918
Dead at 23 Years Old
From Wikipedia:
James Thomas Byford McCudden VC, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar, MM (28 March 1895 – 9 July 1918) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valor in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. With his six British medals and one French one, McCudden received more medals for gallantry than any other airman of British nationality serving in the First World War. He was also one of the longest serving, having joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1913. McCudden's story is all the more remarkable as he rose through the RFC ranks (from Air Mechanic to Major) during the war to become one of the most decorated and honored soldiers of the conflict. At his death he had amassed 57 victories, making him the seventh highest scoring ace of World War I.

He was killed in a simple accident, of a type more typical of beginner pilots than someone of his experience and proven skill.
McCudden was one of the first truly 'professional' airmen, who applied a scientific approach to air combat. McCudden took great pains over his guns, aircraft, and tactics, dismissing choices of last resort such as deliberately crashing a plane into the enemy.

Using his knowledge as a mechanic, he tuned his aircraft to give it an additional 4000 ft altitude ceiling. This resulted in him specialising in carefully stalking high altitude reconnaissance aircraft, leading to an unsurpassed total of captured enemy aircraft (21 fell within Allied lines). Some of these stalking techniques are described in McCudden's autobiography, entitled "Flying Fury - Five Years In the RFC".

Captain Albert Ball
Victoria Cross
44 Aerial Victories
1896 - 1917
Killed in Action at 20 Years Old

Captain Ball's Nieuport 17

From Wikipedia:
On the evening of 7 May 1917, near Douai, 11 British aircraft from No. 56 Squadron led by Ball in an S.E.5 encountered German fighters from Jasta 11. A running dogfight in deteriorating visibility resulted, and the aircraft became scattered. Cecil Arthur Lewis, a participant in this fight, described it in his memoir Sagittarius Rising. Ball was last seen by fellow pilots pursuing the red Albatros D.III of the Red Baron's younger brother, Lothar von Richthofen, who eventually landed near Annoeullin with a punctured fuel tank. Cyril Crowe observed Ball flying into a dark thundercloud. A German pilot officer on the ground, Lieutenant Hailer, then saw Ball's plane falling upside-down from the bottom of the cloud, at an altitude of 200 feet (61 m), with a dead prop. Brothers Franz and Carl Hailer and the other two men in their party were from a German reconnaissance unit, Flieger-Abteilung A292. Franz Hailer noted, "It was leaving a cloud of black smoke ... caused by oil leaking into the cylinders." The engine had to be inverted for this to happen. The Hispano engine was known to flood its inlet manifold with fuel when upside down and then quit running. Franz Hailer and his three companions hurried to the crash site. Ball was already dead when they arrived. The four German airmen agreed that the crashed craft had suffered no battle damage. No bullet wounds were found on Ball's body, even though Hailer went through Ball's clothing to find identification. Hailer also took Ball to a field hospital. A German doctor subsequently described a broken back and a crushed chest, along with fractured limbs.

The Germans credited Richthofen with shooting down Ball; however there is some doubt as to what happened, especially as Richthofen's claim was for a Sopwith Triplane, not an S.E.5, which was a biplane. Given the amount of propaganda the German high command generated touting the younger Richthofen, a high-level decision may have been taken to attribute Ball's death to him. It is probable that Ball was not shot down at all, but had become disoriented and lost control during his final combat, the victim of a form of temporary vertigo that has claimed other pilots. Ball's squadron harbored hopes that he was a prisoner of war, and the British government officially listed him as "missing" on 18 May. There was much speculation in the press; in France, the Havas news agency reported: "Albert Ball, the star of aviators ... has been missing since the 7th May. Is he a prisoner or has he been killed? If he is dead, he died fighting for his forty-fifth victory." It was only at the end of the month that the Germans dropped messages behind Allied lines announcing that Ball was dead, and had been buried in Annoeullin with full military honours two days after he crashed. Over the grave of the man they dubbed "the English Richthofen", the Germans erected a cross bearing the inscription In Luftkampf gefallen für sein Vaterland Engl. Flieger Hauptmann Albert Ball, Royal Flying Corps ("Fallen in air combat for his fatherland English pilot Captain Albert Ball").

Ball's death was reported worldwide in the press. He was lauded as the "wonder boy of the Flying Corps" in Britain's Weekly Dispatch, the "'Ace' of English 'Aces'" in Portugal, the "heroe aviador" in South America, and the "super-airman" in France. On 7 June 1917, the London Gazette announced that he had received the Croix de Chevalier, Legion d'Honneur from the French government. The following day, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions from 25 April to 6 May 1917. On 10 June 1917, a memorial service was held for Ball in the centre of Nottingham at St Mary's Church, with large crowds paying tribute as the procession of mourners passed by. Among those attending were Ball's father Albert, Sr. and brother Cyril, now also a pilot in the RFC; his mother Harriett, overwhelmed with grief, was not present. Ball was posthumously promoted to captain on 15 June. His Victoria Cross was presented to his parents by King George V on 22 July 1917. The following year he was awarded a special medal by the Aero Club of America.
In 1918, Walter A. Briscoe and H. Russell Stannard released a seminal biography, Captain Ball VC, reprinting many of Ball's letters and prefaced with encomiums by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, and Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard. Lloyd George wrote that "What he says in one of his letters, 'I hate this game, but it is the only thing one must do just now', represents, I believe, the conviction of those vast armies who, realising what is at stake, have risked all and endured all that liberty may be saved". Haig spoke of Ball's "unrivalled courage" and his "example and incentive to those who have taken up his work". In Trenchard's opinion, Ball had "a wonderfully well-balanced brain, and his loss to the Flying Corps was the greatest loss it could sustain at that time".

In the book proper, Briscoe and Stannard quote Ball's most notable opponent, Manfred von Richthofen. The Red Baron, who believed in his younger brother's victory award, considered Ball "by far the best English flying man". Elsewhere in the book, an unidentified Royal Flying Corps pilot who flew with Ball in his last engagement, was quoted as saying, "I see they have given him the V.C. Of course he won it a dozen times over—the whole squadron knows that." The authors themselves described the story of Ball's life as that of "a young knight of gentle manner who learnt to fly and to kill at a time when all the world was killing ... saddened by the great tragedy that had come into the world and made him a terrible instrument of Death".
Captain Ball is one of my favorite aces, I had a model of his SE-5A as a young boy. That aircraft has always been a favorite. (Yes, Pungo has one, see below.)

The Last Flight of Captain Ball
by Norman G. Arnold
WWI Postcard Illustration

Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Rodney Park
20 Aerial Victories
1892 - 1975
Now you may think it odd that I finish this post with this gentleman. While 20 victories is nothing to sneeze at, it certainly isn't an overwhelming amount. But you see, Air Chief Marshal Park (for such is the rank he retired at) served in both World War I and World War II. Not that surprising, many senior officers served as junior officers in the Great War. But Sir Keith was not only an ace in the First World War but one could argue that this chap from New Zealand saved the United Kingdom in the Second World War.

For during the Battle of Britain, Sir Keith commanded No. 11 Group of RAF Fighter Command, the lads with responsibilities for this area of England - 

That's right, London and the area of England immediately across from France. Where the bulk of the Luftwaffe's attacks fell. That story was told here (and of course many other places as well, in books and in film).

He also commanded the air defenses of Malta during the bitter struggle for air superiority over that vital piece of real estate. So he was a hero in two world wars, very impressive accomplishments!

One of my heroes as well!
Air Chief Marshal Park during WWII
The Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross
The United Kingdom's Highest Military Decoration
Awarded for Valor in the "Face of the Enemy"
Equivalent to the Medal of Honor
Your Humble Scribe and one of his favorite aircraft, the SE-5A.
(At Pungo, of course!)

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Summer is over, the leaves up here in New England are starting to change color. Here in Little Rhody it will be a while before the color really sets in. If it does, it's not an every year kind of thing. Depends on the temperature, the amount of rain we had, and probably a bunch of other factors as well. I just try to enjoy it when it's here.

I enjoy Fall, the light has a different quality, almost a rosy hue. While the days here are still warm, the nights are beginning to be crisp.

The past couple of days we've been seeing a lot of wind and some rain as what used to be Hurricane Jose peters out over the Atlantic. "He" pretty much left us alone, other than the higher than normal winds and some rain, not really heavy, sort of a persistent drizzle. But that storm's presence out there might keep the next storm, Maria, away from us.

It's Friday evening as I write this, wet, gloomy, blustery winds, and rather chilly.

I thought a bit of Yeats was needed. And to think I didn't care for poetry in my youth. I guess you get more refined with age.
The Wild Swans at Coole
William Butler Yeats

'The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cool Stuff

Screen capture from the video.
I'm exhausted, it's been a long, long week, so...

Yup, you get a video.

The scene in Saving Private Ryan where the troops go over the side of a landing craft into water over their heads is incredible. Watching them struggle with their equipment, some succeeding, some drowning before even getting ashore is harrowing.

The scene works just as it is, but of course Hollywood has to juice it up. They can't resist it. When the German machine gun rounds start ripping through the water and killing men, well, I had to throw the challenge flag.

Mythbusters had an episode where they showed what happened when even high powered rounds hit the water. They don't go far, when they're going from air to water they even break up. Yes, even the full metal jacketed rounds. (Great movie by the way. The Nuke got a lot of odd looks in high school when asked what her favorite movie was. "Full Metal Jacket! Get some!")

Ya know, there's a reason highway departments use safety barriers filled with water. Water is virtually incompressible and will absorb a lot of energy. Have you ever belly flopped into a pool? Hurts, doesn't it?

At any rate, I ran across this video by a guy who is wicked smart (own it, say it like you're from Boston), Destin does a lot of cool stuff on his YouTube channel SmarterEveryDay and this isn't the first of his videos I've watched. (I think I posted one of his videos before, I just don't remember when and quite honestly I'm too tired to look it up right now.)

This video is great, shooting a rifle underwater and filming the results with high speed cameras (I love high speed camera work). He also explains some of the science behind it. (Don't worry, you won't have to do any math, unless you really want to...)


Wicked cool!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Time Flies

From this, in 1936...
To this, in 1944.
From this, in 1939...
To this, in 1945.
Technology can progress at a pretty amazing pace. Wartime sometimes drives that, but what about these things?

IBM Personal Computer, 1981.
Acer Aspire Laptop Computer, 2012
I do remember my first IBM PC clone computer, it had a four color monitor, two 5 and a quarter inch floppy drives and, gasp, a 20 megabyte hard drive. Though I bought it used, for $1200, I was the envy of the guys at work.

Well, except for the guy who owned a Mac.

There's always that guy.

The space program is another example of the leaps and bounds technology can make in a free society.

Mercury-Redstone 4, in 1961
STS-129 Atlantis, in 2009
One of my favorite examples of the speed of technological development is comparing the latest and greatest aircraft from 1908, the year of my maternal grandmother's birth, to the latest and greatest bird in 2000, the year she died.

Wright Model A, first flight in 1908.
F-22 Raptor, first flight in 1997.
So when my grandmother was a child, aircraft were primitive, personal computers and space flight were unheard of, except perhaps in a Jules Verne novel! When she was in her fifties men had walked on the moon. Before she died many people had personal computers, they were practically as ubiquitous as a telephone or television.

She often commented at the changes she had seen in her lifetime.

Amazes me it does.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Whither Goethe?

Goethe in the Roman Campagna - Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (Source)
I had thought perhaps to write of philosophy today, not the classic guys and all that, more what I thought of all the great questions of the age.

But I am no philosopher. I am a simple man with simple tastes.

I also had thought to address the perceived lack of civility in our Nation these days. I've addressed that topic before (here and here) and Tuna addressed it pretty well yesterday, he doesn't post much but when he does it's well worth the wait. I will, no doubt, talk about civility, or the lack thereof, sometime again in the future. It's inevitable as once you start to get on in years, you start to repeat yourself.

And digress from time to time, like right now.

As is my wont, I like to start my posts with something pictorial, some days I know exactly what I want, other days I just stumble around the Internets until something (of a non-copyrighted nature, or close to it) presents itself.

Chasing the philosophy angle I searched on images of philosophers. 'Twas there that I stumbled across Goethe. (Well he was lying on that bench with his foot sticking out, I couldn't help but stumble.)

Now Goethe was something of a brilliant man. As a matter of fact, he...
was a German writer and statesman. His works include epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him exist. (Source)
It struck me, thinking about the barbarism we seem to be sinking into, planet-wide, not just at home, though California seems eager to get there first, and thinking about philosophers, that one thing which is often said of Nazi Germany is that how could a nation such as that, a nation which produced Goethe and Beethoven, sink into such a state of barbarism.

State policy called for the deportation of all non-Germanic "stock" and the murder of all Jews, Gypsies, criminals, homosexuals, and the intelligentsia of all the countries the Nazis wanted for themselves. (Lebensraum and all that rot.)

Germany made the ultimate descent into barbarism, as did Soviet Russia, as did so many other totalitarian states. All eventually failed. Soon enough people will say "Enough!" and rise up against their oppressors. Usually though it takes the totalitarian state invading the wrong country and pissing off some other country before enough force is brought to bear to crush the totalitarians.

Until they rise again.

Speaking of the Nazis and their idiotic racial theories, I ran across this picture while researching my recent post about the Wehrmacht -

The ideal German soldier, ja?

Well, yes and no. The young man's name was Werner Goldberg. He had been selected as the poster boy for the Wehrmacht, his image appearing on recruiting posters for the German military. Until the Nazis discovered that his father had been born Jewish but had converted to Lutheranism in order to marry Werner's (future) mother.

Blond and blue-eyed though he was, he wasn't good enough for Hitler's sick racial philosophy.

Speaking of which, there is a lot of sick racial philosophy still alive in the world. Drives me to distraction it does. There is, let me be frank about this, no such thing as race. We are all one species with a multitude of climate adapted variations. No one more superior than the other, all equal in the eyes of our Creator.

There are a number of idiots running loose in the streets these days, hiding behind masks, spreading hate and discontent. I'm starting to believe it has nothing to do with Clinton losing the election. That's just an excuse.

I'm starting to wonder what the end goal of these miscreants is?

I doubt they even know.

But their masters do.

What a world we live in...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rant coming on in 3...2...1

No, that's not a duplicate post or one of Sarge's welcomed revisits, but I am shamelessly lifting his picture from a recent post since it inspired me to write one of my own.  He's a-muse-ing that way.

That picture just sort of ticked me off and a flood of postable thoughts rushed into my brain.  I'll explain the first thought and then probably ramble a bit like one of my typical, yet rare pithy political rants.  Rare you say?  Most of my posts are rants you say?  Ok, fair criticism, but the rarity is only in the frequency of my posts!  But I digress.

Like Sarge, I always return my shopping carts to either the cart corral in the parking lot, or to the front of the store.  Anything less is abhorrent to me and reeks of laziness and mediocrity.  You see, I tend to hold myself in high regard and anything less is below my station and just plain wrong.  Now I realize that sounds quite pretentious and makes me sound like an arse, but what I mean by that is that I always try to do what is kind, right, helpful, and expected, not to mention lawful.  And I would feel lousy if I didn't operate in that manner on a regular basis.


I've always been a rule-follower and I like being that way.  I like the feeling that I get from being orderly and and upstanding citizen, helping make the world a better place, even if it's just a little-bit of goodness I bring about.  I couldn't really live with myself if I didn't live that way.  I know that might mark me as a bit dull and unexciting, but I'm good with that.  I don't find it difficult to be that way either.  The drawing above is obviously an exaggeration.  I'm no authoritarian in my rule-following.  I might shake my head at others, but no more than that.  Would I like to publicly berate them?  Sure, but that also would take me too far out of my comfort zone.  I just grind my teeth in frustration instead.

Who are these minor-league offenders?  We've all grumbled about some of these here before- the drivers that never use their blinker, line jumpers, loud cell phone talkers in public, the person that litters right in front of you, someone on the freeway driving slow in the fast lane, the jerk on his or her cell phone who isn't paying attention to the road.  I could probably keep going.  One more thing that bugs me is when people dump their unwanted grocery items on any nearby shelf, even frozen or refrigerated items.  I always take it back to where I found it.  What about you?

Unfortunately we probably all know these offenders well.  Somebody needs to invent a license plate or some electronic sign on your back bumper that you can change with a voice command, so you can get in front of an idiot driver and give him a piece of your mind.  Ok, that's getting a little crazy, but maybe a little scolding is warranted sometimes.  Somebody dropping some trash might get a polite- "Hey sir, I think you dropped something" which doesn't accuse them of anything.  But the jerk on the freeway who cuts you off?  You can't follow them home to put them in their place, and road rage just escalates the problem into an even bigger one.  Best thing to do for me?  Let it go.
                                  Image result for oregon license plate california plate
I have a friend and neighbor who is a fellow former Oregonian and NFO.  He retired from the Navy as a Captain a few years back and still has his Oregon plates.  Now I completely understand why he hasn't registered his cars in California, even if I don't like it.  In Oregon it's only $60 every two years to register your car, but here it's almost $300 for my Mustang, every single year until it's old.  My daughter's 16 year old Beetle is $90 not counting the annual smog certificate.  So while I understand, it still irks me.  I transferred my registration to California within the required 20 days of establishing residency so I'm legal, but poorer because of it.  I have another friend that won't give an inch and he's willing to put a stranger in their place no matter what.  It can be a little embarrassing sometimes, but I admire his tenacity.  Maybe I should introduce them!

Yeah, the problem is me, especially with the license plate issue.  The other items tend to be related to safety and money.  Blinkers keep the road safe and make drivers predictable.  Cell phone use in the car?  Another safety issue, and being alive is safer than being dead.  If you wreck my car, even if it's your fault, it's gonna cost me money.  The others relate to good order and discipline, which I prefer over their opposites.

The real question is why do these people act like this?  I think it just comes down to a growing lack of common courtesy and a whole bunch of laziness.  "But taking my cart back to the corral is just so hard, and it takes so long, and it's really far away."  So they leave it where it can roll into, and door-ding my car.  Or into another spot so the next driver has to either move it himself or find a different spot.  They'll be gone by then so it's not the offender's problem.  Same thing with litterbugs.  Blinker offenders?  Pure laziness.  How much effort does it really take?  It's a flick of a finger for pete's sake.  If you cut them off, they'll be sure to use one of their fingers!  I realize some drivers can be absolute jerks in heavy traffic out here, and if you use your blinker somebody might close the gap to prevent you from changing lanes, but just relax, the next person will let you in.  Smokers littering the world with their cigarette butts?  They don't even care about themselves, much less whether or not it's littering.  So the bad behavior also from a position of self-centeredness.  They're not disadvantaged by their bad behavior, and they don't care how it affects others.

Are we less considerate and polite than we used to be?  I think many people are, or it seems like it.  Maybe it's a generational thing, but probably not.  Maybe I see it more since I live in a big city.  When I was a small-town kid in Oregon, everybody knew everybody else.  And while courtesy was taught and expected, bad behavior was swiftly corrected and everybody knew about it.  There's a lot more anonymity in a big city though so the consequences aren't there.


I heard about a website in India that publicly shames bad drivers, posting their photo and license plate for all the billion people to see.  We don't have much shame in our society anymore though.  The only morality is personal morality now, and there's no calling someone out, shunning them, or whatever it was that might have made someone look inwardly to self-correct.

I don't think I'm alone in my beliefs, although others probably aren't quite as obsessed over their proper behavior like I am.  This attitude probably stems from serving our nation.  When you are willing to put your life on the line for something, you're pretty darn serious about it.  And that love and dedication manifests itself in all sorts of ways, even little ones like when someone doesn't use their blinker.  Am I equating the extending of a simple courtesy to the defense of the nation?  Yes, of course I am, because we're a nation of laws that make our country great and fair and a place that others envy.  If we have a breakdown in that fabric, even if it's just a few threads, a few chips in the foundation, we're putting the entire structure at risk.  No, a single dent doesn't do it, but over time, as a line is crossed and a new one is drawn as to what's acceptable,  we allow a tiny bit of anarchy into our society.  We also get politicians that don't care about our foundations or their constituents, eventually becoming corrupt and beholden to their special interest donors.  And we get a society less and less outraged over things that would have made our grandmothers faint.

What can we do about it?  Not much.  Like I said, we can't exactly chase down lousy drivers.  Drive defensively to allow room for the idiots and let a guy in when needed.  Can we politely ask loud talkers to hold it down or be like my friend who gives no quarter to bad behavior?  Sure, and maybe we should, but in general, we should just keep trying to do what is good, fair, polite, and lawful, and teach our children and grandchildren to do the same.  And hopefully that'll influence others.  Maybe we can't change the whole of society, but we can definitely influence the part of it around us, including that turn-signal lever.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"The care and cleaning of lieutenants is NCO business" *

Hasn't Sarge been on a roll lately, yesterday's before and after pictures of his garden.  I've got a pair of those.


The day before that, he posted about shopping carts?  AND made it interesting to the point of being the catalyst for my nominee (Andrew) for this year's Best Comment Ever award! (We do have that award in the Awards and Dec's shop don't we, Sarge?)

So, having read that comment, and having to go to work on Saturday, I arrived at school to see this.  
Yes that red line says "Fire Lane"

Instantly, I flashed AHTFLE Beacon and then searched the sky for the Floppy boonie hat, sunglasses, t-shirt, shors and sandled superhero. A-hole the Fire Lane Enforcer. Unfortunately, he must have been out on another call, and, as a IT guy in the district, I'm by definition an A-hole, I saw no benefit to my blood pressure in calling these two on it.  

But, to get back on target, the day before that, Sarge posted on Sergeants.  Yes, that is somewhat redundant, but it was an interesting post, and the comments were intriguing.  

It caused me to reflect on my interactions with enlisted personnel while on active duty.

I had considerable interactions with them.  They were the clerks in the squadron, necessary but paper work and I were mortal enemies.  Whether the clerks were on my side or paperwork's side determined the interaction with them.  Ones on my side that helped me get through the necessary and made the unnecessary go away were heroes.  The others? To be avoided at all costs.

There were the life support techs.  Keep on their good side no matter what.  Their version of the Pistol analogy was, "You don't need life support until the AC says 'EJECT', they you need it really, really, really bad."

There were the Crew Chiefs.  Those I treated as well as I could.  Fessed up when I F'd up, so they didn't have to search for imaginary problems.  Tried to explain as best I could when something just didn't work right.  

Same thing for other maintainers.

But that was the sum total of my interaction with enlisted for the first 7 years I was in the AF.

The first time I actually had enlisted folks working with me was when I became the Wing Scheduler at Holloman.  I had a female E-4 and a male E-3 working with me to schedule Air Space for the Training Wing, working with the F-15 Wing scheduler to deconflict when weather was a factor and trying to steal as much time on White Sands Missile Range as we could get away with.  
The right hand triangular(ish) spaces were what I worked with. the left hand rectangular(ish) was F-15.  WSMR was in the middle. About 150NM E-W by 175NM N-S.

I say they worked with me because I didn't actually write their performance reports.  I don't remember who did or why not, because, to be frank I was grateful.  Paperwork....refer to "mortal enemy" a few paragraphs back.

But...There came a time, when a phone call came from a squadron commander asking for some airspace.  I cocked an ear when the E-3 said his name.  He was one of those up and coming LtCols who wanted his way when he wanted it.  As I recall, airspace was a little tight that day, and we could usually subdivide some of it to make things work, but the E-3 wasn't having any of it.  After he told the LtCol, "No" and hung up on him.  I said I'd handle the airspace issue and called the LtCol back.

What followed wasn't the worst butt chewing I ever received.  That would have been from Ras.  But it was one of the most colorful.

Since this was Friday, I walked back into the other room and invited the E-3 to take the rest of the day off.  I'd speak to him on Monday.

Then went down to talk to Vegas, the DO.

"Sir, if you've got some time, I've got an issue and frankly I'd like some advice on how to handle it."

"Juvat, LtCol Schmuckatelli just got off the phone with me.  He's pretty Peeved" (Ok that wasn't the word he used, but it did begin with a "p".)

"Yes, sir, he made that clear to me."

"Well, he'll calm down.  You did divide up the airspace for him.  It sounds to me like you could use an NCOIC."

Now, I knew the term, there had been some in squadrons, but never really had to work with one.

"Yes, Sir."  

"He's on his last assignment, wants to retire in Ruidoso, but he'll be here for a couple of years anyhow.  You want him?"

"Yes, Sir"

"I'll send him by after lunch."

Shortly there after, a Senior Master Sergeant (which although technically an E-8, he was more of a Senior. Master. Sergeant. than a mere E-8) arrived and introduced himself.  Seemed confident, polite, good sense of humor (a very important attribute in working with me, I have come to realize).  He asked what I wanted him to handle, I told him I wanted him to handle the airspace section and informed him about the current brouhaha.

He said he'd handle it.

I asked him what he wanted from me.  He said, just to let him know what the current priorities were and any changes with schedules that would require immediate rearranging and to let him know if I had any concerns about how things were going.

You know what happened.  I didn't have any issues with that section again.  He and I had regular "chats" on this and that.  The E-3 eventually found another career outside the Air Force, but I also never got a butt chewing from a LtCol over airspace again.

* The title quote is by General Frederick J. KroesenWhile I wasn't a Lieutenant at the time, my NCOIC did take care of NCO Business

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Rome or Rhody?

I used to spend a lot of time in my backyard. When I was a smoker I would sit on the back steps of my deck, listening to the waterfall and watching the dragonflies in the summer. At night I would watch the stars, what I could see of them past the light pollution of Providence, Fall River, and Newport.

I don't smoke anymore so I don't spend as much time out on my deck, or in the backyard, as I used to. I do wander out from time to time to just take it all in. It's pleasant back there, peaceful and relaxing. It's a good place to just go and think.

Spring 2000
We moved into Chez Sarge in the fall of 1999. The backyard was then just an expanse of dead and dying grass which had been the playground of the previous owners' rather large dog, I think he was a Rottweiler. While he was friendly enough with humans, he and the lawn were not friends.

That photo above shows The Missus Herself beginning the landscaping process. (Our next door neighbor took the photo, she said it would make a great "before and after." When you're right, you're right. I can barely remember the old wasteland before the lady my wife began "terraforming" the place to make it habitable for humans.

That expanse of raw dirt just past the chain link fence is where we stripped out a big patch of dead crabgrass. You think the stuff is hard to get rid of when its alive? We had to rent a machine which cuts and rolls up the turf. We used that to build up that oval section she's working on in the picture. (The statue in the opening photo is just to the left of the mound. You can see it in the next photo.)

Spring 2016
As you might well imagine, a lot of work went into that garden, most of which The Missus Herself did. I'm good at digging and moving heavy things, she's the artiste. I'm just the manual labor, and I'm okay with that.

That dirt where the crabgrass was stripped out? Here's what it looks like now, well, in the spring.

Spring 2016
The pond, the hedge, the gardens, the flowers, all put in since the spring of 2000. Heck, even the shed had a "face lift," new color, new roof.

Fall 2015
A lot of water under the bridge since we moved in in late September of 1999. The Missus Herself completely changed the inside too. The woman has a talent for these things, I swear, her mind never stops working. If she sees something that needs improving, well Sarge, get out the wallet and grab the tools, whatever it is, it happens.

I am blessed.

Though there are days I kind of wish she would slow down a little. Neither of us is getting any younger.