Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Heaven and Hell

I'm not going to say that I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as I have not. But the thought crosses the mind every now and then, perhaps more so as one ages and the prospects of this life coming to an end draw nigh.

I had a very strange dream Sunday night, throughout the dream I felt disconnected from those around me, none of whom I knew, or perhaps I should say recognized. I had a feeling of being lost, without any prospect of being found again.

Buildings with staircases which led nowhere, strange neighborhoods where there were people, all of whom were decidedly unfriendly. I did have a companion, a very young lion who was becoming more and more uncontrollable. Not from a sense of being threatening but from a sense of wanting to be independent. (I was "controlling" the lion using a hand under his/her collar. During the dream I referred to the animal as a "mountain lion" but upon awakening realized that it might have actually been an African lion.)

Needless to say, when I woke up I was in a rather unpleasant state of mind. "What was that all about?" was foremost in my sleepy mind. Shaking my head, I went back to sleep. When I finally got up to get ready for work, I remembered the dream. It struck me that I had dreamed of one possible version of Hell.

So I did some reading, as always when dealing with religion, there are no ready answers. Certainly though there are nearly limitless interpretations of scripture, both Christian and other, not to mention the numerous translations of those scriptures.

So what made me interpret the dream as a vision of Hell in the first place? The feeling of being lost, lost in a profound and unredeemable way. If that isn't Hell, I don't know what is.

I did go to church Sunday morning, and I guess at least one thing the pastor said stuck with me. Much of the sermon had to do with "getting ready for Christmas," not the buying of presents and decorating the house kind of getting ready. Nope, not that at all.

The sermon covered John the Baptist and the first advent season. Preparing for the coming of the Christ and how we need to be ready for the second advent was the point of the sermon. Perhaps something deep inside of me feels like I'm no way ready for that second coming. Perhaps.

Lately I seem to be at odds with my professed religion. In many ways I have the feeling that the signal-to-noise ratio is so low¹ that I'm being distracted by all the various interpretations and missing the real message. Or perhaps I am not as receptive to the message as I should be. (And that "should be" part raises a number of issues in my head.)

Religion is, in many ways, a lot like politics, one of those things one does not discuss in the wardroom. At least as I recall those things which Lex mentioned shouldn't be discussed, what do I know, I was in the Air Force and a bloody low-life NCO to boot. But to my mind, anything which might set people on edge (or worse yet at each other's throats) is a topic to be avoided in polite company.

So I'm violating that principle here, but it was something on my mind and something I wanted to get off my chest. In many ways I'm "all at sea" lately, can't seem to get my bearings and have no sense of the current. (In both the literal and figurative sense of that word.)

I have opinions, I also have little patience with dogma, but I have a good feeling for right and wrong. I'm sometimes guilty of the latter, but try to stay with the former. Perhaps it was my pastor saying "There will be a lot of unhappy people come Judgement Day ..."

Probably true, but ...

I have doubts.

Far too many for me to be comfortable with, perhaps I'm overthinking things, I often do.

But the Bard had it right ...

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

Anyhoo, that's all I've got for now.

Color me, out of sorts.

¹ A low signal-to-noise ratio indicates that the signal is almost indiscernible from the background noise. The higher the ratio, the better the signal.

Monday, December 5, 2022

...Troubles will be miles away!

 Well... Finally!  Earlier this week, Little Juvat and LJW returned from their usual San Antonio Excursion with a bit of good news.  LJD's Care Staff is starting to use the word "Release" in discussions about her condition.  Again, I'm not a doctor, nor...but apparently most of the issues she incurred with a premature birth are up to acceptable parameters.  The remaining long pole is Oxygen support requirements.  She's down below the 2.5 flow rate goal (she's been at 1.5 lately) that she's been working toward all along, Which is good.  She's probably going to be on supplemental Oxygen for a while, but that does not require hospitalization.

Unfortunately, that will also mean LJW and she will be staying in the Great State of Texas for a few more months while Little J returns to Honk Honk.  Still....Good news for a change.

As Mrs J and I were driving down to visit her last week, I got to doing some "ciphering" in my head to stay alert.  It's 75 miles from Rancho Juvat to the Parking Garage at the Hospital in San Antonio.  150 miles round trip.  Little J and LJW have been doing that trip 6 times a week for 20 weeks and change (as of this posting).  That works out to 18,300 miles or almost 75% of the circumference of the Earth (24,901.461 mi).

Yes, I get bored.  However...

I think they're going to make pretty darn good parents. 

Switching subjects, I had mentioned previously that this past weekend was being referred to as "The Gathering of the Clans".  BLUF*,  it was a great success.  The Rev, with MG and MBD, his parents, two brothers, their wives, 5 kids, and two dogs all came  for a visit.

Waiting for the Parade to kickoff with MG's Paternal Gramma

No, Beans, the Partridge in the Pear Tree had other obligations and couldn't make it.  

Arrival was planned for 4PM on Friday as the 'Burg's annual lighted Christmas Parade started at 6:30.  My Pickup was parked on Main Street at 3 PM on Thursday in one of the TWO remaining spots on either side of the 1 mile long parade route.  And that required a turn across 2 lanes to procure.  The evening of the parade, I dropped the spectators off at the truck and went to find a place to park.  Closest place I could find was about a half mile away.  Yes, a 4PM arrival was overly optimistic as the guests had to transit Austin. But, we were in position prior to parade start.

Chili Kitchen open on the back of the truck

My Counterpart Grandpa and one of MG's cousins

Yes, Beans, Main Street was crowded.  As an aside, Folks, if wearing dark clothes, one should not jay walk in the middle of an unlighted block in the dark.  Fortunately, the brakes on Mrs. J's car were fully functional.  Dumas! (No, I'm not talking about a town in Texas north of Amarillo.)

A good time was had by all, the Parade went on for a little over an hour.  My Chili was well received and the Holiday Season is off to a good start.

Post-parade wind down AKA "Fading Fast"
Both of them.

Had a bit of excitement a couple of weeks ago.  Mrs. J, being the kind hearted soul she is, was cooking my breakfast.  I was sitting at the counter reading one of Sarge's blog posts and getting ready for another fun-filled day.  I happened to hear a bit of a hiss from the direction of the stove followed by a Whoomp! Glanced up and saw a blue and yellow fireball rising up towards the Vent.  

Fortunately, Mrs. J, being the Fighter Pilot's Wife she is, was backpedaling faster than a politician caught in a lie.  Also fortunately,  the fireball went out almost immediately.  I calmly (yeah, right!) went over and turned off the stove (I thought).  I could still hear gas hissing.  Called the Gas Company and was told where the emergency shut off valve should be.  Found it and turned it off.

For those of you, like me, who had no clue that such a thing existed, safety codes require a gas shutoff valve within 6 feet of a gas stove.  Ours is in the back of a cabinet immediately beside the stove.  There is now a pair of pliers hanging from a screw right next to the valve.  Something to consider.

Turns out that the knob for that burner didn't completely turn off the gas.  The plastic nob had cracked on the connection to the stove, so even though it looked like the gas was off, it wasn't.  

Have I mentioned that our less than 2 year old new construction home was outfitted with all FRIGIDAIRE appliances?   We replaced the dishwasher within 6 months of use.  The Oven temperatures do not match the dials and the fans therein don't vent any cooking smoke.  Now this...

Well, Today our replacement Stove will be arriving.  No, it is not a FRIGIDAIRE.  It will be installed tomorrow.  

Suffice it to say, you could hold a gun to my head and order me to buy FRIGIDAIREand I'd still say no.  

Just in case you want my appliance purchasing advice. As far as I'm concerned, FRIGIDAIRE delenda est!

And...to end on a lighter note.

Got up early-ish the morning after the parade.  I was the only person stirring so was trying to be quiet as I made my cuppa.  Blood sugar was a tad low so vision was a bit off.  When this happens I see something similar to bright colored lights. Around the edges of the "lights", I noticed a bag on the counter with what looked like my own blend of Trail Mix.

Iced Coffee and Trail Mix will tide me over until the rest of the gang wakes up, right?

Decided a bit of calories would assist my vision, so grabbed a handful and munched it down.

Who knew that dry dog food was tasty? Woof!

Peace out Y'all!

*It's an Army thing, and one of the first things I learned at Army Command and Staff.  Bottom Line Up Front.  AKA Don't waste the General's time, tell him what he needs to know...First!

Sunday, December 4, 2022

A New Timewaster (But It Is Interesting ...)

La bataille de Waterloo. 18 juin 1815
Clément-Auguste Andrieux (PD)
"Teddy, go ahead and get the projector set up, Melissa, go ahead and close the curtains. All right class, settle down, your regular teacher is home with the flu, I'm Coach Whodat and I'll be showing you a film today."

Yup, sorry, the drought continues. On the other hand, in my casting about for things to entertain you with I've found yet another lovely YouTube channel with lots of great stuff. It's History Hit and for today's post, I give you their take on my favorite battle, Waterloo.

The aforementioned channel has clips on dang near every period in European warfare. Probably more as well, I'm just starting to scratch the surface of their content. (They have some really good "this is what those weapons were really like" videos as well. Lots of Roman and Medieval stuff for Beans.)

While looking for a picture to lead things off, I also stumbled across this website, ThoughtCo., which lists some good books on the Battle of Waterloo. At least one of which has been added to my "I want!" list. Chasing it down on Amazon I found a few more.

I can hear The Missus Herself now, "Just what we need, more books." I might have to build my own library building one of these days.

Anyhoo, that's all I've got, hope you're enjoying your weekend, I certainly am. (Even though Saturday's weather was bloody miserable, but it did give me the time to watch a bunch of historical videos. So I've got that going for me ...)

Expect juvat on Monday, I'll try and come up with something kinda creative for Tuesday. (Who gave my Muse the month off anyway? Oops, might have been me.)


Saturday, December 3, 2022

Movie Review

So back in 2010 the film Trollhunter came out, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I watched it in the original Norwegian, with subtitles as I just don't speak Norsk, kinda wish I did though as it's a neat language. It's got a lilting, rhythm vibe to it. Pleasant to listen to.

I have to say that I got pretty excited when I saw this trailer a few weeks back ...

After resolving to watch it, I promptly forgot about it. As Friday was a day off, I was casting about for something to watch, a little voice in my head whispered "Netflix," so I went there.

After seeing that trailer some time back, I guess I actually went to Netflix and added that upcoming film to my watch list. Lo and behold, there it was, so I watched it.

Great fun, some really good characters, including a guy I count as my favorite Norwegian actor. He's been in a few films I've seen, always seems to play a guy who ain't as honest as he should be. He's a really good actor. He plays the characters you love to hate!

Fridtjov Såheim¹
Here's the trailer for Trollhunter ...
(I post it so you don't have to go hunting, but you will have to click over to YouTube to watch it, beklager.²)

A couple of fun movies to watch on a cold winter night.


And yes, I'm still in my creativity drought, ah weel, this too shall pass.

¹ Google Translate says this is pronounced "Freet-yoff So-highm." And yes, that's an approximation.
² Sorry. (Norwegian)

Friday, December 2, 2022

It's Part of Me ...

Downtown Springfield, VT
I was born in 1953 in the town of Bellows Falls, Vermont. My two brothers were as well, at the time my parents lived in Springfield, Vermont. Which did then, and does now, have its own hospital. I don't know why they chose Bellows Falls, might be because the family doctor had privileges there, I don't know. Back then doctors did everything, specialists in small town Vermont were few. I do know that the hospital, the physical building itself, burned down between my birth and my oldest kid brother's birth. No, I had nothing to do with that. I had an alibi. (I couldn't walk yet, getting away would have been tough.)

Anyhoo, it was a nice place to grow up. My oldest kid brother (The Olde Vermonter) still lives and works there. From what I've read, the old town has its problems. A lack of jobs, a big drug problem, and other things which afflict people in such an environment. It wasn't like that growing up. (Then again, every time I read something, I have to remind myself that it's the "media." People don't report facts any more, they have opinions and agendas. Or so it seems.)

That picture up top, that's Main Street in the snow. We did get a lot of snow back in the day, they still do. It's one of my memories of Vermont, picturesque with snow. I do remember other times of the year, but winter was always a favorite. Not that I was a big skier (didn't start that until I was in high school), it might have been because the big family gatherings were always from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Those always involved lots of good food and lots of people gathering together who really cared about each other.

Things were different back then, vastly different. Better in some ways, depending on who you were I suppose. My hometown was predominantly white, there was a teacher (art as I recall) who had no kids of her own so she and her husband (I presume) adopted a number of kids. Of whom I knew two, both girls, one was black, the other was Native American. (I want to say Navajo or Hopi, my memory is sketchy in that area.) Those were the only people of color I saw when I was a kid, pre-high school. Didn't bother us in the least.

We grew up learning to treat people as individuals for the most part. To us it was no big deal. I remember the shock I felt in high school when I bought a record album by Sly and the Family Stone and one of my friends casually mentioned that he was surprised that I liked "colored" music. (No, he didn't use the word "colored.") It was a shocker that people thought that way, but it was an eye-opener as well.

My Dad was an Army veteran, he enlisted just after the end of World War II (he turned 16 on D-Day, so he was too young, he went in when he was 17, a year later). Both of my Dad's brothers served overseas, one in the Army Air Forces in the Pacific, the other as an infantryman in the ETO. My maternal grandmother's brother was also an infantryman in the ETO, both were wounded but both came home.

My paternal grandfather was also a veteran, he served during World War I but was in Panama, protecting the Canal no doubt. Somewhere in the family archives (probably lost) is a group photo of my grandfather's outfit, he's sitting near the front of the group (as I recall) and in the back row to the left is a future general and president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sure wish I knew where that photo was.

I knew my heroes personally as a kid.

The late 50s, early 60s were a great time to be a middle-class white kid. Which is my frame of reference. No doubt the experience varied a lot based on where you lived, the color of your skin, and even (in some cases) your religion. We had a single Jewish family in town, no one minded them, they were good people. Back then it was a Protestant-Catholic kind of clash. Most of the town was Protestant. There apparently was a Catholic Church in town, small and over-whelmed by all the Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, and a couple of other denominations I'm unfamiliar with. Oh yeah, there is an Orthodox Church back home as well. When I was a kid we called it the Russian Orthodox Church. Not proper these days, or so I'm told.

When I was a kid, everyone went to church on Sunday, except many of the Dads who only went on Christmas and Easter. "C and Es" my Dad called them. (Which I found odd, seeing as how that's pretty much what he did.) Churches tended to have a pretty sizable crowd on Sundays. Doesn't seem to be the case these days. What happened?

I have many fond memories of those days, like I said, they were good times. I had a great childhood. One of the things I see my kids doing is ensuring their own kids (my grandkids) are also having great childhoods.

So The Missus Herself and I must have done something right. (More her than me, no doubt.) But those early days in small town Vermont made me who I am, so my own parents must have done something right as well.

Maybe things will get better, maybe the people will wake up before it's too late. Lately I have my doubts.

So I'll stick with my family, them I can trust.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

'Tis the Season ...

As the season is truly upon us, it's time for ...

That being said ...

It's the first of December, my favorite month of the year. Soon there will be snow (maybe) but without the bitter cold of late January - early February (maybe). Among many there are feelings of good will and cheerfulness not seen in "normal" months.

Christmas comes, the chance to be with friends and family, time off from work is also a bonus for this time of year. The whole company shuts down for a week. No corporate emails, no meetings, no worries about the work getting done. We down tools and just relax. (Though there are some incapable of relaxing, I am not one.)

So I plan on trying to be a bit more cheerful here on the blog. I seldom comment on politics so that's not really an issue. If my co-authors want to write about politics, then let it be written, so let it be done.

I'm going to de-stress for the entire month, just kick back, relax, and enjoy the season. (I also need to finish up the edits on the book. I'm leaning towards Amazon and self-publishing. It seems like a perfect match at this time.)

Recommended Books: I've probably read this book a dozen times.

And I'm going to read it again as I've just finished Seven Men of Gascony.

My copy is beat up, loose pages, the binding has seen better days (the book has traveled with me to Germany and Korea), but it's a great read and excellent background on the Napoleonic era from a soldier's point of view.

Not sure if I'll write any fiction this month, may not have enough time. But you never know, sometimes the Muse will walk in, smack me up side the head and say "Write this down!"

So I do ...

I may be a slow learner, but I do learn.

In honor of the season ...

Back tomorrow with whatever springs into my head ...

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The World Today - John Blackshoe Sends ...

A coalition force member watches as the Launch Module on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) raises during precision fire support training drills at Bagram Air Field, Parwan province, Afghanistan, March 13, 2014. This training helps troops maintain a state of readiness that enables them to quickly execute their fire support missions. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ricardo Hernandez-Arocho/ Source)
Editor's Note: I'm not sure if everyone reads all of the comments on the posts we provide for your elucidation, entertainment, education, and enlightenment here at the Chant. I do, because it's my blog and I want to make sure the comments stay polite and within the realm of sanity. Every now and then we get a comment which stands head and shoulders above the rest. Yesterday's update from Paweł brought forth a gem of a comment from our own John Blackshoe. I liked it so much I decided to reproduce it as a post on its own merits. OAFS

JB knocks it out of the park -

Random related tidbits.

History is still important. The Russkies remember, even if we have forgotten, that American (and Brit, French, and assorted other) troops were fighting against the Bolsheviks on Russian soil in the Murmansk/Archangel "Northern Russia" expedition in 1918-1919, and in the "Siberian Expedition" 1918-1922 which extended from Vladivostok hundreds of miles westward along the Trans Siberian Railroad [not Orchestra].

The Germans (and Central Power allies) forced the Russians into humiliating terms with an independent armistice and the Treaty of Brest Litovsk in February 1918. Basically, it forced Russia into recognizing the independence of Ukraine, Georgia and Finland; gave up Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to Germany and Austria-Hungary; and ceded Kars, Ardahan and Batum to Turkey. So, yeah, the Russkies think of those places as rightfully belonging to the Russian Empire. Throw in post 11/11/1918 fighting in Ukraine against the Bolsheviks, and the WW2 three way brawl with assorted Ukrainians fighting (simultaneously or separately) with or against Germany and/or Russia and there are a lot of old unsettled scores and animosity lurking about.

Now, we cannot ignore that fact that while we are emptying our bunkers of (most? nearly all?) of our war reserve stocks of conventional munitions, and many of our weapons systems (HIMARS/ M777 howitzers, Stingers, etc., etc.) we are doing little to replenish that inventory. Someone reported that the conventional artillery shell consumption is at WW1 levels, and UKR is using more shells in a day than we fired in a month in AFG. And, the Russians are making the rubble bounce with multiple times that. Over 50,000 rounds PER DAY, IIRC, and they too are running low. They also reported that we are buying 155mm shells at something like 1,500 a month to refill our bunkers. Do the math.

Meanwhile, the Mullahs are wary of their intimidated subjects, Kim (and sister/daughter) control their impoverished neighbors while building nukes and missiles, and Chinese masses are restless, while Xi covets Taiwan, and may not let a good crisis go to waste where he could shift internal unrest into nationalistic pride by recovering that pesky breakaway province. All these folks are keeping an eye on the Great Satan, our leadership, and our military assets.

All the while, the insane clown posse running our country bumbles about making everything they touch worse, with their ineptitude, dotage, and fixation on environmental nonsense hidden by a news media which is less reliable than Pravda.

Hey, I like the UKR folks, and they are kinda sorta our friends, but they are NOT a vital U.S. national interest. We need to remember we are $31 Trillion in debt, and cannot afford to just shovel cash into their hands (where endemic corruption will magically make a lot of it vanish). We need to get our own spending in order, and pay off our debt before we can be so generous.

Interesting times.
Merry Christmas, all y'all.
John Blackshoe

Sound wisdom that.

Thanks JB.