Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ranting and Raving

Now I am generally a calm, reserved, rather shy person.

Okay, I can think of about 350 people who will disagree with that statement.

I do have a reputation for, shall we say, "speaking my mind". It's something that has, occasionally, given my wife fits. Especially when we're in the car, with me at the wheel. I like to keep up a running commentary about the skills and behavior of the other drivers.

The Missus would rather I just "shut up and drive!"

But so far, here on this blog, I've tried to keep things light and humorous. Not complaining so much, just regaling you with stories of my family and the like.

I did start a couple of posts that seemed to be heading towards the "ranting and raving" type of post. But they still sit in draft form, unpublished, gathering dust. Because to tell the truth there are a number of bloggers out there who cover things I get riled up about in a much more sedate manner. How they do it without going postal amazes me. For when I try to write about something which stirs my blood and about which I have rather strong opinions, I kind of lose all control. I will literally start ranting and raving. Have you ever tried to type while ranting and raving?

First of all, spell-checker will eventually quit and just mark everything as misspelled. Not really, but there are so many red squigglies under the words in one of my draft "rant" posts you'd think spell-checker took the day off. And, I'll admit it, I'm a keyboard slammer. I have to realize that no matter how hard I hit the keys, that doesn't really add any emphasis to what I'm trying to say.

So I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if you're looking for incisive political commentary, insights into my view on what's happening in the world and brilliant essays on why LCS is a bad idea (just an example), well you probably won't see it here. I am way too passionate in my opinions to try and put them down in writing and remain coherent while doing so. If you need that kind of thing, check out the blogs I like to read over there on the right side of the screen. Most of those folks can do it way better than me, I'm just not there yet in my evolution as a blogger.

Oh, that photo? Yes, that's one of my cats, Sasha. She has no trouble whatsoever expressing her feelings. Yup, the picture is kind of blurry. Well let's just say that the Nuke, in attempting to take that picture, had the living daylights scared out of her when Sasha reacted as she did. Hence the blur, an action shot using a fairly slow speed camera.

But Sasha made her point that day. Let's just say that the photo represents how I feel about the state of our nation today. Angry.

But I'm not quite ready to rant and rave about it.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Big Time

Big Time in "The Jet"
Big Time, for those who don't know, is my son-in-law, husband of the WSO and daddy to Little Bit, my precious little granddaughter.

That's him, in the cockpit, his anonymity preserved by his visor and oxygen mask.

Big Time, for the uninitiated, is a Naval Aviator, a proud wearer of the Wings of Gold. He flies the F/A-18E Super Hornet, also known as the "Rhino".

He's also a pretty nice kid, a good husband and a great Dad.

I remember the first time CINCHOUSE and I met Big Time. We were headed down to Virginia to attend the WSO's patching ceremony. The trip did not start out on a high note.

Upon arrival at TF Green, we learned that our flight to Norfolk had been cancelled. Wonderful. And the first clerk we encountered at the ticket counter was one of those "hey, I just work here, don't complain to me" types. She said she could get us on a flight tomorrow, would that be okay? Uh, no. We need to get there tonight. As in today, as in what about later flights. That's when we got the shoulder shrug and the obvious cue to P-Off. Yeah, that's great. I looked at the Missus and wondered, "Now what?"

It was then that I heard the lady at the next counter actually helping a customer. What the heck, we slid on over to her kiosk. Her first words were "Sir, you need to get in line." I explained, somewhat patiently, that we had waited in line and that her colleague had been, shall we say, less than helpful.

So this marvelous young lady actually started checking things out for us. On the phone, on the computer, she was incredible. Before you could recite the preamble to the Constitution, I heard, "I can get you into Newport News tonight, if that's alright?" Yes. Yes. Yes. That is more than alright.

Of course, the WSO was going to pick us up at the airport. And Newport News is "just a bit" further from Chez WSO than Norfolk. Grumbling sotto voce, she said she'd pick us up at Newport News. And that her new boyfriend would be coming along as he wanted to meet us.

The point of this portion of my tale is that the WSO and her boyfriend were like an hour late picking us up. After introducing her boyfriend (later to be known as Big Time), the WSO commented that her man was somewhat concerned as to what her parents might think as they were an hour late to the airport. I believe I might have made a somewhat risque comment at that point. CINCHOUSE glared at me, the WSO guffawed and the boyfriend turned a rather pleasing shade of red. But we had, shall we say "bonded".

Back at home, the Missus commented that she thought the new guy was a bit cocky and arrogant.

     "Uh, honey, he's a fighter pilot. They're kinda built that way."

She didn't see the point, but oh well. I thought he acted like a fighter pilot, nothing more, nothing less.

At any rate, this was quite a while ago. Right now Big Time is deployed, somewhere out towards "Bad Guy Country". While texting with him the other day, WSO mentioned that she'd run into her old boyfriend. Did it bother him?

Um, no, not really. Seems that her old boyfriend is also a Naval Aviator, but the (gasp) rotary wing type. You know, helos, things that don't "go fast".

So Big Time (fixed wing, go fast, kind-of-guy that he is) couldn't fathom being, ahem, jealous of a rotor-head. Oh, and did I mention that Big Time is cocky?

So he told his wife (the WSO) from miles away in some foreign land, "Why should I be jealous of someone else? You've got me. Who could top that?" Or words to that effect.

Oh, he is such a fighter pilot!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Under the Weather

The Pond at Chez Sarge
Yours truly is out of sorts this week. Have a bit of a gastrointestinal thing going on, I won't bore you (nor gross you out) with the details. Needless to say, I'm cranky and tired and in a bit of pain.

The WSO would reword that to say "I'm cranky and tired and I am a huge pain."

Decided to share the photo above to reveal one of CINCHOUSE's many projects. She has a rabid passion for gardening.

When we first moved to little Rhody, the yard at Chez Sarge was missing only a few things: grass, plants and any means of supporting life. Of course I was pleased. Dead grass is grass that does not require mowing. But the Missus was not pleased, not by any means.

So she decided to do something about the miserable state of our newly acquired yard. She presented me with ideas, plans and hopes for what she wished to accomplish. I had visions of my weekends being consumed with gardening. So we had to come to an agreement on our respective roles.

I proposed that I would weed-whack, mow, shovel and lift heavy things as needed. She would seed, water, weed, trim and perform general upkeep. (At this point I was starting to regret having taken her to visit Versailles.) She agreed to these terms and we started out on our attempts to terraform our yard.

At first there was much digging and hauling of rocks, both large and small. For those of you familiar with the rocky soil of New England, you know what I mean. For those of you not familiar, let me explain.

Bazillions of years ago there was an Ice Age. The land was covered by vast sheets of ice. These vast sheets of ice expanded over the years, dragging down tons of rock from Canada. And depositing them in my backyard.

With very few exceptions, all of the rocks visible in the foreground of the picture were dug up out of our yard. I was surprised that they weren't all stamped "Made in Canada", given my knowledge of the aforementioned Ice Age.

In previewing this post I noticed that between that last paragraph and the next, there was no smooth transition. So in order to distract you from that unpleasant fact, I give you:

Airplane Pr0n!
- My Old Pal, Tail Number 463 -

Now when we moved in to our current abode we had a chain link fence around the back yard. The previous owners had a dog, a very large dog. But I digress, the wife was not so pleased with the chain link fence. I had to agree, it did make our back yard look like an internment camp, given the sparse vegetation and all. She was not amused when I suggested going to Home Depot to buy enough material to make a couple of guard towers. Nope, the chain link, at least in the front, had to go.

So we purchased fencing material, fence posts, cement, paint and a post hole digger. Now one of my offspring wanted to know why we just didn't rent a motorized post hole digger. Wouldn't that be easier?

Of course it would be easier. But it would also be "more expensive". The two most feared words in any language to one of Scottish descent. I don't even think they have those words in Gaelic.

Actually the old fashioned "man portable, muscle powered" post hole digger (Mark One, Mod Zero) worked out rather well. Until we hit our first really big rock. And of course it was located precisely where we wanted to put a fence post. So we pulled out the smaller dirt-moving appliances and began to try and determine the extent of this rock.

Feeling somewhat like an archaeologist, there I was on hands and knees, probing the earth to try and dislodge this rock. It turned out to be about a foot wide and two feet long after we'd excavated the top soil. Now there I was thinking, "With my luck, this sucker is going to be about a foot deep too." Nope, it was only six inches in the vertical dimension. It did take about 20 minutes to dislodge that bad boy. But up and out of the soil it came.

Leaving a hole suitable for a bridge support, or a missile silo. Certainly too big for a fence post. So we commenced to shoveling dirt back into the hole to make it smaller. That sort of worked but I swear we used way more cement on that post hole than we did the others. A lot more.

Doggone! Another crappy transition. Guess I'll distract you with, yes you got it,

More Airplane Pr0n!
VF-161 Chargers Bird
Disgraceful aren't I?

Now the pond started off much smaller than the current version. We had that for a couple of years before the Missus decided that we needed a bigger pond. Oh boy, time to haul out the shovels. It didn't go too badly, it was hard work but I amused myself pretending that we were entrenching. You know, preparing for the post-apocalyptic times. (Damn! Ammo, I need ammo! Can't defend the homestead with just rocks, though we do have a rather large supply. I'm just never ready for post-apocalyptic times!)

At any rate, the pond was dug and lined and beautified and stocked with goldfish and koi. Koi the size of small whales. Really those suckers grow like you wouldn't believe.

So now our yard has blossomed and bloomed. I have to tell you, it was a lot of work. Most of which the Missus did and still does. But it's a great place to kick back and have a Guinness now and then. But I only drink it for strength.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cell Phones, Cars and Other Musings

I love this picture!

When the WSO did her 2nd Class Midshipman cruise (also know as the enlisted cruise) she went to sea on the USS Curts (FFG-38) out of Sandy Eggo.

This beauty is the USS Preble (DDG-88) and she has a bone in her teeth, for sure.

The WSO shot a lot of nice photos on this cruise which I will share over the course of time. I shall reward her with more posts.

About her.

Of course.

She requires this.

That being said, I have some rather strong opinions regarding cell phones. And about the operation of motor vehicles. And what happens when the two are combined.

First of all, I find the cell phone to be a marvelous little bit of technology. It's convenient to have the ability to call my wife or the kids no matter where I'm at. I am no longer anchored to a land line. Recalling times when my automotive conveyance has decided to cease operations at inconvenient times and places, it would have been nice to have a cell phone on those occasions. Now I do have one and have not had any motor vehicle mishaps to speak of. I'm not saying there's a cause and effect relationship here, but it does make me wonder. But if it does happen, I have a cell phone with which to call AAA, let people know I'm stranded, etc. What would be the odds of my vehicle and my cell phone ceasing to function at the same time? This I do not wish to discover.

Normally I use my cell phone to chat with CINCHOUSE while I'm away "up north" and to talk with my progeny who are spread from coast-to-coast, literally. From the WSO in Virginia, to the Nuke in Tennessee, out to the Naviguesser in California. "From sea to shining sea...". So it's a nice to have kind of thing and also a must-have for those emergency situations.


There are people who have these things glued to their ears practically 24/7. I have seen them in the grocery stores:
          "...yeah, I'm walking past the cereal aisle right now, heading over to get some milk..."

Outside my place of employment:
          "...yeah, I'm at work now, gonna go to lunch around noon....

My favorites are the ones with the ear-thingy, you know the ones who appear to have Borg implants.

The picture is for you non-Trekkies, that's a Borg, with an implant (the red light thing attached to the right side of his face). The rest of you will know what a Borg implant is. I know I do, I admit it, I'm a bit of a geek. Live long and prosper and all that.

But the Borg implant type cell phone users amaze me. The first one I ever saw was in a glassed-in corridor at work. As I approached, he was walking back and forth in the corridor apparently talking to himself. I kind of slowed down, thinking that perhaps I had just come across one of those, you know, disgruntled employees. Perhaps about to go forth and bring down carnage on the workplace. But no, it was just a cell-phone-guy with that cell-phone-ear-thingy. Also he was completely oblivious to his surroundings, nearly colliding with me as I passed by. People on cell phones do tend to concentrate on their conversations, to the occasional detriment of those around them.

Which brings me to, wait for it...

One of the Old Sarge's Pet Peeves

I'll be the first to admit, I have a number of pet peeves. We all do. But one of my biggest is people operating a cell phone and an automobile at the same time. Many people in my neck of the woods seem to have a great deal of trouble understanding "the rules of the road". For instance, Stop Signs and Red Lights.

Many Rhode Islanders have a tendency to blow through these like nobody's business. To them a Stop Sign is equivalent to a Yield Sign. Also if you're the fifth car in line at a Stop Sign, you can go ahead and roll through it if the first four cars do so. I have seen this behavior many times.

Red Lights are a special category in Rhode Island. When the light goes yellow, that means "floor it, that sucker is about to turn red!" If it has just turned red, then its apparently okay to just keep going, no one in Rhode Island actually will start to go through an intersection when the light turns green. I guess they know someone will soon be blowing through there on a "just turned red" signal.

But it gets worse when they have a cell phone pressed to the side of their noggins. I've seen the case where I'm proceeding down a road and there it is, a Rhode Islander, on their cell phone, waiting to turn right into traffic. That bit is important, turn RIGHT into traffic. Personally I'd be looking to my LEFT to see if there was oncoming traffic. But invariably, Joe-on-his-cell-phone is looking to his RIGHT. And as I approach he (or she, it varies) will pull out in front of me, with little room to spare. And then proceed onwards, oblivious to everything but the cell phone. I can imagine the conversation sounds like this from the driver's perspective:

          " yeah, I just pulled onto Main Street, heading for the grocery store, gotta buy some milk..."

Yeah, pet peeve, a big one.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Miscellaneous Thoughts on a Friday Evening

As I mentioned in my last post, the WSO has been on me about posting more. I had assumed that she was well satisfied with the last one as it was all about her.

Apparently not. That just whetted her appetite.

About two hours ago, the WSO rang me up and said, "What, no post today?"

So here we go. I am now officially chained to my computer until I get another post out.


The photo is of yours truly, at the coffee bar of "my" hotel. I must say this picture came out unusually well. Normally when I smile for the camera I tend to look rather silly. For instance, the following is part of a photo taken at the New England gathering of Lexicans.

I think I look like some crazed old goofball.

Hhhmm, maybe this is a more accurate portrait of me than I realized. I am kind of a crazed old goofball, now that I think about it.

Oh well.

(To the WSO: Yes, today's post isn't about you. It's about ME! Ah-ha!)

Trust me, that will annoy the hell out of her. I'm her Dad, that's what I do.

You may notice that I've changed the frontispiece of the old blog. Still have a VFA-32 Rhino featured. I've also included the patches for three of the units I served with. The top one (18th TFW) is when I was on Okinawa. The next (and all time favorite unit, the 8th TFW, or "Wolf Pack") was from my four years in Korea. The bottom one is, of course, the patch of the late, lamented Strategic Air Command. I wore that one for four years at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

Lex's picture is still there. But I enlarged it somewhat. Lex's picture will always be prominently featured near the top of the Chant du Départ. He is the reason I became a blogger in the first place.

So today was exciting. I mowed the lawn. Fed the cats. Twice. (Fed the cats that is, only mowed the lawn once.) But it was a gorgeous day up here in Merry Olde New England. Sunny, warm but not excessively so. But enough of the the Old Sarge and his chores, time for some...

Gratuitous Armored Fighting Vehicle Pr0n!

Glad I got that out of my system.

As you can see, today I'm all over the map.

Speaking of photographs, I had a great uncle who hated to have his picture taken. Would go to extremes to stay out of the way at family gatherings when the cameras came out. The only picture I remember from way back was taken by my Dad. Seems my great uncle had just gotten settled down at a cook-out over at my grandparents' farm. No cameras were in evidence.

So my Dad announced that he was going inside to attend to a "call of nature", in reality he crept out front to the car to grab his camera. So there we were, a beautiful late summer afternoon in New Hampshire, everyone just chatting and having a good time.

Then around the corner of the house comes my Dad, camera in hand. Sneaking up on my great uncle for to snap a photo. When one of my kid brothers yells out, "Hey Dad, I thought you went inside to tinkle?"

Well of course everyone turns around. Including my great uncle. He almost managed to avoid getting his picture taken, but not quite. To this day I remember that picture. There's the back of my great uncle, desperately flinging his lawn chair aside, trying to make the haven of the barn I guess. Picture was kind of blurry but I remember it well.

Being a Vermonter, I have to relate my one maple syrup story. That same camera-shy great uncle and my grandfather would make maple syrup every spring. My brothers and I loved to go over to the farm and watch. We learned much about maple syrup making, from the tapping of the trees to gathering the sap in a big tank mounted on a trailer towed by my grandfather's tractor, to the boiling it down to make syrup.

I related this story to a colleague of mine at work at one day. He mentioned that he recalled that the amount of maple sap required to make maple syrup was rather large. And did I know what it took to make maple syrup?

Of course, I said. It takes 40 gallons of sap, one bottle of whiskey and a great deal of swearing to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

At least that's the process my ancestors used.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


My youngest, the WSO has, again, been "up in my bidness".

Seems she had a night flight. The pre-flight briefing wasn't very long, so she had time to kill before she and her pilot had to go out to their aircraft. So there she was, bored.

Did I mention that the WSO has a "smart" phone? And time on her hands? And that she was bored?

Now for many years I have served as the family's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Officer. Apparently blogging has been added to my list of duties. Blogging so that my youngest will have something to do whilst stuck between briefing and pre-flighting the aircraft. Blogging so that she will be entertained.

Apparently I did not get that memo.

However, I have known for a long time that I am most definitely not in the chain of command around here. I serve sort of a ceremonial function. Sort of like the Queen of England. But without the interesting hats. Without the need for public appearances on important occasions. (Though I have practiced for many years the royal "wave".)

At any rate, late on Wednesday last. My phone "rang" (actually it doesn't actually "ring", it plays a rather jaunty little tune) and it was the WSO. I mentioned to her that it was rather late, and by the way, how did the flight go?

She pointed out, "Dad, it's not late, it's only 9:30." As I told her, as I advance slowly and inexorably into my dotage, 9:30 is late. Pour moi. That brief interlude concluded, she asked me why I had not posted lately.

"Why I posted just the other day", I protested. She chastised me by saying that my last post was nearly a week old. "And your point is?", I inquired. That's when I got the story of the boring time twixt briefing and flying and that she was looking forward to my next post. I told her that I had a couple of ideas floating around.

"Is the next post going to be about me?", she wanted to know. I said that I wasn't sure, the only two family members who have had a post dedicated to them so far had been TRex and Bear.

"No, your last post was about me."

"It was?"

"Sure, you talked about the penguins. That post was about me."

"Uh, the title of the post was "The Penguins". It was about the penguins, not you. Though, you did play a rather large role in that story."

"Yeah, it was about me."

"Yes, baby. It was all about you. And the penguins. And my hotel and various and sundry other tangents and sidebars."

"See it was about me. I like reading about me."

Okay. I know she's a WSO, but she has the attitude of a fighter pilot. Kinda self-centered, you know that cocky self-assured kind of attitude. (When the WSO reads this, no doubt I will catch hell.)

All that aside, she did relate to me a couple of interesting naval aviation tidbits about her adventures. Specifically her adventure of Wednesday last with, of all things, the ladder on the F/A-18. For your edification I present the following representation of the aforementioned F/A-18 ladder:

This ladder kinda-sorta slides up into its little compartment for flight and apparently can be deployed by the crew upon returning. (By the way, aircraft ladder technology has come a very long way since I worked on the Phantom. Of course, most technology has come a long way since then. And yes WSO, we did have color TV when I was a young airman.)

When the WSO and her driver had returned from their flight, they had taxied to their packing spot on the ramp and were going through their post-flight checks. The WSO was done first and as the left engine had already been shut down, her pilot told her that she could go ahead and deplane (dismount, disembark, not sure what the proper term is here, perhaps one of my readers can help me out here).

Now as she went to climb down the ladder, she and her pilot realized at the same instant that the ladder was still tucked neatly away in its little compartment. And my youngest, the WSO, nearly fell off the aircraft. Fortunately she caught herself in time and the only damage was to her pride. Not to mention the deep chagrin that, I'm sure, will spread through the NFO community upon hearing about this.

Oh, to be so embarrassed in the august presence of the front seater, the stick monkey, the driver. You know the guy who flies the thing. WSO's everywhere must feel horrified that my youngest has "let down the side".

There is another, amusing to me, probably not to the WSO, aspect of the F/A-18 ladder. Now I don't know if you've ever been next to an F/A-18, but they are not small beasts in relation to us puny humans. Now the WSO is not really short, but she's not really tall either. The ladder of which we speak has a latch for to let the crew deploy said ladder. Seems the WSO can't quite reach the latch.

When she explained this to me, I had an amusing image of the WSO, completely kitted out in full gear, hopping up into the air, trying to reach the latch which deploys the ladder. She was not so amused. Well, maybe a little. She does, after all, have the same goof ball sense of humor as yours truly.

So in future I will try and regale you all with more tales from and of the Rhino. Courtesy of the WSO.

So baby girl, this post is all about you.

I hope I didn't embarrass you too much.

Well, actually perhaps a little wouldn't be so bad. But not in front of the pilots. Their egos are rather large enough already.

Right, Big Time?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Penguins

Uhh, what is this? Has the Old AF Sarge gone off his rocker? Has he gone completely "round the bend". In a word, no. (Or perhaps yes, but as I never studied the human mind I'm not really qualified to answer that question. So we'll go with "no" as to me being off my nut. Until some qualified person tells me otherwise, I'm sticking to my guns. And clinging to my Bible - for all you aghast liberals out there.)

I've been promising these lads their own post for quite some time now. And as the WSO called me today and was all over my substantial derriere for not having posted lately. She was telephonically "up in my grill". So here we go.

First of all, from left to right, there's: Skipper (he's a movie star), Schultzie, Jay and Red. The story of the penguins is tied very closely to my exile from my "home" place of work and to the death of my Dad. So the story is funny and sad all at the same time. (Well, not exactly at the same time but the two emotions are flying a tight formation throughout this tale.)

In November of 2009, my company was feeling the worsening effects of the economic down-turn. Work was drying up in our Ocean State location. However, business in one of our Bay State locations was good. Not great, but good. Good enough that they had a pressing need for worker bees. But not good enough to hire more people full time.

So I and a number of my colleagues were designated to "go mobile". We would still belong to our home location, but we would be on loan "for a year" to a company location somewhat north of there. We were given the option of commuting (100 miles, one way) every day, or staying in a hotel (on the company dime) for 4 nights a week. The idea is we would work four 10-hour days and be home for 3 days during the length of our exile from the home location.

With two exceptions, we all chose the hotel option. The two exceptions were a guy with a young son at home (can't fault him there) and the other? Well, there is speculation that he's crazy. My own theory is that he, being from Montana, is used to driving vast distances for every day things. Like, "Honey, could you run down to the store and pick up a gallon of milk?" My buddy (from Montana), "Sure honey, it's only 75 miles, I should be back in time for supper." I'm sure I exaggerate, if I have any readers in Montana (or who have visited that impressive state) feel free to berate me in the comments. But I digress.

So now it's January of 2010. I am far from home (not really that far) and living in a hotel. Some of my new colleagues were saying how bad that must be. As they're, for the most part, civilians, I did get some funny looks when I told them, "Hey, this is nothing. I get to go home on weekends and no one is shooting at me!" In response to their puzzled looks I said, "You know, Iraq, Afghanistan. Those folks are truly a long way from home. And they can't come home on weekends. And people shoot at them." "Ah", one of them said, "you must have been in the military." Civilians, I love them but sometimes they vex me, truly.

Again I see I have digressed. But before continuing with the saga of the penguins.

Did I mention the hotel? Yes, I believe I did. The logo above is the place I have been staying for over two years. They treat me like family and the place is cozy. Not too fancy, but for the old Sarge it's just right. (I promised the staff there that they would be mentioned in one of my posts, someday. Today is that day. And no, I received no compensation. I'm plugging them for free. Because I like them. No, really, I do. They are like family, the kind of family you enjoy visiting. So this one's for you Diana, Sheila, Nancy, Laura, Simona and Joanie. With any luck I'll get more readers out of this. Yes, I'm shameless.)

Again I have broken lock and have drifted way off of the target. Let's get back to the penguin saga.

So it's the winter of 2010. In February I get a call from my Mom that my Dad is in the hospital, and it's serious. My youngest, the WSO, decided to fly up from Virginia to visit Grandpa. The two of us loaded up the vehicle and made the trek north to see my Dad. Things were not good, he was being kept sedated in order to relax him in the hopes that his body would heal.

So my daughter was able to see him, alive, sort of, one last time. The trip back to little Rhody was somewhat somber as you may well imagine. We stopped at a McDonald's for sustenance on the way home. For some reason, my then 25 year-old daughter, officer in the US Navy and a Weapons Systems Officer in the F/A-18F Super Hornet, decided to get a Happy Meal. She's like that, reverting to her inner child at times. (Me, I don't have to revert back to my inner child. I never really grew up.) WRITE THIS DOWN - the Happy Meal comes with a toy. Key element of the story here. Some very primitive foreshadowing if you will.

So I commenced to give her grief over her choice of meals, she gave it right back, and before long we were both giggling like a couple of yahoos. (Which we most certainly are. Drives the mother of my children completely crazy when the WSO and I get like that. Which is often.) We certainly felt better, considering the circumstances. The two of us are really irrepressible.

After the WSO flew back to Virginia, I got in the car to head north on a cold Monday morning. When I arrived at work, about the time the sun was coming up, what did I see sitting in the passenger side armrest? A toy from a Happy Meal. Mickey D's was plugging one of the Madagascar movies at the time, so of course, it was a penguin. Skipper, from the movie.

I thought that was cute. To make a long story short(er), my Dad passed away the following week. All of the kids except the Nuke came home for the funeral (she was at sea for a six month deployment). And there was that penguin, still sitting in the armrest of my car. My wife couldn't figure that out and wanted to know why I had a toy penguin in the car. The WSO explained. The Missus didn't get it, but the WSO did. It was one of our "little things", one of those bonds (however inane) you have with your kids, if you're lucky.

Now the other three penguins came on board a while later. Turns out that the hotel manager, a very lovely and intelligent young lady, saw the penguin in my hotel room and was thrilled. Seems she's a big penguin fan (the bird, not the hockey team). She loved my penguin story.

Jay was the next to arrive. The hotel manager gave that one to me, the hotel was doing some kind of promo for kids. Jay, the penguin, is a bath tub toy. She let me have this one to, as she said "Keep Skipper company."

Schultzie and Red were both abandoned at the hotel. They were found in a couple of different rooms. You see kids will drop their toys just about anywhere. And in the rush to pack, load the car and check out, sometimes toys get left behind. That's how Schultzie and Red joined our merry, goofy band.

And speaking of toys being left behind. When the kids were really young, we were travelling (as military families are wont to do) and we spent the night in a motel, I think it was in Arkansas, could've been Missouri. When we left the next morning, we had gone fifty miles when the Nuke and the WSO realized that they had left their teddy bears behind. At the motel.

At the next exit I got off the interstate, and headed back to the motel. CINCHOUSE assumed I was having some sort of "episode" and wanted me to explain what I was doing, immediately. Of course I told her we were heading back to the motel, to pick up the teddy bears. The girls were ecstatic, the wife was apoplectic, nevertheless, we were heading back.

So the penguins represent a sad time in my life but also a happy moment with my youngest. And if you're smart, you'll hang onto those moments, forever.

So you see, in my family, we leave no one behind. Ever. Not teddy bears and not penguins.

It's just the way we are.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

That Time of Year

Posting is going to be sporadic to non-existent this week. It's tax time. Yes, I'm one of the 51% who actually pay taxes in the good old US of A.

In my case, due to a strange work situation, I get to pay Federal income tax and income tax in two separate states. (Work in one state, live in another. And for me it is most emphatically NOT voluntary.)

So I'll be going through all of those lovely instructions (it was easier to go through the Tech Orders for the F-4) and filling in forms, lots of forms.

While some of you count your refunds, I'll be writing checks.

Because that's what I do. I'm a giver.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Has Risen!

Matthew 28

 1In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
 2And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
 3His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
 4And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
 5And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
 6He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
 7And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
 8And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
 9And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
 10Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

May God bless you all this Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Too Close to Home, Again

Had a phone call from the wife a bit after noon today. An F/A-18D had crashed in Virginia Beach. My daughter, the WSO wasn’t flying today. Both crew members ejected and are in the hospital. No idea of casualties on the ground. But it’s a heavily populated area.

Coming a month to the day after Lex’s crash, it can be frightening to be the father of someone wearing Wings of Gold.

Prayers for those involved.

Cross-posted at The Lexicans.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back in the Cockpit

My daughter, the WSO, is back in the cockpit after being away for over two years. She had her third flight today and just had to call me about it. She knows my love of flying and my utter disdain for the cubicle-farm.

Seems the weather was rainy and crappy, but (as she put it) "once we got over 13,000 feet, it was beautiful". 13,000 feet above the earth in a high-performance fighter, yeah who wouldn't love that?

At any rate, I missed her first attempt to get a hold of me (I was in the computer lab, no cell phones allowed) which was fortunate in a way. Fortunate for my fragile morale anyway.

You see, on one of her deployments to Fallon, she had what anyone would consider "a great day". Weather was awesome, flying was great. So of course, she had to call and tell me all about it. There I was, sitting in my cubicle, looking outside at the crappy, drizzly weather and thinking that being anywhere had to be better than this. So my cell phone rings and I see that it's the WSO, knowing that she was out at Fallon and was flying that day I figured she had another story for dear old Dad.

Of course she did. She was pumped and began by saying "Guess what we did today?" As it was still early, I figured it wasn't another O-Club story (I get to hear about those, Mom most emphatically does not.) So, glutton for punishment that I am, I replied "Don't know sweetie, what did you do today?"

That's when she told me about flying low-level at rather high rates of speed, looking UP at the mountain tops. Some parents would freak, others would cringe, me, all I could say was "You suck! It's raining here, I'm stuck in a cubicle staring at a computer screen. And you have to tell me this? Really?" No, I'm not jealous, no, really.

But I digress. Seems she and her stick-actuator were "cloud surfing". Skimming along just above the cloud tops, in the sun, flying at high rates of speed in a high-performance fighter. She had to tell me about being chased by the shadow of her Rhino (F/A-18F Super Hornet for the uninitiated) as she and her pilot danced through the sky on silvered wings, yada, yada, yada.

Did I mention the aerobatics? Yeah, aerobatics and all, none of that straight and level stuff.

Yes, she has a great job. While my job pays the bills and is, in its own way, interesting, her job certainly beats the dog snot out of mine. Always. Hands down. No contest.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Care to Explain That?

So what’s the deal anyway with the title of this here blog, “Chant du Départ”? What kinda nonsense is this? Are you some kind of foreigner or what?
“Chant du Départ” (which is French, for those non-Francophones in the audience) means “Song of Departure” which was (according to Wikipedia) the official anthem of the First Empire.
For the historically-challenged amongst you, the First Empire was the France of Napoléon Bonaparte. The Emperor was quite a soldier, though there were many aspects of his reign which some find, ahem, distasteful. Well, not everyone’s perfect. Now I’m not saying that the Emperor was or was not a righteous dude, far from it. But the sumbitch was a hell of a general.
Given my long-term interest in the armies and wars of the First Empire (I did visit the battlefield of Waterloo on multiple occasions during my assignment to NATO, more on that someday), it was kind of natural that I would pick a Napoleonic theme for the title of my blog. Though how that came about makes for an interesting (maybe) story. Hence, today’s post.
I decided to get into blogging shortly after the departure from this veil of tears of CAPT Carroll “Lex” LeFon, USN (Ret). Needed something to fill the void as it were. I missed reading Lex’s stuff. And read it I did, every day. That man could write!
So there I was (the opening line of many an Air Force “war story”), first I had to figure out just how was I to get started doing this blogging thing? Well, I settled on using Blogger, probably because when I googled it, the first thing that caught my eye was “Free weblog publishing tool”.
Free, did I just see the word free? Yup, and the word “free” will get this Scotsman’s attention every time. So “free” it was and I jumped on it.
So I start to tinkering and one of the first things I see is that my blog needs a title. A title, WTF? Damn, now I have to think of something to call this blog-o-mine.
Didn’t want to call it “Old AF Sarge”, that’s my name. Hhhmm, what to do, what to do? Why not something Napoleonic? Okay, but what?
Immediately I tried to remember the title of an old Grande Armée song (which roughly translates to “I like onions fried in oil”). Harummph, try googling that! You’ll find lots of recipes, not much music.
Then I remembered “Chant du Départ”, the Song of Departure. The departure involved the French army going off to war. The song itself has verses for many different roles, soldiers departing, people staying behind, etc., etc., and of course it is very Republican French in nature. (Just look it up on Wikipedia, it has the lyrics in both French and English.)
Yes, I’m a conservative but the “Republican” mentioned above has nothing to do with modern US of A political parties. No, I do not consider myself a member or adherent of the Republican Party. Ditto for the Democratic Party. Both of which are busily destroying our country through greed and incompetence. As the lady I buy my gasoline from says, “they’re all crooks!” HAARRUMMPPHH! (End mini-political rant.)
After that rather long tangent, let’s get back to the point of this post. The point is - the song comes from the days of the First French Empire, it is military in nature and (most importantly) it is about departing. And, the very raison d'être for my deciding to become a blogger, was Lex. He had departed in a very final way and I felt some small need to somehow memorialize him in my blog for years to come. I wanted to do it in a subtle way, something with an “insider” feel to it. So my blog became “Chant du Départ”. And really, it’s for Lex, the “Song of Departure”.
Cue Twilight Zone music: One last thing, my first post was put up on a Thursday, round about 2030 local, which for me is EDT. (8:30 PM for you civvies, Mickie’s big hand on the 6, Mickie’s little hand on the 8 for you gravel-agitators). The next day, while admiring my handiwork, I noticed that the time of the post was given as 1728 (5:28 PM, etc.)
Hhhmm, I thinks to meself. I couldn’t have posted that at 1728, I was driving on I-495 at 1728. How can that be? So I popped the hood of my blog and noted that the time stamp for Chant du Départ was Pacific Daylight Time. Eerie. Just so happens, of course, that PDT was Lex’s “time zone of record”, so to speak. What the heck, I’m not changing that, ever. So the Chant du Départ has two little tributes to Lex, the title and of course, the time zone. For insiders only, natürlich.

Note: No Germans or French were harmed in the writing of this log. (Though I do tend to butcher their respective languages on occasion.)