Saturday, July 28, 2012

Status of the Cunning Plan

Okay, two weeks of the "cunning plan" have gone by. How have things been working out you may ask? (Or even if you didn't.) As a reminder of just of what the heck I'm talking about, see my post Je Suis de Retour! (Eh bien, presque...).

In order to transition back to the home office, which requires a ten mile one way commute, and to not spend so much time at FOL North, a 100 mile one way commute, I came up with my "cunning plan".

The idea was to work two days out of the week at the home office, and two days a week at FOL North. These would be ten hour days, which are a major burden all by themselves. But the upside would be having three day weekends. Three days to do the things around the house that normally the Missus takes care of. I did have an inkling of just what my wife takes care of when I'm at work. But just an inkling.

Like most men of my acquaintance, I always assumed that since the kids were all grown and moved out that my wife's day was rather relaxed. Sure every now and then she'd do the laundry, clean the house and occasionally work in the garden. The rest of the time she could put her feet up and watch TV or go shopping.

Like most men of my acquaintance, I was wrong, dead wrong. In trying to do all the things the Missus does around the house when she's on station I have often wondered how she has not gone stark raving mad over the years.

Laundry. Okay, relatively simple from my point of view. I need to separate the wash into dark stuff and light stuff. When I was on my own, all of my clothing tended to become one weird (and somewhat ugly) shade of gray. Until a female friend of mine pointed out, "Of course, stupid! If you wash darks and lights together, the lights will take on the shades of the darks. You need to separate them. Idiot!" Explains why, when I was a young airman, I was constantly getting dinged for not wearing a white T-shirt with my uniform. "But Sarge, this is a white T-shirt."

I don't have the need to wash "delicates" or other items which have special tags telling you how to wash them. I'm a guy, I don't do delicate. So it's one pile of dark stuff and one pile of light stuff. The washing machine and the dryer do the dirty work. I just have to feed the stuff in and take it out when it's done.

And then I have to fold everything. You may recall that the Air Force did train me how to fold clothing. Spent six weeks doing so (among other things). So you'd think I'd be good at it. Nope. That was back in 1975. That particular skill set has atrophied somewhat over the years. But the stuff does get folded, after a fashion. No doubt the Missus would grade my efforts as substandard and send me back to remedial folding class. But I'm getting by.

Housecleaning. It never ceases to amaze me just how dirty the inside of the house gets. And all in a rather short time period. Of course, we do have two cats. Apparently they have only a few things to do. One is sleep. Another is eat and go to the bathroom. A third thing they do, everyday, is shed. I swear I pick up enough cat fur every day to build another cat!

The Garden. Apparently weeds have the ability to grow approximately six inches per hour. They also spread like well, weeds. I declare, I have weeded one flower bed then gone to do another and when I walk by the first, mere minutes later, it looks as if it had never been weeded at all. It was starting to look like that History Channel series "Life After People". I'm guessing if I didn't have to pull the lawn mower out of the shed every week, it too would crumble to ruin and eventually be overgrown with some weird-looking vines.

But all that aside. How is my cunning plan working out? So far so good. People at the home office are now aware that I still exist. Some thought I had retired, some thought I'd quit. But no, I'm still here. Most importantly I am again on management's radar (in a good way I hope). I have high hopes that they'll find something for me to do around here. Obviating the necessity to travel "up north" once or twice a week.

Now originally I'd planned to work Mondays and Thursdays "up north". The first day of the first week of the cunning plan I was asked, "Say could you be here Wednesday instead of Thursday this week?" As there was a good reason for that, I said, "Sure, no problem". It worked out pretty well. So I changed the plan to Mondays and Wednesdays "up north".

The first day of the second week. "Say, can you be here Thursday this week, instead of Wednesday?"

Sure why not, again there was a semi-valid operational reason to do that.

So NOW the plan is to go "up north" on Monday and then wait and see what's going on that week before I make the call on whether it's going to be Wednesdays up there, or Thursdays.

But the real problem is that second day "up north". I'm used to going to bed really early on Sunday evenings for that early Monday morning go time. Not so much having to do that twice in one week.

The first week I was pretty well exhausted upon my return to Chez Sarge on Wednesday evening. But the thought of going to work Thursday for a ten hour shift wasn't that bad. After all, it's close to home and when I did get off work Thursday, it was only ten miles to the family abode.

But last week was a bear. I wasn't as tired Wednesday evening because I hadn't had to do the 100 mile drive after work. The bad part was that whole "wasn't as tired" thing. As I needed to be up at the butt crack of dawn on Thursday to head "up north", I needed to hit the sack early on Wednesday night. No amount of logic, reasoning, screaming or cajoling could convince my body of the absolute need to go to sleep that night.

When 0400 rolled around, I swear it felt like I'd slept maybe 20 minutes. But I dragged my old tired butt out of the rack, got ready and was "wheels up" by 0500, heading north. That day went by in a semi-conscious, sort of partly aware of what the heck I was doing kind of way. As the time to depart got closer, I realized that I needed to get some more caffeine in me. So I got coffee. Enough to shake out the cobwebs but not so much that I'd need to stop and pee every 25 miles on the way home.

I made it, was reasonably alert the entire time but was completely mentally exhausted by the time I rolled into the driveway of the estate. Concentrating on operating a vehicle in heavy, fast moving traffic for a couple of hours can really drain you. I'm sure most of you are very familiar with that concept. Unless you got your driver's license yesterday. Come to think of it, most people in this neck of the woods drive exactly like they got their license yesterday. And just barely passed the exam. Now I'm really dreading the commute this coming week. Why oh why did I have to think of that!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ma Vie Militaire (Part IV or "A Lieutenant of Marines")

Emblem of the United States Marine Corps
When we left this thrilling, heart-pounding saga (okay, it's neither thrilling nor heart-pounding, I'm exercising a bit of "artistic" license here) I had just finished United States Air Force Basic Training. I was no longer a raggedy-a$$ civilian (so our instructors assured me) and was now a highly-disciplined and trained member of the U.S. Air Force. I was officially an Airman Basic (E-1), one each.

While I might have been highly-disciplined, my training to this point mainly consisted of how to stand at attention (and parade rest, and "at ease", and - oh, I think you get the point) and how to march in step with a bunch of other brand new airman. I also knew how to respond with precision and alacrity to drill commands as barked by my instructors. And learned that I would catch holy hell if I turned the wrong way, pivoted on the wrong foot and did not salute anything that moved!

Oh, I was also highly trained in how to fold my underwear and display my uniforms properly in my locker. All this in just six weeks! But in order for me to become a useful member of my beloved Air Force, I would need further training. For that I would be dispatched to Lowry AFB, Colorado. Which was located in Denver. Alas, Lowry no longer exists. It was given back to the city of Denver and now (IIRC) is used for low income housing (the old housing area) and they also built a golf course upon the premises.

Oddly enough, it was the only Air Force Base I was ever stationed at which did not have a golf course. They built the golf course after the base was, shall we say, decommissioned. Normally my Service would build the golf course, the Officer's Club, the Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO), staff it with various administrative types, then bring in the aircraft, pilots, maintainers and security personnel to protect the golf course and all those administrative types. (At least that's what the admin wienies at CBPO acted like every time you asked them to actually do their jobs. That, in my memories, is what it seemed like anyway.)

But I digress. There we were, still at Lackland AFB in Texas, awaiting transport. There I learned another key lesson which every military man (or woman) learns eventually. How to "hurry up and wait". We were marched out to an area with very little shade, during the early Texas summer, carrying our duffle bags (which held all of our earthly possessions) and told to "wait here for the buses to take you to the airport".

We waited. It got hotter. We waited some more. It got hotter still. And finally the buses arrived, must have been a two to three hour wait. But it was an important lesson, so I've been told. Honestly, it did prepare me for the many times later in my career when we would arrive (as ordered) at our marshaling area (normally well before the sun rose) and wait.

Usually we were waiting for an aircraft to take us some place where we would work on other aircraft. Normally the time betwixt reporting for movement and actually feeling the aircraft leave Mother Earth was anywhere from three to five hours. There was an exception to that on one occasion that I recall. Remind me to relate that tale later on down the road. But it involved the actual possibility of going to a real shooting war. For exercises there was normally no big rush. When things looked serious, I was always amazed at just how fast the USAF could get people and flying machines "down range".

Eventually our bunch which was headed to Lowry, arrived at Lowry. We expected more yelling and screaming, being marched hither and yon and (again) being treated like low-life scum. In reality we were greeted as fellow human beings by the staff at my new squadron, bedded down for the night and told to report in the morning for an initial briefing. Said briefing was to take place on Saturday morning (we'd left Lackland on a Friday).

We figured, "That's when they'll start yelling at us!"

Nope, again we were well treated and well-briefed as to what to expect at Tech School. Actual training would commence on Monday and we were told to have a nice weekend.

Huh? Really? We were free to do as we pleased? Cool.

Part of the briefing involved places which were "Off Limits" to military personnel. We also received a bus schedule. So we trooped back to our rooms, changed into civvies and headed to the bus stop. Our goal was to find a place which sold adult beverages involving barley and hops. But we were pretty clueless as to where these places were. We were also not very well flush with cash either, so the place had to be cheap. (Airmen did NOT make a lot of money in those days, probably still don't.)

Much to our surprise, while on the bus a rather tall, lanky chap (with hair down to his waist) asked us if we were "brand new airmen". The question was pro forma really, we all had that shaved head look common to new recruits and the gawking out the window at "the big city" pretty much identified us as being from out of town.

We admitted to being brand new airmen, rather cautiously as this guy looked exactly like the type of person we'd been told to avoid. It was at that point that the fellow informed us that he was a retired Marine First Lieutenant. Honestly he didn't look old enough to be a retired Marine. We figured him to be in his late twenties, early thirties. Also, though we were rookies, we knew what a First Lieutenant was and normally people don't retire at that rank.

But the fellow produced an Honest-to-God official US government retired military ID. Which indicated that he was indeed a retired lieutenant of Marines. To our quizzical looks he explained that he'd been medically retired due to wounds received while serving in Vietnam. Bear in mind this was 1975, so his story was plausible.

So we got off the bus with this Marine, in a fairly decent part of town, and went into a bar which apparently was very popular with veterans! Lucky stroke we all thought. And we were correct. We bought nary a beverage the whole time we were there (which was considerable) and were feted and congratulated by the denizens of this particular establishment. We heard many war (and sea) stories and received much advice on how to make it in the military. Much of which none of us could remember the next day as we all had gotten rather, shall we say, three sheets into the wind. Inebriated. Blasted. Intoxicated. Etc.

But, the lieutenant of Marines escorted us back to the bus stop, rode the bus with us back to the base (as he had a retired ID he could get on the base), kept us quiet and fairly well-behaved, and deposited us safely back at our barracks. We had a great time and learned another valuable lesson, perhaps the most valuable lesson we ever learned, perhaps the only thing we would remember from this Marine and his buddies at the bar.

GIs, whether active duty, retired or just one-hitch veterans, stick together and watch each others backs. Though our uniforms differed from one Service to another, we all served under the same flag and swore the same oath: "To support and defend the Constitution..."

Not doing so was to "break the faith" and would make us unworthy in the eyes of our fellow GIs.

So while I learned a lot during my military service, the most important lesson I learned was back when I was still a young, wet behind the ears, brand new airman.

"Keep the faith, always have your buddy's back. Respect and honor the veterans who went before."

And I learned this from a Lieutenant of Marines.

Semper Fi


I Got Nothing...

I am so lazy tonight, it should be against the law. But I got a couple of things I wanted to share.

And poking fun at my old Service, courtesy of The JOPA over on Facebook.
USAF Tactical Hand Signals
That's all I got tonight. Old AF Sarge is Bingo Ideas and is RTB at this time.


If you haven't checked out Look! A Baby Wolf!, you should. This is one extremely funny lady. Prime example (which I "borrowed" from her blog):

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

But Everyone Else is Doing It!

Really? 13% with OBummer?
And I do have major issues with the dude.
Oh, that's not what that meant? Okay. Got it.
Okay, okay, okay. Everybody settle down and take your seats.

Seen this thing on a couple of blogs which I enjoy, so I figured "What the hell?"

Anyway there it is. Wanted to put in a few of my "own stances" but didn't want to confuse the software behind this. So I went with the "stock" answers. Not really surprised here.

Note that I am most definitely NOT marching in step with my fellow Rhode Islanders. Course they seem to be out of step with most American voters. No surprise there.

But there it is. For the sake of full disclosure and all that.

(For others who can't resist, clicketh thee here:

Goals & Accomplishments

My Goal
(Not Accomplished Yet...)
Once upon a time, my company, for whatever reason, decided that we had to have goals. So we, the workers, were directed to sit down and write up our goals.

Having recently retired from the Air Force, I was not familiar with this stuff. But I figured I would play along and see what this was all about. So I put down my goal as something like this: "Make a crap-ton of money and retire while I'm still young enough to enjoy it."

Ehhhhhhh! Wrong answer.

Seems that my goals had to "align" with the company's goals. So I wrote down the company's goals inserting the appropriate name and personal pronouns so that my goals were, essentially, exactly the same as the company's goals.

Ehhhhhhh! Wrong answer. (Again.)

Hhhmm, if this was Family Feud, I only had one more shot. So I asked a colleague what he had. He e-mailed me his goals. As we were on the same project and were at the same level, I took his, modified them and submitted them. The company was pleased. For the time being.

Now this week I get an e-mail from my Section Manager, asking me to update my goals and accomplishments (G&A) for to prepare for my mid-year review. I replied (for the second time, last week I had the same e-mail) that I had updated this stuff a week ago. The reply indicated that I had not yet "acknowledged" these self-same goals and accomplishments.

So I navigated to the appropriate website and noted that I had updated my G&A the week before. Hhhmm, going one level deeper I noted a little check box for the employee (moi) to "acknowledge" the good ole G&A. Wonderful, I thought. I fill out the little blocks of text, the computer notes that it's me doing it and when I save my G&A, the computer also logs the date and time. So why do I need a freaking acknowledgement of what I just did? Some pencil-necked software geek no doubt thought it was a good idea to have this little check box on the form. (As I am technically a software guy I can say things like this. I say technically because I have not written a line of code in years. Not that I didn't want to, but the company had other things it wanted me to do.)

I suppose someone else could hack into my account and give me some G&A that I might not agree with. So they put a little check box in. Why couldn't the same hacker also check the little box? Don't know, don't care. I'll just play the corporate game and pretend like I actually give a crap. (I do care deeply about the job I do, it's the corporate games I don't give a crap about. Just sayin'...)

In reality, my team lead gives me a set of tasks to perform. I'm also given dates for when these tasks need to be accomplished. Then I go forth and do those tasks, to the best of my ability. So why not write down what tasks I'm given and the dates they need to be accomplished? The tasks would be my "goals", the dates these tasks were completed would be a measure of effectiveness, i.e. my accomplishments.

Unfortunately my taskings change based on the needs of the project. My tasking at 0730 might be completely different from what my tasking is at 1330. Not that the first task was completed, just that a different task has taken on a higher priority. To give a military aviation example: If given the task of intercepting incoming attack aircraft, I will focus on that task. Unless I have some enemy fighter jock at my six, then shaking that guy, getting the advantage on him and blowing his Gomer a$$ out of the sky becomes a higher priority task. When Gomer is dispatched, then I can refocus on the first task.

Not that my job is that exciting. But I needed desperately to talk about something aviation-related for a moment. Also it sounds cool.

So I could update the old G&A every time these things change. But then one of my goals would be to update my goals and I would spend more time doing that than actual work. (Incidentally, that was once a MANDATORY goal for all of us worker bees. Yup, it was a goal to update one's goals. I kid you not.)

Now in previous posts I sometimes gave the impression that I didn't like flying. I love flying and I think I cleared that misunderstanding up nicely. Now if I'm giving you the impression that I have a deep loathing of "all things corporate", that is intentional. I absolutely loathe the corporate world. It is nothing more than a (sometimes necessary) layer between the customer and the builder/producer of things a customer wants/needs.

The corporate world also has their own language. They don't do things every day, they do things "on a daily basis". They don't have plans, they have "a way ahead". They don't have lessons learned, they have "take aways". They don't re-use things, they "leverage" them. They don't have instructors, they have "facilitators". And my real favorite: they don't have good processes, they have "best practices". Oh yes, I do loathe the bastards in their dark blue blazers, light blue shirts, grey slacks and be-tasseled loafers. But no tie, heaven forbid do not wear a tie. We want the worker bees to think that we're all "regular guys who don't like wearing ties." Harrumph.

I had it explained to me once that the whole idea behind having goals was to help me "grow" as an employee. Whatever made them think that I wanted to "grow" as an employee? I want to do my job, learn new stuff if it's applicable to my job, get paid every two weeks and eventually retire (again). With enough money to allow me to live "comfortably", however one defines that. I know for sure that the Missus and I have two totally different views on how one defines "comfortable".

Personally I think we're doing very well compared to most Americans. To hear the Missus tell it, we might as well live in Appalachia, learn how to play the banjo and let all of our teeth fall out. My word, we might as well live in a double-wide for all my company appreciates me. (I have gone overalls and straw hat shopping, the Missus says "we are not amused". She might also ask: "What are all those tubs, jars and copper tubing for?" Me: "Why heck-fire darlin' I's fixin' to build ma-self a still. Then we can sell 'shine and make a few bucks. Just watch out for them thar revenooers." Again, she is not amused. With apologies to actual hill folk and moonshiners. I have a deep and abiding respect for your way of life. It's just that the Missus views that as a living nightmare. It's all for entertainment purposes... No really, come on now Jed, put down the shotgun and I'll leave real quiet like.)

So goals, yes I have goals. Like maybe have a Guinness after work, maybe get out an extra post this week. If I "grow" as an employee, it's due to my efforts, it's not based on "the way ahead" of some corporate baboon. Oooh, another goal, fly under the radar and hope the corporate types leave me alone long enough to get product out the door. Without having to go to a meeting to do so.

Oh yeah, I forgot, another goal... cut the damn grass.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oh, The Joys of Commuting

This is not I-495 Between "Up North" and "Down South"
(But it sure felt like it Monday afternoon!)
I have the distinct feeling that today's post is going to be all over the place. It's just one of those days. Your first clue is that the title of the post apparently has nothing to do with the opening photo. The two may or may not link up during the course of the next few paragraphs. It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to write what my muse commands me to write.

Spent Monday at Forward Operating Location (FOL) North (which is where I've been exiled working for the past 2 and a half years - for you newcomers and forgetful types, check out The Penguins, that post provides the background) The trip home was, shall we say, less than amusing.

There are two major routes to get from FOL North to Chez Sarge. One leads through the Boston metro area and is really a crap shoot as regards the time to travel that way. I also have a vow in place to never again travel within the Boston metro area unless dire necessity dictates otherwise. (Dire necessity is usually in the form of one of the progeny coming home for a visit with the phrase "But Dad, the tickets into Logan were $100 cheaper." Sigh...) Interstate 495 defines the boundaries of what I call the Boston metro area. Right or wrong, it's my blog, etc., etc.

The other route is approximately ten miles longer and is mostly a rather bucolic setting. Normally it is not encumbered with too much traffic and normally flows very smoothly from my point of view. (My point of view is that if I can average 50 mph, that's smooth.)

Monday afternoon there were at least two traffic accidents on my way home which brought traffic to nearly a screaming halt (i.e., anything less than an average speed of 50 mph). Now I'm not saying that I-95 southbound looked like the photo above, but it certainly brought that situation to mind as I crawled along wondering why the idiot in front of me felt the need to leave ten car lengths between her and the driver in front of her. While the needle on the trusty speedometer in Big Girl scarcely moved off the bottom peg for what seemed like millennia.

Hey, whaddaya know, the title and the photo did link up. Of course, as I was writing this I did change the title. Decided to go with one rant versus another. Rather than rewrite the first paragraph, I changed the title of the post. Ah, the power of artistic license. (Right, like this is "art"! Harrummphh!)

So, where was I? Oh yeah, the lady in the vehicle in front of me and the speedometer seeming to not register any form of forward movement. Now before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I'm not admonishing the female drivers out there. I've seen males of the species perform way stupider acts on the highway than any member of the gentler sex ever has. It's just that the vehicle in front of me was being operated by a woman. It could have been a guy, that doesn't really matter. I identify the driver as female simply in the interests of truth and accurate reporting. (Oh dear, I've drifted off my point again.)

So traffic was backed up from horizon to horizon. A very long line of glittering steel and plastic stretched before me and behind me. I longed for a decent cross country vehicle with cool weapon systems mounted there upon. Maybe a Bradley or some other cool looking Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). Something with which I could "shoot and scoot" with a certain amount of style and panache. But no, I'm stuck in traffic. While Big Girl has a fairly decent cross-country capability, the local constabulary and property owners frown  upon vehicles leaving the roadway.

As we crawled along (by the way, the weather was gorgeous, any traffic delays ahead of me were not due to inclement weather) I speculated as to the cause of this glitch in an otherwise nice drive. Perhaps it's road construction - it is that time of year. Perhaps it's a traffic accident - people in this area tend to drive like complete freaking loons. I pondered this as we would move approximately 3 car lengths every five minutes. And the lady ahead of me let more and more cars pull in front of her. What was she thinking? Hhhmm, if I let people pull in front of me, I'll get home faster. If I let people pull in front of me, some fabulously wealthy individual will note my kindness and give me a bazillion dollars for being so thoughtful. Who knows?

Eventually I did move far enough to discover the cause of this annoying delay in my efforts to return to Chez Sarge before sundown. It was a traffic accident. There were two cars stopped in the far left lane with another pulled onto the right shoulder. And a few chaps standing around looking thoughtful. Everyone had their emergency flashers activated. No doubt a good idea to prevent someone traveling at the nose-bleed velocity of 5 miles an hour plowing into their stopped vehicles.

As I managed to slide out of the blocked lane and crawl past the scene of the crime I noted something. First of all, there was minimal damage to either stopped vehicle. It looked like a minor bumper to bumper contact. No parts strewn about the roadway, no bodies sprawled on the verge. Just a very minor fender bender. The sort of thing that in kinder gentler days would have led to a swapping of insurance information and mutual apologies. Not anymore. I'm sure the two, ahem, "gentlemen" involved were awaiting the arrival of investigators and lawyers. At least no one was holding their neck and hollering "whip lash".

Eventually, after what felt like weeks, the scene of the "accident" was cleared and traffic returned to a more comfortable pace. Until I'd gone about two miles. There to join another traffic queue, which stretched (again) to the far horizon.

Another accident had occurred. But this one looked far more serious at least in terms of damage. There were no ambulances on scene. There were a number of state troopers at the scene, looking for all the world like they were at a loss in trying to determine what had taken place.

For there was a lot of debris scattered along the shoulder, like a small truck had decided to eject all of its cargo. There also was extensive damage to the guard rail. But there was no vehicle which had impacted said guard rail and ejected the contents of the vehicle along the road side. I realized that the vehicle and its occupant(s) had been removed from the scene. I'm guessing that the vehicle had already been towed/hauled away and any occupants had also been taken to the hospital. But what a mess.

Once that accident scene was cleared it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. The traffic delays had been sufficient to allow rush hour traffic in Providence to subside so that hurdle was readily cleared.

Eventually I arrived at Chez Sarge to the cheers and acclamation of my two feline friends (who were noting that the dinner hour had long passed.) Yup, I was home, safe and sound. After a trip which took 3 and a half hours. A trip which normally takes 2 hours. Ah yes, the joys of commuting!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

On Hamsters (Seriously?)

Oh no! More Hamsters? Really?
In an attempt to somehow get my head around what is apparently my most widely read post, I have decided to revisit the whole "hamster" topic. The popularity of this particular post is something which boggles my mind. Using a totally non-scientific approach to understanding what is going on here, the WSO and I formed a "fact finding" committee of two (me and her). Our committee meetings typically take place over the phone when we've run out of other things to talk about.

The post in question is Uncle Smitty's Hamsters which was posted on 04 May 2012. Let me put the numbers up so you can see this international phenomenon in the making.

For the week of 14 to 21 July I show the following page views:

As you can see, Uncle Smitty's Hamsters tops the chart with 26 page views. The all time stats? See for yourself:

Again, this post tops the chart at 284 page views. Way more than the second most popular, The First Step, which was my very first post and which was probably read mostly by my fellow Lexicans.

The WSO and I have competing theories as to the popularity of this post. Her theory is simple and to the point, "Dad, people are Googling 'hamster sex' and your post shows up in the list. It's that simple. People are weird and for some, the idea of hamsters having carnal relations is a big turn on."

My "most likely" theory is that hamsters are popular as pets. People are searching on line to discover hamster emporiums and when they see the listing for Uncle Smitty's Hamsters, they think that perhaps it's a pet store (run by a fellow named Uncle Smitty) which specializes in hamsters.

When these folks arrive at my blog, this is probably what they say:

"What the heck is this? This isn't a website for a hamster emporium. This is just some goofball old guy's blog. Harriet, get me the phone book. I told you that going online was a stupid idea. Uncle Smitty indeed, what a bunch of crap."

Or something like that.

Of course, I'd like to believe that the post is witty and absolutely hysterical. People read it (however they got there in the first place) and then tell their friends, "Hey, you've got to read this. This guy is funny. Ha ha ha. Uncle Smitty's Hamsters, what a laugh-riot."

The WSO tells me to sit down and take a deep breath every time I put forward this particular theory. Then she tells me, "Yeah Dad. You're a funny guy. But you're not that funny. Otherwise you'd be getting lots of hits on some of your other posts. Not just this one. I tell ya, it's all about hamster sex. There's gotta be a huge audience out there. You need to ride that wave. Start putting the word "hamster" in all of your post titles. Better yet, change your online name to Old AF Hamster. The blog title should be "Chant d'Hamster" you'd get tons of page views. Statistically speaking you'd be amongst the widest read blogs on the planet."

Uh, right. I'm sure that's it.

But that's all I've got today. Thought I'd go for a lighter tone than the past couple of posts. I was being a bit of a "gloomy Gus" as my grandma used to put it. So the sun is shining and I'm feeling light hearted today. So it's all fun and games here at Chez Sarge so...

Ah crap.

I just remembered I have to cut the grass.



So much for the positive vibes. See you next time. And remember:

There's strong. And then there's hamster strong...

Friday, July 20, 2012

On Death and Loss

Soldiers Mourning the Death of a Friend
Korean War 1950-1953
You may wonder what sent me down this path. Oddly enough it started with a post by Buck over at Exile in Portales, a post, oddly enough, that was about Facebook. But the topic of Neptunus Lex was raised and that kinda sent me spinning wildly out of control. I've recovered control of my mental aircraft and am again flying straight and level. All systems are in the green, normal flight has been resumed.

But it got me to thinking about certain things. Things I do not like to think about. Nevertheless, I do think about these things from time to time. So bear with me.

Death is a fact of life, we all must face it someday. But premature death, death before one's time? That gets to me.

That shooting spree out in Aurora, Colorado? That's senseless, absolutely senseless. And senseless death gets to me most of all. Why, oh why do these things happen?

In my 24 years in the Air Force I only experienced the death of a buddy on one occasion. That was enough for me and I thank God it only happened once.

This was while I was stationed at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, in Germany. It was on a weekend, I remember it clearly, like it was yesterday. The phone rang, it was a fellow sergeant. His first words were, "I think you might want to sit down before I go any further." The alarms go off, you know, you just know that something bad has happened.

Yup, a buddy had been on his way home to visit his parents. He was in a traffic accident. He was dead.

Stefan was a sweet kid, smart as a whip and a good comrade. Also something of a minor celebrity in our outfit. And at this point I have to clarify that this was a NATO unit. NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an international organization and our outfit, the Mission Support Wing, part of the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force E-3A Component, was truly international.

The wing was made up of military personnel from the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Greece, Italy and Turkey. We also had a number of civilians from the UK.

Stefan's celebrity was due to the fact that he was an Ossie. That is, he was born and raised in East Germany. The former Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), you know, those folks who were the Bad Guys during the Cold War. Of course, I was in Germany after Reunification. It was all one Germany then, but Stefan was the first to be assigned to us from the East. Hence his minor celebrity status.

When he finally arrived, we discovered that he didn't have two heads, he didn't look any different from the rest of us. He was just a guy. A really good guy.

And then he was gone, dead, never again would we see him, hear him or interact with him. It was over and there were no do-overs. Can't we go back in time and undo this? No, we can't.

Now I'm a Christian, an actual real-live practicing Christian. Go to church most every Sunday. Heck, I'm a Deacon in my American Baptist Church. My faith tells me that death is not the end. It's only a transition. But I have to tell you, it still hurts like hell when it happens to someone you know. For me it hurts when it happens to people I don't know, but care about. You know, like those brave men and women of our Armed Forces who go out there and put it all on the line for us. For you and me. Cops and fire-fighters fall into that category for me as well. They put it on the line for us, to protect us from criminals and fires. Who can forget those first responders who lost their lives on 9/11? I can't.

At the end of 2009, my company informed me that I would be loaned out to a different part of the company. I would be living and working away from home for most of each week. Damn, I thought I was done with that stuff when I retired from the Air Force! Apparently not.

It kind of sucked but I got used to it. After all, I did get to go home every weekend. A much better deal than the kids out at sea or deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan get. So it was tolerable.

Then the second month of my stint "up north", my Dad got sick, really sick. The very last time I was able to talk with my Dad was from my hotel room. He sounded sick but had hopes of getting better. Within a week he was in the hospital. Before I could get up to New Hampshire to see him, his pain was so bad that the doctor's kept him sedated. He was in that twilight world where many wind up as the medical profession tries desperately to make them well again.

I went home and went back to work. Hoping against hope that somehow he would get better and that again we would be able to have a beer together and share a laugh.

A week after I had visited him, on a Sunday after church, my Mom called. Things were not good, things were really bad and could I come up to New Hampshire as soon as possible? Of course Mom, I'll get there as fast as I can.

Apparently the medical staff were planning to take my Dad off the respirator and were waiting for me to get there before doing so. There was no more hope.

I arrived. My Mom was there, my two brothers and my oldest kid brother's wife were there. The medical staff came in after a while. Seems there had been another emergency elsewhere in the ICU which had kept them busy.

They did their thing, took my Dad off the respirator. They also, for the most part, had shut down the monitors attached to my Dad. Except for the heart rate monitor. I guess they figured that none of us would be paying any attention to that. Sound was off, but the trace was still running.

Shortly after they had disconnected my Dad, he opened his eyes for a brief moment. His eyes looked foggy, that look people get when they have so much morphine in them that they are conscious, but not really all there.

Things got really quiet. I looked up at the heart monitor, the trace was flat, no activity. The label next to the trace read "
asystole". Dad was gone. No one else in the room knew it at that precise moment. But I knew that my Dad, the guy who taught me how to throw a baseball, the guy who took me hunting and fishing, the guy who made sure I had a roof over my head and plenty to eat, was gone. My Dad was dead.

That was the 28th of February, 2010. It sucked and it hurt. As time went by though, I started to realize that my Dad had lived a full life. A good life. We would miss him. But he had lived to 81 years old. Not everyone gets that many years. And my Dad had made the most of those years.

Fast forward to two years and a week later. March 7th, 2012.

I get to my cubicle at work and fire up my computer. As I always did, I went to Neptunus Lex. Best blog evah!

What's this? Why is Whisper posting today? Lex didn't mention anything about that. Why is there a picture of a missing man formation?

Ah shit.

It was like getting punched in the gut. All the air went out of me. Lex is dead?

Unexpected and premature. That describes the loss of my friend and blogging mentor Carroll "Lex" LeFon. And at about the same time of year that my Dad had died. Two years before. That hit me hard, real hard.

So yeah, Death sucks. But it comes to us all, it affects us all in one way or another. We need to deal with it as best we can.

I know this is way different from the stuff I normally post. But I needed to do this, it's been cathartic for me. Thanks for bearing with me, thanks for sticking with it to the end.

And now, apropos of nothing, a link to a video that I like. Yesterday I watched a video on somebody's blog about a helicopter dropping another helicopter (wish I could remember where, guess I'm having a "senior moment"). At any rate, I really liked the music used for the video. I listened to the lyrics and, through the magic of Google, discovered that it was a tune by Metallica. Though I'm not a big fan, I like some of their stuff. I really liked this song. It's not a happy song, but I like it and it matches my mood today. Check it out.

Metallica - The Day That Never Comes [Official Music Video] - YouTube

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Bad Guys

"And the award for Most Medals Crammed Onto an Already Ugly Uniform goes to..."
There is evil in the world. There are the "little evils" (that bastard that cut me off in traffic yesterday) and then there are the Great Big Evils (the dudes pictured above are sublime examples of this).

In between there are varying levels, sizes and shapes of evil. If we pay attention we can see them all around us. Sometimes we see it in person, sometimes we see it in the media. But evil is there, proudly on display.

Now you may ask at this point why I'm picking on the North Koreans. Simple, the Missus hails from the "Land of the Morning Calm" (i.e. the Republic of Korea or South Korea if you must). I spent four years of my military career in Korea. I came away very impressed with the Korean people. (Not to mention developing a taste for kimchi and other forms of Korean cuisine.)

The folks in charge north of the 38th parallel are truly evil. They are starving the common folk to death, literally, and have them so brain-washed that they thank their Dear Leader (or whatever the current a$$hat calls himself) for the privilege of living in such an enlightened society. And they want to spread their brand of "joy" to their "brethren in the South". These are definitely The Bad Guys.

The Republic of Korea deserves every bit of support the United States can provide. They are counted amongst "The Good Guys". Not to mention how they fought by our side in Vietnam. The VC were scared sh*tless of the Koreans. The Korean troops did not screw around, mess with them, you got your a$$ kicked.

And picture, if you will, the State of Israel, surrounded by enemies who have stated time and time again that their goal is to destroy Israel. No shades of gray there, they've said it out loud and make no bones about it, they mean it. Fortunately these Bad Guys collectively have some of the worst armies in history. Unfortunately there are any number of moronic politicians (an oxymoron I know) who think they can create "Peace in the Middle East" through negotiations and press releases.

Sure that'll work.

The Israelis should also be counted amongst "The Good Guys". The Israelis, like us, are now saddled with some extremely bad leaders in high places. But historically, the Israelis know how to kick a$$ when their backs are to the wall.

Yes, there is evil in the world. It's time people took a stand, enough of this moral relativism and shades of gray thinking. As Edmund Burke said:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Make a difference this November. We've had enough "Hope and Change". We've had enough bullshite coming out of Washington. It's time to step up and do the right thing. It's time we remind those a$$hats that they work for us.

It's supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Let's fix this alright? Let's not have to explain to our grandchildren why we let things get so screwed up.

Just sayin'...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Spent the day at the home office, things have changed.

When I left (2 and a half years ago) things were still fairly busy. If you wanted to get a good parking spot, you'd better get in before 0730. Nowadays, a good parking spot can be had at just about any time of the day.

People tell me that there tend to be lulls in the defense contracting business. When I first started here (after retiring from the Air Force) things were booming. The old timers would tell me about the big drop-off that occurred "back in the '90s". They also predicted that things would slow down eventually. They did and here I am.

Compared to a couple of years ago, the building is kind of a ghost land. You can wander about the corridors and not see anyone. While there are not tumbleweeds blowing across the parking lot, I can visualize them being there. The lady who sits across the cube wall from me actually apologized for subjecting me to a long telecon regarding an expense account. After sitting in the dead quiet for a few hours, I told her that it was no problem, it was nice hearing actual business being conducted. It was nice to not feel like the Burgess Meredith character in that old Twilight Zone episode.

These things are cyclic I suppose. It always seems to be feast or famine. But in some ways we're our own worst enemy. When times are good and the flow of cash out of Washington seems never ending, we waste lots of money on fripperies. Hats and t-shirts advertising the name of the latest product are given out to the employees at "town hall" meetings to brief us on how well things are going. Not to mention the free snacks and soft drinks.

I know those things don't cost all that much, but hey, a little here and a little there and soon you're spending fairly large chunks of change.

And meetings, don't get me started on meetings. I've been on projects where we had a weekly meeting which had twenty people in a conference room for up to two hours with nearly everybody letting everyone else know what they did last week, what they were doing this week and what they planned to do next week. Most of these meetings were an absolute waste of time.

There was one group I remember back in the old days where all of them sat in their "War Room", all day long, every day, five days a week. Occasionally they would actually interact with each other. Most of the time they all sat there, staring at their lap top screens and tip-tapping on their keyboards. I think those folks were management. There were 8 to 10 of them on any given day. The project probably had 3 actual engineers doing the actual work.

That's something else I've noticed, the whole "War Room" concept. Seems that if a project had enough managerial and bean-counter types assigned, then they would get their very own "War Room". Basically that meant that they would get their own conference room, which no one else was allowed to use, and a cool sign that indicated that the conference room formerly known as "Conference Room 123" was now the "Agile Death Star Best Practices Lean Paradigm Team War Room". Or some such nonsense.

When you get a chance, go check out CDR Salamander's blog some time (listed in the "Stuff I Like to Read" area off to your right) and read the lead-in to his blog. The part that starts "PROACTIVELY “FROM THE SEA”;" etc. etc. The good Commander is being tongue in cheek, but there are corporate baboons who actually talk like this.

So I spent the day at the home office. Many deserted offices, many empty hallways. There are portions of the building where new construction occurred, and now sits unused. I've also been down hallways where the posters on the walls have not changed since I left. Kind of eerie when you consider that most of those posters were kind of out of date when I left. Feels like a town where everyone just up and left one day. Not to the point where the remnants of someone's lunch was still on the table, but close.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Mish Mosh

This cartoon kind of summarizes what I feel like when it's time to cut the grass. An activity that I have no great love for.

When I was a young'un, my Dad felt that we boys should have a stake in the family estate. What better way than to have us mow the lawn when we were of an age to do so. So, being the oldest, I got to experience lawn mowing first amongst the three brothers.

Apparently my two younger brothers were also cleverer than Yours Truly. I do recall being saddled with the lawn mowing chore up through high school. I'm sure they had chores as well. I don't recall as I was too busy cutting grass. In the hot sun. On the nearly vertical slopes of a yard in Vermont.

I also had a summer job of being a grass-cutter-for-hire. Really I only had one client, a school teacher. But her yard was, and I only exaggerate perhaps a bit, the size of Montana. No shade to be seen whatsoever. I use to wonder if it was possible for her house to actually be on the Equator, while being geographically located in southern Vermont. I swear the sun was always directly overhead on her property.

But the money kept me in comic books, ice cream and sodas back in the day. Well, the grass cutting and the paper route.

Yes, the Old AF Sarge used to be in the journalistic trade. Every morning, save Sunday, I would be up at the butt-crack of dawn and head out to bring the news of the world to my very select clientele. Well, select as in they could afford the ten cents a day for the news of the world (as interpreted in Rutland, VT). Ten cents? Yeah, those days are long gone!

My worst experience while delivering papers was doing so in the dead of winter. One day when I got up, the temperature was hovering around 20 below zero. Fortunately there was no wind chill. But it was still bloody cold!

I bundled up as only a Northerner knows how and ventured out into the Arctic hell that was southern Vermont back in the 1960's. By the time I was trudging back up the hill to the family domicile I realized that I couldn't really feel my legs anymore. It felt like I had two columns of ice underneath me and that somehow my brain was able to command these ice columns to drive me on-wards.

I made it home and promptly headed for the kitchen, always the warmest room in a Northern home, there to thaw out. Before heading upstairs to get ready for school. Whilst doing so, my mother announced that, according to the radio, school was cancelled for that day. Really, why is school cancelled, I queried my Mother. Seems that the temperature had dropped to 40 below zero while I was out making my rounds.

My Mom commented that it was good that I had not gotten frost-bit. Yeah Mom. Certainly that would have sucked. It was also a good thing that I had kept moving while outside. Perhaps the big story in my newspaper would have been the finding of a frozen paperboy that spring.

Local Boy Found Frozen in Snow Drift!
Had Been Missing Since February

I'm sitting here shivering remembering that day. And the outside temperature is hovering around 90!

So right now I'm kind of sitting here, waiting for the outside to cool off a bit. So I can cut the grass. Wonderful. Stuff just keeps growing. You'd think someone would invent a type of grass that would grow to a precise 3 inches long and then stay there. Just think of the fuel savings! But of course, the whole lawn mower and weed whacker trade would be devastated. Actions and equal-and-opposite-reactions I guess.

That's all I've got today. I will be picking up the next installment in Ma Vie Militaire shortly. Just don't have it sorted out in the old noggin yet. Soon my friends, very soon. (Yeah, like everyone is breathlessly anticipating that. My tale is certainly not one of derring-do and action. But hey, I started down that path, so I 'spect I'd best continue at some point.)

Stay thirsty my friends...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Je Suis de Retour! (Eh bien, presque...)

I'm Back!
(Well, almost)
I have a cunning plan my Lord...

In the beginning...
Some two and a half years ago, I was summoned to a meeting of people who were to be "loaned out" to another facility belonging to the sprawling enterprise which provides me with a paycheck. Seems work was going to be slow in the next year (or so) at the home office (no Hogday, not that Home Office) and at another location work was positively booming. Well, not that booming. They felt that they had enough work for a year to keep some people busy, but not enough work to actually justify hiring new bodies to do said work.

It was felt (by the corporate powers that were) that the looming economic crisis might settle down over the next year and then we could all happily come home. Back to the bosom of the home office and all the contracts which surely must come our way.

My personal feeling, upon seeing this meeting invite, was that there had been some mistake. Surely my name does not belong on this list. Oh no my friend, there has been no mistake. Your name definitely is on the list.

I felt like I had been scooped up by a roving press gang. Forced to take the King's Shilling as it were.

Like I said, that was two and a half YEARS ago.

Contracts did not come our way, there was no return to the welcoming bosom of the home office. Such is life. As one of my nominal superiors put it, "Hey, be thankful you have a job!" (I say "nominal" because I recognize no superior save God. Oh yeah, and my wife, definitely my wife.)

Later that same decade...
I am still "on loan". My one year assignment is starting to feel longer than the 30 Years War. I keep telling myself that "I'll be home before the leaves fall", "the war will be over by Christmas", etc, etc.

The biggest kick in the crotch was when the company decided (for reasons of austerity) that they would no longer foot the bill for my travels. I was on my own dime.

"What you talkin' 'bout Willis?", I asked. Well, I could return to the home office and take my chances, OR I could continue to work at the other location. On my own dime.

Let me paint a picture for you, there were many of us that fateful day, who set forth on this brave journey. Of those who made the trip (for that one year assignment), a number left the company to seek other employment (many of them are still looking), some permanently transferred to the loaner location, some were (gasp) laid off. "Here's your severance Johnny, have a nice life!"

Weighing the facts before me, I decided that paying my own way would be better than transferring. You see, I have a LOT of time and money invested in my house, it will be paid for, yes paid for, in just a few years. I do not want to sell the place, move and start all over again. Not on the dark side of fifty years of age! Transferring. Not a viable option.

Leave the company. And just how many going concerns are in the market for an aging engineer? I suspect not many. So again, not an option.

Get laid off. Okay, I would get the severance pay, essentially all pay and benefits for about 14 weeks. Then I'm back to that "who wants an aging engineer" thing.

So I stuck it out. Things can't suck at the home office forever can they?

Apparently they can't. (Suck forever that is.)

Glimmer of hope...
There may be, just may be, a slot for me opening up back at the home office. Rather than wait for them to beckon me home. I have taken my Guard aboard my small ship and have set out from my Elba, to return in triumph to the home office.

The cunning plan? Work part of the week at the home office and part of the week at the loaner location. The plan is to slowly infiltrate my way back into the good graces of the home office. There to be welcomed home and acclaimed throughout the length of breadth of France, err, I mean the company.

Will this bold gamble pay off? Will my long exile finally be over?

We shall see mes amis, we shall see.

Stay tuned. Life may just get interesting again!

I say, what ship is that on the horizon? Blimey, I hope it's not the Billy Ruffian!

(Author's note:  HMS Bellerophon - the Billy Ruffian to the jolly jack tars of the Royal Navy - was the ship that carried the Emperor on the first stage of his journey into his final exile at St. Helena.)

Say What!

Stumbled across this little tidbit today.

Speaking before the NAACPAttorney General Eric Holder departed from his prepared speech on Tuesday, decrying voter ID laws that have been proposed in 10 states so far.

Seems like a good idea to have voters prove that they are who they say they are. Or is somebody worried that some of their illegal pals might not be allowed to vote?

Isn't this guy's job somehow related to law enforcement, or did I miss something along the way?

For the record, I think most (if not all) politicos are a$$hats, not just the Dems. Though I think they DO have bigger hats.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Saturday Night Return Voyage

Now normally I like flying US Airways. Now I know some of you will be shocked by this revelation. This airline doesn't always get good press. Perhaps with some reason. But at one point in time there was a single person at the check-in counter at TF Green Airport who made all the difference in my own perception of this airline.

However, on Saturday, the 7th of July (in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve, none of that "Common Era" crap for me, thank you very much) US Airways did NOT cover themselves with glory from a public relations standpoint.

Now I'm in a bit of a quandary here. Like I said above, I did have a very positive experience with US Airways once and Saturday's experience was awful. So which story do I tell first, the good one or the bad one? Before I make that decision I'll inflict a couple of "Old AF Sarge Observations" on you.

Observation 1: There are many a$$holes in the world. Far too many for my tastes. Most of them seem to be drawn to politics. Or positions in corporate management.

Observation 2: People who have no respect or consideration for others are, in general, a$$holes.

Observation 3: People who have to deal with customers all day long, many of whom are a$$holes, will eventually exhibit a$$hole-like behavior at some point in their lives. If not careful, they may drift into complete a$$hole-dom. Most will go home, relax, recover and return to work the next day and will strive to do their jobs to the utmost of their abilities. And then an a$$hole will come along, and ruin their day.

Now I've decided, I'll tell the nice US Airways story first.

The Missus and I were scheduled to fly down to Norfolk, for to see the WSO get "patched". (Translation: She was transitioning from a training squadron, VFA-106, to her very first operational squadron, VFA-32. When this occurs, one receives the patches of the new unit for one's flight suit. One also receives a new name patch for one's flight suit, it generally has the appropriate wings, one's rank, and the name "FNG". The "NG" stands for New Guy. The "F"? I'll leave that one to your fertile imaginations. For those who are guessing that it rhymes with "trucking", go to the head of the class. Oh yes, almost forgot, adult beverages are consumed, typically in large quantities.)

So there we were, at TF Green Airport attempting to check in using those fancy machines where you stick your credit card in and it prints out your boarding passes. Well, seems Mr. Fancy Machine didn't want to play nice and referred me to the check-in counter. Never a good sign.

We await our turn, stroll up to the very harried looking lady (VHLL) at the counter and present our dilemma. The conversation then went something like this:

Me: "I attempted to check in, the machine directed me here."

VHLL: "Yes, that flight has been cancelled."

Me: "And....?"

VHLL: "I can get you on a flight tomorrow morning."

Me: "No good, we need to be there tonight. We have an event tomorrow for which that flight would make us late."

VHLL: "Then I don't know what to tell you. Next!"

Now imagine, if you will, a look of extreme puzzlement and mounting annoyance beginning to build upon the Old AF Sarge's visage. Sort of like watching the thunderclouds building up o'er the plains on a hot summer day. The Missus, recognizing all the signs of an impending calamity, takes my arm and starts to pull me back.

But I hear something at the next station at the US Airways counter which gave me pause:

"I'm sorry Sir, let me see what I can do."

Hhhhmm, thinks I, someone who seems to understand customer service. At the appropriate time, I slide over to that lady's position. She informs me that I need to wait in line and would I....

Me: "No Ma'am. I waited in line, only to have your colleague there be completely unhelpful. You seem to know your job and are friendly as well. Please assist us?"

Well, she did assist us. Found us a flight that night. It was to Newport News, not Norfolk, but hey, close enough. The young lady was eager to help, knew how to use the computer system in front of her and knew the right people to call to make things happen. Unlike her colleague, whose sole goal, I felt, was to make the line move as fast as possible without regard to the quality of service being provided.

US Airways got an e-mail praising this young lady, this paragon of service, whose name I had written down. Their answer, "Thank you. Of course, we expect this type of behavior from all of our employees. Etc., etc."

Not pleased with that response, I sent another e-mail.

"While it's nice that you expect this sort of behavior from your employees, Ms. X is one of the very, very few who actually exhibit this behavior. As opposed to Ms. VHLL who was a total jerk and went out of her way to make me feel that even though I paid money to fly on your airline, I was not worth her precious time. How's about them apples, Mr. Corporate Canned Response?"

The next e-mail I received from US Airways actually appeared to be from a human. Thanking me for taking the time to recognize Ms. X and how sorry they were that I had to deal with Ms. VHLL. Ms. X would be lauded and feted, Ms. VHLL would be, ahem, counselled. Yes, I also wrote down Ms. YHLL's name as well. For to complain, of course.

So that's one of my GOOD US Airways stories.

Saturday night, well let's just say that Saturday night was most trying of my patience. What little I have.

Flight back to Rhody was scheduled for approximately 1830. The WSO, the Missus, Little Bit and Yours Truly piled into the WSO-mobile to head for the old aeroporto at an appropriate time which would get me to the airpatch on time for my flight with a little stop at the NEX on the way.

NEX mission completed we were on the road to head for Norfolk International Airport. That's when my cell phone rang. Hhhmm, seems my flight was delayed until 1940 (7:40 PM for you civilians, Mickey's little hand between the 7 and the 8, Mickey's big hand on the 8 for you gravel agitators).

I informed the WSO who asked me what I wanted to do. Just go to the airport, I'll grab some coffee and read my book. (Seal Team Six for those of you with a curious nature.)

Upon arrival I head for Mr. Fancy Machine to get my boarding passes. As I break formation, the WSO looks at the scheduled departures listing and notes something of interest.

"Hey Dad, your flight's been cancelled!"

Cancelled says I, cancelled. Wonderful. Perhaps I'll just stay in Virginia Beach for the remainder of my allotted time on this earth. Perhaps I'll become a wandering vagabond here in the Norfolk area, relying on the kindness of strangers. Perhaps I'll go to the check-in counter and ask, "WTF? My flight has been cancelled?"

I chose the latter option. Skipping the "WTF" portion. The Missus was present, as was the granddaughter. While the WSO would have found that to be very amusing, the Missus? Not so much. And of course, I must set the proper example for my granddaughter. Who finds great joy in announcing to the world at large that she has gone "poopie" and that she has "stinky butt". (Which she had done a few days previously in that fine dining establishment, Chili's. To my great amusement.)

The chap at the counter quickly got me another flight to Rhody. Which left at 2030, roughly 3 hours hence from the time it was, at the time.

This flight, rather than Norfolk - Philly - Providence went Norfolk - Charlotte - Providence. Instead of arriving upon the shore of Narragansett at approximately 2215 local, I should get there "around midnight".

"Midnight today?"

"Yes Sir, midnight today."

"Nothing else available?"

"No Sir. Nothing else available."


So I waited until the appointed time. Noted a rather attractive flight attendant waiting with all of us cargo. She seemed very annoyed with whoever she was speaking with on her cell phone. It also seemed that she was at the end of a very long day.

Turns out that she would be performing duties as a flight attendant on my flight. Seems that the flight attendant who had been scheduled for this flight was, shall we say, "unavailable". So this lady, who had planned on deadheading back to Charlotte, would now actually have to work the flight. After working all day already. Well, the lady sucked it up and soldiered on, so to speak. She performed admirably on the flight to Charlotte. And I'm not saying that just because she was attractive. I'm old, I have no shot, therefore I can look past the attractiveness of much younger females of the species and concentrate on how well they do their jobs. Sure I can, it says so in the Old Guy Dash One (that would be the Old Guy NATOPS for you Naval-types).

At any rate, I made it to Charlotte. Flight was pleasant, view was great. (The view out the window you naughty people. But yes, I was all the way at the front of the Canadair CL-65. And yes, the flight attendant's station is just forward of that, just astern of the cockpit door. But I was observing her duty performance, not her comely aspect. Really, no honest, I was!)

And what was it with that jet? No freaking air conditioning while on the ground? Is this a feature of the Canadair CL-65? (I know it's not the case, but that jet was most uncomfortable while awaiting the switch over to internal power!)

So I'm in Charlotte and my ticket directs me to gate C-14, which is approximately 7 parsecs from where my jet from Norfolk docked. Jumping through hyperspace, I arrive at C-14. Yup, it's a flight to Providence. But it's a DIFFERENT FLIGHT NUMBER.


Time to check the monitor. Yes, there are two flights to Providence. The one I want will be docking at Gate C-2. Yes, the gate I passed a few moments before. So back I go.

In time to hear that the aircraft is running late. Instead of leaving at 2206, the gate guy announces that we will be leaving at 2216. While the board behind him changes over to read: "2235". Hhhmm, I sense a disturbance in the Force.

Seems that our aircraft was en route from Minnesota, in the land of COMJAM. And there was a line of thunder-boomers drawn across the land between where I was and where the jet was. Understandable. The weather will do what the weather does. I have no control over that, neither does US Airways.

Eventually our winged transport arrives, is serviced and we shuffle on board. First announcement from our pilot?

"Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. I'm Captain Garbled and I'll be flying you to Providence tonight. Seems the regular Captain was unavailable so they gave me this flight."

Regular captain unavailable? Say what? What was this person doing? Was he or she making time with that unavailable flight attendant back in Norfolk? So what was our pilot, some guy yanked from the mob, tossed a  blue shirt with four-striped epaulets and told to take us to Providence?

Probably not. I'm pretty sure (well, fairly sure) that US Airways has higher standards than that. Right?

The flight itself was exquisite. The irregular captain got us in the air, did not fly the aircraft into terrain and landed very smoothly in Rhody. Also the moon was just past full, there was low broken cloud and the view out the window was awesome. Well, it was awesome as long as my seat-mate kept his rather LARGE cranium away from the window so I could see.

Old AF Sarge First Rule of Seats: If you have a decent seat on a flight, which then gets cancelled, you will have a crappy seat on the replacement flight.

Old AF Sarge Second Rule of Seats: If you are occupying one of the last two seats on an aircraft and two people get on the aircraft after you, you will get the person least desirable as a seat-mate. The hot chick (hot guy for you ladies in the audience) will sit somewhere else.

Old AF Sarge Corollary to the Second Rule of Seats: If you are wearing nice clothes, then that least desirable person will also be an absolute slob. Be prepared to get drenched with whatever that person is drinking at some point in the flight.

Thus endeth the science lesson. Like I said, I made it home in one piece. Number of controlled landings equaled number of take-offs. Jet was still usable. Unfortunately, rather than arriving at Chez Sarge at the fairly reasonable hour of 2230, I rolled through the palace gates at approximately 0045 local. You know, in the wee dark hours of the night.

But it was a good trip down Dixie way. Had fun, now it's back at work.


Sunday, July 8, 2012


Entrance to the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo, VA
Okay, Yours Truly has been more or less off the grid for the better part of a week. Sure, I did a wee post on the Fourth of July (how could I not?) but that's pretty much it since last weekend.

Oh, I had big plans for posting while visiting the WSO and Little Bit down in Virginia Beach, but truth be told, my granddaughter has me wrapped around her little two-year old finger. Even more so than the Nuke and the WSO.

So rather than regale you all with what I was doing or perhaps entertaining you with my lame form of humor, I was paying more attention to family matters. It was hard not to.

After all the Nuke and the Bear drove all the way over from Memphis for to share the holiday with us. So there we were: myself, the Missus, the Nuke, the Bear, the WSO and Little Bit. We had a grand time but it was over all too quickly.

Amazing how four days seems like a lot until you're sitting in an airport wondering how it all went by so fast. But it did and it's off the banks of the Merrimack River tomorrow to once again earn my pay.

But while down south, down Dixie way, I had the opportunity to revisit one of the jewels in the Virginia Beach crown, for those so inclined. Which I was.

I'm speaking of the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo.

We went there two years ago at the insistence of Big Time and I've been itching to get back ever since. They have, drum roll please, one of the most interesting collection of military aircraft I've ever seen in such a small place. Well, small in terms of real estate but NOT small in terms of the work they do there.

For you see, the majority of their collection is, wait for it, FLYABLE!

Going around this museum you can't help but notice that most of the aircraft have drip pans underneath the engines. To catch the oil you see. Which tends to drip from the old girls sitting in the hangar awaiting their next flight. So without further adieu, it's time for some Old Timey Plane Pr0n!

Of course that's me, got myself another hat, in Honor of Lex
Dual Purpose German 88mm in Afrika Korps Livery (Searchlight is extra, batteries not included)

B-17 "Chuckie"

B-25 "Wild Cargo"

F4U Corsair

FW-190 in the Maintenance Hangar

Hurricane and Friends

3/4 Scale Nieuport With Insignia as used by Georges Guynemer

P-51 Mustang (of course...)

PBY-5A Catalina

The "Peashooter"

Polikarpov I-16 "Rata"
(One of the docents pointed out that they have trouble finding pilots
with the stones to fly this baby. Sucker is an engine with wings!)

SE-5A (Old AF Sarge's Favorite WWI Bird)


Spitfire in the Maintenance Hangar

Fieseler Storch

The Russians Are Coming (P-39 in the background, tail of a YAK-3 in the foreground)

Fokker D-VII

Fokker DR-1
Enjoy! I'll make sure to post more pics from Pungo soon!