Saturday, March 31, 2018

Waiting in Darkness

St Peter Weeping before the Virgin - Guercino
The Guard at the Tomb 
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” 
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. Matthew 27:62-66

It is Easter weekend. I don't expect a lot of views on the blog from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Perhaps it's the fact that it's a weekend in Spring and folks are out enjoying the weather as it warms and we start to shed our winter clothing and winter attitudes. Maybe it's because "religious posts" as some call them, don't fair so well as the normal posts.

I don't know.

I do know that I am a man of faith and that I try to observe the religious holidays as best I can. If posting about the Passion of the Christ, His death, and His Resurrection makes some uncomfortable, or is found uninteresting by some, so be it.

Easter is the most important of religious observances. While Christmas gave us the promise of Salvation, Easter delivers the goods, so to speak. Christ had to die so that we might live and be saved. Do I understand all the nuances of this?

Of course not.

But I do what I can, when I can. I pray, I hope, I believe.

In years gone by I didn't really understand how to feel about the Saturday after Good Friday, some call it Holy Saturday, the name seems fitting.

For me, it's a day of anticipation, a day of waiting. Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus the Christ was crucified at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, and was buried in his tomb. His followers were stunned, disorganized. Everything He had told them had come to pass, they had scarce believed His Words as He told them what must happen.

Now the cross was empty, the stone at the entrance to the tomb was in place. The disciples no doubt were laying low, would the authorities come after them? Would they too be put to death? I wonder if any of them remembered what Jesus had said, that on the third day He would be raised to life?

Did they believe? Or only hope that what He had said would come to pass. They had seen many miracles performed by this man, yet they probably remained skeptical. The very real fear they felt after the Crucifixion must have driven them mad with worry. I know how I would have felt.

So for me, Holy Saturday is a day where I contemplate the darkness of life without the Savior, a day of waiting, a day of hoping.

I have learned that with faith, all things are possible.

So I wait, with breathless anticipation...

For the return of my King.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday

Jezus przed Pilatem - Mihály Munkácsy
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” John 18:28-29
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising. John 18:38-40
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. 
Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” John 19:1-6
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. 
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. John 19:15-16
Christ Carrying the Cross - Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” John 19:17-22
Christ on the Cross - Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27
Christ on the Cross - Carl Heinrich Bloch
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:44-49
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Now we wait for the darkness of Death to be lifted.

And it shall be...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

So That's What They're Called!


Smartphone zombie. Die Deutschen coined that one, so yeah, Smombie, there's a word I learned yesterday. Technically speaking, I suppose, it's a German word, they invented it. (For the inquiring minds, smart phone in German is, you guessed it, Smartphone. Zombie, auf Deutsch, is, natürlich, Zombie. Note: German nouns are always capitalized.)

The Beeb has an interesting article on this phenomenon here, seems the Chinese call them "the bowed head tribe." Very apt.

I see them at work, a lot. They drive our safety guy crazy. As these Smombies drift down the passageways, eyes glued to the wee screens held in front of them, the safety guy can barely restrain himself from slapping those "smart" phones to the floor. They are paying no attention whatsoever to what's in front of them.

There was one employee who, while obliviously staring at her phone, walked right off the paved surface of the parking lot and straight into a tree. Cuts and bruises, a reportable injury apparently. As our government overlords are fond of demanding that "something be done!" -  something was done.

The company cut down the tree and put down an asphalt sidewalk where the tree had stood. No, seriously. Rather than discipline the oblivious employee, they cut down the tree.


And the constant texting and tweeting. In Japan they refer to those individuals as the "clan of the thumbs." Better at typing with two thumbs than actually engaging in conversation.

China actually has experimented with two walking lanes, one for normal walkers, the other for the Smombies. Seriously. I had no idea that this was such a wide spread thing. Kids in Asia have actually been killed or seriously injured just walking into traffic while their brains are focused on the wee screen.

A website down in Oz calls it the "Smombie Apocalypse," an apt description if I do say so myself.

In the future no doubt, we'll have smart phone technology embedded in our skulls shortly after we're born.

All the better to control you with.

No wonder we have all these uproars and perturbations in modern times, there's a lot of folks out there already under remote control.

They just don't realize it.

Some people's kids...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Pinch Returns!

U.S. Navy Photo
One of the old school F-14 guys has returned to blogging.

Pinch is a great guy, former RIO, actually met him last year at a Lexican meet and greet down Virginia way.

He blogged back in the day, dropped it for a while, now he's back. Finally!

Go, read. You won't regret it. (In case you forget, he's on the sidebar, Instapinch 2.0.)

Oh yeah, he's a mean hand with a camera as well. Takes some great photos.

Welcome back Pinch!


Memory is a sneaky wee bastard. Sometimes a scent, the way the light falls on the trees, sometimes a snatch of music will bring some dusty memory to the forefront of my brain housing group. Sometimes a good one, sometimes a not so good one.

Sometimes they hit pretty hard.

Had both kinds yesterday.

Let me 'splain' that.

My buddy Doc lost his Mom, late Saturday night, early Sunday morning. He just lost his Dad in the past couple of months. He's been pretty hard hit this year. I feel for him, he and his family are good people, the best really.

Yesterday was my buddy Buck's birthday. He's been gone three years last December. His son Commander Sam had a nice little post up, I hope some folks still stop by over there. Buck's blog was a daily stop, we had some interesting back and forth over the years. Dude was always on my ass about quotation marks and commas, he was quite the grammarian. Another Old AF Sarge right there.

At work I was talking with a colleague, he works for a different company now, who we subcontract to, but he was a long time employee of my current employer. We were "talking" about another guy and trying to remember what projects we'd worked on with him, when the name of Bill Flaherty came up, great guy, awesome engineer. We lost him to cancer not all that long ago.

But amidst the gloomy memories a ray of sunshine broke through as I remembered a recent conversation with the senior granddaughter (she's going to be eight this year), Little Bit -

"Grandpa, why is Anya scared of me?"

"Gee sweetie, everyone is scared of you..."

"Yeah, true."

As you might have gathered, we were discussing a member of the feline staff, Anya, who is a bit of a fraidy cat. My point being that Little Bit is a pretty tough cookie, she couldn't argue that.

But she and I have lots of those little conversations, I give her a hard time, she slaughters me with her wit, then we move on. But those little moments make life worth living. All four grandkids and I have those little moments. (The time that The Owl took my hand and explained feline behavior to me, in her wee four year old way, still makes me chuckle.)

Kid movies with Big O.

Silly selfies with L'il Sweetie.

It's all good, but in reality it doesn't last forever.

Hug your kids and grandkids.

Hug your significant other.

Hug your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews...

Heck, hug your friends too.

Let the folks close to you know that you love them.

It'll be over way too soon.

"These Days"
Foo Fighters

One of these days the ground will drop out from beneath your feet
One of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat
One of these days the clocks will stop and time won't mean a thing
One of these days their bombs will drop and silence everything

But it's alright
Yeah it's alright
I said it's alright

Easy for you to say
Your heart has never been broken
Your pride has never been stolen
Not yet not yet

One of these days
I bet your heart'll be broken
I bet your pride'll be stolen
I bet I bet I bet I bet
One of these days
One of these days

One of these days your eyes will close and pain will disappear
One of these days you will forget to hope and learn to fear

But it's alright
Yeah it's alright
I said it's alright

Easy for you to say
Your heart has never been broken
Your pride has never been stolen
Not yet not yet

One of these days
I bet your heart'll be broken
I bet your pride'll be stolen
I bet I bet I bet I bet
One of these days
One of these days

But it's alright
Yeah it's alright
I said it's alright
Yes it's alright

Don't say it's alright
Don't say it's alright
Don't say it's alright

One of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat
But it's alright

Easy for you to say
Your heart has never been broken
Your pride has never been stolen
Not yet not yet

One of these days
I bet your heart will be broken
I bet your pride will be stolen
I bet I bet I bet I bet

One of these days
One of these days
One of these days

Written by -
Christopher A. Shiflett
David Eric Grohl
Taylor Hawkins
Nate Mendel
Pat Smear

* A U.S. Navy Grumman A-6E Intruder from Attack Squadron VA-196 Main Battery making a barrier landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65). VA-196 was assigned to Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14) aboard the Enterprise for a deployment to the Western Pacific from 4 April to 30 October 1978. Cause of the barricade engagement was the failure of the right main landing gear to extend fully due to a broken cotter pin allowing a nut on the drag brace to tighten on each cycle of the gear. Crew was Pilot: LTJG Don Conklin, Navigator: LTJG Jerry Nichelson. U.S. Navy Photo

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mindless Mutterings

So yeah, it's spring according to the calendar and there are moments each day when it actually feels like spring. But the flowers all seem a bit late this year.

December was cold, 20s cold which is cold for Little Rhody, damn near shirt-sleeve weather up in the Dakotas, though I've only been there once and it was in June. I remember it as my captain and I were dispatched up to Minot AFB to assist a customer. 1989, about the same time as the protests in Tienanmen Square. (Great bravery from an unarmed populace results in no change whatsoever. Just wanted to note that. A lot of those protesters were murdered by their own government. Hey, just do what you're told right? Be a good little socialist and get back in line. Have recent events pissed me off? You betcha, but I digress...)

The rest of the winter was a bit colder than most of the winters I've experienced here on the coast. (Mind you, the wind is always blowing, so it always seems a bit raw in these parts from October to April.)

Oh, I have an aside, a rather rude aside so yeah, fire truck language alert. But Mr. Connolly describes something, though particular to a certain group of the perpetually aggrieved, really applies to most. Again...

LANGUAGE ALERT (if ye be faint o' heart just skip past this...)

We Scots will resort to bad language if provoked, just wanted y'all to know that.

Anyhoo, I took last Friday off. Now this Friday is my normal Friday off, last Thursday I was on my last legs mentally, I needed that three day weekend. So I reached out and grabbed it. (I may go ahead and take this coming Friday as well, but mum's the word, I haven't decided yet.)

Officially I swapped my off Friday. Officially. But the prospect of three weeks before I get another 3-day weekend seems a bit daunting. We shall see.

Monday comes around (the day I wrote this) and I'm no more rested than I was last Thursday. (But it was a fine weekend, the kind where I did nothing, nada, rien. So I had that going for me.)

But I think I have discovered that my fondest wish is to be retired. I still enjoy the work and the team I work with, it's just all of the corporate nonsense that is getting a bit tiresome. Admittedly the paycheck helps me choke down the corporate stuff. Barely.

That and the get up early and have to stay there for nine hours. Tiresome.

You know when it's time to retire? When you've run your vacation down to almost nothing left and it's not even summer yet. I'm not there, but damme, I seem to want to take vacation every bloody Friday.

What the daffodils look like on March 26th, 2018.
And what they looked like on March 24th, 2016.
And what did they look like last year? I dinna have a clue, I blogged about something else last year, in fact Juvat was talking about his trip to Scotland, castles and such. Fancy that.

I need to get to bed earlier I think. I mean when the feline staff start inventing new and interesting ways to wake me up in the morning, perhaps I am just not getting enough rest. Anya decided that sitting on my back and whipping her tail into my face was effective, and it was. I suppose it's better than being "paw poked," the first couple of times are like warning shots, after a couple of attempts, you get a bit more claw each time. Sasha found the whole evolution very amusing.

I did not.

Back tomorrow, hopefully with more sleep.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Buried Treasure - Old Friends

While Sarge and his neighbors are recovering from a recent Four'Easter (somehow an appropriate name for the quantity and season), it appears that Winter in the Texas Hill Country is officially over.  There will be no more freezes in this half the year.

At least that's what the long time German Residents of the region are preaching.  They should know.  They've been here For. Ev. Er!

How do they know this, you ask?

Here's a hint

Prosopis glandulosa

According to legend, when the Mesquite trees sprout leaves, there will not be another killing frost that season.  Which is good news to the myriad vineyard owners around here as well as the peach orchard owners, both of which have crops that start to bud about now and which a frost now will significantly reduce their crop at harvest.

So, Good News.  Sarge....(to quote a gameshow host)....Come On Down!

On a different note, last week I talked about some Multi-Culti Meals I had had recently, one of which was Bulgogi Tacos.  The gang had been enthusiastic (well, the 3 of us who ordered them anyway) and wanted me to investigate recipe's.  

Always happy to comply, I settled on this one, and made it last Wednesday.  Everybody liked it although I thought it needed a little help.  So I remade it for Mrs Juvat and I Saturday evening.  While the recipe calls for marinating for 30 minutes, I marinaded it for about 4 hours.  I also added a couple of shakes of hot pepper flakes into the marinade.  This turned out much better.  Give it a shot if you're so inclined.
Why yes, I always leave my mark on my meal.

A couple of weeks ago, I'd mentioned that my faithful wingman, Schmedly, (currently sleeping in front of the other monitor) had discovered a buried treasure in our closet.  She brought it to my attention by knocking it off the shelf causing it to crash to the floor and burst open dispersing the contents throughout the closet.  In the ensuing clean up and ongoing sorting, I've had a few enjoyable trips down memory lane.

These were pictures taken during Birthday Week '91. Little Juvat had just turned 7, MBD was now 1 and about 30 seconds after this picture was taken would be wearing most of that chocolate cake on her face. (I have not been able to find that picture as yet). I was a very young 36 (at least from current perspective). 

My how time flies.  I had just completed CGSC and was a year out from flying.  Mrs Juvat had been assigned there for the next year and had just arrived.  Fortunately, I had been selected to the follow on course and we would be together as a family.

Back to the real world, juvat!

Well, maybe....

As I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there were two VHS tapes in that box.  The second one was actually the first in the series and took quite a bit more "help" to digitize and edit.  

It had quite a few scenes in it that were thought provoking (along with some outside video of gun shots that were from another source, I think it was Red Flag video).  

The title of the post was a result of that video.  It begins with a shot of the flying schedule and I happen to be on it.  The second scene shows how an F-15 was preflighted by the pilot.  I got a jolt as the camera comes around the right side of the jet and pans up at the tail.  

That was my jet!

Well...hello old friend!

That prompted me to do a little research on it's career.  Evidently it is still flying at Edwards AFB.

For the two of you who watched the prior video with the AB takeoff, you'll undoubtedly notice how much longer it takes in Mil Power in this video.  There's a bit of scenery of Okinawa. Then a bit of refueling.  

While that was spliced in there to give a bit of a feel for how a normal training mission might go, the footage was actually of a deployment to the Philippines.   I'm flying my jet.   

Yes, VX and Dave, I was about a foot or two back on the boom....But I was stable, as opposed to the other guy.

Then there's the section of gunshots.  I'd say the F-4s were kills.  2 of the 3 F-16s were also.  I think both F-106 shots were misses.  And the Aggressors, my goodness could they jink!  The first one probably survived albeit his jockey shorts were probably wet.  The second survived initially but stopped jinking and the pipper settled for the kill.  

Never give up....Never surrender.

Recovery and landing were normal.  I'm sure VX and Dave will probably do the same, but as the airplanes came down initial and lead broke, I instinctively started counting to make sure I kept the interval.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Un Héro - Le lieutenant-colonel Arnaud Beltrame

Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame
Gendarmerie nationale

Heroism knows no nationality.

France, no, the world, has lost a hero.

Sacrificing himself to save others, a brave man, an uncommon man.

A graduate of the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, the foremost military academy in France, founded by First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802, a recipient of the Croix de la Valeur Militaire for actions while deployed to Iraq, Lieutenant Colonel Beltrame was the epitome of courage and selflessness.

He will be missed.

He will be remembered.

You can read more here.


Triste, triste

Je contemple mon feu. J'étouffe un bâillement. 
Le vent pleure. La pluie à ma vitre ruisselle. 
Un piano voisin joue une ritournelle. 
Comme la vie est triste et coule lentement.
Je songe à notre Terre, atome d'un moment, 
Dans l'infini criblé d'étoiles éternelles, 
Au peu qu'ont déchiffré nos débiles prunelles, 
Au Tout qui nous est clos inexorablement.

Et notre sort! toujours la même comédie, 
Des vices, des chagrins, le spleen, la maladie, 
Puis nous allons fleurir les beaux pissenlits d'or.

L'Univers nous reprend, rien de nous ne subsiste, 
Cependant qu'ici-bas tout continue encor. 
Comme nous sommes seuls! Comme la vie est triste!

Jules Laforgue

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Gut Wrenching

No, it's not the anniversary of that event, that's still a few weeks off. But Friday night I watched the film, the DVD cover for which is depicted above.

Honestly, I couldn't go see it when it was released. I was afraid of how I might react in a theater, around other people. I wanted to wait until I could watch it in the privacy of my home.

I knew that my reaction to the film would be, let's just say, emotional.

I knew folks who were there.

A colleague from work lost her leg.

A friend from work knew MIT police officer Sean Collier, knew him well. And honestly, I couldn't help it, when the actor portraying Sean was first shown, I had to pause the film. This wasn't some fictional tale, Sean was a real guy. Believe me, there was another scene in that film where I couldn't control the tears. I had to get up and walk about for a bit.

It was five years ago, but the emotions are still strong.

The film was very well done.

It was gut wrenching and at times painful to watch. A lot of emotions from that time came flooding back.

I really lost it when they finally evacuated the body of the little guy who died there, Martin Richard. I'd heard of what happened at that time, seeing it enacted on film...

Yeah, I lost it...

I wrote about those lost back when it happened. All those emotions came flooding back.

If you haven't seen this film, do so.

It says a lot about Boston and, by extension, New England, for Boston really is the heart and soul of this region.


I am emotionally drained.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Henry Knox and the Noble Train of Artillery

Henry Knox by Gilbert Stuart

Instructions to Colonel Henry Knox
Cambr[idge] Nov. 16 1775
You are immediately to examine into the state of the Artillery of this army & take an account of the Cannon, Mortars, Shels, Lead & ammunition that are wanting; When you have done that, you are to proceed in the most expeditious manner to New York; There apply to the president of the provincial Congress, and learn of him, whether Col. Reed did any thing, or left any orders—respecting these things, & Get him to procure such of them as can possibly be had there. The president if he can, will have them immediately sent hither; If he cannot, you must put them in a proper Channel for being Transported to this Camp with dispatch before you leave New York. After you have procured as many of these Necessaries as you can there, you must go to Major General Schuyler & Get the remainder from Ticonderoga, Crown point, or St Johns—If it should be necessary, from Quebec, if in our hands—the want of them is so great, that no trouble or expence must be spared to obtain them—I have wrote to General Schuyler, he will give every necessary assistance, that they may be had & forwarded to this place with the utmost dispatch—I have given you a Warrant to the paymaster General of the Continental army, for a Thousand Dollars, to defray the expence attending your Journey, & procuring these Articles, an Account of which you are to keep & render upon your return. Given under my Hand at Head Quarters at Cambridge this 16 day of November Annoque Domini 1775
Go: Washington
Endeavour to procure what Flints you can. (Source)

The Berkshire Mountains as seen from the New York border,
Henry Knox would recognize this view.

In the winter of 1775-76, Henry Knox, formerly a bookseller in the town of Boston, was sent by General George Washington to Fort Ticonderoga at the southern end of Lake Champlain. The fort had been seized in May of 1775 by Colonels Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, yes, that Benedict Arnold.

While the fort was in disrepair and had been weakly garrisoned, the American colonists discovered there a store of cannon, powder, and flint. Something desperately needed by the forces surrounding the town of Boston, garrisoned by the British Army under General William Howe.

General Howe was content to remain in Boston, he had been at the Battle of Bunker Hill (more properly Breed's Hill) and had witnessed the Pyrrhic victory gained by the red coated British troops that day.

As Lieutenant Colonel James Abercrombie, late of His Majesty's 22nd Regiment of Foot, lay dying of his wound* some few days after leading the grenadier battalion in an assault upon the hill, said...

"a few such Victories would Ruin the army."

Not wishing to assault the entrenched colonials again, the British waited.

General Washington knew of the guns at Ticonderoga, so he sent Colonel Knox and some men to fetch them. (Technically a civilian when sent to get the guns, Knox had actually been granted a colonel's commission by the Second Continental Congress in November. He was unaware of that at the time. Then, sometimes now as well, the wheels of government move slowly.)

It was a hard journey which you can read about here, Wikipedia I know, but the description is concise and fairly accurate. I have traveled through the Berkshires in the winter, fortunately in a car, not on foot dragging cannon through the forests, and those are ancient hills, said to be amongst the oldest mountains on the planet. Heavily forested and prone to a lot of snow in the winter. (That I've witnessed!)

I cannot imagine moving through those woods and hills in the dead of winter. Somehow Colonel Knox and his men did it. New England tradition has it that one morning the British awoke in Boston to see fortifications looming over them from Dorchester Heights, stocked with the cannon that Knox and his troops dragged, mostly by sleigh, all the way from Ticonderoga. Not long afterward, the British Army and their Tory friends sailed away from Boston.

Never to return.

While the reality is rather less romantic (and you can read all about it in Derek Beck's excellent bookThe War Before Independence: 1775-1776) it is one of the tales I heard growing up in Vermont.

And as a rather stout, bookish fellow myself, Henry Knox has always been one of my personal heroes as well as being a hero of the American Revolution.

That's a long way to move cannon in the winter, or any season for that matter.

And in reality, they used horses mostly, though most paintings show oxen!)
One last thing, looking for some fascinating reading? Check out the Founders Online, it's where I found General Washington's letter to Colonel Knox. Lot's of great material there, I fear I may wander in and never come out! (Well except to write a blog post every now and again...)

* Said wound being inflicted by an American soldier of African descent, Salem Poor.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Seventy-Two Months? Seriously?

U.S. Navy Photo by MC3 Andrew Johnson
Back on the 22nd of March, in the Year of Our Lord Two-thousand and Twelve, I published my very first blog post. I had no idea where I was going to go with this blogging thing, still don't, not really, it's a day to day thing, whatever grabs my fancy.


Easily distracted? Moi?

Well, sure. As I was saying, The Chant (as some like to call it) has grown since those early days. First Tuna, then Juvat, and (officially, though she hasn't posted yet) LUSH came on board to assist Your Humble Scribe in his peripatetic efforts to entertain and perhaps educate The Chant's legion of readers*. (How many people in a legion, less than a horde, more than a handful? Don't automatically think Roman legion either.)

But I digress.

So we've been doing this for six years, seventy-two months if you will (which I did). This is the 2,461st post published and while there are a number lying about the studio in "draft" status, many of those will never see the light of day. For various reasons. A couple have seen the light of day but were pulled off the line. One by Blogger as some yahoo claimed I used one of "his pictures." When I asked, "Which one?" the silence was deafening. Another was pulled due to its being a spam magnet.

And yes, want to anger me to nearly unreasonable levels? Use fractured English in your spam comment and make sure you use the word "fastidious," and never use it correctly. But hey, getting spam comments means we're now in the "big time," right?

2,191 days, 2,461 posts. Still going strong. (For certain values of "strong.")

Anyhoo, I'm still having fun with this blogging thing and expect to continue for the foreseeable future.

And you have no one to blame but yourselves.

Er, I mean, thanks!

* If I count yesterday's guest post from Thomas Jefferson. can I claim the third President as a contributor? Excuse me while I go look up "presumptuous" in the dictionary...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Energetic Government

Sort of a guest post from the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, taken from a letter to the fourth President of the United States, James Madison. I took the liberty of highlighting the bits I found relevant to these modern times in which we live.

Dear Sir                                                                                                              Paris Dec. 20. 1787.

My last to you was of Oct. 8 by the Count de Moustier. Yours  of July 18. Sep. 6. and Oct. 24. have been successively received, yesterday, the day before and three or four days before that. I have only had time to read the letters, the printed papers communicated with them, however interesting, being obliged to lie over till I finish my dispatches for the packet, which dispatches must go from hence the day after tomorrow. I have much to thank you for. First and most for the cyphered paragraph respecting myself. These little informations are very material towards forming my own decisions. I would be glad even to know when any individual member thinks I have gone wrong in any instance. If I know myself it would not excite ill blood in me, while it would assist to guide my conduct, perhaps to justify it, and to keep me to my duty, alert. I must thank you too for the information in Thos. Burke’s case, tho’ you will have found by a subsequent letter that I have asked of you a further investigation of that matter. It is to gratify the lady who is at the head of the Convent wherein my daughters are, and who, by her attachment and attention to them, lays me under great obligations. I shall hope therefore still to receive from you the result of the further enquiries my second letter had asked.—The parcel of rice which you informed me had miscarried accompanied my letter to the Delegates of S. Carolina. Mr. Bourgoin was to be the bearer of both and both were delivered together into the hands of his relation here who introduced him to me, and who at a subsequent moment undertook to convey them to Mr. Bourgoin. This person was an engraver particularly recommended to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Hopkinson. Perhaps he may have mislaid the little parcel of rice among his baggage.—I am much pleased that the sale of Western lands is so successful. I hope they will absorb all the Certificates of our Domestic debt speedily in the first place, and that then offered for cash they will do the same by our foreign one.

The season admitting only of operations in the Cabinet, and these being in a great measure secret, I have little to fill a letter. I will therefore make up the deficiency by adding a few words on the Constitution proposed by our Convention. I like much the general idea of framing a government which should go on of itself peaceably, without needing continual recurrence to the state legislatures. I like the organization of the government into Legislative, Judiciary and Executive. I like the power given the Legislature to levy taxes; and for that reason solely approve of the greater house being chosen by the people directly. For tho’ I think a house chosen by them will be very illy qualified to legislate for the Union, for  foreign nations &c. yet this evil does not weigh against the good of preserving inviolate the fundamental principle that the people are not to be taxed but by representatives chosen immediately by themselves. I am captivated by the compromise of the opposite claims of the great and little states, of the latter to equal, and the former to proportional influence. I am much pleased too with the substitution of the method of voting by persons, instead of that of voting by states: and I like the negative given to the Executive with a third of either house, though I should have liked it better had the Judiciary been associated for that purpose, or invested with a similar and separate power. There are other good things of less moment. I will now add what I do not like.

First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of Nations. To say, as Mr. Wilson does that a bill of rights was not necessary because all is reserved in the case of the general government which is not given, while in the particular ones all is given which is not reserved might do for the Audience to whom it was addressed, but is surely gratis dictum, opposed by strong inferences from the body of the instrument, as well as from the omission of the clause of our present confederation which had declared that in express terms. It was a hard conclusion to say because there has been no uniformity among the states as to the cases triable by jury, because some have been so incautious as to abandon this mode of trial, therefore the more prudent states shall be reduced to the same level of calamity. It would have been much more just and wise to have concluded the other way that as most of the states had judiciously preserved this palladium, those who had wandered should be brought back to it, and to have established general right instead of general wrong.

Let me add that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference. The second feature I dislike, and greatly dislike, is the abandonment in every instance of the necessity of rotation in office, and most particularly in the case of the President. Experience concurs with reason in concluding that the first magistrate will always be re-elected if the constitution permits it. He is then an officer for life. This once observed it becomes of so much consequence to  certain nations to have a friend or a foe at the head of our affairs that they will interfere with money and with arms. A Galloman or an Angloman will be supported by the nation he befriends. If once elected, and at a second or third election outvoted by one or two votes, he will pretend false votes, foul play, hold possession of the reins of government, be supported by the states voting for him, especially if they are the central ones lying in a compact body themselves and separating their opponents: and they will be aided by one nation of Europe, while the majority are aided by another.

The election of a President of America some years hence will be much more interesting to certain nations of Europe than ever the election of a king of Poland was. Reflect on all the instances in history antient and modern, of elective monarchies, and say if they do not give foundation for my fears, the Roman emperors, the popes, while they were of any importance, the German emperors till they became hereditary in practice, the kings of Poland, the Deys of the Ottoman dependancies. It may be said that if elections are to be attended with these disorders, the seldomer they are renewed the better. But experience shews that the only way to prevent disorder is to render them uninteresting by frequent changes. An incapacity to be elected a second time would have been the only effectual preventative. The power of removing him every fourth year by the vote of the people is a power which will not be exercised. The king of Poland is removeable every day by the Diet, yet he is never removed.—Smaller objections are the Appeal in fact as well as law, and the binding all persons Legislative, Executive and Judiciary by oath to maintain that constitution.

I do not pretend to decide what would be the best method of procuring the establishment of the manifold good things in this constitution, and of getting rid of the bad. Whether by adopting it in hopes of future amendment, or, after it has been duly weighed and canvassed by the people, after seeing the parts they generally dislike, and those they generally approve, to say to them ‘We see now what you wish. Send together your deputies again, let them frame a constitution for you omitting what you have condemned, and establishing the powers you approve. Even these will be a great addition to the energy of your government.’—At all events I hope you will not be discouraged from other trials, if the present one should fail of it’s full effect.—I have thus told you freely what I like and dislike: merely as a matter of curiosity for I know your own judgment has been formed on all these points after having heard every thing which  could be urged on them.

I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. The late rebellion in Massachusets has given more alarm than I think it should have done. Calculate that one rebellion in 13 states in the course of 11 years, is but one for each state in a century and a half. No country should be so long without one. Nor will any degree of power in the hands of government prevent insurrections. France with all it’s despotism, and two or three hundred thousand men always in arms has had three insurrections in the three years I have been here in every one of which greater numbers were engaged than in Massachusets and a great deal more blood was spilt. In Turkey, which Montesquieu supposes more despotic, insurrections are the events of every day. In England, where the hand of power is lighter than here, but heavier than with us they happen every half dozen years. Compare again the ferocious depredations of their insurgents with the order, the moderation and the almost self extinguishment of ours.—After all, it is my principle that the will of the Majority should always prevail. If they approve the proposed Convention in all it’s parts, I shall concur in it chearfully, in hopes that they will amend it whenever they shall find it work wrong.

I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe. Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty. I have tired you by this time with my disquisitions and will therefore only add assurances of the sincerity of those sentiments of esteem and attachment with which I am Dear Sir your affectionate friend & servant,

Th: Jefferson

P.S. The instability of our laws is really an immense evil. I think it would be well to provide in our constitutions that there shall always be a twelvemonth between the ingrossing a bill and passing it: that it should then be offered to it’s passage without changing a word: and that if circumstances should be thought to require a speedier passage, it should take two thirds of both houses instead of a bare majority. (Source)

Energetic government, this constant cry of the need to "do something." In most, if not all, cases this perceived need would be better served by enforcing the laws already on the books. Not make new ones.

It is my considered opinion that the education of the "common people" is most certainly not being attended to, an ill-informed electorate makes bad, if not completely stupid choices. I think we're seeing both and have been seeing that for at least two decades, perhaps longer.

'Tis a sad state of affairs. I'm sure the Founding Fathers would be devastated.

Mr. Franklin, it appears we are unable to keep it.*

Sad, innit?

* “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”
         “A Republic, if you can keep it.” - attributed to Ben Franklin

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fourth of Her Name, Fifteenth of Her Kind

Bright and clear - can you see the submarine?
Saturday, up at the crack of dawn, The Missus Herself, The Nuke, and Your Humble Scribe prepared themselves for a trip over to Connecticut, specifically the Naval Submarine Base New London (Subase for short), for to see the commissioning of the fourth United States Navy warship to bear the proud name Colorado, the fifteenth ship in the mighty Virginia-class. (To which Yours Truly had made a wee sma' contribution, both in software and in system testing, way back in the days when I hadn't quite gotten used to being a civilian after so many years of wearing the blue.)

'Twas a bright, sunny day, nary a cloud in the sky, but with a brisk wind which promised to make the proceedings out on Pier 6N a might chilly. The ride went without a hitch, with moi at the helm, and we arrived in the vicinity of the Subase with minutes to spare.

Not for the commissioning itself mind you, but with time to park in the designated area, to ride the school bus from the parking lot to the pier, to discover where we would be seated amongst the gathered multitude, and to perhaps purchase a few trinkets to commemorate the occasion.

We had received instructions in the mail as to which gate to proceed to, not the main gate but a bit further on, which would be marked with "flashing lights" to designate that we had indeed arrived at the fabled, yet completely unmarked, Gate 5.

We should have brought a pinball wizard with us, for we didn't "see no lights a-flashin'" and though playing by sense of smell was not mentioned in the "if traveling south from Providence" directions, I'm sure the kid who played a mean pinball might have discerned where to go.

After a pass "over" what we soon discovered was the "target," marked by a traffic light and a long line of cars trying to gain entry, we figured, that must be it!


A one-eighty was executed and we returned to the mysterious and completely unmarked Gate 5. There we gained entry and noted that the Navy was well-prepared for the arrival of the multitude. There were junior sailors, all kitted out in their crackerjacks, shivering and pointing at each bend of the road towards the destination of a parking lot way in the backwoods.

The Navy had everyone backing into their allotted space, no doubt to make egress simpler, but which made parking a slow process. Eventually, after a few trials and tribulations, we made it to the pier.

Where we all began to freeze to death.

Note the many hoods and hunched shoulders, an indication of cold, damn cold.
Mind you, it wasn't the ambient temperature, which wasn't all that mild, it was the wind off the water, which, it being a submarine base, there were ample quantities of. Continue down that waterway (the Thames River by the way, the one in Connecticut, not the one in England) glittering in the background and you'll find yourself in Block Island Sound, a piece of the always cold and especially cold in March, North Atlantic.

We surveyed our seats which were a ways from the speakers, and decided that, as we had an hour before the festivities commenced, we were not going to sit on the pier for that long. So we set course back to the trinkets, er, souvenirs booth as I had seen a chap wearing a watch cap (see next photo) and as I could no longer feel my ears I was hoping the good plank owners of SSN 788 might still have a few in stock.

Which, as you can see, they did. (Pay no attention to the GQ reject in that photo, I did tell the ee-jit to smile, but does anyone listen to me?)

I also dropped some hard earned coin on various and sundry other items of swag which appealed to me. Particularly the hooded sweatshirt (which some loon eating lunch models further down the page, no skipping ahead, patience) which looked to be just the ticket for keeping me warm and cozy, while all about shivered and hissed with frustration at my coziness.

A T-shirt was had, as were challenge coins galore, two of which I purchased, at The Nuke's request, for her to give to a pair of submariners of Her Majesty's Royal Navy. I am ever the diplomat, sort of. (Well, I paid for 'em, didn't I?)

T-shirt Front
T-Shirt Back
Ship's Challenge Coin, top left, Ship's Commissioning Coin, top right
Commissioning Booklet, below
Reverse of the Challenge and Commissioning Coins
I would like to note that the Commissioning Coin is a limited edition, only 200 of which were struck, of which I hold #040. A thing of which I am inordinately proud. I had more money as the sailor had these magic beans which I simply had to have...

But The Missus Herself gave me, "The Look," so I put my wallet away, donned my newly purchased hooded sweatshirt and watch cap and grinned proudly. The Nuke took one look and said...

"Dad, you look like a homeless guy."

Declaring that I needed my ball cap to protect my aging eyes from the wine dark seas (okay, the glittering blue river) I stowed the watch cap and just pulled the hoodie up over the ball cap. Warmth was attained. (No longer homeless I looked.)

Hooded and warm, the old guy basks in the warmth of his ladies' company...
Lest ye think me unchivalrous, I did buy The Nuke a sweatshirt as well, which she declined to wear, and The Missus Herself, being from Korea, declared that she was "Fine."

I wasn't sure just how to take that...

Anyhoo, the speechifying commenced and we dug in for the long haul. Though there were a number of speakers on hand, we had been briefed (okay, we eavesdropped on a conversation between a lieutenant commander and a young sailor) on what to expect as regards the speeches.

"Each speaker will talk for about three minutes, most of the speeches will be along the lines of how great the new ships are, how wonderful the Navy is, and what an awesome job the builders did. The whole thing shouldn't take more than an hour."

The lieutenant commander nailed it. (I was rather amazed at the camaraderie demonstrated between these two submariners, one a fairly senior officer, the other a rather young seaman or junior petty officer, I didn't notice his rate. Most impressive.)

You can watch "the whole thing" in the video at the end of the post. Not the highest quality and it's about an hour (and change) long, but it's kinda cool.

Pictures, some of you wanted "lots of pictures." Well, I have some pictures. Wasn't much to see, what with the hordes of spectators. When they announced that there would be tours of the boat after the ceremonies were concluded, and up to 1600 that afternoon (ceremony was pretty much over by a little past noon), I was sorely tempted. I was a bit crestfallen to hear that "all cameras and cell phones will remain topside while on the boat" but I understood, completely. While I know what not to take pictures of, most civilians (and apparently some sailors) do not

At the conclusion of the event we elected not to tour the ship, we were all rather chilled and desirous of seeking a venue to partake of hot food. So we pressed on and skipped the tour.

Happy campers. Not yet frozen.
But I did get a few snapshots worthy of sharing.

"Great seats, hey buddy?" Said my inner Bob Uecker.
All masts extended.
Brought to life!
Red, white, and blue mark the brow.
(How one gets on and off the ship in port.)
The view upriver.
View from our seats towards the stern of the boat.
When we regained our own vehicle we headed off base for to attain sustenance. A local eating establishment had been recommended by one of The Nuke's colleagues, a retired U-Boat captain.

Okay, hold on a minute. While technically true but somewhat misleading, the good captain, whose given name is Paul, is indeed a retired captain of the Naval Service and had indeed commanded an attack boat back in the day. In fact his boat was the very Los Angeles-class sub used in Hunt For Red October. No, it wasn't USS Dallas (SSN 700) but USS Houston (SSN 713), which played USS Dallas in the film. No, I don't know why but next time I see the good captain I'll ask him. (He was not in command when the movie was filmed, he would've been far too young. And, FWIW, we don't call our submarines Unterseeboot, or U-Boats. Why? Because we're not German, that's why.)

So The Nuke laid in a course for Paul's Pasta Shop in New London where...

Wait a minute, the captain's name is Paul, the pasta shop's name is Paul's Pasta Shop...

The Nuke assured me that that was pure coincidence. Captain Paul knew about the place from his days in the submarine fleet stationed in New London. He also recommended the spaghetti pie. Which, I had to try.

What the hell?
Said spaghetti pie which some ancient loon* sat down and ate while I was in the head washing my hands. Damn it, I think the old fart is wearing my hoodie as well!

Seriously though, it was a great time, even if it was colder than I like. I've had worse times on St. Patrick's Day!

Oh yeah, I promised you the video, here 'tis.

One more thing, if you're ever in New London, go to Paul's Pasta Shop, have the spaghetti pie, it's very, very good. And yes, take the cannoli.

If Clemenza is there, keep driving...

* In my defense, I wanted to let Captain Paul know, pictorially, that I thought the spaghetti pie was crazy good. Which it was, but doesn't excuse my goofiness.