Monday, February 28, 2022

People vs. Sherlock Holmes

 As background, although many of you readers probably are already aware, we've had two cabins on our property since 2014.  One has always been for short term guests, either paying or otherwise. The other started life as my sister's home.  

Always been a guest cabin on your left. Now a guest cabin on your right.

Once Mrs. J and I completed the build of our new home, She moved into our old house.  It had a very large master bedroom which she converted into her quilting room.  She's very talented at that and the size of the room works to her benefit, so she's happy.  We then refreshed her old cabin and turned it into a second guest cabin.

Which we promptly used for a gathering of the extended clan for a late Christmas

The good news? We're pretty well booked every weekend and quite a few weekdays through June.  So...We got that going for us.  Additional good news? We make it a point to meet our guests as soon as possible after arrival.  Answer any questions, see if they need anything and make a quick assessment of them. One, we like to meet new people and two we like to see if they're likely to tear the place up.  It doesn't happen often, but...

So, a couple of weeks ago, Mrs J and I were on a wine cruise she had put together for a local winery.  This was complicated by the fact that the first weekend and the last weekend of the cruise, both cabins were reserved.  We have a cleaning service to clean the cabins, change linens and towels etc.  Little J and DIL were staying at our house to handle any routine (e.g. "Need more toilet paper") emergencies. So, we thought we had everything covered.

Speaking of TP, after every stay, we put a new roll on the spindle, another roll on the tank and a third under the sink. Folks, short of an outbreak of dysentery, two people in a weekend don't go through 3 rolls of toilet paper.  We aren't stupid, you're taking it home.  Really?  You do know that part of the way we calculate our rates is based on our costs.  That, however, does not mean you own the TP.  It just means as our costs go up, the rate you pay to stay does also.  

Just sayin'

So, we're on the cruise and the folks that had checked in on the first weekend have checked out.  Little J repopulates the TP.  The next folks check in and that evening we get a message from them saying the TV doesn't work.  We're coming home that evening, so we stop by to take a look.  Everything looks right, but it still doesn't work. I ask Little J to come with me to help troubleshoot.  He takes a quarter second look and says, "Dad, the USB cable to the Amazon Fire Stick is missing."

I look under the TV stand and not only is the cable missing, but so is the adapter for electricity to USB.

They had to move the TV stand to get to the electric socket and in so doing, the bottom shelf (which stabilizes the legs) came apart.  They just shoved it back together and hoped for the best. 

ARRRGGGGHHHH! So I run to WallyWorld, spend $5.97 for a replacement USB cable and adapter and $3 for some wood glue.  Grabbed a long pipe clamp and fixed the stand. 

Folks, don't steal!  And, if something gets broken, at least let someone know.  If the legs had come undone, the TV would have fallen and gotten broken.  Much more expensive and billed to your account as well as a quite lousy rating for you as a guest.  You do know that both VRBO and AirBnB request owner evaluations of guests as well as guest evals of their stay, doncha?

A rating of Absolute Zero by us would negatively impact your ability to stay in either company's rentals for a long time to come.

As a song says, "God is great, Beer is good, people are crazy".

So, this past weekend, we've got a couple staying for two weeks.  They live in Wisconsin.  They came down last year for a stay and a couple of days into their stay, Winter Storm Uri hit.  When the electricity and water went out, they, wisely, elected to return to Wisconsin.  I believe they said, "We can be THIS cold in our own home."  We refunded their money.

They're back now, and, on arrival, I thanked them for bringing the warm Wisconsin weather with them this time.  But that evening, they called and said they couldn't get internet access.  So, I stopped by to see what was what.

Now, each guest house has it's own internet connection directly from the internet provider as well as its own network each named for the cabin they're in.  I arrive and pull out my trusty phone and look at available networks.  I see only one and it's for the other cabin. Do the usual tech support stuff (Check connections, turn it off, turn it on, unplug/replug). 


So I call Tech Support for our Internet Provider.  After a long time on hold, I get a very nice technician on the line who walks me through the same stuff I did two paragraphs previously.  Same result.  She then tries to access the network from her end.  She is successful and asks what the network is named.  I tell her, she pauses and says she's not seeing that and reads off the name of the other network, and asks me if it's a LinkSys router.  I go inside to check.  

Yes, it is.

She then reads of the SSID (Service Set Identifier, Beans, It's a Factory Set ID used in virtually all electronic equipment to ID all sorts of things.  Basically SSAN for electronics.).  The ID matches and she says that network is the name of the one in the other cabin.

She also says that there is no router on the other account (the cabin that this router should be in).  It's now getting late, I've been outside for most of this conversation as both cabins are occupied, and while the guests from WI brought warm WI weather, that doesn't mean it's warm TX weather.  And it's Saturday Evening.  Help won't be available til Monday.

I'm discussing the problem with Mrs. J while she's cooking dinner.  I'm having a medicinal glass of wine, or two.  We talk it over and get no further figuring out this conundrum. I'm stumped.  This just isn't possible.  

Here's where Sherlock Holmes comes into the title.

“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Mrs. J, asks "Hey juvat, Do you remember the two couples that knew each other and stayed in each of the cabins for Super Bowl weekend?  They did mention that they'd had a connectivity problem in the cabin they wanted to watch the game in.  We were on a cruise, so couldn't help.  You don't supposed they swapped routers, do you?"

I hear Deerstalker hats are on sale at EBay.  I see one in her future.


Unfortunately, all good things must pass and as you are reading this, Mrs. J and I are delivering Little J and DIL to the Austin Airport for their return flight to HK.  We've had a blast for the past two months and wish them good health and safe travels.  So, I may be a little slow answering comments today.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

The Storm Clouds Gather

Newly promoted Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier¹ Jürgen von Lüttwitz stood on the fantail of the former passenger liner and watched the coast of Norway slip below the horizon. He was saddened at having to leave the men of his machine gun section behind, good lads all. But he had been promoted  and was now leaving to join a division raised in his home province of Saxony,  the 223rd Infanterie-Division.

The division had been raised near Dresden just before the Polish campaign and consisted of older reservists. Jürgen had been told that the Army was infusing the unit with combat-experienced junior officers and veteran NCOs to stiffen them for "future campaigns," as the Spieß had told him. The man had winked when he said that, everyone in the Army was convinced that the "future campaign" was the invasion of France.

No one was happy about that, the troops all expected a replay of 1914-1918 with the bloodbath that had entailed. Jürgen knew the stories from the older men in his family. The prospect frightened him, but from what he had seen in Poland, tanks and aircraft would make a huge difference in this new campaign. He certainly hoped so.

Hildur was back from the coast, one of the older men in the village, Frode Lambertsen, had gone with her. The two looked like an old married couple, down from the hills to purchase the things which weren't available in their small village in the mountains. It was also, as Henriksen told them, a good opportunity to find out what the Germans were up to and how the war was going.

The German presence in the small fishing village didn't amount to much, a squad of ten men, mostly reserve policemen who had been called up to the Army. As their job didn't amount to much more than ensuring the Norwegians behaved themselves, their civilian occupation was a plus.

But the war was not going well, they learned that the King and much of the government had fled the country, to continue the fight from England. Also that a notorious pro-German, Vidkun Quisling, now ran the Norwegian government. There was still fighting in the north, around Narvik, but that too was going badly for the western Allies. Rumor had it that the English had lost one of their aircraft carriers.

"Older men you say?" Henriksen quizzed them when they had returned to Hildesheim² from the coast.

"Yes, Løitnant, they acted like policemen." Frode said.

"How so?"

"You know the way they are, they seem to not be paying attention to any one thing, but they seem to be watching everyone." Frode answered.

Hildur chimed in, "One of them spoke Norsk,³ he asked me if I was from there. I told him to mind his own business, what would his grandmother think of him accosting older ladies on the street."

"I thought she was going to get us arrested. This one has a sharp tongue, Løitnant." Frode had been scared out of his wits when Hildur had snapped at the German. But the German had laughed, admitted that both of his grandmothers would have taken a switch to his behind for "being nosy."

"Perhaps he wasn't a policeman." Henriksen opined.

"No, but he was nosy." Hildur huffed.

Frode said, "He didn't act like a policeman."

"And if you hadn't been a trouble maker in your youth, Frode, you wouldn't be such an expert on policemen!"

Henriksen grinned, "Perhaps not. But tell me Hildur, would it be difficult to attack these Germans?"

"Why would we do such a thing?" Frode protested.

"They're in the wrong country, you old fool!" Hildur hissed at Frode.

As Jürgen turned from the rail to go below and sleep, he heard a voice. "Playing the tourist, Bubi? Enjoying your sea cruise?"

Jürgen grinned, it was his old sergeant, Kurt Hartknoch. Apparently the delay in getting out of Norway due to the English attack on the airfield had provided the Army enough time to get Hartknoch treated and on a ship back to Germany.

"So Herr Oberfeldwebel, back to Germany for convalescent leave?"

"That and a new assignment after I recover, I'm supposed to go to the infantry school and be an instructor. I'd rather join a fighting division, but one goes where the Army sends one. Where are you headed?"

"The 223rd. They were on occupation duty in Poland, now they're shifting to the west."

"Ah, no doubt for the attack on France. They say that could happen any day now, all the Führer needs is good weather."

"So now you talk to the Führer?" Jürgen grinned as he said that, he knew Hartknoch had no great love for the regime.

"No Bubi, I don't, you know better. But you don't need to be Clausewitz to know that with clear skies the Luftwaffe can sweep the enemy from the sky."

"Hhmm, I think it won't be as simple as that. We surprised the Poles, the French and the English know we're coming, it won't be such a surprise. I fear a repeat of the last war." Jürgen shook his head as he said that, he had felt such a chill run down his spine at that thought.

"Why Bubi, you look like someone just walked on your grave!" Hartknoch joked.

Gefreiter Georg Schülze shifted the sling on his rifle as he paused at the head of the street which led down to the small harbor. Even though it was almost May, the wind off the fjord was still bone chilling.

He had been a policeman in Berlin before the war, a detective. He wasn't happy being called up to the Army and sent to this tiny fishing village in the middle of nowhere. He would have preferred to be at home, solving crimes. But he had to admit, many of the "crimes" the Berlin police had been chasing down before his call up had been political in nature.

He shook his head and turned to walk back down to the harbor. Could be worse, he thought, he could be up in the northern part of the country, fighting the British and their Norwegian allies. He had heard that that fight wasn't going as well as the Propaganda Ministry claimed.

As he strolled along, looking for anything out of the ordinary, he began to whistle a song. He was terrible at whistling, but it passed the time.

Bjørn Mikkelsen put away the field glasses that Henriksen had loaned him. Though it was a very long shot, he thought he could make it. If he had Olaf Svensen's telescopic sight he knew he could make the shot. When he got back to Hildesheim he'd ask the lieutenant for permission to go down to Oslo. Olaf had moved there after losing a leg in a hunting accident.

Though Olaf no longer had the rifle, Bjørn knew that he still had the telescopic sight. But would the old man let him have it for this new type of hunting?

Well, time would tell. Until then, the fat German whistling in the street would live a little longer. Hopefully not too long.

¹ He's still an officer candidate "Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier" translates as cadet or ensign, serving in the grade of a junior sergeant.
² A fictional Norwegian village.
³ Refers to the language and the people of Norway (Norwegian)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

After the Mountain Fight

They went back down the mountain, carrying their wounded, once again the dead were left behind. None of the men were willing to go into the destroyed panzers to remove the dead crewmen. Hartknoch understood and told Jürgen to leave them be.

"The burial parties will be up eventually. The dead are dead, it remains for the living to carry on." Hartknoch looked back to where the dead were lined up, wrapped in their blankets, anonymous now, their steel shod boots protruding forlornly. "It breaks my heart Junge, but it's war. It's terrible and people die. But it bothers me."

"How is your leg Oberfeldwebel?" Jürgen asked, more to change the subject than anything.

"I'll live, the Sani¹ says one of the small bones in my lower leg is broken, apparently the bullet clipped it as it went through. It hurts like Hell, but what can I do? It'll mend. What won't mend is seeing our boys die, and for what? To chase off these reservists who harass us in the hills? We didn't even get a prisoner!" Hartknoch spat towards the edge of the road.

"We did get some paperwork off one of the dead Norwegians, a sergeant I think. So we know the unit, we can also surmise that there was only one weak company in this area, we killed or captured most of them in the village when they ambushed us." Jürgen checked the position of the sun, he wanted to leave, and soon.

Hartknoch noticed, "Yes, it's getting late, let's get moving." Turning to two soldiers nearby he yelled out, "Hey you two, come give me a hand getting down the hill. You wouldn't leave your old Oberfeldwebel up here would you?"

Hartknoch looked back at the dead once more, it was only then that he noticed that the men had wrapped the two dead Norwegians in their greatcoats and had laid them not far from their German enemies. He was somewhat disturbed that the men had thought to keep the dead Norwegians separate. "Even in death they are separated by the uniforms they wear, nothing else," he muttered as the two men helped him to his feet.

Henriksen and his small band, now reduced by two, made themselves as comfortable as they could in yet another hunting cabin in a small valley high up on the mountain. He was still brooding over the loss of Belland and Torvik.

Hildur saw this and was a little concerned. Other than the hunter, Bjørn Mikkelsen, the other men were simple farm laborers. The dead sergeant had handled taking care of the men while the lieutenant made the decisions. Now the young officer had to do both. If she could, Hildur would help as best as she could. She had birthed three sons, one of whom had died young, the other two were off doing their national service. She worried about them, wondering if they were still alive.

"Bestemor, you really should go home. I'm thinking of releasing the men to go home as well, there is no point to this fight now. The Germans are everywhere it seems. I can't imagine what it must be like in the cities." Henriksen spoke softly. The men seemed okay, they had lost two comrades but, as Martin Sundheim had pointed out, people died, it was a part of life.

Henriksen wished he could take such a pragmatic view of things.

"Look here lieutenant, I'm not going anywhere, I can be awfully useful. We must bother the Germans whenever and wherever we can. We can't let them just take our country. It is our country, not theirs. We should resist." Hildur's voice was strong and insistent, Henriksen was reminded of his father's mother, his farmor, She too had been a tough, independent woman, raising his father, his four uncles, and one aunt, after the loss of her husband, his grandfather, at sea during a bad storm.

"How old are you Bestemor?" he asked suddenly.

"I'm old enough lieutenant, don't you worry about me, I'll hike you and your boys into the ground any day of the week." Hildur gave him a look that stopped him from saying anything further about her age. He guessed she was in her mid to late 50s. He wouldn't be wrong.

"Well then, what's next, lieutenant, what are your orders?" Hildur asked.

Henriksen gave her a slight smile, "You sound almost like a sergeant, Bestemor. A good one."

Jürgen looked around the airfield, he was surprised that he was flying back to Germany. He supposed that as there was room aboard the Ju-52², why shouldn't he fly?

He saw a soldier sitting on a crate, a small dog cuddled up to him under the blanket they were sharing. He walked over to the man.

"Is that your dog, soldier?"

The man looked up, saw the insignia marking von Lüttwitz as an officer candidate, and began to stand up.

"Sit, I'm not an officer, not yet anyway. Just a simple Gefreiter as far as anyone's concerned." Jürgen sat on the crate next to the young man. "Does the dog have a name?"

"I don't know what his real name is, I call him Thor."

"He doesn't look like the god of thunder." Jürgen remarked.

"He's a Norwegian dog, I don't know any other Norwegian names." the private said that as if it made perfect sense. And in a way, it did.

Jürgen smiled then looked to the west, movement had caught his eye, he saw swift, moving shapes, coming in low. He thought that they were moving awfully fast to be coming in for a landing at this field outside of Stavanger. Then the sirens began to sound.

"Soldier, you and your dog should get to cover, it's an air raid!"

Jürgen watched from the cover of a shallow ditch as the strange, antiquated aircraft came in low, dropping small bombs as they did so. He saw the transport that was supposed to take him to Germany explode in flames. He guessed that he wouldn't be flying but would go by ship.

The biplanes, he saw they were British, wheeled and came back over the field, their forward guns chattering and the observers firing from the position behind the pilot. The Germans were now firing back and one of the aircraft seemed to stagger in mid-air, then proceeded to dive straight into the ground.

He heard a yelp and turned to see the young soldier chasing his dog. He yelled at the man to take cover but he was too late. The man and the dog both died under the hail of machine gun fire from one aircraft's rear observer.

The planes vanished into the distance. Jürgen stood up and brushed himself off, he sighed as he looked at the body of the dead soldier, clutching the small dog named Thor to his breast.

"Well, you died together and not alone. I suppose that's something."

Turning from the scene he walked towards the marshalling office, he supposed he needed to arrange alternate transport. Pausing to look back at the dead man and his dog, he wondered if that was how the war would go, bit by bit, people dying every day until no one was left to fight.

Suddenly an immense sadness spread through him. He wished he was home, he wished all of them were home, every soldier on the planet, rather than fight this stupid war.

¹ Sani, short for Sanitäter, or medic (German)
² The Ju-52 was a tri-motored Luftwaffe transport.

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Trap is Sprung

They had hiked back up the mountain and were at the spot on the trail which Hildur had suggested was a good place for a trap for the German tanks.

"Arne Olafsen drove his tractor up here in 1937, he had the only tractor in the entire valley and he was so proud of it. Imagine his chagrin when he brought it up here one day and the road slid out from under his pride and joy, dumping him in the gully and breaking his leg." Hildur explained with a giggle as she remembered the scene.

"What happened to the tractor Bestemor?" Sander Stohl asked. Before Hildur could tell the rest of the story, Bjørn Mikkelsen answered, the hunter had a broad smile on his face.

"Ah, it was a sight to see, Halvard Bronstad brought his team of horses up and they pulled Arne's tractor out of the ditch. Arne was livid, couldn't believe his new toy had to be rescued by an old fashioned team of horses."

The lieutenant cleared his throat and said, "Uh, I hate to break up this story time, but I think I see what Hildur has in mind. Gather around men, and Bestemor of course."

Hildur nodded and pointed at the right side of the road, it was apparent that melting snow runoff had undercut the road already. She explained that if they dug it out a bit more, they could count on the tank's weight to collapse that side. Then, with luck, the tank would slide down into the gully, maybe even tip over.

"Um, there were two tanks Bestemor ..." Magnus Belland pointed out.

"And do you think this path is wide enough for it to get by the stuck tank, or the collapsed road if we're really lucky?"

Henriksen said, "She's right Magnus, they'll be stuck here. And Farmer Bronstad won't be along to pull the tanks out. Right, Bestemor?"

After the laughter died down, Magnus asked, "It's one thing to stop the tanks, how do we kill them. We don't have any cannon."

"No," Hildur answered as she began to rummage through her rucksack, "but I have these." She had pulled out two bottles of Aquavit and proudly showed them to the men.

"So are we to get the Germans drunk, Bestemor?" Lars Torvik asked with a grin.

Hildur shot Torvik a withering look, but before she could chastise him, Henriksen said two words, "Molotov cocktails."

Hildur smiled and said, "Oh, you're such a smart boy."

The two small tanks clattered up the track, Oberfeldwebel Hartknoch and a platoon of thirty-four men escorting them.

From the small village in the valley, the Spieß had spotted a party of uniformed Norwegians higher up, one of the men had noticed a farming trail which led that way, so Lang had ordered Hartknoch and a platoon of his choosing to head that way and attempt to capture the enemy soldiers.

"You can kill as many as you like, Kurt, but bring me at least one prisoner. We need to head back to the coast and report back to battalion. Resistance has been light in this area but we need to know whether the Norwegians have nothing in these hills, or if they're hiding a surprise for us."

Hartknoch had chosen the platoon Jürgen belonged to, he was very impressed with the young officer candidate and wanted to get him some more experience. He knew that von Lüttwitz was scheduled to return to Germany and rejoin his parent division. Before May according to the orders. He had wondered why, but now they had a mission to fulfill.

The young lieutenant commanding the two tanks was a Leutnant out of Nordrhein-Westfalen, some obscure town called Heinsberg.¹ The man now leaned over from his turret and shouted at Hartknoch, "Send one of your Landsers² up ahead, Oberfeldwebel, I don't like the look of this path, it's barely a goat track!"

"Zu befehl, Herr Leutnant!³"

Hartknoch sent two men up ahead, "One of you keep your head up and watch for those Norwegians, Hell, they've probably run off already, but it doesn't hurt to be careful. The other check the road condition, make sure there are no spots which might mire the tanks, Klar?"

"Jawohl Herr Oberfeldwebel, zu befehl!"

"Here they come Magnus, I'll throw my cocktail at the first tank, you take the second. Aim for the engine deck, those little bastards will burn if the fire gets inside the engine compartment." Henriksen was ready to light the makeshift wicks they'd made up from one of the men's shirttails. Not too soon or the Germans might notice.

He looked down and noticed that his hands were shaking. Now that they were just waiting, he realized that he was absolutely terrified. "I wonder if all men feel this?" he muttered.

"Sir?" Belland asked.

"Nothing, Magnus, nothing."

The young German examining the road noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Had he been familiar with driving a vehicle, he might have noticed the dip on the side of the road. As he hadn't walked on it, he didn't notice the softness of the ground either. Like most people, he saw what he expected to see, a dirt path through low lying brush and trees.

He might have heard the striking of a match as well, had not the sound of the tank engines growling behind him drowned out that sound.

"Damn it Norbert, keep the panzer on the track!" Leutnant Wilhelm Starker might be forgiven for thinking that his driver was not paying attention, focused as the tank commander was on surveying the surrounding terrain, which was too closed in for his tastes.

"Scheiße!" Norbert Helm barked as he felt the right side track lose its grip on the gravel. He tried, in vain, to recover but it was too late. The edge of the track was collapsing, and in his effort to prevent the tank from sliding off the road, the right track snapped and slithered off its rollers.

Before Starker could react, he felt something hot just behind him. As he turned, the bottle smashed on the engine deck and splashed fire over the back of the tank. Some of it sloshed up onto the turret and caught Starker's black panzer jacket on fire.

Hartknoch saw it all as if it had been filmed in slow motion. Flaming bottles of liquid shattering on first one tank, and then the other. Feldwebel Braunschweig's tank was hit on the turret, Braunschweig's screams as his tunic and hair began to burn unnerved him completely. But within seconds he recovered himself and bellowed, "ACTION LEFT! DEPLOY!"

As the men moved, Hartknoch turned to look for von Lüttwitz and his machine gun team, good lad, they're already deploying to cover the back door. Hartknoch watched as one of von Lüttwitz's men slumped to the road, hit by rifle fire. But within seconds, the MG 34 was returning fire.

Lars Torvik and Martin Sundheim had been concealed further down the hill, they had let the Germans pass up the road before they began to follow. Their job was to open fire on the Germans and sow confusion when the tanks were hit. Henriksen's idea was to make the Germans think they were surrounded.

Sundheim watched helplessly as Torvik coughed up blood and tried to speak. Though they had both opened fire, and seen one of the Germans go down, Sundheim was still shocked at the speed with which the Germans had set up their gun and returned fire. Before they could take cover, Torvik had been hit. From what Sundheim could see, he'd been hit by at least two bullets, maybe more. There was so much blood.

Bjørn Mikkelsen had managed to hit at least two Germans, one man who had been trying to crawl out of one of the burning tanks, as well as the man trying to help him escape the fiery steel coffin. Mikkelsen had no regrets, if the Germans wanted a safe life, they should have stayed in their own country.

He thought it best to fall back now, in accordance with Henriksen's plan, confuse the Germans, wreck their tanks, then get away as fast as they could. "Hit and run, Bjørn, it's all we can do for King and Country now."

As he slipped through the brush, he glimpsed a German shouting and pointing. "Hhmm, probably someone important," he muttered. He aimed, he fired, then grunted with satisfaction when he saw the man fall, a spray of arterial blood in the air to mark the bullet's passing.

Gradually the shooting stopped, Jürgen looked around, he saw Hartknoch crawling towards him, one leg dragging uselessly behind him, a trail of blood darkening the road. "I think they're gone Bubi, Feldwebel Mutschler is down, pretty sure he's dead. Both of the tanks are f**ked and my leg is ruined. You're in command now ..." with those words Hartknoch passed out.

"Hans, tie off the Oberfeldwebel's leg before he bleeds to death, Walther, keep your eyes on our rear, if anything twitches, hose it down. Michael ..." Jürgen remembered then that Michael Müller was most certainly dead, hit early in the short action, he hadn't moved since. Still, Jürgen checked, no pulse, Michael's eyes were glassy and focused on nothing at all.

"Damn it!"

Henriksen took stock of the cost of his little act of defiance to the Germans. Lars Torvik had died while Sundheim had been dragging him to cover. Hildur had received a slight wound in her arm, she had already checked it and said, "I've had worse."

But Magnus Belland was dead. His sergeant had exposed himself one too many times while directing the fire of the small band. A lucky German shot had hit him high on the inside of his  right thigh severing his femoral artery, though Henriksen had tried to staunch the blood, both men knew that Belland was a dead man.

"It's all right, Morten, the luck of the draw. Some men survive wars, some, in fact many, don't. Tell my parents I was killed instantly ..."

Drawing a deep breath, Belland squeezed Henriksen's hand, "Ah, it's getting colder now, isn't it ..." then he died.

As they retreated into the hills once more, tears streaked his face. Hildur came up to him as they hiked and took his arm, "Life is hard my son, make the Germans pay, that's what you can do. That's all you can do." She squeezed Henriksen's arm, then moved along to speak to the other men. They were all from the same area, they all knew each other. Friends had been lost this day.

They all knew that it was not over, far from it.

¹ I lived less than five miles from Heinsberg during my tour in Germany.
² Slang term for an infantryman. (German)
³ At your command Lieutenant. (German)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

To Catch a Bear

Premierløitnant Morten Henriksen and his small group of reservists had made their way back down the mountain after burning the hunting camp to deny it to the Germans as shelter. The men were exhausted after trekking all night. Even though they were on skis, it had been cold and the snow had made progress slow. None of the men had slept in over twenty-four hours and they hadn't had anything to eat in over twelve.

Henriksen had picked up four more men and one woman during the night, three of the men were reservists who had not received their mobilization orders, one was a hunter who lived so far up in the mountains that the government didn't know he existed. He had been visiting his sister in Oslo when the Germans had invaded. He had gone into the hills when that event had occurred. He was eager to kill Germans.

The woman was the wife of a forester who had been in Stavanger when the Germans invaded. She had no idea if he was alive or dead, when she had seen the Germans in the valley she had gotten worried, when the Norwegian soldiers had come by, she was ready to go with them. At first Henriksen was reluctant to allow her to accompany them.

"Fru¹ Tonnesdottir, you should wait here for your husband, I can't be responsible for ..."

Hildur Tonnesdottir immediately objected to the lieutenant's tone, "Now see here young man, I have lived here in these mountains all my life, I am responsible for myself. The only way I'll not go with you is if you shoot me!"

Henriksen blushed, "No one is going to shoot you, Madam, but you have to understand ..."

Before Hildur could say another word, Magnus Belland interjected, "Do you know how to use that rifle Ma'am." he said, nodding at the older model Krag-Jorgensen she carried.

"Of course I can shoot, young man, how do you think I live when my husband is away?"

The sergeant nodded then addressed his lieutenant, "She reminds me of my grandmother, Sir, I'd wager she'd outlast us all in these mountains."

Henriksen sighed, then said, "Very well, but stay at the rear Ma'am, behind the soldiers."

Hildur looked like she was going to object, then caught herself, "Of course, but if you need help shooting Germans, let me know. I've been hunting since I was a young girl."

She heard one of the men chuckle and say, "And I'll bet that was a long time ago ..."

A look from Hildur froze the man in mid-sentence.

Hartknoch had the men up and moving shortly before sunrise, he saw no point in staying up here any longer. It was cold, the men were hungry, and there was no sign of the Norwegians they had been hunting. Other than the burned buildings which were all that remained of the hunting camp.

"Jürgen, I want your machine gun section to bring up the rear. I doubt those Norwegians are around, but just in case. There's nothing like an MG 34 to convince someone to stay clear." Hartknoch then led the column down off the mountain.

After a long hard slog, the company made it back to where they had fought the original encounter with the Norwegian reservists. Amazingly enough, there was a truck and two of the small PzKw² I tanks, a vehicle which barely qualified as a tank it was so under-armed (two machine guns, no cannon). But it was better than anything the Norwegians had in the area.

Hartknoch recognized Hauptfeldwebel³ Wolf Lang standing near the truck, which, again amazingly, was loaded up with the company's rucksacks and greatcoats.

"Ah Spieß, we could have used those greatcoats last night, f**king cold up there on the mountain!" as Hartknoch spoke, he had the platoon leaders have their men fall in to collect their gear from the truck.

"Ah, did it get a little chilly up there, Kurt? Miss your cozy barracks back in Jüterborg⁴?"

"Natürlich⁵ Spieß! I miss seeing your wife as well!"

Lang looked around then hissed, "Watch what you say about my wife, Hartknoch. She's told me many times that she doesn't like you." The Spieß grinned when he said that. Lang wasn't actually married but everyone knew how sweet he was on the little blonde barmaid at the Kleiner Hase⁶ in Jüterborg. Everyone referred to her as the Hauptfeldwebel's wife. The barmaid did NOT find that amusing, but she humored the men. After all, their drinking helped pay her salary.

Hartknoch laughed, then as he saw that the company was once again reunited with their greatcoats and rucksacks, he said, "Did you bring a field kitchen with you?"

"Of course, down the hill then to the left, by the cobbler's shop. Get your men fed, then I have another mission for you. No rest for the wicked, Kurt!"

Henriksen hissed between his teeth as he studied the valley where the village was. More Germans and they had two of the small tankettes that mounted a pair of machine guns. "They have tanks, Magnus. Two of those little ones." He handed his sergeant the field glasses.

"We've got nothing to stop one of those." Belland knew that his officer wanted to go after the Germans, but with only eight men and one older woman, he wasn't sure what they could possibly do. He handed the field glasses back.

As he did so Hildur spoke, "I know a place, if we could lure them up the trail behind the grocer's ..."

One of the new men cut her off, "That place where the road dips down on one side into a gully, right?" Åsmund Baardson knew Hildur from her trips down to the village to buy supplies with the money she and her husband made from trapping and hunting.

"Exactly Åsmund, you always were smart."

"What on earth are you talking about, Bestemor⁷?" Martin Sundheim chimed in, "What would you know about killing tanks. We have nothing to kill a tank with!"

Hildur smiled and said, "I've killed bear without a rifle you know?"

Henriksen thought for a moment, "Set a trap for the tank, somehow get it to roll off the road and into the gully, that's what you mean, isn't it Fru?"

"I see why they made you an officer, young Sir." Hildur smiled again.

"All right lads, let's go figure out how to catch a bear without a rifle!" Henriksen said as he followed Hildur into the forest. Things might get interesting, he mused.

Sergeant Belland was firmly of the opinion that his lieutenant had clearly lost his mind.

¹ Mrs. (Norwegian)
² Panzerkampfwagen, (German) Armored Fighting Vehicle, i.e., a tank.
³ Title for the company first sergeant, or Spieß. Spieß was the Wehrmacht slang term for the first sergeant, literally "spear."
⁴ The town where the 163rd Infantry Division trained after being raised in late 1939.
⁵ Naturally (German)
⁶ The Little Hare, a fictional pub in Jüterborg.
⁷ Grandmother (Norwegian)

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Started Three Posts, Finished This One ...

So today I started a book post, figured I'd go back to France and see what Guillaume was up to, then decided, "Nah, I need to spin out the Norwegian thread first, then we'll get back to France."

I dillied, I dallied, I zigged, and I zagged - before you know it, I was playing, "Oh dear, is that the time?"

That's when the Motivation Gauge bottomed out and kept going. So what I did, with all that back and forth indecisiveness, was basically I stripped out a screw head somewhere in my brain.

Uh, what?

Okay, an example. Below you see the radar package of the mighty F-4D Phantom II. The radar package is extended (damme, I can still name all the parts and could probably dismount them in my sleep, not that I've ever done that before) and Panel 4L has been removed which is the only way to remove the CW¹ Modulator. If you're an old WCS² gorilla, you'll note that said modulator has indeed been removed.

Note the yellow arrow (which Panel 4L is below), the little dot it points to is a screw hole, there were a gazillion of them on Panel 4L. The screws used to affix the panel were made of brass. One had to use care in removing them, or securing them.

(Read Me)
If you did not, you could strip the head of the screw, making it a pain in the ass, if not downright impossible for your average gorilla to remove with a speed handle. Below is an illustration of a speed handle. It lets you screw things in and screw things out quickly. (Did I mention it also allows you to screw things up quickly as well? No? I should have ...)

No, we didn't use a powered drill, many bad things could happen ...

Anyhoo, once one (or more, usually more) screw heads were found to be stripped (uh, uh, wasn't me Sarge, I swear it came in this way ...), the Sheet Metal shop would have to be called in order to get the screw out. They were very good at that task. I don't know why I never watched them do that, I might have learned something. Then again, that would be one more job I'd have to do, if I knew how.

Have I ever mentioned that I'm lazy?

Left to right: good screw - uh, slow down cowboy - put down the speed handle - damn it, somebody call the sheet metal shop
Anyhoo, in the attempt to write a book post, which became two book posts, I must have stripped a screw somewhere in my brain.

I've got a call in to the Sheet Metal shop, no doubt they'll have that fixed tomorrow.

One hopes ...

¹ CW (Continuous Wave) Modulator, basically modulates the continuous wave energy transmitted by (you guessed it) the CW Transmitter, which is what the Aim-7 Sparrow missile rides to the target. The receiver for that energy is located in the nose of the missile, radiation reflects off the intended target, missile detects it, missile chases it, enemy airplane goes boom. Hopefully.
² WCS = Weapon Control System, a gorilla is the individual who works upon said system. Had something to do with the ability to lift heavy things and the propensity to drag one's knuckles along the ramp while they (me too) walked from Phantom to Phantom. Fixing things and annoying the other maintenance types. Aircrew were advised not to feed us or to make eye contact. Not saying we were aggressive, well, yes I am.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Into the Mountains

Premierløitnant Morten Henriksen had managed to escape the surrender of his reserve company along with three other men. Sersjant¹ Magnus Belland, Menig² Lars Torvik, and Menig Martin Sundheim had been elsewhere in town when the Germans had attacked after being ambushed. An ambush which had failed.

Henriksen was observing the village with his field glasses, he was ashamed that he had fled when his men had started surrendering, he felt he should have stayed with them. As he lowered his glasses he muttered, "Damn it ..."

Belland grabbed his lieutenant's sleeve and said, "Then what about us Sir, what about the three of us?" Belland gestured at himself, Torvik, and Sundheim.

Henriksen looked at the ground, he realized that his sergeant had a valid point. The three men he was with could have surrendered but had decided to escape deeper into the hills, to continue to resist the invasion of their homeland. The others had given up far too easily, but they were reservists and their active service days were long past. Whereas he, and the men with him, had done their active service fairly recently.

"Perhaps you are correct, Sersjant. What do you propose? I am open to suggestions."

"Here's what I think, Sir ..."

Jürgen watched as the Norwegian reservists were disarmed, searched, then put into a column to be marched down to the coast, which surprisingly enough wasn't that far away. "What will become of them Herr Oberfeldwebel?"

"Hard to say. If their government surrenders soon, I expect they'll be released back to civilian life. If Oslo fights on, they might be shipped back to Germany as prisoners of war." Hartknoch wasn't really sure, he knew that according to official Reich policies, the Norwegians were a fellow Germanic people. Not that he bought into that, in his mind people were people, the government's racial policies were ridiculous. But one didn't say such things aloud. One of his neighbors had, he had been arrested in the dead of night and taken away, to an unknown fate.

Jürgen nodded, then he noticed that the dead German officers were being loaded onto a farm cart, there were three bodies. He turned to look at Hartknoch, who was looking at the cart as well. "Leutnant Busch?"

"He didn't make it, he'd lost too much blood, maybe if he'd been wounded near a hospital ..." Hartknoch shrugged.

"Why them and not the others? Are our other dead to be left on the hillside, along with the dead Norwegians?" Jürgen sounded angry.

"Ah Bubi³, it doesn't matter who runs the government, the officers will always get better treatment than the men. Remember that when you get your officer straps⁴ some day. Maybe you can change things, but be careful how you go about it. Now see to your squad, we have to move higher into the hills."

"The dead?"

"They'll still be dead when the burial parties come up, probably tomorrow. Just be thankful that it's not summer." Hartknoch then left to get the company moving again.

"Shit, it looks like the Germans are going to come up further." Henriksen had been watching the Germans again, "Bastards, they're just going to leave the dead where they lay!"

Sersjant Belland shook his head, "That's a combat patrol, Sir, they don't have time to bury the dead, note that they're leaving their non-mobile wounded as well. I bet they have orders to head all the way up to the tree line. The maps show a small village there, it's not a real village, merely a hunting camp, but the Germans won't know this. If we move quickly we can get there first, burn it down so that the Germans will have to spend the night in the open."

Henriksen nodded, "Alright Magnus, we'll do it your way. But where shall we spend the night? In the open?"

"No Sir, there's a cave higher up the mountain we can shelter in, at least we'll be dry and out of the wind."

Henriksen sighed, "Perhaps we'll meet a troll up there on the mountain."

Menig Torvik shuddered and whispered, "Be careful what you wish for Løitnant, trolls are no laughing matter."

Before Henriksen could respond, he was definitely startled that one of the men believed in such things, Belland spoke, "For now we worry about the Germans, Lars. Now come on, let's move."

"This isn't a village, it's no more than a camp, probably for hunting." Hartknoch exclaimed to Feldwebel Weber.

As they watched the three buildings burning fiercely, Johannes Weber said, "They're of no use to anyone now. Night is coming on, I'm sure this fire is no act of Nature either."

Hartknoch nodded, "No doubt we didn't capture or kill all of those reservists. Looks like we're sleeping rough tonight boys, let's gather some wood, looks to be plenty of deadfall around." Looking at the burning buildings he said, "We'll camp near the buildings but put our outposts out further. Out of the fire light."

The men looked around, it was getting colder, a light snow was beginning to fall. Jürgen  spoke up and suggested, "Pine boughs, we can make shelters for those not on sentry duty."

"Good idea, let's get to it lads!" Hartknoch and the other sergeants got to work organizing things while the privates did what private soldiers always did. Bitched about it but did the work anyway.

Jürgen knew that it was going to be a long night, very little in the way of rations other than the bread they had found, and no greatcoats. Of course, their blankets were still rolled up and attached to their rucksacks. At that moment one of his gunners, Jörg Neumann, came up.

"Herr Gefreiter, would these help?"

Jürgen looked in amazement as Neumann held out a Norwegian mountaineering rucksack, it had blankets in it. "What made you think to grab this?" he asked in amazement.

"Begging your pardon Sir, but I can tell time, I'm from the Obersalzburg and I know mountains. Even though it's spring, it stays cold up here until June or even later. With our gear down below, I thought these might be useful." Neumann explained.

When Hartknoch saw the blankets, he immediately gave them to the men going out on sentry duty. "You're going out in pairs, stay together for warmth, drape the blanket over your shoulders. Stay on your feet, when I make the rounds I don't want to catch anyone asleep, that's a firing squad. Clear?"

The men heading out answered, "Klar, Herr Oberfeldwebel, zu befehl!"

"You're damned right I'm in command, now let's go. Stay alert, try to stay warm, I don't think the Norwegians will try anything but we don't know for sure. Now go, go! Are you waiting for a personal order from the Führer?"

As night settled in, along with the cold, the Germans had no idea they were being watched from the mountain.

The Norwegians would bide their time. Henriksen almost wished there were trolls about, surely they would like the Germans even less than the Norwegians they troubled in the old stories. At least the trolls were Norsk⁵!

¹ Sergeant (Norwegian)
² Private (Norwegian)
³ Laddie (German)
⁴ Braided officer epaulettes.
⁵ Norwegian.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Mama said there’d be cruises like this, Mama said

 Going to try something adventurous with this posting.  I'm writing this paragraph on Friday Feb 11.  We depart tomorrow for Galveston for our second scheduled, first completed Wine Cruise of 2022.  We've got  24 wine cruisers from Texas Heritage Vineyards and we're sailing on Royal Caribbean to Cozumel (of course), Costa Maya and Belize.

Since I got no subject for posting two weeks from now, I'm going to attempt writing, and more at risk, publishing on the two sea days we have returning.  If you see nothing more below, well...feel free to comment.

Ops check at sea…good! On with the post!

So, as you are no doubt aware, in order to get on board a cruise ship nowadays, one must be pure in spirit and body. And… have the papers to prove it. So Mrs J forks over $150 for two WuFlu test kits. One then scans the QR code with the “App”. Shortly thereafter, one is connected with a call center not in the US. A proctor then takes control of the cameras on your phone and begins to talk you through administering the test to yourself. Eventually, you get to shove a Q-tip like thing up each nostril and swirl it around. Then you’re instructed to insert it into the test kit. You then leave it there, with your phone watching it, for 15 minutes. When that’s up, a proctor comes back on (this point in time is crucial) and tells you how to read the test results. One pink line? Welcome aboard! Two pink lines? No cruise for youse! Oh and this process can be done no earlier than 48 hour before sail time. So….ain’t much room for error.

Mrs J goes first. Her proctor speaks English…somewhat. Positioning the phone is problematic but is resolved. Swab done, Timer elapsed. Results read. She’s going on a cruise.

I’m up to bat. My proctor speaks pretty good English. Nose swabbed, timer elapsed, one pink line. I’m going cruising, just gotta wait on the proctor. She comes on. Speaks excellent English, asks me how many lines I see. As I open my mouth to answer, the app displays a message that says 500:Internal Server Error. I am no longer connected to them, their server crashed. Call their tech support, get told I’m screwed as far as that test is concerned, I’ll have to get another kit and start all over.

Suffice it to say, I used up 4 years worth of my swear word allowance in about 30 seconds.

Tech Support  thanks me for the report and say they’ll get the server up ASAP, but I’ve still got to start over from scratch.

Another decade of swear words down the toilet. We don’t have another test kit on hand, nor do we have the time to get one online, as we had planned to be on the road by noon. So, I drive into town and go to Walgreens. As I’m asking the pharmacist if he’s got kits on hand, he gets a funny look on his face and says “why don’t you get a test here? All you need to do is use our app and make an appointment. Results will be emailed to you in about an hour.”

Thinking Mrs J now has a slightly better chance of not cruising alone, I download the app and start to fill out the appointment form. First available appointment is Monday morning. Hope once more comes crashing down. The ship will be in the gulf.

I explained this to my friend. He replied “ No problem, The appointment is a formality so we can get reimbursed. The test is free to you. As soon as I see the appointment request in the system, we’ll administer the test and email the results to you.”

BP went down quite a bit. Head back home, and since I knew from the online test that I was negative and it was unlikely I had been infected since, Mrs J and I saddled up for Galveston.

Couple of hours later, the phone beeps with a new email from Walgreens. Results are in and can be viewed from the app. I (actually Mrs J) pull them up and I’ m negative. 

Yippee! I’m going cruising. A few minutes later Mrs J says “I can’t figure out how to print or email this report to confirm WuFlu status for clearing Galveston.” Since she’s way better at iPhone use than I and thus it’s unlikely I’ll do better, I then start pondering my solitary return to the ‘burg after dropping her off.

We go out to dinner at Landry’s, when she says “Hand me your phone.” Recognizing the tone, I do so. She opens up the report, expands it as much as possible. Then with her phone takes a picture of it. Opens that up and, miracle of miracles, the pertinent info is legible. When we get back to the hotel, we ask the front desk lady to print out the picture.

BP back down again, I spend most of the night wondering how things are going to get screwed up now. NEVER challenge the Fates like that!

Check in is normal. The person at the WuFlu desk didn’t bat an eye at the documents and waved us through. 10 minutes later, we’re in our cabin. Unpack and head out to check on the wine tour events status.

We meet up with our assigned events coordinator, a very nice young lady from Romania named Ramona. Speaks English quite well. We ask about our wine. 

Now, let me set the stage. Texas has THE stupidest alcohol regulations on the face of the planet. Prove me wrong! In this particular case a winery cannot transport their product to any venue. It has to be delivered through a bonded warehouse. 

Beans, you get one guess, who paid TABC to put that particular regulation in place?

So, if say, a winery was hosting a wine cruise out of Galveston to places in the Caribbean and wanted to provide the wine for consumption on board by its wine club members, they would have to transport the wines to the bonded warehouse ($), and pay them to transport it to the ship ($$$). They cannot transport it even if they are going on the cruise themselves.

But, until the law, stupid as it is, is changed, it’s the law.

So, our hosting winery ships it to the bonded warehouse in Houston and get a receipt that it has been received by the warehouse. Included with the wine is the the sailing date/time documentation, AKA deliver absolutely no later than this point in time. Mrs J calls later in the week with the receipt tracking number and reconfirms receipt and the delivery date time.

The above picture is of the venue about an hour prior to the first tasting. Notice what’s missing?

Mrs J, Ramona, and the winery owner have a quick confab on disaster recovery. No good answers until Ramona calls the ship’s beverage manager and explains the problem. He quickly leaps to hero status when he asks “How about we provide the wine?”

He achieves superhero status when he adds “At no charge.”

The tasting went quite well.

The next day was at sea also, so the activity was a tasting also. Royal Caribbean allows 2 bottles of wine to be brought on board per stateroom for personal consumption. Which meant the owner, the winemaker and the winery manager could bring 6 bottles of wine for “personal” use on board. That was almost enough for a tasting. 

Mrs J and I had inherited my Dad’s wine collection when he passed about 15 years ago. I had always said we’d drink them at special occasions. It was stored in our wine closet with “our” wines.  It has always been difficult when special occasions came round to pull one of Dad’s, so I’d pull one we had bought.

Dumb I know, but…

In any case, as Mrs J and I prepped for this trip, we decided we’d bring two of Dad’s, a 1996 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1999 William Selyem Pinot Noir. Both are getting long in the tooth and should be consumed soon. But…still hard to do.

We bite the bullet and hand carry them on board. 

So, when Mrs J and the winery folks discussed the logistics of the second tasting, I asked if it would be ok to bring the Cab.  I didn’t want to seem like I was implying their wines weren’t good and mine was. Their wines range from very good to out-fricking-standing. I told them I’d just like to share the Cab with people who would appreciate them. 

“Oh, hell yes!

The second tasting went well. We tasted 7 REALLY good wines. I think Dad’s up there smiling.

One thing I did learn about posting at sea.  Text updates OK, not great.  Pictures?  Not so much.  And using an iPad to compose a post is solidly a PITA.  Think I'm going to upgrade to a notebook.

We had fun and got small.