Thursday, March 31, 2022

Guest Post - Ukraine: The View from Poland, Day 33

Ukrainian civilians posing in front of what remains of the 4th Guards Tank Division in Trostyanets, Sumy
Hello, this is Paweł from Ewok Report, your friendly Empire-bashing critter from forests of Eastern Endor... erm, Europe.


Stalemate. This is best encapsulated by newest political joke in Moscow - 

"Welcome to <insert number here- as I write it is 33rd> day of the three-day special military action to capture Kiev."

So what events changed since last week?


Leave it to Salamander to discuss technical know-how of LST being hit and sunk in port. 

Apparently Russians telegraphed in own TV the news reel of ships offloading at the pier,  allowing UKR OSINT to pinpoint place to strike. In the days of Google street view posting any video online - or in TV - pretty much broadcasts to the enemies  "target me!"

An important thing seems to be leaked from the talks between warring sides:

So, the NATO membership is off the table finally, but I think for Russia that was not the real problem. They wanted Ukraine a colony, a protectorate, not independent nation. So NATO membership was just a solidifying of the first problem, the independent and democratic Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russians unleashed their worst indiscriminate fires on Mariupol, place they seem most close to capturing out of major cities, and crucial component of land bridge to Crimea.

Satellite images show grim picture indeed:

This has even prompted some European leaders to throw an idea of evacuation effort:

I am not sure if it will come to anything though with Russians owning the waters around the port. This would also likely risk escalation into open exchange of blows with NATO ships...

Meanwhile war has impacted oil market - not that kind of oil...

Here is when I report from first hand witness perspective, working at supermarket in Poland near German border I had number of German clients buying large numbers of oil bottles in typical panic buyer mode...

Add this oil global market shortage to the grain shortage and it is even worse hunger crisis in the making. With animal fats no sell on many markets due to religious reasons (remember the Sepoy mutiny, anyone?) this takes another important source of nutrients into scarcity.

And war makes for strange bedfellows - well not that strange considering Germany has been helping Israel by building them submarines, for example , for years - and those subs are crucial component of Israeli deterrence, likely housing nuclear cruise missiles...

Last but not least, the elephant - or rather donkey - in the room:

Biden lands for a short visit, and delivers what was sad, sad attempt to imitate Kennedy or Reagan of the past.

Lots of platitudes, occasional faux pas - and not much of substance. I expected announcement of heavy brigade, or better division permanently stationed in Poland, best coupled with a fighter wing... Alas, nope. All of you who don't like Biden, feel free to make a piñata of him, but as with military, you go to war with president you have.

At least he didn't get into direct shooting war with Russia, so that's a bonus.

Because, someone had a very good observation here:

Russian walkover would be invitation for more conquest. Direct war would be risking nuclear escalation with only nation of Earth capable of wiping out the USA.  What is left is a messy solution that costs most the people of Ukraine, but is after eliminating worst options only course left...

See ya (hopefully) next week.

I am betting case of our best local beer that it will be 7 more days added to that joke I mentioned earlier.

Any takers?

Paweł aka Ewok


Moving picture is worth million words:

While this particular T-72 escaped death (ERA¹ tiles worked or missile malfunctioned), what is evident from the vid is total lack of infantry supporting the tank.

"We never learn" - Russian army , Berlin 45, Budapest 56, Grozny 95, Ukraine 22

Also, newest leaks from diplomatic talks indicate Russians are declaring retreat in Kyiv and Czermihiv areas "as a token of goodwill," but presumably only to reinforce South Eastern front somewhere along the Donbas front.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Random Tuna Musings

View from our hotel in St. Thomas, USVI

Hello everyone.  How y'all doin?  Haven't been too visible recently, just hanging around in the comments section a little.  I don't know about you, but I find it harder to comment on his stories than I do when Sarge writes about a specific topic.  I always have opinions, but when it comes to the historical fiction he writes, that' not something I want to provide feedback on.  And that it might come across as criticism.  Maybe I just don't feel it's something I feel smart enough to comment on since I can't say I'm much of a historian.  But anyhoo...

How's your bracket? I didn't get a chance to fill one out, as we were on vacation. But I always pick a Cinderella team and who knows, I might have randomly picked St. Peters.  Then again, Kentucky has been a powerhouse in the past, and a small school I've never heard of beating Kentucky as a number two?  No, my bracket would have been busted early.  Gonzaga would have been my pick to go to the final four if not the championship game, but they always let me down.  Arkansas beat them with Eric Musselman as their coach. We are both alumni of USD and I saw him play my freshman year. They went to the tournament in 1987 but lost in the first round against Auburn.  He was a real fan favorite back then and listening to the post game interview last week, he's still a very gregarious guy.  He's been a journeyman coach across the spectrum with stints in Rapid City, Phoenix, Reno, Orlando, Memphis, and others. It's good to see him doing well.  I'm now rooting for Villanova, but Kansas might win it all.

Ukraine? We're a month into this war and it is very interesting to watch from the outside. I think this is the first war where people's cell phones have played such a role in showing the world an up front view of the fighting.  It's worked in Ukraine's favor, and very much against the Russians favor, as we are able to see the atrocities they are committing almost in real time.  Ukraine is also playing the propaganda game at a varsity or Olympic level. That whole ghost of Kiev story and reports of Ukrainian success, whether it is real or embellished, is helping build international support for the Ukrainians cause.  I think we're also seeing that Russia is not this 20-foot Giant we expected, or at least they didn't bring him to the fight.  It seems that Russia is forgetting that an army crawls on its belly, and that experts talk logistics. Those experts must have remained in Moscow because the images of mired tanks and large convoys that are stalled out seemed it show a level of incompetence we didn't think the Russians had, but obviously have in spades now.  Maybe their arrogance, and a belief that this would be a cakewalk, has come back to bite them in the ass, literally and figuratively. Reports of the Russians just leaving their dead behind is also shocking, but probably shouldn't be surprising considering that Putin is clearly a madman.

How about that President and Vice President we have, huh?  They are quite the team. I believe this war and the sad state of our economy are directly the result of their incompetence and weak leadership.  Not to mention horrible policies.  Between Biden being ignored and embarrassing himself on the world stage, to telling our troops they will be going into Ukraine, and gaffes on the deterrent effect of sanctions, he comes across as a bumbling idiot.  Coupled that with VP Harris's preschool like explanation of the Ukrainian situation, to her latest* rambling remarks regarding the passage of time, and total incompetence with the border and any task she is given, I wonder if some folks on the left are having buyer's remorse.  He is clearly deeply affected by his dementia, and she is an unmitigated disaster as his Veep, so our country is in the doldrums and drifting aimlessly.  Thank God we got rid of that mean tweeter though! 

I liked Trump as our President, despite his coarseness and lack of some perceived notion of what it is to be "Presidential," but I'm not sure I want him to run again.  He wants to, and I think he will destroy anyone in the primaries, but the level of vitriol and hatred he raises on the left are deeply concerning to me. If he does run again, I'm sure we will again see constant attacks on every single thing he says and does, no matter whether they are good or not.  And we'll also have to listen to a constant stream of claims of racism, misogyny, and criminal behavior, characteristics that were the center piece of the left's narrative during the last administration.  I'm also worried that they will roll out the same election tactics as they did in 2020.  

Who could fill the void? Ron DeSantis is clearly a possible candidate, although the current don't say gay bill dog-whistle the left is currently sounding is clearly an attempt to damage him permanently.  Maybe Nikki Haley?  I really like Trey Gowdy, but I don't see that happening.  Romney?  No thank you very much, he's a complete RINO.  I like Ted Cruz too, and I wouldn't be surprised if he runs, but while brilliant, he's also polarizing to the left.  South Dakota's Kristi Noem?  Who else?  I think the GOP has a deep bench that the Dems don't.  I truly believe any of them could do a far better job than the current executives.  And none of them seem to have particularly abrasive twitter accounts.  The left can easily go after DeSantis, and they will for sure, but Haley?  Noem?  There's no room for cries of racism or misogyny there.  I think the GOP has an outstanding chance to pick up some votes from the left, if they can work together on a consistent message, and provide everyone running with some credible and deeply cutting talking points about what the left has done to this country.  A consistent message that has little room for debate (border crisis, inflation, Afghanistan, etc.) should enable the GOP take the House and Senate this year, keeping it through 2024, and easily take the Executive branch that year as well.  At least I hope they can.

Anyone  engrossed in Netflix's F1 Drive to Survive like me?  The show runners have done an excellent job distilling the F1 racing series down to the best and most dramatic parts of the season into hour-long highly compelling episodes.  I had never watched F1 before, but am now a pretty big fan.  I guess that the show has led to a massive increase in viewership here in the US and the demand for tickets at the USA Grand Prix held in Austin Texas last year was huge.  A former USMC pilot buddy of mine got me interested in the show and wants us to get tickets for that race in October.  He flies for Jet Blue now and could get us tickets to get there.  However the "tickets starting at $100" is mostly a bait and switch.  Sure, you can pay $100 to get into the track during the weekend, maybe during a testing session or a practice, but the actual race will run us closer to $800 to start.  I'll have to stick to TV for my F1 fix, and NASCAR for more reasonable $50-ish tickets if I want to see one again in person.  Crazy money in F1, with just a few primary sponsors it seems, whereas NASCAR has plenty of companies helping pay the bills.  That series definitely has a different feel.  It's exciting, but a bit pretentious and stuffy if you ask me.  The top 3 drivers are paid massive amounts, but the average driver in NASCAR makes more than the rest of the F1 field.  Practically any car could win a NASCAR race, but in F1, it's almost always one of the top 3 teams, and the rest just don't have the technology.

I guess the Oscars were last Sunday.  A complete non-event for me, although watching the news the next day, I will say Will Smith is an arse.  Based on the ratings for it over the past few years, nobody much seems to care about the spectacle either.  While I see a few films throughout the year, they are not usually the ones the self-absorbed Academy cares about.  It's turned into an equity event vice a merit award show, with them increasing the number of nominees to a silly number, just so they can ensure certain demographics are given the nod.  Might I see one of their indie films?  Possibly, but it's just something to entertain me, not something I become engrossed in, nor feel the need to be a part of for the water-cooler talk the next day.  Celebrity is nothing that I care about, and those actors are no smarter or better than the average person.  Could the reduced box office and ratings be an indication we're moving away from us being star-struck?  I hope so.  Ricky Gervais said it well.

What's the difference between a Ruble and a Dollar?  A dollar.

A few more thoughts on Ukraine.  This war is also the first where an internet-based economy and international banking is being used to punish the aggressor.  The massive worldwide sanctions being imposed on Russia and its oligarchs, along with all the tech giants cutting the Russians off from every western app is interesting to see, and shows how united the world is against what Putin is doing.  The sanctions have been in place for a few weeks now, but I don't know that they're having the intended effect.  I think we all hoped that they might cause internal pressure on Putin, maybe forcing the oligarchs to force Putin to pull out.  Putin is clearly the most powerful Russian oligarch though, and probably the richest, so maybe they are all powerless against him.  The Ukrainians are putting the most pressure on him now though, with a courageous fight.  No matter what happens, Putin is done- at least on the international stage.  Even if he wins, whatever that means, he loses since the Ukrainians, not to mention the international community, will never stand for anyone supported by him.  And his Army, despite having 150K troops in country, will continue to face resistance from the UKR Army, the general populace, volunteer fighters that are continuing to stream into the country, and the steady flow of weapons from the rest of the western world.  Putin's scorched earth tactics now seem to show that the pressure is working somewhat, although tragically for the UKR people.  When we see the bodies of a family who had been carrying only suitcases, clearly gunned down as they walked, Putin has lost his center of gravity.  His army has shifted from regular warfare to terrorism, focusing strikes on the innocent- on the street, in apartment buildings, and in hospitals.  Putin is an international pariah now and can't ever operate on the world stage again as no western country, bank, or business will cooperate with him.

But regarding Biden and Ukraine, I'm not sure what's going on, but I don't like it.  It might seem like he makes these tremendous flubs, but maybe they are intentional.  On March 23rd, Biden flew to Europe.  On the very same day, the US Government's Selective Service Office tweeted the following:

In the 72 hours Biden was in Europe, he "misspoke" and told American troops that they will be going into Ukraine.  Then, during what was billed as a "Major Speech by the American President to Europe from Poland," Biden declared that "Putin cannot remain in power."  While the Whitehouse backtracked from any calls for regime change, the two flubs and the timing of that tweet really have me wondering.  Are the elites in power pushing us into a kinetic war with Russia, into WWIII?  It would definitely deflect from the domestic woes they've induced.  

Ok, enough serious stuff.  Here are a few photos from that trip I teased in the opening photo.

By the way, this post marks the completion of my fifty-fourth trip around the sun.  And I have to say I think it's going pretty well.  Kids are raised / educated, house paid off, nothing on my credit cards, and two newer cars owned outright.  Health is fine, our marriage is as solid as ever as it approaches its third decade, we are happy, and I have little to worry about.  Even the Navy's COVID fears seem to have waned, so I get to ditch the mask.  That's not to say there's no room for improvement.  My need to lose weight has only increased, we still need to get my daughter to launch (animation employment is elusive), and my house needs a bunch of work, but none of those worries me greatly.  All in all, we're pretty blessed.  I've started to look more towards retirement considering how I have far more work years behind me than I do ahead of me, and we're adding more to our travel bucket list.  We spent a week in St. Thomas earlier this month, as you can see by those photos, and the Caribbean is amazingly beautiful.  We'll go back for sure, with other islands now on the list.  We don't want for "things" anymore, but we are about the experiences, so saving for trips is the goal these days.

Ok, that'll do it for this post.  Time to go blow out some candles.  

*Latest, meaning at time of writing.  She'll probably have another before posting.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Here's the Thing ...

Golden Gate, Kyiv
It's been an interesting couple of weeks here at the Chant and in real life.

I have deleted more comments over the past two weeks then I have for the first nine years and fifty weeks of the blog's existence. Perhaps because more people are stopping by here? I don't know. (We have seen an increase in readership over the last two years. Which is a good thing.)

However, I don't like deleting comments, I only do so when the rules are violated. What are the rules you ask? Stated simply -

Now the "Just be polite..." bit I stole borrowed from Buck, not long after his untimely demise. It kinda goes along with what I learned growing up, "if you can't say something nice ..."

I am often guilty of being unable to say something nice, but going ahead and speaking anyway. But that's in real life, when I'm actually talking, with the written word I like to think I'm a bit more circumspect. I expect folks to do the same here on the blog.

Opinions are okay, but you have to consider the context. Stating your opinion as to someone's character when that someone has just died, and I am mourning that someone's death, is not a great idea. In fact, I found it unacceptable, so those comments were deleted.

Commenting upon the character of another reader is also unacceptable. And yes, that has happened. Just so we're clear.

Now you can post a path (no links please) to an opinion which differs from an opinion expressed herein, and I'll let it stand. But if I find that opinion questionable, I will say so. (And have recently.)

All that being said, the bottom line is "If you can't be nice, go somewhere else." Really, I'm serious.

Now to address the moderation part of the rules, this was put in simply to screen out the idiot spammers who like to leave comments on old posts. I mean, really old posts. Seriously, someone expects somebody to chase a link in a comment on a five year old post? I was actually getting quite a few of these, so I put moderation into effect on posts older than five days.

I actually get the occasional valid comment on old posts. Usually from someone who just found, and read, that post, old as it was, it interested someone enough to comment upon it. Those I will actually allow through and answer the comment, eventually. So if you see your comment not showing up right away, check the date of the post. And be patient, if you didn't break the rules, I'll let it in, and answer it.

Then there are the times that Blogger (operated by Google) will occasionally just have a fit and determine that your comment is invalid, or spam. I have actually had my own comments go to spam. Rare, but it happens.

What you see above is the standard "I'm not logged into Google" comment form. If you are logged in to Google, you'll see your avatar in the little picture box (provided you have one) and your account name in the pulldown window.

I have never tried the Name/URL selection so I can't address how that works. As for Anonymous, it means exactly that. Any comment you leave will be marked "Anonymous." Though I'd like to see a name/internet handle in the comment block itself, it isn't required. A lot of readers will do that rather than create a Google account. Which I understand the reasons for not doing so.

One note on that "Preview" button. If you press it, you'll get the display below. Or you won't (which means your comment has now vanished, never to see the light of day again). But if the "Preview" button works, you'll see something like this (note that it's different if you're commenting as "Anonymous") -

In theory, and really, most of the time, you can click on "Edit" and will be able to edit your comment, then publish it. Or not. Sometimes this is where comments get sent to Neverland. Most of the time, this Preview feature works. But not always.

If you are commenting as "Anonymous" and wish to Preview your comment, you might (or might not) see one of those "Captcha" things. I have that feature turned off as it's annoying as Hell. Sometimes you see the damned Captcha thing even if you are commenting with a Google account or a Name/URL. Blogger isn't always consistent with it's interface. It's a software thing. Don't blame me, I have that "feature" disabled.

I intend to get back to the book as soon as possible. (Note that I didn't say "ASAP," which some folks tend to think means "right now!", but doesn't, it means exactly what it says. Story to follow.)

I'm headed out to Sandy Eggo soon, for two weeks, tops, sometimes those trips are fewer days than planned. I'm not sure how much chance I'll have to write fiction, as these trips tend to keep me busy aboard ship for ten plus hours a day. When I get back to the hotel I usually want to chillax for an hour or two before retiring for the evening. Sometimes I'll write, sometimes I won't. We shall see ...

Now for that "ASAP" story.

So, there I was*

For my last seven and a half years in the Air Force I was assigned to NATO. I worked with a number of US and non-US folks - mostly Germans, Italians, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, and the occasional Greek or Turk (but not in the same room, or cockpit, remind me to tell you that story some day).

Anyhoo, we had our operational (read NATO) chain of command (my boss was a German Oberstleutnant the last two years I was there) and our administrative (read USAF) chain of command. The former covered our day-to-day duties, which was supporting the NATO fleet of seventeen E-3A aircraft (reduced to sixteen via mishap before I left, no, I didn't break it.) The latter was for things like annual performance evaluations, pay, promotions, etc. Ya know, USAF things not involving operational stuff. Remember, I belonged to NATO at the time.

Anyhoo, we had a bunch of USAF captains, most of whom weren't all that useful from a NATO point of view. But in order to keep them gainfully "employed," the USAF squadron to which we belonged (administratively mind you) kept giving them things to do. Ya know, things to keep we unruly enlisted types in line.

Now my own penultimate captain, a decent chap, one day came to me with some idiotic request from USAFE.² He indicated to me that this tasking must be executed "ASAP." (I don't recall if he pronounced it as one word or by its component letters, I prefer the former but will accept the latter.)

Of course, I responded with "Roger, WILCO."³

At the time I was also working a tasking from my German boss, something of much more weight and impact than the bit o' busy work sent down by USAFE. Priorities dontcha know? (We were enforcing the No Fly Zone over the former Yugoslavia at the time.)

Now the following day my captain comes to see me, wants to know if I have executed the tasking he gave me. I responded with "Negative Sir, it has not been possible for me to do that just yet."

As he started to say "But I told you that it needed to be done ASAP ... Oh."

"Yes Sir, you did say 'As Soon As Possible.' Due to my NATO job, the reason that I am in Germany, I haven't been able to do that other thing yet. I might be able to tomorrow, but ..."

"It's okay, I'll do it myself." he exclaimed as he drove out of sight.

I thought to myself, "Yes that's right, something you should have done in the first place."

"ASAP." Words, they mean something.

So yeah, back to the book at some point, but not today.

Tuna will be along tomorrow, be nice to him, it's his birthday tomorrow.

Oh yeah, one more thing, the Greek/Turk story.

So, there I was (again)

Again, this was while I was in NATO. Most folks in Europe know about the long-standing animosity between the Greeks and the Turks, Hell, it goes back thousands of years. Note that I said "most folks."

Seems that there was an American scheduler (we, as a Nation, are often ignorant of both history and geography) who made the decision to schedule an AWACS flight with a Greek pilot and a Turkish co-pilot. Notwithstanding the policy of not attempting to make folks from those two nations work directly with each other, our intrepid airman figured it would be "no problem."

And it wasn't, at least not until the two flyers were in the cockpit together and had a disagreement over the preflight checklist (so I heard - yes, this is inadmissible as evidence as it is hearsay)). Fisticuffs ensued.

The unfortunate American was briefed to "not do that again, ever." The rumor mill had the sparring flyers sent back to their respective nations for conduct rather unbecoming.

Not sure I ever really believed that story. But it is a good story.

So yeah, Tuna tomorrow, I'll be back on Thursday with something for your edification and entertainment.

Stay frosty ...

¹ More information here.
² United States Air Force Europe, the command responsible for USAF units in Europe. A pale shadow of the mighty Pacific Air Forces (PACAF).
³ WILCO = Will Comply
* SJC applies.

Monday, March 28, 2022

10+ Ways to leave your Winter!

 So...juvat, how do you know when Winter is leaving and Spring is arriving in the Lone Star State?  Well, Dear Reader, there are at least 10 identifiers for that momentous occasion.  Let me run through them for you.

1) Hummers.  No, Beans, not HumVees.  These.

Hummingbirds, being smarter than humans, migrate south of the border during the winter and return during spring.  Mrs. J, being the kind hearted soul she is, puts her first hummingbird feeder out mid-February and we keep an eye on it for the "Scout".  Evidently, Hummingbirds when migrating, send out singletons to look for food sources.  Once found, the main body diverts to that source and feeds until moving on. We were out in the back yard this past weekend (more to follow) when this guy arrived.  Mrs. J has since put feeders on the dozen or so feeding poles we have in the yard and, if past years are any guide, we'll soon see lots of the little fellas.  They're great for keeping the mosquito population under control.  They're also pretty good at entertaining old air to air Fighter Pilots.  So, this guy is a key harbinger of Spring.

2. Deer.  Likewise, these guys play a similar role.  Since Winter has interrupted the growth cycle for plants, they get hungry and a bit more bold in finding food.

An additional function for these guys is to act as an alarm clock for us.  They come onto the property early in the morning in search of food.  The Dogs, being Dogs, sense them somehow and express their dissatisfaction with the intrusion on the property. Given that the Dogs are either in the house or in the fenced in yard, one can see that the Deer are not to concerned  by the cacophony. But, Mrs. J and I?  Further sleep being impossible, it's time to start the day.

3.  Bikers.  Thunder in the Hills is an annual gathering in the small town of Bandera TX. (It's about 50 miles South of here, Beans).  It took place this past weekend and, evidently, ~70K motorcyclists attended.  It's one of my favorite times of they year.  There's just something magical about driving along a two lane highway behind a string of 50 or so Harleys.  But, because the weather is improving enough to ride a motorcycle without much clothing, they're a harbinger.

4. Bikers.  Well, to be honest, Cyclists.  These folks actually scare me.  Mrs. J expressed a desire to go out for lunch Saturday.  After a bit of discussing options (there are a LOT of Fooderies in our area, an awful lot!), we decided on Alamo Springs Café.  It's out in the boonies a bit, out by the old Railroad Tunnel (now a Bat Cave), and reached by a two lane, no shoulder, lots of curves and hills and dips resulting in very short sight distances.  Speed limit is 45. The weather was beautiful.  I don't know how many cyclists decided it would be a great idea to ride up to the Bat Cave and back (about a 25 mile round trip).  You know where this is going donch'a?  Holy Crap, speak of a Death Wish.  While I did end up with some bug guts on my windshield, I somehow managed to avoid adding cyclist guts.  But, the brakes and the steering wheel got a workout.  And, no, I've been down that road before.  I was well under the speed limit.

Arrival at the Cafe, and we're greeted by a guy.  He tells us there's a 30 minute wait to place our order as there are many bikers, of both flavors, making the journey for the "2009 Best Burger in Texas" place

So we settled in the lounge chairs in the shade, listened to a decent country and western band and had a medicinal beverage while we waited.  I don't know if the Burger was the best I've ever had, but it's PDG!

RTB was almost as bad.  I came around one short sight distance curve and had to slam on the brakes.  A car was stopped in the middle of the road.  Shortly after I got stopped not very far from his bumper, an armadillo walks out from in front of his car.  Gotta love 'em.

5. Old Woodshed.  How is this a harbinger of Spring? Well, this time of year it's neither too hot, nor too cold to work in.  Mrs. J had a project for me this past week. and it involved wood. My new shop, while wired, is still in need of insulation which must precede interior walls which will make the shop operational, so...Back to the old, small, crowded shop.  But, the temperature inside was quite comfortable.  So, spring must be nigh.

6.  Shelves.  How are Shelves a Spring indication?  Well, work with me on this one.  As you, Dear Reader, are well aware, we have two guest cabins on our property.  Occupancy rates lately are well over 90% on weekends and better than 50% during the week.  One comment that has been made multiple times is that neither has a place for storing clothes that don't get hung on a hanger.  Mrs. J asked if I could install shelves.  A woodworking project? But, of course, my Dear!


Installed (yes it's a different closet)


I spent a lot of time commuting between my woodshop and the cabin.  Fortunately, the Spring-like weather was cooperating. Got it?  

Yeah, I know, bit of a stretch.

7. Rain.  Usually we get quite a bit of rain in the Spring.  It's been forecast several times recently.  We got NADA!

8. Winds.  Usually, we get quite a bit of wind during the Spring.  This we Spades!

9.  Burn Bans.  The vast majority of Counties in Texas have been under a burn ban for quite a while now because grass doesn't grow in the winter and is now dead and therefore a fire hazard.  Our County is an exception.  However, based on #7 & 8, the County Commissioners are expected to issue one as you are reading this.  Hence, there was a lot of "gotta burn my trash pile" going on lately.  The falling domino that you are no doubt sensing in this paragraph is:

Yep, the area Fire Departments have gotten quite good at responding.  They managed to get this one out in about an hour.  Yes, I was concerned.  A while ago on a weekend, one broke out near the local High School.  The Ag barn was very close to the fire and the animals had to be evacuated.  That made the local paper.

10. And my final harbinger of the arrival of Spring is...Mrs. J.  She breaks out her gardening tools and attire, borrows my truck and loads the bed with manure, other fertilizers and plants.  While she's gone, I take the opportunity to apply a healthy dose of Ben-Gay to my soon to be aching back.  Yesterday was spent resuscitating Rose bushes, planting Lantana and weeding. The next few days will be focused on developing a vegetable garden. I need to add Ben-Gay to the shopping list.

Plus a bonus. High temp last week was in the 40's. Driving into town yesterday, the car thermometer read 91.  Driving home, there was another grass fire about 5 miles west of our house.  
Fire Fighting Aircraft flying directly over our house.  There are 4 total about a minute apart and this is their second or third trip each.

So given all the above indicators being found, I'd say Spring in Texas (or my little spot thereof) is upon us. YMMV.

One final quiz question.

That's a Red Tesla with California plates,  Refugee? or Missionary?


Peace out, y'all!

Sunday, March 27, 2022

It's All Too Much

Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters has died ...

This band has been a huge part of my life for a decade, now everything is in the wind.

I need some time to process this ...

My creativity has flown.

Please bear with me.

Cold day in the sun indeed ...

RIP Taylor, see you on the other side, man.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

To the Beaches

Jürgen had seventeen men with him, his own squad of nine and eight men, including the squad leader Obergefreiter Sepp Wittman, from Wittman's squad. They had left their bivouac about thirty minutes before nautical twilight after permission for a reconnaissance was received from battalion.

Leutnant Acker had briefed him using his own map to check Jürgen's map, the crossing over the canal was clearly marked on both maps. "Check for Tommies, if the area is clear, go ahead and cross over. If not, send a runner back and we'll bring up the entire company. Are we clear on that?"

"Jawohl Herr Leutnant!"

Jürgen had two MG 34s with him, his own and Wittmann's. The guns gave him sufficient firepower that he felt he could hold off an entire company with his eighteen-man platoon. As long as the ammo held out, of course.

As he began to wonder just where this damned canal was, one of the scouts came back from the point. "Uffz, the canal is just ahead, maybe fifty meters. All is quiet, there is a farmhouse, but it looks deserted. Thing is, there is no bridge really."

"No bridge? Explain that, Bodo."

Schütze Bodo Hermann explained, "There is a structure carrying a pipeline over the canal just north of the farmhouse. While the map shows a road leading to the canal, and another directly across the canal leading away, there is no bridge. Just the pipeline."

"A pipeline of some sort? Could we cross it on foot?"

"I think so."

"Go back up to the point Bodo, you and them wait there. I'll be up with the rest of the patrol in a minute."

The men were in position, one MG 34 was covering the farmhouse, which Jürgen thought deserted, there was no movement at all anywhere within or without. The Tommies over the canal were either very well disciplined, or non-existent. Knowing the situation as he did, he had to assume that the Tommies were continuing to fall back to the port. There wasn't much point defending the canal from a non-existent threat.

The pipe structure, he had no idea what it was for, was easily crossed, as long as you minded where you placed your feet and kept a good grip on the part of the structure which looked like a hand rail running either side of a walkway. Probably for maintenance of the structure.

He had his second gun set up to cover the crossing, there were a few buildings in the area on either side which worried him. But once the first two men were across, he had the other gun join the main body and they all went across, save one man, Schütze Wolf Gessler, who Jürgen sent back to report that this section of canal was undefended.

"Looks like the Tommies withdrew during the night, you can see they were here," Wittmann pointed to a few discarded ration containers in the kitchen of the farmhouse.

Jürgen nodded, he had to wonder how much closer to the town they were going to get. He and the men watched as another Luftwaffe strike passed overhead to hit the port.

"I'd hate to be an Englishman right now," Schütze Walter Schnabel remarked, "looks like the Reichsmarschall¹ means to bomb and strafe them all to death.

Jürgen looked at Schnabel, "Well, that's the idea, isn't it, Walter?"

"I suppose so, Uffz. Doesn't seem very heroic though."

"I'll take safe and sound over heroic any day," Sepp Wittmann said, "I'm too old to be charging machine guns."

Billy Wallace and his squad linked up with the company not two hours after leaving the farmhouse by the canal. He had half expected to be placed under arrest after the incident with the lieutenant. But the captain surprised him.

"Don't supposed you've seen Leftenant Miles-Roberts by any chance, Corp?"

"He didn't come back here, Sir? He came by our position yesterday evening, then left."

"He was by himself?" O'Neal looked somewhat alarmed at that idea.

"Yes Sir, he had a car, an old beat up French car. I told him it wasn't safe to travel the roads. Bleeding Luftwaffe is attacking anything that moves."

"Damn it! I told the lad to get rid of the car. No doubt he's dead in a bloody ditch somewhere, the fool. So Billy, I need to have you and your lads set up your Lewis gun at the end of this street here." O'Neal pointed at the street behind him which was littered with debris.

"I don't expect Jerry to come this way but we have to be ready. I'm taking the rest of the company down to the beaches. Supposedly the Royal Navy is going to take us off the beaches as soon as they can arrange it."

"The beaches, Sir? Not the port?" Billy asked.

"Negative Corp, the bloody port is in ruins. It's the beaches or a Jerry P.O.W. camp for us. Now we better get cracking. Again, wait until dark, then if I haven't sent a runner, then just continue down this street, it hooks to the right and will take you to the beach."

"Yes Sir, nightfall it is. Too bad I didn't bring my swimming kit, eh Sir?"

O'Neal chuckled, "Quite. Move along Billy, we've a busy few days ahead of us I think."


As Billy and his men took up their positions in a ruined café, he noticed that there were a number of French troops marching away from the beaches, towards the Germans.

"Poor bastards." Jock McMillan muttered.

"Well, it's their bloody country then, innit?" Connor McGuire hissed. "Seems like they should be bloody defending it, not us."

"That'll do Connor, they're not the enemy."

"Right Corp, sometimes I forget."

McMillan shook his head, with any sort of luck they'd be back in England in a few days at most. The French would be left holding the bag. Fat lot of good they'd done coming to France. They'd have been better off at home. It didn't look to him that the war would last much longer.

¹ Reichsmarschall was the rank conferred by Hitler upon the leader of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring. Higher than a field marshal, Göring was the only one to ever hold that rank.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Canal

Grande-Synthe, Canal de Bourbourg, Southwest of Dunkirk
Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier Jürgen von Lüttwitz looked back at his squad, for since the death of Max Harzer he was the squad leader. The platoon leader, Leutnant Fritz Acker had given him the squad on the day Harzer was killed in action. Harzer had been an insufferable prick, no one really missed him.

The men were clearly exhausted, the day before had seen them once again having to clear a village that the Panzer boys had reported as "secured." The platoon had taken losses and was understrength to begin with but at least they had gotten through the last village with no casualties. Though Schütze Groß had a cut on his cheek from a ricochet off one of the village's brick walls.

"You won't be getting a Verwundetenabzeichen¹ for that scratch Christoph, so quit bitching and grab that ammo can." assistant squad leader Gefreiter Johannes Grüner said that with a grin as the Sanitäter, Obergefreiter Willi Baumann, finished patching the wound.

In addition to Grüner and Groß, von Lüttwitz's squad had six other men: Bodo Hermann, Michael Offenbach, Wolf Gessler, Karl Wachsmuth, Hans Warstadt, and Walter Schnabel. All of whom were privates. Offenbach was the oldest man in the squad at 32, everybody called him der Alte, the "Old One."

Von Lüttwitz halted the squad when he saw the lieutenant signal for a halt and for the squad leaders to gather at his position. Jogging forward, Jürgen couldn't help but wonder what new obstacle lay in the platoon's path.

"Jürgen, I have a mission for you." Leutnant Acker said as he unfolded his map. "Tomorrow morning, take your squad and Wittmann's as well and proceed to this position here." He pointed at the map.

Jürgen leaned in and saw that Acker was pointing at a spot along a canal, of which there seemed to be hundreds in this area.

"The map shows a bridge here. We need it. If the enemy are in force, send word back and we'll have the Luftwaffe work them over. Otherwise take that bridge. Questions?"

"Tomorrow Herr Leutnant? Why not today?" Jürgen asked.

"We've been ordered to hold in place for the moment. Battalion thinks we can send a reconnaissance out, but regiment is dragging their feet, they say they need permission from division."

Jürgen shook his head, "But we've got the Tommies on the run!"

"I know, but I've been told the Luftwaffe claims they need us to stay clear, they can destroy the Tommies from the air. It's nonsense, I know, but those are the orders."

"Understood Sir, we'll leave before dawn."

"If we get permission from battalion, I should have that soon. I hope."

Lance Corporal Billy Wallace and his squad had been reunited with their parent battalion and were now set up in a ruined farmhouse overlooking a canal, less than two miles to the southwest of Dunkirk. The Channel was less than four miles to the north, one of the men, Alfie Morris, claimed he could smell the sea.²

They had parted ways with Sergeant Major Cornwell the day before, the men seemed to like the man, he'd proven himself to them during the farmhouse assault. Billy had cautioned the lads to stop referring to the Sergeant Major as "the wee man." Cornwell was small in stature, but he was, after all, a very senior noncommissioned officer.

Billy was having trouble keeping his eyes open, he had never been this tired in his entire life. Private Teddy Fraser came into the upstairs room where Billy was watching the canal, "Corp, go get some sleep, I'll keep an eye on things. You're dead on yer feet. man."

Billy blinked, rubbed his eyes, then stood up, "If you see anything stir over there, wake me. If the Jerries show up at all. I think they mean to bomb us into submission."

They hadn't seen any German ground troops since the farmhouse, but German aircraft had been coming and going constantly. They could even feel the bomb concussions from the port, some three miles away. Occasionally a German fighter would swoop down and strafe anything  moving on the roads. It was wise to stay undercover during the day.

Which is why Billy came fully awake when he heard a car coming down the road. What fecking idiot was driving about in broad daylight? Peering out the window, he saw their platoon commander, 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Miles-Roberts driving a small French Citroën. Where the Hell did he get that and why was he driving himself?

"Keep an eye on things Teddy, I need to see what the leftenant wants."

Billy heard someone bark "Shun!"³ from the ground floor as he went down the stairs. He'd have to talk to Alfie Morris about that, lad came over straight from training and was still operating on peacetime habits. A good way to get an officer killed if they were out in the open.

"Sir, what can we do for you?" Billy said as he stepped off the stairs.

"Ah, Wolters, very good." Miles-Roberts began.

"It's Wallace, Sir, Billy Wallace."

"Of course it is, sorry Lance Corporal. Where is your sergeant? Graves isn't it?"

Billy rolled his eyes, "Greaves Sir, Sergeant Greaves, he's dead Sir. Outside Lille. I'm surprised you didn't know."

"Quite, things have been confused Lance Corporal, I'm sure you understand."

Billy didn't really understand, he hadn't seen his platoon leader in over a week. But confused? the Germans were driving them out of France, off the Continent for that matter, and the lieutenant thought things were "confused"? It was a right bloody fiasco, that's what Billy thought.

"So, Lance Corporal Wallace, I am in need of a driver, perhaps one of your lot?"

Billy thought for a moment, the company commander, Captain Seamus O'Neal, had place him and his squad here, he couldn't spare a man. So he answered ...

"Won't do, Sir. Cap'n O'Neal placed us here, said to watch the canal. We're understrength as it is, sorry Sir."

Miles-Roberts paused, then said, "I could order you Wallace, I am your platoon commander."

"And I'd have to decline. Sir. The Cap'n outranks you, only he or the battalion commander could shift me, or any of my lads, from this position. Sorry. Sir."

"You're refusing a direct order?" Miles-Roberts asked, his face a mask of upper class disdain.

"No Sir, I'm refusing to disobey my company commander's orders. Sorry Sir."

"I see, you know I have to report this. You do understand that much, yes Lance Corporal?"

"Yes Sir, I understand."

Miles-Roberts turned to leave but Billy said, "Sir, could ye no wait until dark? The Jerries are strafing anything moving on the roads."

Miles-Roberts shook his head then left. When Willie heard the engine on the Citroën start up, he told Connor, "Get up to the second floor, keep an eye out for Jerry airplanes. Take the Lewis gun, you'll need it."

Feldwebel Maximilian von Thalberg was bored. His squadron was again escorting a flight of Heinkel He-111 bombers on yet another mission to destroy port facilities along the coast. Calais had been today's target. He perked up when he heard his call sign.

"Blue 3. Blue Leader."

"Go ahead Blue Leader."

"Why don't you take your wingman and beat up the roads on the way back?"

"Blue 3, love to!" Followed by, "Blue 4, with me."

The two Messerschmitt Bf-109 E-3s dove slightly to leave the formation, then rolled to a new heading. Von Thalberg thought to prowl the roads to the southwest of Dunkirk, the squadron Intel officer had told him of lots of vehicle traffic in that area as the British withdrew into the port city.

Sure enough, on the road leading into the Dunkirk suburb of Grande-Synthe there was a vehicle. It was only a single car but it was, in von Thalberg's mind, a legitimate target. He decided to let his wingman do the deed, the man needed the experience.

"Horst, want to do the honors?"

"Aber natürlich, Max! Danke!"

Miles-Roberts was fuming, how dare the bloody man refuse his order. As much as he liked to drive, he thought it unseemly for a commissioned officer to drive himself. He was still angry that the company commander had taken away his batman. Of all the bloody nerve, he was beginning to regret taking a commission in a Scottish regiment.

As he drove along he was oblivious to his surroundings, he was thinking of ways to make that Scots corporal look even more disobedient than he had actually been. Miles-Roberts would be satisfied with nothing less than seeing that upstart corporal broken back to private, maybe some time in the glasshouse as well!

The young lieutenant jumped when a shower of debris flew up from the road and hit the small car, causing it to swerve. Miles-Roberts nearly drove off into the canal but recovered nicely. As he looked up ahead, he saw a shadow pass over the car. A bloody Messerschmitt! Bastard had strafed him, he looked for a place to get off the road, but there was the canal to his right and marsh to his left. So he sped up.

"Sorry Max, I missed the bastard!" Unteroffizier Horst Kronenberg swore as he pulled back on the stick and prepared to go around for another go.

"No problem Horst, I've got him."

2nd Lieutenant Joseph Miles-Roberts felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him. As he tried to catch his breath he felt heat behind him. It felt like the car was on fire, he should pull over, he thought.

He lost consciousness moments before the car went off the road and into the canal. The car had been on fire, the water took care of that. It also took care of the lieutenant, who drowned before the massive wounds he had received from the strafing German aircraft could kill him.

The car was recovered from the canal in 1948, Miles-Roberts body was never found.

¹ Wound Badge, the German equivalent of the American Purple Heart, it came in three grades: Black (3rd class, representing Iron), for those wounded once or twice by hostile action, Silver (2nd class) for being wounded three or four times, Gold (1st class, which could be awarded posthumously) for five or more times wounded.
² Saltwater by itself doesn’t have any smell, but the things that live in it certainly do. The rather stale, sulphury smell is dimethyl sulphide, produced by bacteria as they digest dead phytoplankton. At low tide, you’ll also smell chemicals called dictyopterenes, which are sex pheromones produced by seaweed eggs to attract the sperm. And on top of all this is the ‘iodine’ smell of the sea, which is actually the bromophenols produced by marine worms and algae. (Source)
³ The proper way to call a room to attention in the British Army.
⁴ British military prison