Friday, December 9, 2022

I Got Nothing ...

My head is empty, without thought, without ideas, without content ...

A void ...

It feels like what it must have been like before Creation occurred.

The end of the year approaches, time off looms upon the horizon, much needed time off I might add.

I'm tired of politics, tired of war, tired of people bitching about shit on Facebook, just plain tired.

Today is the end of the last long week of my career. I have been working what's called a 9/80 schedule for the better part of a decade. Nine hours on Monday through Thursday, then eight hours every other Friday. Basically you work nine days for a total of 80 hours, hence the "9/80" designation. The more traditional forty hour week is referred to (at least where I work) as 5/40.

Beginning in 2023 I have elected to become a "part-timer," or, as I like to think of it, "semi-retired." I will no longer work Fridays, unless I want to or need to make up time. I have elected to work 36 hours a week, four 9-hour days, Monday through Thursday. Kinda like 9/80 but without the 9, or the 80,

A 36 hour work week will be a ten percent cut in pay, which will still mean more filthy lucre in my pocket than if I out and out retired. Though on paper it is also a ten percent cut in Paid Time Off (a topic I was going to write about but quickly got sick of) from 200 hours a year to 180 hours per year. (200 / 10 = 20, 200 - 20 = 180. Didn't want to make you do the math in your head.) Now I've always looked at that 200 hours in terms of how many days off does that give me?

If you're working a 9/80 schedule, a week off might be 44 hours of PTO needed, or 36, depending on which of your two weeks you want to take off. But in real terms I always viewed that 200 hours as being the rough equivalent of 25 working days off, or five weeks, if you will.

Now do the math for 180 hours of PTO based on a nine-hour day. That's the equivalent of 20 days. "Wait, what? Sarge, you're losing an entire week off!"

Nope, because my weeks are now four days long, 20 / 4 = 5. Yup, I still get the rough equivalent of five weeks off. Plus I don't have to work Friday, ever, unless I want to.

I envision 2023 being a more relaxed year compared to those in the past.

Which probably means World War III will kick off, or Xiden finally hands the keys to the Red Chinese. On the bright side, I'll have more time to learn the language of our new overlords ...

And I'm an optimist.

Maybe I'll be inspired to write something better for Saturday. Who knows?

Be seeing you.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Home ...

That picture above is where I spent my formative years, I want to say from the age of four (maybe five) to the age of nineteen. It's the place I still think of when someone mentions "home." Odd, as I've lived in my current location far longer, over twenty three years as a matter of fact. But that house (I won't say which one) is where my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would come to visit on Christmas Day. (For Thanksgiving it was often just the grandparents, both sets.)

I lived in the same small Vermont town from birth to enlisting in the Air Force in 1975. The neighborhood in the next picture is where I lived when I was nobbut a wee bairn. It's on the lot occupied by the two story house in the photo, where the apartment building where my parents lived used to be located. It burned down not long after we moved to a bigger place. (The hospital where I was born burned down, the first place I lived burned down. Hhmm, I'm seeing a pattern there ...)

Oddly enough, I had an apartment in that very building, me and two buddies shared the upstairs of that house in the picture. (No, it didn't burn down after I left ...)

Update: Actually, I think the apartment building we lived in was on the lot where the yellow house in the foreground is now. Hey, I was a baby and it was a long time ago.

When I was a toddler we lived in the house in the next photo, our landlady lived in the little annex, we had the rest of the house. The only memory I have of that place was that there was no heat upstairs. In the winter one would get up, quickly as I recall, then hustle downstairs to the kitchen, where it was warm. My Dad had one funny story of my toddler days.

It seems that I was, for some reason known only to myself, beating on a door in the upstairs hallway with my hand. You can imagine the annoyance this would create among the parental units. So my Dad, came upstairs and admonished me, "Stop that, come on, use your head."

Moments later the pounding on the door recommenced. Dad wearily went back upstairs to convince me of the error of my ways and there I was ...

Yup, beating my head on the door. 

Good times.

When I was four (maybe five) my parents bought a house, the one where I would grow up. (Age-wise, there are solid arguments that could be made as to whether or not I have grown up, or ever will!) My parents like to tell me of the gasp issuing from my maternal grandfather at the cost of this new domicile.

"Fifteen thousand dollars?!?! You'll be living in the streets a year from now. You don't have that kind of money!"

Well, apparently they did and we didn't wind up in the streets a year later. But the price tag seemed huge at the time. (In terms of today's dollars, that's roughly $164,000, about what I paid for my house 23 years ago.)

My oldest kid brother, The Olde Vermonter, still lives in the ancestral home (as I call it). He was renting it from my parents after my Dad was moved by his company down to Connecticut. When they moved back to the ancestral lands (Connecticut River valley between Springfield and Charlestown), my Mom wanted to live near her Mom, my grandmother, so my brother bought the house. Dad had no objections, where she was living  was a "senior community" (55 and older) with some really nice amenities. Of course, that all changed after they'd been living there for a couple of years.

The old owners sold out and the new owners turned it into just another trailer park. Kinda sad, I know my Dad was pissed about it. (But as my brothers and I liked to say, "Dad was always pissed off about something." This time he had good reason.)

At any rate, my Dad passed back in 2010, Mom still lives in the place they bought when my grandmother was still alive. It's where we visit now on holidays, when we're not visiting the kids.

With two kids (and their families) out in California, and the third in Maryland, we do travel more than some grandparents. All things being equal, we wind up in Maryland, a lot. It's closer than California, it's cheaper to get there than California. Don't think that the grandkids out west don't notice that, they do. But they understand the whys, if not the distances involved.

But I feel at home at my kids' homes, I feel at home at my Mom's home, and, of course, in my own home.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that home is where you can show up and they let you in, no questions asked, other than maybe, "So, are you hungry?" (And you get fed.) They don't have to let you in, but they do.

That's all I've got today, it's been a strange week.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

A Proud Name ...

She lies there, in roughly forty feet of water, where she has lain since the 7th of December, 1941. Most of her crew are still aboard, they too have been there since that fateful moment when she exploded at roughly 0806 on a beautiful Sunday morning, lying at anchor at Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

I've written about the attack on Pearl Harbor just about every December 7th since I started blogging back in 2012. I reckon I'll do so until the blog ends, which I hope won't be for quite some time.

This year, rather than reminisce about that "date which will live in infamy," another topic sprang to mind, namely the re-use of the name Arizona for a United States warship. I wasn't aware of this until fairly recently, not sure how I missed it.

SSN-803, a Block 5 Virginia-class nuclear attack boat will bear the name USS Arizona. A small part of me likes the idea that that name shall once again sail the seas. Three other ships have borne that name prior to this one -
  • USS Arizona, an iron-hulled, side-wheel merchant steamship. Seized by the Confederate States of America in 1862 during the American Civil War, she was captured later the same year by the United States Navy. (Read more about her here.)
  • USS Neshaminy was a large and powerful 3,850-ton screw frigate with a length of 335 feet that was under construction at the Philadelphia Navy Yard when she was surveyed by Navy officials who found her construction work to be poor. Construction was halted by the Navy, which eventually sold her for scrap. (Read more about her here.) She had been renamed Arizona, then Nevada.
  • USS Arizona (BB-39), a Pennsylvania-class battleship launched in 1915 and sunk by Japanese bombers in the attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941. (Read more about her here.)
Yet there is another part of me which absolutely abhors the idea of another warship bearing that name. Part of that abhorrence is that BB-39 went to the bottom on one of the most painful days in American history, she was lost in a terrible defeat. She is an ever-present reminder of that defeat while, not that far away, is moored the USS Missouri (BB-63), a reminder of our eventual victory in World War II.

The decision to resurrect the name Arizona was announced back in December of 2019 by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, a fellow for whom I don't have a very high opinion of due to his actions during the fiasco surrounding the relief of the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) during the initial stages of the great WuFlu "crisis" of the past few years. Which you can read about here, I shan't go into the details. Suffice to say, my son-in-law Big Time was a member of TR's Air Wing at the time.

As I recall, no one was happy with anything surrounding that event, in my opinion, Acting Secretary Modly brought great shame upon himself and the United States Navy during that fiasco. For which he quite rightly resigned. I'll say this for him, he f**ked up, but he owned up to it. Well, he is an Annapolis alumnus and a former active rotor-head (helicopter pilot), so credit where credit is due. At least he has a sense of honor.

At any rate, what say you as to the resurrection of the name Arizona? I confess to having mixed feelings, the Navy hasn't always named its ships in a fashion which makes any logical sense at times, but this goes beyond that. It is a proud name and meets the standards by which we name capital ships.

Chime in, I've said my piece.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Heaven and Hell

I'm not going to say that I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as I have not. But the thought crosses the mind every now and then, perhaps more so as one ages and the prospects of this life coming to an end draw nigh.

I had a very strange dream Sunday night, throughout the dream I felt disconnected from those around me, none of whom I knew, or perhaps I should say recognized. I had a feeling of being lost, without any prospect of being found again.

Buildings with staircases which led nowhere, strange neighborhoods where there were people, all of whom were decidedly unfriendly. I did have a companion, a very young lion who was becoming more and more uncontrollable. Not from a sense of being threatening but from a sense of wanting to be independent. (I was "controlling" the lion using a hand under his/her collar. During the dream I referred to the animal as a "mountain lion" but upon awakening realized that it might have actually been an African lion.)

Needless to say, when I woke up I was in a rather unpleasant state of mind. "What was that all about?" was foremost in my sleepy mind. Shaking my head, I went back to sleep. When I finally got up to get ready for work, I remembered the dream. It struck me that I had dreamed of one possible version of Hell.

So I did some reading, as always when dealing with religion, there are no ready answers. Certainly though there are nearly limitless interpretations of scripture, both Christian and other, not to mention the numerous translations of those scriptures.

So what made me interpret the dream as a vision of Hell in the first place? The feeling of being lost, lost in a profound and unredeemable way. If that isn't Hell, I don't know what is.

I did go to church Sunday morning, and I guess at least one thing the pastor said stuck with me. Much of the sermon had to do with "getting ready for Christmas," not the buying of presents and decorating the house kind of getting ready. Nope, not that at all.

The sermon covered John the Baptist and the first advent season. Preparing for the coming of the Christ and how we need to be ready for the second advent was the point of the sermon. Perhaps something deep inside of me feels like I'm no way ready for that second coming. Perhaps.

Lately I seem to be at odds with my professed religion. In many ways I have the feeling that the signal-to-noise ratio is so low¹ that I'm being distracted by all the various interpretations and missing the real message. Or perhaps I am not as receptive to the message as I should be. (And that "should be" part raises a number of issues in my head.)

Religion is, in many ways, a lot like politics, one of those things one does not discuss in the wardroom. At least as I recall those things which Lex mentioned shouldn't be discussed, what do I know, I was in the Air Force and a bloody low-life NCO to boot. But to my mind, anything which might set people on edge (or worse yet at each other's throats) is a topic to be avoided in polite company.

So I'm violating that principle here, but it was something on my mind and something I wanted to get off my chest. In many ways I'm "all at sea" lately, can't seem to get my bearings and have no sense of the current. (In both the literal and figurative sense of that word.)

I have opinions, I also have little patience with dogma, but I have a good feeling for right and wrong. I'm sometimes guilty of the latter, but try to stay with the former. Perhaps it was my pastor saying "There will be a lot of unhappy people come Judgement Day ..."

Probably true, but ...

I have doubts.

Far too many for me to be comfortable with, perhaps I'm overthinking things, I often do.

But the Bard had it right ...

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

Anyhoo, that's all I've got for now.

Color me, out of sorts.

¹ A low signal-to-noise ratio indicates that the signal is almost indiscernible from the background noise. The higher the ratio, the better the signal.

Monday, December 5, 2022

...Troubles will be miles away!

 Well... Finally!  Earlier this week, Little Juvat and LJW returned from their usual San Antonio Excursion with a bit of good news.  LJD's Care Staff is starting to use the word "Release" in discussions about her condition.  Again, I'm not a doctor, nor...but apparently most of the issues she incurred with a premature birth are up to acceptable parameters.  The remaining long pole is Oxygen support requirements.  She's down below the 2.5 flow rate goal (she's been at 1.5 lately) that she's been working toward all along, Which is good.  She's probably going to be on supplemental Oxygen for a while, but that does not require hospitalization.

Unfortunately, that will also mean LJW and she will be staying in the Great State of Texas for a few more months while Little J returns to Honk Honk.  Still....Good news for a change.

As Mrs J and I were driving down to visit her last week, I got to doing some "ciphering" in my head to stay alert.  It's 75 miles from Rancho Juvat to the Parking Garage at the Hospital in San Antonio.  150 miles round trip.  Little J and LJW have been doing that trip 6 times a week for 20 weeks and change (as of this posting).  That works out to 18,300 miles or almost 75% of the circumference of the Earth (24,901.461 mi).

Yes, I get bored.  However...

I think they're going to make pretty darn good parents. 

Switching subjects, I had mentioned previously that this past weekend was being referred to as "The Gathering of the Clans".  BLUF*,  it was a great success.  The Rev, with MG and MBD, his parents, two brothers, their wives, 5 kids, and two dogs all came  for a visit.

Waiting for the Parade to kickoff with MG's Paternal Gramma

No, Beans, the Partridge in the Pear Tree had other obligations and couldn't make it.  

Arrival was planned for 4PM on Friday as the 'Burg's annual lighted Christmas Parade started at 6:30.  My Pickup was parked on Main Street at 3 PM on Thursday in one of the TWO remaining spots on either side of the 1 mile long parade route.  And that required a turn across 2 lanes to procure.  The evening of the parade, I dropped the spectators off at the truck and went to find a place to park.  Closest place I could find was about a half mile away.  Yes, a 4PM arrival was overly optimistic as the guests had to transit Austin. But, we were in position prior to parade start.

Chili Kitchen open on the back of the truck

My Counterpart Grandpa and one of MG's cousins

Yes, Beans, Main Street was crowded.  As an aside, Folks, if wearing dark clothes, one should not jay walk in the middle of an unlighted block in the dark.  Fortunately, the brakes on Mrs. J's car were fully functional.  Dumas! (No, I'm not talking about a town in Texas north of Amarillo.)

A good time was had by all, the Parade went on for a little over an hour.  My Chili was well received and the Holiday Season is off to a good start.

Post-parade wind down AKA "Fading Fast"
Both of them.

Had a bit of excitement a couple of weeks ago.  Mrs. J, being the kind hearted soul she is, was cooking my breakfast.  I was sitting at the counter reading one of Sarge's blog posts and getting ready for another fun-filled day.  I happened to hear a bit of a hiss from the direction of the stove followed by a Whoomp! Glanced up and saw a blue and yellow fireball rising up towards the Vent.  

Fortunately, Mrs. J, being the Fighter Pilot's Wife she is, was backpedaling faster than a politician caught in a lie.  Also fortunately,  the fireball went out almost immediately.  I calmly (yeah, right!) went over and turned off the stove (I thought).  I could still hear gas hissing.  Called the Gas Company and was told where the emergency shut off valve should be.  Found it and turned it off.

For those of you, like me, who had no clue that such a thing existed, safety codes require a gas shutoff valve within 6 feet of a gas stove.  Ours is in the back of a cabinet immediately beside the stove.  There is now a pair of pliers hanging from a screw right next to the valve.  Something to consider.

Turns out that the knob for that burner didn't completely turn off the gas.  The plastic nob had cracked on the connection to the stove, so even though it looked like the gas was off, it wasn't.  

Have I mentioned that our less than 2 year old new construction home was outfitted with all FRIGIDAIRE appliances?   We replaced the dishwasher within 6 months of use.  The Oven temperatures do not match the dials and the fans therein don't vent any cooking smoke.  Now this...

Well, Today our replacement Stove will be arriving.  No, it is not a FRIGIDAIRE.  It will be installed tomorrow.  

Suffice it to say, you could hold a gun to my head and order me to buy FRIGIDAIREand I'd still say no.  

Just in case you want my appliance purchasing advice. As far as I'm concerned, FRIGIDAIRE delenda est! end on a lighter note.

Got up early-ish the morning after the parade.  I was the only person stirring so was trying to be quiet as I made my cuppa.  Blood sugar was a tad low so vision was a bit off.  When this happens I see something similar to bright colored lights. Around the edges of the "lights", I noticed a bag on the counter with what looked like my own blend of Trail Mix.

Iced Coffee and Trail Mix will tide me over until the rest of the gang wakes up, right?

Decided a bit of calories would assist my vision, so grabbed a handful and munched it down.

Who knew that dry dog food was tasty? Woof!

Peace out Y'all!

*It's an Army thing, and one of the first things I learned at Army Command and Staff.  Bottom Line Up Front.  AKA Don't waste the General's time, tell him what he needs to know...First!

Sunday, December 4, 2022

A New Timewaster (But It Is Interesting ...)

La bataille de Waterloo. 18 juin 1815
Clément-Auguste Andrieux (PD)
"Teddy, go ahead and get the projector set up, Melissa, go ahead and close the curtains. All right class, settle down, your regular teacher is home with the flu, I'm Coach Whodat and I'll be showing you a film today."

Yup, sorry, the drought continues. On the other hand, in my casting about for things to entertain you with I've found yet another lovely YouTube channel with lots of great stuff. It's History Hit and for today's post, I give you their take on my favorite battle, Waterloo.

The aforementioned channel has clips on dang near every period in European warfare. Probably more as well, I'm just starting to scratch the surface of their content. (They have some really good "this is what those weapons were really like" videos as well. Lots of Roman and Medieval stuff for Beans.)

While looking for a picture to lead things off, I also stumbled across this website, ThoughtCo., which lists some good books on the Battle of Waterloo. At least one of which has been added to my "I want!" list. Chasing it down on Amazon I found a few more.

I can hear The Missus Herself now, "Just what we need, more books." I might have to build my own library building one of these days.

Anyhoo, that's all I've got, hope you're enjoying your weekend, I certainly am. (Even though Saturday's weather was bloody miserable, but it did give me the time to watch a bunch of historical videos. So I've got that going for me ...)

Expect juvat on Monday, I'll try and come up with something kinda creative for Tuesday. (Who gave my Muse the month off anyway? Oops, might have been me.)


Saturday, December 3, 2022

Movie Review

So back in 2010 the film Trollhunter came out, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I watched it in the original Norwegian, with subtitles as I just don't speak Norsk, kinda wish I did though as it's a neat language. It's got a lilting, rhythm vibe to it. Pleasant to listen to.

I have to say that I got pretty excited when I saw this trailer a few weeks back ...

After resolving to watch it, I promptly forgot about it. As Friday was a day off, I was casting about for something to watch, a little voice in my head whispered "Netflix," so I went there.

After seeing that trailer some time back, I guess I actually went to Netflix and added that upcoming film to my watch list. Lo and behold, there it was, so I watched it.

Great fun, some really good characters, including a guy I count as my favorite Norwegian actor. He's been in a few films I've seen, always seems to play a guy who ain't as honest as he should be. He's a really good actor. He plays the characters you love to hate!

Fridtjov Såheim¹
Here's the trailer for Trollhunter ...
(I post it so you don't have to go hunting, but you will have to click over to YouTube to watch it, beklager.²)

A couple of fun movies to watch on a cold winter night.


And yes, I'm still in my creativity drought, ah weel, this too shall pass.

¹ Google Translate says this is pronounced "Freet-yoff So-highm." And yes, that's an approximation.
² Sorry. (Norwegian)

Friday, December 2, 2022

It's Part of Me ...

Downtown Springfield, VT
I was born in 1953 in the town of Bellows Falls, Vermont. My two brothers were as well, at the time my parents lived in Springfield, Vermont. Which did then, and does now, have its own hospital. I don't know why they chose Bellows Falls, might be because the family doctor had privileges there, I don't know. Back then doctors did everything, specialists in small town Vermont were few. I do know that the hospital, the physical building itself, burned down between my birth and my oldest kid brother's birth. No, I had nothing to do with that. I had an alibi. (I couldn't walk yet, getting away would have been tough.)

Anyhoo, it was a nice place to grow up. My oldest kid brother (The Olde Vermonter) still lives and works there. From what I've read, the old town has its problems. A lack of jobs, a big drug problem, and other things which afflict people in such an environment. It wasn't like that growing up. (Then again, every time I read something, I have to remind myself that it's the "media." People don't report facts any more, they have opinions and agendas. Or so it seems.)

That picture up top, that's Main Street in the snow. We did get a lot of snow back in the day, they still do. It's one of my memories of Vermont, picturesque with snow. I do remember other times of the year, but winter was always a favorite. Not that I was a big skier (didn't start that until I was in high school), it might have been because the big family gatherings were always from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Those always involved lots of good food and lots of people gathering together who really cared about each other.

Things were different back then, vastly different. Better in some ways, depending on who you were I suppose. My hometown was predominantly white, there was a teacher (art as I recall) who had no kids of her own so she and her husband (I presume) adopted a number of kids. Of whom I knew two, both girls, one was black, the other was Native American. (I want to say Navajo or Hopi, my memory is sketchy in that area.) Those were the only people of color I saw when I was a kid, pre-high school. Didn't bother us in the least.

We grew up learning to treat people as individuals for the most part. To us it was no big deal. I remember the shock I felt in high school when I bought a record album by Sly and the Family Stone and one of my friends casually mentioned that he was surprised that I liked "colored" music. (No, he didn't use the word "colored.") It was a shocker that people thought that way, but it was an eye-opener as well.

My Dad was an Army veteran, he enlisted just after the end of World War II (he turned 16 on D-Day, so he was too young, he went in when he was 17, a year later). Both of my Dad's brothers served overseas, one in the Army Air Forces in the Pacific, the other as an infantryman in the ETO. My maternal grandmother's brother was also an infantryman in the ETO, both were wounded but both came home.

My paternal grandfather was also a veteran, he served during World War I but was in Panama, protecting the Canal no doubt. Somewhere in the family archives (probably lost) is a group photo of my grandfather's outfit, he's sitting near the front of the group (as I recall) and in the back row to the left is a future general and president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sure wish I knew where that photo was.

I knew my heroes personally as a kid.

The late 50s, early 60s were a great time to be a middle-class white kid. Which is my frame of reference. No doubt the experience varied a lot based on where you lived, the color of your skin, and even (in some cases) your religion. We had a single Jewish family in town, no one minded them, they were good people. Back then it was a Protestant-Catholic kind of clash. Most of the town was Protestant. There apparently was a Catholic Church in town, small and over-whelmed by all the Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, and a couple of other denominations I'm unfamiliar with. Oh yeah, there is an Orthodox Church back home as well. When I was a kid we called it the Russian Orthodox Church. Not proper these days, or so I'm told.

When I was a kid, everyone went to church on Sunday, except many of the Dads who only went on Christmas and Easter. "C and Es" my Dad called them. (Which I found odd, seeing as how that's pretty much what he did.) Churches tended to have a pretty sizable crowd on Sundays. Doesn't seem to be the case these days. What happened?

I have many fond memories of those days, like I said, they were good times. I had a great childhood. One of the things I see my kids doing is ensuring their own kids (my grandkids) are also having great childhoods.

So The Missus Herself and I must have done something right. (More her than me, no doubt.) But those early days in small town Vermont made me who I am, so my own parents must have done something right as well.

Maybe things will get better, maybe the people will wake up before it's too late. Lately I have my doubts.

So I'll stick with my family, them I can trust.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

'Tis the Season ...

As the season is truly upon us, it's time for ...

That being said ...

It's the first of December, my favorite month of the year. Soon there will be snow (maybe) but without the bitter cold of late January - early February (maybe). Among many there are feelings of good will and cheerfulness not seen in "normal" months.

Christmas comes, the chance to be with friends and family, time off from work is also a bonus for this time of year. The whole company shuts down for a week. No corporate emails, no meetings, no worries about the work getting done. We down tools and just relax. (Though there are some incapable of relaxing, I am not one.)

So I plan on trying to be a bit more cheerful here on the blog. I seldom comment on politics so that's not really an issue. If my co-authors want to write about politics, then let it be written, so let it be done.

I'm going to de-stress for the entire month, just kick back, relax, and enjoy the season. (I also need to finish up the edits on the book. I'm leaning towards Amazon and self-publishing. It seems like a perfect match at this time.)

Recommended Books: I've probably read this book a dozen times.

And I'm going to read it again as I've just finished Seven Men of Gascony.

My copy is beat up, loose pages, the binding has seen better days (the book has traveled with me to Germany and Korea), but it's a great read and excellent background on the Napoleonic era from a soldier's point of view.

Not sure if I'll write any fiction this month, may not have enough time. But you never know, sometimes the Muse will walk in, smack me up side the head and say "Write this down!"

So I do ...

I may be a slow learner, but I do learn.

In honor of the season ...

Back tomorrow with whatever springs into my head ...

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The World Today - John Blackshoe Sends ...

A coalition force member watches as the Launch Module on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) raises during precision fire support training drills at Bagram Air Field, Parwan province, Afghanistan, March 13, 2014. This training helps troops maintain a state of readiness that enables them to quickly execute their fire support missions. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ricardo Hernandez-Arocho/ Source)
Editor's Note: I'm not sure if everyone reads all of the comments on the posts we provide for your elucidation, entertainment, education, and enlightenment here at the Chant. I do, because it's my blog and I want to make sure the comments stay polite and within the realm of sanity. Every now and then we get a comment which stands head and shoulders above the rest. Yesterday's update from Paweł brought forth a gem of a comment from our own John Blackshoe. I liked it so much I decided to reproduce it as a post on its own merits. OAFS

JB knocks it out of the park -

Random related tidbits.

History is still important. The Russkies remember, even if we have forgotten, that American (and Brit, French, and assorted other) troops were fighting against the Bolsheviks on Russian soil in the Murmansk/Archangel "Northern Russia" expedition in 1918-1919, and in the "Siberian Expedition" 1918-1922 which extended from Vladivostok hundreds of miles westward along the Trans Siberian Railroad [not Orchestra].

The Germans (and Central Power allies) forced the Russians into humiliating terms with an independent armistice and the Treaty of Brest Litovsk in February 1918. Basically, it forced Russia into recognizing the independence of Ukraine, Georgia and Finland; gave up Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to Germany and Austria-Hungary; and ceded Kars, Ardahan and Batum to Turkey. So, yeah, the Russkies think of those places as rightfully belonging to the Russian Empire. Throw in post 11/11/1918 fighting in Ukraine against the Bolsheviks, and the WW2 three way brawl with assorted Ukrainians fighting (simultaneously or separately) with or against Germany and/or Russia and there are a lot of old unsettled scores and animosity lurking about.

Now, we cannot ignore that fact that while we are emptying our bunkers of (most? nearly all?) of our war reserve stocks of conventional munitions, and many of our weapons systems (HIMARS/ M777 howitzers, Stingers, etc., etc.) we are doing little to replenish that inventory. Someone reported that the conventional artillery shell consumption is at WW1 levels, and UKR is using more shells in a day than we fired in a month in AFG. And, the Russians are making the rubble bounce with multiple times that. Over 50,000 rounds PER DAY, IIRC, and they too are running low. They also reported that we are buying 155mm shells at something like 1,500 a month to refill our bunkers. Do the math.

Meanwhile, the Mullahs are wary of their intimidated subjects, Kim (and sister/daughter) control their impoverished neighbors while building nukes and missiles, and Chinese masses are restless, while Xi covets Taiwan, and may not let a good crisis go to waste where he could shift internal unrest into nationalistic pride by recovering that pesky breakaway province. All these folks are keeping an eye on the Great Satan, our leadership, and our military assets.

All the while, the insane clown posse running our country bumbles about making everything they touch worse, with their ineptitude, dotage, and fixation on environmental nonsense hidden by a news media which is less reliable than Pravda.

Hey, I like the UKR folks, and they are kinda sorta our friends, but they are NOT a vital U.S. national interest. We need to remember we are $31 Trillion in debt, and cannot afford to just shovel cash into their hands (where endemic corruption will magically make a lot of it vanish). We need to get our own spending in order, and pay off our debt before we can be so generous.

Interesting times.
Merry Christmas, all y'all.
John Blackshoe

Sound wisdom that.

Thanks JB.


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Ukraine - The View from Poland, November Update, Addendum

Editor's Note: This snippet was sent to me by our Polish correspondent, Paweł Kasperek. His thoughts and opinions on the matter do not necessarily match my own. I'll have some thoughts (read rant) after the following clips.

Ewok Report episode ? and a half.

A small update to latest Ewok report, just enhancing on some topics I mentioned too briefly for my own taste.

Poland shopping spree in depth and detail: what, where, why, and how ...

Some analogies to WW1 are in place, but it definitely lacks the crucial component, an organized and able opposition inside Russia itself ...

EDITOR: To say that the situation in Ukraine is complex might be an understatement. But nearly every event in history where one group has used military force against another has been complex. Anything to do with Russia and the pieces of its former empire is even more complex. At least by my reckoning.

An interesting (and seems to me very pro-Ukrainian) Wikipedia article which summarizes what led us to this point in time is here. If you want a Russian point of view, head to, if you can stomach outright propaganda that is.

Ukrainian propaganda is more palatable, at least the instances I follow (see Operator Starsky on YouTube and this report.) Russian propaganda has never really been for external consumption, it's meant solely for the Russian people. A captive audience in many ways.

The latest I'm hearing vis-à-vis Ukraine is that the Russians wish to de-Nazify Ukraine. While there have been incidents of Ukrainians wearing WWII Nazi symbols (if you know where to look you can buy them yourself online) it's not unusual. (Look up our own Marines posing with an "SS Flag" in Afghanistan.) This article addresses that Nazi aspect. (Hey, it's a thing right, claim the other side are Nazis!)

Let's face it, Russians are suspicious of the outside world (get invaded numerous times over the centuries and you might sympathize). Pushing NATO closer and closer to the Russian border may have triggered this reaction on Putin's part. Then again, the plebiscites and the pro-Russian sentiment in Donbas and Luhansk remind me of the Hitlerian agitation over the Sudetenland in 1938.

Sometimes people just start reacting and things gain a life and momentum of their own. I'm sure Putin's generals told him what he wanted to hear, they probably believed themselves what they were telling him. "Invade Ukraine? No problem, we'll be in Kiev in a couple of days, a week at the outside."

Do you think our current crop of generals don't tell our current crop of politicians the same thing? What the politicos want to hear is almost never synonymous with the truth. And those politicians are usually too ignorant to know better.

Miscommunications, lies, half-truths, and outright bullshit, none of these things are a sound basis for international relations.

Too bad that it's all most politicians know.


Monday, November 28, 2022

Post-Thanksgiving After Action Report

 Well...Campers, a pretty darn good week this past.  The trip to College Station was mostly successful.  Avoided Austin (also known as Moscow on the Colorado) traffic, although my great plan to take State Highways and County Roads to avoid holiday traffic elsewhere in the State came to a screeching halt (quite literally) in Georgetown.  Seriously TXDOT, three cycles of a traffic light to get through a 100 yard long block?  Does the acronym YGBSM mean anything to you?

Stay on Target, juvat!

On Target, Aye, Sarge!

Arrival at MBD, SIL and MG's* house was otherwise quite pleasant.  Mrs. J reported the sotto voce comments to my fellow wayfarers was significantly less voluminous than usual.  The turkey (and the ham) did not give their lives in vain.  My Butternut Squash with Gorgonzola and my Baked Brussel Sprouts w/Bacon were well received and quickly devoured.  Although, adding Bacon to any recipe pretty much guarantees that result.  Even SIL's 87 yo Grandmother liked the Brussel Sprouts.

This is only one side of the serving line.


That evening I got a special "Welcome to College Station, juvat"  Brought tears to my eyes, yes it did!  Seems that A&M was playing LSU for one of the Thanksgiving Weekend "fight off the tryptophan" football games at home++.  The Flyby was conducted by a 4 ship of Aggie piloted Eagles!  Wednesday was their practice flight to get all the timing points figured out.  

Believe it or not, while it looks easy, arriving at the 50 yard line at the exact specified time is fairly difficult. Yet it is viewed by several million people, critiqued by most (who've never done it), explained (while standing at attention) to the CO and deeply appreciated by one Ancient fighter pilot. Unfortunately, the game was Friday, Mrs. J and I had other duties and RTB'd that morning, so all we got to see was the practice.


Taken from the back yard of MBD/SIL's home.

 Yes, the Jet Noise was quite cathartic!

On a separate note, LJD**  is continuing to improve.  Thanksgiving in the NICU on a holiday apparently has similar characteristics to sitting Air Defense Alert.  You make the best of it, praying for the best, prepared for the worst.  Providing your own entertainment is the task of the day, and your heart stops just as fast there when the alarms go off as it does when the scramble klaxon sounds.

Fortunately, this year's Thanksgiving was uneventful.  Which was conducive to an impromptu fashion show organized by the staff.

You want me to do...WHAT?

MG has Trade Marked those facial expressions and apparently has several comedians paying large licensing fees to use them.  Who knew?

All good things must end and this day ended with the usual event.  A long walk.

I'm not ready yet, Mom, help me put your shoes on me, please!

And, of course, a juvat family Thanksgiving tradition.

The Thanksgiving Nap! Yep, MG is a fully trained juvat family member.

Finally, we got a bit of a gully washer Friday night.  Can't remember if I emptied the rain gauge after last week's contribution, but waking up Saturday, this was its level.

A little over 4"?  That would be wonderful, but going to have to wait on my Good Friend Cletus for confirmation.  If I didn't empty it, we would have received only an additional 2" (Only?, YGBSM juvat! You're right about that, Sarge, at this point we'll take all we can get.) There was a bit more supportive data for 4" however.

We don't usually get that much puddling unless it's rained quite a bit.  

 So, based on this, I went and looked at our "up stream" stock pond.  Lo and behold...

Haven't had water in either stock pond in well over a year! The point where I'm standing is the downstream side and is about 12' above the bottom. That puddling is probably 3 to 4' deep.

So, who knows?


As mentioned last week, the "Gathering of the Clan" will start this Thursday, the same gang as Thanksgiving will gather here at Rancho Juvat.  Highlight will be the Annual Parade of Lights Christmas Parade.  Chili, Corn Bread and Tortillas (and, almost certainly, Adult Recreational Beverages) will be served from my Pickup's bed.  Wx forecast is currently showing a low of 60 for the parade, so fingers are definitely crossed.

We'll see.

Peace out, y'all!

Per request from Suz.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

Serves 4 as written. 

1 bag whole raw Brussel Sprouts

4-6 strips of nicely smoked Bacon

Salt and pepper to taste.

Wash Brussel Sprouts in bag and let dry.

Trim the stalk end as close to the leaves as you can.  (The stalk gets kinda growdy where it was cut from the plant, however, you want the leaves to remain attached.

Slice the bulb vertically 2-4 times (you'd like the slice to be about 1/4" -1/2" thick)

Spread in a pyrex baking dish and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Preheat oven to 425o

While oven is heating, cook bacon in separate pan until starting to brown but most of the fat is rendered. (You don't want it crispy at this point) 

Cut into square pieces and add to Brussel Sprouts.  Spoon a couple of spoonfuls of Bacon Drippings (doesn't that sound better than the "G" word?) over the Sprouts and stir in a bit.  Try not to separate leaves in the slices.

Cook until Bacon is cooked and Sprouts are browned (15-20) minutes. Season with Salt and Pepper.  It doesn't usually take much, the Bacon handles most of the saltiness.  But tastes differ...

Dish is easily up-scaled to fit larger groups.  Plan on 1 bag per 4 people and a similar multiplicative increase on the Bacon...Minimum.  More Bacon is better.  But you knew that.

*My Beautiful Daughter, Son-in-Law and My Granddaughter respectively.  (Need a better Nom d'Plume for SIL though. Suggestions encouraged.).

**Little Juvat's Daughter.

++For those that don't know. Aggies won 38-23!  Whoop!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sports Ball News, Sort of ...

I don't ordinarily pay too much attention to college football, with a couple of exceptions: the University of Michigan and the Naval Academy. Both sons-in-law have connections to those schools. Big Time is from Michigan, both his parents went to school at Michigan. Tuttle is an alumnus of the Naval Academy.

So I like to see those two teams win. This weekend was kind of special as 3rd-ranked Michigan posted an impressive win over 2nd-ranked Ohio State. Better yet, there was a flyover before the game. The jets involved were from VFA-122, Big Time's squadron.

Yup, he flew one of those jets on Saturday. Not sure which position, he was the senior guy on scene, so he could pick whichever slot he wanted, I don't have word yet which position he picked. But he was there.

Apparently the pilots were on the ESPN pregame show, I saw a photo, couldn't find the rerun though.

The special thing about all this, to me at any rate, is that as this was an extended trip, all the way from Lemoore in California to Columbus in Ohio, the crews had to leave before Thanksgiving. So yeah, they'd be away from home on turkey day.

For that long a trip you bring your own maintenance guys, stands to reason. (Let me say this right here, before anyone bitches about the cost to do this, these flyovers are great recruiting tools.)

Anyhoo, my son-in-law wanted to know if the enlisted ground crews could attend the game. He was told "no." It's my understanding that he was on the cusp of cancelling the flyover if the enlisted guys couldn't attend.

The ticket-deniers caved, the enlisted guys got tickets and a bus to and from the game (the jets being at the airport).

Taking care of the troops, a key element in any leader's make-up.

Well done, Big Time, well done.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

There and Back Again ...

Long drive up to New Hampshire on Thanksgiving Day, the weather (and the traffic) cooperated nicely. We arrived in time to relax and chat for a couple of hours before heading out to eat Thanksgiving dinner here:

Fullerton Inn, Chester, VT
It was cold outside, but we were in front of large glass doors facing the west and the setting sun. It was warm, the food was good, and the company congenial.

Afterwards, we returned to my Mom's house where we chatted, watched football (there may have been some eggnog avec dark rum in there somewhere), and generally enjoyed each other's company.

Friday dawned chilly and wet. It drizzled nearly all the way back to Little Rhody but we arrived, alive and a tad tired, but in fine spirits. 

Anya wanted to know ...

Just where were you two all night?
She worries about us. Can't say I blame her.

Anyhoo, Christmas is upon us, the holiday season has begun.

I was reminded of that with this picture from The Nuke ...

Buzz is looking forward to the old holiday.

As am I.