Friday, September 19, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Okay, Seriously?

Saw this on a Ford pickup truck heading home from work.

Seriously?

Perhaps I should get one for the Honda that says:

My Truck Was Built with Precision Tools, Not Forks and Spoons

Makes about the same amount of sense.

People can be such idiots.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scotland

Badge of Clan Gordon*
The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. Having entered into a personal union with the kingdoms of England and Ireland following James VI's succession to the English and Irish thrones in 1603, Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with England on 1 May 1707 to create a single Kingdom of Great Britain. This union resulted from the Treaty of Union agreed in 1706 and enacted by the twin Acts of Union passed by the Parliaments of both countries, despite popular opposition and anti-union riots in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and elsewhere. Great Britain itself subsequently entered into a political union with Ireland on 1 January 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Scotland's legal system has remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational and religious institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 union. In 1999, a devolved legislature, the Scottish Parliament, was reconvened with authority over many areas of home affairs following a referendum in 1997. In May 2011, the Scottish National Party won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. As a result, a referendum on independence will take place on 18 September 2014. Wikipedia
Scottish independence?

As Thursday approaches I have lots of odd feelings bouncing around inside of me.

While I am an American born and bred, I learned a fair bit about Scotland at the knee of my paternal grandmother. She was born near Aberdeen, the one in Scotland, not the one in Maryland.

Then there was my maternal grandmother, her people hailed from Scotland as well. She made sure we knew that Clan Gordon was in the blood.

So a lot of the blood running through my veins first arose in the Highlands of Scotland. A fair bit originated in the lowlands as well, but we don't speak much of that. Heh. Not to mention the not insubstantial sang français from my paternal grandfather's family.

This referendum on Scottish independence tears at me. On the one hand it is a romantic ideal, not really seen since The Forty-Five.
The Jacobite rising of 1745, often referred to as "the Forty-five", was the attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for the exiled House of Stuart. The rising occurred during the War of the Austrian Succession when most of the British Army was on the European continent. Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie" or "the Young Pretender," sailed to Scotland and raised the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands, where he was supported by a gathering of Highland clansmen. The march south began with an initial victory at Prestonpans near Edinburgh. The Jacobite army, now in bold spirits, marched onwards to Carlisle, over the border in England. When it reached Derby, some British divisions were recalled from the Continent and the Jacobite army retreated north to Inverness where the last battle on Scottish soil took place on a nearby moor at Culloden. The Battle of Culloden ended with the final defeat of the Jacobite cause, and with Charles Edward Stuart fleeing with a price on his head. His wanderings in the northwest Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the summer months of 1746, before finally sailing to permanent exile in France, have become an era of Scottish history that is steeped in romance. Wikipedia
Tradition and family gossip indicate that I probably had ancestors on both sides at Culloden!

So on the one hand we have William Wallace bellowing "Freedom" in the closing scenes of that movie (which is very ahistorical!), and on the other hand we have the certainty that Scotland, by itself, is probably not a viable political entity. In my opinion, a "Yes" vote would make the old country just another pawn for the Eurocrats to push around.

Trepidation, that's what I'm feeling. I'm sure the professional politicians of the Scottish National Party (SNP) are salivating at the prospect of being independent from Britain. So what's this bunch of politicos that has the people over there so worked up?
The Scottish National Party (SNP; Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Naitional Pairtie) is a Scottish nationalist and social-democratic political party in Scotland. The SNP supports and campaigns for Scottish independence. Wikipedia
What the Sam Hill is a social-democrat?
Social democracy is a political ideology that officially has as its goal the establishment of democratic socialism through reformist and gradualist methods. Alternatively, social democracy is defined as a policy regime involving a universal welfare state and collective bargaining schemes within the framework of a capitalist economy. It is often used in this manner to refer to the social models and economic policies prominent in Western and Northern Europe during the later half of the 20th century. Wikipedia
I highlighted the scary bit for you. That's the piece that really worries me.

So yeah, trepidation is the word of the day for Thursday.

Here's praying that they don't do anything foolhardy.

Of course, I said that about the U.S. in 2008, then in 2012 again.

D'oh!






*"Clan member crest badge - Clan Gordon" by Celtus (Celtus @ english wikipedia) - Own work by uploader. The stag's head is adapted from an out-of-copyright book.). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clan_member_crest_badge_- _Clan_Gordon.svg#mediaviewer/File:Clan_member_crest_badge_-_Clan_Gordon.svg

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Roses and More


As many of you know, from the many pictures posted herein, The Missus Herself has created quite a nice garden. I can spend hours there. I have at times done exactly that. Sometimes I'm not chasing the lawn mower but actually just sitting in the shade of one of our trees...

Smelling the breeze...

Listening to the birds singing...

And watching the clouds roll by.

Back in the Fall of '99 we moved into this house. Our very own house. Our very first. Twenty-four years of being nomads was over. We were home.

The yard was grass, much of it of the crab variety. The backyard had been the domain of a rather large (though friendly) dog, with all that entails. Holes, patches of dead grass and (though not the dog's fault) a small pile of what appeared to be roofing debris. I believe that at some point in time, the previous owner had either re-done the roof of the shed or had planted shingles and such in the hopes that a brand new shed would spring from the ground. (It did not, I'm here to testify.)

My lovely wife threw herself into the task of creating an oasis of beauty in this desert of drab and listless grass. (And futile attempts to grow new sheds.)

Take a look at some of the results. But listen to this song while you do. I enjoy this song, it's very apropos as to my feelings for the beautiful young lady who left her native land to travel the world with this grumpy old sergeant. Along the way, God blessed us with three beautiful children, their awesome significant others and three lovely grandchildren (so far). Now I sit in the garden and thank my Maker for all of my many blessings. They number more than the grains of sand on the beach.

Really.


Flowers and shrubbery along the eastern ramparts of Chez Sarge
More shrubbery and a tree which began life as a small twig. Seriously.
The roses are legion in m'Lady's garden. The aroma being most pleasant.
Not sure what these are, they look kinda alien. But they're kinda cool too.
A selection of cosmos, these remind The Missus Herself of home. Her Mom had quite a few.
My sainted mother-in-law is gone, the flowers remain. As does the memory of her smile.
Where I sit and contemplate life and eternity.
(And quaff the occasional malted beverage!)
The colors in her garden leave me breathless at times.
More cosmos. In front of another of our beloved trees.
The Missus Herself refers to these as "autumn blossom" - regardless of what they're called, I love 'em.
And so it goes, in our wee garden by the Bay.

Did I help with the garden? Of course.

This being New England, I do believe I dug up most of the rocks dragged down from Canada during the last Ice Age. Oh yeah, I also dragged away the flotsam and jetsam from the "shed garden."

Yup.


I pick things up. I put them down.

Monday, September 15, 2014

In Memorium

LT Nathan T. Poloski, US Navy
(Photo courtesy of  LT J. "Gandalf" 
Molcsan)
"Ode of Remembrance"
Laurence Binyon

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labor of the day-time;
They sleep beyond America's foam

Revisiting Germany

Now that Skunk Week is over, we return you to your regularly scheduled blog postings.

So, There I was……* Fresh out of two years of “ARRRMEEE Training Sir”  and looking every bit like Bill Murray.

Sorry, I must have watched that film once a month while at Leavenworth, just to keep my head on tight.  Even used the saying in one of my “teach my staff group about the AF” presentations, when asked why things were done a certain way.  The guys in the staff group howled,  the instructor, not so much.  Anyhow, I digress.  I graduate and am a certified (certifiable?) Jedi Knight.  As such, I’m about to embark on that pinnacle assignment that every fighter pilot dreams about…Staff Officer.  Yes,  no more pulling G’s, no more 4 v X furballs, no more of those boring dart missions.  Nope, now I get to build PowerPoint presentations!  Wahoo!
However, there is a silver lining to the Staff Officer Billet I’ve been assigned.  It’s at Camp Smith Hawaii.

My office was in the oval in the bottom center.  Current pictures no longer show that part of the building.
  From my cockpit desk, my view extends from Barbers Point to the West all the way to Diamond Head.  The only person with a better view wears 4 stars.  How did a lowly Lt Col Select get this view, you may ask?  Well, we were starting a new function at CINCPAC and space is tight/non-existent.   However, there are Offices over the old dispensary that are empty.  Course they’re also condemned.  Rolling a four drawer safe down the passageway (Navy 4 Star as Commander therefore, passageway NOT hallway.  Joint doncha’ know), we lose a dolly, safe and nearly a Yeoman  as the dolly and safe crash through the termite riddled floor.  We quickly learned to step lightly and tended to move along the sides of the passageway rather than the middle.  But, the good news is not many people came to visit, therefore, not many people knew about the view.

In seriousness, the job is a pretty good one.  Starting out in the assignment, I’m just one of the workers, but over the course of the first year or so, eventually become the Division Chief.  On a Joint Headquarters, that is usually reserved for junior O-6s and senior O-5s, usually O-6 selects.  Our job is to form and train a cadre of staff that on very short notice can deploy to some specified commands in the CINCPAC Area of Responsibility and augment that staff with the capabilities needed to become a Joint Task Force.  Hadn’t been there more than a couple of months when we got alerted to go to Bangladesh to assist in recovery from a Tropical Cyclone (Hurricane/Typhoon in the Indian Ocean).  This was a year or so after Sea Angel.  Things progressed far enough that I got a Gamma Globulin shot in the Butt as I was going up the steps in the C-5.  Thankfully we got a stand down order before takeoff.  Sitting on that golfball for an extended flight would not have been fun.  Nor would the recovery operation.

Something that was frequently stated at CINCPAC headquarters was a phrase “Tyranny of Distance”.  We got very familiar with the reality of that statement as two of our staffs that we augmented were 7th Fleet, aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) and 3MEF on Okinawa, both 10+ hours flying time from Hickam.
Blue Ridge and some Volcano
Commons.Wikimedia.com



 In addition to the augmenting of the Staff, we would also participate in the initial mission planning stages of the contingency at Camp Smith and then deploy bringing a better understanding of “Commander’s intent” with us to the JTF command.  But with a 10 hour interval between departure from Hickam and arrival at the JTF, the situation would almost always have changed.  So keeping up to speed while deploying was important.

Now, while this next paragraph can be accomplished by the average 12 year old with a smartphone in 2014, back in the early 90s, this was next to impossible.  We managed to hook up to the special satellite receiver door for a C-141 and transmit and receive Data over the link.  It had been used for years as a voice transmitter, but not data.  We were able to set up a laptop inside the cargo hold, and receive updated orders from CINCPAC, a huge advantage at the time.  So much so, that I was requested to travel with our Marine 2 star J-3 (Director of Operations) to the Worldwide J-3 Conference in Oberammergau Germany.  And, now for …The Rest of the Story.

I tried to get a representation picture of the locations of Oberammergau and Honolulu from Google Earth, but couldn't.  Suffice it to say, they’re on opposite sides of the world.  So to avoid complications caused by travel delays and minimize jet lag, we decide to leave so as to arrive a day early for the conference.  Unlike previous trips to Germany, travel was uneventful.  Traveling with a Marine Major General has its perks I guess.  We arrive in Munich, the General, a Navy Captain and myself.  Pick up our rental car.  A big honking BMW, I mean this thing is huge!  While at Hertz, I grab a brochure which has a small 4 inch square map of Germany on it, Autobahns and some major roads on it.  The Captain wants to drive as he’s “never driven on the Autobahn”.  As one might suspect, the General gets his choice of seats and selects the front passenger seat.  I am in the back seat, navigating. 

We arrive, safely and expeditiously at Oberammergau and check in to our hotel.  It’s late afternoon and the General tells everyone to meet in the lobby at 1730 about an hour and a half.  I’m tired, but have figured out, that for me, the best way to shift into a new time zone is to exercise, eat lightly, drink not at all and go to bed as close to normal bed time in that time zone as possible.  I go for a run.  Come back in, get cleaned up and am downstairs with 15 minutes to spare.  Right on time, the General arrives.  We head into the restaurant, order dinner and he turns to me and says “Well Juvat, what are we going to do tomorrow?”  Hey, nobody said anything about Tour Guide in my orders, but being the quick on my feet thinker that I am, I remember the map of Germany  had icons for Castles on it and that the General is a big Olympic fan.  So I say, “General, your choice, we can tour the Olympic Village at Munich, or we can tour some local Castles”.    I’m praying for Munich, because I’d seen the signs for the Olympic Village as we left the city.  Naturally, therefore, “Castles”.

After Dinner, I make my way to the front desk and ask if they have any local maps.  No Joy! I am stuck with my 4 inch map of Germany.  The next day dawns and we’re off.  Seating arrangement is the same as the day before and I’ve got my trusty map.  The Captain has the hammer down, but thankfully the first Castle is only about 10 miles away and only one road change.  We arrive at Linderhof Castle with no problems. 
Linderhof Castle
By Softeis (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
The General and the Captain are off on a tour, and I’m in the Gift Shop looking for a map.  No Joy! 

Next stop on this magical mystery tour is Neuschwanstein Castle, a bit further than the previous leg and will involve a few more road changes. 
Neuschwanstein Castle
"Neuschwanstein castle" by Jeff Wilcox - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffwilcox/95436233/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neuschwanstein_castle.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Neuschwanstein_castle.jpg


And we’re off!  The Captain is in heaven and we’re flying through forests and mountains it’s a jolly ride.  I’m starting to get concerned as I haven’t seen the turnoff I’m looking for.  Finally, we come up on a building on the right side of the road, looks kinda like a old time gas station with a guy standing out front in what looks like an old time gas station uniform.  He waves as we drive by.  A hundred meters of so further on, there’s another gas station with a guy outside in a different gas station uniform.  He waves us by.    I still don’t see the turnoff and after about 5 minutes, we come up on a village.  I swallow my pride and tell them I have to stop and ask directions.  The General says fine, he needs to cash a traveler’s check and needs film for his camera.  We enter the village and see the old time Kodak shop with the roll of film sign on it right next door to a bank.  The General asks me to get the film while he cashes the check.  

I walk into the store and find the film, walk up to the cashier, hand her the film and she says “80”.  Holy smokes!  That’s $50 or so.  But the General wants film.  I pull some 20 Mark notes out of my wallet and count out 20,40,60, 80.  She goes “No, no, 80 Pfennig!”  The light clicks on!  Juvat is not only not in Kansas anymore, he’s not in Germany either.  But having listened to my Father about never leaving home while overseas without your passport, mine is in my back pocket.  So I laugh, ask the lady where we are, she pulls out a large map of southern Germany and Austria, points to the Austrian village we’re in and then shows me the route to Neuschwanstein Castle.  I thank her profusely, ask if she has a copy of the map for sale and if she will take Marks.  She does and counts out the change adding to my son’s collection of foreign currency.  I walk outside just as the General is coming out of the bank.  I say, “Guess what General?”  He answers, “We’re not in Germany, and my passport is at the Hotel!”.  Doomed!

“Well, Juvat, what’s the plan now?”  Thinking quickly I pull out the map and say “General, we’re taking this route back to Germany and when we cross the border, if they stop us, you’re going to fix them with your best Marine Infantry 2 Star stare, show them your ID card and DARE them to stop us.”  He pauses,  then says “That’ll work.”  Get back into the Car and we’re off.  Praying pretty hard that we get a similar treatment at the border, but no such luck.  We leave Austria with no problem and are in no man’s land looking at the German Border Crew.  This crew is checking papers.  As we approach, I pull out my passport as does the Captain.  The General says “Put those away.  If I’m using my ID, so are You!”  We pull up, the Border Officer is on the passenger side.  The General rolls down the window,and shows his ID.  The Border Officer starts to say something and the General hits him with his Marine Infantry 2 star stare and frankly even in the back seat I’m chilled.  The officer gulps and waves him through.  The Captain accelerates away and we’re off. 


Neuschwanstein Castle was especially beautiful that afternoon. The turnoff I’d been looking for?  That was the border.  It was just a line on my map with no further information.