Thursday, July 28, 2005

Here's a new blog that I have to link to. She has things to say, she's extremely intelligent and she appreciates the role of the military. And I have no idea where the pseudonym of "Murf" originated.

Murf's du Jour.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Promised someone months ago that I'd post something on the Wagon Wheel. The Wagon Wheel was probably the most popular night spot off of Ft. Devens.

There were some options. For example, there was the Mohawk Club, which required a cover charge and featured head banging music at a decibel level which could induce convulsions. First time I was there a fight broke out behind me and I ended up combing glass out of my hair. There was also the Rotary Club, which I initially avoided because the name conjured up images of blue haired Rotarians drinking coffee at 10:00 at night. Finally learned it was called “rotary” because it was located just off a rotary (roundabout or traffic circle) so I gave it a shot. Guess what—blue hair and coffee. Downtown Ayre boasted a piano bar of all things, but the clientele consisted of guys with oversize gold rings, cigarette permeated blazers and slacks, too much cologne and the sort of women who are interested in said men. 'Nuff said. There was a Shirley Club if I recall, but it apparently left little impression on me. I'd occasionally hit places in Boston or Fitchburg (Black Horse Inn?), but they were too far away to make a practice of.

So, the Wagon Wheel it was. As the name implies, it was a haven for country music and the people who listen to it. Lots of tight jeans, snake skin boots, vests, cowboy hats and huge belt buckles (tombstones for dead dicks, someone called them). I used to watch and wonder to myself how many of these guys had ever such much as gotten to within 50 feet of a bovine. But generally speaking it was a friendly crowd and reasonably accepting of country-impaired patrons. Got to know one of the waitresses. She eventually relocated to San Diego and is presumably working her way through the Pacific Fleet.

Fortunately, on the way back to post there was an old-fashioned silver diner where one could stop and grab something absorbent to put in your stomach before proceeding through the gates. A prudent stop since rumor had it the garrison commander had charged the MPs with pulling over guys from Group and citing them as often as possible. Not a problem as often the socializing from the bar carried over to the diner.

On post options were the enlisted and officers' clubs. The post wasn't big enough to boast a separate NCO club at the time. The original enlisted club was a nasty pit, on a par with a Soviet Army recreation facility I once visited. Fortunately they broke ground for a new club soon after I arrived. The new club was between the old one and my barracks and shortly after they dug the hole I recall waking up in my barracks room with a pile of muddy clothes on the floor and little recollection of what had transpired on the walk home other than that I had been on a construction site or two before and wasn't going to let this hole redirect my usual path home. The officers' club was an older building, but it retained an elegance. I had occasion to go to the officers' club at least twice, once unfortunately for a wake. I don't remember what took me there the other time, but I met a very interesting CT National Guard lieutenant. She apparently felt the beret made up for the difference in rank.

The biggest sweep of women ever to occur in that club, though, was pulled off by Canadian paratroopers. They came down to train with us for a few weeks, during which time my blood alcohol content spiked frequently but never succeeded in zeroing out. For their last night on post they were hosted at the officers club, for which event they wore their dress uniform—kilts. They kept their promise to meet us in the enlisted club after they had completed their obligation at the officers' club. What had to have been every last woman in that club followed them out the door and down to the enlisted club.

A singular event, to be sure.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Politics have always pushed the edge of sanity. Way back when there was a guy who actually cast doubt on his opponent when he announced that his opponent was a homo sapiens and his sister was a practicing thespian. Honest. And the guy won the election.

Now we have John Kerry, who has made all sorts of claims about his military record--many of them refuted--but who has absolutely refused to put his signature on a document to release said records, calling for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts to release all of his judicial records.

Nice try, John Kerry. Huff and rant all you want, but you're an utter hypocrite. Worse, even. You tried to make your military service an issue in the election even though it backfired on you big time and everyone with a brain realizes that you're a prat. You've utterly refused to make your service record public (hmmm, wonder what you're hiding), and now you're trying to appear manly (a stretch for you, I know) by demanding someone else make his judicial record public.

Keep trying, Johnny.

Friday, July 22, 2005

I posted about James Doohan's passing the other day, but I bow before the superior writing here.

Going to have to add Argghhh to my links.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Strangest thought came into my head today after I retreated from the heat and spent some time in the armchair with the latest installment in the Harry Potter saga.


Sort of an odd thought, but there's more there than it would seem on the surface. Not "Here's mud in your eye" and that sort of quasi-humerous watered down toast, not "I'd like to thank my parents for making this moment possible" (as though it was your parents who got your girlfriend pregnant, necessitating the marriage that you're now toasting and later rueing) but the manly statements warriors would make over a round of drinks before they went of on such manly endeavors as great quests, battles and the like. The truly great toasts have the dark edge of death, which certainly awaited many of those gathered, as well as the certainty that victory can be achieved through strength and perseverence.

Here's a good one:

Stand to your glasses, men
The world is full of lies
Here's to the health of the already dead
And here's to the next man to die.

This one's my favorite (so far). Being brought up Catholic I knew that the "proud and angry dust" is man. No matter how long I shall live, I'll always remember the words "Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return". Anyway:

The troubles of this proud and angry dust
Are from eternity and shall not fail
But bear them if we can
And if we can we must
So shoulder the sky lads
And drink your ale.

So just for a change of pace, a little amusement, whatever; lets see if we can amass a collection of warrior toasts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Damn. James Doohan passed away today.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, certainly everyone has heard of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott--Scotty from Star Trek. You know... "She can't take much more of this, Captain"

I'm no Trekkie, though I do have sort of a soft spot for science fiction movies (I'll deny it if ever asked again), but everyone my age has seen Star Trek.

The thing about Doohan is he's a relic of another time in Hollywood. A time when actors knew there were things bigger than themselves. Doohan, a Canadian, served with distinction in the Canadian Forces in WWII. I can't possibly think of a single current actor of any note who would stoop to military service. Like Billy Clinton famously said of himself, they're destined for better things.

Doohan served as an artillery officer until he was wounded on Juno Beach during the invasion of France. Wounds to his leg precluded continuing as a ground pounder, so he was reassigned to fly spotter aircraft to direct artillery. Numerous biographies all note that he became known as "the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces".

He apparently possessed quite the intellect as well, with a particular gift for linguistics. Most of the punks in Hollywood today can barely light their own cigarettes, much less complete a crossword puzzle.

On a more prurient note, I'm impressed that he apparently fathered a child at the age of 79.

RIP, James Doohan, and thank you for serving the world in its time of need.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Recently was reminded of the animosity some people hold toward the contractors in Iraq.

The discussion reached an absolute low a while back when four contractors were brutally killed. Kos decided to remind everyone of his status as the most classless blogger on the internet and declared them “mercenaries” and brushed off their deaths with his infamous “Screw 'em” comment.

Iraq is in no condition to rebuild itself at this point and we certainly can't just walk away. To do so would be to allow Iraq to implode and become the same lawless vacuum that Afghanistan was: A training ground for every bombslinger with a grudge against the west. Just as we helped to rebuild Germany and Japan after WWII because it was in our best interest to do so, we must help rebuild Iraq.

To do so requires big companies with the infrastructure to mount this sort of operation. Unfortunately, there are only so many companies capable of that. If it seems that KBR and Halliburton have something of a monopoly in the rebuilding process, it's because they are among the few companies that can mount and support an operation of this size. Guy down the street runs Joe's Bobcat Service. Nice guy, hard worker, but putting him and his Bobcat on a C-130 to Iraq would accomplish nothing. How does he find a place to sleep, how does he eat, obtain fuel, spare infinitum?

Companies are nothing without employees, and now there's a need to increase the number of employees substantially. The positions are most likely temporary, they require an extended period of time away from families in an unpleasant climate and they expose the workers to constant danger from guys who think sawing heads off with penknives is a lot of fun. People don't do this for free.

The contractors in Iraq are making great money, but that's what it takes to convince people to drop everything and take their hard-earned oil pipeline skills, electronic skills, etc. and head for the sandbox.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Karl Rove/Valerie Plame issue is being thoroughly covered, but I can't resist weighing in.

First: Joe Wilson is a liar. He lied about the contents of his report, and he lied when he said he was recommended by Cheney and not his wife.

Second: The CIA didn't give a damn about Wilson's report, anyway. His only "qualifications" were an ambassadorship (a purely political appointment) and a wife who worked for the CIA. His report had little more credence with them than it would had I written it.

Third: It's only a crime to divulge the name of covert operatives. Plame was not a covert operative. Plame and Wilson had quite the penchant for posing for glamor photos for Vanity Fair, among others, though Plame dramatically would conceal her face beneath the shadow of a large hat, things like that. This is not the behavior of a covert operative.

Why did Rove name Plame? It's all right here, under the subtitle Telling the Truth.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I know a lot of very sincere teachers and administrators.

But the NEA is obviously rotten to the very core. As far as I can tell from this post at Captain's Quarters, the union officials at NEA (who are union officials, not teachers) could give a fig about education and care only about using the size of their organization to drive their political agenda.
Repairs have been made.

I've not been happy with the placement of the comments button on this blog, but I wasn't sure how to fix it.

The thing is, I never tried, either. I finally got impetus (also known as a kick in the a$$) when Murf (who isn't really named Murf) pointed out how confusing the button was. So I buckled down, muddled through the template code and placed the button in its proper place at the end of each post.

Should have done this weeks ago. Thanks for the boot.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I want to add a number of blogs to my list on the side, and I've fallen behind in that task times two.

I do want to name some blogs now, and I'll add them to the links list after I've finished cutting down and chopping up two deceased oak trees, installing the pond, building a trellis over the basement exit, doing a complete tune-up on the wife's truck (along with new front brake pads and calipers), prepping for Snake Eater Junior's 13th birthday party, scheduling umpires for all-stars (and umpiring some of the games as well)....You get the idea.

Anyway, here's a list of more blogs I find interesting:

My View Further proof that conservative women are smart and very attractive.

Soldier's Mom Intelligence and poignence

Makaha Surf Report A defense contractor--Articulate thoughts from a different viewpoint

Dadmanly A Reservist now in Iraq, with a spiritual bent

Michael Yon Former SF, now a journalist in Iraq. I'm Waaaay behind in listing this guy.

James Lilek Nothing military here, just a great place to waste hours on end. The Bleat is good
reading, the other links are pure fun.

More links are pending.
I've been very busy lately and have fallen behind in a number of areas, including anything that involves use of a computer.

I wish I could put together a substantive post right now. I was at a "management picnic" on Sunday (dreaded it worse than I do a visit to the dentist, but I survived) and was reminded of a number of little events in the past. Actually made for some pleasant reminiscing and fodder for future posts.

Anyway, all I can put together right now is a conversation I had one evening while in basic training.

For a hundred or more years now, military men have suspected that their food and drink are laced with saltpeter. Saltpeter is potassium nitrate (KNO3) and is reputed to lower the male libido. As the legend goes, military leaders are concerned that virule young men in close quarters with other virule young men and lacking in female companionship will soon be humping each other like sodomite rabbits unless something is done.

I can't remember the spelling of his name, but there was a guy in my basic training platoon whose name sounded like "Syler". Interesting guy. He liked being referred to as "Psycho Syler" and did everything he could to live up to the moniker.

Anyway, one day Psycho announced to one and all that the Army was obviously putting "Softpeter" (I think he honestly thought that was what it's called) in the food as he hadn't had a woody since he got to basic training.

I waved him to my bunk as he passed by. "Psycho," I said, "We're in basic training. We get up at 0430 and start moving at 90 miles an hour. The first thing we see in the morning is other men in underwear. Then we go out and sweat and groan profusely performing calistenics in the presence of other men. We continue moving at a deadly rate of speed throughout the day while the temperature hovers around the century mark. The last thing we do at the end of the day is shower with a bunch of naked men and collapse in our bunks. If, given these circumstances, you were getting regular visits from Woodrow, I would count you as perhaps the sickest individual I have ever known".

He never brought up "softpeter" again.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Dancing around the topic of killing enemies has just reached an all-time high (low).

Even twenty years ago the Army used phrases such as "neutralizing the enemy" and catchwords like "interdiction". Obviously, you "neutralize" smeone by causing their heart to cease functioning. And "interdiction" actually refers to forbidding something. You "interdict" a convoy by blowing it off the road. The sniper course was (is?) called the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course. You "interdict" your target by blowing his brains out.

Word games have been around for a very long time. They make it easier for soldiers to do what they must, and easier for generals to explain to reporters what their troops have done or are about to do.

But word games have just now passed ridiculous. Here is the description from of the "mission" of the M-240B. I placed mission in quotes because I'm still not convinced that an inanimate piece of equipment has a mission to call its own. Anyway, here it is:

Deter, and if necessary, compel adversaries by enabling individuals and small units to engage targets with accurate, lethal, direct automatic fire.

Any guesses as to what an M-240 is? Sounds pretty high speed.

It's a machine gun. As such, it's "mission" is to perforate enemies and ensure that they give their lives for their cause. "Deter, and if necessary, compel"?? Screw that. The purpose of a machine gun is to kill as many enemy as possible and "compel" the remainder to keep their heads down until US troops can figure out another way to kill them.

The article goes on to say that the M-240 "delivers more energy to the target than the smaller caliber M-249 SAW". That's the Army's way of admitting that the 40-year love affair with the 5.56mm round might be nearing an end. The M-240 fires a .30 caliber round while the M-249 fires the same .22 caliber round as the M-16. Troops have been complaining about the M-16s lack of knockdown power since Day One.

Anyway, not to lapse into the whole debate over calibers, etc. I just found the "mission" statement something I couldn't let go without comment.

Here's the web page:

Some deep thoughts and humbling words.

As I've mentioned, milblogger CPT Chuck Ziegenfuss was badly injured in Iraq. His wife, Carren, has taken posting on his blog for him, providing everyone with updates on his condition.

Recently CPT Chuck was visited by an old friend, who put some thoughts down and asked Carren to post them here.

I can't possibly add anything. Read the post (and the rest of the blog as well).
Robert "Posie" Pfaff, drum major of the Hanover Lancers Drum and Bugle Corps, passed away Sunday.
Posie had been with the Lancers since the '50s. A truly dedicated man who loved drum corps and the Lancers in particular, Posie continued to march despite a diagnosed heart condition which had previously required surgery.
Posie collapsed and died while the corps was forming up to step off in a parade. It can truly be said that he died while doing something he loved. We should all be so lucky.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A day of wildlife encounters.

My wife is afraid of just about anything that creeps, crawls, hops, etc. I've been summoned to the driveway to remove a toad so she could get out of her car and called home to deal with a large spider that kept her and my daughter at bay. Fortuntely, as I've often reassured her, we live too high on a hill and too far from any sort of water for any snake to venture here. We have lots of deer and lots of rabbits, but the thought of a snake making the trek here seems remote at best.

Spent the day working in the yard, performing a myriad of tasks that I've been putting off. You really have to admire insects. They have lightening reflexes and can respond to stimuli in a thousandth of a second. As I'm shoveling some dirt I dragged my hand across my shirt at one point and became simultaneously aware of two things: Something was crawling on my shirt and that something had already responded defensively to my hand.

Fortunately I contained myself to "Ouch". Last time I got stung in the presence of three-year old junior I expanded his vocabulary significantly. He later had a conversation with my wife that went like this: "Daddy said a bad word". "Well, he was hurt and upset". "Ok, well, if I get stung can I say 'sh*t', too?"

Turns out my wildlife encounter wasn't over.

Later I went to begin a long overdue task. My wife purchased a liner for an ornamental pond some time ago. I put it where she wanted it installed, turned it upside down so it wouldn't fill with rainwater and left it there. The area is lush with a somewhat neglected herb garden and a constantly overflowing bucket into which the air conditioners empty the water they squeeze out of the air. We use the water for flowers, but the level of humidity here ensures more water than we need, hence the constant overflow.

It was time to start digging, so I waded into the herbs, grabbed the pond liner and lifted it to move it out of the way. No sooner had I lifted it than Jake himself, in the form of a large and rather aggressive Eastern garter snake emerged. I said "Wow" and shoved the liner aside. Jake took off toward the house (we were maybe five feet from the house) and I hear "'Wow', what?....AAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!". The wife abandoned the scene with a sound reminiscent of the rustling of wings, accompanied by a shriek as though emitted by all of the lost souls in hell. Normally not a fast mover, within seconds she was two floors above me, leaning out the window and screaming "Shoot it!".

At this point I was trying to corral the thing. It was extremely aggressive and actually charged me twice. I'm not afraid of snakes, and certainly not garter snakes, but venom or not they can and do bite. To this day I have a faintly visible scar where one bit me when I was a teenager. Like a snapping turtle, it has no teeth or venom, but it wouldn't let go. I finally threw my hand out and it ripped free. So, having said that, I'm not afraid, but neither do I care to get bitten. As aggressive (and terrified) as it was, making a grab for it was difficult. I tried trapping its head with a piece of felixible pipe I had at hand, but couldn't get it. I had every intention of taking it in the house to "display" to the wife before I drove down the hill with it to let it go. All this time the wife is telling me to shoot it. I told her no way I was going to shoot the thing three feet from the side of the house. The woman who gets upset when our son bounces a tennis ball off of the house told me to go ahead.

At one point I lost it and it actually got around behind me and was headed to get under the pond liner again. It was a weird feeling to get outflanked by a snake.

In the end it got up under the deck and under some boxes I keep camping equipment in. I figured I could spend all day chasing the thing, or I could go back to digging a hole for the pond and let the fact that it was still loose keep the wife in the house and out of my hair.

Worked like a charm. She wouldn't even eat supper on the deck with the thought of the thing five feet beneath.

The part about 'displaying' Jake for my wife is a bit mean, I admit, but it's an old childhood memory. My mom hated snakes every bit as passionately as my wife, but she was a bit more aggressive. While the wife flees, my mom would stand her ground and mince any serpent that had the misfortune to cross her path. As a kid I caught snakes pretty regularly for no particular reason. It was just something to do. That's how I managed to end up with one latched to my finger. Anyway, I once caught one and innocently brought it in the house to display my prowess to my mom and she actually levitated. I've always wanted to see that feat performed again...

Had one last encounter that's a continuing mystery. One side of the house is heavily planted with wildflowers. Every time I poke in there to cut some for the table, something rushes back and forth. Happened again today. It's probably a chipmunk, but it's one hell of a big chipmunk if that's what it is. The flowers are so thick that I've never been able to catch sight of it. Maybe a small bunny. It's one or the other, but after a half dozen encounters I have yet to figure out what it is. Damndest thing...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Jennifer Martinez posts some excellent thoughts on patriotism and sellouts here.
And so ends baseball.

Snake Eater jr's. team won the regular season handily, then went on to win the double elimination league tournament, winning each of their games early via the ten run rule.

Then on to the district tournament. We drove an hour into the mountains, squared off against a team that was the odds on favorite, and beat them.

Then came the seemingly cursed game. Rained that day, and we spent 90 minutes or so getting the field back in shape. Playing against a team they repeatedly hammered in regular season play, the guys had established a nice lead when the lightening we knew was in the air showed up. We waited things out, but it became obvious the game wasn't going to happen. Suspended the game in the bottom of the third. Spent a great deal of time the next day getting the field in shape even as the sky blackened. The storm came through and the managers agreed to wait it out a bit to see if the storm would pass. Agreement or not, the other team simply up and left. Meanwhile, the storm wrecked the field. Came back the third day, worked on the field and finally it was game time. Our guys just never got their feet under them. Finally lost to the last place team in the league by two points.

It was a sad night, but the guys topped it off with a pool party at a team mate's house and the tears dried up.

I'm still on the hook to schedule umpires for a few more weeks, but after that it's a whole month off before fall ball.