Friday, December 21, 2007

And Then There Were Two

One of those things you know is going to happen, but you just wish it wouldn't.

J. Russell Coffey just passed away at the age of 109. Mr. Coffey was one of the last surviving veterans of the First World War. Mr. Coffey never "saw the elephant", but he stepped forward and joined the army and served his country during time of war, so he gets just as much credit as anyone else.

I don't know the tally for the entire world--whether any veterans survive in France, Belgium, Germany, etc. but I do know that there are now exactly two WWI veterans left in the US: Frank Buckles, who is 106, and Harry Richard Landis, who is 108. There is one veteran still living in the UK, Robert Taggert and he is 107.

These guys saw a conflict that rewrote the world map and now they are all but gone.

I wish Godspeed to Mr. Coffey and hope that the others continue to grace us with their presence for some time to come.
Can You Say "Jackass"?

I've been skiing for over 30 years. For all that time I'm not all that great, but I hit the slopes and have a good time. I've eaten several cubic meters of snow along the way, wrecked a knee (surgery--three weeks in the hospital) and once took a glove off to find it filled with blood. I once saw a guy fall and leave a red streak on the snow. I stood on Killington Peak stupidly wearing jeans when the wind chill was so far below zero that I lost count (not that it takes much to make me lose count, but anyway).

And I still use old style two-meter skis. None of that parabolic stuff.

None of the above has stopped me. It's a lot of fun. Things can happen, but I take my life in my hands every time I go down to the main road and cross it to get the mail.

Events occur. You just deal with it. And if you hit the slopes and are a grownup, you know that things can happen.

But check out this complete jackass. I already wrote Reader's Digest (the plaintiff works for the magazine) and told them to stuff my subscription up their collective posterior.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ok. I'm officially inspired to create my Christmas list and it's all because of this:

Who in his right mind could not want a jet-propelled sh*thouse?

Next it's the catamaran. I love sailing. Now, nothing comes close to the b*lls-to-the walls feeling of a serious broad reach, but the wife definitely doesn't like it when I have a monohull boat heeled over, lee railing touching the waves. Despite the peaks and valleys we experience, it seems likely that I'll remain married, so here's the compromise--a catamaran that won't heel, has lots of space below and enough deck space for some friends and a few adult drinks.

But a cat is only good for part of the year. The Nimble Kodiak isn't the prettiest sailboat in the world, but it's specifically made to keep you on the water after the leaves fall. You gotta love that.

Now this I just gotta have. I can run it up and down our road (we live off of the main road and own the road that accesses our house), or I can use it to run from the sailboat(s) to the chandler's or the local watering hole. I mean, who wouldn't want a motorized barstool?

And if a motorized barstool is a good thing, then a jet powered barstool can only be better, right?

Then there's the Bullit Mustang. I like exotic cars, and I also like good old American muscle. These days there's no longer so much of a dichotomy--American cars are pretty much as refined as European cars, so I can take a trip down memory lane (Remember Steve McQueen in "Bullit" driving his Mustang in one of the greatest chase scenes ever filmed ?) and also drive a world class car.

Not that any of the above are ever going to happen, but a guy can hope, right?

So, in the same vein, I'll have to admit that if I were ever to find Laura Prepon or Angie Everhart under the tree, I wouldn't mind unwrapping them.

A great web site for all of the other old pharts out there:

When Life was in Black and White

Have you ever heard that a dog 'knows' when an earthquake is about to hit?

Have you ever heard that a dog can 'sense' when a tornado is stirring up, even twenty miles away?

Do you remember hearing that, before the December tsunami struck Southeast Asia, dogs
started running frantically away from the seashore at breakneck speed?

Do you know that dogs can detect cancer and other serious illnesses and danger of fire?

Somehow they always know when they can 'go for a ride' before you even ask.

Do you know that companion dogs can detect a seizure coming on in time to have their
companion sit or lay down in preparation?

How do those dogs and cats get home from hundreds of miles away?

I'm a firm believer that animals - and especially dogs - have keen insights into The Truth.
can't tell me that dogs can't sense a potentially terrible disaster well in advance.

said, a good ol' hound dog just KNOWS when something isn't right, when impending
doom is upon us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm doing some deep thinking right now. My friend Murf asked me a question that I had a knee jerk answer for, but I decided to dedicate some thought to it instead (I guess that's why I'm not a Democrat).

Anyway, here's a little (somewhat belated) Veterans' Day fact. When you hear of our disappearing veterans, mull this one over. There are exactly three US WWI veterans left on this planet. Three. One Navy and two Army, if I recall. And there is exactly one British veteran.

WWI was a bigger war than most realize. Outside of the horror of the trenches, the death and devastation of no-man's-land, the introduction of mass casualties through the machine gun and poison gases, it had incredibly far reaching effects. The entire middle east was redrawn as a result of the war. Kuwait didn't exist. Ever seen "The Sound of Music" and wondered how an Austrian could be a naval officer? Until the end of the war, Austria was part of an empire that stretched to the Mediterranean Sea. The geopolitical consequences of that war persist (and often haunt us) to this day.

And the day is upon us when very shortly there will be no one left to tell us about it in the first person.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Time was, not so long ago, when some people got over calling troops bad names.

People objected to the Vietnam war, so in their infinite intelligence, they took their hostile feelings out on the troops. "The troops" were mostly draftees who didn't have much say in things, so the hostility against them defies logic. The professional soldiers were (and are) just that, so calling them names defies logic as well--they're simply doing what their country calls upon them to do.

After the first Gulf War there was a resurgence--people suddenly realized that the military was doing things that were in the best interest of us as a country. But now it seems that the left opposes our policy of killing people who want to kill us first and now want to take out their hatred of the government on the troops. Kind of odd that a party that claims to love everyone and accuses the opposition of hate should harbor such hate--but this is nothing new. Hate the war--if you're that ignorant--but hating the troops is moronic.

Thomas Atkins was a legendary soldier in the British army, hence British soldiers are often referred to as "Tommys".

So here, for Teddy "I drowned a girl in a drunken accident and got away with it" Kennedy and his ilk (Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the entire bunch of Democrats running for president, especially Hillary "I just deserve it" Clinton)


I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Rudyard Kipling
In memory of all who have risen to their country's call and served, particularly the late John Wallace (United States Navy, WWII) and my friend William Meyers; a gentle, soft spoken man who once participated in the greatest campaign as a crew member in a B-24 bomber:


Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC


Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.

You can't tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

Remember November 11th is Veterans Day

"It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag."

Father Denis Edward O'Brien

Monday, October 22, 2007

This just wrong.

Yep, an elderly, wheelchair-using nun being frisked at a US airport by a veiled Muslim. Gotta love that TSA.


Found the photo at an interesting blog called Klein Verzet, which I found via The Jawa Report.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The guys who flew and maintained these babies did more for our country than Hilly, Billy, Teddy, Nancy, Harry and Little Johnnie Murtha combined.

And unlike all of the above (Murtha excepted...grudgingly) they weren't "too good" to serve. And die.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

This is supposed to be a joke, but it's so true that it's not really even funny.

Bob Sheiffer, Tom Brokaw, Katie Couric and a tough old U.S. Marine sergeant were all captured by terrorists in Iraq. The leader of the terrorists told them that he would grant them each one last request before they were beheaded.

Sheiffer said, "I'd like one last bowl of hot spicy chili." The leader nodded to an underling who left and returned with the chili. Sheiffer ate it and said, "Now I can die content."

Brokaw said, "I'd like to hear the song "America the Beautiful" one last time." The leader nodded to a terrorist who had studied the Western world and knew the music. He returned with some rag-tag musicians and played the anthem. Brokaw sighed and declared he could now die peacefully.

Couric said, "I'm a reporter to the end. I want to take out my tape recorder and describe the scene here and what's about to happen. Maybe someday someone will hear it and know that I was on the job till the end."

The leader agreed and Couric dictated some comments. She then said, "Now I can die happy."
The leader turned and said, "And now, Mr. U.S. Marine, what is your final wish?"

"Kick me in the ass," said the Marine.

"What?" asked the leader. "Will you mock us in your last hour?"

"No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me in the ass," insisted the Marine. So the leader shoved him into the open, and kicked him in the ass.

The Marine went sprawling, but rolled to his knees, pulled a 9mm pistol from inside his cammies, and shot the leader dead. In the resulting confusion, he leapt to his knapsack, pulled out his M4 carbine and sprayed the Iraqis with gunfire. In a flash, all the Iraqis were either dead or fleeing for their lives.

As the Marine was untying the three news anchors, "Ms Perky" asked him, "Why didn't you just shoot them in the beginning? Why did you ask them to kick you in the ass first?"

"What?" replied the Marine, "And have you three %$#(&#@@ report that I was the aggressor?"
A Green Beret walks into a bar and takes a seat next to a very attractive woman.

He gives her a quick glance then casually looks at his watch for a moment.

The woman looks at his wrist and remarks, "That's some watch. I've never seen anything like it before. What is it?"

"I just got this", he replies. "It's a new military issue. It has a small computer chip which has threat detection and situational awareness."

The intrigued woman asks, "What's so special about it?"

The Green Beret explains, "It can detect any threats within a 50 yard radius and gives me an awareness of my surroundings.

The woman asks, "What's it telling you now?"

"Well, according to what it says, you're not wearing any panties...."

The woman giggles and replies, "Well, it must be broken because I am wearing panties!"

He taps the face of his watch several times and says, "Aw, hell, the damn thing's an hour fast."

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'm absolutely thrilled by the seedings in the Democratic primary race. It appears so far that Hillary is the front runner with Obama following at a distance.

Fine with me.

Now, I'm not exactly thrilled with the Republican offerings, but I'm terrified by the Democratic offerings. Ergo I'm thrilled by the fact that the Democratic front runner is a thoroughly unlikeable person with stupid ideas and the second place runner--albeit a distant second place--is an absolute political lightweight who also has a lot of stupid ideas.

Hilly has no qualifications other than unfettered cold ambition and the fact that she is married to a former president. Of course, said president screwed around on her pretty much constantly and demonstrated his commitment to the furthering of womens' rights by keeping a girl roughly his daughter's age under his desk while he made phone calls to legislators and the fortunately now deceased Yassir Arafat. Yep, a real feminist icon. Can you say "misogynist?" But I quibble.

Hilly grew up in Illinois, met Bill in college in Connecticut, married him and ended up living in Arkansas. Yet her ego is so inflated that she simply decided she should be a senator for the state of New York. Never lived there, but she decided that by God, she deserved being a senator for New York. What an incredible display of all-consuming ego. Demonstrating their superior intellect, the people of New York actually elected her.

Doesn't matter that she's really never done anything other than work for the Rose law firm, during which time she was involved in some shady deals. The paperwork for those deals has mostly disappeared, but some suddenly appeared on a bureau in the White House and some was found in the trunk of a junked car. (yeah, I trust her...). Doesn't matter that she's done some incredibly stupid things such as deciding she was in charge of health care reform and held hearings that were illegal under the federal "sunshine" law. Doesn't matter that she's chosen two ill-vetted "poster children" for her moronic insurance idea (the idea that was hatched illegally)--it turned out that the first poster child was being poisoned by her mother, who is now in jail, and the second poster child comes from a family that claims indigence but actually owns their own business, a huge house and both children go to a private school to the tune of $20K/year each.

So Hilly's only qualification is ego. Oh, and that she's kinda sorta married to some guy who used to be president. But she has no sense whatsoever. And she is one cold fish (no wonder Billy keeps flouncing around with his fly open). Nobody likes her, not even her husband. So please, please--nominate her.

Barack Obama, the second runner, has pretty much the same qualifications as Hilly--"I want it and I deserve it". Why does he deserve it?--the same reason Hilly thinks she does: because he thinks he does and that makes it so. Is he a political lightweight? You bet. He recently announced he wanted to rid the planet of nuclear weapons, evoking the image of a breathless Miss America pageant contestant announcing that her project, should she be elected, will be to eliminate poverty and hunger throughout the world. Good luck to both Obama and the contestant. It ain't that simple.

It's probably quite nice living in a fog of naivite and denial, but some of the rest of us--those with the stones to go into the military--know better. Too bad Hilly and Billy were--in Billy's own words--"too good" for military service.

"Too good" If that doesn't speak absolute volumes, I don't know what does.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Army is adopting a new parachute.

Freefall parachutes aside, the history of the Army parachute has pretty much been one of evolution. The current T-10 and MC-1 parachutes differ little from the T-7 and T-5 that preceded them. Mostly it's involved improving the material the parachute is made of and updating the buckles and snaps. While diameters have varied, all have been parabolic in shape. The MC-1 stands out in that it is the only steerable parachute, but frankly, it looks like a T-10 with a couple of holes in it, and the reserve is....a T-10. Well, a T-10R, which a T-10 with some modifications to make it suitable for use as a reserve.

Even the absolute latest MC-1 is nothing more than the old MC-1 made with a lower porosity fabric in order to slow the rate of descent. The MC-1 is only used by special operations forces, which tend to jump heavier than conventional forces, so the lower rate of descent was much welcomed, even though it means a more potent opening shock. I got hurt and had to leave the Army before 10th Group moved to Colorado, but I understand the first year of jumping in the thin mile-high air wasn't much fun until the lo-po canopy came along.

By the way, the reason for the two canopies, the T-10 and the MC-1, is that the 82nd regularly fills the sky with parachutes. In that sort of situation steerable canopies could create catastrophic collisions. A Special Forces group jumps far smaller numbers--as small as 12 at a time, therefore they can afford the extra luxury of a steerable canopy. Out of nearly 100 jumps I have exactly four T-10 jumps. You make five jumps in Airborne school and of the five you get one MC-1 jump, so I have four T-10 jumps from Airborne school.

The new canopy, the T-11, definitely breaks the mold. This is revolution, not evolution. The new canopy has been a long time coming. According to "Air & Space" magazine, the T-10 was designed to handle a gross weight of 250 pounds, while modern paratroopers jump in weighing nearly 400 pounds. This has resulted in a rate of descent in the area of 24 feet per second. I've actually seen guys literally bounce when they hit--bad landing technique on their part, I know, but the fact is you do slam in pretty hard. The new parachute slows the rate of descent to 16 feet per second.

I gather there's yet another revamping of the MC-1 in the works as well. But anyway, here's the venerable T-10:

And "my" parachute, the MC-1 (by the way, currently both the T-10 and MC-1 have netting sewed around the bottom perimeter of the canopy to keep lines from sliding over the canopy and causing it to open upside down. Upside down won't hurt you, but the steering is backwards. I did that once with a square freefall canopy. It was benign, but disconcerting)

And now, the the new parachute, the T-11. This bad motorscooter looks nothing like its predecessors. It even has a slider to reduce opening shock, something that was once only found in freefall parachutes. (The slider is that piece of cloth over the parachutist's head. It slides down the lines, slowing the rate of inflation, thus reducing opening shock)

And the reserve parachute is a conical, another design that the Army has never used, although the Navy used conicals for years as aircrew survival parachutes.

Check out the details here

Saturday, September 29, 2007

This guy, assuming the evidence is solid (and I'm betting it is), should simply be killed.

"Neighbor Charged in Hanging of Girl".
Ok, so I'm having some fun with internet videos now. I'm not going to make it a habit. I just saw the one with the wasps and it reminded me how things can go awry in ways never anticipated, and then I came across this one.

The reason this one resonated with me is that I've ridden this thing.

German beer fests are fun. There are rarely, rarely fights; the food is great, the beer--well, you can guess; and the bigger fests have rides. I'm a huge ride junkie--especially roller coasters and hell, even the kiddie rides can be fun after a few liters of beer.

But as big as I am about rides and coasters, this may be the most radical thing I've ever ridden. We hit the fest with a group of around a dozen and the wife and I were the only two people in out group who would ride it. I've never seen it in the States, but check this monster out:

Insects have always been a factor in warfare, but it wasn't until the last century (the one we just recently put to bed) that we realized the extent of their effect. And that was mostly yellow fever and malaria.

The thing about operating in combat is that you have to expect the unexpected which is, of course, impossible.

During the Battle of Antietam, a regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers was advancing to the front line when a Confederate cannonball shattered wooden hives at a honeybee farm they were marching past. The regiment was nearly routed and was delayed in reaching the front lines, although some sources report that they resumed the advance "with a renewed vigor". Now what general, in all of his planning, could have anticipated that?

During the final phase of Special Forces school we sent two guys ahead at all speed to make a contact. We took their rucksacks from them so that they could move as quickly as possible and I ended up wearing my rucksack on my back and another guy's rucksack on my front. A large bumblebee got caught between the two rucksack frames and my ear and panicked and stung my ear. I was near the rear of the column and wearing at least 200 lbs. of rucksack---I passed the point man at a dead run.

Now to the present. Some guys tried to blow a large rock blocking a road in Afghanistan. They set up a camera to record the event and apparently left it unattended, something they'll always be grateful for. When the debris from the blast (which appears to have done nothing to the rock) disturbed the ground around the camera, everyone got a surprise.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Well, I'll be damned. I'm one of a few.

National Geographic magazine recently published an article titled "Green Dreams" which is about creating alternative fuels from plant sources.

At one point they paraphrase an executive from an alternative energy firm as saying: 'Only perhaps a dozen people on the planet know how to grow algae in high-density systems'. I'd personally put that figure a bit higher, but that's because I'm one of the people who knows how to grow algae in a high-density system.

I even came up with a critical modification that enabled us to grow algae in a closed system without the tank imploding. I'd be on a patent except the company decided to forgo the expense of a patent since at the time nobody else was growing algae (except in their swimming pools and fish tanks).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From Military Motivator:

And let us not forget, either, the strike on the Pentagon and the heroism of the passengers on Flight 93.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just for grins, and since we're doing parachute-related stuff, here's a photo of Bear's birthday present. She was determined, all 10-years of her, that this is what she wanted to do. Her 15-year old brother went up with her with misgivings, but both were bubbling over when they got back down.
I'm gonna try something new here and see what I can drum up: Jump stories.

Every time a group of paratroopers go up in an airplane there's always the potential for something to happen that makes for a story. You know, "There I was, knee-deep in grenade pins, nothing between me and the Mongol horde but a can opener..."

There used to be a place called Ft. Devens. It was a nice place, but it's now Devens Industrial Park. It was pretty small by Army standards and so the drop zone, called Turner Drop Zone, was necessarily challenged for space. I forget how many guys we could put out per pass, but it wasn't many and you couldn't fool around. When the jumpmaster said "Go", you'd better be hauling butt to get out.

I was on a jump, second in line to go. The guy in front of me was jumpmaster qualified and should have known better (we'll get to that in a moment). The wind was blowing right to left, so the aircraft (a C-130) was actually tracking over the trees to the right of the drop zone, so that the wind would blow us onto the DZ. We were going out of the right hand door, so looking out of the door you couldn't see anything but trees. Here's how it went:

Jumpmaster: "Go!"
Guy in door: "What?"
JM: "GO!"
GID: "Now?"
JM: "Yes, #$%* now, GO, Godd*mmit"
GID: "Ok" and jumps

By this time we had passed the drop zone, but out he went and I followed as did everyone behind me. We came down in a wooded area that served as an impact area for rifle grenades. Impact areas aren't regarded as the safest places in the world since there's always the chance that unexploded ordnance could be lurking there. To make things worse, trees aren't always the best place to land.

I came in and saw a clearing just in front of me. I dumped all of the air from the parachute and dropped into the clearing like a ton of bricks. It took me a few seconds to see straight again, but my vision cleared just in time to see a team leader slam directly into a tree. Remember those old wooden toys where you would put a sailor figure at the top of a mast and it would fall down bouncing off of pegs as it fell? That's what the team leader did. He dropped down and bounced off of every branch in the tree. It probably broke his fall, but I remember him pulling his shirt up and it looked like someone had beat him with a a baseball bat.

Fortunately nobody got blown up and nobody was really hurt, but honest, I'll never forget that guy saying "Now?" and watching the captain bounce off of every branch in that tree.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I don't want to write my autobiography (it would only put people to sleep anyway), but “Anonymous” posted here a couple of times and it seems likely that we know each other, so I'll give away some clues about where I've been and maybe write a bit of a story while I'm at it. I just hope it doesn't turn out that he couldn't stand me.

I started my military time in the 20th Special Forces Group, a National Guard unit. At the first drill I was remanded to the tender ministrations of someone I initially regarded as a fat old man. It turns out the fat old man had done what we call “running recon” in Vietnam and had worked with Air America. Running recon is regarded reverently. Those guys had stones the size of a Buick station wagon. The recon units had a 100% casualty rate. Every man who ever did it was killed or wounded at some point. The fat old man damn near killed me. We would run for what seemed like hours, then do pushups for another couple of hours. Every single day of basic training, airborne school and SF school I thought of how he had prepared me to succeed.

After 15 straight months on training status I graduated the Special Forces Qualification Course with class 5-81. I started with class 3-81 in a brutally cold winter and we lost so many guys that they simply eliminated class 3-81 and made us wait for 4-81 to catch up. Being a radio operator, I then had to take what was called BROC (basic radio operators' course), which was eight weeks of Morse Code from sunup 'til sundown. Talk about inducing psycosis...So that left me with class 5-81. (medics had it worse, maybe I'll write about that some day)

I probably didn't think much of it at the time, but all these years later the field phase of the SF radio operator course seems like it was pretty cool. We flew low level on a C-130, bouncing around (several guys lost their last meal on the flight) and jumped into a drop zone so small that only five guys could jump at each pass. As always, I'd been screwing around during the preflight briefing and when I jumped I couldn't see the drop zone and didn't know which way to steer to find it. I finally saw it and almost made it, but a tree got between me and the drop zone at the last minute. Some of the guys went off the mountain into what the instructors called “Lost Cove”. One guy, who later made the cover of Time or Newsweek after the Grenada invasion, tried to climb down from a tree by pulling his reserve. Unfortunately, he climbed down inside the reserve—sort of a guy in a bag thing. The instructors called the mountain Bee Mountain. At first I thought maybe there was an “A” mountain and a “C” mountain. Nope. It was Bee Mountain. One guy actually ran across the drop zone with his 'chute trailing behind him trying to get away from the bees' nest he'd dropped on.

Anyway, I graduated and went back to 20th Group where I was assigned to an A-team. I guess I was there about three years before I decided I just liked it too much and needed to transfer to active duty. During that time I managed to dislocate a shoulder on a jump in Minnesota in January and break my back on a jump at Ft. Bragg. But those are stories for another time.

I went off to 10th Group at Ft. Devens, MA. 10th Group had (has?) a policy of assigning all new radio operators to the Signal Company (in which most guys aren't SF qualified) rather than sending them to an A-team. The reason is that the communications we used at the time, high frequency single sideband with a spring-loaded tape to burst Morse Code, is pretty iffy and they wanted guys who had something in common the A-team guys there so that they'd go the extra mile and beat the transmissions to death until they got them right. Signal company also had teletype vans for HQ communications, but I didn't know jack about teletype vans. I got assigned to a teletype van.

Eventually an opening came up in a line battalion, but it wasn't on an A-team. It was the battalion communications staff, which was all SF qualified. I was so desperate to get out of Signal Company that I jumped at it.

I suspect that my only distinction during the Signal/battalion staff period was having a bad temper.

During this time I got married (still have the same wife). She works for a three-letter government agency in the DC area, so she stayed down here and I went back to MA. Probably didn't help my temper any. But on the other hand, I had one hell of a bachelor pad in Nashua, NH.

Eventually I did find a slot on an A-team and was loving life until I hit a rock or tree root while skiing (10th Group does lots of winter.mountain stuff) and wrecked my left knee. Right after that I transferred to 10th Group's first battalion, which was located in a place in Germany called Bad Toelz.

Everyone wanted to go to Toelz, but I had an extra reason. My wife's agency had a field station not far from Toelz, so we could actually live together and I could, ahem, reap the benefits of marriage, so to speak.

Bad Toelz was probably the absolute best assignment in the entire history of armed forces. Because of my wrecked knee I ended up on battalion staff again, but I loved the place. I started out with the best NCO room in known history. They had just built a new medical clinic and turned the fomer clinic into NCO rooms. I was actually given four boxes and painting supplies when I moved in. I had to put together the two lockers and two bunks and paint the room. But that was ok as it kept me occupied in the evenings until we straightened out housing through my wife's agency. But the room was directly over the club and actually had a sink, left over from when it had been part of the clinic. The proximity to the club was quite nice, and the sink meant I didn't have to trek down the hall to the latrine, if you know where I'm going there...

I ended up living in a real live German apartment that the government leased. No barracks, no living off a noisy stairwell—it was wonderful. It meant I had to drive 45 minutes or so to Toelz while all the other married guys lived right across the street, but it was worth every minute.

The Army preventive maintenance paperwork doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I guess I'm a bit twisted, so I actually grasped it. My job at that point became to check on the team guys and make sure that their paperwork was properly filled out. I suspect that a lot of the guys regarded me as a pain in the ass, but that was never my intention. Officers, in particular, would get incredibly defensive at battalion staff meetings if I would say “Team number such and such had some problems with the paperwork...” At that point they'd go into big time defensive mode and never let me finish the sentence with “but I talked with the radio guy and we squared it away”.

The knee injury eventually finished me off, but we stayed in Germany for several more years, maxing out my wife's allowable overseas time. I spent the rest of the time working at my wife's place in the outdoor recreation office, but went back to Toelz regularly and made it to the beer fest when Toelz was given back to the German government. I even managed to meet Colonel Aaron Bank and get his autograph in a book. Shook the man's hand, even.

All in all, I had a great time in the Army. I don't regret a minute of it, even the times I ended up bleeding all over myself. I'd do a few things differently, but I'd still go SF. The mission, the guys—best in the world. Shortcomings I had in abundance, but for ten years I walked among giants.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sorry, just had to post this one.

In Jerusalem, a female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Wailing Wall to pray, twice a day, everyday, for a long, long time, so she went to check it out. She went to the Wailing Wall and there he was. She watched him pray, and after about 45 minutes when he turned to leave, she approached him for an interview.

"I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. Sir, how long have you been coming to the wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years."

"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the hatred to stop and I pray for all our children to grow up in safety and friendship."

"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a f*ckin' wall."

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Well, I'm goin' downey ocean, Hon.

What did he just say?, you ask. You have to understand that people around here talk funny. The most widely spoken form of English is the Merlin Dialect, followed by Bawlmerese. Merlin is a somewhat watered down form of Bawlmerese.

Merlin itself is bordered on the north by Pennsylvania, to the south by Virginia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and to the southwest by West By God Virginia. Bawlmer, the home of Bawlmerese, is a bit more loosely defined, though it's generally agreed that the limits are as follows: The Emerald Inn on Putty Hill Road marks the northernmost point; the Gentleman's Gold Club marks the northeast corner; the Chesapeake Bay demarks the eastern limit; Patapsco Avenue, with its lovely views of petroleum farms and sunken hulls of ships scrapped out by Striegal Supply defines the southernmost limit and Leakin Park, the dumping ground of choice for the bodies of those who hacked off the wrong drug dealer, marks the western limit, although it can be argued that Bawlmer actually doesn't end until the Windsor Inn, where the Baltimore Ravens go to slap their women around.

Interestingly, residents of Bawlmer are referred to as Baltimorons. Baltimorons all refer to each other as “Hon”. Presumably this is a truncation of Honey, but nobody is entirely certain of the etymology of the word.

Merlin differs from Bawlmerese chiefly in that it's not necessary for the speaker to sound like he or she has catarrh, although there is less idiosyncratic vocabulary in Merlin.

Some interesting vocabulary from Bawlmerese :

Snew tares: What you put on your car in the winter

Amblance: The vehicle which will pick you up if you forget your snew tares and slide into a tree

Far truck: Usually accompanies the amblance

Warsh: What you do to your hands before meals

Zinc: Where you warsh your hands

Wooder: What you use to warsh your hands

Earl: A petroleum product used chiefly as a lubricant

In Merlin, everyone goes “down to” the ocean. Nobody knows why, it just is. Hence when one decides to spend an enjoyable week battling biting flies, mosquitoes, sand in the sphincter and the greatest population density outside of Mumbai, the process is called “goin' downey ocean, Hon”.

Next week we discuss Merlin's eastern shore where watermen dredge oysters in a process known as “drudgin' fer ersters”.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Via Blackfive comes the news that "Wild Bill" Guarnere is gravely ill.

Guarnere was a member of the storied "Easy Company" made famous by Stephen Ambrose's book cum movie "Band of Brothers". He was noted for his fearlessness on the battlefield and eventually lost a leg while rescuing a comrade under fire.

The Grim Reaper can only be dodged for so long, and Guarnere, like all members of our greatest generation, is advanced in years to say the least. But I'm hoping the best for him. Maybe just one more time where he can tell the young guys what it was like, or one more chance to ruffle the hair of his great-grandchildren.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Barack Obama thing leaves me puzzled. "Time" magazine, one of the biggest rags ever published, wants him elected so badly that they've abandoned all pretense of objectivity. I mean, they don't even try and pretend to be objective or non-partisan. Time Magazine wants Obama elected, period.

As I've already noted, his platform leaves a lot to be filled in. At this point it's basically "I'm black, I'm good looking, I'm black, I have a nice smile and I'm black". He also advocates an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, which is naive in the extreme. Yep--let's abandon Iraq so it can turn into the sort of lawless vacuum that Afghanistan was. A magnet for Islamic extremism. That's not an option.

And, as I noted in an email to a friend the other day, I will not ever vote for someone who refers to himself/herself as an "African-American". Just a note--African isn't a nationality. Africa is a continent. But anyway...If Obama wants to refer to himself as an American who happens to be black, then fine with me. But if you have to put "African" in front of "American", there is no way in hell that you are getting my vote. Period. Same goes for any other appellation, not just "African".

I'd vote for Condaleeza Rice. I probably wouldn't vote for Colin Powell as he's a bit liberal for me, but I find him more palatable than some of the current candidates.

Now here I am, a white male cracker, and I'm smashing three preconceptions at once: I'd vote for someone who is black, a woman, and good looking (bear in mind the myth that you have to be severe looking to be taken seriously as a woman). But I will never vote for anyone who hyphenates his/her nationality.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Oh, fer chrissake. The Democrats are all just outraged that Bush commuted "Scooter" Libby's jail sentence. He didn't pardon him--the conviction stands--he simply commuted the jail time.

In the first place, the conviction was a farce. A lynching. Libby said he forgot. You can't prove a negative. You can't prove he didn't forget. Hell, the Clintons spent eight freaking years saying "I don't recall". Worked for them. Secondly, and this wasn't even part of the case, but Valery Plame wasn't "outed". She is not/was not a covert operative, ergo she can't be "outed" any more than the director can.

Sandy Berger walked out of the National Archives with classified documents stuck in his socks and got slapped on the wrist with a misdemeanor charge. Misdemeanor??? The man (I use that word loosely) knowingly walked out with classified documents pertaining to the security of our country stuffed in his socks and the best they could do was misdemeanor charges. He should be in a cell with some guy nicknamed "Tripod".

Teddy Kennedy killed a woman and didn't even bother to report it until the next day. His punishment was to be reelected in perpetuity and to become vested in the most insanely lucrative pension system on the planet.

Nancy Pelosi, the little rich girl, has decided that she belongs in international politics despite the fact that anyone who has taken Civics 101 knows that the House of Representatives is charged with domestic affairs, period. It's that pesky three branches of government thing. It's funny to hear the Dems whine about Bush violating the Constitution when they have no grasp of it themselves. Not that Pelosi has any great examples to follow: Her father and brother were politicians and mayors of Baltimore City and operated in the grand old Tammany Hall style. Her father kept a ledger of every favor anyone had ever done for him, and when somebody asked him for help cleaning up a neighborhood, etc., he consulted the ledger to see if that person had ever done anything for him. Screw civic duty--what have you done for me?

Harry Reid...Don't know much about him except that he has never read the Constitution and fancies himself some sort of dragon slayer. He has a web site called something like "Giveemhellharry" or some such. Never been there. My understanding is that it's purely dedicated to undermining Bush. Hey, Harry, if being a Senator is such an important, all-consuming job, where are you finding the time to publish a self-serving web site?

I gather Jesse Jackson is also perturbed over the commutation of the sentence. This is the guy who has made millions of dollars playing the race card, who got his sons a lucrative beer distributorship by--what else--playing the race card and got his secretary knocked up while calling himself "reverend".

Al Sharpton is also outraged. He's the guy who represented Tawana Brawley while she made up complete lies (and he knew it) about being assaulted by white men, including a state's attorney.

Sheez. Everyone's just outraged. Liars, murderers, charlatans, racists--all self-serving--but they're just outraged that a guy isn't going to go to jail for a crime he never committed.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Some 231 years ago, a group of men gathered together and wrote out a treatise explaining why the English colonies in the continent known as America should become a single, antonymous entity. That treatise is now known as our Declaration of Independence.

There's a school of thought that holds that the movement for independence wasn't necessarily a popular movement. Most people were happy to go on farming the new continent and otherwise making a living in this new place. A group of firebrands in Boston got together and got the movement going. The English government contributed by mishandling things and seeing the colonies as simply a source of revenue--the firebrands were able to parlay that into a source of grievance. As tensions escalated, the English government responded by sending more troops and demanding that colonists vacate their houses in order to allow troops to barrack in them. Eventually a snowball fight escalated and an escaped slave named Crispus Attucks became the first "American" to die in what became the Revolutionary War. The British response to the snowball fight became known as the "Boston Massacre" and claimed several other lives as well. It's fitting that it began with a snowball fight, because it snowballed after that. The already inflamed colonists, who had begun preparing militia in a desire for autonomy and had already done things like throwing tea in harbors to protest taxation from a government they increasingly felt disconnected from, responded by bonding together and marching as an army against their own country. The first British troops died at Concord Bridge.

Eventually, we won a war of attrition. The colonists fought against the most professional army in the world, but they adopted the tactics of hiding, ambushing and even sniping--things that were anathema to a professional European army. The colonists had nearly nothing in terms of pay or logistics and they endured a hellish winter-over, but they persevered. Some because of ideology, maybe some because they didn't have anything else to do. In the end, the English got tired of fighting for some place most English people had never even seen, much less given a rat's a$$ about.

With their new autonomy from England, the colonies banded together. Thirteen at first. Those thirteen newly united colonies became the United States of America.

Happy birthday to the greatest nation on the face of the earth.
Proof that Uncle Jimbo is a better man than I. My anger issues would have boiled over the top at this forum on a day when we look to honor those who have given their lives when the country asked them to and chose instead to make it not only a political event, but a one-sided political event, ignoring the fact that better men than they went to their deaths to give these a$$holes the freedom to express their views.

Why is it that the left--the supposed liberals--are always the ones to shout down, block, steal newsletters from, etc. those whom they think are they evil ones who want to shut down our liberties?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I'm glad "Anonymous" stopped by. It's definitely brought back the memories. When I was going through the SFQC I'm sure I thought it wasn't exactly fun and games, but now, 26 years later, I remember the good times and the quirky things as fun.

Anonymous on C-rations:

they used to flip the cases upside-down so we wouldn't fight for the "good" ones. It didn't take me long to figure out how to tell what was what from the bottom - I liked the ones with fruit.

They did the same thing with us--flip the cases upside down so you didn't know which ration was which. And I, too, went for the ones with fruit. The worst thing to get was a C-Ration with a chocolate nut roll, affectionately known as the "chocolate butt plug". My absolute favorite C-Ration was the shredded turkey, but I could do any of them, even beef with sliced potatoes and gravy (beef with shrapnel) and the notorious ham and egg. And, of course, shredded turkey was the rarest of all C-Rats. But fruit was the real treat. Not only was it better than that butt plug atrocity, but there was juice in the can to drink. Once I was in Group, we often were issued what is called a Long Range Patrol Ration (Lurps). They were pretty big and freeze-dried, whereas C-Rations were canned. The idea was that they were lighter than C-Rats and you could get by on one a day. They were big on carbs. Things like chili with rice, spaghetti, etc. The only problem is that it takes water and heat to soften things like rice and spaghetti. I remember one field problem where fresh water was in very short supply (plenty of salt water, though) and I'd have killed for a canned C-Rat with it's moisture. The other problem was heat. You can't really make fires, even with heat tabs, when you're trying to be sneaky. So we'd put water in them in the morning and shove them in our pants. The theory was that a day of body heat would soften things up, but I never ate a lurp that wasn't still crunchy.

Many other memories as well. Like how they had a habit of waking us up with a scratchy old copy of Sadler's record over the PA.

Man, do I remember the wakeups. Sadler, of course, did The Ballad of the Green Berets. Camp Mackall had quite the sound system back then. Maybe still does. But we woke up to music (and banging trashcan lids) every morning. Sometimes it was a recording of the 82nd Airborne Chorus which started off with a voice shouting out jump commands--"Stand in the door....GO!" We'd line up in the door of our hootch (barracks) and make as though we were getting ready to jump and pile out when the recording shouted Go!.

They used to play quite a bit of music through the sound system. Not just wakeups, but goodbyes. Every time someone quit, they'd play "Another One Bites the Dust". It was a bitter cold winter, even in North Carolina, and when we got dispersed in the woods around the camp for the survival exercise, more than a few guys threw in the hat. And even out in the woods, we could hear the song.

And how brought up air mattresses, but in the world's biggest coincidence, they all were flat after the first night. Wonder how that happened? Those were the days.

I remember that vividly. The hootches at Camp Mackall were basic, to say the least. It's designed to simulate a POW camp. The "beds" were simply sheets of plywood. I've often told people that I learned to sleep just about anywhere while in the Army, and that's mostly true. But it's difficult to sleep on a plain old piece of plywood. Periodically a jeep would show up with air mattresses, but they never lived more than a few hours. Maybe something to do with government contracting and lowest bidders. Granted, we were exhausted enough that sleep always came, but sleeping on a flat piece of wood is never exactly fun. Oddly, the worst thing in the morning was dog tags. I'd shove my clothing into my sleeping bag, but didn't want to deal with the dog tags and chain while I rolled around in my sleep, so I hung them on the wall. Each morning I had to take the freezing cold dog tag chain and put it on under my shirt. If the banging trashcan lids didn't wake me up, that sure did.

It's funny about cold and hot. That winter was a record cold winter--a guy I knew washed out of Airborne school in Georgia (yep, Georgia) on Day One due to frostbite. I remember tilting my helmet to try and deflect the wind as I stood in formation. It was that cold, even that far south. And it made life difficult. The sawdust we landed on time after time after time was frozen hard, and it hurt. When I arrived at Camp Mackall in North Carolina there was snow on the ground. Swimming in the aptly named Drowning Creek was a treat, to say the least. Someone remarked that he had to stick his finger up his a$$ and yell "snake" just to make his willy reappear. But on the other hand, it gets sick hot down there and guys spend all day at jump school with sawdust stuck to them and once in a while get to run through showers which cool them off, but just gets them wetter so more sawdust can stick to them. That winter was a tough winter, but I think it was easier than going through jump school and phase one in the summer.

That record winter, by the way, was preceded by a record hot summer. Several guys died while I was in basic training. I remember one time we were in the field and they brought out the post fire department. They lined us up and literally hosed us down with fire hoses. It was wonderful. Drinking water came from Lister bags and water buffaloes. Lister bags are permeable canvas and the idea is that as the water seeps out of the bag it evaporates, carrying of heat with it, thus cooling the bag. Wanna guess how well that works in the humid southeast? And water buffaloes are simply metal vessels that end up heating the water inside them as their dark, camouflage surfaces absorb the heat from the sun.

But I digress. The trip down Memory Lane has been great, though.
One thing some cultures don't "get" about westerners is our respect for life and our desire to continue living. Mark Bowden makes that point in "Blackhawk Down". The Somalis never understood our troops with their helmets and body armor, medics, evacuation of casualties, etc. And I recently read an article that pointed out that the Islamic extremists are of the same mindset. Of course, we don't have a paradise to look forward to that includes 72 women who don't put out...

Anyway, thanks to Blackfive, here's a story about some Iraqis who are grateful for our respect for life.
The memories come flooding back. "Anonymous" found me when he Googled "Honeybun Hill" on a whim.

Honeybun Hill refers to a long steep hill that we used to run up when I was going through the Army Special Forces Qualification Course. We usually got C-Rations, but once in a while got hot breakfasts trucked in from Ft. Bragg (the SFQC is (was?) conducted at Camp Mackall which is separate from Ft. Bragg). If I recall, the breakfasts were scrambled eggs. I could be wrong, but I don't recall pancakes. Pancakes would be difficult to pack into mermite cans, so I might be right about that. Anyway, the hot breakfasts were always accompanied by a packaged honeybun. I, for one, looked forward to them. The hill got its appelation from the fact that more than a few breakfasts got heaved onto it as we finished the the morning run, panting up the hill.

One guy I knew swore that after we got back to Ft. Bragg he drove to the bakery, bought a honeybun and then jumped up and down on it in the parking lot. Don't know. I wasn't there.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Well, I thought I'd turn out to be a Shelby GT500, but I have to admit, the old Barracudas are waaay cool.

What kind of Muscle Car are You? (pics)

1971 Plymouth Barracuda
You have a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda. You love beer. You love your car. It's fast as hell, and thats all that matters! And yes, it's got a hemi.....that's right I said a hemi!
Take The Quiz Now!Quizzes by

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Posted without comment (although I reserve the right to comment at great length at a later date).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I guess I have a slightly off sense of humor, and I'm also constantly adjusting to "new" ways of saying things.

Today I ran into the woman who lives across the road from us. She and her husband are nice people. So she says "By the way, we have a big announcement: We're pregnant". Now I know "we're" pregnant is the new way of putting it. But all I could think of is "If you're both pregnant, you'd better hope that your husband's doctor does Cesarean's".

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

We have a great Memorial Day parade here. Even though the area is growing, everyone still acts like it's a small town. Suits me.

I manage to embarrass myself at the parade every year. I have to wear sunglasses and pretend I'm wiping sweat from my face every few minutes.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I've had an "interesting" day, yet at nearly 2AM, I just can't find sleep.

I was up by 5:30 or so. Hung out around here for a while and then the wife called from church that help was needed at the fund-raising carnival at the school. Went up there and spent a few hours putting up tents and so forth. I was sincerely convinced once we put the tents up that someone was coming behind us to stake them out. Honest.

Well, we went to the evil sister-in-law's place for a while, and it was ok. The wives went off to visit my mother-in-law who has had a greatly exaggerated cold, and the brother-in-law and I consumed cold beverages.

During this respite we had a storm you wouldn't believe. We heard it coming, and the brother-in-law, who is a sheriff's deputy fer chrissake (and ought to know) said he heard fireworks. I knew full well it wasn't fireworks. It was a serious storm rolling in at 90 miles an hour. We got wind, we got rain, we even got hail. It was a corker.

I was doing other things, but apparently their garage door didn't close completely when Snakeeater, Jr. and his uncle put stuff away. Well, the evil sister-in-law came home and found, gasp, water in the garage. You'd have thought it was the end of the freaking world. So we pushed water out of the garage lest it get her *&%$ tires wet then bundled up to get the hell home before she melted down even further. It was ugly.

So then we cruised by the carnival on the way home to check things out, and the tents hadn't been staked down. None of them. It was utter devastation. I got brave and called the evil sister-in-law who is part of the carnival committee and they showed up. It was kind of neat in that a number of people showed up in the wake of the storm, knowing bad things must have happened, but we had to put up with the sister-in-law. We basically parted out the tents, saving frames that weren't broken and canopies that weren't slashed beyond repair. There will be a trip to the local discount place first thing Monday for more tents.

Meanwhile the evil sister-in-law behaved like a complete a$$hole. Her husband is a strange sort of fussy, prissy guy, but nonetheless, I don't envy him coming home to her.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I need to throw in another thank you. No man is an island and all that. No military marches to victory on its own.

A sincere thank you to all that may not have served, but who give support to those who are. Somewhere there's a quote to the effect that 'they serve as well, who keep the home fires burning'. A lot of people have done much more than just keeping the home fires burning. They've put a lot of energy into supporting troops who are fighting a difficult war.

I can't possibly thank you enough for what you do. I'm out of the fight now. The very thought of a parachute jump is somewhat intimidating these days given my knees and back (though I'd love to do it again), but the support that you give to those who are still in the fight is invaluable.
Memorial Day 2007

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, 1915

To all in the fraternity of military service, thank you, my brothers and sisters in arms.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I just heard two news stories that boggle the mind.

In the first one, some teachers and administrators somewhere decided to stage a drill, along the lines of a fire drill or the air raid drills that I'm old enough to remember, and fake a firearms attack on the students. I can see taking some time to talk with the students and say "If anything should ever happen, this what you need to do...". But to actually simulate an attack on the kids takes a special sort of stupidity.

I'm pretty sure I know what happened. A management consultant named Morris Massey used to talk about what he called "The Abilene Paradox". It's a long story, but basically it addresses group dynamics in which a group of people can eventually come to a conclusion that none of them actually wanted. It's also called "groupthink". So, a bunch of educators got talking about what to do in case the school ever got attacked and ended up formulating a drill. But groupthink only goes part way to explaining this one. This was just plain stupid.

And then a substitute teacher somewhere decided to show a bunch of 12-year old kids "Brokeback Mountain", an R-rated film. Then she had the audacity to tell the kids to keep mum about it. Now whether or not you think stories about cowboys buttblasting each other are a good idea, fact is it's a R-rated movie. Period. And educators above all have an obligation to follow those sorts of rules. There's no doubt in my mind that she was taking advantage of a "recruiting" opportunity.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Almost tossed a coach from a game today. Ultimately I decided tossing him wouldn't help, but in retrospect it would have made me feel better. Next game his butt is mine, though. I'm just not going to put up with him.

He started whining about a couple of somewhat flat pitches one of the girls threw. Yes, they didn't have the world's greatest arc, but they were hittable, and that's my standard. He's one of these guys who likes to make snide comments while your back is turned. I heard him say "The baseball field is over that way", referencing the fact that he thought there wasn't enough arc on the pitches.

So then, right at the end of the game, there was a terrific play at home. The catcher stretched way out on the ground and caught a throw from third and managed to keep her foot on the plate. It was exciting, and I yelled "Out" just before I saw the ball roll out from under the catcher. Now, this is exactly what they tell you not to do. "Watch the play go through" is the teaching catchphrase. Think for a second. Rewind it in your head if you have to. Coaches hate this. They want a call RIGHT NOW and will start going "Well? Well?" if you take more than three nanoseconds to make a call, but that's just tough. I've made them wait more than once. But anyway, I jumped the gun in the excitement of the play and made the wrong call. Two seconds later I pointed at the catcher (who is a really nice kid) and said "You dropped it, the runner is safe".

At this point the coach on the team that had just scored the run called over to me and said "The catcher dropped the ball, right?". Yes. "So the run scored?" Yes.

Then the coach who had been whining about the pitches says "What's this? You're letting him make your calls for you?". I got furious and shouted him back down, but stopped short of tossing him of the field. It probably would have made me look like I was in the wrong and trying to cover it over. I went up to him after the game and explained in one-syllable words exactly what had transpired. I don't think he liked it, but he can lick my sphincter.

Oh, and coach whiner's team won the damn game 18-4.

Monday, May 07, 2007

And now, for the birth control image of the day.

I'm not ready to swear off women, but this brings me perilously close...

Guidons, Guidons, Guidons is always worth reading, and not just for the Girl Fridays. The blogger is an eggbeater pilot who is serving a tour in Iraq, hence he actually knows things that Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama et. al. claim to know.

This post is one of the best things I've seen in a long time. Maybe ever. And the last line of video tells it all.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What is it about Anna Nichole Smith?

I'm one of the few males in the country still capable of, umm, functioning, who hasn't had sex with her. And frankly, if I had, I wouldn't be bragging about it.

Then again, maybe I should be insulted...
Ever really, desperately wanted to strangle someone?

My wife is on the way to an appointment with the dentist. The dentist is a great guy, and the person who always used to work the front desk is a great guy. A bit effeminate, but very good.

I don't know if he left or today is his day off. Anyway, my wife just called and asked if I could look up the dentist's number and let him know she was running late due to traffic. Five minutes or so.

So I called and called and called and finally after about ten minutes the phone actually rang and someone actually answered. I told her my wife had asked me to relay that she'd be five or ten minutes late. Dumbass at the phone said "Well, actually she's seven minutes late now".

If I could crawl through phone lines, I'd be clutching her neck in my hands right now...

Monday, April 30, 2007

Every once in a while (well, ok, it happens all the time) you encounter a situation that you just can't imagine how the people involved deal with.

Snakeeater, jr. goes to a very expensive school. I think that I related here that I actually broke into tears when I found out he'd been accepted and to this day I'm not sure if it was out of pride or because I knew what it would cost.

Basically, it's ten grand a year, about $250 for books and God only knows in fees, etc. On top of that we just recently figured it's about $100/week just for gas to get there and back. Easily 20K per year.

Now keep that in mind as I relate this--Monday of the Easter break the band gathered together for a last practice session before they boarded buses to travel to Disney World (another thousand bucks). Several students got a Slurpy drink in a clear cup and poured whiskey in it and brought it to the practice session. Sort of a juvenile kind of thing, but something that is absolutely not tolerated at that school, and they knew it. Snakeeater jr. says the teacher smelled it, and because of the clear cup they could actually see the strata--green slushy and brown whiskey. Five guys took an immediate fall and three seniors were expelled. Expelled. Done. Finito. They were getting ready to board buses for a trip on a Monday--a work day.

Thier parents had to somehow deal with getting away from work to retrieve the kids, but that's the absolute least of it. Four years of high school. The economics I cited above. And it's all trashed.

I honestly don't know how the guys will graduate high school. I'm thinking some sort of summer program with a degree in August. This is a school in which 98% of graduates go to college. Where do those three guys stand now?

Fifty some odd grand invested in high school and they won't graduate. It might even boil down to a GED. Damned if I know.

It's sure as hell going to throw a huge monkey wrench into college plans.

And the worst part is it's the sort of thing that, well, I might have done. Actually, not. I did some dumb things back when, but bringing whiskey to high school is even dumber than I was. And especially to this high school.

I can't possibly imagine the scenario at those boys' homes right now. I guess the moral is think, think, think. Yeah, I like the odd spot of adult-type drinks myself. But you've got to think.

I'm not a high and mighty moralist. I have way more than my own share of failings. But man, did those guys screw up.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Oh, and I think I made the grade in umpiring girl's softball.

It's been a tad different--I've umpired adult softball and youth baseball. Never did girls before. It's kind of rough in that some of the batters are about three feet tall, which means the strike zone can be a bit funky, and honestly, I don't like calling 7-year old girls out. Even had a coach come up to me the other day who said "I can tell you hate calling them 'out'".

Yeah, I do.

I prefer to call the older girls--what they call the Junior League. They're 14-15 or so, so they can deal with it when I call them out. Today I called a Ponytail League game, which I'm not supposed to do since my daughter is in that league, but it went well (and I'm not going to throw a freaking softball game just because my daughter plays).

Anyway, I'm calling my last game of the day and I hear someone heckling me from the stands. Normally it's the sort of thing that you just shut off, but the voice was familar. Turns out it was the senior umpire in the league.

I think that's a sign that I made the grade.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's amazing how you can so often run across people with whom you have something in common. Sort of the "six degrees of separation" thing.

Five years ago I bought some window stickers at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC. (Stupendous museum, by the way). One sticker is a Special Forces patch and the other two are the flashes (that's the patch on the beret) from the two Special Forces groups I was assigned to. I held onto them for five years then finally stuck them on the truck just a couple of months ago.

Couple of weeks ago I'm tooling down the highway and someone passes me and starts waving to me. I thought "Ok, seems like a good sort of guy, wave back". Bear in mind that around here when someone waves to you it generally involves one finger. So I waved. A few moments later I switched lanes and found myself behind him. Lo and behold, on his rear window is an 82nd Airborne Division sticker. A fellow paratrooper. I waved back again and gave him a "thumbs up". He caught on that I'd made the connection and returned the salute.

A good moment on a commute that can make your hair fall out.

Then today I caught up with one of the baseball dads. I'm still trying to sort the family out, to be honest, but I think it's two sisters, one husband and three kids all living together. Nothing weird--I just think it's a single mom living with her sister and brother-in-law. But all three adults have been/are in the Army, so once again there's the common experience. The single mom is ex-Army, the dad is ex-Army and his wife is what's called AGR (Active Guard/Reserves--in other words you're in the Guard or Reserves, but in a full-time status). I enjoy being around them not just because we have the common denominator of Army experience, but also because they're just plain good people. The two sisters are Central American in origin, so they may have some interesting tales as well.

At any rate, I caught up with the dad today. He has only been able to make something like three games in two seasons, so even seeing him was a rare event. But it gets better. He drives a soft top Jeep, I'm driving a soft top Jeep. He works for a company that supplies chemical to the biotech industry. I've bought chemicals from his company. Then we started talking Army and damned if he wasn't in the 5th Special Forces Group. He wasn't "SF Qualified"--in other words he didn't go through the fun-filled course that qualifies you to be on an A-Team--but he was a paratrooper and spent time in 5th Group's signal (radio) company. As coincidences go, I was a radio operator as well, and while I spent most of my time on an A-Team, I did spend some time working with the signal company.

He ended up driving an AH-64D Apache Longbow, but he said he has a special place in his memories for the time he spent in 5th Group. He eventually left the Army after 9 PCSs (military talk for packing up and moving) in 13 years. It's a rough way to raise a family, so I can't blame him for bailing. He said he truly would have liked to have made the grade and flown with the 160th SOAR, but family just had to take precedence.

So anyway, keep your eyes and ears open. If I can run across such rare creatures as fellow paratroopers and SF-types, who knows what we may run across...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Well, it's spring. The tulips are up, the daffodils are up, the crocuses are actually on the way out and the crack of bats has begun to sound.

Well, make that the tink of aluminum bats.

And best of all, the assholus baseballus has emerged from his long winter sojourn.

Sunday we had a makeup baseball game. All went well until the other side realized they were going to lose. A batter hit a ball up the first base line, and a fielder went after it and dropped it. The umpire called it fair and two runners came home, giving the other team the go-ahead run. A coach blew out onto the field and explained to the umpire that the fielder may have been in fair territory, but his glove was across the line, ergo foul ball. The coach was definitely strident, but not over the top. The ump (who was way too young, but we have few umps left because of this sort of bullsh*t) ruminated for a moment, then agreed. At that point the other team's coaches went ballistic. A grandfather, for chrissake; his son and another guy who must be a father---all three proceeded to behave like two-year olds. I went to full boil and shouted one of them down before my wife reigned me in. After that it got so bad that parents were actually shouting at the coaches to sit down and let the kids play.

As it is so often, it wasn't a matter of the umpire making a bad call, it was that the coaches themselves don't know the rules. That's a good rule of thumb, by the way. Most times you hear "bad call", it's the coach who is wrong. But a good coach will blow it off and say to the kids "That's the call, let's make a good play next time". Only a jerk throws an almighty fit in front of his young, impressionable boys.

I've made a few phone calls, and am going to do face-to-face with a few people, but my opinion is that those coaches don't need to be mentoring 14-year old boys. Period.
Yes, I'm going to be the bad guy, but am I worse than those guys who behaved like children in front of children?

Softball goes, well, ok, but bumpy moments there as well. Last night a coach grabbed my ear before the game to tell me the other coach might intentionally walk a batter. First, as an umpire, I'm a bit uneasy about spending a whole lot of "face time" with any coach. I don't care who wins in the leagues above and below my daughter, but I don't want to be perceived as "buddying up" to any coaches. I'm honestly impartial as all getout, but if I spend five minutes chatting with one coach, it could be perceived the wrong way. Oh, and I'm not allowed to call games in my daughter's league, but you know, if I ever did so and threw a game, I'd be cheating my daughter. I could call her games with complete impartiality. In fact, I called a few of my son's games last year when they ran out of umpires. But I digress.

At any rate, I knew the coach had told me about intentional walks, but I thought in a league composed of girls aged 7-9 that was a ridiculous concept. Who the hell would play stupid things like intentional walks on an 8-year old girl? Well, they did. I didn't quite catch it. I was immersed in the game--how many strikes, how many balls, how many outs, which bases are occupied, is there force on any base, is infield fly in effect...So when the pitcher threw four balls with really high arcs I didn't think too much of it. I did warn her twice about her arc, but she was 8-years old and three feet tall. I have to cut her some slack.

Normally, no big deal. In fact, in most softball leagues the pitcher can tell the umpire he/she wants to walk the batter and the batter simply gets the base. Don't even have to throw a pitch. In co-ed softball it's a bit different. If you intentionally walk the guy, the woman following him also gets a base in order to prevent pitchers from walking the men in order to get to the "weaker" women.

So even though her pitches were high (illegal), the end result was the same: the batter took first base.

As it turns out, there is a local rule against intentional walks. I didn't know about it, but bonehead-the-coach certainly knew about it. In fact, the other coach gathered several league officials (I wasn't aware of it) to witness the at-bat that he knew was coming. The batter had hit a triple in an earlier inning and he knew her next at-bat would be an intentional walk.

I hate being a pinhead at girl's softball. Baseball you have to be way over the top assertive, but I didn't think I'd have to be so with little girls. In fact, a couple of weeks ago a coach came up to me and said "I can tell you hate calling them out on strikes", and I do. I want to make a game of it, but I don't want to box them in so tight on balls and strikes that they have to pitch like they're in college.

BUT--I got burned last night. I got the clarification on local rules today. Intentional strikes are not allowed in this league and I can toss the pitcher if I even think she threw balls intentionally. Better yet, I can toss the coach if I hear him tell her to throw intentional balls. By toss I mean you have 30 seconds to be somewhere else. If I can hear or see you after 30 seconds the game is over and your team loses regardless of the score.

Tonight is going to be a whole different ballgame (so to speak). I'm taking a page from my favorite umpire's pre-game speech to coaches: "You get two warnings, and this is your first".

I have two favorite sayings (and I even made them up myself--didn't copy them from Samuel Clemens or Winston Churchill).

The first is this: When you die, your obituary might note that you were active in youth sports, but it's not going to quote your damn win/loss record.

The second: It takes an adult to really f*ck up a children's game.

For Pete's sake, shouldn't we just be glad they're out being active instead of sitting on their fat posteriors eating Twinkies and pretending to play ball on their game things? (for the record, there are no Nintendos, X-boxes, Game Cubes, whatever in this house. Nada. Here, if you want to play a sport, you actually play the sport).

With those thoughts I'll depart to walk to the end of the road to meet the Bear as she gets off of her bus, then get ready to be the voice of sanity as some girls meet to play some ball. I always tell the coaches I'm simply there to make a game of it. I might have to expand a bit on that tonight, though...

Friday, April 20, 2007

I generally support the president. Hell, even on his worst day he's better than John Kerry or Al Gore. Kerry is a buddyf*cker and Gore is an idiot.

Having said that, I do recognize that the president has made some errors. He pulled us out of the Clinton-made economic slump and he's been a steadfast leader in the war that radical Islam declared against us, but like all of us, he's made a mistake or two along the way.

His first mistake was establishing the Transportation Security Administration. He did so under heavy pressure from Democrats such as Ted "I killed a girl, but so what, I'm rich" Kennedy and other moral stars in the bunch of criminals we blithely call Congress. The call after 9/11 was "Do something, do something" and typical of Democrats, they demanded a knee jerk "do it now, don't give it any thought, just do it" response. To his discredit, the president bowed to the pressure and created the TSA.

The creation of the TSA has had exactly zero effect. All it did was take thousands of contract workers and make them federal employees. The same guy who screened your luggage yesterday simply showed up today wearing a fancy shirt with "TSA" and a little gold shield embroidered on it. The only thing that is different is that now that he's a federal employee he can be completely unsuited for his job, but he can't be terminated. I went to the class. It takes an 18-month audit trail of infractions, counseling, corrective measures, etc. to terminate a federal employee.

So all the president did was take a group with more than their share of idiots and make those idiots fireproof.

I recently went through security at Orlando airport. The first checkpoint was manned by about six people wearing maroon jackets. They were contractors of some sort. Hadn't gotten to the TSA people yet. Of the half-dozen people in maroon jackets, only one was actually doing anything. The rest of them spoke exclusively Spanish to each other, as did the sole English speaker between passengers. Now, I'm not racist or anything, but I have issues with going through a security checkpoint in the United States in which none of the security people speak English. It was rude, it was "in your face" and my Spanish is rusty enough that they could have been discussing ways to kill the gringos and I'd have missed it. Dammit, if you're going to man security at a US airport, speak English.

As it was, the sole English speaker simply said "ID" (is that all the English she knows?) and literally simply made two strokes with a pen on the boarding pass. I could have done that myself. It was literally the most useless security measure I've ever seen. Just two strokes with a pen. Jab, jab.

So then we passed to the "professionals". The TSA people. Talk about hiring the handicapped. I suspect that I danced on the edge of getting jailed, but my TSA tormentor was too stupid to figure that one out. Bear in mind that I've just passed through a "security" checkpoint of dubious value, manned by people who can't even speak English. Here is my conversation with the TSA idiot:

Moron: Whose carry on is this?
Me: Mine
Moron: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, I'm sure
Moron: Oh, so you use hairspray
(at this point I went from simmer to full boil)
Me: The hairspray is for my daughter who is standing next to me, A$$hole. (Yes, I called him a$$hole)
Moron: You can't take more than three ounces of liquid on an aircraft
Me: What am I going to do, detangle the pilot? (This might have been the point where I really risked getting thrown off the flight, but Mr. TSA wasn't bright enough to pick up on it)
Moron: Well, you can't take more than three ounces
Me: Well, how much is in there, genius?
Moron: I don't know, I can't measure it
Me: Exactly.
Moron: The bottle says 8-ounces
Me: But it's damn near empty
Moron: I have to go with what the bottle says
Me: Fine, A$$hole. Take it

I'd have been fine except that Mr. TSA decided to be a smarta$$ about the hairspray thing. After that, I went incendiary. Fortunately for me, the TSA guy was too stucking fupid to realize I held him in utter contempt and would have ripped his lungs out in a different setting (then again, none of the witnesses spoke English, so just maybe...).

Probably not the smartest move on my part, but then again, I wasn't exactly dealing with the world's smartest person, either.