Friday, December 15, 2017

'Tis Lazy I Am...

It snowed on Saturday (Exhibit 1 above) and again on Thursday. Gives the landscape a nice Christmasy look. Though the snow which fell over the weekend was mostly gone by Wednesday. (Had rain on Tuesday as I recall.)

I am bereft of things to post about. I felt that my last two posts were only semi-coherent. I need to get more sleep.

Speaking of sleep, I dreamt that I purchased a PT Boat from an old friend down in Florida (I'm looking at you Rick). Fully functional, fully loaded. I'd just brought it home, don't ask how that happened, the dream wasn't that clear. Home was the lot where the Ancestral Home sits (up in Vermont) but the house itself was the current Chez Sarge domicile.

To top it off, I was greeted by The Missus Herself and two kids. However, the two kids were my brothers, about 50 years ago. Odd that. Good thing I woke up before The Missus Herself asked what I was going to do with a PT Boat. Which was weird on the other hand as the actual progeny were nowhere to be seen. Seeing as how they were all in the Navy, at least two of them know a thing or two about driving boats. (The WSO would have been no help, perhaps next time I'll dream of bringing a Super Hornet home. She knows her way around those.)

At any rate, I'm tired, I'm crabby, and I don't feel like blogging tonight. 죄송합니다! But there it is. I do have some photos of Chez Sarge all kitted out for Christmas, though it be minimalist. Perhaps Friday night will find me in a more evocative mood.

Ya never know.

Window detail
Christmas cactus
Dining room
TV Room
Main hallway (no flash)
Main hallway (with flash)
I was almost too lazy to provide captions, note I said "almost."


Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Season

It's the Christmas season, it's a time for many things, it's a time for gift giving, bright lights, and (supposedly) good will. Ya know peace on Earth, good will to all men. (Hey, I didn't write the original, I just quote it.)

It's also Hanukkah, which sparked a conversation with my pal Shelly as I was purchasing my breakfast at my place of employment.

"Happy Hanukkah!" While she knows I'm not Jewish, she knows I like holidays and usually know more than mine own.

"Yes, at sundown."

"No, today is the first day of Hanukkah." She insisted.

"Yes, it starts at sundown. Today." I, ever the pedant, replied.

Now she's giving me the gimlet eye, all married men know this look.

"Okay, is today the first day of Hanukkah or not?"

Me, looking somewhat puzzled, began to explain that in the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath, most holidays and other things of that ilk begin at sundown.

"So at sunset tonight, Hanukkah begins. So while today is indeed the first day of Hanukkah, it hasn't started yet."

So now Shelly is laughing. I am replete with puzzlement as I gape like an immigrant just off the boat in a strange land.

"Hahaha, I thought you said Sunday, now I get it, you said sundown. Hahaha."

I guess I should enunciate. Sometimes my speech, like my writing, isn't as clear as I think it is. Just ask The Missus Herself.

All that aside, for me, Christmas has always been my favorite time of year for as long as I can remember. Lights, family, carols, fun, decorating, food, gifts, and the like all hold a very special place in my heart.

For those starting to wonder, yes, I know the reason for the season. The day commemorates the birth of our Savior, Jesus the Christ. (Often the contrarian in me thinks Yeshua and Messiah in place of Jesus and Christ. The same perhaps, but the former feel more "authentic.")

I have to admit, church confuses me. Especially as our pastor is very much into this lectionary thing, which, to be honest, I simply don't care for. I'm sure my Catholic friends must find such an attitude to be somewhat appalling. No doubt I would've been burned as a heretic in the olden days.

I don't need reminding of the prophecies which foretold the coming of the Messiah, I know he came. He was born, he died, he was resurrected. I know these things. I don't really care to rumble through the Old Testament at Christmas time. Give me Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Especially John -
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
It is the season of light, of joy, of love.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
Prophecy has its place. I get it. But the Lord has me, hook, line, and sinker. Why do pastors feel the need to constantly convince us of the rightness of our belief? Of the need to believe? I am bought and paid for, why continue the sales pitch?

Okay, yes, I get it. Some folks need the reinforcement, am I perhaps missing something?

There's a fellow over there on the sidebar whom I've been following as of late. Very Catholic he is, at least so he appears to me, a Congregationalist by birth, a Baptist by choice, and a seeker of knowledge. (God gave me a brain, I believe he intended that I use it, so I do.) Very interesting reading, while I can't say that I agree with him in all respects, he's a smart fellow and is generally a good read.

He has yet to confuse me.

I see the glories in God's Creation all around me, in the rocks and the trees, the life which surrounds me, the mountains, the plains, the sky. My God is a powerful God whose mind we mere humans cannot fathom, this much I know. There is much I don't know, there is much I don't understand.

But I have faith. And really, it's all I need.

So I shall enjoy Christmas as I always have, the lights, the decorations, the music, the food, the drink, the laughter of children. I will give a nod to jolly old Saint Nicholas, I will dream of sleighs drawn by eight tiny reindeer. I will revel in the memories of Christmas past and pray for peace for Christmas future.

But keep your dour Puritanism away from me. God is love, he forgives his children if they but ask and beg his pardon.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Enjoy this season of light. May you be loved, may you love.

Whatever you believe.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What is History?


    1. the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.

    2. the whole series of past events connected with someone or something.

    3. a continuous, typically chronological, record of important or public events or of a particular trend or institution. (Source)
I love history. Especially military history. As anyone who has been following The Chant for any length of time, you might notice that we post a lot of historical stuff here. I do it. Juvat does it. Even Tuna does it. For some reason, history resonates with folks who spent their lives in the military. When you think about it, it might have something to do with the fact that most of the history of mankind is a bloodstained spectacle of people making mistakes which get people killed. For most of history those being killed were folks in the military.

Like me. Like Juvat. Like Tuna.

So we have an interest in knowing about history, for (as everyone likes to say) "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Which was (probably) said by George Santayana, who was an interesting guy. Now besides the whole "doomed to repeat" thing he also said a number of other profound things, here are a few -
  • The earth has music for those who listen.
  • Only the dead have seen the end of the war.
  • The family is one of nature's masterpieces.
  • To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
  • A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.
  • There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.
  • The wisest mind has something yet to learn.
  • Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.
  • Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.
A rather smart guy, neh? But I digress. I want to talk about history today. (Yes, I use the word "talk" rather loosely here. If you wish to imagine me reading this to you, knock yourselves out. If it helps, I sound exactly like James Earl Jones. Trust me. Though in truth it sounds funnier if you read it in Christopher Walken's voice.)

As you can see by those definitions up there after the picture, the word "history" itself means different things to different people. Academics go with the first definition, which they use to create the third definition, usually in a very boring fashion. Don't get me started about academic historians, which I mentioned here once upon a time.

I prefer the second definition. Which also captures what academics like to call "prehistory," which to them is all the things which have occurred since the beginning of time up until people started writing stuff down. So if it isn't written, it isn't history?

What about the fossil record? What about other sources of information on what happened before somebody (probably an academic or a cleric) started writing stuff down? There are still areas of the world where there is no written language, so does their oral tradition not count as history?

We in the West typically view such things as folk tales, perhaps an element of truth is in there, but there is also self-deception and outright fabrications. When passing down tales of old to the young, do you really want to make the tribe look foolish or stupid?

In modern history we see the same thing, the old saying "History is written by the victors." (commonly attributed to Sir Winston Churchill) may or may not be true. (An interesting discussion about that can be read here.) But one thing is certain, people write things down for a variety of reasons. If it's just for themselves (a diary) or if it's for friends and family (letters), then the account will be accurate from the writer's perspective. Sometimes.

Things written down with the expectation of some form of reward won't necessarily be the most accurate accounts. After all, if you please your target audience, you might be rewarded. Think people writing for the news, or writing books for sale to the general public. If the target audience doesn't like it, odds are you won't be writing for them anymore.

Why do I study history? It fascinates me, the actions of people in the past, perhaps making the same mistakes we make nowadays and we expect different results. (Ask Einstein - maybe - about that!) Still and all, there is much we can learn from the past.

History is a complex thread woven of many different threads. People, places, events are the drivers of history. People can exhibit predictable behavior, crowds not so much. History is often driven by the mob.

I find it, fascinating.

What say you?

About that mosaic in the opening picture -
History, mosaic by Frederick Dielman. House Members Room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

The figure of History, in the mosaic's center, holds a pen and book. On both sides of her, there are tablets mounted in a marble wall with benches on either side of the tablets. The tablets contain the names of great historians. One tablet contains the names of the ancient historians Herodotus and Thucydides in brighter gold, followed by Polybius, Livy, Tacitus, Bæda, Comines. The other tablet contains the name of the modern historians Hume and Gibbon in brighter gold, along with Niebuhr, Guizot, Ranke, and the Americans Bancroft and Motley. At the foot of one of the tablets is a laurel wreath symbolizing peace, and at the foot of the second tablet is an oak wreath symbolizing war. A palm branch designating success rests against the wreaths and tablets.

The female figure on one side of History is Mythology. As the symbol of the theories of the universe, she holds a globe of the earth in her left hand. The Greeks' female sphinx to her right represents the eternally insoluble Riddle of the World. Tradition, the aged woman seated on the other side of History, represents medieval legend and folk tales. She is shown in the midst of relating her old wives' tales to the young boy seated before her. The distaff in her lap, the youth with a harp in his hand (a reference to the wandering minstrel of the Middle Ages), and the shield are reminders of a past age. The mosaic includes ancient buildings from the three nations of antiquity with highly developed histories: an Egyptian pyramid, a Greek temple, and a Roman amphitheater.

Along with the mosaic panel representing Law above the north fireplace, this mosaic was prepared in Venice, Italy and sent to the Jefferson Building to be put into place. Both mosaics were made of pieces, or tesserae, which were fitted together to provide subtle gradations in color.
I need to make an effort to see that someday. Pretty neat.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Ghost of Christmas Passed

Nobody is missing.  We're just waiting.

I'm having a little trouble getting into the Holiday Spirit this year.  Not exactly sure why.  With the Teenangster’s birthday in the second week of December, we tend to not do significant decorating until after we’ve celebrated her day.  So that might be part of it.  It’s the last of her “angst” years, so I’ll have to come up with a new moniker I suppose. 

We’re way behind our usual pace too.  By now we’ve usually picked up a few gifts, written the slightly informational, yet completely irreverent Christmas letter, gotten a strong start on the Christmas cards, and attended the mandatory-fun Command Holiday Party.  I have no idea if a letter will even be attempted this year, we just bought some cards today, and our holiday party had to be moved to January.

Yeah, that’s what I thought- a Holiday party in January?  The only fun holiday in January is New Year’s Day, and that’s reserved for college bowl games and sobering up.  No disrespect intended to the estimable Dr. Martin Luther King, but his isn’t a day especially known for imbibing, recovering from imbibing, or collegiate sports.  As it turns out, our hard working and well-intentioned party planning committee chose the perfect December date for the fiesta.  Perfect, except for the fact that it conflicted with the longest and worst scheduled Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Exercise in recent memory.   We didn’t schedule it, but the folks in COMFIFTHFLEET, the ones who actually do Mine Warfare, as opposed to the folks in my command who just talk about it (guffaw), found that the dates work better for our coalition partners, some of which aren’t all that keen about Christian-based holidays.  That meant that a good portion of our staff would be in Bahrain advising, training, and assessing the forward-deployed Naval MCM Forces.   

So, our party this year isn’t until next year.  January 12th to be specific.  I’m sure it’ll be very anti-climactic, but what can you do?  Not go I suppose, but I wouldn’t be much of a team player.  “Sorry, I don’t want to hang out with all of you outside of work except before Christmas.  After Christmas?  Forget it!”  That is the weekend before MLK day so it is still a “Holiday” party I guess. 

My lovely wife usually kicks off the season in our household.  At a minimum, she puts out the Advent Wreath and fills the Advent Calendar with little candies for our kids, neither of which are kids anymore of course.  Despite being all grown up, they still love the Christmas traditions they knew as kids, like the daily dose of the sweet stuff out of that particular decoration.  Quite particular about their candy is the younger one though, as I caught her swapping out some of the later days of the month with this week, knowing she’ll get to the calendar before her brother to get the “better” candy.  I’ll show her by filling it with black licorice and Jujubes next year.  Fortunately for her, my son takes more after me and isn’t all that concerned about it.  He’ll just roll his eyes at her as he happily munches whatever is there.

I’m not sure I’ll get around to putting up lights this year.  It takes a couple hours and I didn’t find the time for it this past weekend.  This time of year there’s only about 90 minutes of daylight by the time I get home from work so inside decorations might be our only “Fa La La La La” as my wife puts it.  I didn’t waste the weekend, but it sort of feels like it as I was driving around San Diego County playing “See’s Candy Delivery Man.”  My son hit up our relatives at Thanksgiving for his school fundraiser and cleaned them out.

We do have a couple other traditions.  Egg Nog is a favorite of mine, with or without the additional spirit.  Watching "It's a Wonderful Life" is another.   I mentioned that my wife is usually the Christmas catalyst round these parts.  She’s gainfully employed this season though, for the first time since the kids were born.  And as a new member of the workforce, she doesn’t have the energy that she was able to spend on excessive holiday spirit like she once did.  She’s working in the hospitality sector too so her weekends aren’t my weekends now and we don’t have each other to nag encourage about the Christmas chores.  The weather isn't helping either.  It's supposed to be 85 today and if you haven't heard, California is on fire again.


I guess our lack of spirit, which could better be described as a lack of energy, is understandable.  It also helps us focus better on the actual meaning of Christmas, vice all the commercialism.  The specter that is crass commercialism and getting all caught up in the shopping has definitely passed us by, if we ever really bought into it.  Advent is time of waiting anyway.  So my lack of spirit actually is Keeping Christ in Christmas, especially if I'm just waiting for it to arrive.  It’s a good time for it in our house anyway, with the kids being older, my wife and I getting older, and we sure don’t need more stuff.  I’m perfectly content with nothing under the tree for me and a simple Christmas morning with a few gifts for the rest of the family.  How about you?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Snow Day!

As El muy viejo Sargento de la Fuerza Aérea reported on Saturday a large winter storm was headed his way and he was looking forward to some snow.  Some folks are, as they say, "a day late and a dollar short."

For, you see, Texas had already experienced said storm.  Literally, the day before.

Well, juvat, how was it?

Evidently, as reported here from a position close to the coast and close to Corpus Christi, it was comparatively bad.  Reports from some of Mrs Juvat's customers from the Houston area reported nearly an inch.  Austin ISD cancelled school. 

Here in my locale?

Horrible!  (Pronounced Haw' ripple)

There was panic in the streets (Well the local supermarket parking lot anyhow.

Evidently mass starvation was imminent.

And, by the time I got home, even the horses were panicked.

OK, maybe not panicked per se.  But...Hungry.

By the time I got to the barn, the snow drifts were starting to form.

The snow had gotten so deep, it felled some trees.  (with the help of a chain saw, last summer)

The horses did come running, but they do that anytime I approach the barn.  That chore completed, I gathered some firewood, started dinner (chicken, barley and pea soup, thanks for asking), started a fire, in the fireplace of course, and awaited the return of Mrs Juvat from her day of mercantile activities.

That night we received word via the Bat Phone that the following day school would be delayed by two hours due to blizzard like conditions and "an abundance of caution".  What does that mean anyway?

So...I poured myself an additional libation and rewatched "White Christmas", because it IS the Christmas Season and apparently tomorrow would be white.  Made sense to me at the time.

Dawn broke, (no, I couldn't sleep an additional two hours, bladders wait for no man), and I peeked out the window.  To what did my wondering eyes appear?

Well, there was a nice 6 point deer, but that's not important now.

The Humanity! *

What to do?  Will I be able to make it in to work?  

Taking my life in my hands, I decide to brave it and head to work at my regular time.  Placing my faith in the creator and knowing that nobody else would be there for two hours, thus I could work uninterrupted, I walked out the door.

Where I promptly needed my highly tuned gyroscope, to keep my head and feet in their proper orientation vis a vis the ground.  You may notice a slightly different colored patch in the lower right of the above photo.  

Physics, (my favorite science) would dictate that a liquid such as rain, or melting snow, when chilled below, say 32o F, becomes a solid known as Ice.  But, as I say, I avoided impact with the ground and proceeded on my way.

Forewarned to be on the look out for glassy looking spots, I passed our relatively well stocked wood pile, pictured above just to document that there was actually some accumulation of snow that fell.  It just didn't survive long on the ground, warm as it was.

Drove off towards the highway, keeping an eye out for suicidal deer (one of whom terminated Mrs Juvat's vehicle last month,  USAA finally called it quits and totaled it. Visiting the Car Dealer on Tuesday, more to follow)

As I passed through a particularly scenic and peaceful part of the journey, I saw this little piece of Winter Wonderland.

So stopped the car (of course) and took a snap.

The rest of the journey in was wondrous.  I saw no cars, in either direction.  Nirvana achieved!

That evening as I retraced the route (with cars this time), I was treated to a nice present from the guy upstairs.

If anything the colors are a bit subdued in the picture.  He did well with that sunset.

I also got a present from My Beautiful Daughter.  As I said, Austin, San Antonio and Corpus got quite a bit more snow than we did.  MBD was driving to the supermarket  with a friend  after work when she saw a man in a wheelchair trying to roll himself up a hill in the snow and having a very difficult time making progress.  She circled the block, had the friend drive the car while she pushed him up to the top.  (The friend drove along beside for safety. Yes, I asked.)

It's nice to get a little reminder that maybe, just maybe, we did ok in raising our kids.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Singing First, Again...

Army looked very good when it mattered.

Navy couldn't quite hang with the Army.

Maybe next year...

Well done Army, well done.

That's two years in a row you got to sing second.

Again, I say well done.


Why do I, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, son of a soldier, grandson of a soldier, root for the Navy?

Why is this the one game I won't miss?

Here's why -

Son (The Naviguessor) spent five years on active duty. Lieutenant, Surface Warfare Officer.

Oldest daughter (The Nuke) spent 11+ years on active duty, still in the Naval Reserve, Lieutenant Commander, Surface Warfare Officer (Nuclear).

Youngest daughter (The WSO) spent 11+ years on active duty, Lieutenant Commander, Naval Flight Officer. (Back seater in the Super Hornet.)

Son-in-law (Big Time) 11+ years and still on active duty, Lieutenant Commander, Naval Aviator. (Flies the Super Hornet.)

Seem like good reasons to root for the Middies.

Next year, Midshipmen, next year.

Wide left...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

It's Coming...

Winter in New England - George Henry Durrie
So, I see in the news that it snowed in Texas, southern Texas. Now I've seen snow in Amarillo, a lot of snow. I drove through there back in January of '87 on my way to San Antonio and the snow was pretty deep as I recall. (And that's part of a larger story that I really need to tell someday. Not a period I like to recall, sort of a detour in my Air Force career path. Not a mistake, no sir. Just a wrong turn on my path.)

I also see from friends' posts on koobecaF that it snowed in North Carolina. The news says that snow hit a lot of the deep south. Rare down in those parts, I can't imagine that the folks down there are used to dealing with the white stuff.

Usually getting the roads cleared down yonder is difficult. I mean in southern Texas, the deep south, Georgia, I doubt they spend a lot of money on snow removal equipment.

Up here in the Northeast (and other parts of the northern U. S.) we're used to the frozen precipitation. Not all of us are in love with the stuff, some of us are. I like to see it the first time, it brightens up the landscape.

I always associate snow in December with the coming of Christmas. As a kid, I don't recall any Christmases that weren't white. Of course, some folks' definition of what constitutes a white Christmas varies from other folks.

Some say just having snow on the ground is enough. I'm one of those, but mind you, it has to be totally snow covered, no bare patches. If there's snow on the pine trees that's a bonus, not a requirement though.

Some folks say it's a white Christmas if it snows Christmas Day. Well, I'll be the first to admit that that makes for a pretty special Christmas if you only have to sit at home and not go out.

I remember one Christmas probably not too long before I went into the Air Force. There was a lot of snow on the ground and Christmas Eve we received more, not a lot, maybe six inches or so. But it was enough to keep my maternal grandmother at home, she wasn't going to attempt the drive from her farm over to Mom and Dad's place.

But Dad felt that it would be terrible if we were to leave Gram alone on Christmas. Fortunately, both The Olde Vermonter and I drove VW Beetles. In fact, his was a classic older model, "made from real steel" he liked to say. All I remember is that his Beetle was a lot more robust than mine, which was probably at least ten years newer. At any rate, my Dad, The Olde Vermonter, and I all piled into The Olde Vermonter Mobile and headed out to collect Gram.

Now the old Beetles were really good in snow. I've driven from the old home town all the way up to Newport, Vermont in a blizzard, then back again with nary a problem. They're lightweight and having the engine in the back, over the drive wheels, gave it plenty of traction. We were sailing along just fine until we got to the hill heading up towards Gram's farm.

Wasn't a long hill, maybe 50 yards or so, but the road had seen traffic which had packed the snow down and hadn't been treated or plowed yet. (It takes a while to get to all the back roads and such in Vermont and New Hampshire.) The Beetle just couldn't get enough purchase on the packed snow to get up the hill.

As there was no shoulder to speak of, the old expedient of driving over on the softer shoulder wasn't available. Then Dad had an idea, an idea for which Mom probably would have killed him dead right on the spot if she knew about it.

As he was the most experienced driver, especially in New England winter conditions, he would man the wheel. The Olde Vermonter and I would stand on the bumper and kinda bounce up and down.

Say what?

1963 Volkswagen Beetle
You see, we'd stand on that back bumper you can see above. If you look above the side windows, there's a strip of metal running along the side ending just at the top corners of the engine cover. We could hang on to that as Dad attempted the hill.

With some trepidation my brother and I got out of the car and climbed aboard that bumper and gripped where we could get purchase. Dad had his window down and yelled out, "Start bouncing boys!"

So we did. Gently at first, then we got into it as we realized that the car was slowly going up the hill. Our bouncing got the tires to dig down into the packed snow and create enough traction to advance a bit with each bounce.

We made it up, took a few minutes but we did it. My brother and I got back inside the car and off we went to get Gram. It was a fine Christmas and by the end of the day the roads were clear enough so that Dad didn't need us to ride the bumper to get Gram back home.

I will always remember that. My brother and I clinging to the back of his car, bouncing up and down and laughing like complete loons. I recall being very grateful that we were out in the boondocks with no one around to witness our antics.

Of course, the folks over in New Hampshire (where Gram lived) always thought we Vermonters were lunatics anyway, no sense giving them proof! Heck, nowadays Dad would probably be locked up for child abuse or some such nonsense.

So will it snow today?

We shall see.

Will we have a white Christmas this year?

We shall see.

Any Christmas spent with loved ones is good enough for me, snow or no snow. But still, it would be kinda neat to have snow for Christmas.

And mistletoe*.

* From I'll Be Home for Christmas -
I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree