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

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tired? Moi?

Well, yes, I am tired. Only one real day off in the last two weeks, interrupted sleep, getting up too damn early and staying up a bit later than I should. So I'm a little worn out.

Those are The Nuke's pups in that opening photo Kodi on the left, Bear on the right. I thought the picture illustrated nicely what I plan on doing for the next cuppla days. Provided of course that the list of stuff The Missus Herself wants to get done this weekend isn't too long.

She's the hardest worker I've ever seen, a real Energizer Bunny. Though at times she can be like the Terminator -
Listen, and understand! That lady is out there! She can't be bargained with. She can't be reasoned with. She doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And she absolutely will not stop... ever, until these chores are done!
Yes, that's a paraphrase of Kyle Reese's line in The Terminator -

Of course, The Missus Herself is way better looking than the Terminator, she actually has a sense of humor (heck, she married me, that proves it), and she can cook like nobody's business. But man, I'm telling you, she's relentless.

In her defense, it is awfully hard to get me to do anything that remotely resembles work. Well, unless I'm being paid. I suppose the gardens, the lovely home, and the food she feeds me count as pay.

It would absolutely suck to not have that.

I know I outkicked my coverage.

I know I'm a lucky guy.

So yeah, I like to complain a bit, it's what we enlisted folk do. As The Nuke once told her mom...

"Yeah, Dad likes to complain. All enlisted like to complain. It's what they do. If they're not complaining, then you need to worry."

"Because they're probably up to no good."

I'm afraid I may have revealed too many "secrets of the enlisted people" when I raised the kids.

Oh well.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Climb Mount Niitaka*

Jack looked up from his place in the formation just as the band struck up the National Anthem. Were those our birds from Enterprise, Lexington, or Saratoga coming in? Maybe it was the Army, sure were a lot of aircraft in the air for a Sunday. Paying no further attention, his eyes watched the Colors go up into the bright Hawaiian sun aboard USS Nevada.

Lieutenant, Junior Grade Saito Hiroto was focused on staying in formation on his lead. He didn't want to give Lieutenant Commander Watanabe anything to complain about, which the aircraft commander loved to do. His Kanko was a little heavy with its big Long Lance torpedo slung underneath and the morning air over the mountains was a bit unstable. But there, dead ahead, lay Pearl Harbor. No time to fret now, the attack would be pressed home.

At 0755 hours...
At the Command Center on Ford Island, Comdr. Logan C. Ramsey looks out a window to see a low-flying plane. A reckless U.S. pilot, he thinks. Then he sees “something black fall out of that plane” and realizes it’s a bomb.

Ramsey runs to a radio room and orders the telegraph operators to send out an uncoded message to every ship and base: AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NOT DRILL

The coordinated attack begins as dive-bombers strike the Army Air Forces’ Wheeler Field, north of Pearl Harbor, and Hickam Field, near Ford Island’s Battleship Row. The Japanese, wanting control of the air, hope to destroy American warplanes on the ground.

Most U.S. planes have been parked wingtip-to-wingtip in neat rows to make it easy to guard them against sabotage. Most are destroyed. (Source)

Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Jack Nowicki staggered momentarily as he ran to his battle station. He was still marveling how quickly the Nevada's band got through the anthem, but the nearby bomb explosion refocused him on the task at hand. They needed to start fighting back.

LCDR Watanabe released the weapon, reminding himself to compliment Saito on his flying, he had never held the aircraft so steady in training. Perhaps the pilot's given name** was more apt than he originally thought. As the big torpedo fell away, Watanabe could feel the aircraft lift slightly. Smoothly, LT(JG) Saito used the momentum as part of his pull up, easing the stick back to pull the big Nakajima B5N up and over the American battleship they'd dropped on.

Easily clearing the mast head of what he had misidentified as the Nevada (they had actually dropped on Nevada's sister ship, Oklahoma), Saito could hear the chatter of his gunner's (Petty Officer 3rd Class Nakano Kenji) machine gun opening up on targets of opportunity as they overflew their target.

For his part, PO3 Nakano actually saw their bird's torpedo strike the side of the American ship. He had just started to shout "Banzai" when the first .50 caliber rounds struck the aircraft.

BM3 Nowicki saw the tracer rounds from his .50 falling just aft of the Japanese torpedo bomber as it flew over the Oklahoma. Adjusting his fire he had the satisfaction of seeing his rounds intersecting the fuselage of the "Kate." As smoke started to pour from the target, Jack shifted his fire to another enemy aircraft.

LCDR Watanabe Jirou was killed instantly as Jack Nowicki adjusted his aim. The first two rounds went through the Japanese bombardier/navigator's equipment, the third went through him. He never knew what hit him.

PO3 Nakano knew something was wrong when the aircraft commander's blood sprayed back over him. There was a lot of blood. He felt the aircraft shudder then falter as more rounds struck further forward. Realizing that there was nothing he could do, he went back to his duty, firing his machine gun whenever a target presented itself.

LT(JG) Saito felt something tug at his leg as something struck the engine. Smoke started to pour back, making it difficult to see. He looked down to his left, wondering why the throttle was not responding. There was his hand, still on the throttle. He felt sick, his forearm was no longer attached to his body. Why did he feel so sleepy?

Femoral artery severed, Saito died within seconds of being hit. As he sagged forward in his seat, his right hand fell from the control stick, the big Nakajima went into a shallow dive, no one at the controls, the engine faltering. In the chaos of the attack, in the billowing smoke from the dying ships and the devastation on Ford Island, only one man was aware of what was going on inside aircraft number 318, from the carrier Akagi.

Model of the B5N's crew compartment.
Pilot's seat is to the left, the bombardier/navigator's position is in the middle, the gunner's seat is on the right.


PO3 Nakano tried to look forward to see what was wrong with his pilot. There was too much smoke, he couldn't see LT (JG) Saito, he couldn't see LCDR Watanabe either. Neither responded to his shouting over the voice tube between the cockpits. Looking outside, he noticed that they were low, too low, and the aircraft seemed to be in a lazy uncoordinated turn to the left.

 The aircraft's left wingtip touched the waters of the Middle Loch at a very shallow angle, but it was enough of an impact to tear off the left wingtip and turn the aircraft violently to the left. Pieces of the Nakajima spun over the water and splashed down as the main body of the fuselage, intact, slid beneath the waves. Carrying its dead crew with it to the bottom of the harbor.

BM3 Nowicki was exhausted, his uniform was filthy, more gray than white. He was taking a breather before the Chief came back to let them know what was next. His ship was aground, who knows if his berthing space was still intact, all he had at the moment were the clothes on his back. Sometime during the attack he'd lost his dixie cup somewhere, Lord knows where. But he was alive and as he looked around the harbor, he realized that there were a lot of guys who weren't.

Dixie Cup
Transcript of Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Japan (1941)

Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Speaker, and Members of the Senate and House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will our whole Nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire. (Source)

Total number of American military personnel killed: 2,335
  • 2,008 Sailors
  • 109 Marines
  • 218 Soldiers
68 civilians were killed, making the total 2403 people dead.

1,177 of the dead were from USS Arizona.

Total number of wounded: 1,143
  • 710 Sailors
  • 69 Marines
  • 364 Soldiers
  • 103 Civilians
The Japanese Navy lost 55 men. (Source)

* "Climb Mount Niitaka" (Niitakayama nobore 新高山登れ) = The signal sent by the Japanese government to Admiral Nagumo indicating that the attack on Pearl harbor should proceed.
** HIROTO - 大翔  - 大 (hiro) meaning "big, great" combined with 翔 (to) meaning "soar, glide."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Season's Upon Us, It's That Time of Year...

Ah, the music of Christmas, and yes, the title of today's post was inspired by those boys from Quincy (pronounced Kwin-zee, don't ask, it's near Boston, they talk funny up there...), The Dropkick Murphys. But before we listen to that song and watch the video, said activity now being a holiday tradition here at The Chant, let's review some of the Christmas tunes that I like. (You can tell me yours in the comments, via email, smoke signal, Pony Express, etc. You, Dear Readers, always have a voice here. Why, I even listen most of the time.)

Oh, while I'm on the topic, note those angels in the opening painting. They're playing music, they're in Heaven (I presume) so why do they look so gloomy? I guess that back in the 1480s, when the painting was done, everyone was gloomy. Pious and gloomy. The Middle Ages wasn't noted for having fun in Europe. I mean, it was all so  medieval and gloomy, ya know? What's more, from my own experience of the 60s and 70s, the angels all look like that hippy chick who went by the name "Galadriel" back in the day. Only thinner and far more gloomy. I assume the angels are female, which may be presumptuous of me. I've been known to presume far more than the existing facts might allow. But come on, no facial hair? What a giveaway!


Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. I did attend services upon that day, The Missus Herself was absent for reasons you might know. As it was also Communion Sunday, I felt even more duty bound to be present. In the past one of the hymns we would always sing on the first Sunday of Advent was this one -

Which is a superb version of the song by The Piano Guys. That is one Christmas song which always triggers the old allergies here at Chez Sarge. I may be a cantankerous old bastid at times but I have a sentimental streak a mile wide. (Yes, sentimental, not mental.)

Well, when I got to my pew (yes, I have a pew, all the way in the back, it's not labeled, but folks know not to sit there, more on that in a bit) Sunday last, I perused the bulletin, no mention anywhere of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. 'Twas not amused I was, not at all.

Now I know what you're thinking, "Come on Sarge, you're in church, you shouldn't get bent out of shape over what hymns you're singing that Sunday." (In truth though, singing is not exactly what I do. Only in the very loosest terms can what I do be called singing. More of a "joyful noise" if you will. Which is fitting and proper but, as some might say, "Not so loud Sarge, not so loud. We don't want people to think we slaughter water buffalo at divine services...")

But that song is kinda sorta what Christmas is all about, at least to me it is. But, I am but one of many, so I resolved to suffer in silence. But 'lo and behold, during the offering the organist played, you guessed it, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Tradition was upheld, "my" song was played, and no one had to wonder if large aquatic bovine creatures were being slaughtered within the confines of our wee stone chapel. Can't have the neighbors worrying now, can we?

So Sarge, what other Christmas tunes do you like? Why thank you, I'm glad you asked.

Bing Crosby was always a favorite singer at the Ancient Family Home and Der Bingle (as he was called in those days, no, not the days of Caesar Augustus, I'm not that old) had a number of popular Christmas songs over the years.

Now if you are of a certain age, you might think you know which of Der Bingle's Christmas songs is my favorite, it is, after all, the favorite of many folks, at least it used to be before the Age of Political Correctness. Not sure if it still is.

Nope, while White Christmas is a favorite of mine, it's not my favorite Bing Crosby song of Christmas. No, that honor goes to I'll Be Home for Christmas.

Now back in the day I really related to this song, being single and alone overseas will do that for you, I also had a calendar one year, might have been in Germany, which depicted military aircraft for each month of the year. (Wow, surprised you there didn't I? Or not.)

December's entry triggered a few allergies. It showed a B-17 of the 8th Air Force flying low over a snow-covered home decorated for Christmas, it was captioned "I'll be home for Christmas" with a note mentioning the thousands of GIs fighting in Europe and the Pacific in World War II, all probably dreaming of home around the holidays. I've looked for that artwork ever since, still haven't found what I'm looking for...

(Nope, not a segue into a U2 song, but I do like the tune, has nothing to do with Christmas, well, if you think about it, maybe it does...)

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of Bing Crosby Christmas songs that I really, really like. Well, except maybe for Mele Kalikimaka which never felt very Christmas-y to me. Perhaps because I have trouble associating Christmas with Hawaii. Too warm. The tune is awfully catchy though, just not my cup of tea.

I could probably do a dozen posts on Bing Crosby Christmas songs, don't worry though, I'm not going to.

But ya know, the season is upon us and, well, take it away boys!

I love that song. It's funny and brings back a lot of found memories. Not that my family was anything like that.

Well, maybe a little...

Oh yeah, "my" pew. I almost forgot!

When The Missus Herself and I first began going to church on Sundays, we were new, we knew no one, so I decided we'd sit all the way in the back. Hoping I guess that no one would notice us and that we could slip in and out unnoticed. Fat chance of that, the folks at my church are very warm and welcoming. They noticed us, they actually engaged us in conversation. All before I could run away and hide. No, The Missus Herself grasping my arm and muttering "Move and you're a dead man." had nothing to do with it...

Anyhoo, we continued to sit there, though one Sunday some of the kids decided to sit way up back so they could goof around, I guess. When we entered, The Missus Herself started to drag me to another pew, but I just stopped and looked at the kids. One of whom said, "Hahaha, we're sitting here today!"

It's odd how quickly they vacated "my" pew.

All I did was growl.

Did I get a few odd looks that day? You betcha.

How is that different from any other day?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Das Heimatland

First off, reminiscing about one's former homes/houses/dwellings/domiciles etc., is popular this week. Well, it is amongst the subset of humanity consisting of Your Humble Scribe, Juvat, and Skip. While it ain't no Skunk Week, it does give the Muse something to chew on...

Now for all intents and purposes, I consider myself (Bernie notwithstanding*) to be a Vermonter. Born there, raised there, and (with the exception of college) went to school there. Spent my formative years there if you will, as I am rather conservative about many things it seems I might be an outlier as the rest of the state seems profoundly liberal these days. NTTAWWT, per se. Wasn't that way when I was a callow youth, not that I recall anyway.

So Sarge, tell me a little bit about Vermont.
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Vermont is the 6th smallest in area and the 2nd least populous of the 50 United States. It is the only New England state not bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Champlain forms half of Vermont's western border, which it shares with the state of New York. The Green Mountains are within the state. Vermont is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east across the Connecticut River, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north.

Originally inhabited by two major Native American tribes (the Algonquian-speaking Abenaki and the Iroquois), much of the territory that is now Vermont was claimed by France during its early colonial period. France ceded the territory to the Kingdom of Great Britain after being defeated in 1763 in the Seven Years' War (in the United States, referred to as the French and Indian War). For many years, the nearby colonies, especially New Hampshire and New York, disputed control of the area (then called the New Hampshire Grants).

Settlers who held land titles granted by these colonies were opposed by the Green Mountain Boys militia, which eventually prevailed in creating an independent state, the Vermont Republic. Founded in 1777 during the Revolutionary War, the republic lasted for fourteen years. Aside from the Thirteen Colonies, Vermont is one of only four U.S. states (along with Texas, Hawaii, and California) to have been a sovereign state in its past. In 1791, Vermont joined the United States as the 14th state, the first in addition to the original 13 Colonies. Vermont was the first state to partially abolish slavery while still independent.

Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States. The state capital is Montpelier with a population of 7,855, making it the least populous state capital in the country. Vermont's most populous city is Burlington, with a 2010 population of 42,417, which makes it the least populous city in the United States to be the largest city within a state. Burlington's metropolitan area has a population of 211,261.
(Source for photo and text)
What Mr. Lund didn't mention in his blurb was that the name "Vermont" is from the French words for "green" and "mountain." Which, if we followed French practice, the state should be named Montver, as the French for green mountains is montagnes vertes. Vermont sounds better, heck, if it was call Montver we might confuse it with Mount Vernon, George Washington's home on the Potomac. Or not.

But yeah, I digress.

I still have a sentimental attachment to Das Heimatland, the homeland. (Well dammit Sarge, why didn't you just call the damn post, "The Homeland"? Well, the word Heimatland, which literally translates to "homeland" has a deeper meaning in German. The word,  auf Deutsch, describes a community, region, country or state, to which a special affiliation is felt. Again, I have this language "thing." Vermont ist mein Heimatland.)

So, before joining up with Uncle Sam's Aerial Force I lived a few places back in the homeland. While I wasn't a military brat, Dad worked his way from an apartment, to part of a house, to a whole house all to ourselves back in the late '50s.

Now if you slide on down to the fourth photo in the following sequence you'll see a two story house which figures a little later in this tale. But the lot just to the left (out of the photo) at one time held an apartment building, which is where Mom and Dad lived when I came into the world. That place burned down a few years after we lived there. Coincidentally, the hospital I was born in burned down a while after I came into existence as a person separate from my mother.

Note the use of the word "coincidentally." All of that happened before I started the first grade, the hospital burned down before I was one. They had to build a new one for my brothers to be born in. I had nothing to do with either conflagration. I was too young, there was no motive, no evidence, and no witnesses. As I probably couldn't walk yet when the hospital went, I guess you could say I had no opportunity.

Now the house below was where we lived after the apartment. We had most of the place and as I recall, the landlady lived in that small section on the left in the photo. (And no, that weird cut across the front of the house wasn't there. That's an artifact from Google pasting all those street view photos together. Just sayin'. That is not a rip in the space-time continuum!)

I remember one Christmas in that house and though I don't remember how old I was at the time, it is my first memory of Christmas. I also recall no heat on the upper floor. We slept under a pile of blankets and I do remember that when you woke up, you hurried downstairs at a brisk pace because those floors were damned cold!

There is one other anecdote about that place I've been told of which involved Yours Truly, though I don't remember it, my Mom and Dad told me about it. Seems I was upstairs banging on one of the bedroom doors with my hand. My father came upstairs to see what all the racket was...

"Chris, knock that off, use your head son."

Well, apparently I did stop, at least until Dad went back down the stairs. At which point the banging of the door recommenced. Back up the stairs Dad went to see his oldest son again banging on the door. Using my head. Of course.

I do believe Mom and Dad thought me a bit "touched," though I daresay that hard head came in awfully handy as a sergeant later in life!

Google Street View
Now after that place above (which was on Crescent Street, I should note that the apartment building mentioned above was on Commonwealth Avenue, no, not the one in Boston) we moved to what I now refer to as the "Ancestral Family Home." Which is currently owned and operated by my brother, The Olde Vermonter and his tribe. Oddly enough, that street name also starts with a "C." (Pattern? Coincidence? Rip in the space-time continuum?)

Google Street View
Little brother is a carpenter and is quite handy with tools, he makes his living fixing up other peoples' houses so he often falls behind on the maintenance of his own domicile. That is until Mrs Olde Vermonter "suggests" that the work needing doing around her house needs to get done and yes, now would be a good time. So that much needed paint job above has since been completed.

A few things worth noting:
  • The addition on the right of the picture was done by my brother, long after I had moved on to phix Phantoms on the phlightline.
  • The trees out back of the house weren't quite so close when I was a lad.
  • The two windows just to the left of the front door mark the two rooms I had in high school (top floor) and just before I went off to wear the blue (bottom floor).
  • The window on the left at the back of the house is where I shared a room with The Olde Vermonter when my youngest brother, The Musician, was still an infant. Once he could toddle about I suggested to the parental units that perhaps the two youngest sons should share a room and the eldest (moi) should have a room all to hisself. Surprisingly enough, and much to The Olde Vermonter's chagrin, Mom and Dad agreed.
Now I should mention that there was a year of college in between those two rooms I had all to myself (no, not at the same time). I spent my freshman year learning how to march and do calisthenics, throw fake hand grenades, and do so poorly at most academic exercises that I barely made it through the year.

On the up side I did discover a fondness for beer. Not that that particular life "skill" impressed my parents all that much. So I didn't return to college until some eleven years later. Quite a break between freshman and sophomore years, neh?

But I didn't go to Europe to "find myself" or some other hedonistic pursuit. Back in those days I was encouraged to get a job. Which I did. First at a map making company (mentioned here) then later at a factory where I had a number of jobs, was a union man, and learned exactly what it was I didn't want to spend the rest of my life doing. 'Twas the Air Force for me, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

My first time living away from my parents was this place (which I talked about here in the tale of my first car) -

Google Street View
That photo of "Buckingham Palace" is a bit clearer than the one in that link above. Taken in the Fall it was so that it isn't obscured by foliage. My roomie and I, Animal, (well, that's his name innit? Okay, his last name was Tier. Look that up in German and get back to me...) lived on the bottom floor, Mr Buckingham (an architect I think) had his office on the top floor. Which does have windows round the back. The top floor was half the size of the bottom. Which is where we lived in bucolic splendor until I fell in with a fast crowd.

Student nurses they were.

And a whole passel of 'em lived in this place (which in this photo is sadly run down, last time I was home the new owners were actually fixing it up) -

Google Street View
That's on Park Street (note that Buckingham Palace was on Parker Hill Road, I'd gone from street names which start with "C" to streets and roads which started with "Park." Odd that.)

Well, the wild life of student nurses, strong drink, and semi-fast cars (okay, I made up that last bit, my roomie there did have a kinda-fast car, which sucked in snow) wore thin after a while. (After all, Your Humble Scribe is a calm, sedate fellow, okay, absolute truth, I had trouble keeping up with those student nurses.)

So I moved out of paradise Park Street and got an apartment on Commonwealth Avenue (no, not the one in Boston). Actually it was the entire top floor of the house below. I was reminded of this the Friday after Thanksgiving when the whole tribe motored up to New Hampshire and we went out to dinner in the Heimatland. At the restaurant my mother pointer out my old landlord (owner of the house below) and his wife.

"I say Mother, they have certainly aged!"

To which my daughter, The WSO, said "Have you looked in the mirror lately Dad?"

"Yeah, you're old!" Chortled The Nuke, who was accompanied in her glee by the Senior Granddaughter who enjoys remarking upon my advancing age and "So Grandpa, what happened to all your hair?"

I swear, young people these days.

Anyhoo, I had come full circle back in the old hometown, living next door to the lot (remember, the building itself had burned down - an event for which I hold myself blameless) upon which stood my very first home.

Google Street View
 So yeah, I lived in a few places before heading off into the blue, as it were. After Commonwealth Ave, my Dad and I fixed up a room in the basement of the Ancestral Family Home as he thought it would be nice to have me around before going off to the colors.

Hhmm, that room had no heat either.

Full circle indeed!

* Er kommt, wie die meisten echten Arschlöcher im Staat, nicht von dort.