Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Kindness of Strangers

By lex, on March 2nd, 2011

You’re a pretty savvy crew, I’ll give you that. On slim forensics, many of you have sussed out that your humble scribe may well be at yet another turning point, this one not of his own choosing. And lots of yez have stepped into the breach, offering to help in whatever way you can, or offering your thoughts and prayers if you cannot. I’m very grateful.

Here’s an awkward thing to write about. There are no heroes, and no villains. Just the headwinds facing my chosen follow-on profession, and the risks of joining a small company, one that doesn’t have a lot of depth on the employment bench. The client, quite rightly, is looking to trim headcount. The company, quite rightly, is looking to retain contracted work. And I, all of a sudden, am stuck in the middle, a breadwinner working day to day or week to week, never quite knowing how it’s all going to turn out.

In times like these, it takes your breath away. Your stomach hurts. You’ve trouble sleeping at night, and maintaining your focus on the work. When the truth comes down to you that you’re essentially on waivers, your overwhelming focus turns to finding the next thing. Which may end up looking a lot like the last thing.

No, I don’t guess I’ll get to ever launch off aircraft carriers again, not as the pilot in command of a single seat fighter. Nor have to face the back end of the terror machine again at night when there’s no moon, sideways slanting rain and the deck is pitching. Nor eagerly fling myself at the earth again in wild abandon, bringing death with me in the form of thousand pound bombs. But it might be there’s something that has a cockpit integral to the design, and some class of cargo that needs to be moved from one place to another. This, I know how to do.

To each thing there is a time, and a time to every purpose.

I’ve just got to find mine.

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The Reasonable Man Premise

By lex, on February 25th, 2011

False, it turns out, in the case of Somali pirates:**

U.S. negotiators told pirates holding four American hostages off the coast of Somalia that they would not be allowed to go ashore with their captives, U.S. officials said, one of several moves that increased pressure on the pirates before the hostages were killed Tuesday.

The warning that the U.S. intended to prevent the pirates from taking the hostages onto Somali soil was communicated early in the four-day standoff as Navy ships shadowed the 58-foot yacht carrying 19 Somalis and their prisoners, the officials said.

“The thought was, if these guys succeed in getting the hostages to shore, we have almost no leverage anymore,” a U.S. Defense official said.

In a normal hostage negotiation, authorities want to 1) control the situation in order to, 2) prevent it from getting any worse. But once the pirates understood that they were not going to be allowed to go ashore with their “booty”, the hostages were worthless to them. Their humanity apparently counted for nothing.

So why not kill them, then move forward, empty your hands, surrender and await your trial?

Lessons: People everywhere are really not the same. We don’t understand these people.

**  10-19-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.

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Fire Discipline

By lex, on February 22nd, 2011

The truly remarkable thing in the denouement of the Sailing Vessel Quest hostage taking, is how utterly unremarkable were the actions of the special forces who attempted to come to the rescue of the hostages after shots were fired:

On Monday, two pirates had peacefully come aboard the USS Sterett to negotiate with naval forces for the release of the hostages, and remained aboard overnight.

But at 8 a.m. East Africa time Tuesday, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired from the Quest at the USS Sterett, a guided-missile destroyer 600 yards away. The RPG missed and almost immediately afterward small arms fire was heard coming from the yacht, said Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

U.S. forces converged on the Quest in small boats and some pirates moved to bow and put up their hands in surrender.

A member of a U.S. special operations force killed one of the pirates with a knife, Fox said. A second pirate was also killed, and the bodies of two other pirates were discovered on board, bringing to 19 the total number of pirates involved. The U.S. military didn’t say how those two died and it was not known if the pirates had fought among themselves.

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Silver Star

By lex, on February 16th, 2011

Having read the Sigacts summaries back when I was on active duty, I was routinely impressed with the quiet professionalism of the heroes from explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD. When the story of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are finally told, they would be the unsung heroes.

But one among their number was recently awarded the nation’s third highest award for combat valor:

It was approaching midnight Sept. 7, 2009, at the Malmand Bazaar in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, when the leader of an explosives disposal team was horribly wounded after stepping on a pressure-activated IED — an improvised explosive device — buried in the dirt.

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Civility, and that

By lex, on February 14th, 2011

Oprah Winfrey recently joined the chorus of voices calling for a new level of respect and civility in our public discourse. Victor Davis Hanson, being a classical historian, reaches all the way back into the dark ages of 2004-2007, when those calling most loudly for courtesy accepted a very different standard of behavior for themselves:

Yes, yes, I remember those eerie times well. There was Jonathan Chait’s New Republic essay about why “I hate President George W. Bush.” (Oprah, where were you?) Garrison Keillor was more clever in his hate of Bush’s Republicans: “brown shirts in pinstripes.” Howard Dean, likewise now angry over the incivility of today’s politics, in that era declaimed, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.” Do we recall the NAACP chairman of the time, civil rights movement veteran Julian Bond, saying of Bush & Co.: “Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side”? (Oprah, where were you?)

Of course, those were utterly different circumstances. American soldiers were fighting in two foreign wars, for example. There were prisoners being held without trial in Guantanamo Bay. Federal spending was exploding the national debt. We had privacy concerns.

All changed, changed utterly.

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By lex, on February 14th, 2011

I missed it, having neglected to properly order my weekend calendar with my weekend employer. Did see a grunch of Hornets taking off from Miramar during one of my dogfight sorties. Wave after wave of five-ships launching, one after t’other.

I was reliably informed that the Coronado Bay bridge and even the southbound 5 were parking lots. And I got tipped by both my pax on Saturday, lovely young ladies the both of ‘em. Second one even gave me a hug for bringing her back alive, like. Which that’s the first time that’s happened. I almost gave her the twenty back.


Tailspin Tom hied hisself thither, and took a number of lovely photographs. This one, I thought it’d be especially nice to share.


This lass captured our hearts. If you can think of it, she flew it—Stearman, AT-6, P-51, P-47, P-39, P-38, C-45, C-47, B-24, B-17…and she owned her own T-34 until a few years ago. Now 92, but when she turned 80 she decided she had to stop flying. “But I still love the sound of round engines.”


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Lost in the Wiki

By lex, on February 12th, 2011

Was skimming the online Beeb this AM for summat interesting to chat about. Found this article about the remains of the Two Brothers, a whale ship that had foundered after striking a reef northwest of Hawaii.

The Two Brothers was skippered by one George Pollard, a Nantucketeer who had previously commanded the Essex, another whaleship that had been battered to bits by a whale, which story formed the basis for Herman Mellville’s Moby Dick. (Having lost two whaleships and dined on the bones of a young cousin he had been asked to protect – more on that later – Pollard declined the sea going forward, serving the rest of his life as a night watchman on Nantucket.)

The survivors of the Essex salvaged what they could of the ship before setting east towards Peru in whaleboats on half rations. They eventually landed on Henderson Island in the Pitcairns – a flat bit of nothing in the middle of nowhere that nevertheless allowed the starving sailors the opportunity to gorge on local wildlife and drink fresh water, at least until both ran out.

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