By lex, on February 15th, 2006
The indispensable B2 sends this along:
Sixteen reasons why airplanes are easier to live with than women:
By lex, on February 15th, 2006
The indispensable B2 sends this along:
Sixteen reasons why airplanes are easier to live with than women:
By lex, Tue – June 21, 2005
One does not, ordinarily, grow wealthy in the service of one’s country. I exclude, for this discussion, supply corps officers. No – the best that one can hope for is a sort of shabby gentility, much like that which adheres to a respected university professor, for example. And while one may never challenge the Astors at shuffleboard, neither will one go looking for the next meal. It’s a comfortable life, if not a routinely luxurious one. And too, they are not trivial, the rewards of service – just non-remunerative: There is the satisfaction of an important job, done as best as one can, often under difficult circumstances – these are the psychic rewards of service, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the tea in China.
Not everyone in my immediate family feels that way though…
By lex, on Mon – April 25, 2005
A sea story. Are you relieved?
When I was an adversary pilot in Key West, Florida, eventually the day came that my buddy and I, who arrived at the squadron about the same time, got to begin F-16N training. That was a moment long looked for, eagerly awaited. We’d been flying the A-4 Skyhawk for just over six months, and while it had been fun, say thankya, it had been something of a step down from the FA-18’s we’d flown in the fleet. We were looking forward to a little “strange,” in the form of F-16 training. Looking forward to flying the “Viper.”
But before we could start flying the “Viper,” we had to go to Warminster, Pennsylvania.
And get a few rides in the centrifuge .
By Lex, on Thu – March 24, 2005
Back again from the grips of the perilous, wine-dark sea.
The debrief is complete, and the strike group did a fine job, wonderful in fact. I could have just hugged them, except, well… it wouldn’t have been appropriate. They’ll deploy soon, and we’ll be left behind bemoaning our fate.
In the warm embrace of our families.
Karma. You take the good with the bad.
Mon – February 21, 2005
Which has a dramatic title, but is really only a wee, tiny little sea story that doesn’t go anywhere in particular.
But which I’ll share with you anyway.
In the spring of 2002, the carrier on which I had the privilege of serving was returning from a relatively successful in port period in Mazatlàn, Mexico. By successful, I mean: No one was incarcerated (overnight), everyone came back to the ship (by the time we left port) and what very little had been broken had already been paid for. Since Sailors of all ages, stripes and varieties are, as a class, much given to howling at the moon once ashore (and away from home), we reckoned this a successful port visit indeed.
By lex, Sun – December 19, 2004
Wow – glad that’s over.
Or almost over – we still have the debrief to go on Monday morning. Jump up in front of the three star with my merry band of principal warfare assistants and subject matter experts, pontificate (but not at length, not as who should say “great length” – he’s a busy man – so are they all, all busy men) and then sit back down, await the momentary frisson of approbation that comes with a exceptionally difficult job, done exceedingly well, and then move on to the next thing. Which right now, happens to be Christmas. So I’ve got that to look forward to. Which is nice.
But no, the Christmas shopping is by no means complete, thanks for asking.
You might have advised that I try to shop at sea, via the internet, but that would only mean that you had never tried to shop at sea, via the internet, before.
You know those itty-bitty straws they use in night clubs to mix the well drinks? Imagine that you have been without water in the desert for six days, while forced to do push ups and sit ups in the burning sun, in between wind sprints. Now imagine being asked to drink your table spoon-sized ration of water through one of those cocktail straws it and you’ll have some idea of what surfing the World Wide Wait can be like at sea. It’s not like we don’t have bandwidth. Bandwidth we’ve got, great huge frothy galumphing amounts of bandwidth – it’s just that none of it is apportioned that way. For Christmas shopping, I mean.
Oh, sure – if you know exactly what you want: Google up “Airborne Laser Volcano Lancing ,” for example – you can probably get that done. That is, unless you were for two times in the preceding three months while at sea the victim of credit card theft, and the credit card that you actually have in your wallet is now cancelled, and now there is no reliably secure way to email or fax your new credit card number to the ship.
In that case you’re pretty much SOL, airborne lasers on your shopping list or no.
Neither am I one of those preternaturally organized, invariably smug and sand-poundingly self-satisfied shoppers that has crossed every item off their Christmas list by the preceding ides of March. No, I greatly prefer the carefully controlled lab experiment in chaos theory which comes from traveling across the country to Virginia, my own, my native land, on the 22nd of December, going pied-à-terre in the world’s most maddening shopping mall on Christmas Eve, and catching the sport at its very best. The pleasures are simply indescribable.
In fact, the only thing more wonderful was last year, when after several hours of hurling myself repeatedly (and it must be admitted, with little success) upon the altar of consumerism, I found myself looking about longingly for a store that sold any of the following items: Firearms and ammo, razor blades/rubber tubing, rat poison, quality braided rope of not too rough a texture and capable of supporting roughly 190 pounds, moving at, say, 32 feet per second, squared. While thus (fruitlessly) engaged I saw the actual Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (who stands in precedence to your humble scribe in roughly the same proportion as he himself stands to single-celled organisms) doing his Christmas shopping in the same circle of hell as was I. Or me. Myself.
And so seeing this, I grasped at the beginnings of wisdom. These I will share with you, constant reader, free of charge: Death may indeed be the great leveler of men, but Christmas shopping is repeatable, and as a form of practice for the real thing, not to be lightly cast aside.
All that being true, then it can’t get any worse, you say?
Come, let me disabuse you: Have I failed to report that the Biscuit (age 13) now considers it nothing less than normal, indeed quite natural, that a portion of each trip to the shopping mall must be spent inside the world’s most humiliating store (for a man to enter, anyway)? I feel like a vampire at the church doors each time I go near the place. I stand there in front stammering “No, fine actually!” to all the several passersby who, alarmed at the sight of my violently blushing complexion, wonder if perhaps it isn’t possible, even likely, that I’m having a stroke or seizure of some sort? Because from my perspective, there simply isn’t a plausible or creditable reason for me to be on the same level as that store, not to mention standing on its threshold. Which is not to say that I’m a prude. It’s just to say that, well… I’m not exactly sure what it’s to say, but it’s deuced uncomfortable, old chap. To all of this, of course, the Biscuit is either sublimely unaware, or acutely unconcerned. And I can not quite decide which.
But this is all to look forward to, and perhaps one of you would prefer to be caught up:
We’ve been busy. Long time readers of this blog (I mean you two, over there) will know that your humble scribe has been at sea more or less continuously since the 12th of September with some all-to-brief intervals of sand crabbing in between to remind myself where I park my car, which office is mine (there’s that sandwich!), and to reacquaint my family with my gross physical characteristics. But as I mentioned above, our own Long March is over, for the now, and the workload should become a little more normal in the discernible future.
Why such much? Glad you asked: For the Iraq War we got every ship to sea that we could, and so all the carriers that went and joined the war in 2003 all came back pretty much at the same time. Which meant that they were all pretty much ready to go to sea again at the same time. Which was the last four months. Which is where me and my merry band come in.
But in between coming home from the war, and going to sea again, the CNO , who by the way is (for a Shoe) an incredibly smart individual, besides being a powerful and handsome man, made some decisions. For one, he decided that it would be keen to institutionalize our capability to surge the force in case of emergency, rather than discerning a crisis on the horizon and then walking the strand and turning over rocks to look for ships, like we’d always done in the past. This strategy is called the FRP, or Fleet Response Plan (variously, the Fleet Readiness Plan, no one seems to be able to authoritatively decide) and it’s an Exceptionally Powerful Idea¹
Which is a precise formulation guaranteed to send staff officers scurrying to shopping malls, looking for stores which sell: Firearms and ammo, razor blades/rubber tubing, rat poison, quality braided rope of not too rough a texture and capable of supporting roughly 190 pounds, moving at, say, 32 feet per second, squared.
Because it’s all very well and good for service secretaries and four stars to have Exceptionally Powerful Ideas, but someone has to figure out how it’s all going to actually work. And that someone is us!
So yeah, we were busy, but now we’re not and that pretty much encapsulates all you need ever know about the naval service.
More later, as it comes to me.
In the beginning was the Plan
And after the Plan came the Assumptions
And the Assumptions were without form
And the Plan was without substance
And darkness moved upon the faces of the action officers.
And they spake unto their Division Heads, saying:
“It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh”
And the division heads went unto their Chiefs of Department,
And Sayeth unto them in turn:
“It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odor thereof!”
And the Chiefs of Department went unto the First Flag Officer
in their Chain of Command, and Sayeth unto Him:
“It is a container of excrement, and it is very STRONG!”
And that Flag went unto his Fleet Commander, and
Sayeth unto Him:
“It is a Vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength”
And the Fleet Commander went unto CNO, and Sayeth:
“It contains that which aids Plant Growth, and it is very strong”
And the CNO went unto the Chairman and Sayeth:
“It Promoteth Growth, and it is very Powerful”
And the Chairman went unto the Secretary,
And Sayeth Unto Him:
“This Powerful New Plan will Actively Promote the Growth
and Efficiency of the Department, and this area in Particular”
And the Secretary looked upon the Plan,
And he saw that it was Good, and so the Plan became
And that is how shit happens.
By lex, on Thu – October 21, 2004
I got ’em. You got ’em?
I had a boss, not long ago. He took a while getting to his point. His technique on any issue, so far as I could tell, was to come at it in concentric circles of serially smaller diameter.
Many concentric circles.
I found this maddening. Being a man of at least average intelligence, I was prepared to answer the question he was preparing to ask long before he got to it. But military decorum required that I let him wander his circuitous way to his target.
Waiting for him to get there always made me suffer.
I’m a direct attack kind of guy. I’ve got a question for you, or guidance, you’ll get that first. When I know you’ve received the message, then I’ll ask how the family is doing. Then maybe we can socialize. I’m not saying that’s better or worse, I’m just saying that’s the way I am.
It’s not that I’m anti-social – if there’s nothing much going on I’ll run my lines, talk to the folks and shoot the breeze. It’s just that I consider that sort of thing as separate and apart from the mission, whenever it is that I have one. I don’t like to leave people guessing, because I don’t like to have to guess. When the boss comes into the room with a bag of knots, the worker bees want to know what’s what, get him out of there and get to work on the problem.
I had an office that was at the end of a T-shaped passageway (that’s a hallway to you sand crabs). At the intersection, my office was on the right, one of my subordinates was on the left, and ahead was a fax machine – a dead end, in other words. This same guy had a habit, twice? Maybe three times a day, of coming down the passageway and parking himself at the T, staring at that fax machine.
And there, he would wait.
He would wait until someone, either me or my subordinate, would acknowledge his presence and ask him how he could be helped. And then he’d walk slowly into that person’s office, sit himself comfortably in his chair, and start his meandering way towards whatever it was he had eventually come to talk about.
I eventually came to realize that this was a control technique – a kind of passive/aggressive behavior. Knowing this did not save me, however, from playing along. I could, for the space of a few moments, choose to stare rigidly at my computer monitor, pretending that I was unaware of his darkening presence at my door. I could hope to at last my subordinate, hoping that he might volunteer to ask the boss first how things could be better.
In this hope I was always disappointed. My subordinate, safe in a more junior officer’s position of immense moral superiority when dealing with such tactics, could safely ignore the boss. And I, that infinitesimal bit closer to the throne, could not. Our service does not include as one of its attributes ignoring our superiors.
No matter how strongly we feel that they deserve it.
Tonight I’m at the gym. It’s been a while – I’ve been running every morning before work, but I haven’t paid my dues on the weights or machines lately. There just hasn’t been the time. And I’m looking forward to a relaxing session of hurting myself, just that little bit.
There’s this guy, not much more than a kid actually. In the full flower and pride of youth, blooming, ridiculously healthy. And he’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Vote” on the back. And on the front it says:
And all his policies
And all his ilk.”
And it was so in my face, in that same sort of passive aggressive way, for the better part of an hour.
At one point, we’re at the water fountain together, and as he turns around I can’t help but sneer just that little bit. And he says to me, “What?”
Which is too bad for him, because if he’d caught me earlier, before I’d had the long, rambling dialogue with myself in my own head, I would have been stuck with, “Excuse me?” But no, I’ve had time to think about why his t-shirt kind of pisses me off. So I tell him:
“Dude – that shirt is everything that’s wrong in our society today – the first line is rejection, not affirmation. You’re not advertising anything positive, not proposing an alternative – you don’t know what you want, but you know what you don’t want and the only way to describe that is juvenile.”
He turned pretty red in the face in that, and started to bluster, but I wasn’t quite done. “You asked,” I said, “And now I’m telling – all of his policies? What on earth is that supposed to mean? Is it code language of some sort?”
But I didn’t give him a chance to answer, because frankly, I was on a roll, and he had become the avatar of all passive/aggressive people that have always driven me off the tracks, and I finished with, “And ilk? That’s the worst part – that’s like coconspirators. It’s dehumanizing. One of the biggest problems in society today is that my side of the political sphere thinks that your side is naive, or at worse misguided. Your side thinks that mine is stupid or evil.”
And he called me a “f*$%# fascist!” and we parted company. Neither of us, I suspect, the more enlightened.
Which pretty much ruined the workout for me.
But I was set thinking – the one piece I couldn’t work a good answer up for was “all of his policies.” I mean, how do you answer that? What does it mean?
I turn things over in my head, I gnaw and worry at them. So it was also revelatory, after (unfortunately long after) our “discussion” at the water fountain had concluded: What can a President really do, all on his own? Without the other branches of government giving assent, or getting in the way and asserting their own rights? He can’t declare war – that privilege belongs to the Congress. And Congress, you’ll recall, had (if not declared war) at least authorized the use of force in Iraq.
But recognizing that would spread the blame too far and wide – many democrats had also voted in support of the use of force resolution. It’s hard to demonize the entire Congress. How to explain that away?
Ah – Bush lied. That’s the ticket, and why it was so important for Michael Moore and all to say that Bush was lying when he spoke and acted as he did on the WMD issue. Because, if he was just reacting to the information which his intelligence services provided, subsequent to a horrible attack that had in one morning killed nearly 3000 American non-combatant citizens, then there really wouldn’t be any good reason to attack his “policies,” except in the light of 20/20 hindsight.
So I think that’s what I learned today. Why the “Bush lied” meme is so important to some on the left.
It makes everything else possible.