Ed Note: Unfortunately a lot of the links lex referenced 12 years ago are gone. I have included the links that are still live and given that he wrote this almost exactly 12 years ago though some of the things he said were still funny. To wit: How sh!t happens in the Navy; the world’s most humiliating store, etc…
Hope you enjoy the post. To me so much of what Lex wrote has a timeless aura to it…
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.