Monday, April 30, 2007


Dear Georgia, Will you please stop being on fire now? I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle on account of all the dang smoke.

The visibility here in Mayport dropped to the extent that I can't see the aircraft carrier on the other side of the basin, and this has happened periodically over the last few weeks, depending on the direction of the wind. OK, I'm not living in Waycross, needing to be evacuated from my home, but there are wildfires cropping up west of Jacksonville as well, not to mention that I live about a half hour south of the Georgia border.

Here in Jax, it's all about the smoke, though. It varies in degree to a little brownish and hazy to "I can't see 50 feet in front of me". We came into port two weeks ago with our low visibility detail manned up and sounding one prolonged blast on our ship's whistle every two minutes.

Conditions remain exceptionally dry and therefore are impeding the revival of my lawn and raising the ire of my homeowners' association, to whom I say, "Sit and spin." Frankly, I'll be happy if my house doesn't spontaneously combust.

Anyway, don't worry about us, we're fine, not on fire and going about the business of keeping from being on fire.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Three Seashells

Sitting here watching "Curious George" and waiting for Jack to quit fighting off a nap, naturally, I thought of finishing up a post I started a few days ago.

I wasn't even going to bother posting about Sheryl Crow's Helpful Tips for Saving Mother Earth, but there I was on the ship last week, sitting in the head. Also known as the Thinkin' Seat. Am I the only one who actually comes up with some good ideas and solves problems while in the head? I doubt it.

I reached for the toilet paper and to my surprise, someone had put a roll of one-ply there. It's always two-ply, but it appears that someone bought a few crates of one-ply. I am Anti-One-Ply. One-ply tears as you pull it off the roll, not to mention when actually, uh... operating it. I can't imagine it saves anyone any money, because you have to use three times as much to get the same, er... capacity.

I wonder what kind of person could actually get away with using three squares. Then again, in the Middle East, they don't use any at all. I rode along on a Bahraini patrol craft while conducting maritime intercept operations in 2000 and sure enough, there was not a square to spare. I held out as long as I could, but I did eventually have to do it Arabian style. This experience has served me well in other third-world countries, unfortunately.

Sheryl Crow claims it was all a joke, but I would've thought she'd herald the enlightenment of the Middle Eastern cultures. Red wonders if she also uses three squares during Aunt Flo's monthly visits.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

American Bloggers for Inclusive Debates

I can only assume that I was dropped from the American Bloggers for Inclusive Debates inadverently or due to my infrequent posting. That's fine; dropping the extra blogroll from my sidebar helps PCIF load faster and saves some space.

Just the same, I like what they purport to stand for and will leave the link on the sidebar. Just FYI, if anyone is wondering.

UPDATE: Apparently, I'm still there or back on. Just, y'know, FYI.

Previous: My Point, and I Do Have One...

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mistakes Were Made

That phrase is the mistake. If I hear it again from a senior Bush administration official, I will be likely to bang my head on the closets solid object.

During Alberto Gonzales' testimony was when I started thinking about it again, and I made a note to vent about it. For everything the Bush Administration does right, they capitulate to criticism in the most passive-aggressive way. It must be this wishy-washy compassionate conservatism thing that the President ran on in 2000.

The problem is two-fold: one, that they backpedal and say that mistakes were made, when clearly none were. Quit apologizing all the damn time! Yes, It's an apology.

Two: The passive voice. The sentence in which there is no subject - no initiator of positive action. I find it ridiculously cowardly; so much for the courage of one's convictions. How about "I made a mistake"? Or "There are some areas which we could have done a better job"? Better yet, "No one made a mistake".

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Nothing Between the Lines to Read

I am fundamentally puzzed by people's need to blame people other than the perpitrators for the tragic events they cause, I assume that those people are somehow trying to extract meaning from the meaningless. In my experience, this results in confusion and misinformation more than anything else. The Cynical-C blog pretty much says it all on the VT massacre, as far as I'm concerned.

Some people are going on and on about lack of gun control being the problem. Personally, I'm with Fred Thompson, who is the other guy who probably won't run for President for whom I'd like to vote:
Whenever I've seen one of those "Gun-free Zone" signs, especially outside of a school filled with our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, I've always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at. Obviously, they don't mean much to the sort of man who murdered 32 people just a few days ago.
(Tin Foil Hat Tip: Born Again Redneck)

But this is driven by an anti-gun control agenda (or support of the Second Amendment, if you like), which I am in favor of. Perhaps it's a counter-arguement to the folks pushing gun control on account of this, but it still makes me uneasy that people are using these people's deaths to sell something.

Why blame anyone other than the crazy dude with the gun for this tragedy? What special meaning does any of these people hope to find in this event? What sort of decrepit evil does it take to use the event as a means of pushing an agenda? It was like blaming KMFDM for Columbine. I dig me some KMFDM, and I don't even own a gun, much less feel like shooting people.

Y'know, unless they're terrorists.

"Now Sid, don't you blame the movies, movies don't create psychos, movies make psychos more creative!" - Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis in Scream

Also Blogging:
Well, everybody, really... here's a few -
Pat Sajak: The Really Big Story (Maybe)
Crazy Politico's Rantings: Virginia Tech Tragedy and the Gun Debate Virgina Tech Shooting: I've Already Seen Enough <- entertaining conspiracy theories.
Dr. Helen: Does the US Need Better Reporting Laws for the Mentally Ill?

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So, I'm sort of on deployment right now, but not actually. The ship deployed as scheduled to perform Counter Narco-Terrorism Operations, and we were lucky enough to get a Caribbean port visit before transiting the Panama Canal in Cartagena, Colombia. Besides the liberty, an added benefit is imminent danger pay due to the presence of drug cartels and terrorists.

So we got to spend three days at anchor in Bahia de las Animas at the Colombian Naval Base. I only went out one night in the old Walled City, which has been turned into a plaza with lots of shops and restaurant. We ate at Cafe del Mar, which is actually built on top of the wall, overlooking the beach. We were able to sit at our table and watch the sun set. Since it was dark, I couldn't see my food when it came. It was come assortment of seafood, though and really tasty with that Chilean merlot. I bought a kilo of coffee, too, considering how fast I go through it. (I got a sweet new coffee maker in my stateroom with a timer and no pot, so I always have hot, fresh coffee available. It's all bungeed down and completely meets the requirements of my caffeine addiction.)

The second day, as I took over the duty, I got word from Doc that my Chief Electrician's Mate had broken an ankle while dancing. He's quite a character, especially on liberty, and has lots of stories about all the scar tissue he's accumulated over the years. He was out with some of the other chiefs and was bragging about what a good dancer he is, so they dared him to prove it. Except my Chief Engineman, who said he would leave if EMC started dancing. But, he saw EMC start to shake a little and they all cheered him on, told him to get on the dance floor. As soon as he went out there and tried to spin, he slipped on a loose tile and went down.

Naturally, they all laughed.

He hobbled all the way back, thinking he had sprained an ankle or torn a ligament and he refused to go to the hospital until the Captain ordered him to. Turns out he's broken his leg in four places, not his ankle, and he's going to need surgery and pins and two months of physical therapy at least. So we flew him home to Jacksonville.

The last day, I decided to stay on the ship. It's hot and humid and extremely uncomfortable if you're not into that kind of thing, which as a Minnesotan, I am not. We had to run all three air conditioning plants just keep it bearable inside the skin of the ship. I listened to a lot of "Weird Al" Yankovic, played some Civilization III, read some Ayn Rand, and went to bed at about 2300.

Around 0100 I started having this strange dream someone was pounding on my bulkhead and yelling, "Matt, there's a fire." Nobody calls me Matt on the ship, so I had to be dreaming the acrid smell of burning insulation as well. The quarterdeck watch rang the bells and called away a Class Alpha fire in the centerline passageway - That had to be a dream. Alpha fires are paper and wood and other similar combustible materials and there's no way anything like that was on fire in the certerline passageway.

Then I woke up. I was dizzy, I still wasn't comprehending exactly what was going on, except I saw smoke in my stateroom. I threw on my tennis shoes and said, "Air Boss, there's a fire!" Which was funny to him later, since he was the one pounding on the bulkhead earlier. I went out in the Officers' Country passageway and pounded on some of the other doors yelling, "There's a fire, get up!" and then out through wardroom into the cetnerline passageway, where smoke was billowing out of a fan room and filling the whole superstructure. I went out past the quarterdeck and down to the Central Control Station to get a handle on the situation. I was still a groggy from being roused out a dead sleep and there were a lot of conflicting reports about what was going on, so it took the watchstanders and I some time to figure out what was actually happening.

It turns out that the turbocharger on one of my ship's service diesel generators failed, causing extreme heat in the turbo and exhaust. That heat ignited the lagging on the exhaust designed to contain the ordinary exhaust heat and started a Class Alpha fire in the overhead of the diesel enclosure. That fire also burnt a lot of wiring inside the enclosure and caused other damage, not to mention the damage the seawater we use for firefighting caused.

We thought we'd be able to get patched up in Panama, but our Big Navy boss told us to go directly back to Mayport. So we went home two weeks after we left to get repairs done and get back out to sea as soon as we can. We got back Wednesday. It was a rough week. The fire happened on my birthday, too, which added to the fun. I can't wait to get back out there and run down some cocaine smugglers, but right now I'm just concentrating on getting my stuff fixed.

Anyway, no one got hurt and I'm deployed to, er, Mayport for the time being. Might be here long enough to be at Jack's first birthday, which would be cool, but I'd rather be underway doing what I'm supposed to be doing, honestly. It feels so wrong to be home right now, as much as I love it. Is that weird?

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