31 March 2007

Forever and ever

I was having a chat with somebody at work the other day, and something she said reminded me of a couple things from my Navy days, and how the Navy can affect the rest of your life.

For instance, there was an STS2 on Jax who was looking forward quite eagerly to his EAOS. Couldn't wait to get out, and get as far away from the Navy as he could. But, he said, he did have to give the Navy credit for making him grow up.

What my conversation at work actually reminded me of, though, was the more deleterious effects the Navy had had on a couple other people, such as a girl* I knew on the tender. We were sitting in her shop one day, talking, and she said, "You know, I used to be a lady before I joined the Navy. Now? I fart, I scratch, I burp, I cuss."

Didn't seem to be much I could say to that.

Then there was Roger. Roger was another RM2 on Oly (he'd been one class - two weeks - ahead of me going through SETTs and "C" school), and he was one of those religious types. Didn't cuss, drink, smoke, or engage in any of the other activities which are often, for some reason, associated with sailors. At first, that is. After a year on the boat, he still wasn't doing any of the other things (that I knew of, anyway), but he was swearing just as much as anyone else was. He actually said "f***" more than I did, I think.

And then one day, around two years after he'd reported in, he put in for three or four weeks of leave in the summer so he could go home and be a counselor at church camp.

A few weeks later he was doing maintenance on something or other, and it was being uncooperative. So much so, in fact, that he finally threw down his screwdriver and said, "[Expletive Deleted]!"

"Damn, Roger," I said, looking up from the teletype. "I sure wish I could be at that church camp with you this summer. I'd just love to see their faces the first time you open your mouth and start talking like a sailor."

Lasting effects, indeed....

* Oh, all right - "woman," if you insist. But she's a good fifteen years younger than I, so at the time she really wasn't much more than half my age.

30 March 2007

Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Tuskegee Airmen

The Congressional Gold Medal was presented yesterday to the Tuskegee Airmen by President Bush.

From the Desert Sun:
President Bush and congressional leaders gave the nation's top civilian award Thursday to about 300 black pilots and their crews who risked their lives in World War II for a country that treated them as second-class citizens.
Dr. Robert Higginbotham of Rancho Mirage and Rusty Burns of Palm Desert were among the Tuskegee Airmen who received the Congressional Gold Medal in the Capitol Rotunda.

"We made a sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty for a country that did not even recognize us as whole men," Higginbotham said after the ceremony.

For Higginbotham, who enlisted for military service in 1944 at age 18, the gold medal does not begin to atone for how he was treated by the country he served with valor. But he savored the recognition.

"The whole ceremony was very moving," said Higginbotham, a semi-retired medical doctor who turns 81 on Monday.

And from a column in the Albuquerque Tribune:
This isn't the State Fair parade. A Congressional Gold Medal goes to the few, the proud and, in the case of these amazing black men, the truly deserving.

A quick look at the medal system is in order. First, the Congressional Gold Medal is not to be confused with the Medal of Honor, which is given to military members only. Or the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is given out by the commander-in-chief.

The Congressional Gold Medal, which doesn't get awarded that often, is described as "awarded to any individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States."

The Tuskegee Airmen participated in more than 15,000 sorties on 1,500 missions. A thousand black pilots were trained and 150 were lost in battle or training. Sounds like an outstanding deed in the interest of national interest to me.

As for the medal itself, according to the office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives:
In addition to the requirement that all Congressional Gold Medal legislation must be cosponsored by at least two-thirds (290) of the Members of the House, specific standards are set forth by Rule VII (c)(vii) of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services's Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy when considering such legislation. Additionally, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee requires that at least 67 Senators must cosponsor any Congressional Gold Medal legislation before the committee will consider it.

Each medal is individually designed to reflect the recipient. Bronze replicas (full-size and miniature) of the medal are available from the US Mint.

Supercentenarian news

Back in January I wrote about Emma Faust Tillman (shown at left with her great-granddaughter Carol Stewart), who had just become the oldest verified woman in the world.

Unfortunately, that was when I was having computer problems, so I wasn't reading the on-line news, and I don't always get a chance to look at the paper. So it wasn't until this morning that I found out the rest of the story....

As noted in my previous post, Tillman - who was born 22 Nov 1892 - became the world's oldest woman on the death of Julie Winnifred Bertrand (16 Sep 1891-18 Jan 2007). Six days later, on 24 January, she became the world's oldest living person. From the Stamford (CT) Advocate:
Emma Faust Tillman, who marked her 114th birthday last fall by crediting God for her longevity, has become the world's oldest known person.

Tillman, born in 1892 to former slaves in North Carolina, earned the distinction Wednesday after the death of 115-year-old Emiliano Mercado del Toro at his home on the northern coast of Puerto Rico.


Mercado del Toro, whom Tillman replaces as the world's oldest person, died at his home in the town of Isabela, about 70 miles west of San Juan, of natural causes, his grandniece, Dolores Martinez told The Associated Press.

"He died like a little angel," Martinez said.

Mercado del Toro had been having difficulty breathing recently but was conscious and alert shortly before his death, Martinez said outside the family home.

At his death, he was with a great-grandnephew and a caretaker, she said.

Mercado del Toro became the oldest known person in the world last month when 116-year-old Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bolden died in December in a nursing home in Tennessee.

Four days later, Tillman set another record: Shortest time as the world's oldest person. From the CBC:
Emma Faust Tillman, who became the world's oldest-known living person last week, died at an East Hartford nursing home. She was 114.

Tillman, the daughter of former slaves, died Sunday night, said Karen Chadderton, administrator of Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center.

"She went peacefully," Chadderton said Monday. "She was a wonderful woman."

The world's oldest person is now Yone Minagawa (born 4 Jan 1893) of Japan. As of 22 March, the oldest living man - and 34th-oldest person - is Tomoji Tanabe (born 18 Sep 1895), also of Japan. Here in the US, the oldest living woman is currently Edna Parker (born 20 Apr 1893 in Indiana), and the oldest living man is Walter Breuning* (born 21 Sep 1896 in Montana), respectively the 2nd- and 72nd-oldest people in the world.

For a list of living supercentenarians (persons who have survived their 110th birthdays), see here.

* Pierro, mentioned in the Breuning article, died 7 January 2007 in Swampscott MA.

28 March 2007


I finally got around to adding a picture to my blogger profile. (Actually, I had picked one out several months ago, but it promptly disappeared before I could give it to my wife so she could scan it into her computer at work.)

That's not really the complete picture, though. It was clipped from this picture of my wife and me, taken at the Navy and Marine Corps Birthday Ball, at NAB Little Creek VA, back in '97.

The US Navy's official birthday is 13 October, and most Navy bases hold a ball or some other celebration around that time. (Except for submarine bases, that is; we tend to celebrate 11 April, the birthday of the submarine force, instead.) The official birthday of the US Marine Corps is 10 November, and again, most Jarhead bases hold some sort of event near that date. Little Creek being an amphib base, it has not only lots of sailors, but also lots of jarheads, so rather than hold two balls a month apart, they hold one combined ball somewhere in between the two birthdays.

Usually active-duty personnel are required to wear uniform (dress blue or better) to these events, but in '97 they forgot to specify that in the event announcement. So I broke out the kilt, and my mother-in-law made a new dress for my wife, and off we went. We attracted a bit of intention, of course - I even had a Jarhead bird colonel come up and introduce himself, saying he wished he could have gotten away with wearing his kilt instead of his evening dress "B" uniform.

Adriosaurus microbrachis

Remains from a 95-million-year-old marine creature with nubs for legs is clarifying how some lizards shed their limbs as they crept through evolutionary time and morphed into slinky snakes.

Described in the current issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the snake-like lizard had a small head and willowy body. Extending 10 to 12 inches from snout to tail, the aquatic creature also sported a lengthy neck and relatively large rear limbs. Missing were all the bones of its forearms, including the hands and digits found in modern lizards.

The oddball creature, Adriosaurus microbrachis, is a member of a lineage of lizards thought to be snakes' closest relatives.

More, including an artist's conception, here.

Extended space-station visit for Williams

It seems astronaut Sunita Williams (CDR, USN) is going to be staying up on the International Space Station a bit longer than planned.

From Gainesville.com:
Astronaut Sunita Williams is stuck in space - at least temporarily.

She flew up to the International Space Station last December planning to come home in early July after a seven-month stay.

When she comes back now will be a bit later than she planned.

The problem is that a hail storm that damaged the fuel tank of the space shuttle Atlantis has knocked NASA's flight schedule for the year out of whack.

CBC News (which has a nice picture of Williams doing a spacewalk*) adds this:
"This constitutes the worst damage from hail that we have seen on external tank foam," Wayne Hale, the manager of the space shuttle program, said in a written statement after the storm damage was assessed.

He said the damage was concentrated on the upper third of the enormous external tank, a section that holds liquid oxygen propellant. The shuttle had to be removed from the launch pad so that technicians could make the necessary repairs.

It will be a record-breaking stay - at least for American astronauts. USA Today says:
During her longer stay in space, Williams is expected to break the U.S. record for continuous time in space. Her current crew mate, Michael Lopez-Alegria, will set that record when he returns to Earth on April 20 in a Russian Soyuz vehicle with 214 days in space.

The longest stay in space was 437 days by Russian Valeri Polyakov.

In other space-related news, the Russian news agency Interfax has reported that the Progress M-58 cargo carrier, which docked with the International Space Station (ISS) last autumn, has been dumped into the Pacific Ocean approximately 3,000 km east of Wellington, New Zealand.

* Do they still call it an EVA when it's at the station?

27 March 2007

This day in history: 27 Mar

1625: Charles I became King of England, Scotland and Ireland on the death of his father, James VI and I.

1814: US forces under General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

1836: Antonio López de Santa Anna ordered the Mexican army to kill about 400 Texans at Goliad, Texas.

1917: The Canadian Cavalry Brigade made a mounted attack at Guyencourt, France. Lt F M W Harvey, of Lord Strathcona's Horse, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism.

1964: A magnitude 9.2 earthquake struck south central Alaska, killing 125 people and inflicting massive damage to the city of Anchorage.

1969: Mariner 7 was launched from Cape Kennedy.

2004: HMS Scylla (F71), a decommissioned Leander-class frigate, was sunk as an artificial reef off Cornwall - the first of its kind in Europe.

In addition to James I (1566-1625), Yuri Gagarin (1934–1968), M C Escher (1898–1972), Milton Berle (1908-2002) and Dudley Moore CBE (1935-2002) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Nathaniel Currier (1813-1888), Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923), Sir Henry Royce Bt (1863-1933), Carl Barks (1901–2000), Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-TBD), David Janssen (1931–1980) and Annemarie Moser-Pröll (1953-TBD).

25 March 2007

Victoria Cross: P. S. W. Roberts and T. W. Gould


Lieutenant, Royal Navy; HMS Thrasher

Born: 28 July 1917, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire


Petty Officer, Royal Navy; HMS Thrasher

Born: 28 December 1914, Dover, Kent

Joint Citation: On February 16th [1942], in daylight, H.M. Submarine Thrasher attacked and sank a heavily escorted supply ship. She was at once attacked by depth charges and was bombed by aircraft.
The presence of two unexploded bombs in the gun‑casing was discovered when after dark the submarine surfaced and began to roll.
Lieutenant Roberts and Petty Officer Gould volunteered to remove the bombs, which were of a type unknown to them. The danger in dealing with the second bomb was very great. To reach it they had to go through the casing which was so low that they had to lie at full length to move in it. Through this narrow space, in complete darkness, they pushed and dragged the bomb for a distance of some 20 feet until it could be lowered over the side. Every time the bomb was moved there was a loud twanging noise as of a broken spring which added nothing to their peace of mind.
This deed was the more gallant as H.M.S. Thrasher's presence was known to the enemy; she was close to the enemy coast, and in waters where his patrols were known to be active day and night. There was a very great chance, and they knew it, that the submarine might have to crash‑dive while they were in the casing. Had this happened they must have been drowned.

(London Gazette Issue 35591 dated 9 Jun 1942, published 5 Jun 1942.)

Medal of Honor: F. Franklin


Quartermaster, US Navy; USS Colorado

Born: 1840, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Died: 1873

Citation: On board the U.S.S. Colorado during the attack and capture of the Korean forts on 11 June 1871. Assuming command of Company D, after Lt. McKee was wounded, Franklin handled the company with great credit until relieved.

24 March 2007

Ship to be named after Jason Dunham

Corporal Jason Dunham, USMC, was awarded the Medal of Honor recently for his actions in Iraq on 14 Apr 04. (See citation below.)

From an article at Navy Newsstand:
The Department of Navy announced March 23 that the Navy's newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer will be USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), honoring the late Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Donald C. Winter, made the announcement in Dunham’s hometown of Scio, N.Y.

And from the USMC announcement:
Hundreds of students, teachers and veterans packed the gym of Scio Central High School as Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced that the name of the Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer would honor the memory of the Corps’ newest Medal of Honor recipient.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the United States Navy's next guided missile destroyer, DDG 109, will be named USS Jason Dunham,” said Secretary Winter.

Secretary Winter made the announcement in Dunham’s hometown with Dunham’s parents, Dan and Deb, and siblings in attendance.

The expected commissioning date for USS Jason Dunham is sometime in 2010. For more on the Arleigh Burke class, see here.



Corporal, United States Marine Corps; Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), First Marine Division (Reinforced)

Born: 10 November 1981, Scio, N.Y.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Rifle Squad Leader, 4th Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), Regimental Combat Team 7, First Marine Division (Reinforced), on 14 April 2004. Corporal Dunham's squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire erupt approximately two kilometers to the west. Corporal Dunham led his Combined Anti-Armor Team towards the engagement to provide fire support to their Battalion Commander's convoy, which had been ambushed as it was traveling to Camp Husaybah. As Corporal Dunham and his Marines advanced, they quickly began to receive enemy fire. Corporal Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy. Discovering seven Iraqi vehicles in a column attempting to depart, Corporal Dunham and his team stopped the vehicles to search them for weapons. As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Corporal Dunham. Corporal Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground and in the ensuing struggle saw the insurgent release a grenade. Corporal Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines to the threat. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast. In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Those pesky homophones

I have to admit that I've never been able to understand people who can't spell. Inability to distinguish between homophones (words which are spelt differently but pronounced the same, such as pair/pare/pear or here/hear) is included in that.

I just found an oldish (31 Jan 07) post on homophones at Brooklyn Arden. She covers nine sets of homophones, including the pair that annoy me most when I find an example of their misuse:
faze: (v) to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted; daunt.
The squid was unfazed by my display of underwater kung fu.
phase: (n) a stage in a process of change or development; (v) to plan or carry out systematically by phases.
Common Phrases: phase in; phase out
Many young squids go through a Goth phase; only rarely is it cause for concern.

In a later, largely unrelated, post she has included one other pair of homonyms:
discreet: (adj) judicious in one's conduct or speech, esp. with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect; showing prudence and circumspection; decorous; modestly unobtrusive; unostentatious
If you'd like to tell a secret / I would recommend a squid; / They will listen to your story / And close tighter than a lid. / They're discreet, restrained, remarkable, / All ego and no id; / For confidence in confidantes, / Always trust the squid.
discrete: (adj) apart or detached from others; separate, distinct
Then I spied five discrete sucker marks on the knife, and I knew: Jack the Squidder had struck again.

I love the sentences she has included to illustrate the correct use of the various words. They remind me of two truly outstanding books on grammar and punctuation (which I just discovered have been released in new editions, which I simply must have), The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed (here) and The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed (here). Both books were written by Karen Elizabeth Gordon, who has also written a dictionary I need to buy.

And I'd thank whoever it was that sent me to Brooklyn Arden in the first place, but I've forgotten who it was....

1st Military History Carnival coming up

Investigations of a Dog will be hosting the first Military History Carnival on 12 April. From the announcement:
I can now announce that the first Military History Carnival will be held here on Thursday 12th April. Once I’ve written the information page and added the carnival to Blog Carnival (probably by the end of tomorrow) submissions can begin.

I decided to go with Military History Carnival to show that military history can be broad and inclusive, and that the word “military” is nothing to be scared or ashamed of.

The cut-off date will be 1st January 2001, ie history will be defined as the 20th century and earlier.

H/T to Victoria's Cross.

23 March 2007

Burrowing dinosaurs in Montana

From the Beeb:
The fossil remains of small dinosaurs that burrowed into the ground have been found by scientists in Montana, US.

The 95-million-year-old bones are from an adult and two juveniles and were unearthed in a chamber at the end of a 2.1m-long sediment-filled tunnel.

The researchers say the discovery is the first definitive evidence that some dinosaurs dug dens and cared for their young in such structures.


The Montana dinosaurs have not been seen by palaeontologists before and have been given the scientific name Oryctodromeus cubicularis, meaning "digging runner of the lair".

And from Montana State:
The 95-million-year-old bones of an adult Oryctodromeus cubicularis and two juveniles were found jumbled together in a burrow about 15 miles from Lima, Montana State University paleontologist David Varricchio said in an online paper published March 21 by the British scientific journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Co-authors were Yoshihiro Katsura, a former MSU graduate student, and Anthony Martin from Emory University in Atlanta.

"The presence of an adult and two juveniles within a denning chamber represents some of the best evidence for dinosaur parental care," Varricchio said. "The burrow likely protected the adult and young Oryctodromeus from predators and harsh environmental conditions. Burrowing behavior may have allowed other dinosaurs to survive in extreme environments such as polar regions and deserts and questions some end-Cretaceous extinction hypotheses."


H/T to Afarensis.

Silly words

Nancy, at Journey Woman, has declared 31 March to be Silly Words Day. And she's offering a $10 Starbucks gift card to the lucky winner of her Silly Words contest:
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find and post your 3 personal favorite silly words in the English language. You have 10 days to come up with your words.

When you find your words, post them on your blog and send me the link. You don't have to wait until March 31, but on March 31 I'll publish all the links, and ...
So I'm going with

Your turn....

Submarine haiku

I was inspired (I think that's the right word, anyway) to write some submarine haiku a few days ago.

SSN at sea:
Fast and black, never come back.
Flooding drill today.

Moves silently through the deep -
Five knots to nowhere.

DBF!! But now
Only fast boats and boomers
Are in our Navy.

Just two kinds of ships -
Submarines and their targets.
Going deep is good.

On the snowy pier
A shivering topside watch
Waits for his coffee.

Topside wants coffee?
He'll have to wait until I
Finish my next round.

(For the non-bubbleheads who read this, an SSN is a fast-attack submarine, an SSBN is a ballistic-missile submarine, and "DBF" means "Diesel Boats Forever." "Fast and black and never come back," "Five knots to nowhere," and "There are two kinds of ships: Submarines and targets" are common sayings in the submarine force.)

22 March 2007

Two killed in accident aboard HMS Tireless

From the BBC:
Two British sailors have died in an accident on a nuclear submarine.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed there had been an explosion on HMS Tireless during an exercise under the Arctic icecap at 0420 GMT on Wednesday.
One other member of the crew of the Devonport-based submarine was injured and is receiving medical treatment.
Failed air-purification equipment is thought to have caused the explosion. The MoD expressed its "deep regret" and said an inquiry would be carried out.

From the Scotsman:
The accident occurred when a chlorate candle, used to produce oxygen, exploded during a training exercise.


The accident took place at 4:20am yesterday, while the submarine was under the Arctic icecap during a joint British-US exercise, about 170 miles north of Alaska.

The MoD said one sailor was killed instantly by the force of the blast, while the other died after inhaling poisonous fumes.

Chlorate candles have been used to create oxygen on submarines since the Second World War, usually as an emergency measure if the vessel's rises to dangerous levels. According to the navy source, one such candle was ignited yesterday on board HMS Tireless, as a part of training.

He added: "Something went wrong. It's not clear yet what happened, and whether the ratings [non-commissioned sailors] died from the force of the explosion or from burns. The boat had to breach the ice cap, which its crew are trained for, and it was able to do so without any problem."

(Photo from 2004.)

Update 0823 23 Mar: The Royal Navy has released the names of the two sailors killed in the accident. The BBC has them here.

21 March 2007

In a hole in the ground there lived....

ZUI this.
Asked to design a fitting repository for a client’s valuable collection of J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts and artifacts, architect Peter Archer went to the source—the fantasy novels that describe the abodes of the diminutive Hobbits.

The result is beautiful. I want one!

This day in history: 21 Mar

1556: Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake.

1918: The German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael, began. Ten British soldiers and a Canadian airman were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions on that day.

1963: The federal penitentiary at Alcatraz, in San Francisco Bay, closed.

1965: Ranger 9, the last in a series of unmanned lunar space probes, was launched from Cape Canaveral (then known as Cape Kennedy).

1970: Vinko Bogataj, a Slovenian ski-jumper, wiped out during the International Ski Flying Championship in Oberstdorf, West Germany.

1980: J R Ewing was shot.

1999: Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth in a hot air balloon.

In addition to Cranmer (1489-1556), Rebecca Rolfe, aka Pocahontas (ca 1595-1617), Cyril M Kornbluth (1923-1958), Robert Preston (1918-1987), the Reverend W V Awdry (1911-1997) and Ernie Wise (1925-1999) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881), Forrest Mars Sr (1904-1999), James Coco (1930-1987), Timothy Dalton (1946-TBD) and Gary Oldman (1958-TBD).

18 March 2007

I'm so queasy; my head is spinning.

It's a well-known fact (amongst submariners, anyway) that "Happiness is four hundred feet in a state-six sea." According to this, sea state six involves waves from 13.5 to 19 feet in height. However, all of that wave action is at the surface; go deep enough, and you can't even tell that they're having weather up there on the top of the ocean.

I was only seasick enough to puke once; that was when I was on the skimmer, and I blame it on the meds I was taking at the time. I admit that I did find myself feeling a little uneasy a few times, but I found out early on that two things would make that feeling go away: Get something solid into my stomach, and lie down.

Other people, of course, reacted differently. On the Oly, for instance, we had the FTG1 who would be running for the head before the boat was even fifty yards away from the pier.

And then there was a certain young ensign on the skimmer. (Note that I wasn't there for this incident, but I had several people swear to me that it really happened, so....) Repair Department wasn't really a part of ship's force - it was actually a separate UIC, in fact - and most of Repair didn't stand watches when the ship was under way. R-4 (Tron Repair), however, supplied two of the three watch sections for the Combat Information Centre (CIC).

Now, skimmers don't follow the sensible six-on-eighteen-off watch schedule that submarines do. They do four-hour watches instead. Three watch sections standing four-hour watches in a 24-hour day, of course, means that people will stand the same watches every day (ie, the same section will always have the midwatch). They correct for this by "dogging" the afternoon - splitting it into two two-hour watches, thus making seven watches during the day. This means that depending on where you are in the rotation, you'll get four, six, or eight hours off between watches. And since they only serve three meals a day - no midrats - it's a little difficult to work meals into your schedule. But I digress....

This ensign (whom we'll call Smith, because after all these years I haven't the faintest notion what his name really was) was standing watch on his first underway, and the weather was a little rough. And one of the watchstanders was an ET1 named Jeff, who was munching away on a snack or two between plotting contacts. Noting that the ensign was getting a little green around the gills, Jeff called out, "Hey, Mister Smith - want a cookie?" And ENS Smith looked up to see that Jeff was offering him a sort of sandwich, made of two Oreos and a sardine (with mustard sauce).

They said the ensign set a new speed record running from CIC to the nearby head.

Submarines, of course, normally stay deep. But there was one time on Oly when we were out providing services, and the OpOrd for some reason called for us to be on the surface for an hour or so at one point. And the weather started getting rough....

We surfaced right around the time the cooks started serving lunch. I was in the first group of four called to the mess decks - and one of only a dozen or so people who actually did eat lunch that day. Lunch was Mexican-style that day: Frijoles and burritos (or something similar) from the serving window, and a huge bowl of serve-yourself taco salad sitting on the counter at the forward end of the mess decks. I went in, got my plate, sat down at the table right next to the scullery door, and commenced chowing down. I'd just finished eating when we took a roll to starboard, and I had to grab my stuff to keep it from ending up on the deck.

Then we rolled back to port. I more or less teleported the length of my table, bounced off the chap seated at the outboard table, and ended up sitting on the deck with everything off my table in my lap. Everything, that is except for my plate, which had successfully made the jump from my table to the outboard one. So I stood up, dumped things back onto the table for the mess cooks to take care of, handed my plate, &c, in to the scullery, and went up to Radio to relieve the watch.

Remember my rules for coping with seasickness: Eat something and lie down. After the offgoing RMOW departed, I shut the door behind him and stretched out on the deck, me feet braced against the door and my head next to one of the equipment racks. And I stayed there, watching all of the paperwork slide out of people's in-boxes onto the deck as we continued to slosh back and forth.

Over the white rat I could hear the XO in control, calling out the clinometer readings - and some pretty interesting reading they were, indeed. I missed the OOD's watch relief, but I heard about it later from those who had been in Control. Normally, after the new OOD has taken the watch, he calls out, "Helm, Quartermaster, this is Soandso; I have the deck and the conn." This time it was the Weps, and his announcement was "Helm, Quartermaster, this is Lieutenant Russell; I am on the deck and I have the conn." Seems he was seated on the deck at the time, with his back firmly up against the QM stand and his feet braced against the coamings of the scope wells.

We finally went deep, the rocking and rolling stopped, and I stood up and took a good look around. And the first thing I noticed was the gigapig. This piece of test equipment - a spectrum analyser, as I recall - weighed around seventy pounds, and lived in a puka at the top of one of the equipment racks. The one I had been lying under. It wasn't bolted in, but was instead held by two honkin' big tie-wraps (you know, those plastic zip-strip thingies) and two pieces of white line (string, to you).

Ever see tie-wraps pull loose? These two had. Both of them. And those two little pieces of white line were the only thing that had kept the gigapig from falling out of the rack and landing on top of me as I lay there on the deck.

I was still standing there staring at the gigapig when the 1MC announcement came: "All hands not on watch, lay to the crew's mess to assist with cleanup." I was out the door like a shot, and down the ladder to look at the mess decks. And then I ran for my rack to get my camera, so I could take a couple of pictures* before returning to Radio, secure in the knowledge that I was on watch and didn't have to get involved.

Everything off the tables - tablecloths, condiments, plates, &c - was on the deck. The coffeepots had emptied themselves onto the deck. The bug-juice machines had sloshed out onto the deck. The ice-cream machine had emptied itself - out the top - onto the deck. That big bowl of taco salad I mentioned? On the deck. A couple of lockers had popped open, and there were packages of napkins and other things on the deck, too.

And then there was the soda syrup. Back in those days we had a soda dispenser, just aft of the scullery window, by the bug-juice machine. It was fed with #10 cans of syrup, which were kept between the bench lockers in the crew's mess. A score or so of those cans had come adrift during the rocking and rolling, and at least a dozen of them had had holes punched in them as they banged against things. So all of the other items on the deck were connected by this huge puddle of brown goo....

Clean-up efforts were successful, of course, and all the off-watch people got to go back to their racks. But it was a couple of months before the last of that brown goo stopped leaking out from behind the CRES trim around the edge of the deck.

* That was one reason I waited to write this post - I was hoping to find those pictures and get them scanned in so I could use them to illustrate this post. No such luck.

Victoria Cross: C. H. Upham


Second Lieutenant (later Captain), 20th Battalion 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (Canterbury Regt)

Born: 21 September 1908, Christchurch, New Zealand

Citation: During the operations in Crete this officer performed a series of remarkable exploits, showing outstanding leadership, tactical skill and utter indifference to danger.
He commanded a forward platoon in the attack on Maleme on 22nd May [1941] and fought his way forward for over 3,000 yards unsupported by any other arms and against a defence strongly organised in depth. During this operation his platoon destroyed numerous enemy posts but on three occasions sections were temporarily held up.
In the first case, under a heavy fire from a machine gun nest he advanced to close quarters with pistol and grenades, so demoralizing the occupants that his section was able to "mop up" with ease.
Another of his sections was then held up by two machine guns in a house. He went in and placed a grenade through a window, destroying the crew of one machine gun and several others, the other machine gun being silenced by the fire of his sections.
In the third case he crawled to within 15 yards of an M.G. post and killed the gunners with a grenade.
When his Company withdrew from Maleme he helped to carry a wounded man out under fire, and together with another officer rallied more men together to carry other wounded men out.
He was then sent to bring in a company which had become isolated. With a corporal he went through enemy territory over 600 yards, killing two Germans on the way, found the company, and brought it back to the Battalion's new position. But for this action it would have been completely cut off.
During the following two days his platoon occupied an exposed position on forward slopes and was continuously under fire. Second Lieutenant Upham was blown over by one mortar shell, and painfully wounded by a piece of shrapnel behind the left shoulder, by another. He disregarded this wound and remained on duty. He also received a bullet in the foot which he later removed in Egypt.
At Galatos on 25th May his platoon was heavily engaged and came under severe mortar and machine-gun fire. While his platoon stopped under cover of a ridge Second-Lieutenant Upham went forward, observed the enemy and brought the platoon forward when the Germans advanced. They killed over 40 with fire and grenades and forced the remainder to fall back.
When his platoon was ordered to retire he sent it back under the platoon Serjeant and he went back to warn other troops that they were being cut off. When he came out himself he was fired on by two Germans. He fell and shammed dead, then crawled into a position and having the use of only one arm rested his rifle in the fork of a tree and as the Germans came forward he killed them both. The second to fall actually hit the muzzle of the rifle as he fell.
On 30th May at Sphakia his platoon was ordered to deal with a party of the enemy which had advanced down a ravine to near Force Headquarters. Though in an exhausted condition he climbed the steep hill to the west of the ravine, placed his men in positions on the slope overlooking the ravine and himself went to the top with a Bren Gun and two riflemen. By clever tactics he induced the enemy party to expose itself and then at a range of 500 yards shot 22 and caused the remainder to disperse in panic.
During the whole of the operations he suffered from dysentery and was able to eat very little, in addition to being wounded and bruised.
He showed superb coolness, great skill and dash and complete disregard of danger. His conduct and leadership inspired his whole platoon to fight magnificently throughout, and in fact was an inspiration to the Battalion.

(London Gazette Issue 35306 dated 14 Oct 1941, published 10 Oct 1941.)

Citation: Captain C. H. Upham, V.C., was commanding a Company of New Zealand troops in the Western Desert during the operations which culminated in the attack on El Ruweisat Ridge on the night of 14th-15th July, 1942.
In spite of being twice wounded, once when crossing open ground swept by enemy fire to inspect his forward sections guarding our mine-fields and again when he completely destroyed an entire truck load of German soldiers with hand grenades, Captain Upham insisted on remaining with his men to take part in the final assault.
During the opening stages of the attack on the ridge Captain Upham's Company formed part of the reserve battalion, but, when communications with the forward troops broke down and he was instructed to send up an officer to report on the progress of the attack, he went out himself armed with a Spandau gun and, after several sharp encounters with enemy machine gun posts, succeeded in bringing back the required information.
Just before dawn the reserve battalion was ordered forward, but, when it had almost reached its objective, very heavy fire was encountered from a strongly defended enemy locality, consisting of four machine gun posts and a number of tanks.
Captain Upham, without hesitation, at once led his company in a determined attack on the two nearest strongpoints on the left flank of the sector. His voice could be heard above the din of battle cheering on his men and, in spite of the fierce resistance of the enemy and the heavy casualties on both sides, the objective was captured.
Captain Upham, during the engagement, himself destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades and although he was shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and had his arm broken, he went on again to a forward position and brought back some of his men who had become isolated. He continued to dominate the situation until his men had beaten off a violent enemy counter-attack and consolidated the vital position which they had won under his inspiring leadership.
Exhausted by pain from his wound and weak from loss of blood Captain Upham was then removed to the Regimental Aid Post but immediately his wound had been dressed he returned to his men, remaining with them all day long under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire until he was again severely wounded and being now unable to move fell into the hands of the enemy when, his gallant Company having been reduced to only six survivors, his position was finally over-run by superior enemy forces, in spite of the outstanding gallantry and magnificent leadership shown by Captain Upham.
The Victoria Cross was conferred upon Captain Upham for conspicuous bravery during the operations in Crete in May, 1941, and the award was announced in the London Gazette dated 14th October, 1941.

(London Gazette Issue 37283 dated 26 Sep 1945, published 25 Sep 1945.)

Note: Upham is the only combat soldier who has been awarded the Victoria Cross twice. (Two other men have been awarded the medal twice, but both were doctors.)

Medal of Honor: B. F. Fisher


Major, US Air Force; 1st Air Commandos

Born: 11 January 1927, San Bernardino, California
Died: TBD

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On that date [10 Mar 1966], the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800 foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the battle, Maj. Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Maj. Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Maj. Fisher's profound concern for his fellow airman, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

Note: Major Fisher was the first person to receive the USAF version of the Medal of Honor.

16 March 2007

A new/old cat species

From the WWF:
Gland, Switzerland – Scientists have discovered that the clouded leopard found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra is an entirely new species of cat. The secretive rainforest animal was originally thought to be the same species as the one found in mainland South-east Asia.


Researchers at the US National Cancer Institute say the differences between the Borneo and mainland clouded leopard were found to be comparable to the differences between other large cat species such as lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar and snow leopard. They believe the Borneo population likely diverged from the mainland population some 1.4 million years ago.

“Genetic research results clearly indicate that the clouded leopards of Borneo should be considered a separate species,” said Dr Stephen O'Brien, Head of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, US National Cancer Institute. “DNA tests highlighted around 40 differences between the two species.”

The Bornean clouded leopard was originally classified as a distinct species, Felis diardi (or diardii), but has long been considered to be a subspecies of Neofelis nebulosa. Now that it's being reclassified as a separate species again, it's being referred to (though not yet officially) as N. diardi.

H/T to Darren Naish, who has a good post, with some excellent pictures (including the one I copied above), here. You can read more about it here and here. See here for more about N. nebulosa.

12 March 2007

Biggest squirrel ever

ZUI this post from Tetrapod Zoology.

Truly incredible....

Dr Naish also has a very interesting post about sebecosuchians (Mesozoic and early Cenozoic crocodilians).

Note: Baurusuchus picture from here.

This day in history: 12 Mar

1912: The first Girl Scout meeting in the United States was held at the home of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low.

1928: The St Francis Dam, in California, failed shortly before midnight; the official death toll from the resulting flood stands at 495, though undocumented farm workers are not included in this figure.

1933: Franklin Delano Roosevelt held the first of his radio "fireside chats," on the topic of banking.

1930: German troops invaded Austria.

1951: Dennis the Menace, drawn by Hank Ketcham, first appeared in newspapers.

1968: Mauritius became independent from the United Kingdom.

1999: Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic became members of NATO.

Cesare Borgia (ca 1475-1507), Giuseppe Petrosino (1860-1909), William George Barker VC (1894-1930), Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985), Sir Yehudi Menuhin OM KBE (1916-1999) and Robert Ludlum (1927-2001) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Gustav Kirchhoff (1824-1887), Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), Wally Schirra (1923-TBD), Harry Harrison (1925-TBD) and Barbara Feldon (1932-TBD).

11 March 2007

25 years

Twenty-five years ago today I reported in to NTC Great Lakes to start boot camp. And what a lot of changes those twenty-five years have made....

At that time, a couple months before my 28th birthday, I'd been in a total of nine states - all in the Midwest - and had never been out of the country. My furthest north was in the wilds of far-northern Wisconsin; my furthest south was St Louis.

In the next 21.5 years I visited 29 more states, as well as twenty US territories and foreign countries. I visited Asia and Europe, and both flew over and passed through a corner of Africa (though I still haven't actually set foot in that continent). I crossed the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cancer (not in that order), though I didn't quite make it to the equator; my furthest south now is a point somewhere to the south of the southern end of the Panama Canal. I've flown across the Atlantic four times, and the Pacific once. On three submarines and one surface ship I've visited a total of 33 ports. I spent three years in Hawai`i, and almost three in Scotland. And I've been through the Panama Canal once, and the Suez Canal five times. "Join the Navy and see the world," indeed!

Hard to believe it's been three and a half years already since I retired. Lots of great memories, and a few cool souvenirs. (Someday I may get all my "funny money" all together in one place: Canadian dollars, yen, Hong Kong dollars, pesos, baht, won, pounds, escudos, pesetas, kronor, lira, drachmae, dirhams, dinars, francs, euro and tolarjev.) I'd like to get a denim jacket and decorate it with the flags of all the places I've been: the US flag at the top, then the twenty others, and the flags of Panama and Egypt (representing the canals) at the bottom.

I think the thing I miss the most about the Navy is the thirty days a year of leave time, but I also miss the travel, and all the neat places I've been. Someday I'd like to go back to a few of those places, taking my family with me. But the best part of retirement is being able to stay at home every night with that family.

Victoria Cross: M. D. Wanklyn


Lieutenant Commander, Royal Navy; commanding HMS Upholder

Born: 28 June 1911, Calcutta, India

Citation: On the evening of the 24th of May, 1941, while on patrol off the coast of Sicily, Lieutenant‑Commander Wanklyn, in command of His Majesty's Submarine Upholder, sighted a south‑bound enemy troop‑convoy, strongly escorted by Destroyers.
The failing light was such that observation by periscope could not be relied on but a surface attack would have been easily seen. Upholder's listening gear was out of action.
In spite of these severe handicaps Lieutenant‑Commander Wanklyn decided to press home his attack at short range. He quickly steered his craft into a favourable position and closed in so as to make sure of his target. By this time the whereabouts of the escorting Destroyers could not be made out. Lieutenant‑Commander Wanklyn, while fully aware of the risk of being rammed by one of the escort, continued to press on towards the enemy troop‑ships. As he was about to fire, one of the enemy Destroyers appeared out of the darkness at high speed, and he only just avoided being rammed. As soon as he was clear, he brought his periscope sights on and fired torpedoes, which sank a large troop‑ship. The enemy Destroyers at once made a strong counter-attack and during the next twenty minutes dropped thirty‑seven depth‑charges near Upholder.
The failure of his listening devices made it much harder for him to get away, but with the greatest courage, coolness and skill he brought Upholder clear of the enemy and safe back to harbour.
Before this outstanding attack, and since being appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Lieutenant‑Commander Wanklyn had torpedoed a tanker and a merchant vessel.
He has continued to show the utmost bravery in the presence of the enemy. He has carried out his attacks on enemy vessels with skill and relentless determination, and has also sunk one Destroyer, one U‑boat, two troop‑transports of 19,500 tons each, one tanker and three supply ships. He has besides probably destroyed by torpedoes one Cruiser and one Destroyer, and possibly hit another Cruiser.

(London Gazette Issue 35382 dated 16 Dec 1941, published 12 Dec 1941.)

Medal of Honor: W. H. Downs


Private, Company H, 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry

Born: 1870, Mount Carmel, Connecticut
Died: 1929, Jamestown, North Dakota

Citation: With 11 other scouts [on 13 May 1899, at San Miguel de Mayumo, Luzon, Philippine Islands], without waiting for the supporting battalion to aid them or to get into a position to do so, charged over a distance of about 150 yards and completely routed about 300 of the enemy who were in line and in a position that could only be carried by a frontal attack.

10 March 2007

Russian fishermen catch squeaking alien and eat it

From the English-language version of Pravda:
Village residents from the Rostov region of Russia caught a weird creature two weeks ago after a strong storm in the Sea of Azov. The shark-looking creature was producing strange squeaky sounds. The fishermen originally believed that they had caught an alien and decided to film the monster with the help of a cell phone camera. The footage clearly shows the creatures’ head, body and long tail. The bizarre catch was weighing almost 100 kilograms, the Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.

However, ufologists and scientists were greatly disappointed when they found out that the fishermen had eaten the monster. They said that they were not scared of the creature so they decided to use it as food. One of the men said that it was the most delicious dish he had ever eaten.

Read the rest of the story here.

How (not) to conduct yourself in court

ZUI this public service announcement from LawDog.

Good things to keep in mind, should the occasion ever arise.

05 March 2007

Kids and toy guns

ZUI this piece from the Washington Post.
As the father of four kids younger than 9, I confess to being an overly obsessive and doting parent. I secretly follow my 8-year-old son, Benjamin, when he goes out on his bike, to make sure that he doesn't ride in the middle of the street. I hover inches over my 18-month-old daughter, Madie, at the playground to make sure that she doesn't eat sand. I am the very model of the risk-averse parent. Yet for some parents in my neighborhood, my kids and I are the risk to be avoided, even if it means removing their children when we show up at the park. The reason: toy guns.

I first noticed the "shunning" at the most unlikely of events. Each year on Labor Day, my Alexandria community has a "Wheel Day" parade in which hundreds of kids convert their bikes, scooters and wagons into different fantasy vehicles. Last year, we turned our red wagon into a replica Conestoga wagon with real sewn canvas over wooden ribs, wooden water barrels, quarter horse -- and, yes, plastic rifles. It was a big hit and the kids won first prize for their age group. The celebration, however, was short lived. As soon as one mother spotted the toy rifles inside the wagon, she pulled her screaming children out of the event, announcing that she would not "expose them" to guns.


While such "zero-tolerance" parents still seem to be a minority, this is a scene that seems to be repeating itself with increasing regularity. To these parents, my wife and I are "gun-tolerant" and therefore corruptors of children who should be avoided. Not only are such toys viewed as encouraging aggressive behavior and violent attitudes, they are also seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes, with boys playing with guns or swords and girls playing with dolls or cooking sets.

My wife and I are hardly poster parents for the National Rifle Association. We are social liberals who fret over every detail and danger of child rearing. We do not let our kids watch violent TV shows and do not tolerate rough play. Like most of our friends, we tried early on to avoid any gender stereotypes in our selection of games and toys. However, our effort to avoid guns and swords and other similar toys became a Sisyphean battle. Once, in a fit of exasperation, my wife gathered up all of the swords that the boys had acquired as gifts and threw them into the trash. When she returned to the house, she found that the boys had commandeered the celery from the refrigerator to finish their epic battle. Forced to choose between balanced diets and balanced play, my wife returned the swords with strict guidelines about where and when pirate fights, ninja attacks and Jedi rescues could occur.
Guy has some good points.

04 March 2007

Victoria Cross: F. C. Schiess


Corporal, Natal Native Contingent, South African Forces

Born: 7 April 1856, Bergedorf, Berne, Switzerland

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry in the defence of Rorke's Drift Post on the night of the 22nd January, 1879, when, in spite of his having been wounded in the foot a few days previously, he greatly distinguished himself when the Garrison were repulsing, with the bayonet, a series of desperate assaults made by the Zulus, and displayed great activity and devoted gallantry throughout the defence. On one occasion when the Garrison had retired to the inner line of defence, and the Zulus occupied the wall of mealie bags which had been abandoned, he crept along the wall, without any order, to dislodge a Zulu who was shooting better than usual and succeeded in killing him, and two others, before he, the Corporal, returned to the inner defence.

(London Gazette Issue 24788 dated 2 Dec 1879, published 2 Dec 1879.)

Note: ZUI this (though it lists his given names in the opposite order from every other site I've checked).
Edited 15 Apr 07 to include complete text of citation.

Medal of Honor: Mad Bear


Sergeant, Pawnee Scouts, US Army

Born: Nebraska
Died: unknown

Citation: Ran out from the command [at the Republican River, Kansas, on 8 July 1869] in pursuit of a dismounted Indian; was shot down and badly wounded by a bullet from his own command.

02 March 2007

CVO awarded for services to children's literacy

I finally got a chance to look at the New Year Honours List for 2007, though I haven't had time to read it in detail yet. Just scanning through it, I didn't see any names that meant anything to me immediately, but one entry under the Royal Victorian Order did catch my eye:

To be Commanders:
Peter Charles ORTON. For services to Children’s Literacy.

Looking around the Web, I found an article from the Swindon Advertiser.
The creator of Bob the Builder and president of Wootton Bassett Rugby Club has been fixed up with an honour from the Queen.

Peter Orton, who was the brains behind the children's TV character and last summer's children's party at Buckingham Palace, has been appointed a Commander of the Victorian Order by Her Majesty for his contribution to children's literacy.

Mr Orton founded the children's TV production company, HIT Entertainment, where Bob the Builder started his life and where Thomas The Tank Engine, Barny the Dinosaur and Pingu have their homes. He has lived on a farm in Wootton Bassett for 28 years and said he was humbled by the royal honour. "To be appointed to the Victoria Order by Her Majesty is incredibly humbling, but also incredibly exciting," he said.


Mr Orton will receive the appointment from Her Majesty on Wednesday, June 20, the anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession, at Buckingham Palace.

Another good sea story from Bothenook

Read it here.

Fortunately, I was on leave the day my division had to go to the dump to dig for the crypto....

Sniff, sniff...

Back in '75, I started working in a bakery, with all the fruits and spices and other things. It was interesting work, and I enjoyed it while it lasted, though since I am not a morning person, the hours - 0400-1200 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (I had Wednesdays off); 0300-1100 Saturday; and 0200-0800 every second or third Sunday - kind of sucked. Around the same time, I started working in the nursery at church every Sunday, with all of the diapers and, ah, other stuff. And after about three months of this sensory overload, my nose said, "That's it - I'm not playing any more." And while I left the church in '78, and the bakery in '80, my nose still doesn't work properly.

They say that the sense of smell is a very important factor in enjoying the taste of food. I haven't noticed any real problems in that regard (what did affect my enjoyment of food was boot camp, where we had to rush through each meal in order to make room in the galley for the next company - I still haven't kicked the habit), but when it comes to sniffing flowers, or perfumes, or whatnot, forget it. Often I'll get a faint whiff of something the first time I try it, but after that, nothing.

Anosmia ("no sense of smell") can actually be a blessing under certain circumstances. For instance, on my second boat, I was standing U/I watches as COW. Our ETC had the Dive in that section, and he'd be sitting there the entire watch, merrily farting away. Those were some fairly noxious fumes he was creating - even the guy in the far corner of Control was gagging - but I could sit right next to ETC and not notice a thing.

I'm not the only one with this sort of thing. Did you ever hear that old line about "don't put beans up your nose"? On my first boat there was a chap whom I'll call Michael*, whose parents used to tell him that when they would go out for the evening, leaving him at home alone. Now Mike probably wasn't what you'd call an average child to begin with - he has a scar on his lip that he says is the result of his biting a lamp cord when he was a toddler - but even he wouldn't have come up with such a ridiculous notion if his mother hadn't suggested it. But she did, and of course he had to try it.

And so one night his parents came home to find him with a snootful of beans. They removed the beans, and chastised him thoroughly, and that - theoretically - was the end of the matter. Except that a few days later, Mike came down with a headache. Which turned into a bad headache. Which turned into a really bad headache. They took Mike to see a doctor, who asked questions, poked and prodded, and finally reached a conclusion.

They'd missed a bean.

To quote Mike: "The bean didn't know anything about noses. All it knew was that it was in a warm, dark, moist place." So it did what beans do when they find themselves in warm, dark, moist places - it sprouted. And it was the bean sprout, trying to drill through the bones of Mike's skull, that was causing the headache.

The legumectomy was successful, but when the bean came out, Mike's sense of smell went with it. Permanently. Which all, I suppose, goes to show that if you really don't want your kids to do something, maybe it's best not to tell them that....

* Because according to my almanac, Michael was the most popular name for American boys born around the time he was.

"Whiskey in the Jar"

It's time for Friday poetry again. I'm not sure if songs really count as poetry, but they do have meter and (usually) some sort of rhyme scheme. And of course, as Professor Harold Hill said, singing is nothing more than sustained talking - right?

There's a old, traditional Irish folk song called "Whiskey in the Jar." Like other old, traditional folk songs, there are about as many variations on it as there are people singing it. This guy's, for instance, or this guy's, or this guy's, or this guy's (scroll down a bit; it's in the lefthand column). And if for some reason you're not familiar with the tune, you can find a MIDI file here.

And then came the early '60s, and two wonderful people - Tommy Smothers and his little brother Dickie - who gave us this version:

As I was goin' forth to the North Pole so merry
I met a St. Bernard, he was short and squat and hairy.
So I drew forth this stick and was gettin' set to heave 'er
Sayin', "Fetch and deliver, for you are a born retriever!"

Chorus: Mush-a-ringum-durum dar
Whack fol the daddy-o
Whack fol the daddy-o
There's whiskey in the jar.

Up around his neck, there was hung a keg of whiskey,
Now and then Old Rover took a snort and got so very frisky.
As he chased the stick he would do a tricky waddle,
Though he really wasn't tricky, he was pie-eyed from the bottle.


I threw the stick so far, it was kinda hard to trace it.
Ol' Rover said, "Bow, wow!", and was gettin' set to chase it.
But a car came driving by and he changed his mind and sought it,
Though I knew he couldn't drive one, not even if he caught it.


Well, that's about the end of my song and poor Ol' Rover.
He caught it in a fan-belt, and his rovin' days are over.
That poor retriever lies b'neath the ground so cold and chilly
And I have to fetch the stick myself. Boy! Do I look silly!


01 March 2007

Medal of Honor awarded for Vietnam service

President Bush awarded the Medal of Honor this week to LTC Bruce Crandall, US Army (ret), for service in the Ia Drang Valley on 14 Nov 1965. This was an upgrade of the Distinguished Service Cross that Crandall was originally awarded.

The citation reads:

Major Bruce P. Crandall distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as a Flight Commander in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). On 14 November 1965, his flight of sixteen helicopters was lifting troops for a search and destroy mission from Plei Me, Vietnam, to Landing Zone X-Ray in the la Drang Valley. On the fourth troop lift, the airlift began to take enemy fire, and by the time the aircraft had refueled and returned for the next troop lift, the enemy had Landing Zone X-Ray targeted. As Major Crandall and the first eight helicopters landed to discharge troops on his fifth troop lift, his unarmed helicopter came under such intense enemy fire that the ground commander ordered the second flight of eight aircraft to abort their mission. As Major Crandall flew back to Plei Me, his base of operations, he determined that the ground commander of the besieged infantry batallion desperately needed more ammunition. Major Crandall then decided to adjust his base of operations to Artillery Firebase Falcon in order to shorten the flight distance to deliver ammunition and evacuate wounded soldiers. While medical evacuation was not his mission, he immediately sought volunteers and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the two aircraft to Landing Zone X-Ray. Despite the fact that the landing zone was still under relentless enemy fire, Major Crandall landed and proceeded to supervise the loading of seriously wounded soldiers aboard his aircraft. Major Crandall's voluntary decision to land under the most extreme fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue to land their own aircraft, and in the ground forces the realization that they would be resupplied and that friendly wounded would be promptly evacuated. This greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time. After his first medical evacuation, Major Crandall continued to fly into and out of the landing zone throughout the day and into the evening. That day he completed a total of 22 flights, most under intense enemy fire, retiring from the battlefield only after all possible service had been rendered to the Infantry battalion. His actions provided critical resupply of ammunition and evacuation of the wounded. Major Crandall's daring acts of bravery and courage in the face of an overwhelming and determined enemy are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Book list - Feb 07

In High Places - SF, by Harry Turtledove
The Gods of Mars - SF, by Edgar Rice Burroughs *
Fool Moon - modern fantasy, by Jim Butcher
Panzer Commander - memoirs, by Hans von Luck
Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel - history, by Frances and Joseph Gies *
The Road to Infinity - science essays, by Isaac Asimov
The Subatomic Monster - science essays, by Isaac Asimov
Mapping Human History - palaeoanthropology, by Steve Olson
The Journey of Man - palaeoanthropology, by Spencer Wells *
At the Water's Edge - palaeontology, by Carl Zimmer
Final Blackout - SF, by L Ron Hubbard *
The Warlord of Mars - SF, by Edgar Rice Burroughs *
Far As Human Eye Could See - science essays, by Isaac Asimov *
The Dancing Dodo - thriller, by John Gardner *
Guerilla - WW I, by Edwin P Hoyt
The Winds of Change - SF (short stories), by Isaac Asimov *
The Tinkling Symbol - mystery, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
Re-Birth (aka The Chrysalids) - SF, by John Wyndham *
Sandbar Sinister - mystery, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
The Last Trump - thriller, by John Gardner *
Flandry of Terra - SF, by Poul Anderson
Agent of the Terran Empire - SF, by Poul Anderson *
Beyond the Farthest Star - SF, by Edgar Rice Burroughs *
Voorloper - SF, by Andre Norton
Young Rissa - SF, by F M Busby
Unexpected Death - mystery, by Dell Shannon *
Old Bones - mystery, by Aaron Elkins *
Anthropol - SF, by Louis Trimble *
Some Survived - WW II, by Manny Lawton
Sos the Rope - SF, by Piers Anthony *
Blitzkrieg - WW II, by Len Deighton
The Land of Hidden Men (aka Jungle Girl)- adventure, by Edgar Rice Burroughs *
Lallia - SF, by E C Tubb
Snake Eater - mystery, by William G Tapply
Past Tense - mystery, by William G Tapply

(Books marked with an asterisk were rereads.)

Averaged better than a book a day this month - nowhere near what I was doing in high school, but still much better than I've been doing the last few years. All the time I spent in bed last month whilst sick certainly helped. Maybe I should just forget about getting the computer fixed....