Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Scary Weekend

The Wife came home on Friday, feeling unwell.  Fever, chills, achy, a bit of a temp.  Luckily, both of the girls were still at daycare, so we had time to implement Infection Containment Protocol (ICP, pronounced ‘ick-pea’) ALPHA.  ICP ALPHA is activated whenever a single adult member of the family is exhibiting symptoms indicating exposure to an infectious, possible airborne pathogen.  Under ICP ALPHA, the exposed individual is physically isolated from the remaining family members in hopes that the infection can be contained.  If the containment area is breached, we can transition to other ICPs, like BRAVO (one adult and one child infected).  ICP CHARLIE is when both children are infected.  Each one has a specific set of rules that are designed to contain the infections while still maintaining a semblance of normalcy/sanity.

When we hit BRAVO or CHARLIE, all efforts are focused on avoiding ICP OMEGA, where all four of us are sick.  The only thing to do during an ICP OMEGA event is smear some lamb’s blood on the door and hope for alms from friends and neighbors until the infection runs its course.

As far as the ICPs go, things looked pretty good on Saturday.  I was fine, and neither Aggie nor The Pirate was exhibiting any symptoms, but The Wife was still pretty bad.  At about 1:00 that afternoon, she finally called an urgent care doc to get an appointment.  The girls and I stayed home and waited.  The Pirate took a nap, and Aggie sat on the sofa with me to watch some TV.  About 5 minutes after The Wife left, I felt something really warm on my arm, almost hot.  I looked down to see Aggies’ head resting on my forearm.  Uh-oh.

I grabbed the thermometer.  She’s 100.7. 

Me: “Do you feel OK?”
Aggie: “No.”
Me: “Come with me and don’t touch anything.  We’re activating ICP BRAVO.”

I texted The Wife, and informed her of the situation.  Aggie was isolated, placed in our bed, and given ibuprofen.  The Wife informed me that the doctor confirmed a diagnosis of Strep, complete with a fever of 104.  The Pirate and I were keeping our distance as best we could, with baby gates serving to keep babies in and 5 year olds out. 

No sooner had The Wife arrived home than she was back in the car with Aggie to go back to the exact same doctor for the exact same diagnosis.  I would have taken Aggie, but that would have broken protocol, allowing an uninfected individual come into close contact with an infected one.  That would have guaranteed an ICP OMEGA lockdown.  The next 24-36 hours were going to be fun.  I thought every tickle in my throat was a symptom.  Every ache, no matter how small, was the onset.

As with most things, prior planning is everything.  With ICP BRAVO strictly enforced, we made it through the contagion period without The Pirate or me getting sick.  Aggie was a bit disappointed (we were supposed to visit Grandma and Grandpa on Sunday), but understood.  All is (more or less) back to the way it should be.  Which is nice.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Bittersweet Day

A little over 4 years ago, The Wife and I signed up to be sponsor parents at the U.S. Naval Academy.  Sponsors act as a sort of home away from home for a midshipman, a refuge from life on The Yard.  Yesterday, we watched as 4 of the most extraordinary young women we’ve ever met walked across the stage to receive their diplomas and took the Oath of Office as commissioned officers the Navy and Marine Corps (hoo-rah).

A midshipman’s first, or Plebe, year is a tough, demanding ordeal, both mentally and physically.  There is also almost no escape from it.  The Plebes are only allowed liberty on a handful of weekends that first year, but whenever she was able, we brought her home for the weekend to relax.  And wear something other than her uniform.

One of the things we were told during sponsor orientation was “if you feed them, they will come”.  How true that was.  We love to cook, and are always looking for new things to try.  By the end of Plebe year, we had 3 additional Mids making semi-regular visits to our home.  The more the merrier. 

So much has happened over the past 4 years.  Countless loads of laundry, dozens of trips to Brewster’s for ice cream, way too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (are you sure there’s nothing on the Military Channel you’d rather watch?), rugby games followed by washing the team’s uniforms.  Aggie had just learned how to walk when we med our mids on sponsor introduction day, and today marks her last day of pre-school.  She has grown up with the mids, and thinks of them as big sisters.  By the way, there’s nothing cooler than a sofa cushion fort made by a bunch of engineering students.  The Pirate arrived towards the end of their junior year, and all the mids were so helpful in those chaotic first months.  The Pirate is as comfortable with them as she is with us.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the mid’s "real" families, who obviously did all of the heavy lifting in raising these women.  We got more out of this experience than you did, and we’d be more than happy to do it all over again. 

As of today, they are out of our nest, at least until they feel the need to drop by.  Two have already left and are en-route to their ships, one heads out the The Basic School in July, and the last departs in mid-August for Pensacola to begin flight school.  That being said, there will always be room in our home and our hearts for them.

Congratulations to our "girls" and the rest of the USNA class of 2012. Welcome to the fleet!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Planes, Fries, and Flowers

Since the weather was so nice last weekend, I decided to take Aggie* to the Andrews AFB Air Show.  Actually, it is now the "Joint Service Open House at Joint Base Andrews", but that seems like a bit of a mouth-full if you ask me.  The military sure does love to make the names of things longer than they really need to be.

Despite the absolutely perfect weather, the show wasn't all that crowded.  We walked around for a little bit, until we found a nice spot of shade under a C-20's horizontal stabilizer, courtesy of the good folks at VR-48.  Note to air show guests:  the brown stuff leaking out of the bottom of the engine nacelle is probably oil.  The blue liquid leaking out of the bottom of the fuselage is most certainly not oil.  You probably shouldn't be touching it.  Or smelling it.

Since we were both hungry, we bought the world's most expensive hotdog and fries, and lunched to the wonderful sounds of P&W Radials and R&R Merlins.  I don't care who you are, but there is nothing in the world like a P-51, wide open, at low altitude.  I need a moment just thinking about it...

In any case, we enjoyed the fries and the shade for about an hour or so, when Aggie announced (just prior to the Raptor demo) that she was ready to go home.

"Don't you want to see some more airplanes?"

"No.  I'm good"

"Are you sure?  I can tell you why the EA-6B refueling probe is installed at an angle.  Or how thrust vectoring works."

"Nah.  I just want to ride on the shuttle bus again."

Oh well, she did put up with it for over 2 hours.  And we did see the Raptor demo while walking back to the bus.  It may have some O2 problems, but that plane did some pretty impressive things.  Also, while it may be stealthy, it sure as heck isn't silent.

At this point, you're probably wondering where all the pictures are.   Honestly, I didn't really take any.  You can find far better pictures of just about anything they had using the good old Google machine. 

After an uneventful ride home, we found The Wife hard at work in the garden. 

Aggie seemed pretty interested, so we got some gardening gloves and joined in the fun.

To be honest, there was more posing than actual digging/planting.  But that's OK.  Working hard is only worthwhile if you look FABULOUS while doing it.  Right?

By now it was time for The Pirate to wake up from her nap, so we grabbed a blanket and some toys to spend some time in the yard.  I don't know about you, but she seemed to enjoy it.  A lot.

I figure this might be a good place for some gratuitous pics of the girls being cute. 

A good time was had by all, and once we're well and truly done planting all the flowers, I'll put up some pictures.

* On Names:
My daughters are Aggie and The Pirate.  Aggie just turned 5, and The Pirate just turned one.  Their Noms du Blog are based on their initials.  Aggie's are AG, and The Pirate's are, well, something pirates say.  I wish they were cooler stories, like one was born in Texas, and the other was born whilst sailing the Spanish Main, but the truth is (as usual) rather mundane.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Two Birthdays in One!

One of the advantages (maybe) of having two kids with birthdays three days apart is that you can have joint birthday parties.  At least while they're young.  We'll see how well this works out when they turn 8 and 12.

About 2 months ago, Aggie, (the elder) announced that she wanted a Richard Scarry Busytown theme for her fifth birthday party.  Seeing as how I grew up reading his books too, I was thrilled.  The Wife ordered all the accoutrements, and even made a Busytown cake.

It's a little hard to see from this angle, but the cake is a road shaped like the number 5.  We had to sort through a lot of M&Ms for the decorating.  Ate a lot of orange ones that day, my friend.

We played "Pin the Tail on Huckle" and a good time was had by all.

Aggie wasn't the only one having a birthday.  The Pirate turned one, which was a big milestone, even if the birthday girl was not completely aware of what the hubub was all about.

She got some cake, but didn't quite know what to make of it.

 At least she tried it, which is all we can ask.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Planespotting With the Girls

About a week ago, daycare was closed for the day, so I had the girls for the afternoon. Earlier that week, I stumbled across a story in the base newspaper about a planespotting park near BWI.

The Thomas A. Dixon Observation Area is part of the BWI Trail, a county-administered park and playground just to the south of Runway 33L.

I have to say, it was pretty cool. They even had a playground with slides and swings. For some reason, Aggie* (the 4 year-old) lost interest after the 7th or 8th Southwest Airlines 737 come in for a landing. In fact, this is the only picture she would allow me to take of her.

* New nicknames for the kids. Aggie is the older one, and The Pirate is the little one.


Got a little sidetracked by life.

I did manage to post a few things over at The Lexicans, here and here.

I'm working on some original content for here as well. I'll get there...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Traditions and Economic Realities

One of the things that you learn by being in the military is that traditions mean something. They’re important. We wear swords and sabers. We get medals and ribbons. We salute. Some of these things, like the salute, are functional. They remind us of where we stand in the pecking order. That’s good in a more-or-less fully functioning meritocracy. Some are purely window dressing. Sure, my ribbon rack is a short-form resume, but the sword is only good for cutting cake and impressing the ladies.

“Oh my. It’s so… long.”

Where was I? Oh, right. Tradition.

Sometimes, traditions fall victim to economic reality. We have to do away with things because it just doesn’t make sense to spend the money. We used to have (in the Navy at least) up to four different clubs on the larger bases and stations. There was the E-Club, the Acey-Ducey Club, the Chief’s Club, and the hallowed grounds of the Officer’s Club. It’s pretty rare to find even 2 clubs these days. Oceana still has an E Club and an O Club, but that’s pretty rare. Cutbacks. As a club become less frequented, it becomes harder to justify the expense. Ergo; the “Combined Club.” All ranks welcome. We don’t discriminate.

Which has its plusses and minuses. Neither of which are the subject of this post.

As I said, I realize that there are economic realities that force us to change well-loved, nay, beloved traditions. Things we have known about for as long as we remember. Cherished parts of our collective past we are loathe to surrender. I get it. We must, on occasion, yield.

But not this.

This is not forgivable. And it’s a shame.

Cross-posted at The Lexicans.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Teachable Moment

I joined the Navy Reserve in the spring of 1999 through the Advanced Pay Grade (APG) Program. APG was for non-prior service folks to leverage life and work experience to forgo the normal 8 weeks of boot camp. The typical enlistee would see a recruiter, take the usual battery of tests, and choose a rate. The initial pay grade was dependent on education level and applicable work experience. Sometime during the first year of drilling, the enlistee would attend a 12-16 day abbreviated boot camp. If I’m not mistaken, the Navy has done away with the program, and all non-prior enlistees now attend the full 8 week boot camp at Great Lakes.

I enlisted as a Seaman (E-3) in May of 1999. I was issued my uniforms, got all my shots, and was told to report for duty the first weekend in June.

Some of you may have already seen the flaw in this cunning plan. Granted, Navy uniforms aren’t all that complicated, but can you imagine being handed a stack of clothes and being told when to show up and be expected to know what went with what? Don’t even get me started on protocol. I somehow muddled through without getting too much of an a$$ chewing before I got to APG School and was taught what jacket went with what uniform.

In any case, there was one drill weekend in that first year I remember quite well. We were wearing the old winter blues, which consisted of a black shirt, black tie, and black pants. It was known in the fleet as the “Johnny Cash”.

Did I mention that I had a cat at the time? Yeah. That’s important to the story.

So there I was, standing in line for something, and I hear a voice behind me.

LCDR: Seaman Jeopardy, do you have a cat?

Me: Yes ma’am. Her name is Hester Prynne.

LCDR: Thant’s nice. Seaman Jeopardy, do you own a lint roller?

Me: [gulp] Yes ma’am.

LCDR: Seaman Jeopardy, is your lint roller in your car?

Me: [trying to look casual while frantically picking cat hair off my uniform] No, ma’am.

LCDR: Perhaps it should be…

Me: Aye, aye, ma’am.

After that, I never left the house without a lint roller. It was the month after my cat died when I stopped carrying it with me every drill weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Katy Perry - Bada$$

Will ya lookie here. Songstress Katy Perry has a new video out, and its pretty cool. See for yourself. I'll be here when you get back.

Seeing as there's military content in the video, I feel required to mention the mistakes I saw.

1) Katy, why did you cut your hair in the bathroom? I'm pretty sure they'll cut it for you when you get to recruit training.
2) I thought we did away with bayonets. Maybe I'm wrong on that.
3) I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to talk, much less sing in formation.

There were probably others, but I was distracted by her, um, talent.

In all seriousness, my hat's off you you Ms. Perry. Nicely done.

I'd also like to add that should you ever decide on a career in the military, I'd be proud to serve under you in any position.

P.S. Feel free to look me up when you're visiting Canoe U. next month.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bigger Than I Thought*

I wrote last week about the death of Carroll "Lex" LeFon and what he meant to me. In that post I mentioned that the regulars were all sharing stories and remembering a remarkable man. I knew he had followers and fans, but I didn't think there were so many. I'm not sure any of us did.

As of now, there have been over 1,500 comments on the "Open Thread." There have been over 150 blogs who felt it worthy to mention his passing and to memorialize him. A rundown of some of these blogs can be found here. Some of the regular commenters have set up a... well... let me just say this; "the first rule of super-secret Neptunus Lex Facebook club is that you don't talk about super-secret Neptunus Lex Facebook club." The Secretary of the Navy saw fit to personally comment on his death. The U.S. Naval Institute has pledged to preserve Lex's writings and publish the manuscript he wrote a few years ago.

The local paper in Fallon has 2 wonderful articles about Lex, that I think give a terrific insight into the community he built.

Of Friday and Saturday of last week, there were no fewer than 25 remembrance events (most a the same time) all across the country, from Bath Maine to San Diego California. The Wife and I went to the one in Lex's hometown of Alexandria. It was like meeting old friends you've never met before, if that makes any sense. There was laughter, tears, and Guinness. For strength.

*I wanted to open with a "that's what she said" line, but thought better of it. Lex probably would have liked it, though.

In space, no one can hear you say "Holy crap that's cool!"

For all of its faults, the Space Shuttle was still a marvel of engineering.

"The Stack" weighed in at a hair under 4.5 million pounds, and it took a lot of power to get that much mass into orbit. The fully loaded orbiter weighed 240,000 pounds, about the same as a 16"/50 Mk 7 gun barrel from an IOWA-class battleship.

That means roughly 95% of the total launch weight* was fuel to get the shuttle into orbit.

After the loss of the Columbia in 2003, NASA mounted external cameras on the External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters to monitor debris strikes during ascent. Not only did this improve the safety of the shuttle, it gives us stunning views like the one below.

The sound was re-mastered by Skywalker Sound, so I suppose George Lucas can be forgiven for some of the sins committed in the prequels. But not Jar-Jar.

* I'm well aware of the difference between weight and mass, nerd. This isn't a physics class.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Prowlers and the Big E

The U.S.S. Enterprise put to sea a few days ago on her last deployment, some 50 years after her first.

As is the custom, the Air Wing (all the planes) arrived a day or so later in what is called a "fly-on." At the end of this deployment, the air wing will depart the ship a few days prior to her arrival in Norfolk in what is not-so-surprisingly called a "fly-off."

Pretty cool plane pr0n, even if the only Hornet in the video bolters at the 2:15 mark. Yeah. I almost missed it too. Based solely on this video, it would appear that Carrier Air Wing One has one Hornet (still circling the ship), one Hawkeye, a few Greyhounds, and about 50 Prowlers. Maybe this is some sort of CHINFO disinformation campaign to lull our enemies into thinking that the "flying drumstick" is all we've got.

Or maybe scare our enemies.

Prowlers are pretty bad-ass machines, if I do say so my damn self, and the Growler is nothing to sneeze at.

In any case, ships come and go. A very good friend of mine served as a CAT Officer on the Big E back in the late 60's. Long hair, beards, Phantoms, A-3Ds, A4-s, and Spads. Shore leave in the Philippines.

When she is decommissioned, the U.S. Navy will be without a U.S.S. Enterprise either in service or in the pipeline for the first time in a VERY long while. As we dither about naming ships after people for the sake of political expediency and clout, we're losing sight of our heritage.

And that's a shame.Link

Friday, March 9, 2012

Joseph Kony and the LRA

So, there's a YouTube video making the rounds these days. "Went viral" as the youngsters say. It's about the Lord's Resistance Army and their leader, Joseph Kony.

The video is about 30 minutes long, and if you really want to get technical about it, I haven't actually, you know, watched it. That being said, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Kony is probably not portrayed as someone you'd want to have over for dinner.

I've worked Africa issues from a number of different perspectives since late 2005, and not to sound too much like a hipster douchebag, but I was aware of this particular issue before it was hip to be.

So my question is this... Why now?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

9 Years

9 years ago today, I married the woman of my dreams.

I don't think we've changed all that much. Sure, I have a little less hair and more ribbons, but all in all, we're looking pretty good.

And we have these...Yeah, the little one is new since you were here last. I have lost more to share. Don't worry. I'll be back. In the meantime, I have to start looking for the perfect gift for the big 1-0 next year. Wikipedia says I should get her this...

What say you?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Huge Loss

Been a while, hasn't it? I wish I could come back to blogging for a better reason. Lost a friend yesterday. A whole community lost a friend today.

Carroll LeFon (aka Neptunus Lex) was killed yesterday in a mishap aboard NAS Fallon. He was flying an F-21 Kfir as a contract pilot working with the U.S. Navy.

At first, I couldn't put words to my thoughts about this. The only thing I could come up with was a string of shouted expletives that did not befit a man of such eloquence and dignity. No, that wouldn't do. Not for Lex.

The regulars at his site were a family, albeit one where most of the member had never actually met. Some of them were even regular readers here, back when I was posting more often.

His talent for the written word was boundless, and his intellect razor sharp. He made all of us readers laugh, cry, get mad, and most importantly, think. I had the honor of chatting with him a few times via email, and always promised myself that we'd meet up in person next time he was in town. Next time. Sometimes, there isn't a next time.

His loss may be devastating to the milblogging community, but it is nothing compared to that being felt by his family. If you've ever read what he wrote about them, you'd know that he loved his family more than anything.

Over at his place, the "regulars" are searching for answers and dealing with the loss. Praise and sorrow abound in the comments. Join them, won't you? Read some of his archived posts. Say a prayer for his family. Leave a comment.

When your life has been enriched by someone like Lex, its almost a compulsion to do something meaningful when they're gone. Since he got me into this blogging thing, maybe that's how I can honor his memory. Start blogging again.


Today, I mourn the passing of an officer, gentleman, husband, father, and friend.