Saturday, December 26, 2020

Some amusing happenings and points to ponder

Somewhere along the line I completely lost control of this post. I should just kill it and start over, but I'm not gonna do that. In the immortal words of the littlest, "No!"


Before I get stuck in, here's a blast from the past, Corpsman Chronicles the Deuce. Which is titled number one, because I can't count or something.


In many ways December was a train wreck of sorts, at least until Monday.

I suspect I was subconsciously avoiding a bag of emotional pain. My mind and heart seem to have been protecting me at several levels since Alexzandra died. To employ a half-assed analogy, it's like I had a lot of breakers popped and the heart/mind are only resetting them as they are able to take load.

As the winter solstice arrived something clicked and a breaker was reset. There's a lot of emotional current flowing through the reset circuit, but it's handling the load. With this particular circuit functioning I can see, at least in part, how fogged I've been. It's a revelation. I'm not quite sure how to explain what I feel and see now, but I think I'm going to be able to push out and do a better job of livin'. This is something I didn't expect, an emotional and cognitive state I had no idea could exist. In a way it's a growing thing, and growth is good. To butcher another analogy, with the winter solstice the sun began moving back north and the days began to get longer. Winter will clench her icy fist and spring is still a quarter of a year away, yet the kernel of spring is germinating in my mind and in my heart. In those places a new spring has begun, and it feels right and proper and good. The me I was a year ago is gone forever. The new me is changed very much. Perhaps for the better. It feels that way.


Yesterday was Christmas, and Christmas 2020 was magical.

Noisy at times, but beautiful noisy.


I've had a few email conversations with the burgle. I almost believe I'm conversing with a hoomin burgle, but this one has not yet passed the Turing test. HeSheIt (first name only of course, in this case Sadiq) has keyed a few apologetic words but mostly proclaimed the fact that their sole purpose for being is to keep people safe. So primarily HeSheIt, if human, is a deceitful liar. Which is a good thing to know. At any rate I'm working on a new blog site which I hope to unveil soonish. In the meantime I'm still here. When I get shifted I'll get the word out through the milblog grapevine.


I hope this post isn't too terribly disjointed. Once again I've been writing it in dribs and drabs. Every time I get stuck in it seems something comes up. Mind you, I'm not complaining. The things that come up these days are filled with beauty and wonder, even though they sometimes have rough edges. I am blessed beyond measure.


As a sexagenarian in good standing...

Er, what's that?

Well, yes, the girls often refer to me as a sexy sexagenarian. More commonly as simply, um, Sexy. There's often a lot of whistling. Girls are good whistlers. None of which is, ahem, germane to the topic at hand...

Yes. As frequent readers will attest, some time ago I developed the hypothesis that old people should fall down a lot.

It's pretty simple, really. As upright biped ape-lizards who move about by walking on a single pair of legs -- for those keeping score at home that's a mere two points of contact with the ground 😉😈 -- we're gonna fall down.

As we get older we're still gonna fall down. As we get older we also get weaker, less flexible, more unsteady on our feet, and more fearful of falling. When we go down it's more of a struggle to get up than it was back in the days of our youth.

All of the above combines to make us more prone to injury when we fall. We're more likely to flail around in all sorts of weird dance moves as we struggle to regain balance, and when we fall from these contorted positions we have a much greater chance of hurting ourselves. These silly dances we do seem to be designed to put us in exactly the proper position to maximize chances of injury.

If you look at the numbers it's pretty clear that falls are a major problem for old ape-lizards. They kill many of us outright and cause injury which leads to death and/or sharply reduced quality of life for even more of us.

So guess what? We're still upright bipedal ape-lizards, and we're gonna fall.

So we're firetrucked, right?

Not so fast, shipmate.

If we're not yet in WTD* mode, with body failing to the point that we cannot, as opposed to will not, do physical stuff, we can train to make falling and getting back up more or less the same routine non-event it was a few years ago. The foundation of fall protection -- and many other wonderful things! -- is increased physical fitness.

But wait, there's more!

Are we terrified of the wuhandromeda strain? Are we at least concerned that if we get slammed by any form of influenza it might finish us? The first is a bad idea on stilts. The second is a reasonable concern. Is there something we can do to increase our chances of weathering a viral attack on our respiratory system?

Yes. We can increase our cardio-respiratory fitness. The better our heart and lungs are working the better they will be able to withstand a battle against viral and bacterial pulmonary attack. Is there a guarantee of triumph with increased cardio-pulmonary fitness? Of course not. It does, however, increase our chances.

"Now wait just a minute, Sonny," we might say, "I'm old and I just can't do that stuff anymore!"

That may be true. But it's probably not. We might not be able to snap instantly back into NFL linebacker shape, but when we apply our brains (not our tee-vee brains!) and put things in proper scale, context, and perspective, we realize that most people aren't NFL linebackers, yet there are a lot of people in good shape, and there are even a lot of old people in good shape. If we continue to apply our own personal brain to the concept, we will quite probably conclude that there's a difference between can't and won't. We might also conclude that if we haven't tried, we don't yet know whether we can't or won't be able to increase our physical fitness.

Ball's in our court. As the little green dude said, do or do not; there is no try.

A little personal story. Back in 2016 when I was ailing with a bone infection I decided to do 10 pushups one day. As it turned out I was able to do three pushups. I recognized how poor my overall fitness was; that even though I could do a bit of physical labor and walk around pretty good, I was really a fat, unfit firetruck.

A few days ago I did 1,000 pushups. Twenty sets of 50. Not all at once, no. Between 6 and 10 a.m. I completed 700, at work. After work I did 300 more.

Way back in 2016 I didn't just start banging out 1,000 pushups. I knew for certain back then that there was no way I'd ever be able to do 1,000 pushups in a day. It was a concept which couldn't exist in my mind, let alone be a real challenge. The certainty of my knowledge, as it turns out, was a case of won't rather than can't.

Do we all need to be able to do 1,000 pushups? Of course not. Do we all need to increase our physical fitness? Of course not.

Now wait a minute Jim, I thought this was going to have something to do with old-people fall protection!

Sorry, you're right.

One important key to a successful fall program -- that is a consciously planned program to survive falling with the least injury possible -- is to learn how to take a fall properly. Remember, it's gonna happen. If it's gonna happen, we might as well do it right. Right?

And of course, based on my long ago aircrew training which is still embedded in my core muscle memory, this is the real way to do it!

Learning to fall correctly is important. So is learning to get back up.

The point, once again, is that us elderly folk should not only be acquainted with the ground, we should spend some time there every day.

So why all this safe falling boolsheet? How about an amusing happening?

The other day I charged into work full of piss and vinegar. Upon arrival I realized that I'd left my hearing aids at home. Hearing-wise, this would be no problem; I can hear perfectly well (ish) at work. But what I cannot do at work without my hearing aids is stream podcasts. And while I can do the job of widget production perfectly well without podcast entertainment, I muchly prefer to do it with podcast entertainment.

So, I decided to quickly drive home and fetch the hearing aids, a trip which would take 10 minutes. Being full of piss and vinegar, I made a conscious decision to embark on the journey sans sweatshirt and gloves. Just a bit of a challenge. Life should have challenges. It was cold out and there had been a skiff of overnight snow, but there was essentially no wind. I departed and made the two-minute drive, patting myself on the back all the way. All those bundled up people had no idea what they were missing! As I got out of the hiccup (little one speak for pickup) I stepped onto a half-inch of new snow. Which had accumulated over a patch of smooth ice. My feet instantly shot out from under me and I went down hard. Thanks to muscle memory my body properly dissipated energy by executing an abbreviated PLF.


I scraped my left elbow. Bashed it good, every bit as good as a five year old on roller skates.

I also let my keys go sailing and they disappeared into the snow.

I sprang to my feet and took stock of my situation. I was balanced on the edge of an emotional cliff. Should I be pissed or pleased? I decided to be pleased, even though I was shivering and wet and bleeding and dressed in wind pants and a sleeveless tee shirt in swirling snow and stinging cold. This, I decided, was one of those livin' moments. I was in the middle of suck but I was performing well and as I should. I wasn't gonna bitch and moan and feel victimized, I was gonna feel blessed by exquisite challenge.

And in truth it wasn't much of a challenge. I pawed through the snow and found my keys, hurried quietly inside, grabbed my hearing aids, and zipped on back to work.

"Hey," said the fellow I work next to, "you're bleeding!"

"Can I get a second opinion on that?"

I looked at my elbow and realized it was bleeding pretty good, running down and dripping on the floor. A little direct pressure soon brought it under control and I was able to tell a suitably embellished story while I mopped up the blood dribbles.

It was a good way to start the day, and the day included 500 pushups and 100 flights of steps by 10 a.m.

That night, just after midnight, I woke with a great deal of radiculopathy pain. Clearly my PLF hadn't prevented increased swelling and nerve impingement. The pain is manageable, but I'd rather have less. Nonetheless, stretching, motion, step running, and NSAID's continue to be successful management tools.

And in case you were wondering, pushups are part of stretching. They certainly help to reduce the radiculopathy and they are giving me some serious guns, which is kinda cool.

Another cool thing on the pushup front is that I've realized I can execute a near-unlimited number on any given day. Wednesday I did 1,800. In one part of my mind that seems crazy and impossible. But when I channel the gift the navy gave me, it's just a thing. No big deal. 

So is there a moral to the story? Perhaps it's this. Being prepared in body and mind to accept and push through life's challenges is a pretty good gig, at least for me. Sometimes things suck and are incredibly hard, but if I do the stuff I can do and rely on God to do for me what I can't do, the whole livin' thing is fantastic.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

*WTD mode = Waiting To Die mode. There'll be time for that later.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020



Here's a recycled Corpsman Chronicle. I updated it earlier today but since (I think) it lives over on the sidebar and therefore on a separate page it didn't jump up to the top of the heap here on the main page. It's something I should be able to figure out but I'm a bit short on spare cycles and brain power just now.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Fight's on, fight on through

Sublimation. It's not just a good idea, it's physical law.

Self portrait.

It snowed! An inch...

Nona can play; she understands "stay out of the street."

Tommy? Not so much. Pitiful whine.


Well, my entire burgle account keeps getting suspended in response to claims that I'm violating tos and noospeke standardizations. I am not, it seems, sufficiently joined up with the cancel cancer. Anyway, it takes way too much time and effort to keep getting it unsuspended so the next time I'm going to bail.

I have the blog downloaded to a hard drive so I'll be able to migrate content to a better home. That's looking quite doable but also a lot of work; as soon as I gather up some spare cycles I'm gonna dedicate some heartbeats to the projekt.

I may or may not be back here, depends what happens re my account. Regardless, I'm going to depart for a better place sooner rather than later and leave the whole don't be weevil dumpster fire behind.

Fortunately I know who is behind the claims and they're far too stupid to follow me. They've also crossed the rubicon, so we're all good on that front.

Like anything else in life there's good and bad in this situation and the good ultimately outweighs the bad.

For those keeping score at home I finally broke the 4/minute pace on my step running. It's a case of faster rather than harder. Didn't see that coming, but what a pleasant discovery. There are no days lacking miracles and wonder. Some days also have yucky stuff, but that's just part of the deal.
Not allowed.

Not allowed

Really not allowed.


Last Tuesday was a pain day. I had a lot of pain, the miserable, grinding radiculopathy pain. My left leg was at once burning, stinging, and aching. On the 1-10 scale I was at 5 most of the day, and that shot up overnight. Pain rating is purely subjective though, so the self-disclosed rating doesn't tell you a lot.

My subjective numerical rating is probably overblown, particularly in light of the fact that I never considered abandoning my post at the widget foundry. I ran steps, too.

That last bit might seem crazy, but when you understand the anatomy and physiology of spondylotic radiculopathy it actually makes sense.

The problem is nerve impingement. Pinch those nerves and they complain a lot. In my case the pinching comes not from direct structural impingement but from swelling. Soft tissue in the tight spaces where nerves run swells for any number of reasons and it's this edematous tissue which presses on the nerves. And that hurts. It's literally a pain in the ass. As well as the leg, which stings and burns like fire and aches severely all the way down the outside (lateral aspect), across the top of the foot and into the toes. It's a miserable thing.

I've never been able to identify a culprit or trigger for these bouts of unanticipated pain. It's not lifting or physical labor or running or working out, for I can usually do these things with a fair bit of impunity. There's a decent chance that lazy/improper gait might be involved, and sitting at a work station for nine hours doesn't help. There's also a chance that the genesis of the swelling is metabolic or associated with the body's natural process of attempting self repair.

I've found that when I get a pain flare the most efficacious approach to pain reduction is movement and stretching. These things increase blood flow and assist the body in its efforts to fix the proximal cause of swelling and reduce the swelling.

I've discovered that the best movement regime for me comes from stretching, pushups, and step running.

In these circumstances moving and stretching hurt, but over time the immediate hurt is far less than the hurt of immobility and babying the thing.

Therefore it's a matter of sucking it up and driving on, of fighting on through the pain. It's never easy, and I have to listen carefully to what my body is telling me, but it's doable and also the right thing to do if I want less pain and increased ability to enjoy the whole livin' experience.

Stretching and movement aren't ever instant cures. Sometimes it takes much more time than I like. Tuesday's pain lasted until Wednesday afternoon, for instance, and that meant a miserable and sleepless Tuesday night. The answer remains. Suck it up and drive on, fight through the pain, persevere, endure.

It can be hard, in fact it is hard, but it's doable. Working through the pain, working with the body nature has issued me, yields a grand reward. When the pain eases I feel fit and fantastic.


The girl of the roadside cross was in dire straights. Alex was her best friend and when Alex died the blow was crushing. The girl tried to tough it out on willpower alone, but she could not. Now she was running from howling demons and her strength was flagging.

I wish I had known, but I did not. No matter, because chimeric might-have-beens mean little. In real world terms they mean nothing at all. These are the times when a non-judgmental ear, kind words of support, and the tiniest bit of help can make a positive difference.

The girl I talked to this morning bears no resemblance at all to the girl I talked to three nights ago. That girl was a shambling wreck nearing the end of her rope. This morning the girl of the roadside cross has returned.

When you run yourself into a corner, all you can see is the corner. You forget about the wide world right behind you, you can't even think to turn your head and look. It's amazing what a few kind words and suggestions can do, how they can turn impossible into doable.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Drive on

I've been messing with this post for far too long. I'll publish it now, warts and all.


In the midst of crushing loss and grief there is joy and love so profound and soul filling that I can't begin to describe it.

It's a dichotomy woven into the fabric of my life. It's a state of dichotomy that the reasoning and objective part of my brain knows with great certainty cannot exist. Those two things cannot possibly occupy the same place at the same time.

Yet they do.

Once again I've been writing a post over several days. I began on Tuesday, December 1. The genesis of this post came from being pounded over and over in the course of only a few hours by a shitstorm of impossible dichotomies. I felt a great need to get my thoughts and feelings down on the electronic page and hash them out. It's an approach that helps me in sorting stuff out. As I wrote this paragraph, for instance, I was doing laundry, a task which requires unpacking and sorting before a single pair of socks hit the suds.

In a similar fashion I've been unpacking and sorting the enormity of my thoughts and emotions over the last 17 weeks. It's a dynamic process, and to my very great surprise it's nothing at all like an ending followed by some kind of new beginning. Continuity of love is woven into the fabric of my existence now, and coming to understand that is a great and important discovery. This journey has been impossibly different than anything I could have imagined. There's a vital and extraordinarily important truth emerging from what I feared would be little more than twisted and smoking wreckage.

This morning it's December 8 and I'm in the process of cleaning up the mess I've made here. I'm killing lots and lots of words; sentences and paragraphs which served me well but translate to little more than howling gibberish in this realm of communication.

The framework of this post is built out of dreams.


"My aircraft."

"Your aircraft."

It was a perfectly normal exchange coming over the ICS from the front office of the SH-3H Sea King. The voices of the Helicopter Aircraft Commander (HAC) and the 2P (second pilot) were calm, laconic, bored.

Except the voices were too calm, too laconic, too bored.

The helo lurched in a very distressing way. The sound of the rotor rpm alarm sounded over the ICS and the helo shook like a dog shittin' peach pits. I glanced forward and saw a wash of red and amber lights against a usually less holiday colored instrument panel.

It was a dream, and I knew it was a dream in the way you sometimes know you're dreaming. The part of me that recognized the dream state also thought the dream was very cool. It felt very real. I was there; seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting. I remembered this, and also remembered that I had never dreamed about it before. So, kinda cool, kinda reliving an adventure. Except, well, I felt the hard jolt of adrenaline too and heard myself exclaim, "Fuck!" I tasted the metallic, caustic flavor of fear. Maybe not completely cool then. 

Although I was there in the dream, really there, I could also tell I was not, that I was just dreaming. I knew what was going to happen, for I had lived the experience I was now dreaming about. We were going to hit the nighttime Mediterranean Sea in about 15 seconds. It would be moderately violent. The helo would instantly turn over. I would be shocked that the water stayed outside the aircraft, and then instantly even more shocked when the salty sea completely filled my world in much less than the blink of an eye. I would revert to training, popping the pop-out with my elbow and following it out much more easily and quickly than I had ever done in the helo dunker. My internal gyros would not tumble. I'd bob to the surface and strike out toward the nose of the inverted helo. The night sky would provide more than enough light. All five of us would be fine and we'd be hoisted aboard a rescue helo in about 40 minutes, then whisked back to the ship. All would be well.

In the dream I had all of this knowledge at hand, yet I was also suspended in that moment of time before water impact and felt the welcome/unwelcome surge of adrenaline and terror, felt the inevitability of the pending crash and helpless distress at being unable to stop it and return things to normal, to forego the wreck.

It was very odd.

"Hey. Hey Shaun. Hey, are you okay? Wake up, you're having a bad dream."

Her face looms close to mine in the dark. Cheerful streetlight photons filter through the curtain and combine with kitchen night light to dispel the dark, giving more than enough illumination to see her beautiful face, concern and amusement chasing back and forth across her features. I feel her touch, her breath on my cheek, I smell the wonderful smell of warm, sleepy, Alexzandra. It's an instant of bliss.

This is a dream too, and I know it in the way you somehow know you're dreaming. This dream of Alexzandra also echoes events which actually happened. My love awakened me from restless dreams many times, but never from the Sea-King-in-the-water dream. In the moment I want very badly to hold on to this dream, or more precisely to the realistic feel of the thing. I very much want that reality to exist, to experience a reality filled with this dream-state sight and smell and sound and taste and feel. I want to be in and occupy a real living moment with my Love, to be safe and warm in our bed. But the dream is already ruined, already spoiled. It's something that never happened, and something which can never be. The weight of realization is heavy and hard to bear.

I swim up from the dream and awaken alone, as I knew I would. It hurts. A string of "why" questions rattle around in my mind. They will be forever unanswered. It hurts.

She comes to me then, as she does each night. Her presence fills the room. It's more real than any dream could be. It's the realness of reality. I don't understand, I don't need to understand. I know her presence, and this is it. Calm, reassuring, loving. My hurt eases and I drift back into sleep. When the alarm sounds I awaken refreshed. Longing, missing, hurting. But refreshed, and reassured.

If you look up batshit crazy in the dictionary...

At 6 a.m. it's a beautiful morning for December 1 in Kimball, Nebraska.

I have widgets to make.

Longing. Missing. Hurting. Refreshed. Reassured. Batshit crazy.


At my widget assembly station I set up my phone to stream the Bilge Pumps podcast to my hearing aids. The latest software update seems to have fucked the streaming system up and I can only hear it in the left ear. Rats. But I can hear it, so I sink into the highly entertaining discussion of the F-35 from the RN/Brit perspective. I have to chuckle a bit for according to the guest expert on the podcast, a former RN aircraft engineering officer, the Brits saved the program from the stupid Yanks. There's probably more truth to that than my Yankee ego likes to admit. The former engineering officer served with 820 Squadron in the Falklands War and as best I can tell is the real deal. I've flown with RN crews in their Westland Sea Kings and those guys were without a doubt the real deal. The RN has a special place in my cold war Yankee aircrewman's heart. I begin wrenching widgets and time speeds by.

As the break buzzer sounds at 9:30 a.m. I'm already outside and minutes into my step running. I've cheated, blatantly breaking the rules to steal time from my employer. I feel a great need for hard exercise. Hopefully my widget production performance will buy some leeway and stolen minutes will be overlooked. I tell myself that the payback to my employer will be increased productivity. And it will be. Here's what it looked like on December 5 (no video from December 1 step running I'm afraid) when it was sunny and severe clear with air temps in the mid-50's and a light north-northwest breeze.

Conditions on December 1 were very different from the above video, yet it was still a beautiful day; warmish and dampish low 40's but with an overcast moving in and a gusty north wind beginning to pick up. Beautiful and profoundly uncomfortable at the same time. Overhead the winds were clearly stronger at 1,500 AGL, driving tattered shreds of scud along at quite a clip. The sky was an achingly beautiful demonstration of nature's wonder, one set of grey clouds tearing along beneath a solid and slightly different shade of grey clouds above. It was a pretty picture, but the stark picture and raw feel of the air pulled hard at still-raw heart wounds. Leaving aside  an aching sadness I felt good. Healthy, fit, confident, and ready to get some cardio in. I scampered (for certain values of scamper) up and down steps and drove my heart rate up to 150. My lungs were moving lots of air. Warming muscles quit complaining and began to enjoy their work. Halfway up the steps and attached to the side of the factory building a weatherproof speaker was giving forth with the usual Sidney radio station broadcast, the same background noise which echoes through the plant every day. Mostly 1980's era music with a smattering of local news and advertising. On balance it's okay noise, and most of the music is of my generation.

Then the opening chords of Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time spill out of the speaker. Those chords and the song that follows hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn't see it coming. It's not a favorite song, and I've never been anything like a fan, but of her work this is one I've always enjoyed. This morning, however, with a near-tactile cognitive click, the essence of the thing pops into place in my mind and heart. Impossible to describe, the experience is at the same time very hard and very good. Batshit crazy.

Oh, it sucks. I'm actually sobbing as I run, so I run harder. Maybe no one will notice, or if they do, perhaps they'll think it's what exercise is supposed to look like. The sobbing interferes with my breathing rhythm and soon a form of bronchospasm sets in, making it hard to breathe and even painful to move air. It's the kind of unexpected shortness of breath which could lead to panic, but at this moment with this mindset and this roiling, raw emotion I can't be bothered to panic. I drive on, harder and harder. I can only barely control churning emotion and there's precious little left in me to address the merely physical.

Here's a cover version of the song I quite like.

I smash and smash and smash the steps. I begin to see spots, and then endorphins and dopamine kick in. The crest of a powerful wave of loss and grief has smashed me and then passed. I've survived. Pain ebbs; physical, emotional, mental. I feel good. Really good. I am livin'.

The end of break buzzer blares out of the speaker. I'm going to steal a few more minutes; I've hit a good place and a good stride and I don't want to stop. One of my co-workers pauses as she scurries in from the smoking area. "I can't believe you're wearing shorts!"

"I'm not very bright," I reply with a grin.

All of the people at the widget factory know. Not only that I'm not very bright, but more importantly, they know of my loss. It's our loss. Some of Allie's aunts and cousins work there, and she was/is well known and liked/loved in this place. Small town comfort. These people have been so kind and caring, and while I haven't properly appreciated them, they have nevertheless lifted me up.

None of this livin' experience is playing out as I expected. I intuit the rightness of the thing. God provides what I need so long as I trust Him. He gives me gems I would never have thought to pursue, and they are exactly what I need. The things I think I need and would pursue on my own are not what I need. When I recognize this they fall to the wayside.


While I do laundry on Saturday I bake cookies. I bake them for the kids, and as I've mentioned before it's something I frequently did for our little family before Allie died. Cookie baking video? Sure, why not?


Worst cooking video of all time.



Which takes us back to the opening image, a screen capture from a video. I cannot begin to describe what sitting in that chair with a pair of cookie monsters means and feels like. God blesses me each and every day with beauty and wonder and love and grace. Living in this new dimension is heaven on earth.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Broken noses, heroes, Pearl Harbor

Today marks 17 weeks since that awful Monday in August. It's also Pearl Harbor Day, December 7.

Scale, context, perspective.

In the last 17 weeks a lot of people have had days equally as awful as August 10 was for my family and myself. Seventy-nine years ago a lot of families had an awful day. The war that became brand-new for America that day had already been spreading awfulness around the globe for more than two years, and uncountable awfulness would follow for more than three more tragic years.

Tragedy, whether on a global scale or a family scale is, always has been, and always will be part of life.

As we continue to navigate the rocks and shoals of losing our daughter, sister, mommy, and wife, it's important for us to be mindful of scale, context and perspective. To be mindful also of the love, blessings, and beauty which continue to fill our lives and our hearts.

Today at the widget factory I listened to a naval history podcast while I worked, a podcast about salvage in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack. It was easy to be mindful of scale, context and perspective.


John Blackshoe opined in a comment that it might be appropriate for me to recycle some posts, particularly Corpsman Chronicles, while the Muse is running around being batshit crazy. Capital idea. Thanks John!

I'll start, I think, with this one, not a corpsman chronicle but perhaps timely. I wrote it circa 2007 and posted it here in 2011.


John Shaw was just another Irisher who set out for America and found a far better life than he could have imagined.

Born in 1773 at Mountmellick (Móinteach Mílic), County Laois, in east-central Ireland, Shaw came to America in 1790 as a lad of 17. He settled in Philadelphia and joined the merchant marine.

He was appointed Lieutenant in the US Navy in 1798, and his first assignment was to the USS Montezuma, a converted cargo ship in Commodore Thomas Truxtun’s squadron in the West Indies during the early part of the Quasi-War with France. The 350 ton trans-Atlantic merchant ship mounted 20 nine-pounder cannon and had a crew of 180. Shaw saw considerable action, and did well enough to gain his own command, the USS Enterprise, a 14-gun brig-rigged schooner.

Shaw fought the Enterprise against French privateers in the Caribbean for more than a year, protecting United States merchantmen. During that period, Enterprise captured eight privateers and liberated 11 American vessels from captivity. The ship's fame was such that she was one of only 14 ships retained in the Navy after 1800.

The name Enterprise has been continuously on the rolls of the Navy, having served eight ships since 1775. Today's Enterprise is (was) a nuclear aircraft carrier home ported at Norfolk, Virginia.

To honor the plucky Irishman, two destroyers were later named for him, USS Shaw (DD-68) and USS Shaw (DD-373). In an odd coincidence, both destroyers lost their bows in action but were repaired and continued to serve, each fighting actively in a World War.

The first USS Shaw (DD-68) was a Sampson class destroyer which fought in a pair of convoy actions in World War I. In early October, 1918, while escorting a convoy southwest of England, she suffered a jammed rudder and was struck by the huge liner Aquitania (at 46,000 tons, she was as big as the Titanic). The collision ripped off 90 feet of the Shaw’s bow, mangled the bridge, and set her afire. Though 12 sailors were killed in the accident, Shaw’s heroic crew managed to save their little four-piper. She made Portsmouth under her own power, received temporary repairs, then returned to the US for permanent repairs at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was decommissioned in 1922, but transferred to the US Coast Guard in 1926, where she served on the rum patrol until the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. She was returned to the Navy but stricken in 1934 and scrapped.

The second USS Shaw (DD-373) was a Mahan-class destroyer. Commissioned on September 18, 1936, she was a fairly new ship when she entered a floating dry dock at Pearl Harbor for hull work in late November, 1941.

Struck by three bombs when the Japanese attacked on December 7, her forward magazines exploded, producing perhaps the most spectacular series of photographs made during the raid.

The USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes in dry dock during the December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. Photo credit U.S. Naval Historical Center, in the public domain.
When the smoke began to clear, the carnage in the dry dock was terrible. The formerly sleek and beautiful ship was now an awful mess, her bow seemingly gone from the bridge forward, and much of her interior burned out. But a spark of life remained in the ship; her keel, protected by the flooded dry dock, was sound and true, and her boilers, turbines and running gear were all intact.

With all US battleships out of action, every ship became a vital asset, and Shaw was no exception. She received temporary repairs in Hawaii, then sailed to Mare Island at San Francisco for a new bow and completion of repairs. By August, 1942, she was better than new. She returned to Pearl Harbor and rejoined the war. She escorted convoys and fought in the Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Marianas and Philippine campaigns, earning 11 Battle Stars. She was decommissioned in 1945 and scrapped in 1946.

There were more than enough heroes to go around on that “Day of Infamy” in December, 1941. Peter Tomich was a Chief Watertender stationed on the battleship USS Utah (BB-31).

Born in 1893 in the tiny village of  Prolog in Austria-Hungary (present day Bosnia-Herzegovina), he came to America in about 1910. He was drafted and served in the US Army during WWI, then joined the Navy in 1919.

When the Utah was bombed and torpedoed on December 7, she began to capsize. Tomich remained at his station in the boiler room to secure the boilers and help his shipmates escape. His actions cost him his life and earned the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor. The medal was never presented because none of Tomich’s family could be located. It remained in storage over the years.

To close the circle on this story of broken noses, devastating attacks, and heroic immigrant Americans, Tomich’s family was finally presented with the medal aboard the modern-day USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in 2006, 64 years after his heroic deed.

It's easy to forget that America has always represented a wonderful dream to people around the globe. John Shaw and Peter Tomich are only two examples of “foreigners” who came to the states with air in their pockets and made not only themselves, but their new country, a far better place.

During this first week of December, 2020, when we remember the attack of 79 years ago, it’s perhaps a good time to remember what the opening phrase of the US Constitution, “We the People,” really means.


Here are the three Pearl Harbor salvage videos. I suspect many of you kind readers might enjoy browsing Drachinifel's u2b channel. Those of you who aren't already subscribed, that is!

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3. Great info on the Salvage of Shaw and Utah in this one.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Dog Day Saturday

It was a spectacular Saturday.

The weather was brilliant. Once the sun came up and began to chase the morning chill away air temperatures came up nicely and the morning breeze was short lived, as if it just couldn't be bothered.

One of the things I'm working on is my attitude toward nature's predilection to moving the air mass around. I seem to be willing to accept her wind only when it's not inconvenient or uncomfortable to me personally. When it's warm and the wind doesn't feel chill I mostly pay it no mind, except when it causes wind noise in videos. When it's cold I tend to curse it for the discomfort it causes me. And when it's very hot and there's no wind at all I curse its lazy-ass absence.

At the same time I recognize nature's glory and the beauty of the way she moves air mass around. If I persevere and dress properly I find I can not only endure, but revel in the wind. There's a bonus (or 10,000). It's only on sunny but cool and windy days when I get to experience and appreciate the delight of little pockets of wind shelter. There are places along treelines and in canyons where I can soak up toasty sun-warmth in calm air while nature's air mass howls over and around me, only a few feet away. Such moments are incredible. It's the yinyang thing again, standing in the place where chaos meets order. It takes dedication and work to journey through the discomfort and place myself in those little bubbles of beautiful comfort. It takes more dedication and work to leave and head home to my human-built shelter. Bookended by effort and discomfort, nature's bubbles of ease and warmth and comfort take on the flavor of a supernatural gift. When I am there, living in that moment of wonder only, I feel as if I am standing on a higher plane of experience. These are moments which can be had only when they are earned, and that's exactly the way it should be.

All of the manifold best parts of life exist in these places; moments of bubbles of exquisite wonder and delight which can be experienced only when earned. The wonder of my life with Alexzandra is a case in point. I existed for six decades certain in the knowledge that my path should be solitary, stoic, and self-contained. I knew in my core that the sea of love is actually the sea of dragons, and those dragons would rend and tear and destroy me, that dropping my shields would be too big a risk, leading to certain destruction. When I found someone to work and dare and risk for, I found that I was right. Selfish, self-contained, stoic Shaun would have to be destroyed in order for me to step into the ultimate bubble of wonder and joy and life. When the dragons attacked and took Alex away I found I could survive the wounding, that I could survive and thrive. Selfish, self-contained, stoic Shaun could not have survived such a thing, but the point is moot, for that fellow would never have visited the sea of love to begin with. The wounding is great and the deepest scars will never heal, but they do not interfere with or take away from the wonder and beauty of sailing the sea of love.

I wasn't really intending to go there. SMH. Yet this is therapeutic for me, unpacking this stuff in written words and throwing it out there for all to see. I hope it's not too uncomfortable for any of you kind readers. On the one hand it feels like I shouldn't just throw this kind of burden out there to potentially harm people. On the other hand it feels right to share these thoughts and concepts, perhaps in an effort to provide a small service. I don't know -- can't know with certainty -- the "right" thing to do. Well. There we are.


And all of the above just to get to puppy dogs and the beauty of a late-November day here in shortgrass prairie country on the Front Range High Plains of Nebraska.

Yesterday was one of those mornings when it takes a bit of extra effort to get to doing. This morning is much the same. Sometimes mind and body have the capacity to charge ahead with seeming effortlessness, sometimes not. The effortless days are fun and easy, the harder days are, well, different. More of a challenge. They often yield a better reward, if only I can bear down and do the work.

My tentative plan was to take the dogs out to the ranch and do some hiking and hill running. Mark mentioned the puppy dogs in his latest comment, so I aimed to please. I'd only once taken Tommy to the ranch and that was not much of an excursion. Anyway, after the struggle of completing cals and lifting, Nona, Tommy, and I headed out to the south googie pasture.

I parked down in the canyon bottom and tried running the windmill hill. It was a challenge. I was fighting pain and Tommy was excited enough by my activity to nip at my heels and jump on the back of my legs. He's a who-knows-what. There's obviously some trailer park pit bull in him, but there might also be a bit of border collie the way he seems to like to herd things.

Oh by the way, Tommy is named after Alex's heartthrob movie actor Tom Hardy. Not seein' it myself -- lol!

Nona is pure border collie. She's also 9 years old, my age in dog years. So she appreciates the experience at a more reasonable pace. Or something like that.

They are a great pair of dogs.

There's good and bad in Tommy's efforts to share my hill running. The bad is obviously the potential for a running wreck. The good is at least twofold; joy for Tommy and the potential for a running wreck. I had to work harder to maintain balance, and harder work brings more reward. Another thing to consider is that us olden folks need to fall down a lot, need to be intimately familiar with being on the ground and the process of falling correctly and getting the firetruck back up. It's a yinyang place. There will be a time when I can't do stuff no more, but that time is not yet, and being good at falling and getting up is likely to push that time at least a little bit into the future. As is all the hard and painful effort of recapturing fitness. It's a long video with hill running and climbing up out of the canyon toward Vader Hill, which I intended to run.

As it turns out, I did not run Vader Hill. Too much ice and snow on the north pitch, which is also particularly rocky. Therefore I decided not to practice falling. What of my grand thesis on the utility of falling the firetruck down and getting the firetruck back up? It's a good question. Part of me was up for the challenge, part of me was willing to forego the discomfort and press on to accumulate steps at a lower and more comfortable heart rate. Go figure.

Blessings are everywhere.

Light and shadow are blessings, beautiful experiences which fill the heart and soul with unspeakable wonder and bubbling joy. Rewards which are more sweet when earned in the pursuit of livin'.

Other saying on my desk are these.

Despite fighting pain and choosing to not fall, the hike was remarkably delightful. As they tend to be. This video is another long one. Livin' (and babbling!) in the moment with the dogs and the prairie, sunlight and shadow, warmth and ice and fences and busy noise and motion on I-80.

I've walked this ground for essentially all of my life. I knew it intimately, with much certainty that I knew it all. I walked it with Alexzandra and she showed me the rest of it, the 99.9 percent I had never seen.

The homestretch of the hike included poop!

And much more beauty.

Driving home I stopped to get images of Alexzandra's roadside cross. One of the fabric sunflower blossoms had torn loose and come to rest in a patch of sagewort, a plant that I've always appreciated but never really seen until she showed it to me. What does such a thing mean, other than she is here with me?


After the hike it was time to run steps. I hungered for the cardio workout. Fortunately for you kind readers I didn't make a visual record. But thirty minutes of hell was sublime.

I ran steps while my washing machine was busy churning through lots of laundry. It's a blessing to do laundry. Again, no visual record.

I spent the day in busy effort, but the backdrop of the day was anticipation. I had a 6 p.m. date with a tattoo parlor in Cheyenne. My first tattoo.

It might seem odd, and it probably is odd, that a sailor would be tasting the needle for the first time in his sixth decade of life. I tried to get a tattoo way back in the stone ages; it was in Pensacola and iirc I was in either Aerospace Medicine or Aerospace Physiology Class C school at the time. Regardless, the kind tattoo lady wouldn't work on a drunken sailor, and that was my only try. God bless that lady. Another tattoo memory from around the same time comes from reading Jim Webb's Fields of Fire, a novel about Marines in Vietnam. One of the main characters, Snake, is a tough street kid who decides to join the crotch one jump ahead of the law. He spends his last paycheck on a "Death Before Dishonor" USMC tattoo, and Webb gives a very interesting description of the kid's experience. For some reason the description has stayed with me over the years, and I must say (40 years later!) that he nailed it. Perhaps that description shaped my experience. Doesn't matter, just interesting to think about.

As I drove toward Cheyenne the post-sunset glow spread magic across the landscape. In particular, where I-80 runs cheek by jowl with the Union Pacific railroad line between Bushnell, Nebraska, and about Egbert, Wyoming, the tracks glowed like four parallel strings of liquid gold. All around the landscape trees and barns and houses and livestock were silhouetted against a sky glowing in as yet unnamed colors. As the Rockies hove into view I saw them for the first time. Yep, she was riding with me, in that seat she said she loved, and she showed me yet again how to really look, how to really see. The looking and seeing and driving took everything I had, and a single thought of grabbing some video evaporated. It would have killed the experience, and the video would not have captured the important stuff anyway.

At the T.R.I.B.E. Scott the artist was superb. The job I'd given him was a tiny bit of a thing, just six words. But he crafted Alexzandra's name in her own hand, and added a Dave Matthews line in a perfect cursive expression.

The bite of the needle was exactly as Snake described, and the bliss of pain and purpose yielded an endorphin/dopamine embrace of livin' in the proper moment. The thing is devilishly hard to photograph left handed and through the transparent dressing.

My next appointment is set for December 12, again at 6 p.m. This time "ALEX LO💗E across the first joints of my fingers. In proper anatomical description, across the posterior aspect of the proximal phalanges of each hand. Why? Batshit crazy. Perhaps those words will be the last things asshole ogres see before they go sleepy-time. Almost certainly not, but it's a satisfying thought for one beset by asshole ogres.

I've also asked Scott to work up a couple of designs for the forearms, incorporating Alex's hands and the rocks she's holding here on the inside of my right forearm. There's a reason for that, which I'll share at some point.

As well as her roadside cross on the inside of my left forearm.

Same reason. Maybe batshit crazy is the livin' expression of a sane navigation of the rocks and shoals of reality.

This post has gotten out of hand, so I'm going to quit while I'm behind.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.