Sunday, June 30, 2013

World Tour Update #10

Heard there's a bit of a heat wave back home. Reports are that our home town has seen highs of 106 and 108 the last two days.

In contrast, we've enjoyed temps in the 60s and 70s for most of this trip. And in a few days we'll be snow skiing.

Not that I'm gloating...  :-)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

World Tour Update #9

Incredible diving yesterday. I swam with a sea turtle and several large manta rays (2-3 meter wingspan). Both are amazingly graceful– they look like they’re leisurely flying through the air rather than swimming underwater.

We also saw many different reef fish and two types of sharks – black tips and lemon sharks. They were just casually patrolling. It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but we were assured that they are not aggressive. I know the people running the dive operation are professionals, and losing customers to sharks is bad for business, but I’ve seen Jaws. I opted to keep my distance. Better safe than sorry.

Our son, however, worked up enough courage to swim within five feet of a black tip shark larger than I am. There’s a fine line between being adventurous and foolish. He’s 19, and hasn’t figured out where that line is yet.

But we all made it back safe and sound. One more dive this afternoon, and then back to civilization.

Friday, June 28, 2013

World Tour Update #8

In many of my posts I’ve mentioned visiting pubs. Pubs get their name from “public houses,” which, as the name implies, are open to everyone. Most of the pubs here are more family-oriented than bars and taverns back home. Children are allowed in, although there are some restrictions on where in the pub and when they are allowed.

The Aussies love their pubs. Here’s a couple of stories that the locals swear are true. In both cases there a newspaper accounts that support that claim.

Back in the late 1920s when construction began on the Sydney Harbor Bridge a number of existing structures had to be torn down to make way for the bridge footings and abutments. Among the victims were row houses, commercial establishments, warehouses, a church, and a pub. No one minded the loss of the first three very much, but there was a substantial protest against the destruction of the church. The biggest outcry, however, occurred when the destruction of the pub was announced.

Known as the Harbor View Hotel (for some reason, some of the older pubs here have “hotel” in their names – I guess it goes back to that ‘public house’ thing), it was one of the first pubs established in Sydney. The protests spilled over into the streets, and were so prolonged and vociferous that the government set aside a small parcel of land near one of the footings to rebuild the place. It still exists today. The church, however, was lost forever.

Priorities…

Second story – just a few years ago Brisbane suffered a terrible flood. There’s a river that runs through the city, and there was torrential rain upstream. The river overflowed its banks, thousands of homes and other structures were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands were homeless and without power. One of the flooded structures was Brisbane’s oldest pub. It’s a two story building, with a balcony on the second floor overlooking the street. During the flooding the first floor was underwater, but the pub continued to sell beer from the second floor to customers who pulled up in row boats.

You’ve got to admire their dedication to their customers.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

World Tour Update #7

Apologies for the break in posting, but there’s a good reason for it. We left Brisbane a couple of days ago and are now on Heron Island. It’s a fascinating place. I don’t have the time to give you a complete run-down right now, but if you have some time Google it.

Short version – it’s a coral key about 50 miles of the Australian coast. A coral key is an island that rose from the sea, basically formed by the growth of a coral reef. As the top of the reef approaches the sea’s surface it begins to deteriorate from the combined action of wind, waves, tide, and sun. As it disintegrates the debris pile on top of each other until enough of them accumulate to bond and form an island. This process takes hundreds of thousands of years. Since a coral key was never connected to the continental crust, it has no mammals or reptiles. The only inhabitants are sea birds, and once a year sea turtles that come to nest.

In contrast, a continental island is one that was once physically part of the continental shelf. When the oceans rose millions of years ago these land masses were cut off from the mainland, but still had a full complement of mammals and reptiles. In some cases those animals evolved differently than the mainland animals, giving biologists something to do today.

Anyway, back to Heron Island. It is tiny – approximately 800 meters by 300 meters. Its highest point is somewhere around 10 meters above the high tide level, which could be nerve-wracking during a large storm. It houses around 50 permanent staff and about 200 visitors. Accommodations are comfortable but a little on the primitive side. By that I mean the selection of beer is limited and expensive.

More seriously, Internet access is available only at one location, and costs $3 for 15 minutes - and it is painfully slow. That’s why posting has been brief and sporadic. We’re here for two more days, then spend one day back in Brisbane relaxing and doing laundry. I should hopefully have time to catch up then. After that it’s farewell to Australia and on to New Zealand.

The main attraction here is the scuba diving and snorkeling. It’s been fabulous. Up to three dives a day, and snorkeling any time you want to off the beach. Incredible variety of fish, and the reef life and coral formations are staggering.

My 15 minutes are about up, so I’m signing off. I’ll try to put something up tomorrow … if I wake up from my nap on the beach in time…

Monday, June 24, 2013

World Tour Update #6

Saturday, June 22, 2013 - A day that will live in infamy...

No, that's been used already.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 - A day from Hell...

Much better. More descriptive. Although technically things started going downhill Friday.

We've been blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather for most of our trip. That began to change Friday afternoon. The wind picked up, dark clouds started scudding across the sky, and bands of rain passed over us with increasing frequency.

That night the wind really howled and the rain came down in earnest. It rained so much and the wind blew so hard that water came in under our hotel balcony door - on the second floor (not a flood, just wind-driven rain).

We had to get up at 5:30 the next morning to catch the ferry from Kangaroo Island back to the mainland. The wind and rain had slowed somewhat, but both were still heavy. Driving in a storm on unfamiliar roads, on the left (wrong) side, in pitch black was an adventure I don't care to repeat. Not to mention the downed trees in the road.

We made it to the ferry in time. I'm not a sailor, but I figured we were in for a rough passage when the ferry was rocking and rolling while still tied up at the wharf, behind the jetty. It was a good sized ferry, capable of carrying 400 passengers and 50 vehicles, and it was still bouncing around like a rubber duck in a bath tub. Fortunately the lady at the ticket office told us to sit near the stern, where it was more stable, and gave us some ginger drops, which are supposed to help prevent sea-sickness.

Once we hit the open sea things got ... interesting. I'd read about ships corkscrewing through rough weather but never really understood what that was like. Now I know. We were pitching (up and down) and rolling (rocking from side to side) with some yawing thrown in for good measure. I've been on roller coaster rides that didn't move as much. And just for fun, every now and then we'd fall from the crest of a wave into the trough, landing with a resounding crash that shook the ship.

This went on for 45 long. long minutes...

The ginger must have helped, because no one got seasick, although it was a good thing the ferry ride ended when it did. I think if one person had gotten sick it would have started a chain reaction. Speaking with a deckhand as we were disembarking, he told me it was the roughest crossing he'd experienced in the past 10 years.

We were extremely relieved as we got on the bus for the two hour trip back to Adelaide. Stomachs settled down and we even squeezed in a short nap. Of course, the bus was late arriving, but we weren't worried because we had plenty of time to get from the bus station to the airport. Turns out we had even more time than we thought.

There are four of us traveling together with eight pieces of luggage. Most of the Adelaide cabs are small, fuel efficient compacts. No way we all fit on one of them, especially with our luggage. So we called for a station wagon or van. It took a while, but one finally showed up and off we went to the airport...

...where we found out our flight time had been changed from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Since we arrived at the airport around noon, that meant we had a six hour layover. Now the Adelaide airport is nice, but it's not high on my list of places to kill six hours.

We also found out there had been a snafu between our travel agent and the airline. We were booked on a super cheap fare. The reason it was so cheap is because it didn't allow the ticket holder to check luggage. Since we had the afore-mentioned eight pieces, we were in a quandary. Fortunately, however, Australia is like the U.S. in that most difficulties can be overcome with judicious expenditures of cash. In this case, we paid an excess baggage fee of $40 per bag (times 4, or $160 for the trip). That didn't sound too bad at first, but then we found out that we were booked on the same fare for the remaining three domestic Australian flights we're scheduled to take. For you non-math majors out there, that's $160 extra per flight time 4 flights, or an extra $640 unbudgeted expense.

Oh well, easy come, easy go. We'll just cut back on food and drink for the remainder of the trip.

Hah!

For the next part of this story, it is necessary to digress a bit in order to provide some background. The British and Irish Lions are an all-star rugby team from, you guessed it, Britain and Ireland. They are currently touring Australia playing the local rugby teams. This happens only once every twelve years, so it is a huge event. The fans are so passionate they travel with their team. That means there are around 50,000 fans from the UK here in Australia following the Lions from city to city. The Lions just happened to be playing a couple of games in Brisbane, which is where we were headed, during our time there. That means every hotel room has been booked for months in advance, the pubs are full from opening until closing with large burly men (and women!) wearing red jerseys, caps, and scarves, and periodically breaking into unintelligible chants. The locals put up with them because they bring in an incredible amount of tourist dollars. But as I said, they also take up all the available space at hotels and pubs.

To continue ... we arrived at the Brisbane airport around 9:00 at night. Keep in mind that our day started at 5:30 a.m. So all we wanted to do was check into our hotel, grab a quick bite, and crash.

When we got to the hotel we found out that a water pipe had burst earlier that day and flooded the elevator shaft and electrical closet. The pipe had been repaired, the power was back on, but the elevators weren't working.

Our room was on the 16th floor.

We had 8 pieces of luggage.

There were no other rooms available anywhere within a 50 mile radius.

It was either trudge up 16 flights of stairs with the luggage or sleep in the lobby.

We decided to trudge.

My son and I made one trip with the duffel bags - two bags each, each bag weighing about 50 pounds. At one time in my life I was accustomed to strapping on a ruck that weighed around 70 pounds and going up and down hills all day. That was, however, 40+ years, 50+ pounds, and three knee operations ago. It was a little tougher this time around.

We decided to put off the second trip until we had something to eat and drink. The pubs and restaurants were packed, but we found a convenience store and stocked up on chips, candy bars, and bottled water. So much for dinner.

Back to the hotel, grabbed the carry-ons, and went back up the stairs. Got settled in, only to find out that the water had shorted out the cable TV and Internet circuits. It didn't matter that night, because we hit the sack around midnight and slept the sleep of the dead...

...until the bells of the Catholic church across the street started ringing for the 6:00 a.m. Sunday mass.

Two days later everything is back in service - just in time for us to leave town. We have an early flight tomorrow for Heron Island, where we plan to get in some scuba diving.

Unless something goes wrong...



World Tour Update #5

We arrived in Brisbane Saturday night. To make a long story short, a water pipe had burst in our hotel earlier that day and flooded the elevator shaft, shorting out the elevators.

Our room was on the 16th floor...

My son and I made two trips playing Sherpa with the luggage. Two long, painful trips.

To top things off the TV and Internet connections were flooded as well, and just got repaired an hour or so ago - right before bedtime.

So it's off to bed for me right now. More details tomorrow - I hope...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Post-Adelaide Review

We left Adelaide a few days ago and are now on Kangaroo Island. More on that later, but I wanted to share some thoughts about Adelaide while they're still fresh.

Adelaide is smaller than Sydney. It's a much more relaxed place - more informal, slower paced, less crowded. However, the traffic is not much better. In fact, so far the traffic here is the biggest drawback. It's pretty bad, at least in the cities. Once you get outside of town it's much better.

Adelaide is home to a couple of large universities (U. of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, along with a few smaller ones). So there is a part of town that has a quirky, bohemian, college town feel - outdoor cafes, an eclectic collection of shops and art galleries, and of course plenty of pubs. Known locally as the East End, the hotel we were staying at just happened to be located within walking distance. How convenient...

As far as food goes, Adelaide is one of the best cities I've ever visited. We didn't have a bad meal the entire time we were there. In fact, we didn't even have a good meal. They were all great!

The first night we went to dinner at a place that was recently named Adelaide's worst vegetarian restaurant - The Stag. It's a carnivore's delight; meat, meat, and more meat. I had the triple bacon cheeseburger; three different types of bacon piled high on a huge beef patty, accompanied by perfectly cooked chips (that's fries to you yanks). Others in the group had a wonderfully prepared steak, a tasty steak sandwich, and an order of Texas beef ribs (!). All of it was delicious, with plenty of good cold beer to wash it down. If you prefer they have a very nice wine selection.

The next night we went to a little Greek restaurant called the Eros Ouzeri (not to be confused with the Eros CafĂ©, which is right next door). It was there I had what has to be one of the top three pieces of beef I've ever had in my life - a beef fillet that was savory, juicy, tender, grilled to perfection ... I'm drooling over the keyboard just remembering it.

I'll stop talking about food now, other than to say that if I lived here my weight and my bad cholesterol numbers would both soar above 300.

Adelaide has more to offer than food. There is a beautiful and well-maintained green belt that encircles the center of town. It has a river that winds through it, which we hiked along one day. In addition to the usual assortment of ducks one might expect on a river, we attracted a pelican and a couple of black swans. I guess they were used to being fed by walkers because they stalked us for a while until they figured out we weren't going to give them anything. Then they squawked indignantly and flew off in a huff.

The next day my wife dragged us to the Adelaide Botanical Garden. I was prepared to be bored out of my mind by a bunch of plants, but was pleasantly surprised. There was, of course, a bunch of plants, but they were exotic (at least to us) and attractive. The trees are unlike what we're used to, the flowers were bright and beautiful, and there were little surprises everywhere - kind of like Easter eggs in pop culture. One of them was a little grotto off by itself with a couple of old, worn plaques dedicated to the Americans that lost their lives fighting with the Australians in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It was a very quiet, peaceful place, well suited to its purpose. Another interesting find was across the street from the Gardens. It was an old horse trough dedicated to the Australian horses that were killed in The Great War (WWI for all you youngsters). Right next to that was a small marker commemorating Gallipoli (the battle, not the movie).

We took a day off from the kids and toured the Barossa wine region just outside of town. A hired car and driver took us to several wineries for a bit of wine tasting. At Penfolds we got to make our own wine, blending several of their varietals into our own unique blend. The wine was then bottled and presented to us as a reminder of our visit.

We drank it the next day...

We also dropped into a cooperative of several small artisan vineyards for a tasting. In fact, the place is called Artisans of Barossa. A wide variety of excellent wines - wish we could get some of them in the states.

Lunch was at a place called Maggie Beer's. For once "Beer" didn't refer to a cold refreshing adult beverage. It's Maggie's last name (insert your own joke here). She's a well known and very popular Australian chef, similar to the U.S.'s Paula Deen. I had the Game Terrine - a delicate puff pastry filled with bits of pheasant and mushroom. Excellent!!!

While we were visiting wineries we made arrangements for the kids to take a tour of their own. The mode of transportation was a three-wheeled motorcycle  referred to locally as a trike (someone else drove - they rode on a bench back seat). Instead of wine, they toured a chocolate factory and a few historical sites. They had fun, but I think my wife and I had more fun.

Those were the high points of our Adelaide visit. Very enjoyable town, and I would love to come back again some day.

We left Adelaide on a bus for a two hour trip to Cape Jervis, where we caught a ferry for the 45 minute ride to Kangaroo Island (KI). KI is a good-sized island (approximately 1700 square miles) located about 70 miles off the south-central Australian coast. It's sparsely settled -- about 4500 permanent residents -- and home to several wildlife sanctuaries and parks. There's around 14.5 million kangaroos on the island (hence it's name). That works out to about 3200 kangaroos per person. We've been here for three days, and leave tomorrow for Brisbane. I'll have another update in the next day or two.

I hope everyone out there is having half as much fun as we are. It's going to be tough to leave this place.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2013.06.21

Australia means kangaroos, doesn't it...?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

World Tour Update #4

One of the blessings of a trip like this is an almost total disengagement from the political nonsense that frustrates and stresses so many of us. But every once in a while reminders pop up that drag us back kicking and screaming to the real world. While waiting for the weather forecast on the telly (I've gone native) a few examples popped up.

The territory we're currently in (that's the equivalent of a state for all you yanks) is debating whether or not to legalize gay marriage.

There's quite bit of outrage over a convicted murderer who was released on parole and almost immediately raped and tried to kill a young woman.

There's a national election coming up in a few months. One of the major topics is illegal immigration. Yeah, that surprised me too. Australia is an island. It's not like the illegals can just walk across the border like they do back home. Evidently the biggest problems is Indonesians who get here by boat, kind of like Cuban refugees do in Florida. The conservatives want to task the Australian Navy to intercept suspected people-smuggling ships between Indonesia and Australia. As precedent, they cite the role of the U.S. Coast Guard in intercepting ships suspected of smuggling people, drugs, or weapons into the states.

Any of the above sound familiar...?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

World Tour Update #3

Random observations of visiting down under to date:

1. Australia is much bigger than it appears on maps. It is, after all, a continent. It encompasses multiple time zones, and it takes hours to fly from one major city to another. One interesting -- and confusing -- aspect of the time zone changes is that the time change between zones is 30 minutes, not one hour. It really confounded us the first time we experienced it.

2. The weather so far has been absolutely drop dead gorgeous. It's winter down here, and the rainy season to boot, but so far the days have been bluebird cloudless skies (CAVU for all you aviators) with high around 60 and lows in the mid 40s. Crisp, clear, low humidity, light breezes - just perfect. Couldn't ask for better. 

The forecast for tomorrow, however, is 90% chance of rain, so maybe our run of good luck is over.

3. The Aussies have a peculiar habit of making up new words by chopping off existing words after the first syllable and adding a "y." For example, chocolate becomes choccy, breakfast is brekky, football = footy, etc.Not bad, once you get the hang of it.

4. We saw our first wild kangaroos yesterday. It was exciting to us, but to the locals the roos are like white-tailed deer back home - exciting and exotic at first, but very soon they become pests, eating everything in sight and being four legged traffic hazards.

5. I drove on the wrong side of the road for the first time today. At least it seemed wrong to me, but according to the folks down here it was the right (that is, left, or correct) side. Initially it was disconcerting, but you get used to it pretty quick. The biggest problem I had was that the turn signal switch and the windshield wiper controls are on the opposite sides of the steering wheel than from what I'm used to. Every time I went to signal for a turn, I flipped on the wipers. We had the cleanest windshield in Australia.

6. BACON!!! This place has the world's most incredible bacon. Not only is it smoked, seasoned, and salted to perfection, it is lean and mean. Picture a pork chop sliced horizontally into pieces about 1/8" thick, and then fried until they were just short of crispy, but still soft and chewy. Not at all like what the Aussies call American bacon: streaky (referring to the large alternating streaks of fat and lean meat in a typical package of what passes for bacon in the states).

It is to die for...

We left Adelaide yesterday and are now on Kangaroo Island. More about that in the next day or two.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Post-Sydney Review

My wife is one of those people who believe that vacations should be spent doing things. The idea of relaxing and taking it easy is foreign to her. Consequently, our stay in Sydney was planned with a thoroughness that would have done credit to the Normandy landings. I was, however, able to overrule her a few times, as you'll see.

Our activities in Sydney can be roughly grouped into three categories; adventure, arts and culture, and history.

Adventure

The most impressive thing we did in this category was to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The bridge is impressive -- the longest single span bridge in the world -- but the story behind it is even more so. I don't have time to go into all the details, but it was built back in the 1930's. The engineer responsible for building the bridge (John Bradfield) was a visionary who was way ahead of his time. If you're at all interested in engineering and project management, do yourself a favor and do some research on Bradfield and the bridge. What he did was unprecedented and unimaginable. One appreciates the scale and magnitude of the bridge even more when you climb it.

It took about three hours for us to go through, up, over, and down the bridge. At its peak we were about 400 feet above the waters of Sydney Harbor, perched on a 3' wide step and posing for pictures. The wind was whipping us around at 25 knots or so, but we were tethered with a safety belt to a cable. Even that was an impressive bit of engineering. The tether was a connector at the end which rolled smoothly over the safety cable the entire way - splices, supports, connections and all. We were never unfastened until we got back to the landing.

The bridge climbing operation is very well run. Safety is paramount. Of course, it would be bad for business is they lost a tourist, so they take it seriously. But the guide also made sure we enjoyed ourselves, and helped us understand what a massive undertaking building that thing was.

Many, many thumbs up.

We were all the way up on top, where the flags are. It was a long climb, but the views were worth it.

Arts and Culture

Again, my wife is the culture fiend in our family. She goes straight for the jugular, dragging us to the most significant museums and cultural icons.I appreciate it in an abstract way, but prefer to wander around and soak it up in an informal manner. She won this round.

We toured the Sydney Opera House, perhaps the most recognizable manifestation of culture in Australia, if not the world. And much like the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the opera house owes its existence to the genius and drive of one man - in this case, Jorn Utzon. The man was undoubtedly brilliant, but I think he also had a major case of OCD. His attention to detail was staggering. Again, I don't have the time (or the skills) to do justice to this magnificent building, but I urge you to spend some time learning about it. Absolutely fascinating.




History

Here's where I came into my own. I insisted that we spend a fair amount of time exploring The Rocks, the birthplace of Sydney. This is where the original settlers landed (or more accurately were landed - after all, they were convicts) and established the first town in Australia.

To commemorate that, I took the family to the Fortune of War pub - the oldest pub in Sydney. To further educate them, we also visited the Australian Hotel, which claims it is the oldest continuously licensed pub in Sydney. The distinction is in the phrase "continuously licensed."

In any event, I thought the history lessons went extremely well. I certainly enjoyed them.

And so we bid a fond farewell to Sydney. There was something for everyone, we had a great time, the people were warm, welcoming, and wonderful, and the food and beer was fabulous. The only drawback was that is was quite pricey. Think New York prices with small town Texas friendliness.

There's so much more to tell, but I've run out of time. According to my wife's schedule, we leave in five minutes to go do ... something...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Funnies 06.16.2013

I've lost time while we're down here. I missed Flag Day and the U.S. Army's birthday, but hopefully this will be posted in time for Father's Day. I hope all you Dads out there enjoy it.

The father of five children had won a toy at a raffle.
He called his kids together to ask which one should have the present.
"Who is the most obedient?" he asked.
"Who never talks back to mother?"
"Who does everything mother says?"
Five small voices replied in unison. "Okay daddy! You get the toy."

A small boy came up to his dad and meekly said "Daddy, Daddy, can I have another glass of water please?" The dad replied "But I've given you 10 glasses of water already son!" The little boy then said, "Oh yes daddy, but the bedroom is still on fire!"

What is the perfect Father's Day gift? Taking your Mom away on a vacation with you.

My dear old dad always said he had two big disappointments in life: the dog ran away and I didn't.

By tradition, fathers wear a red flower on Father's Day, if their father is alive and a white flower if he's dead. And if they have a nagging wife and a house full of screaming kids, they wear a pink flower -- which means they are living but wish they were dead

Saturday, June 15, 2013

World Tour Update #2

One of the greatest  benefits of a trip like this is gaining a new perspective. It reminds us what is truly important, and it gives us a fresh insight into old problems.

Regarding what is truly important, we've reconnected as a family. We've set aside digital devices (granted, some of that is due to technological challenges, of which I'll have more to say later) and are spending time  talking FTF. We're reminded that we actually like each other. Of course, we have four more weeks to go, so that could change, but so far, so good.

As for fresh insight into old problems, it's amazing how quickly the gloom and doom mindset disappears once one ceases to be constantly enmeshed in the daily routine of visiting news and commentary websites. There's a whole wide wonderful world out there, and life goes on regardless of what foolish shenanigans the politicos are up to. For example, I heard that obama was going to send military aid to the Syrian rebels. Surely he wouldn't be so stupid as to give weapons to a group that includes al queda, a terrorist group sworn to destroy America ... would he...?

Anyway, we left Sydney today and have arrived in Adelaide. Sydney was wonderful. It's a lot like San Francisco, both geographically (a harbor surrounded by rolling hills) and culturally (diverse, eclectic, and historical). It's also quite pricey. I'm limited in what I can post (technology issues again - more on that later) but I'll hopefully have a more comprehensive post on our stay in Sydney in a few days.

Adelaide is quite different. It has more of a casual, college town feel. More room, slower pace, less hectic. We'll spend tomorrow exploring the town, and then touring the wine country the next day.

Details to follow...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2013.06.14

Our first Friday in Australia. What could be a better choice than the country's unofficial national anthem?


Thursday, June 13, 2013

World Tour Update #1

Impressions of Sydney
  • first impression - reminded me of Houston
As we were approaching the airport we flew over a refinery and a tank farm.  Once we landed we became caught up in heavy traffic. The road was crowded, dirty, and covered with graffiti.
  • Rained heavily the first day here. Second day was gorgeous - clear sunny skies, temperature near 80.
  •  Lots of different types of people here - native Aussies, Indians (dots on the forehead Indians, not bow and arrow Indians), middle Eastern types, Germans, French, tourists, and Asians - lots and lots of Asians. Very international/cosmopolitan.
  • Great pubs. I've lived in them for lunch and dinner - and the beer is wonderful.
  • The people are likewise wonderful. Extremely warm and welcoming. We feel very much at home here.
Bottom line - great city, great people, great pub grub and beer. If you ever get the chance to come here I highly recommend it.

Sea Stories

Our local community newspaper, the Boerne Star, is pretty typical of a small town paper. It's published twice a week, and ignores state, national, and international stories in favor of local ones. The columnists and commentators are likewise local. They're people from the area who contribute occasional opinion and local color pieces.

One of the regular writers is a guy named Ed Davis. I've never met Ed in person, but I feel I know him through his writings (much like many of the bloggers I've become acquainted with). Ed is a WWII vet, serving on destroyers throughout his Navy career. Since a couple of Navy types occasionally drop by here, I thought they'd get a kick out of a recent column by Ed.
This week I received notice of my ship’s reunion to be held in the fall. I like to go if I can because I always learn some new and interesting facts.

These facts are usually called “sea stories” and while some may have some basis in truth, it is not a strict requirement. Here are a couple of examples.

Mike was a true sailor, a member of the motley crew affectionately known as “deck-apes”, and proud they were of it. Most of them could have spent a little more quality time in the classroom when they were growing up, but they were a lovely group of fellows, nonetheless.

Some of them had a vocabulary that would allow them to communicate in polite society for a limited time, if necessary. Many did not.

Mike could read some writing and write some reading. The censor would attest to this even if he did have to rely heavily upon his scissors while performing this duty for him.

Now I must explain something here to you landlubbers so that the stories to follow will not pass over your heads completely.

When some sailor performed some forbidden act or mouthed some forbidden words it was not unusual to hear the cry, “Take that man’s name.” If the act was not particularly heinous the man would usually end up in a disciplinary proceeding called “Captain’s Mast.”

If my memory has not failed me, it derived from an old practice of bringing the miscreant before the Captain in the vicinity of the mast, at which time the Captain would judge his case.

Now Mike had probably received a letter from his mother. It takes no great stretch of the imagination to conclude this, since Mike’s return letter the censor held in his hand went something like this:

“Dear Mom - You asked if I was going to church every Sunday like I promised. I have not, but it is not my fault. Mom, this ship does not have a priest aboard. Some say it is because destroyer sailors are too wicked for salvation, while others claim we are not a big enough congregation for the Navy to afford one. But do not worry about me, Mom, I have been to Captain’s Mass four times in the last three weeks. Your loving son, Mike.”

I was not the censor, in case you are wondering how I came by these private communications. Let me just say that if the wartime expression “Loose lips sink ships” had applied to the censor, you would not now be reading this.

A sailor passing by the wardroom where the censoring was usually done was never surprised to hear horse-laughing coming from inside, but somewhat bemused, nevertheless, wondering if it might be his own letter which was the source of such merriment.

Perry, another shipmate, was our best lookout. The trouble with Perry was that if somebody gave him an order he thought he was supposed to obey it. I mean, like he continually swept the sky and sea with his binoculars, never resting his eyes or pausing for a quick cup of joe.

I am not sure he even blinked. But like many a man ruined by the perception of what others said about him, he was extremely proud of his work which, while necessary, was the most boring job imaginable, and lonely, too, by himself on the flying bridge.

He did such a good job that everybody else left it to him when he was aloft.

One day a Japanese plane practically fell on our fantail and no one but Perry saw it.

The censor really should have kept his mouth shut. Perry’s work demanded approval, not publication. “Dear Mom,” he wrote, “I know you always wanted me to make something of myself. Promotion does not come easy in the Navy. I cannot tell you any secrets, but I now have a very high position on this ship. Your loving son, Perry”
Brings to mind the old joke about the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story: a fairy tale starts off with "Once upon a time..." and a sea story begins with "Now this ain't no shit..."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Long Day (or was it two?)

We left our home in Texas at 1:00 p.m. on Monday June 10.  We arrived at the Sydney airport at 7:00 a.m. the next day. Only it was Wed. June 12. What the hell happened to Tuesday?

I watched more movies on the flight down here than in the past five years. In a nutshell:
Oz the Great and Powerful - yawn.
Jack the Giant Slayer - pretty good. I would actually pay money to see this one.
Skyfall - not bad. It had its moments, but was too long.
 Yawn ... eyelids getting heavy. More later.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Off To See The Wizard

If all has gone as planned, we are now jetting our way across the Pacific headed for a once in a lifetime trip to Oz (aka Australia).

We've been planning this trip for years - decades, actually. A long time ago my wife and I decided that we'd take our once in a lifetime trip with the kids the year before the first one graduated from high school. We only missed it by one year.

Our thinking was that once the kids started graduating they'd get busy with their own lives during the summers - jobs, internships, etc. The concept is still sound, but life interfered last year so we postponed it to this year. It actually worked out better, since I am now retired and don't have to worry about job conflicts.

The plan is to spend a few days in Sydney doing all the culture stuff (to me, that means the harbor bars). I'll especially need to hit a bar or two if, as planned, we climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Then we head to Adelaide for a tour of the wine country. That's followed by a few days on Kangaroo Island, a wildlife refuge off the southern coast. We then go to Brisbane for a couple of days, then it's off to Heron Island for three days of scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef.

After that I managed to finagle a side trip to New Zealand, where the wife and kids will go skiing while I go red stag hunting. We meet up and take a train to the Franz Josef Glacier area, where we go heli-hiking (take a helicopter up the glacier and then hike down). After that we board a plane and head for home, 30+ days and thousands of dollars later.

We're spending a bundle on this trip, but like I said, we started saving for it close to 20 years ago. Plus I had a bunch of frequent flier miles and credit card points that we used for plane tickets and hotels. So it's not putting too big of a dent in our pocketbook.

Internet access will be uncertain, but I've got a few posts pre-scheduled to fill in the gaps, so there should be something new here most days.

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 10, 2013

FOD 2013.06.10

I never did buy into the whole "obama is a gifted orator" story. If you've ever watched one of his press conferences, you know that he is incapable of giving a simple, straightforward answer to a question. Take away his teleprompter or his script and the guy is at a complete loss for words. He stutters, stammers, hems and haws like a first-time public speaker.

Here's the latest example.
President Obama strolled out to the podium today in San Jose, CA and was immediately at a loss for words. Not only did the President not have teleprompter, his aides forgot his speech.

“My remarks are not sitting here,” the President declared awkwardly.  “I’m uhhh….people….oh goodness….uhhhh...folks are sweating back there right now.”

President Obama, who’s often mocked for an over-reliance on scripts, shifted uncomfortably smiling for several moments buying time. An aide sprinted out with a hard copy of the speech, tripping at one point, adding to the drama.




Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Funnies 2013.06.09

Yesterday was my son's high school graduation ceremony. What's my take on the whole thing?



What's his take on it?



What do other people think about graduation?
"To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done.
And to the 'C' students, I say you too may one day be President of the United States."
  -- George W. Bush

"Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be President.
And anyone who doesn't grow up can be Vice President."
  -- Johnny Carson

"Wearing colorful Converse high-tops beneath your graduation robe is a great way to tell your classmates that this is just the first of many horrible decisions you plan to make with the rest of your life."
  -- Conan O’Brien

“High School is a lot like toilet paper, you only miss it when its gone.”
  -- Anonymous

Saturday, June 8, 2013

One Down, One To Go

We went to our son's high school graduation ceremony today. He's now legally an adult, a high school graduate, and has been accepted into Texas A&M. In a few short months he'll be out the door (more or less).

That's one down, and one to go.

I know that as a parent I'm supposed to have all these conflicting emotions about my little boy being all grown up, but honestly, I'm mostly relieved. Not relieved to be rid of him, but relieved that he made it through high school and into college without any significant 'incidents' (hey, that's better than I did). I'm sure I'll feel quite differently when it's my daughter's turn.

Next year, if all goes as planned (knock on wood), she'll turn 18, graduate from high school, and head off to college. Then my wife and I will be empty-nesters. Another life-style adjustment...

One final note regarding the actual graduation ceremony: I am so happy and proud of our local school district and the parents. The ceremony began with the posting of the colors by the high school's junior ROTC. Everyone stood without being prompted, uncovered their heads, and placed their hands over their hearts. That was followed by the high school choir singing the national anthem. The audience sang along, again without prompting. Finally, there was a prayer. Yes, a real honest-to-God prayer at an official school function. No protests, no complaints.

That's the America I grew up in. It's nice to know there are parts of this country where the traditional values are still embraced.

Kindergarten Cops

What a sad commentary on our times...
The words "kindergarten graduation" usually evoke images of tearful parents taking pictures of cute kids in pint-sized graduation caps and gowns.

But for students and parents at Michael R. White Elementary School in Cleveland, "kindergarten graduation" might now conjure images of "aggravated rioting."

This, after eight individuals were arrested Friday morning after a fight near the end of the school's graduation ceremony.

Cleveland Police Commander Wayne Drummond was one of the first responding officers to the scene.

He told CNN affiliate WEWS that the initial feud prompted family members on both sides to get involved.

"It's an absolute shame," said Drummond. "That something as good as a graduation ceremony, a promotion ceremony, is marred by the actions of a few."
First of all, a graduation from kindergarten?!? Just another example of the trophy generation mindset that has inflated the expectations of so many young people.
Now what happens when these trophy kids arrive in the workplace with greater expectations than any generation before them? "Their attitude is always 'What are you going to give me,' " says Natalie Griffith, manager of human-resource programs at Eaton Corp. "It's not necessarily arrogance; it's simply their mindset."
But moving beyond that, what sort of people barbarians can't behave themselves long enough to allow a bunch of 5-year-olds to enjoy a brief moment in the sun?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Follies 2013.06.07

Retired life...

Do As I Say

As parents we've all told our kids at one time or another "Do as I say, not as I do." Last night was a perfect example.

When we lived in Houston 15+ years ago I had a very close friend who lived less than a mile from us. I've known him longer than I've known my wife. Once we moved he and I stayed in touch, but FTF get-togethers became less and less frequent over the years. He's a big Aggie, so when my son and I got to College Station (home of the Fightin' Texas Aggies - that gets drummed into your head real quick) I sent him a text: "Having a beer in the Dixie Chicken. Wish you were here." (FYI - the Dixie Chicken is another Aggie tradition - they have so damn many...).

Turns out he's moved since the last time we spoke and now lives 45 minutes from College Station. It also turns out that his daughter goes to A&M (I knew that) and is majoring in the same thing my son wants to major in (I didn't know that). And it just so happens that she's going to summer school right now.

To make a long story short, we all got together last night. His daughter walked my son through what courses to take, what instructors to take (and to avoid), where to hang out, all that good stuff. She's a real take-charge type, and my boy is more laid back and easy going. Plus she is flat out drop dead gorgeous - last time I saw here she was missing her two front teeth and had a scraped knee and pig tails. She has, as they say, blossomed. The boy was smitten.

They're meeting this morning for breakfast. I don't think anything will come of it. She's an older woman (a junior - two years older than him) but it was funny to watch him trailing her around last night with his tongue hanging out.

Anyway, while she was planning his life for the next four years, her father and I were catching up - a process that made us exceedingly thirsty. It's a guy thing. You don't see a buddy for several years. When you do meet up the conversation goes something like this.
How ya been?

Okay. How 'bout you?

Okay. Wanna beer?

Sure.
After the first round it was like we'd never been apart. As the stories began to flow each one was preceded by "Now I don't want you kids to ever do this, but one time your Dad and I..."

I'm afraid they paid more attention to the stories than the disclaimer.

Thankfully, the kids are now old enough to drive us home. Now I just need to make sure the boy doesn't tell his mother.

More new student conference stuff today, then the long drive home.

I'll be napping most of the way while the boy drives...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

And So It Begins

I'm in beautiful downtown College Station, home of the Fightin' Texas Aggies. I'm here with my son and one of his buddies, both of whom will be freshmen here next fall. We're in town for a new student conference, which is intended to introduce them to college life, help smooth the transition, and get their classes scheduled.

The boys, however, seem to believe that this visit's purpose is to begin their college social life early. Five minutes after we checked in they left me to explore the campus and meet some friends who are here also. The plan is for us to meet up for breakfast.

It doesn't bother me too much. After all, when I was 18 I couldn't wait to get away, and I'm sure my old man felt the same.

Next year, however, my daughter goes off to college. I'm sure I'll have an entirely different set of emotions then...

Remembering D-Day

Today is the 69th anniversary of the Allied landings at Normandy in WW II - better known as D-Day.
''London, Tuesday, June 6, 1944: Under command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France.''

The world caught its breath. Not since 1688 had an invading army crossed the English Channel, but now it was happening -- Operation Overlord, D-Day, the all-out attack on Hitler's fortress Europe. 
That was a different time, when America was united against a ruthless, cruel, and barbaric enemy.

Today we face an enemy no less ruthless, cruel, and barbaric. Unfortunately, however, we are far from united. Also, thanks in large part to a public school system that is more concerned with political correctness than historical accuracy, our young people have forgotten the lessons painfully learned from the past.




Nevertheless, many of us remember and honor those who fought and died that day.



Following are three links to sites that provide some interesting human and historical insights into D-Day. The first is the U.S. Army's official D-Day web page which includes, among other information, photos of the invasion and a recording of Dwight D. Eisenhower's message broadcast to the troops just prior to the landings.

The second is a site related to the excellent PBS film D-Day:
D-Day is told entirely with rare archival footage -- much of it never shown before -- and the voices of 43 people who were there. Produced by Charles Guggenheim, the film is also a centerpiece for the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans.
There is much more at the link, including links to several human-interest pages (click the Special Features link).

Finally we have a collection of wonderful color photos from Life magazine.

In an interesting coincidence, one of the pictures in the series (below) is of a couple of combat engineers using a crate of ammunition as a makeshift table prior to the invasion. My father was a combat engineer who landed at Omaha Beach. (No, he's not in the picture. That would have been too much of a coincidence.)


"It should never be forgotten that, of all events of our tumultuous 20th century, perhaps the most important was the defeat of the Nazi empire; and for a long and very dark time, for nearly five years, that outcome was by no means certain. D-Day was the turning point. It was day one of the final drive to complete Allied victory."
Bless 'em all...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Country Tough

I dropped by my doctor's office yesterday for my annual physical. While I was sitting in the waiting room a little old lady came in. She stood about 5' 4" or so, and I'd guesstimate her to weigh in at somewhere between 110-120 pounds. Her skin was tanned and leathery. The muscles in her arms and legs were long and lean. They were the kind of muscles that you get from work, not working out. I'd put her age in the late 50s or early 60s.

She walked up to the receptionist and apologized for coming in without an appointment, but said she was a little worried. I wasn't trying to listen, but it's a small room and she had a strong voice.

Turns out she was lifting a wagon off a baby goat (!) when she felt something "pop" in her side. She said she took a couple of aspirin, but it still hurt. She also said that it really hurt "something awful" when she coughed.

The receptionist checked the schedule and said she might be able to work her in later that afternoon. The little old lady said thank you, and then asked if the receptionist had a kleenex. The receptionist gave her one, and the little old lady promptly went through a body-shaking wracking spasm of coughing. When she was done there was blood on the kleenex.

The receptionist immediately sat the little old lady down and called the doctor, who called an ambulance and sent her off to the ER with what he suspected was a broken rib and a punctured lung.

And the little old lady was trying to cure that with a couple of aspirin.

They raise 'em tough around here...

Debilitating Stupidity Plus Arrogance And Ignorance

Chris Christie has gone and done it again. Rather than appointing a republican to fill the late and unlamented Frank Lautenberg's senate seat, the NJ governor wimped out and called for a special election on Oct. 16. That prompted this response.
Gov. Chris Christie's decision to set a special election this year to fill New Jersey's vacant Senate seat wasn't met with open arms Tuesday by a fellow Republican, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

"All Christie has to do is appoint a Republican. That's the correct move for him to make," Armey said. "Now, I put it down as debilitating stupidity. The first rule of politics is 'Don't lose the friends you already have for the friends you're never going to get.' And if he thinks the Democrats are going to love him for being the guy who plays fair rather than takes the political opportunity he's crazy."
Christie has been making overtures to the democrats ever since he palled around with obama in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. This move is likely to further alienate him from conservatives.

Not to be outdone, the democrats trotted out their own version of debilitating stupidity.

Dem. Congressman Blames IRS Victims For Being Targeted
Congressman Jim McDermott, a Democrat,  said that the groups targeted by the IRS had it coming since they filed paperwork seeking a special tax status with the federal government:

"I'd like to remind everyone what we're talking about here," McDermott said at today's IRS hearing. "None of your organizations were kept from organizing or silenced. We're talking about whether or not the American taxpayers will subsidize your work. We're talking about a tax break. If you didn't come in and ask for this tax break, you would've never had a question asked of you. You could go out there and say anything you want in the world."
The arrogance and ignorance of this smug asshole are just astounding.

I can't figure out who is dumber - those two idiot politicians (along with their brethren and sistren), or the idiots who keep electing them.

I think it's a tie...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Leno Does It Again

I'm sure gonna miss this guy when he's gone.
JAY LENO: President Obama says he’s renewing his efforts to close Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay? How about closing the IRS? Why don’t we do that?

[Thunderous applause]

How about shipping the IRS to Guantanamo Bay?

[Thunderous applause]

Well, more problems with the IRS. A new report has found that they spent $50 million on employee conferences and retreats in just two years. They would have investigated sooner, but it turns out, you know, they don’t belong to any conservative groups. So nobody really noticed.
Like all good comedy, there's a lot of truth in there...

Advice From A Retired Husband

I may have mentioned a time or two that I'm recently retired (pause to wipe the grin off my face and put down my adult beverage...).

As with any major lifestyle change, my wife and I are going through a small adjustment period. I'm spending some quality time with her, offering constructive criticism and helpful suggestions on how she can improve her daily routine.

In return, she has exhibited an unfortunate tendency to take umbrage at this. In fact, she has gone so far as to send me the following.
It is important for men to remember that, as women grow older, it becomes harder for them to maintain the same quality of housekeeping as when they were younger. When you notice this, try not to yell at them. Some are oversensitive, and there’s nothing worse than an oversensitive woman.

My name is Ron. Let me relate how I handled the situation with my wife, Carol Anne. When I retired a few years ago, it became necessary for Carol Anne to get a full-time job, along with her part-time job, both for extra income and for the health benefits that we needed. Shortly after she started working, I noticed she was beginning to show her age. I usually get home from the golf club about the same time she gets home from work

Although she knows how hungry I am, she almost always says she has to rest for half an hour or so before she starts dinner. I don’t yell at her. Instead, I tell her to take her time and just wake me when she gets dinner on the table. I generally have lunch in the Men’s Grill at the club, so eating out is not an option in the evening. I’m ready for some home-cooked grub when I hit that door. She used to do the dishes as soon as we finished eating. But now it’s not unusual for them to sit on the table for several hours after dinner.

I do what I can by diplomatically reminding her several times each evening that they won’t clean themselves. I know she really appreciates this, as it does seem to motivate her to get them done before she goes to bed.

Another symptom of aging is complaining, I think. For example, she will say that it is difficult for her to find time to pay the monthly bills during her lunch hour.. But we take ‘em for better or worse, so I just smile and offer encouragement. I tell her to stretch it out over two, or even three days. That way, she won’t have to rush so much. I also remind her that missing lunch completely now and then wouldn’t hurt her any (if you know what I mean). I like to think tact is one of my strong points..

When doing simple jobs, she seems to think she needs more rest periods. She had to take a break when she was only half-finished mowing the lawn. I try not to make a scene. I’m a fair man. I tell her to fix herself a nice, big, cold glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and just sit for a while. And, as long as she is making one for herself, she may as well make one for me, too.

I know that I probably look like a saint in the way I support Carol Anne. I’m not saying that showing this much patience and consideration is easy. Many men will find it difficult. Some will find it impossible! Nobody knows better than I do how frustrating women get as they get older. However, guys, even if you just use a little more tact and less criticism of your aging wife because of this article, I will consider that writing it was well worthwhile. After all, we are put on this earth to help each other.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Ron died suddenly last month of a perforated rectum. The police report says he was found with a Calloway extra-long 50-inch Big Bertha Driver II golf club jammed up his rear end, with barely 5 inches of grip showing, and a sledge hammer laying nearby. His wife Carol Anne was arrested and charged with murder. The all-woman jury took only 10 minutes to find her Not Guilty, accepting her defense that Ron, somehow without looking, accidentally sat down on his golf club.

Couldn't Happen To A More Deserving Hag

Good news and bad news...

First, the good news:

Hillary's approval ratings plummet, Benghazi scandal blamed
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains the 2016 presidential candidate to beat, but her handling of the Benghazi, Libya assassination of the U.S. ambassador, panned by the public, has significantly knocked her approval ratings down from an all-time high of just three months ago, according to a new poll.

While her favorability rating in February was 61 percent, a new Quinnipiac University poll out Friday had it cobbled down to 52 percent and her once double-digit lead over potential GOP presidential challengers Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul has been cut to less than 10 percent.

"Her score is down substantially from her all-time high score in February. The drop in her favorability is substantial among men, Republicans and independent voters. One reason for her drop may be that 48 percent of voters blame her either a little or a lot for the death of the American ambassador in Benghazi," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University polling Institute.
She should be blamed for the Benghazi fiasco. She ignored repeated requests for more security, she quite probably had a hand in preventing any military response, and she damn sure was an enthusiastic participant in the subsequent coverup.

Now for the bad news: in addition to the fact that 52% of the people polled still view her favorably (Why?!? Will someone please explain to me why on God's green Earth over half the people view that evil witch favorably?) she is still the odds-on favorite to be the next President of the United States.
Still, she is the Democrat's best chance to succeed President Obama in the Oval Office. In matchups with the leading Republican hopefuls, Clinton beats Paul 49 percent to 41 percent and Bush 48 percent to 40 percent.

Vice President Joe Biden is her chief rival for the job. But in the new poll he loses to Bush by six points and Paul by four points.
Let's close with a little more good news:
"If Ms. Clinton chooses not to run in 2016, the potential Democratic field could include a somewhat unpopular vice president and a number of new faces who are unknown to the vast majority of Americans," said Brown. "The potential Republican candidates include many unknowns also. Some of them, however, lead the incumbent vice president and outscore him when it comes to overall voter favorability."
2016 is, of course, a long way off. There is any number of things that could happen between now and then. But if the stink from Benghazi can be permanently affixed to hillary, and if she decides not to run, and if none of the potential republicans do something stupid (a great big if), then maybe there's some hope for this country after all.

But not if hillary gets elected...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bonus FOD 2013.05.03

Here's a somewhat lengthy but well-worth-the-time total destruction of the "there wasn't enough time to do anything" B.S. put out by the obama administration regarding their lack of response to the attacks on our compound in Benghazi.

But first, some background on the author.
Colonel Phil “Hands” Handley, USAF (Ret.) is credited with the highest speed air-to-air gun kill in the history of aerial combat. He flew operationally for all but 11 months of a 26-year career, in aircraft such as the F-86 Sabre, F-15 Eagle, and the C-130A Hercules. Additionally, he flew 275 combat missions during two tours in Southeast Asia in the F-4D and F-4E. His awards include 21 Air Medals, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Silver Star.
Clearly, this man knows what he's talking about. We would do well to heed his words.

Betrayal in Benghazi
The combat code of the US Military is that we don’t abandon our dead or wounded on the battlefield. In US Air Force lingo, fighter pilots don’t run off and leave their wingmen. If one of our own is shot down, still alive and not yet in enemy captivity, we will either come to get him or die trying.  Among America’s fighting forces, the calm, sure knowledge that such an irrevocable bond exists is priceless. Along with individual faith and personal grit, it is a sacred trust that has often sustained hope in the face of terribly long odds.

The disgraceful abandonment of our Ambassador and those brave ex-SEALs who fought to their deaths to save others in that compound is nothing short of dereliction-of-duty.  Additionally, the patently absurd cover-up scenario that was fabricated in the aftermath was an outright lie in attempt to shield the President and the Secretary of State from responsibility.

It has been over eight months since the attack on our compound in Benghazi. The White House strategy, with the aid of a “lap dog press” has been to run out the clock before the truth is forthcoming.  The recent testimonies of the three “whistle blowers” have reopened the subject and hopefully will lead to exposure and disgrace of those responsible for this embarrassing debacle.

It would appear that the most recent firewall which the Administration is counting on is the contention that there were simply no military assets that could be brought to bear in time to make a difference… mainly due to the unavailability of tanker support for fighter aircraft.  This is simply BS, regardless how many supposed “experts” the Administration trot out to make such an assertion. The bottom line is that even if the closest asset capable of response was half-way around the world, you don’t just sit on your penguin *** and do nothing. The fact is that the closest asset was not half-way around the world, but as near as Aviano Air Base, Italy where two squadrons of F-16Cs are based.

Consider the following scenario (all times Benghazi local):

When Hicks in Tripoli receives a call at 9:40 PM from Ambassador Stevens informing him “Greg, we are under attack!” (his last words), he immediately notifies all agencies and prepares for the immediate initiation of an existing “Emergency Response Plan.”  At AFRICON, General Carter Ham attempts to mount a rescue effort, but is told to “stand down.”  By 10:30 PM an unarmed drone is overhead the compound and streaming live feed to various Command and Control Agencies… and everyone watching that feed knew damn well what was going on. At 11:30 PM Woods, Doherty and five others leave Tripoli, arriving in Benghazi at 1:30 AM on Wednesday morning, where they hold off the attacking mob from the roof of the compound until they are killed by a mortar direct hit at 4:00 AM.

So nothing could have been done, eh?  Nonsense.  If one assumes that tanker support really was not available… what about this:

·     When at 10:00 PM AFRICON alerts the 31st TFW Command Post in Aviano Air Base, Italy of the attack, the Wing Commander orders preparation for the launch of two F-16s and advises the Command Post at NAS Sigonella to prepare for hot pit refueling and quick turn of the jets.

·     By 11:30 PM, two F-16Cs with drop tanks and each armed with five hundred 20 MM rounds are airborne. Flying at 0.92 mach they will cover the 522 nautical miles directly to NAS Sigonella in 1.08 hours.

·     While in-route, the flight lead is informed of the tactical situation, rules of engagement, and radio frequencies to use.

·     The jets depart Sigonella at 1:10 AM with full fuel load and cover the 377 nautical miles directly to Benghazi in 0.8 hours, arriving at 1:50 AM… which would be 20 minutes after the arrival of Woods, Doherty and their team.

·     Providing that  the two F-16s initial pass over the mob, in full afterburner at 200 feet and 550 knots did not stop the attack in its tracks, only a few well placed strafing runs on targets of opportunity would assuredly do the trick.

·     Were the F-16s fuel state insufficient to recover at Sigonelli after jettisoning their external drop tanks, they could easily do so at Tripoli International Airport, only one-half hour away.

·     As for those hand-wringing naysayers who would worry about IFR clearances, border crossing authority, collateral damage, landing rights, political correctness and dozens of other reasons not to act… screw them.  It is high time that our “leadership” get their priorities straight and put America’s interests first.

The end result would be that Woods and Doherty would be alive.

Dozens in the attacking rabble would be rendezvousing with “72 virgins”… and a clear message would have been sent to the next worthless POS terrorist contemplating an attack on Americans that it is not really a good idea to “tug on Superman’s cape.”

Of course all this would depend upon a Commander In Chief who was more concerned with saving the lives of those he put in harm’s way than getting his crew rest for a campaign fund raising event in Las Vegas the next day.  As well as a Secretary of State that actually understood “What difference did it make?”, or a Secretary of Defense whose immediate response was not to the effect that “One of the military tenants is that you don’t commit assets until you fully understand the tactical situation.” Was he not watching a live feed from the unarmed drone… and he didn’t understand the tactical situation?  YGBSM!

Ultimately it comes down to the question of who gave that order to “stand down?” Whoever that coward turns out to be should be exposed, removed from office, and face criminal charges for dereliction of duty.  The combat forces of the United States of America deserve leadership that really does “have their back” when the chips are down.
Well said, Col. Handley. I wish we had people like you in charge, instead of the sniveling political weasels currently running our country into the ground.

FOD 2013.05.03

A few random thoughts on obama's role in addressing illegal immigration.

First of all, we can rest assured that obama will treat any new immigration legislation with the sincerity, objectivity, and integrity he has shown in enforcing existing laws.
A federal judge said this week that the Obama administration is likely violating the law by telling immigration agents and officers not to arrest illegal immigrants they deem low priority, in a case that could upend President Obama’s enforcement policy.

For the last several years the administration has said it will no longer arrest most illegal immigrants, arguing it wants to focus only on those with serious criminal records or gang ties. The Homeland Security department said it was using “prosecutorial discretion.”
And what happens when we leave it up to the discretion of DHS?

ICE admits hundreds of illegal immigrants with criminal records released
Hundreds of illegal immigrants with criminal records were released earlier this year as the Obama administration prepared for budget cuts, according to newly released data that challenged claims the program involved "low-risk" individuals.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement released the figures to two top senators, after a three-month delay and under the threat of congressional subpoenas.
Apparently, it's a matter of priorities.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with three illegal immigrants who have been granted deferred action legal status in the Oval Office Tuesday. Meanwhile, Obama still refuses to meet with any border security enforcement officers about any aspect of immigration reform.
In the meantime, a new question has arisen.
What does the new immigration proposal in Washington have in common with Obamacare?

The exemptions. The loopholes. The options.
In other words, if you like obamacare, you'll love immigration reform.

But not to worry.

We Trust Barack Obama
It has come to our attention that some bitter-enders are clinging to their opposition to S.744, the Gang of Eight immigration bill now being considered by the Senate. The most vexing issue for us is the skeptics’ lack of trust in the Obama administration’s willingness to faithfully execute the immigration laws. Since the whole bill is predicated on trust in Obama, we wanted to dispel any lingering doubts you may have about the legislation.

We trust Barack Obama to implement in good faith the border-control plans his Department of Homeland Security will submit to Congress within six months of his signing the bill, which is the trigger for legalizing virtually all illegal immigrants.

We trust Barack Obama to rigorously apply the requirements for legalization, rejecting and deporting all applicants who fail to qualify.

We trust Barack Obama to permit ICE and Border Patrol agents to enforce the laws as written, without interference from political appointees or pressure from well-connected advocacy groups.
(There's more at the link, but you get the idea.)
Yeah, right...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Shooting Ourselves In The Foot

I am far from a military expert, but I do try to stay abreast of significant events. One trend that increasingly worries me is seeing Red China actively transitioning from a defensive to an offensive stance, especially in its naval capabilities. As the article below points out, "China is the only large power in the world preparing to shoot Americans."

So what is our response to this looming threat? Are we ratcheting up our preparedness. Are we better positioning ourselves to meet this emerging threat?

Well, not exactly. Instead, we are inviting the Chicoms to join us in war games.
This spring, China's navy accepted the Pentagon's invitation to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific — RIMPAC — naval exercise to be held off Hawaii. This will be the first time China takes part in the biennial event.

Our allies should signal their intent to withdraw from the exercise if China participates. Failing that, the invitation should be withdrawn. RIMPAC is for allies and friends, not nations planning to eventually wage war on the United States. Russia sent ships in 2012, but while its senior officers may occasionally utter unfriendly words, they are not actively planning to fight the United States. Analyst Robert Sutter was surely correct when he wrote in 2005 that "China is the only large power in the world preparing to shoot Americans."

That assessment, unfortunately, remains true today. Beijing is configuring its forces — especially its navy — to fight ours. For instance, China has deployed along its southern coast its DF-21D, a two-stage solid-fuel missile that can be guided by satellite signals. The missile is dubbed the "carrier killer" because it can be configured to explode in midair, raining down sharp metal on a deck crowded with planes, ordinance, fuel and sailors. Its apparent intent is to drive U.S. forces out of East Asia.

A pattern of aggressive Chinese tactics also points in that direction. Especially troubling is the harassment in international waters of unarmed U.S. Navy reconnaissance vessels for more than a decade, most notably the blocking of the Impeccable in the South China Sea in 2009. And there was the 2001 downing of a Navy EP-3 and the surfacing of a Song-class attack submarine in the middle of the Kitty Hawk strike group near Okinawa in 2006.

Since then, we have been hearing bold war talk in the Chinese capital, from new leader Xi Jinping to senior officers and colonels who say they relish combat — a "hand-to-hand fight with the U.S.," as one of them put it in 2010.
A few years ago I would have been 100% confident that we'd send them back home with their tails between their legs. Today, I'm about 80% confident and 20% hopeful - and hopeful is gaining. I hope I'm wrong, but...
Why do China's officers want to go to war? There is an unfortunate confluence of factors. First, there is a new Chinese confidence bordering on arrogance. Beijing leaders, especially since 2008, have been riding high. They saw economic turmoil around the world and thought the century was theirs to dominate. The U.S. and the rest of the West, they believed, were in terminal decline.

The Chinese military also has gained substantial influence in the last year, perhaps becoming the most powerful faction in the Communist Party. Beginning as early as 2003, senior officers of the People's Liberation Army were drawn into civilian power struggles as Hu Jintao, then the new leader, sought their support in his effort to shove aside Jiang Zemin, his wily predecessor who sought to linger in the limelight. Last year, the civilian infighting intensified as the so-called Fifth Generation leadership, under the command of Xi, took over from Hu's Fourth. Like a decade ago, feuding civilians sought the support of the generals and admirals, making them arbiters in the party's increasingly rough game of politics.

The result of discord among civilian leaders has been a partial remilitarization of politics and policy. Senior officers are now acting independently of civilian officials, are openly criticizing them and are making pronouncements in areas once considered the exclusive province of diplomats.

The remilitarization has had consequences. As Huang Jing of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said: "China's military spending is growing so fast that it has overtaken strategy. The young officers are taking control of strategy, and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s. They are thinking what they can do, not what they should do."
That is an accurate -- and downright scary -- parallel.
What do China's admirals want? They are supporting their nation's territorial ambitions to close off the South China Sea to others. This brings them into conflict with nations surrounding that critical body of water and pits them against the U.S. If there has been any consistent U.S. foreign policy over the course of two centuries, it has been the defense of freedom of navigation.

According to a white paper it issued in April, China is building a navy capable of operating in the ocean's deep water, and has 235,000 officers and sailors. Its navy last year commissioned its first aircraft carrier, and it is reportedly building two more. China has about a dozen fewer submarines than the U.S., but the U.S. has global responsibilities. The Chinese, therefore, can concentrate their boats in waters close to their shores, giving them tactical and operating advantages.

While the Chinese plan to dominate their waters and eventually ours, we are helping them increase their effectiveness with invitations to RIMPAC and other exercises and by including them in joint operations like the one directed against Somali piracy. The U.S. Navy at the same time is continuing to reduce its fleet, currently at 283 deployable ships. As Beijing's behavior has become more troubling, the Pentagon has clung to the hope that military-to-military relations will somehow relieve tensions with the Chinese.

Yet as Ronald Reagan taught us, the nature of regimes matter. We are now helping an incurably aggressive state develop its military — to our peril. There is something very wrong at the core of the Obama administration's and the Pentagon's China policies.
Let me be clear. I haven't lost any faith in the spirit and abilities of the American fighting men and women in our military. I have, however, lost a lot of faith in how our politicians (including some wearing stars on their shoulders) perceive and address threats to our nation.


Sunday Funnies 2013.06.02

A little short of time, so just a few few comic strips featuring Snuffy Smith - a classic blast from the past!