Haze gray memories

All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.
~John F. Kennedy , Newport dinner speech before America’s Cup Races, Sept. 1962

I have never learned to sail a wind-driven vessel, nor do I recall the difference between a sloop and a ketch. That said, it does not mean I have no familiarity with ships, storms, life aboard ship, or the special bond that seafaring men (or women) have as a crew at sea.  For eight years out of a twenty-six year Navy career, I was a member of ships company, on a Virginia-class cruiser, a Spruance -class destroyer, and a converted amphibious transport dock-turned-command ship (for the U.S. THIRD Fleet).  I have spent months at sea repetitively in the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, Mediterranean,  and Caribbean Seas.  Perhaps the readers of this blog, merchantmen and military navymen (and women) have also looked upon Naples, Italy with Mount Vesuvius as a backdrop in the early morning.  As a Petty Officer on a ship that was one of the very first Navy visitors after forty years of the Cold War,  made port in Varna, Bulgaria. On deployment to enforce blockade of Saddam Hussein’s illicit oil trade after the Gulf War, transited the Suez Canal and made circles in the Red Sea. Like the apostles of Jesus two millennia ago, I walked the streets of old Jerusalem, visited Cyprus and Crete, Turkey and Greece.  Gazed upon the ruins of ancient seafaring civilizations four thousand years old.   I’ve ridden trains on a day’s liberty time as a Pacific Fleet sailor between Yokosuka and Tokyo, Japan,  and as an Atlantic Fleet one from Marseilles to Paris, France.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a gray dawn breaking.
~John Masefield

A man I have known casually for years at a place I have written about many times, Liberty Tobacco, a cigar lounge in San Diego, California, is another Old Salt.  We both have long careers in the electronics industry and worked at some of the same places in San Diego.   But tonight we learned that we have been to the same places underway on ships,  and to shore stations around the country.  Twenty-five or thirty years ago is a long time in an age where, in a social media-world, memories last minutes or perhaps hours till another attention-seeker replaces them.

We shared memories of the school buildings for our respective Navy trades being across from one another on the shore of Lake Michigan.  We were assigned to electronics schools ( perhaps five years apart) at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago.  And we both have been through the fire-fighting trainer in Norfolk, Virginia. This is a large complex of buildings built to resemble shipboard compartments where fuel-oil fires are set ablaze.  Into the heat,  dense smoke, and real danger, crews are trained to combat them,  and to become familiar with all the tools and roles needed to fight and preserve a ship.  At sea, there is only your shipmates to keep your vessel afloat.

Other memories of putting to sea on your first ship get dusted off and refreshed while talking.   The times standing watch on the ship’s Quarterdeck in the middle of the night alongside the pier in Italy, you can chuckle about the garbage barge alongside – with something moving (not human) in the shadows.  Or noting wharf rats the size of cats rooting around a dumpster in the dark at the head of the pier. And realizing what “rat guards” on your mooring lines are designed to block.

Memories of winter rain in Panama that will soak you to the skin in minutes.  One of the wettest places on Earth,  the year-round rain recharges the waters in the Canal Zone powering the locks on each end of the Isthmus.  Swapping stories of liberty visits in ports ten time zones away from home that are extended to a month when a casualty occurs.   For one it was the ship’s screw (the propeller, in civilian-speak).  Without a shipyard and drydock, this enormous thing had to be replaced underwater by specially-trained teams.  For the other,  when a gas-turbine engine has to be flown from the USA and replaced in the Netherlands Antilles.  Due to a prior transit in a freshwater river in the Northeast USA, killing the built-up marine growth – and then immediate transit to the Caribbean resulted in the cooling inlets for that turbine being choked by dead organisms and engine destroyed by overheating.

The sea speaks a language polite people never repeat. It is a colossal scavenger slang and has no respect.
~Carl Sandburg

While some of my friends have experienced sea-sickness on a harbor ferry in San Diego bay, and worn the medical patches when first putting to sea on cruise ships and small frigates,  these aids may become unneeded when accustomed to life at sea for months at a time.   With merchantmen and Navymen, the camaraderie of sharing shipboard stories,  having weathered hurricanes and strong gales in the mid-Atlantic and off the western coast of Mexico transiting from the Panama Canal, the memories seem only days old instead of a quarter-century.   My shipmates and I have marveled at the  different colors of ocean water, the patterns of currents, bright sunshine and placid seas turn gray-black and stormy within hours.  I’ve been concerned for brightly color birds alighting on our ship as we leave port and then been still there twenty miles to sea.  Crossing the Equator and the International Date Line,  as a Navyman I have been both Pollywog and seasoned Shellback during the traditional ceremonies of the “Shellback Initiation”.

And some of the other ‘initiations’ like standing a first watch on the bridge – learning to always check your binoculars handed to you,  especially at night.  Some salty Bosun’ mate (Boatswains mate) may have first smeared a little shoe polish in the eyecups.   Or being especially vigilant while  manning instruments and reporting conditions during underway replenishment.  Any sailor will acknowledge the gait at sea is unique, an adaptation to simply performing your duties while the ship rolls in heavy seas.   Huge waves breaking over the bow of your ship become commonplace.  Watching a smaller vessel in your group seeming to disappear in the trough of the waves and then pop up as the waves crash by.  While performing maintenance on deck, looking out and seeing a small sailboat, manned by an individual sailor, pass alongside hundreds of miles from shore.

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. Jacques Yves Cousteau (brainyquote.com)

For the many who are serving or have served honorably in uniform, we have a bond that few understand.  For those who have spent several months, several years, or a working life,  at sea, we have another strong bond that years and decades later we recall clearly.   Perhaps it is indeed the stirring of the salt in our blood,  the sea spray on our skin,  and the experience of working together in times of routine,  in danger and in emergencies when we all realize just how we are and will always be, Sailors.

[quotes, except where noted, via writebyte.net ]

How Millennials Killed Mayonnaise – Philadelphia Magazine

In my email today I saw this story from my feed Pocket posted from the Philadelphia Magazine.  And perhaps it is my age, my nostalgia, or something about potato salad or tuna with mayo – real mayo that is,  but mayonnaise stories resonate with me.  Alas, in truth I also have succumbed to post -20th Century condiments.  The mayo that I do buy – is avocado-based!

via How Millennials Killed Mayonnaise – Philadelphia Magazine

Leaders lead not persecute

A story I heard today set my jaw, got my dander up, and got me to thinking what sort of incapable hands, and I am speaking of the enlisted Navy khaki community – have my Brothers and Sisters in the CPO Mess (Retired) left behind?   In recent years, story after story of accidents,  improper behavior (fraternization) and issues with ships, aircraft and installations continue to be reported.   The Navy’s top enlisted Sailor, the MCPON, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, resigned due to allegations of improper leadership this year.   And I heard today that a Sailor, who happens to be a career top performer and a person who shares my faith (and a member of my congregation), is being allegedly PERSECUTED by the unit CPO Mess for  (allegedly) sharing values with another sailor.    Honor? Courage? Commitment?

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honoring the WWII sacrifice of 4 chaplains

I have to wonder what has happened to the Navy I served for twenty-six years.  For as long as people have put to sea, spiritual beliefs have gone to sea with them.  For the last two centuries, members of a faith community have been guaranteed the freedom of expression, worship, and other rights, as well as equal protection under the law.  I certainly understand that everyone is entitled – and in the military particularly – to believe whatever they want to believe – as long as the mission and the team performance are not negatively affected.  A conscientious objector in charge of a weapons system is not expected.  A polygamist or adulterer is not expected to respond to policies that define conduct  which brings discredit the unit.   A person with addiction, particularly to alcohol or prescription drugs, is not the model of reliability in a moment of necessary quick response or judgement.

A search online on the topic of faith and military duty will reveal articles that support that servicemen and women of faith make better and more capable members.  And there has been at least one who was convicted at courts martial for refusing to obey orders to remove a display of religious quotes in her workplace.  That conviction was based in part on disobedience to a lawful order, and failure to demonstrate that she had taken all the proper steps via the chain of command to remedy her particular issues.

In the case of the Sailor I heard about today, I know that conduct was not the issue.  Disobedience and disrespect of a shipmate was not the issue.  If good people of faith,  technically capable and ethically sound, are forced out of serving in uniform,  then the nation as a whole suffers.  I do not expect all members of the military to share my Christian faith, nor even to have a belief in a supernatural Deity.   But I have known men and women in positions of responsibility whose conduct and attitude demeaned their peers and subordinates.  Some of those subordinates chose to leave the service at the end of their contracts.

fb_img_15287322881111Honor. Courage. Commitment.    Leadership in the armed forces of the United States is a privilege.  And respecting the spiritual beliefs of capable, ethical, and valuable members of the team is but one trait that an exceptional member of the Chief Petty Officer Mess can impart.

Entrepreneurship part 2

Continued from Thursday, 9 August

Common sense is a very important attribute to entrepreneurs.  Articles written for Entrepreneur.comReuters, the New York Times, and studies by universities all investigate the characteristics of those who start a business, develop a market, create an industry, or adapt a technology.  While many are not satisfied working for someone else’s vision, it is more difficult for innovators and skilled workers to start out on their own.  The latter may be no less motivated to succeed but the risks in starting a business, losing investment, failing, time spent making improvements or tinkering on the next venture often hold the majority back.

Years ago, when I went to work for a small business, I asked the small group who formed that technology business how and why they started.   It was a product that they were all experts supporting, and improving,  and when the corporation decided there was not enough profit to continue supporting it, these engineers stepped up.  The military customers were still actively deploying these systems so, as entrepreneurs, the men formed a company, bought the contract,  and networked with the stakeholders.  It lead to additional work.

Seeing a market where there was none, and understanding human nature,  an entrepreneur is a visionary.   As I enter my sixtieth year,  I have seen several ideas grabbed by entrepreneurs become world- changing products like the personal computer ( I had interviewed with IBM in 1986 but decided the Navy was more promising than a “personal” computer).  Netflix is a huge company today, with an internet distribution network,  it’s own productions, and ever-growing valuation.    I decided to forego investment in Netflix when it was a buck or two in the early 2000s – because I thought the DVD market would dry up.

Another entrepreneur is Kevin Plank, CEO of UnderArmour.   Creating a line of athletic clothing that wicks away moisture,  his products have been worn by soldiers, sailors, NFL players, college athletes, and even retired Senior Chiefs.   Wearing a UnderArmour shirt with the “I served”, it not only is functional when I am working out but is a statement.   After working for an entrepreneur for more than twelve years, I see a lot of value in his vision of the company as an internet services company (satellite) that services seamless connectivity on commercial, business and military aircraft, as well as secure networking systems.

I need to get more serious about my other ventures, particularly marketing.  Common sense. Vision.  Understanding people.  Maybe I should revisit that Tony Robbins interview.

 

 

Entrepreneurship part 1 of 2

I had a great conversation Wednesday evening at my “rest stop” on the way home from work.  With my evening commute often taking an hour and a half or more, sometimes I meet my wife for her dinner break at a Japanese-style poki place nearby.   I enjoy the sushi poki bowls at the one place, but the clientele’s average age is about a third of mine.  I know more people at the Starbucks across their parking lot than at Poki.  Now that I am more earnest about healthy living, my other haunt, a cigar lounge, also near her work, is someplace I only stop in once or twice a month. The cigar place is a comfortable spot, like the fictional Cheers lounge in the 1990s TV show of the same name.  But with banter over cigars in place of alcohol.    I get recharged with some great conversation, which in turn generates ideas for blog posts.

Entrepreneurs, engineers, teachers, male nurses, mechanics and delivery drivers frequent Liberty Tobacco.  Retired military men talk sports and politics. Some talk classic cars and motorcycles.  One of my acquaintances is a Ferrari delivery driver.  Another is an engineer who travels around the country to install or repair equipment at some large manufacturing companies.  Tonight I chatted with a Navy veteran turned software engineer.  We talked engineering and designing the apps that he puts on the cycling machines found in high-end gyms and rehabilitation studios – the ones that feature pelotons, scenic rides, or other distractions for indoor training.   We talked about Amazon web services and designing web applications.  One of the new tools I heard about tonight is called TERAFORM which to most bloggers in my WordPress community is likely an uninteresting topic.  But to engineers and web designer geeks  – and me tonight, an opportunity to talk about one’s passion.

For couple months now, I have been dealing with a complex engineering issue at work.  But this week I have had the opportunity to work with a brilliant peer.  He is analyzing by means of a methodical series of software images he redesigned,  clues to a particularly irritating unknown failure in a device I have been troubleshooting.  Until I started working with him, we knew “when” it stopped working, but did not know the “why”.   Even an old Senior Chief is open to learning something.

After working forty years,  I realize that there are two types of people and two types of challenges I enjoy.   Entrepreneurs, like Virgin company’s  Richard Branson; my employer, Viasat CEO, Mark Dankberg; or my former college Russian professor who started an immersion language and travel program 40 years ago.    And the second type are technical experts, be they engineers, mechanics or horticulturists.   To my shame,  my onetime boss, a construction foreman- I was in my early twenties – retorted to my arrogant comment about my apparent lack of skill, that he never met many geniuses but he would always take a “dumba%% with common sense” in his line of work.

To be successful as an entrepreneur,  a person requires initiative,  unyielding determination and great insight into human nature.  An interview I watched online featured Tony Robbins who is an expert in human nature.  He has coached people to reach inside themselves and conquer their shortcomings for nearly forty years.  Understanding what is important to one’s client, customer or consumer, and how to satisfy their particular problem or need is key to becoming successful.  Innovators may develop a revolutionary product or service.  But it is the entrepreneurs who change the world by solving a problem for people with that innovation.

(To be continued)

 

If you should happen to be in the San Diego region or know someone who is, particularly a Active Duty or former service member considering a home purchase, I can highly recommend Doug Diemer as a loan officer. He treated me very well, made the process of a VA refinance loan easy and has followed up with me quarterly. There is a lot of noise in the mortgage refinancing industry. And it helps to have someone to recommend.

Doug_Diemer

Quest for non-Fire, Ice Tea and a Paleo-donut

In the late summer in the American West, life has challenges including “excessive heat” warnings, brush and forest fires, snarled traffic, and where to go for a getaway that is  not “tourist pricey”.     Living in a region that everyone heads toward:  beaches, nearby islands, amusement parks, and mountain retreats, I want to avoid all these in summer.   Of course,  getting out away from the crowds of people for the weekend leaves the desert  and the deep sea.   Without a boat of my own, the sea is out of the question and the desert – only a few foolhardy migrants and the Border Patrol are out there in August.

Last weekend, in a spur-of-the-moment outing to celebrate my birthday,  my spouse and I thought we would go to Catalina Island off the coast southeast of  Los Angeles.  With no ferry seats on a return trip that day,  we looked elsewhere.  The popular amusement parks like Disneyland were off-limits, not because of the crowds, but because our annual Pass does not permit entry during the popular summer months for tourists.  And Nature was also causing chaos.   Brush fires along destinations we alternately considered were, like the Spirit blocking the Apostle Paul’s travel to Asia, directing me to go north up the I-15 freeway.  And so we went to Temecula, about sixty miles north of San Diego.

Yet no road trip with my wife is properly prepared unless she has a large cup of  fresh – or at least, recently-brewed UNSWEETENED ice tea at launch and part-way through the adventure.  I could write reviews on scores of places , “convenience” stores and “fast food” drive-in windows, who must not sell a lot of unsweetened, fresh tea.  When you no longer tolerate sugary soft drinks, water is about the only other choice. Even the dozen brands of bottled iced tea are a last resort.   Does anyone really like a passion-fruit-flavored Iced Tea beverage?  (For my European and British-tradition tea drinking readers,  while you have no idea whatsoever about “iced” tea as a beverage,  it is consumed by the millions of gallons annually in the United States. I have had Britons and Irishmen in those respective countries look at me as completely mad when I described brewed tea, refrigerated and poured over ice.)

Once her tea is secured, and the approximate travel time between consumption and the need for the first bathroom stop is calculated in my driving computer ( my head) we set off.  As anyone in Mid-Life, who travels frequently with their spouse, that is, fifty-ish,  the climate control in the vehicle is a frequent issue.  I generally like the air conditioning ON in the car anytime the outside temperature is above 75F.    Normally we are at opposite extremes -when she is cold I am hot.   When I am comfortable, she pulls out a sweatshirt or a jacket.  If roll a window down, she wants it up.  And so on.

At least now with our lifestyle that can at times be confused with the “Atkins diet”, the “Keto diet”, “Paleo diet” or “vegetarian”-ish, we do not bother with correcting folks.  I can eat anything, though I choose more often to eat healthy food and in smaller portions.  So what is the meaning of “Paleo donuts”?

The Paleo diet seems to be at odds with any encounter with donuts.  However, as some may be aware,  I have been focusing on a better diet and exercise for much of the last eight or nine months.  I do not subscribe to fads, particularly ones identified with the eating habits of extinct people.  But on our travels into Temecula, we found a farmers’ market I talked about in an earlier post .   I spotted a vendor offering samples of donuts and like a smart aleck, opined that that they would have to be gluten-free or Paleo -diet friendly for me to accept.   Those were.

When someone has the opportunity to eat his own words, and if they are in a donut,  I will.  Without regret or “cheating”.  A sliver at a time.