Good thoughts

Remember happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think.

Dale Carnegie (via brainyquote.com

The world spins on its axis without any consideration how that affects humanity. Many live and die without learning that happiness is not measured in what we accumulate, nor in how others perceive us. For those who spend their lives in desperate search for meaning, perhaps the childlike wonder we once held seems an old and immature way of thinking. We become conceited. We search for answers to questions that do not leave us content. Some wear themselves out seeking happiness through knowledge, position, or imposing their will upon others. Some contend with one another over ideas. Worse, is when a child’s sense of wonder is quashed by such thinking. Unhappiness is certainly an unfortunate consequence of becoming an adult in the modern world.

Perhaps it is the human condition, to be blinded to the simple pleasures of the world that has existed for thousands of millennia without requiring our intellect to reshape the mountains or influence wind and wave. In our hubris with which we perceive the world, do we miss the opportunity to enjoy the days we have been granted? It is truly one of the great misfortunes of maturity, that we do not recall what it is to feel awe of the world we held as children.

1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

  -Psalm 131 (NIV)

I am not one who fears what is beyond my understanding or control. It is enough for me to entrust my family and happiness to a Power that is timeless, and perfect. Those like me feel awe and security in a God who holds the Universe in His hands. I am closer to the time I return to dust than my childlike wonder years. It is a blessing to be able to enjoy, through a child’s eyes, the wonder of the world where everything is new. A few hours spent with our grandchild, I marvel, at his mirth when I make faces to entertain him, and when I am entrusted to hold the dried leaves and twigs he gathers on our walks in the park. When I respond to his outstretched arm, carrying him from one adventure to the next, I consider that God himself still carries me. And that fills me with good thoughts.

Proper application and value of “lessons learned”

Preliminary opinions, mostly “armchair quarterbacking”, of the horrific fire aboard the almost-completed refurbishment of the USS BON HOMME RICHARD, (ed. note: abbreviated here as BHR) have started. Murmuring that “lessons learned” regarding the ship’s material condition, monitoring of contractors, and security and safety duties by the crew may reveal inadequate measures taken in one or all areas. Or that an electrical malfunction or overheated equipment started the fire. Reduced to “duty section” personnel aboard ship during weekends in-port in the United States, as the fire was initially called away on Sunday morning, is a long-standing practice of balancing the safety needs for the ship, reduced operations, and liberty for crew who may be at-sea and away from home for nine months a year. This reduced manning may have prevented casualties. Published reports indicate that construction materials were stored in a large interior area where the fire is suspected of igniting. Equipment, furnishings and materials used aboard Navy ships are specifically designed to be fire-resistant and low emitters of toxics. However, during the transition from the yard to an operational state, material may have still been staged in containers called “tri-walls”, These rugged, large-volume, cardboard cartons and their contents might have fed the blaze. For anyone familiar with shipboard life, cleaning is an around-the-clock process aboard a vessel. A maintenance period makes the effort more difficult as well as more important. Dust removal which is omnipresent on ship, salt corrosion due the maritime environment, any trash left by the contract workforce, and improper stowage of cleaning rags and agents all contribute to ship safety issues. Work performed in the vicinity preceding the fire may be suspect. Investigation will likely include any activity in the twelve hours prior to the fire being reported.

Existing practices

Standards in place over several decades, incorporating “lessons learned” from reports of incidents around the Fleet, are managed by several departments within the Department of the Navy. Guidance is distributed by directives from the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), from Naval Safety Center’s investigations, and from Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) which oversees all afloat construction, maintenance and repair, including shipyards and at other facilities. In past, established practices to monitoring work being performed at any hour, scheduled inspections and audits, and well-practiced safety operations would likely be sufficient to mitigate risk. As with any work or potential hazard, human error, negligence or malicious conduct is not always preventable.

Fire is an ever-present danger

Fire is an ever-present threat at sea. On a ship or submarine, crews are thoroughly trained to fight several emergencies from flooding, collision, munitions, toxic gases, electrical and different classes of fire. Identified by the combustible materials, those that burn leaving an ash such as paper, bedding, clothing, or stores can be extinguished with one agent. Fuels and oil require an oxygen disrupting agent. And Class C fires, are electrical in origin, and take different methods to extinguish. On the latter two, “starving” the fire of oxygen knocks the fire down. Besides corrosion to metals and equipment, the danger of electrical shock to firefighters or arcing is present with water, while its use against fuel fires disperses flaming fuel instead of extinguishing it. On three different classes of ships during my eight years at sea, we practiced incessantly for emergencies at-sea and in-port. And practiced security drills. With millions of dollars of valuable equipment aboard and in a time when espionage and terrorism are real concerns, members of the ships’ crew are assigned to accompany contractors, not otherwise cleared for unrestricted access, while aboard. For all “hot work”, that is, welding or grinding, a Sailor and/or a civilian performed as a “fire watch” for the welder. Sometimes, shipboard personnel charged with the vessel and crew’s safety would monitor both the welder and the fire watch. Why such a fuss? The danger from welding or grinding is due to heat or random sparks being generated which could cause combustible material to smolder (sometimes for hours) or set material ablaze in adjacent compartments through convection or radiated heat.

Systems and thorough practice

Aboard ship, the Engineering Department is the primary team responsible for damage control and management of the fire safety systems. These systems consist of pressurized fire mains, firefighting chemical (Aqueous Firefighting Foam or AFFF) and Halon gas (fire suppression) systems. The corrosive properties of seawater on metals and electrical components is well-known, so the Damage Control team evaluates available resources to fight a fire. However, the danger (the BHR fire was reported to be as hot as 1000 F) of water flashing into steam adds to the hazards for firefighters. As has been reported, the Halon system was undergoing maintenance and unavailable to flood a compartment that was on fire. Seawater therefore was apparently the primary means to fight the fire and attempt to cool the hull and compartments to contain its severity. According to one report, the team using AFFF were evacuated due to an explosion in one of the machinery compartments, and it is unclear whether they were able to resume its use. (According to another source, some non-Navy firefighter personnel abandoned their stations when a pump exploded requiring the Navy personnel to be withdrawn.)

Danger during Maintenance periods

The conditions during a maintenance period can contribute to safety hazards. Combustible materials may be used during maintenance contributing to conflagration. Sometimes a heavy paper is affixed to bulkheads (walls) and decks to minimize abrasion from equipment being moved. Terrazzo, a chemically-bonded interior decking material, sometimes has plywood overlaid by shipyard workers to prevent marring by heavy equipment and foot traffic during a maintenance period. Sometimes hatches are not dogged properly, which might either be due to inattention, protruding temporary cabling or poor placement. An improperly closed hatch or scuttle might then allow flammable material or gases to receive sufficient air to burn, or fire to penetrate other compartments. Or improper placement or shifting of material used during the maintenance period might cause running equipment to overheat. Or an electrical problem may cause arcing (sparking) to occur.

The human factor of safety practices

During my time in the U S Navy (nearly three decades), willful damage (in the case of USS MIAMI or USS COMPTE DE GRASSE) was not often suspected, and particularly not suspected to be caused by members of the crew. However, in 2012, a Navy contractor aboard the former, at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine deliberately started a fire which resulted in the sub being scrapped. In the latter case, in 1994 a Navy crewman on the SPRUANCE-class destroyer, purposely damaged reduction gears causing extensive damage to propulsion and prevented the ship from deploying.

The investigation of the submarine fire revealed that the perpetrator was not being monitored continuously by a member of the submarine’s crew for a specific period of time. The civilian deliberately set a “small” fire expecting to get off work early. Having too few members of a “duty section”, assigning additional tasks for the crewman assigned to monitor that contractor, or improper vetting of civilian workers may have contributed to the incident. Once the reports have been issued by the investigation aboard the BHR, and the repair costs evaluated. the Navy may return the same verdict as in the MIAMI.

While Navy veterans and those currently in uniform, hope that the destructive fire aboard her was the result of accident, lapses in judgement, or an “act of GOD”, the Navy should not rule out sabotage. Evidence will reveal one or all of these factors. If sabotage, justice will be meted out. In the case of the civilian in the USS MIAMI case, the perpetrator was given a 17-year prison sentence. The sailor in the USS COMPTE DE GRASSE incident also received a lengthy sentence.

Lessons to be learned and then applied

However, the most important lessons to be gathered from this recent fire are to find where the shortcomings were, what worked well, and to implement change with practices, systems or personnel. Others have commented that implementation of lessons from prior incidents and casualties may have been slow to promulgate due to the bureaucracies responsible, or the incident the practice inspired receding into history. The practices that need to be changed will be studied, but the immediate operational effects are more troubling. The loss of the ship’s ability to deploy will cause more problems for the Navy meeting its commitments. With the recent quarter-billion dollar overhaul making it one of four similar ships to provide amphibious F-35 fighter support, the loss is substantial. Billions of dollars and years of construction and validation may be required to replace the USS BON HOMME RICHARD. The void left in the interim will likely result in longer deployments for other ship crews in order to balance the increasing militarization by Russia, China, and other actors in the world.

This is not a Drill

When the 1MC, the general announcing system aboard ship, calls away an actual emergency those words compel sailors instinctively into action. The fire that broke out Sunday morning, 12 July, on the USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD6) is still burning on Tuesday. However, the billowing smoke and flames that were visible within the superstructure early Monday seem to have been knocked down by the firefighting crews and hundreds of helicopter water drops. Yesterday, the volume of water to suppress the fire and cool the hull caused the ship to list slightly, but video today show the pumps aboard removed it adequately. Anytime a fire breaks out on a ship, it is an extremely hazardous time, but the condition of the ship when undergoing pierside maintenance made the conflagration it became Sunday and Monday.

As we have learned, the vessel was undergoing maintenance at the 32nd Street Navy Base after a two-year shipyard period nearby. (Almost every ship performs scheduled maintenance, which does not require being placed in drydock, at the pier.) While munitions do not remain aboard a ship during maintenance periods, the move to the Navy base indicated that it was in a state to have some daily operations continue. As the Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, stated during a briefing, the major concern in mitigating the ongoing fire was keeping it away from the fuel supply stored decks below the fire. A semi-operational ship like the Bon Homme Richard has fuel, likely to stabilize the ship, while at the pier. With metropolitan San Diego and County residents within a thirty mile arc, the plume of smoke was an air quality concern. An operational Navy ship has stores, supplies, paper, bedding, and other combustible materials aboard. These, plus cleansers, lining of cabling and plastics in varied equipment will burn or vaporize, adding potential toxics to the smoke plumes. What made the conflagration so intense so rapidly was the inoperative HALON fire suppression system, which was itself, undergoing maintenance.

It is reassuring to know that the injuries that the sailors and civilians have sustained as a result of battling the fire are not very serious. As a sailor who spent several years aboard Navy combatants, I know crews are very well trained for emergencies such as this. The Navy team, comprised of officer and enlisted sailors, civilians, and other military and civilian firefighters are working around the clock to save the ship. The Navy will perform a very thorough investigation once the fire has been extinguished, and the Navy can expect the lessons applied to future pierside periods and training. However, with the intensity of the damage expected from the heat and flames, the confident “do not give up the ship!” attitude may be tempered. After a quarter-billion dollar refit, it likely may take a lot more to make her Bon Homme Richard.

UPDATED AT 2PM EST:

WASHINGTON (NNS) — UPDATED 2:00 p.m. July 14, 2020:

Below is the press conference opening statement from Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3.

Good morning. My name is Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck, and I am the Expeditionary Strike Group THREE commander. I’d like to start by thanking the people of San Diego, National City, Coronado, and all the other communities in San Diego County for their continued support. For more than 48 hours, brave Sailors from commands all across San Diego have been working tirelessly alongside Federal Fire San Diego to get this fire under control and I want to thank them for their efforts. I want to provide you with some updates on the progress we have made: First, we have investigated the four main engineering spaces and found no major damage. There is no threat to the fuel tanks, which is well-below any active fires or heat sources. The ship is stable and the structure is safe. We still have an active fire, which we are combatting from both within and outside the ship from multiple access points. HSC 3 helicopters have conducted more than 1,000 helicopter water bucket drops, which is cooling the super structure and flight deck enabling fire crews to get onboard internally to fight the fire. Tugs are also provide firefighting support from the waterline. I’m proud of the toughness of the Sailors and Federal Firefighters for making this significant progress possible. At this time there are 61 personnel, 38 U.S. Navy Sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Currently, there are no personnel hospitalized. Going forward, the Navy will do a thorough investigation of the incident to include assessing the cause of the fire and damage to the ship, but right now our focus remains on putting out the fire and keeping people safe. I’d like to also thank our partners from state and county as well as the Coast Guard for monitoring the potential impacts to the environment. As we continue to fight the fire, we remain cognizant of environmental concerns regarding the water and air quality. We recommend residents follow county advisories for safety out of an abundance of caution. Thank you again for your being here and we are now ready to take your questions.

Preserve, protect and defend

My career in the Navy was committed to preserving the American people and the principles found in our Founding documents. This nation experiences problems that have contradicted those principles all along the last two hundred years. People that have wanted to ignore or redefine those principles. Particularly in the last four years, we have witnessed those who violated their office to uphold public good, safety and the Constitution at all levels of government. At every level, from local to the Presidency, the courts, and state-appointed bureaucrats, we have had a lack of leadership. Division, Fear and ideology replacing honest assessment and problem-solving.

If you have never been in combat, you cannot “understand” what a combat veteran with PTSD is going through. In America particularly, you may never have had guns drawn on you by police, or stopped to question you – simply because you are a particular skin color. Consider anyone you prejudged by their race, religion, origin, unemployment, homelessness, politics, physical disability, or weakness – alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, etc. How would you want others to treat you if situations were reversed? Many of us completely absolve another person of horrible attitudes, behavior, or past due to a characteristic we share or a certain point of agreement. We attribute any negatives brought up by others to “bad apples” and refuse to consider anything deeper.

We need to address, and correct the deficiencies, starting with race, but also determine how to accomplish change peacefully. Not by murdering police officers, blocking streets, burning buildings or adding slogans on advertising. Not with lifetime pols in public office, nor vigilante patrols, or by destroying monuments, and deleting history that offends someone. Not by white killing white, brown killing brown, or black killing black – or such. Not with one-sided simplistic journalism to trigger fear while driving ratings up. Honest assessment. Building up not tearing down our differences. So we start with race, law enforcement, crime and punishment. Correct the wrongs and punish the guilty. Change mindsets, and change the conditions that set people up from childhood to experience inequality. Promote discussions. Then work on the next inequality.

In the military, we started with a process – changing mindsets from civilian to military. Physical and mental conditioning. Working together, problem-solving, succeeding or failing as a team. Never quitting and above all, protecting one another and completing the mission. Otherwise, this country’s enemies will not respect us – they will snuff out our dreams for our grandchildren, turn others against us, and cheer us on as we destroy ourselves.

Memorial day

“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President

The world is chock full of selfish tyrants, deluded extremists, and self-righteous windbags. Many people live under the control and limits imposed by these kinds of people. Some are fortunate to live where there are opportunities to excel, to pursue careers, and to raise families without fearing for their safety or welfare. The United States of America., however, was founded on principles that were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, of personal freedoms and Government that is the agent of the governed. These principles have been defended for two and a half centuries by men and women to the point of shedding blood.

Memorial Day was established to recognize and remember that Freedom, the everyday rights and privileges that Americans enjoy, came at a cost. Whatever your political leanings, belief in the supernatural – or not, the color of your skin, or your origin, this particular nation – the United States – is and remains, the one that most of the world’s people, given the opportunity, stream toward. And regardless of individual biases or misgivings about warfare, the military, or those who protect Life, Liberty, and Property, the truth remains that our people have died in defense of foreigners as well as our citizens at home.

In recent decades, the fundamental principles and unity of Americans (in self-identity and language) have come under attack from those who use the very protections afforded them by the United States to attack it. To some, the expressions of “Rights” is separate from the idea of “Responsibilities”, and demand the former without expectations to abide by the latter. Voting (holding accountability of Government to the governed), expression and speech, “2nd Amendment”, and everyone abiding by the laws that reflect the principles and tradition of our Founders, are just a few of the most contentious. Others demand their exclusion from societal policies that were enacted and enforced, poorly at times, by men and women whom our system of governance has entrusted to safeguard the welfare of all our citizens.

Memorial Day, particularly in 2020, should be honored and remembered by all United States residents, for the sacrifice of our military members who died wearing the uniform honorably; Law Enforcement and First Responders; and especially in 2020, our medical professionals; whether their deaths were due to combat, acts of terrorism, wanton violence, accident, or the COVID-19 virus.

Ask the Chief

leadership

I heard a great sea story once about an engineering problem given to a room full of Officer Candidate School students. Given a number of requirements, they had to calculate how to get the job done. Every pencil in the classroom was furiously calculating away but for one student. That student, a Navy Chief Petty Officer, had written, “Find a Chief Petty Officer. Tell him, “Chief, I need this flagpole erected. Today.”

One of the best leadership tools has been around four thousand years.

  • Seek Advice:
    • 22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15: 22)
  • Don’t talk so much
    • And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words (Matthew 6:7)
  • Arrogance loses to humility every time
    • When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom (Proverbs 11:2)
  • Set the example for others
    • 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)
  • Listen, and learn
    • let the wise listen and add to their learning,  and let the discerning get guidance— (Proverbs 1:5)

Leadership books are written by the thousands, to distill for others the principles and lessons of leadership. Some look for quick guidelines and surefire tricks. Others look for the “rules” to impress on others or for the means to skirt “around” them. Many realize that leadership is as much developing character as it is authority and taking action. Just as a military veteran understands that we are under authority, and those authorities are under authority, it is through the lessons of Scripture, ultimate authority desires us to seek Wisdom, and reverently follow our Creator.

Leadership on the Line

A book I began reading a month ago, Leadership on the Line, by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, (Harvard Business Review Press, 2002). is now the first leadership book on my recommended reading list for 2020. Only 236 pages, it is easily read and well annotated. Using stories, including among others, a turnaround at IBM to a Chicago Bulls locker room incident in a crucial NBA finals game, the authors illustrate leadership lessons. The principles of leadership the authors discuss are just as relevant to present leadership challenges -in business, in politics or other less structured organizations. For those who are not looking at this worldwide pandemic as “when we get back to normal”, but recognize change coming and are willing to step up to lead -entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and public servants – they will face resistance but how they communicate, will change everything.

Continue reading

You have two basic rights

I am dusting off and republishing a few of my oldest efforts blogging. Rough around the edges. Originally published in July, 2009.

My old Senior Chief back in the days before political correctness blanched most of the testosterone from the military, used to introduce himself to his charges, “You have two rights in this world, one, to live, and another, to die. Gentlemen, when you f*** up, I will take one of them away from you!” I was the Petty Officer assigned to escort restricted and brig confinement -bound men at the NTC San Diego Correctional Custody unit, when the Navy Training Center and not an artsy community/ civic center.

It was his responsibility – and by delegation, mine as well, to attempt through proper application of discipline and hard work to turn last-chance misfits – clowns, chronic whiners, and immature boy-sailors into rule-followers, and rehabilitated men. There were of course, two alternatives that several ended finding – discharge at the convenience of the government, or hard time at the Navy Brig – and then discharge.

After those formative days of my youth, I see my responsibility as training young people in my charge, Sailors in my Reserve unit, recent graduate-engineers at work, and especially my sons, to help them develop along the right course. There is a culture in the military that juniors respect the senior enlisted mentors, as this is how the former progress to becoming the latter. In the civilian workforce, particularly in companies which nurture and reward excellence among all employees, there is a lot of the same cameraderie, cross-training, and shared purpose.

As a parent, though, raising boys who were as independent-minded and stubborn as mules, was work! These teens were self-disciplined only to the extent of things which held their interest – guitars, skateboards, and motocross bikes. Perhaps memory of similar behavior in those young men from the Correctional Custody days, urged me to impart some cautionary pearl of wisdom. Often the effect was wrath and counter-accusation, and exasperated red-faces. It would have been so much easier to find “a fan room”. (a Fan Room is a noisy air handling compartment where 2 could a disagreement with a few fists, without a public display). But political correctness has broken down all the means to apply discipline at any age.
Too much is thought of individual liberties, psyches, and others well-being, to the detriment of everyone from classroom pupil, to those helmsmen of a warship or even public transport operators. Policy which prohibits certain behavior (texting on cell phones while operating a train) is only effective when the individual has ingrained self-discipline.

Were it within my ability, I would like to see a return to the days of the old Senior Chief at NTC. A good butt-kicking would nip a lot of these problem behaviors.

What were they thinking? Professional Judgment in the Crozier/Modly Affair

I found this blog post written by Pauline Shanks Kaurin, originally published on groundedcuriosity.com (April 16, 2020), an insightful perspective. A scholar of military ethics, she examines military versus civilian (political) judgement, in the case of Captain Crozier’s action and dismissal from commanding an aircraft carrier.

She writes, “When former acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announced he was relieving Captain Brett Crozier from command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Modly noted that Crozier showed “poor judgement” and “…allowed the complexity of the challenge…to overwhelm his ability to act professionally.” He emphasized this was not a matter of Crozier’s character, but his judgment. (Read more)

raining conspiracies


Seems it never rains in southern California
Seems I've often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California, but girl, don't they warn ya?
It pours, man, it pours

I think the rain we have been seeing from multiple storms since the Governor of California required our state to deal with catastrophic drought, at the beginning of 2019, is part of a secret conspiracy to ship the melting polar caps- Arctic and Antarctic to California. While I do not believe in secret Governments, a vast global conspiracy to fool people about a pandemic, or the right-wing movement to control women’s uteruses, I am beginning to suspect that all the rain we have been getting is meant to shove the illegal succulent trade in Southern California back across the Arizona border.

At least, the rain is giving a big boost to my fruiting stone-fruit trees: Apricots, peaches and nectarines. And all the other ornamental bushes are flowering. This is also a treat for my roses. But “April showers bring May flowers” was never a rhyme we knew in California before now.

Why Responsibility Is So Important — Steve Rose, PhD

With all of the recent social distancing measures, we have been repeatedly told by public health officials that it is our responsibility to stay home and flatten the curve. You are not responsible for the problem, but you now find yourself responsible for part of the solution. It can be frustrating, it can be isolating,…

Why Responsibility Is So Important — Steve Rose, PhD