The older I get, the more I find it ironic how some people argue and protest about fairness in life – as opposed focusing on gaining in-demand skills, creating work to employ themselves and others, or volunteering to share their talents and good fortune with others. College students and academics are often the noisiest, when they themselves are better off than most other people in the world. Ironic, as, once upon a time I was one of those post-high school, underemployed, single people whining about fairness. And at the time, I had my own apartment, a vehicle, and was a spendthrift living on credit. In my early Twenties, I was not skilled sufficiently due to personal choices I had made about education. I was economically disadvantaged.
As I grew older, I made better choices. I made the military a career. I used skills and resources gained there to obtain a better living. I have been able to serve my fellow man, here and abroad, with material things I can provide from my income. I have taught some to read. Others, I have helped through translation. And still others I help through donations to Non-Ggovernent Organizations (NGO) medical clinics, disaster-response efforts and volunteers. In the process of working for myself and for others, I learned the maddening impossibility of an efficient bureaucracy. Governments may be able to provide for the national defense, but can spend trillions of dollars and still not have good roads, education that translates into skilled occupations, or decent healthcare. Often I find myself in an argument because I believe more in principles that are in line with my religious and personal views, and individual responsibility, than government “nannies”. I will tell people, “I’m here for an argument, not abuse.” And that usually gets a quizzical look.
In the 1970s, Monty Python, a British comedic troupe was very entertaining with comedic sketches that lampooned society, politics, culture, and history very irreverently and often quite bizarre in a very British styled humor. While many today are focused on the dire future prospects of any given subject from climate to health care to international relations. Perhaps if we could laugh at each other and disagree with one another – in a manner that Monty Python did so well -we could find solutions in the best interests of our fellow man.
The United States Navy turns 243 on October 13th. And one of the nation’s most cherished – and still active – icons of naval heritage, the frigate USS CONSTITUTION is a little more than 220 years old.
To mark this occasion, as well as the other services on their annual birthday, my employer honors veterans in our workforce. This year, as a result of some unexpected events, I was offered the role of the “emcee” for the after-work celebration. Cake, some “refreshments”, sea stories, and naval lore and trivia for employees in attendance who had not served in the Navy.
And I entertained our friends with a little monologue and trivia.
Important dates in history
- OCT 13 1775 Continental Congress authorizes construction of a Naval force.
- April 1798 creation of the Department of the Navy
- 1797 USS Constitution launched
- 1803 -1805 Barbary war
- 1812 -1815 War of 1812 “Old Ironsides” defeated 3 British warships
Nautical and Naval lore
- Which of the following are true?
- The ditty bag used to be called a “ditto bag” because there were two of everything in it.
- The flaps on crackerjacks were designed to keep hair grease off the back of the uniform.
- Navy logs are named for the timber from which the paper was created.
- Boatswain’s Pipes originated in ancient galleys. One whistle meant “row.”
- “Chits” are named after Hindu slips of paper used in lieu of silver and gold.
- Uniform stars have “two points up”, instead of one (like you see in the flag) to symbolize the Navy’s defense of both coasts.
- Broadside is a large sheet of paper.
- “Cup of Joe” (coffee) comes from “the cup of Jonas.”
- A tattoo of a pig on one leg of a sailor and a rooster on the other is a charm against drowning.
- The term “sick bay” originated in ancient times, when hospital ships (called “immunes”) would accompany Caeser’s legions and were kept far from battle, normally in the calm waters of a bay.
- The only time 12 bells is sounded is at midnight on the Navy’s Birthday and on New Year’s Eve.
- S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Ship.”
- The P in P-Coat stands for Pilot.
- 2. True
- True (“citthi”)
- False (the custom has no known origin)
- False (named after Josephus Daniels – he’s the Secretary of the Navy who abolished alcohol on Navy ships in 1913.)
- False (early hospital ships were called “immunes”, but the term “bay” comes from the round shape of ship sterns, resembling a bay.)
- False (only on New Year’s Eve)
- False (it doesn’t stand for anything)
- True (Pilot cloth or P-cloth was the fabric from which they were made.)
This was compiled from the NavyTimes Broadsides blog (Jeff Bacon), from The Goat Locker, the Naval Historical Center, GlobalSecurity.org, and Wikipedia.
Fun facts: (USO.org)
- David Farragut, was the first admiral in the United States Navy. He coined, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
- Bravo Zulu means “well done”
- Through World War II, sailors who did well were told “Tare Victor George,” which was code for “well done.” After the war, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed and it standardized communications. NATO created a system of B-flags for administrative communication. The last B-flag was BZ. The Allied Naval Signal Book created the phonetics for each letter and BZ became Bravo Zulu.
- The Chief Petty Officer rank was established on 1 APRIL 1893
- Depiction of fouled anchors, in decoration, in the Chief Petty Officer insignia and in body art:
If an anchor is fouled, it means the line or chain is wrapped around the shank and fluke arms. This indicates the anchor is no longer suitable for use. These retired anchors are usually displayed for decorative purposes on base or in Navy communities. The symbol is also part of the Chief Petty Officer rank insignia. When used in body art, the fouled anchor represents a tour across the Atlantic Ocean.
Before everyone today under the age of fifty started getting tattoos, the history of tattoos and the symbolism had a long nautical tradition. An article describes significant tattoos, along with what each item means.
- Swallows:Home (each denotes 5,000 miles at sea)
- Compass/Nautical Star:Never losing one’s way (each denotes 10,000 miles at sea)
- Trident:Special warfare
- Rose:A significant other left at home
- Twin screws or props on one’s backside:Propels one forward through life
- Dolphin:Wards off sharks
- Sharks:Rescue swimmer
- Polar bear:Sailed the Arctic Circle
- Dragon:Sailed the Pacific
- Fouled anchor:Sailed the Atlantic
- Turtle:Crossed the equator
- Gold dragon:Crossed the International Dateline
- Gold turtle:Crossed the International Dateline and the Equator where they intersect
- Emerald fouled anchor:Crossed the Prime Meridian
- Emerald turtle:Crossed the Prime Meridian and the Equator where they intersect
- Full-rigged ship:Sailed around Cape Horn
- Pin-up girls:Company at sea/port call
- Hula girls:Sailed to or ported in Hawaii
- Dagger through a swallow:Signifies a lost comrade
- Pig and chicken:Superstition to keep from drowning
- The words “HOLD FAST”:Signifies a deckhand’s tight grip on the lines
A long time ago I was a young sailor. On a couple of occasions I recall seeing a Chief Petty Officer wearing his Dress Blues, and the hash marks (service stripes) on his sleeve ran from cuff to his elbow. One time I saw a Second Class Petty Officer in his dress blues who I joked crewed with Noah, by the years represented on his uniform. More often than not I would see “red” instead of the “gold”. For those who are unfamiliar with hash marks, or Navy uniforms, these once represented four-year periods of service (now they represent 3-years). After twelve years of “good conduct” – we earned a “Good Conduct” medal/ ribbon for each four-year period – we had the right to wear gold-threaded rating badges and hash marks on our service blues – either the “Cracker Jacks” for junior Sailors, or the Chief’s Dress Blues.
The Chief pictured here, and in particular, the Master Chief (the rating badge with two stars, red stripes, and hash marks to his elbow) seems to be a shipmate of mine from the days of Sail. However, he screwed up somewhere. Probably chewing out a junior officer over one of the Sailors – or stupidity that the Officer committed. And he didn’t get punished badly. He just didn’t earn a “Good Conduct” ribbon somewhere in the previous twelve years!
But you do not become a Master Chief Petty Officer by being a screw up. Or a “politician”. We could use a few more of these “Salty Sailors”, particularly in our universities and halls of Government. But then they would never earn gold hash marks. Too much stupidity. Too many opportunities to cuss out kids, professors and politicians for unprofessional conduct.
If we only still used “fan room” counseling.
The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable. H. L. Mencken
The practice of medicine is a thinker’s art the practice of surgery a plumber’s. Martin H. Fischer
There’s not too much concern in my neighborhood with the dangers at sea. No real danger from collisions ( unless a Cessna on approach to the airfield makes an improbably short landing). There is no danger of grounding. Likewise, the chance of sinking is very slight at a few hundred feet above sealevel. And until I attempted tonight to replace the fill valve in my toilet, I never considered flooding.
As a homeowner, and a technically proficient electronics engineering technician, I tackle most maintenance myself. Unless my wife is at home, in which case, I will opt to call someone to do maintenance. Some tasks are a little complicated in an old house whether replacing a dishwater fill line or tinkering with the gas water heater. With my wife on travel visiting the kids, I thought tonight would be a good opportunity to replace an annoying toilet fill valve. For a “water-saving” device, the last valve I installed has required two or three flushes routinely, and sometimes a manual intervention to the tank.
Tonight, my famous last words were “it’ll only take five minutes”. I studied the new valve. I even consulted YouTube. Simple job. But the line into the tank – at the bottom continued to drip onto the floor even as I tightened the nut. I gave in and removed the valve with more water going on the floor, needing to grab several towels, and getting sprayed from the line as I did not shut the valve from the main all the way. The job called for and resulted in a few choice “Sailor” expletives after assembly and the tank still had a small leak.
The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea. Ovid
I was about to resort to calling my neighbor when I noticed one small failure. I had installed the rubber seal under, not inside, the inner (tank) seat of the fill valve! And in my zeal, I had nicked the plastic nut which would cause leaking as well. Fortunately, the old unit had a pristine nut that I was able to reuse. The Damage Controlman and the Hull Technician can stand down. Flooding in the compartment has been cleaned up. General Quarters is secured. All hands can get back to their Saturday evening.
I was planning to start preparing to paint the living room this week to surprise my spouse. It would not take that long as I have all the tools, tape and drop cloths. I have a couple days to call in some “expert” help before my wife returns. On second thought, I shall postpone this Intermediate Maintenance Availability for another time. I will not set a watch, but I think it prudent to check the compartment for flooding in the morning.
In naval terminology, and in many other workplaces, the twenty-four hour clock is used. The first hours of the new day are called “zero” as in “zero-thirty” or 1230 AM, or “zero -three hundred” for 3 AM. Sailors have a particular term for the mid-watch, between midnight and 4 AM, the “balls to four” watch.
Personally, I prefer the ‘balls to four’ than the ‘zero-four to eight’ watch. Because I was often working till late into the night aboard ship, and then getting a little rest, only to be wakened at 0315 to relieve the off-going watch by 0345. And as you get older you appreciate sleep more – I stood most of these watches in my early Thirties. I was just into that deep, wonderful place, seeming moments before someone roused me for my watch.
This morning, Tuesday, is one of those mornings! For the briefest of moments around 3 AM, I was in my sweet spot. And then my wife, who is boarding a flight today at “zero six” to visit the grandchild (and his parents) stirred me. For the briefest “Inception” (the movie) -like moments, I was in my rack with some Sailor shining his flashlight telling me it was time to relieve the watch. ARRRGH!
My wife is mostly a light-sleeper. I am one not by choice nor biology. I was on standby to drive her to the airport should our son (the one who does not work the nursing Third Shift) fail to arrive at “oh-dark-thirty” to pick Mom up for the airport drop-off.
Well, the son did make it. Mom’s got her mother and son time this morning. I’ve had two cups of coffee and been blogging for an hour. What the hell? It is going to be okay. I will get at least seven nights of solid sleep before I pick her up coming back.