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

The Matrix Unloaded

you have to wonder, if the anti-consumerism that some suppose will follow the pandemic, will instead get co-opted to :”better to live fast and die young, with all the toys you deserve”.

Image(s)

The Matrix, both cult film and box office success, burst onto the scene in 1999 with a roller-coaster science fiction narrative propelled by groundbreaking special effects. It satisfied all the conventions of genre filmmaking but also managed to provide a level of symbolic depth akin to an art film. By proposing a computer-generated virtual reality (aka The Matrix) and drawing parallels between unconscious slavery and consumer-based existence, the movie spoke to Gen X audiences who perhaps smelled a rat in the technological kitchens of the dot com era. And the prophetic character of Morpheus played by Laurence Fishburne gave a cool and steady voice to their doubts. In short, The Matrix was about as subversive as Hollywood could get without posing an outright threat to the illusions of tinsel town.

Kia Matrix commercial: K900 reflected in Morpheus’ glasses.

Fast-forward 15 years to a Kia commercial. A sophisticated couple approaches a valet to reclaim their vehicle. Morpheus spins…

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tinkering with raspberries

A blogging compatriot, Biff Sock Pow on WordPress issued an invitation to write about “Whatnot” this Wednesday. And being a big believer in blogging, I thought “why not” include a project that I have been working on? Some might find projects to home-school their children or grandchildren, or possibly irritate their spouse. If you cannot do something worthwhile during a pandemic “shelter in place”, some might end up doing laundry, the dishes, or “rotating” their stock in the liquor cabinet to pass the time.

As anyone who came lately to the “working from home” party – you will know that acquiring a webcam with, or without a microphone – to prepare a desktop PC, or even to buy a simple laptop – became impossible early in the second week of March. And as a self-employed (and soon un-employed) entrepreneur, three or four thousand dollars, for a professional system was ludicrous.

That being said, I had a box of components, cables and AC adapters in my office closet for a Raspberry Pi single board computer kit. Which was easy to overlook, and had not generated a recent “what are you planning to do with that?” from my spouse. A few years ago, when I was constantly tinkering with projects both at work and at home, I had various motherboards, hard drives, power supplies, and computers in the office, the garage, and even a few things in the car. Most were recycled through Goodwill.

A Raspberry Pi was useful to an engineer who needed a small server for a test network. But there are many applications for a programming student, a hobbyist, or for guy needing a video-conferencing tool. For less than $70 US, I acquired the board, power supply, cables, case, a camera module, and a micro-SD card. Should you want to experiment, there is a website , and from Googling other contributors to the Raspberry Pi operating system (it is a variant of Debian Linux), you may find any number of modifications for your purposes.

Fortunately the subject did not break the camera test

Tinkering around with settings, writing and modifying programs might seem daunting to those unfamiliar with programming. I used the nano script editor and versions of Python scripting language to do what I needed. As a now retired-developer and test person, the cables, duct tape, multiple monitors, keyboards and mice that cover my desk, were too much for my spouse. “Why do you need all that?!” and “Can’t you just buy a webcam and plug it in?”

Empty store shelves and “backordered” online retailers, is exactly why I built one. It was not, in John F. Kennedy’s immortal words, “”We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” (cit). It was because I needed one, and figured why not just put my experience to use. What I knew from past experience was making the jump from different operating systems and applications, would be a little complicated. But Navy Chiefs are not one to shy away from challenge. And an electronics technician for many years has enough hubris to tackle a project with a short timeline. It was relatively easy to assemble, modify the program and then port the video capture to my Windows desktop. Where it got a little challenging was making the video feed available to the Zoom teleconferencing app. There are a number of applications that are easier to work with, for programmers and hobbyists, but my audience – participants, and my production team (spouse) wanted the promised Zoom conference. So …

A Samsung tablet with built-in camera and speaker, with the Zoom application installed was last night’s solution. As for my Raspberry Pi? I will take down my workstation and put it back in the closet for now. Some may shoot for the Moon, when others just want your project not to blow up on the launchpad. (Or when the camera falls over not to knock everything on her desk onto the floor.)

I wonder if Robert Goddard’s started this way?

The Idiot’s Guide to Social Networking

I am dusting off and republishing a few of my oldest efforts blogging. Rough around the edges. Originally published in July, 2009, on my then first blog site “White Male Born Forty” It feels like it was a thousand years ago.

2009 predictions, via slideshare.net

It is unusual for me to admit that I may use technology, but do not necessarily embrace it. While I make my living at a technology company, I do not embrace every nuance, gadget, or appliance that others find indispensable. I have no interest in the Ipod. I don’t need a special ring-tone for individual callers. It is amusing, but not a necessity, that I have the latest cell phone, Kindle, or detail my every move tweeting away on Twitter.

Several years ago a friend at church introduced me to a novel web mail site, Gmail, where I could absolutely ignore the routine preoccupation with overflowing my storage capacity or even whether I could find a particular email in all that space. In the 12 years since I first used email and particularly web mail, this has become an indispensable tool for me. Daily I am reminded why I am proficient with email — some engineer or supervisor may ask me about an event that I was in some manner responsible a year or two prior — and I can influence the outcome of that conversation by producing an archived copy of an email showing he is off the hook!

But I have drawn the line! First, I was intrigued by a site offering an opportunity to find and swap sea stories with shipmates. In thirty years around or in the Navy, there have been a lot of folks I would like to have a chance to thank, call out, or just laugh together at how gray and fat we have become. But then it started to flood in — “Join me on MySpace”, “Check out old friends and family ties on Genealogy.com”, “Be recommended to other professionals on LinkedIn”, “MSN”, Navy instant messaging, business chatrooms, political websites and a constant barrage of instant messaging and recommended websites to my Blackberry and my computer. Even the TV – via the cable programming – offers two -way, instant, specialized content at the push of a button.

But what the heck is “Twitter”! and why would anyone care! I really have gone from being occasionally curious about that old friend who still owes me a drink or two from that bar six thousand miles and fifteen years ago, to a little irritated by the invasion of the peddlers who insist that my love life could be improved – as a result of my using the term “love bratwurst” in the search engine last week! Have you ever tried to delete the unwanted spam in your email, or railed against the indignity of the monthly charge from some obscure “entertainment” site simply because you ordered tickets to “sponge-Bob meet pimp-my-ride” show online?

I often am accused of behaving and thinking – and thus the origin of my blog’s name – as a White Male who was born an inflexible, stuck-in-my-ways, 40 year old. Hey I know plenty of people who begin sentences with ” when I put the record on the turntable”, or “would you believe we used to call our friends from pay phones?” It seems now strange that once, “social networking” was hooking up at the drive-in on Friday nights! Just as I am convinced that you can adapt at any stage of life to perform more efficiently with a technology aid – I am equally convinced that the society degrades to a little with each new technology introduced.

If we only had the technology dreamed up in the Matrix! Plug that big cable into my head and fill me up with all the information so I can jump across high-rise buildings or drive a SPECWAR combat chopper, or speak Mandarin. But you know, the part the movie didn’t show is that all that body morphing and plugging in – you couldn’t find privacy in a toilet. Everybody was connected to one giant theater.


So today, I have a brief encounter with social networking, but prefer the good, old-fashioned, 10-second chit-chat at my favorite donut shop when I start my commute to work, ” how’s the apple fritters today?” “isn’t it great that so many folks start their day with a cup of your coffee”. The day they offer me the ability to pre-order my sugar-fix on Twitter, is the day I wrap my head in aluminum foil and move to that spot in the desert 3 or 4 miles off the paved road, where the folks still complain about the neighbors when the nearest is a half-mile away. Wait a minute! Let me get on Facebook to update my status! Otherwise I might become a technophobe!

Social media, old-school (1500 BC)

Military leadership, readiness, national security and armchair quarterbacking during a pandemic

There are a lot of outraged voices, from the mothers of Navy Sailors aboard the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, halls of the United States Congress, international and national news outlets, to crusty, retired officers and Chief Petty Officers regarding the Navy Department’s handling of (1) incidence of the Corona virus, COVID-19, sickening the ship’s crew, and (2) her skipper’s communications with senior leadership in the Pentagon. And the final outrage, was the Commanding Officer’s dismissal as commander of the TR at the direction of the Secretary of the Navy.

As the facts leading up to Captain Brett Crozier’s removal as the Commanding Officer become clearer, it appears that from the 3 crewmembers who were reported to the Navy Department to have symptoms of the corona virus on March 24th, as of Monday, March 30, that number had grown to one hundred Sailors. On Tuesday, April 1st, a letter from Captain Crozier, dated March 30, to the Navy Department was released by the San Francisco Chronicle detailing the emerging crisis. According to statements obtained after the Captain’s dismissal, during that same week in March, the Navy had been working to obtain medical beds and accommodations on Guam, for the Sailors who had not yet been exposed. One undisclosed spokesperson told the paper that the complexity of a nuclear-powered warship with weapons, billions of dollars of equipment aboard, and a specific mission priorities was not a matter of simply going pierside and offloading the crew.

According to an article published in Foreign Policy (foreignpolicy.com), the Captain had multiple conversations with the chief of staff to the acting Navy Secretary, Thomas Modly, just prior to his letter being leaked to the journal. According to the remarks of Acting Secretary Modly, loss of confidence in Captain Crozier’s leadership, primarily in releasing his communication with Navy senior leadership outside official Navy channels (unsecured email) was the primary motivation for his dismissal. At the time of Modly’s remarks to the Press, no implication had been made that Crozier himself emailed the San Francisco newspaper.

From his Navy biography, Captain Crozier has 28 years of experience as a Naval officer. He is a graduate of the Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, Navy Nuclear Power School, as well as his role as a aviator. His roles indicate his competence and increasingly stature, from tours supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, squadron commander, Executive Officer of the carrier Ronald Reagan and Commander of the USS Blue Ridge ( the Commander, Seventh Fleet flagship). From his pedigree and expertise, it does not seem that this man would be given to poor judgement or failure to command. Following the chain of command, for guidance is as much a part of military training for officers and enlisted personnel as is maintaining operational security (OPSEC). One of the tenets of military leadership is preventing potential adversaries observing a weakness or casualty of one of the means of a nation’s power projection. From the letter released by the Chronicle, the commanding officer’s opening remarks convey his human, if desperate concern for his crew.

For anyone who has watched the 1949 film, Twelve O’clock High, part of the curriculum for in a Navy leadeship seminar in the early 2000s, a failure of military leadership – was the rationale for an American bomber squadron commander being relieved. Fatigue, a lack of discipline, and over-protectiveness for his men were conveyed rather convincingly by the commander being relieved. The incoming commander portrayed by Gregory Peck, demanded military bearing, performance, and training standards that returned the unit effectiveness. (Note: while actor Jimmy Stewart actually flew bombers over Germany in WWII, Gregory Peck was medically exempted from service). Evidence from wartime, acts of terrorism, and peacetime accidents among all the military services tend to corroborate that a commanding officer cannot relax military discipline, rules barring familiarity, nor standards of professionalism because it may diminish effectiveness and bring harm to all members of a unit.

The Captain may have understood that the Navy, like large bureaucracies, takes a glacially -long time to respond to crises, and the exponential rate of infection aboard his ship needed swift action to preserve his crew’s health. The threat to the health of a military unit, from influenza, or a biological agent has been considered for years. A casual search online for training, policies and procedures related to the Department of Defense, military readiness, and contagious disease, found several official sources listed here.

Policies and procedures, if only considered as an academic exercise, when dealing with a global pandemic, may not be part of a tactical commander’s toolkit. Just as the rest of the country has begun experiencing the severity of the illness and the mitigation efforts of “social distancing”, aboard a Navy ship, it has long been known that an entire crew will put to sea – and any flu bug that some experience will work its way to everyone. With the nature of COVID-19, healthy Sailors might be dead within two weeks of exposure – and infect any number of shipmates before symptoms are evident.

As for the Captain’s options, it may have definitely been an error in judgement if his letter was not conveyed with the approval of his next senior in command, through official navy channels, or to include spouse or spouses unsecured (non-military) email addresses in a Navy unclassified email. However, it is certainly a lapse in judgement if purposely sent through unofficial channels and intended for senior leadership. While the message and not the medium is being highlighted by most non-military experts, Crozier’s options to expedite a response was equally damaging for him personally. While the Acting Navy Secretary may have provided a direct line for the Captain to communicate his concerns, going outside the Chain of Command, in bypassing the theater Air and Fleet Commanders, and the several seniors in command at the Pentagon, to directly communicate with the Secretary, would doom his naval career anyway.

It is unreasonable for civilians, young sailors, spouses, academics and politicians to demand as to what the Navy should or should not do regarding decisions, leadership roles, policy and procedures, or fitness for Command. Politics and public opinion should have little bearing on how the military operates. But veterans know that politics have had a great deal of influence on how the military conducts America’s foreign policy. With a pandemic threatening our global readiness, none of us ‘armchair quarterbacks’ can reliably comment how a commander should have responded. It was for superior conduct, making difficult decisions and carrying out the orders of the President and his senior commanders, that a warship commander is rigorously trained and selected. -ES

the act of learning

It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.

Carl Friedrich Gauss

learning, like rose care, takes effort

During a health emergency the scale the world has not endured since the Spanish Influenza of 1918, many have taken advice to remain in a “voluntary” quarantine. My business is at a standstill. We have sufficient access to everything that meets our basic needs. But what does one do, if you are not ill and much of your time is spent close to, or at home?

Through access to the Internet, and several texts I have held onto for twenty years, I am taking a refresher in the Russian language. A bookcase holds books on the visual arts and photography. With the news that two of my relatives have passed this year, I am going through old photo albums of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles long deceased. When that becomes grieving, it is time for other pursuits. Walking the dogs, and tending to the flower garden and fruit trees. My wife asked me for a little car maintenance today – changing a burned-out taillight that a passerby noted on her drive home.

When you are engaged in the enjoyment of learning, you may find little time to catch up on celebrity deaths, Trump’s latest self-congratulatory pronouncements, or dozing in front of the television.

the answer is forty-two

In the late 1970s, a British radio program, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy introduced me to brilliant satire, a science fiction story, and more of the British wit I already enjoyed in another British show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A book (Douglas Adams), television and a 2005 movie popularized the story for fans.

For those who are not fans, the story introduces us to Arthur Dent, an ordinary English guy, completely lacking in self-confidence, who finds one morning that his home is scheduled for demolition by the local government planning commission – to put a highway where it sat. He commiserates with a friend, Ford Prefect, who it turns out is an extraterrestrial who has come to rescue him. Apparently some galactic planning commission intends to destroy the Earth that day, to put through some highway of its own.

The story involves several humorous jabs at bureaucracy, technology, space travel, romance, and political incompetents. At one point, the plot story describes that some galactic beings – in the form of common mice – commissioned a computer to answer the question, “what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?”. The answer, “42” confuses them, so they seek a second computer to find the specific question that “42” satisfies. Before they could get a satisfactory answer, the computer – Earth – was destroyed for that highway mentioned earlier. At the end of the story, everything is made right again with a newly-assembled planet Earth, but the mice-beings and their quest for the eternal answer are thwarted by Arthur.

Sometimes I think that the eternal answer to the meaning of Life will continue to elude most people. For the rest? Love your neighbor, enjoy the time you have, and most importantly, do not misplace your towel.