I began an early draft of this post discussing the merits of self-employment, and about small businesses finding a niche in which to grow more successful. Coming home from a meeting of a local Rotary Club today (a friend is a member), I found another “why” for growing our business which is also a tenet of our faith: being generous toward others. Organizations like the Rotary Club donate time and money to a variety of causes. This week, we heard from a local charity chair, about a national effort, sponsored by a celebrity benefactor (Dolly Parton), to encourage literacy among children and young adults. I had believed, that this was an issue for other parts of the work, yet a surprising percentage of the population in the United States does not meet the literacy standards predicted by completion of Grade 12. This charity seeks to reverse the limitations that illiteracy holds over people. Another community program, funded by donations and community grants, helps feed and connect with isolated seniors and disabled adults. And lastly, we heard from a Rotarian who has spent a lifetime supporting an organization that, in one of the world’s poorest countries. directly educates life skills and provides training in a trade and material support to engage in self-employment.
I wonder what good news I will learn about the next time the Rotarians meet.
As my wife and ISIC (Immediate Superior In Command), reminds me, opining, responding to, or worse, instigating a diatribe via social media is bad for business. In the last century, word of mouth, newspaper, radio and television advertising, storefronts and mail order were means to get products and services to consumers. Developing repeat business from clients was more easily obtained and was often a local market. It is almost exclusively through social media or websites that consumers are aware of an entrepreneur’s product or service today. Social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Meta (Google), Tik-Tok or distributors such as Amazon are the primary means to advertise an entrepreneur’s wares. Inciting negative publicity can diminish a product or service’s availability on these platforms. (These companies also depend on consumers to regularly return to their platforms for profitability.)
As a result, when an inflammatory post, or even something innocuous that may appeal to an entrepreneur’s morals and personal beliefs, social media can quickly become a murky pool in which the original intent or comment is lost. As we have seen frequently, companies such as Facebook or Twitter can limit exposure for certain content. It might be a battle of wills with one claiming censorship and the other inflammatory rhetoric, but small businesses cannot afford loss of market share. This is the unfortunate reality today that we be friendly toward all.
A Chinese high altitude balloon carrying equipment has been carried along in the atmosphere over the United States this past week causing all sorts of ruckus. Their government has responded to United States that it was accidental, and not intentional, violation of our national sovereignty. While the balloon has maneuvering capability and seems to possess a sophisticated payload, the Chinese government claim, that it is an off-course weather balloon, is laughable. It would have been more credible had they claimed it was high altitude survey of their investments in the United States (the Chinese have invested some $200 Billion in the past quarter-century in US businesses and real estate). Though the U.S. Defense Department says the balloon has not ventured over sensitive military installations, and the Government has not ordered it to be shot down, one wonders whom is leading who on. At a time when the Chinese government has trillions of dollars at their disposal, building aircraft carriers, orbiting space platforms, and conducts espionage via HUMINT (spying on government officials, theft of intellectual property and technology by foreign agents) and COMINT (intercepting radio transmissions and hacking into computer networks), this balloon seems to be very low tech espionage for an adversary.
To gain military or economic advantage, nations have engaged in surveillance or intelligence gathering of their rivals for millennia. With the invention of radio communications, ELINT (electronic intelligence) grew exponentially as each nation devised more sophisticated means to mask their operations. With the satellite era, FISINT (foreign signal intelligence) was developed to intercept and analyze telemetry, determining a potential adversary’s capabilities and intentions. All of these have prompted increasingly sophisticated means of securing them from observers.
Determined adversaries view the long game to achieve their objectives. Years before the Second World War, Imperial Japan was sizing up the military capabilities of the United States to thwart their territorial ambitions. The US was then also decrypting their communications, which facilitated the Allies in reversing their early military successes and shortened the war in the Pacific. Since the end of World War II, the Cold War competition between two nuclear-armed adversaries seemed only to conclude when the economic cost to the Soviet Union became unsupportable. At the same time, China has also developed nuclear weapons, and provided enormous support to North Korea and North Vietnam militarily and economically, in two conflicts with the United States. In negotiations beginning with the Nixon Administration in the early 1970s, the economic benefit of a global market open to China has created their global power.
China is a different economic competitor and adversary. More students in China pursue engineering and science training than in the US or in Europe. International corporations with offices in the PRC have nationals working around the globe. With wealth from international consumers, the PRC has provided foreign aid to build (Chinese) militarily and politically-useful seaports, industrial capacity, and resource development around the globe. A balloon floating over the United States might be calculated to test our response, as a metric to China’s long-term foreign policy objectives. Two years of a global pandemic that originated in the PRC due to a failure at a government virology lab, and subsequent obfuscation by their government and officials in foreign nations (with ties to the PRC), lend themselves to being tools of future conflict. Another balloon carrying a biological agent does not seem farfetched.
The PRC has conducted increasingly bold military maneuvers near Taiwan, and is likely monitoring regional powers’ response to its client, North Korea’s, missile tests. However preoccupied the United States is with domestic problem, overt military action against Taiwan in the coming year may be a last option in their Party chambers. Through a century of international agreements, should an adversary attack a treaty partner (Taiwan), the United States will enter the fray. A surveillance balloon over the United States might be a metric to gauge whether the United States populace would be prepared to support that.
After this was published, it appears that the United States did shoot down the balloon as it crossed over into the Atlantic airspace. -February 4,2023. We know it had no civilian-use payload, as it would otherwise have been launched from a Walmart or an Amazon facility – the route most Chinese products go through.
I still remember a young sailor reporting aboard our ship who had been in the Navy about six months. A member assigned to our division, he was assigned a bunk in our berthing compartment. Aboard any vessel, but particularly a warship, space is at a premium and quarters for the crew are no exception. In the Navy, a crewmember has a very limited amount of space in which to store his or her belongings, and are designed to hold the contents of one’s seabag plus a small amount of toiletries we fit into a “ditty bag”. In this compartment, the three tiered bunks (“racks”) doubled also as lockers for each member’s gear. There were exactly the same ratio of racks to crew in every compartment aboard ship. (Only the Executive Officer, Commanding Officer and any visiting Flag Officer or dignitary had individual quarters.)
It was the second or perhaps, third garment bag he started to unpack, in addition to his seabag’s contents that drew the loudest “WTF!” from his immediate supervisor getting him settled in the berthing, No less than three color-coordinated suits – 1 green, 1 red and 1 yellow, came out of those garment bags. That he assumed that he would store them in adjacent lockers became a training opportunity. Thirty years ago, we were not as progressive in our attitude nor counseling methods as in 2022; in hindsight, we might not today be forgiven for thinking Gary (Indiana) was missing a pimp. He was advised to remove from the ship every item of civilian clothing that did not fit in his own bunk, after having stowed everything prescribed by Navy regulations for shipboard use.
Not that he was the only person to have belongings in excess of places to put them. Officers, Chiefs and blueshirts (junior enlisted sailors) having accumulated a few bulky items (Turkish and Persian rugs) when on liberty overseas, were known to conduct a lot of horsetrading with Supply, Medical, cooks, and Engineering peers to find cubbyholes when returning to the USA from deployment to the Mediterranean and Suez.
From the current Uniform Requirements for Men, in Paygrades E-1 to E-6, the following items are issued as regular uniform items and when precisely folded, will fit within a standard issue seabag. Some of the items are rank and other insignia which are affixed to uniforms in a prescribed manner. :
All-Weather Coat, Blue 1
Bag, Duffel 1
Belt, Web, Black, W/Silver Clip 2
Belt, Web, White, W/Silver Clip 1
Blousing, Straps 2
Boots, 9″ 1
Buckle, Silver 2
Cap, Ball 2
Cap, Garrison 1
Cap, Knit 1
Cap, 8-Point, with ACE logo 2
Cold Weather Parka 1
Coveralls (Navy), Blue 1
Gloves, Leather, Black 1 pr.
Group Rate Mark, Black 1
Group Rate Mark, White 1
Hat, White 2
Insignia, NWU (E4 – E6) 1
Insignia, Service Uniform Collar (E2 – E6) 1
Jumper, Blue Dress 1
Jumper, White Dress 1
Liner, Fleece 1
Mock “T” Neck 1
Parka, NWU 1
Shirt, Khaki 2
Shirt, NWU 3
Shirt, PTU 2
Shoes, Athletic 1 pr.
Shoes, Dress Black 1 pr.
Shorts, PTU 2
Socks, Cotton/Nylon, Black 3 pr.
Socks, Cushion Sole, Boots 5
Towel, Bath1 4
Trouser, Broadfall, Blue 1 pr.
Trousers, NWU 3 pr.
Trousers, Poly/Wool, SU 1 pr.
Trousers, White Jumper 1 pr.
Undergarments As Needed
Undershirts, White 4
Undershirts, Brown 4
To my shame, now retired a dozen years, and more than fifteen since I last got underway on a Navy warship, I no longer practice the rigorous methods to stow my belongings. Then, neither do I have to stencil my clothes and underwear with my last name so they will return to the rightful owner from the laundry.
“Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a (person) healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Old English proverb, often attributed to B Franklin
That might have been Benjamin Franklin’s experience, but for the last three days and nights, waking with coughing fits due to a cold virus, I have little positive from staying in bed most of the day. Finally feeling on the mend this Sunday, I am continuing to think about sleep deprivation. This runs in my family. Stories of a parent (grandparent) who accomplished more in 24 hours, particularly in the dead of the night, are borne out by a spouse, who can fall immediately asleep but wakes an hour or a couple hours later. By morning, laundry has been washed and folded. A cat, which appears at our door at all hours, gets attention and cat food. Conversations about life lessons between our adult son and his mother occur at 1 AM. Whether a restful evening is possible two or four hours at a time, for my family it is reality. I am wakened many nights by sounds and smells that trigger old Navy training. Dripping faucets, running showers, and late night meal preparation (we have adult children living with us), 25 years after duty at sea, will easily wake me.
Veterans, medical personnel and First Responders are by training and work assignments often working at hours that inhibit the notion of proper rest. Suitability to such work, is that primarily from training our bodies, or is it due to our genes which predispose us? Or does youth make us more flexible to adjustment? The reality of modern life is complicating what were once socially-accepted norms. Family time, if at all routine, occurs later in the evening. Working from home tempts us to working late at night. The National Institute of Health has conducted sleep studies, specifically, circadian rhythms which are physiological changes in a organism that operate on a 24-hour cycle. Have you heard of a “biological clock” ticking away (and not just from the movie, My Cousin Vinny) ? The control an organism has over its circadian rhythm, has a lot to do with certain proteins that interact in the body’s cells. Similar research is studying narcolepsy, a sleep disorder related to autoimmunity, where mutated genes trigger a response not due to lifestyle nor circadian rhythms of the sufferer.
While each treatment, prescription drugs, diphenhydramine, and other sleep aids carry their own range of side effects, indigestion after bedtime has caused me to abandon that. I still take OTC melatonin and drink “sleepy” herbal teas. The latter’s only side effect is stirring me to wake before my alarm to answer Nature’s call. Other than that, I am quite fond of chamomile. And twenty minute naps.
When a jury summons arrives in the mail, as a veteran and former Navy Chief Petty Officer, I feel the sense of duty to report when summoned. Not that I have ever once been selected to sit on a jury, I will still go down to the courthouse on the day I am required. I do not recall ever receiving a summons while I served on Active Duty in any of the municipalities where I lived. I think that military service excludes us from the jury selection pool. But last month I received a summons, and then asked to reschedule because I became ill with a cold. This week is my second summons starting day, and again I am ill. Actually, more annoying than the fever four days earlier, the stubborn sinus congestion persists. As a CPO, I should simply suck it up(!), and carry out the mission. Perhaps, it is that sense of duty, and the ability to detect a load of @#$# being shoveled by attorneys –sea lawyers– that has prevented me from being a juror so far?
Ten years ago, a cell phone video recorded by a crewman aboard the Ping Shin 101, a tuna trawler, documented the systematic murder of sailors somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Despite witnesses on other vessels in the area, no international law required anyone to report the murders to authorities. When a cell phone with the damning video was found in a Fijian taxi in 2014, the video was circulated online. Over time, the crew were identified by investigators through social media, found and interviewed to find the captain of the vessel who ordered the executions. Its former captain was arrested when he entered Taiwan in 2020. In June of this year, after two appeals of his conviction for executing pirates, the former captain’s sentence was reduced by half to 13 years.
Merchant ships and fishing boats being attacked by pirates has been a hazard at sea for hundreds of years. It was one of the reasons that a nation depending on seaborne trade with other nations needed a navy to protect their shipping. (Another reason was the practice of conscripting (impressing) sailors and seizing cargo by a warship interdicting trade intended for a rival they were warring against.) In parts of the world where economic upheaval occurs, smuggling, seizure of vessels and piracy are still occurring. In the 1990s, after the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq flouted an international oil embargo, smuggling oil to other Mid-East nations until ended with his overthrow in 2003. In opposition to the United States and its allies, North Korea, Iran and Syria have been circumventing economic sanctions to deter proliferation of weapons. In March, 2022, industrialists in Russia and at least one industry in the PRC were added for smuggling weapons and technology to the Middle East. While these issues dominate the world stage, it is government instability and economic hardship for small fishermen that seems to breed piracy.
Some researchers suggest after the collapse of Somalia’s government in 1991, other nations’ fishing fleets overfished the waters in the Gulf of Aden. Somali fishermen turned to piracy to survive. They attacked shipping (Aden links Indian Ocean traffic to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal); Ransoming cargoes and crews continued until the US and its allies began protecting international shipping in the region. (The hijacking of the Maersk Alabama in 2009, and its captain’s rescue by the US Navy was made into a movie.) In addition to the waters off Somalia, the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, piracy has escalated in the southern Caribbean. With the economic upheaval following Venezuela’s election of Hugo Chavez, fishermen turned to piracy in the Caribbean waters between Venezuela and Guyana.
International merchant groups and insurers such as the World Shipping Council, the International Maritime Organization, and Merrimac Marine Insurance coordinate to guard against piracy. However, the pandemic, war in Ukraine, Chinese naval expansion, and other threats, piracy has not made headlines as it did 25 years ago. Piracy still is a major concern for large and small operators. It is why one site, the ICC Commercial Crime Services, posts an updated international map to aid sailors. As for the imprisoned Chinese national in Taiwan, executing “pirates” and avoiding jurisprudence for eight years, a 13-year sentence seems a slight deterrent if international maritime law cannot deter rivals committing bloodshed.
Twenty-one years ago today, in the early hours of a late summer morning, evil attempted to destroy the American ideal. They thought by striking symbols, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the White House, they would succeed in their endeavor. They were wrong. Three thousand men and women, airline passengers and crew, working people, First Responders and members of the Armed Forces perished that day. Instead of fear, the terrorists ignited resolve, beginning first with the passengers in the plane above Shanksville, Pennsylvania who opposed them. Though perishing, the passengers halted the attack on one of Al Qaeda’s targets. Like the surprise attack of Imperial Japan sixty years earlier, a “sleeping giant” was awakened. Before the towers collapsed, Americans (whatever their actual citizenship) demonstrated this evil “holy” war was a failed attempt. Heroism, courage and sacrifice emerged that day.
Men and women rushed into the burning buildings to save others, and some perished in doing so. In the ensuing months, fatherless and motherless children, widows and widowers, neighbors and strangers were comforted. The World these terrorists hated, put aside their differences, then united in crushing the safe haven in Afghanistan and sending its leaders to prison or to hell. Twenty years later, most Americans living today have at least one family member, co-worker, friend, or neighbor who served in the military after September 11th, some of whom returning with the scars of war. Though collective memory of nations fade, governments equivocate, and old ways persist, veterans still remind us of duty and responsibility of the defended. Ordinary citizens support, encourage, and volunteer to assist the injured, homeless, addicted, and refugee. Though many who have come of age in the two decades since question the purpose of the sacrifices in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, this day should be remembered and honored.
Embrace those who lost a loved one on that day. Put aside any differences in race, politics, religion, economic condition or gender. Thank a member of law enforcement, firemen, veterans and Active Duty service members for their dedication. Get to know your neighbor. Praise your God for peace and love. Most importantly, teach your children respect, honor, courage, and selflessness.
Before someone discovered the Rosetta Stone, a fragment of stone which had inscriptions written in classical Greek and Egyptian, allowing modern transcription of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the pyramids and other ruins were secure witnesses to Pharoah’s secrets. Until modern times, protecting military communications took several forms from handwritten letters in cyphers that used increasingly more inventive means to encode them. When machines were developed to encode communications and transmit them over wires and then in the Twentieth Century wirelessly, communications had to grow more secure. Old diplomats who assumed “gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail” (Henry L. Stimson, d 1950), were being unrealistic. As quickly as the medium changed, the means to obfuscate the messaging grew. The leap from the invention of the telegraph (1837 – 44) to global communication satellites and the Internet (~1980) is barely 140 years. And in that time, messages were intercepted and read that thwarted the Kaiser’s plans for Mexico, Hitler’s and Imperial Japan’s war effort, and other campaigns up to the present day.
With the invention of the cell phone, the move to secure civilian communications was spurred by reports that governments were listening in to narcotics traffickers and could determine the phone’s location using ELINT (electronics intelligence) methods. In the last thirty years, companies have made data stored on or transmitted via smartphones more secure, but encryption of voice communications over cellphone is still costly and not generally available. With smartphones becoming the ubiquitous means of communication, whether texting, looking up recipes online, or signing and sending electronically signed contracts to vendors, the expanded need for radio frequencies changed other inventions. Landline telephones, television, and commercial AM and FM radio which had been both a means to inform the public and filter messages through Government censors, are on their way to museums.
In autocratically-controlled countries, filtering the flow of information is a primary concern to those in power. As we have already learned from global corporations that “socialized” the Web, Google, Facebook, and other players throttle dissent and focus (target) messages to audiences that are in line with their beliefs – but mostly to benefit their corporate advertisers. Yet this means of control can also be circumvented in some areas, like we have seen in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where other entities (SpaceX, for one) shipped satellite receivers to the Ukrainians to connect to the world via its new satellite network. But as we saw with a recent network disruption of Viasat’s satellite network, regimes and other adversarial actors are daily working to corrupt communication or spy on those whose data they wish to steal. However, as nations’ cyber warfare apparatus are becoming very proficient both in attacking and defending, old technology is coming back into vogue. With the focus on the Internet and satellite transmissions foremost in Russian and Chinese state filters, Ham (amateur) radio operators are able to communicate with people hunkered down in bomb shelters and isolated areas in the Ukraine. Frustrated Russian military units, hampered by Command-and-Control problems, fuel supply problems and soldiers complaints over unencrypted radio, are being intercepted by civilian operators half a world away.
Yet one medium is still unassailable by technology. Though a favorite target in science fiction, a person’s thoughts remain secure and unable to be monitored by an adversary. At least until they broadcast them on social media or send in military units. However, it may be that Someone is listening in to those “secure” communications. The same Someone who empowered David to slay Goliath, and for now, seems to have been staving off Vladimir Putin’s territorial aspirations.
Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
An undersea volcano near Tonga in the south Pacific Ocean created tsunamis that flooded the nearest islands and were measurable five thousand miles away in North America. An undersea earthquake off northern Japan was so violent it disturbed the Earth’s axis, and the tsunamis caused the Fukushima reactor to break down and release radiation. Tsunamis created by an undersea earthquake in Indonesia caused a quarter-million deaths along the coastline of Indian Ocean and Java Sea. On an island near New Zealand, tourists were killed in an eruption when the tour operators were ignorant of or ignored warnings of the impending threat. All over the world, millions of people live along the tectonic boundaries where continents bump against each other, ocean floors spread apart, or dive one under the other. Though weather and movement in the earth are rigorously monitored by technology and experts all over the globe, a pyroclastic cloud obliterating a Latin American community, or a tsunami that washes away homes and livelihoods in Indonesia may strike the vulnerable before the warnings can be acted upon.
As much as the global community is compelled to act to counter Climate Change, tangible support and actionable assistance or infrastructure, in regions where earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity damage and kill or injure tens of thousands is warranted now more than political activism and questionable initiatives. Would collective action to install better warning systems, engineer stronger buildings, or investigate “flood-control” measures be useful to counter natural disasters that are happening now?
Garbage is humanity’s biggest problem. Specifically, “what to do” with garbage we humans generate. It is a way more immediate a problem than the ice caps melting as my neighborhood is not expected to be waterfront property even in my grandson’s lifetime. When populations numbered from dozens in an area to a few million across a continent, garbage was not contemplated for the problems it generates today. But nine billion people on Earth generate a lot of waste. Communities in major cities around the world live in garbage dumps. Burning trash, tires and chemical spills make large swaths of the planet barely livable. Plastics and other toxics are collecting in thousand square mile ‘rafts’ in all of earth’s oceans. While I may empathize with global authorities who want to reduce human influence on changing global climate, and where to dump what and recycle other materials, the immediacy of the problem about garbage, for me, is collection.
I live in southern California, and this past December, the company whose trash service I contracted for the last dozen years became embroiled in a labor dispute with its employees. Without weekly collection, residences, businesses and even cities have been overwhelmed with trash. The company quietly noted that subscribers could dump in the company-run landfills without additional cost- but that requires the means to bring it to the landfill which I did not have. A week ago, I paid for a private company to take it all away. Republic Services only yesterday ran a garbage truck down my street. It was almost insulting. They had brought other employees in from other regions to mitigate a potential dispute with the largest municipal contract. Those of us in the unincorporated county had staged our bins each week in hope of being served. After four weeks without further notice from the company, neither of my neighbors had left their bins for collection on the curb! That probably was the emptiest garbage truck moving through our community that morning.
Not mentioned in this whole affair is the new legislation enacted by ‘our’ representatives in Sacramento. California has mandated that food waste as well as other decomposable matter now has to be screened into “green” bins, separating ‘greenhouse-gas’-generating waste, recyclable waste, and landfill -acceptable waste by all residents and businesses. At least, that latest maneuver was anticipated by me late last year. I began a compost program to create fertilizer for my home-grown fruit and vegetables. As for what to do with animal bones – the beef, chicken, pork and fish we eat? I am now supposed to put them in the Green collection. I could crush and burn them at home, as one website advises about minimizing landfill gases, but then the fuel to burn them and the smoke that will generate might get me cited. I am already frivolously barbecuing and smoking away on the pellet smoker Santa brought me for Christmas.
Hopefully, the new service (the one with green, methane-run trucks) I engaged at the end of the year will deliver the means for me to separate my trash today (as promised). At the very least, even if our food waste requires some extra effort to dispose, one effect of the legislation enacted on January 1 will be to minimize burying food that goes unsold in groceries and restaurants in California. Saving the additional space in landfills while feeding people struggling, is noble. What California does to enforce the new environmental rules among the tens of thousands living on the street, whom they were supposed to house by prior legislative initiatives, as they do not subscribe to a waste removal service.
Let us table that discussion. I have trash to dump. Regulations to read. And the environment to save.
For 2022, I wanted to introduce readers (and recall or reinvigorate in my case) terms, acronyms and abbreviations used in the Navy. Earlier today I was reminded of the times I used to talk on the phone with our son while he was serving in the Army, and how his mother found Army jargon unintelligible. However, I would run everything he said through a translator in my head. After a quarter-century of serving with or working with other service veterans, I put others’ jargon into Navy-speak, and pretty much follow along.
Alive. Usage includes “look alive, shipmates!” (energetic, move quickly)
As you were. Order to carry on with what you had been doing.
Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS). Food allowance (pay) received when no military galleys are present/ authorized to mess separately.
Black shoe. Slang term for a surface Sailor (ship’s company). Its opposite is Brown Shoe.
Brown shoe. Slang term for an aviator.
AOE. A combat support ship and the fastest auxiliary ship in the Navy. It provides fuel, missiles, ammunition and general stores.
CCOL. Compartment Check Off List. Part of the Planned Maintenance System. There must be a CCOL located in every compartment and weather deck area where a Damage Control facility is located.
COSAL. Coordinated Shipboard Allowance List. Contains the nomenclature and nameplate data on equipment, identifying repair parts and materials, and provides for the allowance of such to be in the unit’s supply storerooms.