Monday, May 25, 2009

Goodbye, my brother . . .

We weren't actually related, but Charles Heath was one of the true, great friends that we all have too few of during our lives. Charles died of a heart attack last night at age 48.

Charles was one of the giants in the civil war reenacting community. His knowledge of uniforms, fieldcraft, drill, rations, and the life of the civil war soldier in general, was unsurpassed.

We met only eight years ago at a reenactment in Athens, MO, but I felt like I knew him for a lifetime. We were portraying the southern-sympathizing Scotland County (Missouri) Home Guard.

It was well over a hundred degrees the whole weekend, and we called our camp "The Portals of Hell." Notwithstanding the heat, mosquitoes, poison ivy, nettles, and other nasty plants and beasties, Charles was the pillar of the company.

One of the highlights of that weekend was when Charles adapted the speech at Agincourt from Shakespeare's Henry V to our hopeless mission against the Federal troops at Athens.

It may sound corny, but it was absolutely perfect at the time.

Goodbye, my friend. Our time was too short.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Throwing things . . .

. . . at business associates.

Yep. I did.

Well, not on purpose.

It was at a meeting in a very large room full of people, including my Commanding Officer. As other people were presenting projects and being heavily questioned, I was taking notes on how to make a convincing presentation for a project that the Naval station desperately needs.

My ballpoint pen started skipping, then stopped writing altogether.

Of course, the standard solution is to grab said pen by the top end and shake it, hopefully forcing the last of the ink down to the point.

Good idea. Bad execution. That solution works best when one has a firm grasp on the pen. I didn't.

The pen sailed about fifteen feet across the room, and nearly took out the department manager whose project I was was going to present.

Surprised looks all around. Silence.

"Sorry," says I. "My pen stopped writing, and I now I'm pretty sure that wasn't the best way to fix it."

Laughter all around.

My reputation is unsullied.

And the presentation went very well, thank you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Airfield planning . . .

. . . why bother?

One part of my job is determining how aircraft will be parked on the airfield aprons. There are very clear guidelines for distances, spacing, angles, arcs and centerlines. They're necessary for safety reasons. Wing-tip clips or propeller hits can cause very expensive damage - or kill someone.

Someone always has to color outside the lines.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Strawberrry fields . . .

. . . in Pungo?

Pungo, Virginia is just a few buildings around a traffic signal at the intersection of a country road and a minor state highway in southeast Virginia.

There's not much going on there most of the year, but from late April to early June, the strawberry fields start overflowing. There's even an annual strawberry festival.

This is the Mothers' day dessert Mrs. B. whipped up after a quick trip on Sunday morning.

Angel food cake, fresh strawberries, whipped cream.

Does it get better than this?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Get on the bus . . .

. . . or, riding with the transit Nazi.

I probably shouldn't complain, because the Navy pays for my bus passes, and riding the bus cuts my commuting costs in half.

However, I still require treatment as a human being.

We have a new driver. A large, antagonistic beast of a woman whose photo is undoubtedly in Webster's next to the phrase "bad attitude." If you need further elaboration, read Beowulf. Look up Grendel's mother.

And I'm being kind.

Twice last week, she zipped by my stop almost ten minutes early. I saw her at the next corner as I walked up. No problem. Walk across the street and wait opposite the bus shelter. A road on the base is closed, so the driver has to circle back. We wave. They stop.

Not Grendel's mother. She drove by, honked, waved back and refused to stop.

So, my fellow riders and I hot foot it about five or six blocks across the base to a different stop while the Grendelbus circles around the piers.

At the next stop, we board Grendelbus.
My fellow rider: "Why didn't you stop?"
Grendel's mama: "I don't stop nowhere that ain't a bus stop."

Next day, I leave early. She's already gone past. I'm not playing her game again, so I hoof the six blocks to the other stop.

I'm standing there with my co-rider, and two buses are parked at the stop waiting for the green light at the corner. Grendelbus stops at the back of the other buses, so we walk about fifty feet back and stand at the door.

She doesn't open it. We wave. She ignores us.

Then, when the light turns green, she drives up to the bus shelter, opens the door and waits for us.

We all turn around and trudge the fifty feet back to the shelter. In the rain.

Not that the fifty feet matters much. I just don't need the implied "You gotta kiss my ass if you wanna ride on my bus" attitude. Not at the end of a nine-hour work day.


Friday, May 08, 2009

My SWB Shirt . . .

. . . was worn out.

So, I ordered another.

SWB is South Wales Borderers, of the Royal Regiment of Wales. Of course, you knew that.

If you didn't, you should have. Didn't you pay attention in history class. Or at least watch "Zulu!"?

Of course, the South Wales Borders hadn't been formed by the time of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 (the movie took some liberties). However, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot (later becoming the SWB) was active at the time, and made the famous stand against an estimated 4,000 Zulus at Rorke's Drift, Natal, 05 FEB 1879. One of the most amazing and storied defenses against a superior force in modern military history.

Profits from shirt sales go to support the Regiment's museum, so I buy one now and then.

Why am I interested in all this? First, I am a unrepentent student of military history. Second, Lieutenant John Chard, the leader of the contingent at Rorke's Drift, was an engineer. Fancy that. A member of MY chosen profession.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Crossing the Line . . .

. . . a novel by Brennig Jones

I've been reading Brennig's blog for a year or two, and have become a fan of his style. Crisp, quick, funny, irreverent. When I found that he had published a novel, I thought it might be a worthwhile read. It was.

I hope I'm not being insulting when I call Brennig a horseman. A horseman in the British sense, that is. Eventing - dressage, show jumping, cross country. He's also a bit of an eclectic soul. Been there, done that.

Since most authors write what they know, I expected at least a side story involving eventing. Now, about the only thing I knew about horses is the hay goes in one end, and government policy comes out of the other. However, I like a good story, and I'm always willing to learn something new - so, on to "Crossing the Line."

Chris Stone is a corporate executive, specializing in information technology. He's organized - perhaps to a fault, competent, clever, and more than a little at sea. Something isn't quite right with his life.

Chris also has another life outside the office. He's totally, completely absorbed by his horses, the events he takes them to, and his circle of friends with like interest. Then, quite by accident, he meets Jacki Taylor. Chris is a bit out of his element. He's as unsure about Jacki as he is sure about his horses. Jacki knows nothing about horses and eventing, but she sees something very intriguing in Chris.

Jacki is easily assimlated into Chris' band of eventing friends and associates. She is beginning to feel comfortable with their developing relationship.

Then Vicky Randal appears. Vicky is American, rich, driven - and, by the looks of her - a supermodel on sabbatical.

Vicky moved to England to pursue her passion for eventing, but she doesn't know the value of English horses, and the training academy she has joined just isn't up to the standards she requires. So, what can Chris offer? Over a subtext of equine eventing, relationships develop, change and evolve.

I found Crossing the Line to be very entertaining. Mr. Jones absolutely knows his horses, but that wasn't the highlight for me. What will really hold your interest is the earnest, easy repartee among the characters. He could easily be writing dialog for television.

My observation is that there's a lot Brennig Jones in Chris Stone. A conclusion you probably wouldn't reach without familiarity with his blog.