Monday, March 28, 2011

Head 'em up, Move 'em out!

Four years ago this week, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and the Colonel engaged in an activity that they had done so often that they could do it in their sleep.

They packed up all of their worldly belongings and moved.
 But this time was different.  This time was the last time.

For the thirty-one years of wedded bliss that preceded that last move, the Colonel and his bride had packed, moved, and unpacked household goods and family every 1.75 years, on average.  There were several duty stations at which they unpacked, packed, and from which they moved, all within less than a year's time.  Such a nomadic lifestyle lends itself to the adoption of, by virtue of sad experience, a set of unwritten (heretofore) rules:

Rule #1:  Purchase no furniture that cannot withstand the rigors of at least five cross-country moves in its lifetime.

Rule #2:  Take up no hobby the fruits of which are inherently fragile; i.e., model building, figurine collecting, etc...; unless of course you intend to take up a follow-on hobby of fragile model and figurine repair...

Rule #3:  Any box unopened after a third move obviously contains unnecessary items and shall be deposited forthwith on the curb.

Rule #4:  Make no friends with whom you do not care to continue a long-distance relationship.

Rule #5:  Take inventory of all household pets, to include the neighbors', before allowing the movers to close and lock the doors to the moving van.

Rule #6:  Take inventory of all children, to include the neighbors', before allowing the movers to close and lock the doors to the moving van.

Rule #7:  Carry a hammer, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, a bottle of industrial strength air freshener, and a week's supply of tissues in your car to the next duty station.  The tools will allow for quick complete disassembly of broken and unsalvageable furniture so as to make carriage to the curb less onerous; the industrial strength air freshener will ward off odors generated by off-gassing of long-deceased un-inventoried pets and child-packed half-eaten food items; and the tissues will help dry the eyes of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda when the Colonel informs her that he is expected to report to duty immediately and may not be home for a week.

There are one hundred and twenty-seven more rules, but the Colonel is detecting a whiff of frantic boredom among the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon and have persevered in reading thus far in the vain hope that there might actually eventually appear posted hereon something of interest or current events relevance.  And, as always, the Colonel is happy to disappoint.

So, this Friday is the fourth anniversary of the Colonel's and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's arrival at their last duty station here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.   The day shall be marked with fireworks, feasting, and patriotic speech-making.

Well, ...maybe the Colonel will step out on the back porch, discharge his muzzle-loader at nothing in particular, take a bite of a day-old sausage biscuit, and off-gas a bit his own self.              

Thursday, March 24, 2011

" the Shores of Tripoli."

The current U.S. military action in Libya is but the latest in a long history of American use of force against renegades in that North African region.  Any review of that history requires setting the dial on the "Way Back" machine to at least 1778.

By the end of the 18th Century, piracy by autonomous North African city states belonging to the vast and crumbling Ottoman Empire had evolved to such an organized and lucrative commercial enterprise that, by comparison, the current Somali scourge looks like 12 year-old bullies knocking over corner lemonade stands.  The bashas of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers commanded vast fleets of fast, lightly armed sailing craft which carried boarding parties composed of men who, in the words of a Tripolitan ambassador in negotiations with U. S. envoy Thomas Jefferson in 1785, believed that,

...the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once." 

The 1778 Treaty of Alliance between France and the American colonies in rebellion against the British Crown had placed American commercial shipping under the protection of the French Navy and French agreements with what were then known as the Barbary Coast Pirates.  The end of the war in 1783 caused this treaty to lapse and American shipping began to fall prey once again to Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean.  The cost to America was staggering.  In 1795, for example, the United States paid the exorbitant ransom of one million dollars to the king of Algeria for the release of 116 American sailors.  To put what seems a paltry amount in perspective, in a day when our national debt increases more than one million dollars a minute, the total U.S. federal budget in 1795 was little more than six million dollars

With continuing protection payments to the Barbary Coast States approaching 20% of the Federal budget by 1800, it began to dawn on congressional leaders that it would be cheaper to build a navy to defend American shipping.  Jefferson had long argued that the United States should refuse to pay the Barbary tribute and by the time he assumed the Presidency in 1801, several fine frigates were available for naval patrol in the Mediterranean.  One of Jefferson's first command decisions was to refuse further tribute payments.  The king of Tripoli subsequently declared war on the United States and Jefferson dispatched a naval squadron to the Mediterranean, thus beginning a U.S. Naval presence in that strategic sea that continues to this day (and one in which the Colonel participated during his career as a ruggedly handsome soldier of the sea).  

Jefferson did not act out of disregard for the limits placed on his use of military force by the U.S. Constitution.  In fact, he asked the Congress for, and received specific authorization to conduct naval operations against the Tripoli pirates to protect American commercial shipping.  Congress recognized that a state of war existed between the United States and Tripoli and, although never formally declaring war on Tripoli, gave Jefferson express permission to seize and/or destroy Tripolitan shipping. 

The resurgent U.S. Navy quickly dominated the Tripolitan pirates at sea, but the king of Tripoli remained defiant.  For the LSU, Alabama, and Mississippi State grads among the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon and among the half-dozen other net-surfing passers-by to this rant who are having a hard time following due to the lack of pictures, that was the early 19th Century analogy to today's situation with Libya.

Enter political intrigue and a handful of U.S. Marines.

It was decided that regime change in Tripoli was in order.  The king of Tripoli's brother volunteered to make Tripoli more friendly to American interests if the United States would just do him the small favor of deposing his brother for him.  U.S. Marine First Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon and eight enlisted Marines at the head of a 500-man Greek, Berber, and Arab mercenary band marched over-desert from Alexandria, Egypt and captured the Tripolitan city of Derna; raising the flag of the United States in victory for the first time on foreign soil.  

The king of Tripoli rather quickly thereafter conceded to U.S. demands to cease piracy of American shipping, and we told his little brother to take a hike.  But, in return, America agreed to continue paying a much reduced tribute.  Call it, in today's terms, Foreign Aid.   

As the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon, and are not intellectually hamstrung by mis-education at LSU, Alabama, or Mississippi State, can well imagine, the continued payment of tribute demonstrated weakness and only served to encourage more piracy.  The United States, after escaping a near-miss in the rematch with Great Britain, had to go to war again against the Barbary Coast in 1815. 

Accommodations with recalcitrant rulers have a way of coming back to bite you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Domino Dummy

The old men in his church are teaching the Colonel to play dominoes.  As a game, it is deceptive in its simplicity, dominoes.  The problem is it causes the Colonel to use mathematics, which is only slightly less traumatic and challenging than telling him he has to speak only in iambic pentameter.

And, no, the Colonel doesn't know what iambic pentameter means.  He just likes the way the words sound together. 

(And, no, the Colonel has no idea how many layers of meaning are in the last sentence.)

Twenty-eight tiles divided evenly between four players.  That would be...let's, carry the tiles a player.

Two teams, each player laying a tile in turn, tiles laid to match ends, score by multiples of five off the exposed ends.  Keep the other team from making big scores.  Help your partner score.  How hard can this be?   

Pretty stinkin' hard, judging by the harsh language directed the Colonel's way when he plays the wrong tile.  The only time the Colonel has heard any of the old men use harsh language has been when he's playing dominoes.   Well, then, and when they are arguing over whose turn it is to be the Colonel's partner.

This might be hard for the Colonel to take, if his ego wasn't already diminished to infinitesimal proportions by nearly thirty-five years of marriage to the wisest woman on the planet.

There is a further complication that exponentially increases the degree of difficulty for the Colonel.  He is, as the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone perusing posts hereon will readily attest, an insufferable know-it-all and loquacious curmudgeon.  Turns out that the combination of pontification and multiplication are a neuron bridge too far for the Colonel.

"Hey, Jarhead, you gonna play or bang your gums?  The women's gossip table is over in the other corner."

The respect and acceptance the Colonel enjoys at his new (and last) duty station is truly remarkable.   Were it not for the respect and acceptance constantly displayed by the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, the Colonel might suffer significant emotional distress.

"Hey, knuckle-head, this is the women's gossip table.  The old men are over there in the other corner."         

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ornery in the Court

The Colonel achieved a significant milestone in his life this week.  He has finally resided somewhere long enough to be called for civilian jury duty.  The Colonel's wandering ways heretofore made bedouins look downright sedentary, and, as a result, his only experience with jury selection and court procedings had been with courts martial. 

After his first brush with law as practiced in the local county court, the Colonel has a whole new appreciation for the expediency, thoroughness, and discipline of law and justice according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 

But, perhaps the greatest surprise the Colonel experienced during jury selection was the lack of respect which many demonstrate for the Court.

Case in point:  The Colonel didn't wear a coat and tie, (and has never been an example of civilian sartorial splendor) but he did wear his best button-down shirt, pressed trousers (men wear trousers, women wear slacks), belt without his name on it, and a pair of shoes not last worn to clean out the chicken herd house.
However, the same care in clothing selection can not be said to have been followed by some who responded to the circuit court jury duty summons.

The Colonel was a bit aggravated in partcular at the one man who he'd seen park his beamer on the square a few spots down from where the Colonel parked his rusty red pick-up, Semper Fillit.  This gentleman (and the Colonel uses that term rather loosely in this case) was obviously a man of means, but was not-so-nattily attired in a grubby pair of jeans and a t-shirt.  His boots were not even brushed off, let alone spit-shined.

No big deal, you say.  Wait, it gets better.

During jury selection, the counsel for the plaintif asked if any one in the jury pool was a lawyer.  Several hands went up.  (Turns out this town has a lot of lawyers, the vast majority of whom are doing something other than practicing law).  One of the prospective jurors who raised a hand, was the beamer driver with the dirty boots.  The man was himself a lawyer, and was in a court of law, dressed like a field hand in town to pick up a load of hog slop.

Still not scandalized?  Wait, it gets much better.

The counsels for the defense and plaintif all seemed to recognize the beamer-drivin', hog-sloppin'-dressed lawyer.  "Please tell the Court what your law practice is," the scoff-court was asked with a wink and a grin.   

"Your honor,..." 

Wait for it...

"...I teach criminal law at the Ole Miss Law School."

That's right, sportsfans, the man who demonstrated the least respect for the Court, by his slovenly appearance, of any one else in the jury pool, is a law professor.   

It was all the Colonel could do to keep from dragging the professor outside and delivering his own professorial lesson on honor and respect. 

Even more disappointing was the fact that the Colonel, he of not-so-keen mind but very keen respect for law and justice, was not selected to sit on the jury.  It was almost more than his ego could take.

When he got out to the parking lot, the Colonel fingered a load of Mississippi gravel road greasy, wet grime off of the front fender of Semper Fillit and flicked it over on the beamer's windshield.  The world, the Colonel's at least, tilted back onto it's proper axis.        

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Sheen, Shine, Shinola

To the great of astonishment of no one more than the Colonel, he finds that he has much in common with Charlie Sheen.

Like Sheen, the Colonel, it may surprise the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon to hear, also has wild animal markers in the helixes of his DNA.  Well, maybe not a wild animal. 

Okay, maybe not an animal.  

It is patently obvious to even the most casual observer that the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda believes the Colonel has insect DNA.  Nearly every day since the Colonel re-retired and graced his best friend with his constant presence, the comely and kind-heart Miss Brenda throws her hands up and requests that the Colonel "go somewhere and quit bugging me!"

Like Chargin' Charlie, the Colonel has the blood of a mythological god coursing through his only slightly plaque-encrusted arteries.  Prepare to have your knowledge of mythology expanded. The five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon have probably never heard of Snorz, the god of Eyelid Light Leak Checks and Supine Strategic Planning Sessions. 

Snorz blood races through the Colonel's veins at the speed of sludge through a San Francisco sewer pipe.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda regularly uses a W word closely associated with "winning" to describe the Colonel's situational attitude.  

Look for yourself, there's only an extra h and one less n in whining.