Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Peter Principle Proof and Pride

If one finds the out-of-print first edition of the Dimwit Dictionary (aka: Words for Dummies) and leafs to the definition of the Peter Principle, a picture of the Colonel will be found in the margin.

When it comes to recognizing incompetence the Colonel knows whereof he speaks.

Prior to 1968, organizations, large and small, suffered from an unrecognized malady that sapped strength, frustrated progress, and fueled water cooler whisper campaigns.  In that year, however, the eyes of the masses were opened to the truth  --  Dr. Laurence J. Peter, a life-long teacher who never once worked outside of the not-so-hallowed halls of academe, published The Peter Principle, in which he postulated that "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence," and that "Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence." 


During his long and not-so-illustrious career as a roguishly handsome soldier of the sea keeping the rapacious wolf of repressive socialism away from the door of freedom, the Colonel not only witnessed Dr. Peter's principle in action, he perfected it as a personal pathway to promotion.

The Colonel, as any one of the thousands of you who loyally lap up the literary libations ladled out in posts hereon will remember from frequent mentions, while not as severely handicapped as those most unfortunate and pitiable 'Bama and LSU grads, is nonetheless shackled by a lack of applicable education -- an undergraduate degree in Political Science (the last refuge of desperate students frantic to maintain the college cash flow from Uncle Sam, or Daddy, as the case may be) from Ole Miss, and two masters (MS in Human Resource Management; MA in Strategic Planning) notwithstanding.

The Colonel challenges anyone to come up with a viable vocation, other than academia and the military, in which that mishmash of (ahem) education has any value. 

The Colonel couldn't.

So, the Colonel saws logs and raises chickens.

The Colonel digresses.

One might correctly surmise that during his productive years the Colonel's lack of applicable education might have easily led to either a career as a homeless dumpster diver or college professor.  But, to paraphrase that great philosopher and astute observer of the human condition, Paul Simon, the Colonel's lack of education didn't hurt him none; he could still see the writing on the wall.

And that writing, in bold red crayon, said: 

"Surround thyself with talent and hold daily talent contests."

In orange crayon slightly below and to the right were the admonitory words:

"...and stay out of the way."

The Colonel ain't smart.  But he could read well enough, and was savvy enough to follow crayon course corrections.

The Colonel offers, as proof of his perfection of the art of staying out of the way, a dozen lieutenants, captains, and majors who kept him out of jail and now share his appellation. 

The Colonel keeps up with their careers by stalking their wives' facebook pages -- not many self-respecting active duty Marine officers maintain their own pages. 

The Colonel is quite certain that several of these colonels have yet to achieve their proof of the Peter Principle -- there are stars in their futures.       

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flying Colors

Sixty-seven years ago today (or yesterday, if you want to be a stickler for the International Date Line) five Marines and a Navy corpsman were immortalized by a snapshot of their actions on a windswept volcanic island in the Pacific.  

We know their names. 

We know what became of them. 

Yet, not one of them is identifiable by face in the picture.

What is clearly identifiable is the symbolic object of the devotion that drove them across the fireswept beaches of a sulfur-stinking island half-a-world away from home and loved-ones.  

The six men in the picture had, to that point, survived five days of savage fighting that had claimed the lives of nearly three thousand Americans and would claim another four thousand before the strategic island was declared secure a month later. 

More Americans gave their lives in sacrifice for their nation in thirty-six days at Iwo Jima than have died in all the military operations since the Eleventh of September, 2001.

The Colonel is not so simple as to opine that the honored dead at Iwo died for the flag.

But, the flag they followed ashore; the flag they planted on Mount Suribachi (and thousands of other objectives in their global war on fascism); the flag they draped over the coffins of their fallen comrades was sacred to them for what it represented.

It represented home.

It represented family.

It represented ideals that most could not fully articulate, but felt in their hearts and souls nonetheless.

Their kids burned that flag or slapped peace symbols on it.

And, their kids do far worse to it.

The Colonel was at first heartened by the outbreak of overt flag-waving post 9/11, and then quickly disgusted by it.  There were some truly respectful displays of the flag -- but, the majority flying the flag, in the Colonel's not-so-humble opinion, were doing so out of the most shallow conformation with the culture's latest fad.

How does the Colonel reach this harsh condemnation of his fellow citizens' actions?

It's a simple test.

Those who truly fly the flag out of respect, care for it.

They don't let it rot, tatter, and fade, nor fly in the dark.

They fly it more prominently and more respectfully than the flags of their favorite college football team.

They don't plaster it on their cars and pick-ups where it quickly accummulates layers of grime.

They don't wear it as an article of clothing or integrated in the cloth.

They stand quietly and respectfully when it is presented or passes by -- hard to do when it's plastered on the bumper of a beater.

It is not the flag's physical colors and cloth we should love and respect, of course.   The flag's true beauty, like all true beauty, is visible only to the eyes of the heart.    

The Colonel does not mean to discourage you from flying our flag.

He asks only that you use as your guide in its care the memory of men and women whose last full measure of devotion was laid on the altar of freedom while advancing the ideals of freedom and human dignity represented by the flag.

When you raise the flag, remember the men who raised it on Suribachi.

When you handle the flag, remember the flags that covered the caskets of those who fell.

When you fly the flag, remember the men and women whose last view in this world, a world away from home, was of the cherished symbol of home.      

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Clipper Crisis

The physical manifestation of the Colonel's short-lived supposed mid-life crisis ceased to exist at roughly 1130 local, yesterday.

The Colonel got a haircut. 

All of 'em, actually, and tight to the thin skin covering the Colonel's brain-housing group.    

The Colonel adds emphasis to the word supposed above because not even he was certain of the reason for the six-month lapse between hair trimmer scalp massages.  

The Colonel's Lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda recently opined that she believed the Colonel was going through his mid-life crisis, and if so, further gently opined that a little extra hair on the Colonel's normally close-clipped and mostly-bald pate was about all the crisis manifestation she was willing to endure. 

She is always loving and understanding.

"Listen, Knucklehead.  You can let your hair -- what little is left of it -- grow out, if you want.  But, don't even think about getting a sports car and spending more time driving around the Square!"

"What?  You think the Colonel will start chasing loose women?"

"Ha! You'll need more than that wispy ring of head fuzz and a sports car to turn heads, you old goat." 

At this point in the always-uplifting life-discussions with his soul- mate, the Colonel normally demonstrates his maturity, breaks contact, and retreats to his workshop to sulk.

Instead, the Colonel ignored the low maturity altitude warning light blinking brightly in the back of his paltry populated nerve center and pressed the issue.

"Ain't goin' through no mid-life crisis!  The Colonel will get a haircut when the Ole Miss Rebels win a football game."  

This bit of information seemed to allay, somewhat, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's fears about her man's sanity,

"That's the second-most crazy thing I've ever heard you say!  Your Rebels can't even be counted on to show up on their home field.  You're likely to have a pony-tail, if that's what you're waiting on to cut that mess!"  

"The Colonel doesn't..."    

"Quit referring to yourself in the third person, Knucklehead!  Grow up and join the civilian world!"

The workshop beckoned and the Colonel broke contact for a sawdust sulk.

So, why did the Colonel finally get a haircut?

Well, as the thousands of you who imbibe loyally of the literary libations ladled out in posts hereon will remember from a previous post, the Colonel has been getting in shape for the most anticipated gridiron contest of the year -- The Annual First Baptist Church of Abbeville Adult v. Youth Flag Football Game.  Normally played, rain or shine, the Saturday before that game of much lesser import -- the Colonel thinks it's called the Super Bowl -- this year's game was postponed two weeks due to lightning.  

Yesterday morning, the Colonel's team -- the Adults (based more on age than action) soundly drubbed the Youth.        

Immediately upon arrival at the Big House, the Colonel broke out his hair clippers and restored his dignity.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda smiled at the sight,

"Thought you weren't going to get it cut until Ole Miss won a football game?"

The Colonel, remembering his Lady's third-person appellation admonition, reminded the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda,

"I AM OLE MISS!"     

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Colonel Don't Smile

The scowl on the Colonel's manly mug doesn't necessarily mean he's unhappy with something or someone. 

And, confronting him with the well-meaning admonition to "Smile!" ain't often gonna reward the well-meaner with much more than a meaner demeanor.

Don't take it personal.

The Colonel don't dance; the Colonel don't paint; and the Colonel don't smile... much.

The Colonel comes from a long line of frowners.  Study the portraits of his progenitors as far back as you care and you'll not find any of the men grinning like a mule eatin' briars.

The congenital cloudy countenance has actually served the Colonel well.  He didn't have to work hard to master the "war face" required of Marines.  The Colonel's mien was already in a facial fighting crouch long before the Corps' master trainers even began their duty of turning him into the steely-eyed deliverer of destruction and master of mayhem, abject fear of whom kept the Red Army in barracks for the better part of three decades.

One of the activities enjoyed most by his family is following the Colonel in a crowded public event.  The Colonel's frown alone parts throngs like Moses at the Red Sea. 

The Colonel would have a bank account rivalling Trump's if  he had a dollar for every time someone told him to "turn that frown upside down," or informed him that "it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile." 

If the foregoing was fact, the Colonel's visage should be far more muscular and far less wrinkled than is clearly the case.

Now, lest the multitudes of you who liberally imbibe in the literary libations ladled out in posts hereon think the Colonel is completely bereft of emotive capability with which to display happiness and joy (the two being quite separate), there are indeed things that make the Colonel smile:

Any sighting of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, following an absence of more than a few minutes.

The sight of the Colonel's grandsons (the Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dashes 1 and 2) scampering merrily ahead of him down a forest-flanked path leading to one or more of the far-flung fields comprising the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

A Marine joke told by a member or veteran of a sister service.  The Colonel always smiles when he is about to get to do something he really likes to do, and the Colonel really loves to fight.

A Rebel touchdown against 'Bama or LSU.   

Lots of practice at frowning in that department lately.               

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eegeebeegee Building Boom

The Colonel's priority project this wimpy winter is preparing the Big House aboard his vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere for the inevitable disastrous weather of a future tilt of the northern hemisphere away from Ol' Sol.

The Big House, built ten years ago by the previous owners of the fair land now known as Eegeebeegee, the capital of the Tallahatchie Free State, has several shortcomings.  Chief among these is the lack of an integral heat production system with combination combustion chamber and carbon effluent elimination tower.

For the typical 'Bama and LSU fans who refer to the fifth grade as "my senior year," the Big House ain't got no fireplace and chimney.

Oh, it has an alcove in which a set of gas-fired faux logs sit quite unsatisfyingly.  But, c'mon, the Colonel ain't no sissy.  He's gonna burn real logs or nuthin'.  Besides, natural gas has not been discovered on his vast holdings, yet.

Wood, on the other hand, is in great abundance.

For the 'Bama and LSU grads whose lack of education misleads them to believe that wood comes from Walmart, the Colonel has a lot of trees.  Wood comes from trees.  Multiple weekly visits to Walmart results in mental atrophy.

No, LSU fans, the Colonel didn't just say you can find a trophy for your football team at Walmart.  You gotta find the fifty yard line, first. 

The Colonel has researched several options for installation of a wood-burning furnace, all of which have failed to receive approval of the final arbiter in all matters regarding additions and renovations to the Big House -- the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda. 

For some reason, she has a problem with the Colonel wielding a sledge hammer in close proximity to her nest.  It's as if she has some sort of knowledge of some sort of disaster that may or may not have occurred the last time the Colonel wielded a sledge hammer in close proximity to her nest. 

There is no photographic proof.

The Colonel's Lady did, however, give preliminary planning approval to the Colonel's concept of construction for the walling-in of the already roofed and wired back porch.  The Colonel's plans currently call for installation of a wood-burning stove in the new space.  The Colonel has been in the planning stages of this project for roughly twenty-seven and one-half  months.

Many of the thousands of you who regularly imbibe of the literary libations ladled out in posts hereon may indeed be wondering at this particular project's planning paralysis.  

The Colonel would have you know that what looks like operational procrastination on his part is, in fact, a strategic pause to accumulate resources.

If you really have nothing better to do with your time and have persevered to this point in the present post, you will remember that previous paragraphs pointed out that there is no paucity of pine on the Colonel's place.

Four years ago, in a rare moment of exceptional mental clarity occasioned by the random accumulation of several of the few remaining synaptic connections within the grey goo congealed in a forgotten corner of his cranial cavity, the Colonel realized that, with the abundance of timber aboard his vast holdings, a sawmill would serve to obviate the need for multiple monthly economic stimulus trips to the local lumber yard to acquire materials for his building projects.  The Colonel's sawmill, Semper Filet, star of the YouTube viral sensation of the same name, has since produced prodigious amounts of both lumber and sawdust from timber harvested aboard his vast holdings.  

The Colonel intends to build the addition to the Big House using only timber -- pine for stud walls, cedar for outside lap siding, and cypress for inside panelling -- harvested and converted to lumber aboard Eegeebeegee.  The Colonel has calculated (without removing his footwear) that the lumber needed for framing the stud walls of the new addition to the Big House will necessitate the harvest of approximately six pines -- the last of which was felled yesterday in an egregious violation of Tallahatchie Free State blue laws.

The lumber produced from the first five of the six pines is currently drying in the Colonel's Man Toy Storage and Sawdust Production Facility adjacent to the Big House.  

The Colonel estimates that the lumber should be dry enough for commencement of construction sometime mid-Summer.

Completion is tentatively scheduled for no later than the commencement of the Mayan calendar-calculated civilization collapse and resultant zombie apocalypse.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Elvis is Dead, and Memphis Ain't Far Behind

Two hundred years ago today, the last in a two-month series of four major earthquakes struck along what is now called the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ).  Each of the four quakes is estimated by seismologists to have been between 7.0 and 8.0 in intensity.  The first two struck on the 16th of December in 1811; the third on the 23rd of January in 1812.

They were accompanied by hundreds of aftershocks, dozens of which would have in their own rights been considered major.

The NMSZ lies along a mid-continent rift that geologists theorize was the result of a failed attempt by plate tectonics to pull the continent apart in pre-history.   Sediments of the Mississippi River alluvial plain cover a series of interlocking faults throughout a region of underlying bedrock and mantle weakened as a result of the failed rift.   

Unlike the obvious and much more active faults on the left coast, the New Madrid Seismic Zone (named for the only white settlement of any size in the region 200 years ago) is curiously inactive and obscure.  It rarely makes itself known beyond a scattered slight tremble.

Unfortunately, when it does announce its true capabilities, the NMSZ does so with unimaginable force and consequence.  And, the effects are felt over an unbelievably large area.  A quirk of geologic difference between the Western and Eastern sides of the North American Continent causes a great disparity in the "felt effects" of earthquakes as shown in the diagram below.

The 1811/1812 New Madrid earthquakes were felt as far away as present-day Toronto, Canada and caused damage to buildings and streets in cities along the Eastern Seaboard from Columbia, South Carolina to Washington, D.C. 

The shaking from one of the earthquakes is reported to have been strong enough to ring church bells in Boston. 

From geologic evidence of past earthquakes in the NMSZ, seismologists place the odds of a recurrence of an earthquake of the same magnitude as the 1811/1812 quakes at 10% within the next 50 years.  As it is with all of Creation's natural disasters (whether terrestrial or extra-terrestrial in origin), the occurrence of  a major quake in the Mid-South is not a matter of if, but when.  

When the next major quake (or series of quakes) strikes the NMSZ, it will cause damage and loss of life unparalleled in the history of our nation, or any nation for that matter.

The city of Memphis did not exist when the earthquakes struck 200 years ago. 

It will not exist after the next one.  

The extent to which critical infrastructure elements will be effected is far greater than the patience of the thousands of you who liberally partake of the barely literate literary libations ladled out hereon can stand the telling.  Here's just one example: 

Every rail and road bridge across the Mississippi River from St. Louis to Greenville, Mississippi will be, if not outright destroyed, rendered unusable.  Memphis is a critical node in the distribution systems for many major corporations.  Disruptions in interstate trade will visit material hardship on the entire continent and could easily plunge the nation into economic depression.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that, instead of focusing the Department of Homeland Security on measures to mitigate this real threat (and others like it) to the well-being of the American people, our federal government is more concerned with punishing the American people for the actions of 19 jihadists on 9/11.