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Posts tagged Air Force

Top of His Class

Summer                                      Waxing Grandchildren Moon

Joe graduated top of his class for the third time today:  top scope at Tyndall in basic Air Battle Management and Distinguished Graduate for his Robbin’s AFB (current assignment) JSTAR’s work as well as a program for new lts.  A colonel said, “We’ve never had anybody finish with 100% before.”  Another told him, “That’s a bullet (on the resume) that will help you make Lt Col.”  Joe’s not sure he wants to progress past Major, but he is glad to have these achievement because, “They’ll look good on my astronaut application to NASA.”  He’s in his second class for a masters degree in Space Studies; having a masters is a requirement for promotion to Major.  He reported with disappointment that his TDY, temporary duty deployment, originally slated for an AFB near Las Vegas, has been moved to Tucson, Arizona, “A place that’s hotter than Georgia.”  Oh, well.

Woke up today with Latin on my mind.  I got down to work on translating my Cicero and received an e-mail from Margaret Levin about that article I promised to write.  The deadline?  Today.  Oh, yeah.  Grandkids.  Spaced it.  So, I worked my way through Cicero’s rebuke to Catillin, “Why stay?  Take your conspirators and leave now or we will quickly throw you out.”  and other words to that effect.  I had an hour before my tutorial so I grabbed the file for the article about the Sierra Club’s 2010 legislative session for the Do It Green magazine.  Hammered out 500 + words, the rough number they wanted, sat out until after the nap, revised it and sent it off just barely ahead of the deadline.

My Cicero and my translation of the ancient sentences, that is, sentences actually written by Latin author went well.  My english to latin work not so much.  Greg says composing in Latin is the best way to learn the grammar and the most difficult task in Latin.  It is for me.  I gotta go slower and allow more time for it.  No Ovid this week.

After the nap, I went to Anoka Feed and Seed to order 5 cubic yards of shredded tree bark.  Big fun.  On Monday morning the high school kid, Ray, and I will mulch the orchard and the vegetable garden.  Monday looks like an ok day, forecast right now for 76.  Bees either tomorrow morning or Sunday, which looks cooler.

Now, I’m off to the treadmill and more episodes of True Blood.

USAF Officers Attacked!

81  bar falls 29.99 0mph S dew-point 59  Summer, sunny and hot

Waning Gibbous Flower Moon

Each year in late June a convergence of heat, humidity, sun intensity and the growth of weeds combine to make gardening an early morning task for me.  The toddler trees, planted last year, had a considerable collection of weeds around them.  They had to go.

The machete makes short work of the nettles, the most troublesome of the weeds.  They grow tall and block the sun.  They grow from rhizomatous roots, so they send up new plants when the old ones are cut down.  Their main defense, formic acid, makes humans want to stay away from them, hence, the nettlesome person.

Virginia creeper and grapevines also sap a lot of food from the growing area of these young trees and must be pulled up like a zipper, taking out the length of the vine as well as its immediate spot of rooting.  Then there are the other weeds, names unknown to me, that gather in numbers.  Up they come by the handfull.

Last and hardest to remove are the tall grasses, the exact thing desired in the large open area, a sort of meadow, but harmful to the new trees.  Once they’ve become establish the trees will outcompete everything in their area, but these guys haven’t reached that growth stage.

One anecdote I loved from the Maxwell AFB experience involves nature’s own air force.  A single person walking along the east side of the cafeteria building often receives pecks and a dive bomber approach from a towhee who lives on the roof.  The idea of a bird attacking USAF officers is ironic.

The Air Redolent With Lilac

61  bar steady 29.84  0mph N dew-point 52  Beltane, night

First Quarter of the Flower Moon

The first quarter moon has a mask quality, one side lit and the other dark, but showing just a bit.  It’s as if the moon wears a Venetian mardi gras mask, one side white, the other black.  Maybe if you look just to the side you’ll see a hand wrapped loosely around a wooden rod, holding the mask in place.

Joseph called again tonight.  He wanted me to wear a suit to this outdoor graduation in 100 degree weather.  His buddies in the background said, “Nobody wears a suit!”  I assured him I’d look fine in a Hawai’ian dress shirt and white slacks.


At Gabe’s bris in Denver

Like me he had no interest in his college graduation, but this one means a lot to him.

When I took the trash out tonight, the first quarter moon was due south of the house, the air redolent with lilac.  Lilacs recall the 1890’s, aunt’s in flower print dresses with large platters of fried chicken and the south, a lilac scented culture.  Each time I go to the south, and I know I’ve said it here before, it feels like I’m going to Gothic America, a dark simulacrum to the north.

Older now, I know we need both the dark and the light, the repressed and the open.  Jung suggests that the energy for a new America lies in the south and Barrack Obama’s presidential candidacy may just unlock it.  I saw a cartoon that especially touched me, a small African-American boy sits on his bed in his pajamas and his mother has her hand on his shoulder.  She says, “I never thought I could say this, but you could be President someday.”  There is more here than meets the eye, more juice.

Tonight I watched Mississippi Burning again.  Those are my times, the years in which I was young and in which I became a thinking, political person.  There is a wide gap between those years and today.  Have we come as far as we need to?  No.  But we have come so far.  It reminded me again that America is a young nation, not even 300 years old.  If we can move beyond slavery, beyond Jim Crow, beyond segregation and the KKK in a hundred and fifty years or even two hundred, then we will have a solid foundation upon which to build a nation of many cultures rather than of one only.

Watching that movie and contemplating the distance traversed in my lifetime, I have a sense of movement that gives me hope for the future.  What more can a granddad wish?

Barrack Obama has reportedly made disparaging remarks about the baby boomer’s psychodramas.  He would do well to remember that we were the footsoldiers in the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and that we embraced feminism.  We may have had our excesses, I know I did, but to deny the contribution and the real pain many of us suffered in pursuit of a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all (men) people are created equal is to have a historical myopia too often indulged by our right wing brothers and sisters.

The O Club

73  bar falls 29.59  0mph E  dew-point 63  Beltane, cloudy

Waxing Crescent of the Flower Moon

Finished putting down Preen in the flower beds.  The straw for mulch in the vegetable beds took a bit longer, but not much.  The beets have grown, as have their bedmates, the carrots.  The corn is ankle high by the 8th of June.

The garlic nears its time for harvest.  The water is shut off and I wait now for the stems to die back.  Don’t know why I’m so fascinated with growing garlic, but I am.   Looks like a good crop.

The onion bed, too, has made great strides.  Green hollow leaves spear through the hay, sending food down to the bulbs underneath the ground, energy Kate and I will harvest.  Two hills of gourds and one of squash have broken through and begun to leaf.  The beans Kate planted are on their fourth and sixth leaves.  Lettuce sown a while back has enjoyed the cool weather and begun to flourish.

The tomato plants outside have yet to go through a real growth spurt and I finally pruned back the one inside.  A different, more hydroponic friendly variety will produce better and now I have to find one.  We continue to harvest lettuce each day for salads, so lettuce works.

We have a few other stray plants in odd locations some watermelon, cucumber and peppers.  They’re all healthy.

The bearded iris have begun to bloom, while the smaller purple varities have begun to fade.  Not much else blooming right now, save for the lilacs, the bleeding hearts and the annuals Kate planted.  The garden is lush, green. Healthy.

The almost II lieutenant called.  It has hit him that he needs a bed.   All the officers have to live off base at Tyndall and he will be there for well over a year.  He’s going to have to fly to Denver, rent a U-Haul truck and drive back to base.  He does not, however, have a bed.  Don’t know what to say to him.  Suppose I could drive the truck and take the bed in his old room down to him.  I don’t know.

He’s cranked.  His class got initiated into the wonders of the O club, as he called it.  The Officer’s Club.  It has traditions, though what they are he didn’t say.  His skin color has worked to his advantage so far.  He’s been picked for some extra duties, to show Generals and other dignitaries around OTS.  Face time with the high command.  He says he knows who he is and if they want to work it that way it’s ok with him.

So Many Quirks and Oddities

63  bar steep rise 29.65  0mph NW dew-point 54  Beltane, night

Waxing Crescent of the Flower Moon

Low on the southwest horizon, just above the tree line the Flower Moon crescent floated in a light blue sky just before sunset.  A cloud went across it, a gauze curtain drawing over a crescent shaped lamp.  The cloud slid past and the bottom of the sickle gleamed, then the curve, finally the whole sickle emerged.  It was a Raphael sky for that one moment.  Took my breath away.

I believe Obama will show as a much stronger candidate than McCain.  Whether that will bring the blue-collar white male vote to him or not, I can’t tell.  This election has so many quirks and oddities.  The first time since 1952 when no incumbent was in race.  The first female candidate to make a serious and respected run.  The first black candidate ever.  Unprecedented turnout in many states, especially among younger voters.

Handicapping the race at this point seems a fool’s errand.  The way the long nomination process will influence the campaign remains an open question.  The country has never faced a campaign between a white candidate and a black candidate.  The dynamics are far from clear.  The blue-collar loyalty to the Clinton’s will not automatically transfer to Obama.  Neither will all the feminist support.  Some in both camps may choose to sit out the election.

Iraq, the economy and energy policy/prices will dominate the race in the fall.  Medical insurance, Social Security and Medicare will be a second tier that will get some attention.  Oughta be fun.

It’s strange to have been away from the museum for so long, though it’s been only a couple of weeks.  I can’t imagine what it will be like in July and August.  I imagine I’ll be ready, really ready to get back at it.

Joseph called tonight.  He thought I might still be in Denver or on my way.  If so, he wanted me to pick up his golf clubs.  Golf is important in the Air Force.  That’s not the Gulf, but the Golf.  Another oddity in a long list.

Trees and Thermonuclear Weapons

65  bar steep rise 29.43  0mph SSE  dew-point 54   Beltane, cloudy and cool

                 Waxing Crescent of the Flower Moon

On the way out to Denver

The Leid Conference Center at the Arbor Day Foundation farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

The first night I spent at this conference center.  Here is the main entry hall:


All round this beautiful entrance area were quotes written on the borders.   Here a few of them: 

Holy Mother Earth, the trees and all nature are witness to our thoughts and deeds.  Winnebago Nation

The clearest way into the universe is through the forest and wilderness.  John Muir

Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the heavens.  Rabin

Arbor Day began in Nebraska and the man who started it, J. Sterling Morton, donated his farm as a park and research facility.  The conference center is set on it.

This place gave me a sense of peace, a feeling of having come home.  I get that same sense in Hawai’i and here in Andover.  A place dedicated to trees is an Ent temple, as this lovely entrance might actually be.  A nice place to unwind.  Good food, too.


I also visited, the next day, the SAC museum outside of Omaha.


This is a Titan rocket parked outside the entrance to this museum related to the old Strategic Air Command.  It has a collection of planes and NASA related rockets and vehicles that will  entrance you if you’re into this kind of thing.  Which I am.  I visited this time to find a present for Joseph for his graduation from OTS on June 18th.  I found an Air Force insignia photo frame with place for two shots and a history of the AWACS plane.  If he gets an air assignment as an air battle manager, this is the plane he will use as a flying command center.

Here’s an interior shot.  The really big plane in the background is a B-36, the largest bomber ever made by the US.  It never dropped a bomb.


In case you thought the anti-war guy got submerged in all this military display, here is a shot that sobered me up.


This is a Mark-36 Thermonuclear (Hydrogen) bomb.  It chilled me to the bone just to be near it.  It is empty, by the way.


54  bar rises  30.12 0mph N dew-point 43  Beltane

Waning Gibbous Hare Moon

Night has come.  Again.  I’m a fan of the night time.  That’s one reason the Winter Solstice has become my major holiday.  The night is a time of healing, of recuperation, rest.  Yes, it has a violent and terrifying side, but, like walking on an 18″ plank between points high above the ground, it occludes only things that during the day seem mundane.  The plank is still 18″ inches wide and the hose reel still a hose reel.  There is something about the quiet out here in the exurbs, a sense of peace and a return to a more primeval moment, that comforts me.

We used to have a great gray owl who lived in our woods.  He would hoot at night and his call marked the dark time just as the chitter and twitter of song birds marks the coming of the sun.  These owls are apex predators in their environment, capable of carrying off and killing small dogs and cats.

Kate came home happy with an hour long laceration repair.  She enjoys the task of sewing up layered repairs, where she has sew together more than one layer of skin.  This  one was large and difficult.  When she comes home and talks about this kind of work, I can see the spark in her eye that took into medicine in the first place.

Tomorrow is another outside day.  Planting and transplanting.  Maybe a little weed elimination.

Joseph called again, excited because he’s been chosen for a brief-off as the representative of his squadron.  He will deliver a briefing he’s already given, as will two others representing the other two squadrons that make up the OTS wing.  I don’t know what happens if he wins, but he was sure tickled to have gotten this far.

Heart Awhirl

68  bar steady 29.90 1mph NE dew-point 38  Beltane, sunny and warm

Waning Gibbous Hare Moon

Family business meeting. We’re doing fine in the cash department and in investments, too.  That means Kate will be able to retire when she wants, a couple of years from now.  I look forward to having her here full-time.  Our calendars checked out.  I’ve got the traveling jones this summer.  Denver, probably next week, and Montgomery, Alabama in the middle of June.  Then down to Texas in late July for the Ellis cousins reunion.

Heart awhirl today about the political side of ecology.  If I get back in it,  I imagine it will be a dive back into the deep end of the pool.  This is an exciting year to get involved with Presidential, Senate, House and state legislature seats all on the ballot along with the Vote Yes constitutional amendment.

Joseph called last night.  His confidence level has shot up.  He’s gotten some commendations and has worked several different jobs:  flight commander, civil engineer and academic training officer.  His next PDS, permanent duty station, is Tyndall AFB near Panama City, Florida.  His orders put him there on June 24th, only 6 days after his graduation and commissioning as a second lieutenant.

He’ll receive his Air Battle Management training at Tyndall.  ABM, pilot and navigator are the three flying related assignments in the Air Force, a flying oriented service.  They hold a bit more prestige for that reason.  Joseph qualified as a navigator but got that assignment set aside because of his eyesight.  He plans to get Lasik surgery as soon as he can.  Then, he may be able to get back to the navigator or even pilot positions.

As a dad, I’m glad he’s on the path he wants.  As a long time peace activist, though not a pacifist, I have been forced to recognize the strict civilian control over the military as the focus of my peace activity, not the military which is a tool of the civilian government.  The military is, at least at Joseph’s likely pay grade for years to come, an executor of policy, not creator of it.  Since I’m not a pacifist and recognize the right, even the responsibility of a nation to defend itself, I can’t ignore the logical extension of that belief, i.e. the existence of armed services and the corollary, that someone has to staff them.

Rites of Passage

41 bar steady 29.46 15mph NNW dewpoint 36  Beltane

Waning Crescent Moon of Growing

I’ve let this weather put me in a bit of a funk, a sort of psychic downdraft.  Nothing major.  Reinforced by my now non-functioning treadmill.  Not exercising is not good for my mental or emotional health.  I have to get that situation taken care of soon.  The garden needs attention, so I hope the weather lifts at least long enough for spring cleanup and some outside planting.

There.  After I’ve written it, often it lifts.

Here’s the next thing.  I’ve not kept faith with my marketing.  I just haven’t.  This is behavior consistent over time and proving very difficult to dislodge.  So much so in fact that I’m considering seeing John Desteian, Jungian analyst.  See if we can get at the root of my reluctance to market my work.  Some of it is plain unvarnished fear.  Some of it is resistance to the vulnerability.  I suppose some of it could be having to face the responsibility of publication.  Something.  But however I turn this diamond it remains opaque, so I’m going for professional assistance.

Here’s some good news.  Joseph wants me to put his lieutenant’s bars on his uniform.  When he told me, it was, again, an unexpected moment, a warm grateful moment for me.  It also means that for two different males in my family I will play a key role in their rites of passage.  When I hold little Gabe for the mohel during the bris, I will take part in a millennia long tradition recognizing God’s covenant with the chosen people.  Joseph now participates in a martial ceremony whose equivalent has been around for just as long.  It makes me feel like a patriarch (not in the hierarchical sense, but in the genealogical sense).

Snow predicted for tonight or tomorrow morning.  A strange way to start the growing season.

Boundaries–Moving Beyond Them

78  bar steep fall 30.01 2mph ESE dewpoint 26  Spring

Waning Gibbous Moon of Growing

Each discipline has its boundary terms. In professional sports of any kind the key boundary word is amateur.  In anthropology ethnocentric thinking brands you an outsider.  In philosophy illogical thought is beyond the discipline’s purview.  In faith traditions there are many words, the ones with which I am most familiar are the Christian:  anathema, heresy, heretic, blasphemy, syncretism, gnostic.  What each of them means, stripped of their content is this:  At this point you are no longer Christian.

Here’s what behind this for me.  If any Protestant found the terms meaningful, which most don’t, I would be a heretic; my own faith now blasphemous.  Yet they would still only mean I am not a Christian and I already know that.  In fact, the world in which we live is a post-Christian world, a post-modern world and will become, in our lifetime, a post American world.  The key thing to note here is that the post-Christian world still contains Christians, millions and millions of them.  At it the simplest it just means Christianity’s day as religious hegemon has passed.  The post-modern world contains many modern institutions, ideas, systems; it just means that the enlightenment no longer dominates the conceptual and institutional world without question.  A post American world will contain a powerful America; it will not, however, be the hyperpower, the global nation.

This may sound very airy and far away, but it does mean that this era, the very one in which we live, has a twilight tinge.  In the case of Christianity it has held dominant political power since the time of Constantine, almost 1,600 years.  That’s a long run and it’s by no means over, but it will also never be the same.  The modern era began either in the Renassiance or just after it, a run of 500-600 years.  Again, for a thought system, an unusually long run for the West.  American is the briefest of these three, with American political dominance rising during World War II and reaching its zenith in the last two decades, after the end of the Cold War, when America has had more power and global influence than any nation in the entire history of the world.

To be alive as these vast influencers of culture, of history go through a reduction in their influence has the terrifying aspects of uncertainty and instability; it has, too, however, the exhilirating possibility of the new, the next, the more fitted to the future.

In my life the big change happens in matters of faith.  Syncretism, a boundary word for Christians, Jews and Muslims, the Abrahamic faiths, is now the frontier.  We no longer need limit our spiritual quest; we can reach out to other faith traditions, and, even to the world of science.  This does not mean mix and match faith; it means learning key truths and insights, methods for deepening and broadening ourselves, ourSelves, from those places which speak to our Self,  our authentic Self.

Kate just called.  A long day with Ruth, Jon, Jen and Gabe.  She thinks Gabe will have to be in hospital as long as a week.  He’s getting yellow, his bilirubin going up.  This makes him sleepy and less able to learn the suck/swallow response, which he needs to learn so he can eat at Cafe Mama.  He is off the oxygen, which means his lungs have come along.  Respiratory distress is a problem with early babies sometimes, so getting off oxygen is good.

Jon and Jen have found all this stressful, as I would have if it were my baby.  It’s nice to have a pediatrician in the family who can calm them down and serve as a liasion with the neo-natalogists.

Joseph called, too.  He got a 93 on some academic test today and a 93 on his mile and a half run.  He shaved 40 seconds off his last time in spite of shin splints.  He talked a long time.  He’s cleared a big internal hurdle, though I can’t tell yet exactly what it was.  I knew he would, but he sure sounded down when he called three weeks ago.  Quite a difference.

October 2018
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