In my very brief dealings with them, the Royal New Zealand Navy folks were highly professional and cordial. I wonder how they would feel about this: The 25 Hardest Things About Living In New Zealand. Yeah nah?
I spent a sweaty summer in Cambridge, Massachusetts attending Harvard Summer School. It was a good experience from an academic standpoint, challenging and well-taught. There was no indoctrination that I remember, mainly because the study of intermediate physics is set. There is little social engineering in the hard sciences.
I used to ride the several miles down from Medford, through Somerville, to Cambridge on my bike. I memorized the houses along the path, even though I tried to take different paths for variety.
In an interesting turn, I was browsing this mental floss article on Spite Houses, or houses that were:
constructed to make someone mad. Sometimes they block a neighboring house’s view. Sometimes they’re built especially to thwart city planners or challenge city ordinances. In many cases, they’re an odd shape, or are built on a very small lot. Sometimes the houses are already in existence, and are altered to get revenge, like the Australia homeowner who painted his house pink and added a pig snout and a tail to protest a denied building permit.
And I recognized one. The O’Reilly Spite House. It sat right along my bike route. This may make me sound slightly batty, but I remember a particular smell this block had. The aroma of a cheap, gas station incense. I’ll bet it was from the lady who owns the place, Annie Hall, or an artist in the area:
What is it about spiteful landowners in Massachusetts? In 1908, Francis O’Reilly got angry when the owner of the adjacent parcel of land refused to buy his land for a good price—so he built a house measuring 8 feet wide. The interior designer who now occupies the space has said that the building is like a three-dimensional billboard for her work
And for the Bostonians amongst you, a virtual satellite map showing the neighborhood.
Graham Hughes traveled to all the 201 countries of the world. But a little boo-boo might bar him from the Guinness Book of World Records. I do especially like this nugget: A generous sailor gave him a ride to the mainland. . .
Airbnb is a new travel start-up with a ridiculously stupid idea. An idea that is going to get people hurt. You can open up your home to absolute strangers visiting from out of town:
Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.
Do they actually screen the visitors? A complete background check? This will not end well.
In an article from Budget Travel titled, Where it’s safe to visit, and where it’s not, the writer cautions against traveling to Syria or Haiti. But do go to Cuba or the Jersey Shore.
Traveling tip: don’t let female family members go alone to certain countries. Topping the list of countries that are a no-no include most of the middle-eastern ones. And Turkey too, like Sarai Sierra’s family learned. Hopefully, they get a happy result from their trip:
Relatives of a missing New York City woman who disappeared during a vacation to Turkey, her first trip outside the U.S., are heading to Istanbul to look for her, her brother said Sunday.
Sarai Sierra’s family was last in touch with her on Monday, the day she was supposed to start her journey home. The 33-year-old mother of two had been in Turkey on her own since Jan. 7.
Her brother David Jimenez told The Associated Press that he and Sierra’s husband, Steven, were planning to leave for Turkey on Sunday night. He said he had no return date planned.
“I don’t want to come home without my sister,” he said.
Sierra planned to head to the Galata Bridge, a well-known tourist destination that spans the Golden Horn waterway, to take some photographs, said her mother, Betzaida Jimenez. Her daughter then supposed to begin traveling home and was scheduled to arrive in New York City on Tuesday afternoon.
I hope she is found. In a vaguely similar story of an American abroad, Saeed Abedini was sentenced to eight years at Evin Prison. God bless them both. . .
Of the 17 gripes that stewardesses have, I am most guilty of this one: Please don’t do deep knee bends in my galley while I’m trying to work. You won’t get deep vein thrombosis on a flight between Houston and Austin. Hey, how about flights between San Diego and DC?
I am in the market for a new travel neck-pillow. This one looks as good as any other. Although, I am not big on the potpourri (um, noisy) angle.
Phil Wallis wanted to move out of London. So he found an old Army tugboat and turned it into his home. The article says it was a Navy tug, but I believe it is the U.S. Army tug ATTLEBORO (LT 1977). Look below and left at the name.
I have always had a thing for trawlers and tugboats. USS Retirement, here I come!
Steven Rothstein and Jacques Vroom have almost seventy million frequent flier miles between them. As a comparison, I have more than 1200 hours flying in a Navy plane and I don’t even have 500,000 miles. (You gotta love Jacques’ last name; it’s perfect for his hobby. . .)
The word hammam means bathroom in Arabic. So naturally, I found the following picture most quizzical. A National Geographic reader sent it into the magazine:
Have you always clamored for a sequel to Titanic? Do you stand at the bow of your twenty-two foot Bayliner* fishing boat and holler at the top of your lungs that you are King of the world! Did you name your cats Jack and Rose?
Here is a chance to relive the magic:
With the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic fast approaching, interest is building all over the world for this historic occasion.
Both of our Cruises enable descendants of Titanic passengers, enthusiasts and cruise passengers to be part of history by being together at the site where the Titanic sank on its Maiden and fateful voyage, to pay their respects at a special Memorial Service to take place at the exact time the Titanic sank 100 years before.
How authentic is this cruise? Do they take it all the way? Do they intend to pull passengers out the frigid water? (Note to all planning on attending: pack a swimming suit. Make that a wetsuit. And better slip some beef jerky into your bug-out-bag. Oh, and a shark knife. . .)
* Do you fish alone because all of your buddies want to strangle you? Your heart will go on.
The Gun Store is located 3.5 miles east of the Las Vegas Strip. Just past the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.
It holds the distinction, among indoor gun ranges, as having one of the largest varieties of machine guns and exotic weapons available for customers to shoot.
Some gun experts turn up their noses at the Gun Store, due to its high price and its gimmicky nature. As well as its Hollywood feel, as displayed in its advertising. But they truly have a great selection of boom-sticks and hand-cannons.
What exactly do they offer? Click on the picture:
So on my trip to Vegas this last week, we ducked into the Gun Store with the intention of getting one of the gun packages, a variety of handguns and machine guns. Was it expensive? Yes. Very. Look at the prices. But my friend had never shot and I wanted to give her a good introduction.
Bad news, the wait was more than 1.5 hours. The line circled outside the door.
So we went into the back, where the Gun Store sold its merchandise. I told one of the employees that I was active-duty and asked if he could show my friend some of the handguns. For her to handle and learn weight and fit.
Ed, the employee at the Gun Store, was great. He ran us through 10 guns or so. From Sigs to Springfields. He even let my friend heft the Benelli shotgun. What a beast! To rack that shotgun dry is entertaining in itself.
We left the Gun Store with a rain-check on completing the shooting experience. Hardly two days passed before we decided to cash in that rain-check. Iron Sights in Oceanside was the scene of our shootout.
Why 9s? My friend liked how the FNP-9 felt in terms of size and grip. But Iron Sights did not rent that handgun. They did, however, carry the Sig Arms and the H&K.
So with 8 targets (including two zombie, pumpkin-heads) and 200 rounds, we padded around to the indoor range. We had eyes and ears on (eye protection and hearing protection. Safety is always a must.)
We shot the P2000 (H&K) first. It had a very long trigger pull. The weird mag release, just under the trigger guard, gave me problems in execution several times.
It was very comfortable in my hand. And the shooting was very smooth. The mag used the double-stacked method, in that the bullets were offset or staggered. It reminded me of a mid-range Mercedes, not that I have any experience with a such a vehicle.
Unfortunately, I had four jams, including one stove-pipe. (Where a bullet jammed in the chamber, preventing the slide from sliding.) And a couple of times, the rack did not slide back after the mag was complete. This could have been user error. Which has been known to happen.
The Sig Sauer. Always one of my favorite brands. It had less distance between the grips and the trigger. Which fit my friend’s smaller hand, but not mine. Still, the trigger had less travel. And I never had a jam.
Also, its mag was a single-stack and could only hold 8 rounds. The mag release, a round button on the forward part of the grip, was far easier to use than the Heckler’s. I had a much easier time grouping my shots with this weapon.
Conclusion: Shooting at Iron Sights was a blast. Next time: some bigger calibers and some smaller ones too. I feel like a hungry man at Soup Plantation. On the buffet line. With two empty plates. And a growly stomach.
This post is for non-bloggers only. If you have your own site, you are hereby warned, under penalty of law, not to read this.
What’s a-causing the big commotion?
Well, Japan is seeking some publicity. From some “highly influential blogger-types.” (Of course, this pre-requisite immediately disqualifies me.) The unusual tactics direct from the source:
“We are hoping to get highly influential blogger-types, and others who can spread the word that Japan is a safe place to visit,” said Kazuyoshi Sato, with the agency.
Interesting. How and who is going to implement the program?
If you’ve ever wanted to visit Japan, this may be your chance.
In a desperate attempt to lure tourists back to a country plagued by radiation fears and constant earthquakes, the Japan Tourism Agency‘s proposed an unprecedented campaign – 10,000 free roundtrip tickets.
The catch is, you need to publicize your trip on blogs and social media sites.
Fellow bloggers, if you read this, despite my musculary warnings, do not enter the contest with the good folks at the Japan Tourism Agency.
Or, if despite my exhortations to the oppostie, you insist on casting your name into the Japanese bowler hat, and you actually win, you had better take me with you!
I suppose now is a good enough time as any to explore the latest and greatest from cherry-blossom land. Let’s see, another WikiSneaks nugget:
A heretofore secret cable dated Sept. 3, 2009, was recently released by WikiLeaks. Sent to Secretary of State Clinton, it reported Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka telling U.S. Ambassador John Roos that “the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a ‘nonstarter.’”
In keeping with the (mostly) apolitical vein of this blog, I won’t comment on the above. Although Bryan Preston, from PJ Media, does have several interesting Navy tales to tell, and we are nothing if not interested in those. He also offers a good pol-mil perspective:
As weird as this sounds, having studied the war and the post-war period extensively and having lived in Japan for years and visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I’m convinced that the atomic bombings saved Japan.
They saved Japan from her own militarism and from potential Soviet invasion and partition.
America bequeathed to our bitter enemy a democracy that functions well to this day, and Japan is our strong friend despite its having raised its hand against us.
America has nothing to apologize for in its conduct or conclusion of that war. Nothing at all.
Japan and the United States: friends. What else is going on with the Land of the Rising Fun? The Japanese Navy visiting Pearl Harbor:
A Japanese naval training squadron is expected to arrive at Pearl Harbor for a port visit.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Training Squadron is expected to arrive Monday morning at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
And what is Japan without a little wackiness? This time with cats:
The city of Saga has found an interesting way of dealing with stray cats.
Instead of sending animal control officers to round up and imprison the cats, it has turned them into celebrities.
Two years ago, eight of the downtown area’s stray cats were designated “stray cat idols.”
Local shops began to sell souvenirs featuring images of the eight “lucky” cats, and one bakery sold cookie reproductions of them.
In my mind, I’m goin’ to Carolina.
Wait, check that! Something is keeping. . .
Georgia on my mind.
Hmm. Location change, standby. I may be in a. . .
A New York state of mind.
I just hope my baggage catches up with me.
(Whoah, TSA bruiser, be gentle. I hardly know you. Nevermind, we know each other now. Could you at least do a Mr. Miyagi and warm up those frozen hands of yours? Wax on, wax off, yikes. Sir, please don’t go there. I’m shy. Whoops, I meant ma’am, so sorry.)
Returning to a normal state of mind, this traveling is too stressful. . .
My plane floats down onto the Charleston runway, light and feathery. Aviators rate their landings and I make a note to tell our captain when I disembark. The man seated next to me gets up, breathing with a rasp. I had sirred him earlier, except he was not a sir. He had given me a little puff of attitude. Like he was doing me a favor by chatting.
As for the sirs, I can’t help myself. I do it to many when in civilian clothes. The janitor who takes out my office garbage gets a sir. But he earned his. He had glanced once at my khaki and called me Lieutenant with great pride. I could tell it was not his first time addressing someone by rank. He was Filipino and probably once part of the Flipino mafia of storekeepers and CSs, or whatever they called CSs back in the day.
He had pulled the Lieutenant out in long slablyes. Looo-tennnnn-annnnt, as if dragging a bunt down the third base line. Like that jerk Brett Butler used to do when he played for San Francisco. Before he joined the Dodgers and became one of my favorite players.
What I shoulda told the man seated next to me on the plane: addressing someone by sir is more respectful than addressing them by rank, despite what some idiot politician thinks. Addressing by rank acknowledges the playing field, but it also makes note that both of us are players. As for sir and ma’am, it is deferential, ask any enlisted Sailor. I chose to call the janitor sir. It gladdened us both.
I pass the cockpit and holler inside. “Great job, guys,” I say.
“Thanks,” two voices reply. I wonder if the pilots know I am referring to the landing, but it doesn’t matter now, does it?
I get my bag at baggage claim and wait as the rental-car lady rattles on over the phone. It gives me time to plan my tactics. I am tall, like six-four tall, and the little compact the government lets me rent isn’t big enough. I’ve traveled ten times in the last year and at half of the places, I’d dropped my stats (height) and my job (Navy) and they had upgraded me. But the lady is having none it. She hardly makes eye contact. I still call her dear and accept the lousy compact without argument. No way she was getting one of my extra special ma’ams.
Outside, I walk through the fick Carolina night. Fick like only Charleston is. I drive to my hotel. There, I update my blog for hours, wondering where I am going to get the 28K in new hits to meet the 50,000 goal I had set for my first month. If not 50K, what am I going to do with the article I had written for newbie bloggers: 50 Ways to Getcho’ 50K?
In the morning, my back is sore from the flight and the powdered eggs have no taste. I am in uniform and happy, as I had finally gotten my ribbons mounted with thin ones. I guess I’ll have to throw out the greasy rack I was using before, the one with crooked devices, the E hanging off my pistol ribbon like anyone on the Titanic.
I finish my eggs and read the paper. I don’t give it much thought. For one, I am a blogger and bloggers slew the newspapers, right? The whole damn industry is laid tits up, they just don’t know it yet. . .
Work is work and I drive to it and taste my second real blast of military politics. This blog is no place to vent, but I am a Lieutenant, what do I care about politics? I wonder what kind of Commander I will make, whether I will make Lieutenant Commander. My first foray into command politic had been a bloody affair. An affair not for a blog post. . .
After a day of working on Navy equipment issues, I step outside and gasp. This city has air that you wear and it always fits. Around your neck, behind your ears, sliding between your toes.
I leave the workday behind me and cruise across the base in my piece of junk. I sit either the right distance from the steering wheel or the correct distance to the pedals. But not both. Some Korean engineer is laughing heartily at me. It’s mutual, I laugh heartily at me too.
I pull into a Quiznos and once again Charleston embraces me in its heat. S’nothing like California. Somewhere, someone forgot to add weather to Cali. Whenever I step outside in that place, it’s the same: room temperature.
I catch my refection staring at me in the window. My hair is well within regs, but at two inches, is shaggy for me. A barber shop looms and I look forward, not to the haircut, but to the conversation. I can speak to anyone, anywhere. But only if it has purpose. Like a taxi driver or a barber. Don’t ask me, it just seems to work out that way.
The bells above announce my arrival and I stare around the shop. Everyone is black and I like it. One guy teeters at my uniform and I boom out to the one open-seated barber. “You have an free chair?” The barber nods.
“Mmm, you look sharp,” a large woman with a tattoo running across her dark chest murmurs to me. “Navy.”
“Thanks,” I reply, clunking into the chair and turning to the barber. “Hey sir, high and tight, three on top, skin fade.”
“We can do that,” he says approvingly.
We chat, first about sports. His brother-in-law is an NFL tailback. “He always eats good, but if he slips up, he’ll pop one of them Smooth Moves to get it out.”
I nod. “This your own shop?”
“Yeah, me and them.” He throws his chin at a couple of busy barbers.
“How are taxes?”
He gives me a don’t get me started, Shipmate look. You know, rolled eyes, flared nostrils. “High.”
I want to tell him that the black community’s support for Obama is misplaced. That there are black businessmen, like Herman Cain, who are far more appropriate for him to back. Or Allen West, not that I know the barber’s politics. But I am in uniform and the man is running a pair of clippers two inches from my eyes.
He spends forty-five minutes on my hair. The main reason I know: one-and-a-half episodes of “I Hate Chris” blares in front of us.
He holds up a mirror and surprises me. A rake with my face grins back. He has manscaped my upper sideburns. I am a Sailor, not a golf course, I want to tell him, but I stay mute. I look again and like it, knowing it will keep the Charleston sweat off me.
He sprays and then lathers on four or five products. Pomades, gels, spritzes, and alcohols. “Twenty dollars,” he says and I wonder if I’m getting rolled the white-guy price. Still, it’s a great haircut. I give him 25.
I leave, buy dinner at Quiznos, and slip through the cooler Charleston night. It no longer embraces me in its sweaty clamp.
I pull into my hotel parking lot, my hair higher, tighter. In front of me an orange plate shines back from a truck’s license plate holder. It reads: EAT BEEF. I nod my manscaped head. Eat beef, I can do that.