Monthly Archives: October 2014

Mama Jo

Jo wasn’t really her name, but only a few of us knew her real first name and kept it as an insider’s joke and a secret among friends. However, Jo soon became “Mama Jo” to thousands of Sailors and their families.

Around 2007, I had returned from overseas and many Sailors were sent to work “boots on the ground.” It became apparent that the rules, regulations, procedures, and administrivia weren’t equipped to handle Sailors operating outside their normal channels. “Sailors belong on ships, and ships belong at sea!” we were told. Unfortunately, the enemy didn’t agree, and the war was in the desert. Dirt sailors took on whatever duties their nation required. Unfortunately, this meant they no longer fit neatly into the Navy system.

Families no longer had a command to which to turn when there were problems with pay, military housing or whatever. Add to that the wartime toll on marriages, and it was a mess. The Navy Times had articles and letters describing how Navy families whose sailors were serving in the sandbox had nowhere to turn and how they felt—and were—abandoned.

I happened to be in command when we had over one thousand Sailors in theater, so I was suddenly “the expert” for “Boots on Ground Sailors.” The wife of the Chief of Naval Operations saw the problems and took the issue of family problems personally (and my sincere thanks to you, Mrs. Mullen, for caring) and so I was told, “You’re our troubleshooting expert – fix it.”

I confess, throughout my career my Sailors were more important to me than the officers. The officers were my friends and colleagues, and I love them as brothers and sisters. It was my Sailors, on the other hand, who got the job done. They depended on me to shield them from the bullshit but missions that were successful were due to the Sailors, not the officers. I was committed to the Sailors and their families, but this war presented a Herculean task. There was almost no one who could help me tackle this.

Then came Jo.

Jo’s husband had been an Air Force Colonel. She was the only one in the command who was (slightly) older than me (I think). She had been a successful business consultant who shut her business down immediately after 9-11 in order to help our men and women in uniform. There is no one individual who has done more for our men and women in uniform than Jo.

Now there are some who believe that Jo hated me. I love this; if she didn’t get the cooperation she needed from a particular command, she would explain to them, “Well, I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to resolve this, because my Captain is going to be calling your commanding officer and it’s going to be ugly. I have to work with this guy every day, and I can tell you that when this is over, you and I are probably both going to both be in big $#!+. What? You have an idea? Why, yes, I think that might work!”

“Sir (always Sir, dammit), if you hear that the USS Whatever thinks you’re the world’s biggest pain in the ass… (add smile here) it’s my fault,” and I knew that some family had been taken care of.

Jo always threatened to buy a parrot and teach it all the things she said to her kids so when she died the parrot would be passed on and continue to repeat (in her voice) her favorite sayings. She never bought a parrot.

I did. I’ve had parrots before, but Jo provided the tipping point.

There are families who have survived storms, wildfires and tornadoes, thanks to Jo. Together we set up systems to meet returning Sailors as Thurgood Marshall in Baltimore, Norfolk International, and Naval Air Station Norfolk. Not everyone appreciated the importance of this, and it was an uphill battle, but Jo was there.

Sailors who worked with her know she was the first one in and the last to leave. When others arrived, there was coffee already started, and her desk always had a jar of candies. I preferred peanut butter cups, which mysteriously appeared in the freezer of the mini-fridge at my end of the building.

Some people are known for great discoveries and inventions. Others leave great wealth. The best way to describe Jo is with a prayer often attributed (albeit incorrectly) to St. Francis of Assisi; the author doesn’t matter – what matters is that Jo made it happen.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Jo, when we meet again in the next life, we’ll pick up where we left off, except we’ll know our men and women are cared for, and I’ll finally get to meet your husband. In the meantime, know how much everyone appreciates the footprints you left behind.

Fair winds, following seas and peace, Jo.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. President, if for some reason you might be reading this blog and you’re looking for a hero to acknowledge – Jo Carter.

A Reply

Hans, a Dutch ham radio operator has a great blog: Ham Radio Blog PD0AC. Today there was a post from a ham bemoaning the loss of the good old days, and how we have lowered the standards, etc., etc., etc. I tried to post this as a comment, but all the formatting caused Hans site to burp. So here you go.

To those of you who are not hams or English majors, I’ll try to do something more interesting tomorrow.


Now days any retard can memorize 40 questions and pass the technician exam. Then they buy a $40.00 handy talky and are all suddenly audio and RF experts.

Listening to the local repeaters is like going to kinder garden everyday. What a boring bunch of no nothings it has become. It’s so dummed down that my dog has a technician license. It’s a wasteland of people with zero expertise and no personality. Frankly I am glad I left it behind.

And I hold an Extra Class (20 wpm) ticket and First class commercial license.

Because you are promoting the importance of intelligence and education, I’ve edited your comments with regard to grammar, spelling, punctuation, and content. Errors are highlighted in yellow; corrections and comments are in red.

Now days any retard (Merriam Webster’s definition of this word when used as a noun includes the comment often offensive can memorize 40  forty
(the accepted convention is that all numbers less than one hundred one are expressed as words, not numerals. The technician test is thirty-five questions, which are drawn from a pool of 426; the statistical probability of memorizing forty and passing the exam is negligible.)  questions and pass the technician exam. (It would be more practical to memorize the correct answers rather than the questions.) Then they  (the plural pronoun they is inconsistent with the singular noun retard to which it refers)  buy a $40.00
(forty dollar)  handy talky  (conventionally spelled handie-talkie)
and are all  (
The plural pronoun all is inconsistent its noun antecedent, which in this case is, once again, retard.) suddenly audio and RF experts.

Listening to the local repeaters is like going to kinder garden  kindergarten  everyday  every day. What a boring bunch of no nothings
know-nothings  it has become. (Does it refer to people, conversations, a repeater, or the experience? It is not used to refer to people. These same comments apply to the following use of it’s as well.)  It’s so dummed
dumbed  down that my dog has a technician license (A federal offense in violation of Title 47 CFR §97.9(a) Operator license grant, which states that “The person named in the operator license grant…) It’s a wasteland of people with zero expertise and no personality  lacking personalities. Frankly I am glad I left it  (there is no noun antecedent to which it refers.)

And I hold an Amateur  Extra Class (20 wpm) ticket  license
and First class  Class  commercial license. (I’m not sure what you mean by a “First class commercial license.” In 1984, the Federal Communications Commission discontinued the First Class Radiotelephone Operator Licenses and replaced it with a special lifetime General Radiotelephone Operator License.
Are you referring to one of these or did the FCC issue you some type of special license?)

When I passed my check ride as a pilot, the examiner handed me my paperwork with the traditional statement, “Congratulations, you now have a license to learn.” So it is with amateur radio. New hams get their licenses and through experience and experimentation learn why things work the way they do; why they had to learn what they had to in order to pass the exam. As they add experience they figure out new things that you and I never knew were possible.

* Thank you; so are we.

What’s happened to Renee?

Renee Zelwigger? Or is it a clever trick?

Renee Zelwigger? Or is it a clever trick?

The Internet is all atwitter (sorry about that [not really]) about Renee Zelwigger’s appearance.

She looks different. WOW! It must be surgery! Or Botox! Or asparagus stem cell therapy conducted in a secret offshore laboratory! Could be alien abduction!

Renee says that it’s just because she’s getting older.

Well stand by internet fans, paparazzi, fanzines, magazines, and everybody else.

First, and I know this is going to shock you, Renee is an actress. Actors and actresses are paid to look certain ways. They may spend hours each day while professionals paint, puff, tint, and whatever in order to achiee a certain look. It could be the beautiful ingénue, or it could be the half (more-or-less) rotted zombie (Happy Halloween!). In case you don’t know this, neither Leonard Nimoy nor Zachary Quinto have naturally pointy ears; Zoe Saldana is not naturally blue skinned; and the various actors who play hobbits or dwarves are, in fact, of normal height. Incidentally, they aren’t beneath using special lighting, special lenses and filters—including smearing petroleum jelly all over them in order to get just the right look.

Second, every teenager is shocked, if not traumatized, when they look at their parents’ yearbooks and see that the nurturing lady who packs lunches and makes chocolate chip cookies was once a hot babe an attractive young lady. It may take years of therapy before these words are uttered; “Mom’s aren’t supposed to look like a girl you’d want to date!”

Third, the world is facing all kinds of real world threats. At least in the movies, the best and the brightest would be sitting around a huge table in the basement of the White House or the Pentagon in order to discuss how to save mankind. Unfortunately, in real life, when the going gets tough, the tough worry about Renee’s face.

So—what does this all mean? It means that ISIL is unaffected by the Renee issue. Ebola is not yet cured. The national debt is not yet resolved. Congress is still as useless as a live-in unemployed relative.

In the meantime, in a small office somewhere in California, an agent, with tears in his eyes, is greeting Renee Zelwigger with, “Baby! You had me at web headlines!”

Greetings and Salutations

(Close of a letter to the President of Pennsylvania)  Your Excellency's Most obedient and most humble servant - Thomas Jefferson

(Close of a letter to the President of Pennsylvania)
Your Excellency’s
Most obedient
and most humble servant –
Thomas Jefferson

Good day,

It’s interesting, and perhaps a little embarrassing, to compare communications styles over the ages.

Paul the Apostle begin his letter to the Church in Thessalonica with, “Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonica which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace. We always thank God for you all, mentioning you in our prayers continually.”

It was common in Colonial times to begin a letter with a variation of, “I hope this letter finds you and your family well,” and even George Washington closed his letters with “Your obedient servant, G. Washington.” It was such a common complementary close that it was often abbreviated as “Your obdt. svt.,”

When I was learning to write, we began each letter with, “Dear” even if we had never even met the person, and usually closed the letter with “Sincerely.”

Today, few write letters; as a matter of fact writing anything of length or consequence, being content to text, tweet or snap a selfie.

Wishing you a fine Sunday with family or friends, I remain yours truly,


CDC and Ebola

Spanish flu treatment center

Spanish flu treatment center

My congressman ran a poll asking his constituents if they were confident in the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) ability to combat Ebola. He’s probably sorry he asked, because this is how I responded. Obviously these are my own opinions (aren’t they always?), although I did try to check basic facts (number of dead in World War I, etc.)

I spent 30 years in the healthcare industry, starting off in a technical clinical discipline, and later, after completing my graduate degree I moved into management and was a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Administrators. My current position includes support for emergency management.

CDC is very good at doing certain things, but their best work has involved basic research, which doesn’t mean “simple” but getting to the root issues behind a scientific question. Basic research is often the most result oriented because instead of jumping to a search for the solution, it instead focuses on learning about the problem without preconceived notions. The classic example was when Dr. Fleming noticed that something was affecting the other bacteria in his experiment. By studying this “something” he discovered penicillin.

It appears that in recent that the attention of the leadership of the CDC has been drawn away from basic scientific research and become more focused on political issues, which well may have impacted their effectiveness. For example, there are reliable reports that CDC has spent significant effort to shut down doctors who believe in treating chronic Lyme disease. Some physicians believe that the organisms that causes Lyme disease, and an associated disease, babesiosis can become dormant in a patient, but when triggered by trauma, or other events, the symptoms become active again. Although not scientifically proven, patients have reported improvement when treated with a regimen of certain antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs.

The CDC has not proven these conditions do not exist, which is understandable given that it is impossible to prove a negative. However, they have taken this issue on as a crusade and allegedly gone so far as to classify this as a Homeland Security issue in order to justify the use of legal authorities and law enforcement techniques.

Unfortunately, they have not been quite as enthusiastic at adhering to basic, proven infection control techniques they haven’t exerted the same amount of effort to adhere to basic protocols resulting in the exposure of CDC personnel to anthrax and the loss of at least one container of viable small pox. Incidentally, small pox was the first chemical weapon when the blankets of small pox victims were given to Native Americans, thereby intentionally introducing the disease to the indigenous population of North America.

I’ll give the CDC the benefit of the doubt. I think they can handle this IF the politically appointed and wanna-be-police types get out of the way. Should we cut off contact with western Africa and deprive them of essential expertise, medicine and equipment? I think not. While it may be politically unpopular, until effective treatments or vaccines are perfected, quarantine may be the most logical step. The health professionals actively working with Ebola patients at the handful of designated hospitals are the best trained and equipped. However, mistakes are made, equipment fails, and while the doctors, nurses, therapists and technologists may follow the protocols correctly, is it possible for a housekeeper or a maintenance person to become infected? I think so.

It may be wise to quarantine people who have been exposed to Ebola. The Ebola hospital staffs may just have to live and work within the confines of the facility for the duration. It’s an inconvenience but our military men and women have been living with such inconveniences for the past eleven years, all the while being shot at, rocketed, mortared and the target of suicide bombers and IEDs.

If the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy – the Navy’s 1200 bed hospital ships are not being deployed elsewhere, they could provide medical care as well as quarantine. Those exposed and being monitored would not have to live in military austerity, but instead could be housed in nicer accommodations to make the experience less painful; a hotel leased by the government, or perhaps a cruise ship. Nice accommodations, but safely out of circulation until everyone is sure that the individual is not infected

If everyone exposed to Ebola were quarantined for 28 days, it just might prove to be significantly cheaper to pay for lost wages and accommodations for these people than to let the disease spread. If the CDC puts the science and safety first, they’ll succeed. If the politics and power struggles take precedence, stand by. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. The “Spanish” flu of 1918 is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million; by comparison, the total death toll of the Great War (World War I)— all military and civilians—is estimated at 43 million.

Bottom line—let the scientists do their job.

Windows 10

Not the real logo  - or is it?

Not the real logo
– or is it?

After the fiasco of Windows 8, Microsoft has decided to forego Windows 9 and jump right to Windows 10. There may be several reasons for this:

  1. By skipping a number they can bypass all the customers who would suggest that Windows 9 was just the repair for the Windows 8 disaster and should be free.
  2. They’re emulating the observation that until the reboot, fans had noted that, “Even number Star Trek movies don’t suck.”

Good luck with that.

Here’s my well-worth-the-price free advice.

There’s a time for a tool that has a wide range of capabilities. I love my Gerber that fits in a small holster on my belt and can be configured as pliers, wire cutter, screwdriver, bottle opener, knife, etc. If you reference “Swiss Army knife” people immediately visualize the hand red handled tool and the concept of versatility. Both are wonderful products, but if I were being wheeled into surgery and saw either of those on the tray, I’d run out of the room, even if already under those high power pre-op drugs.

Neither a man nor a tool can be all things to all people.

So, last night I rooted my tablet that I use for software defined radio to allow it to speak Linux as well as Android.

Maybe Redmond should review the following educational video (85 seconds).


It’s Kind of Like Denny’s – Only Different

eggsSeveral high tech companies have now adopted policies to enhance the ability of women to compete in the workplace. Science has now made it possible for a woman to have her ova (eggs) harvested when she’s young so that she can delay having a family. The advantage is that a 40-ish year old woman can have the eggs harvested at age 28 fertilized and implanted so that the risks normally associated with a later-in-life pregnancy won’t be a problem.

It’s the female answer to sperm banks.

Of course, if you’re now a fortyish female who has risen to the top at a high tech company, will you really want to take time out to hatch those should-now-be-a-teenager eggs?

I suspect this is the first step of a whole new process for talented people of both sexes. (I initially meant one of each, but actually, any combination works.)

If someone is ubersuccessful in their chosen field, if they deferred having children in their early corporate years, what is the chance of them leaving that coveted corner office unprotected once they’ve hit the big time? Personally I think not so much.

I figure it will go something like the sex scene between Harold Ramis and Diane Keaton in the movie Baby Boom – only less intimate.

The husband and wife (or other combination) go to a romantic setting, and after ordering cocktails or a bottle of wine the maître de hotel introduces the twenty-first century version of the wine steward (and for you traditionalists, no tasting cup on a chain around his neck – PLEASE!).

“Good evening, madam; sir. I am Francois,” (actually it’s Ralph, but Francois gets him better tips). “Now I understand, Ms. Cheri that you are thinking of your ovum from 2000, although you also have ova frozen in 1998 and 2005. Am I correct?”

“Yes, Francois. I like the millennial aura, you know. The changeover from mainframes to servers, the whole Y2K thing.”

“An excellent choice, madam, but, just in case, we also have a wonderful selection of ova ranging from exotic dark haired beauties from Tahiti to our honored Native Americans.”

“Thank you, Francois, but I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I am sure that I will be using my ovum from 2000.”

“But of course, madam. Then of course, we must consider the gentlemen.”

“Oh, I have, Francois, I have. Bob here is a wonderful husband and provider, but long ago we realized that his DNA would never be put out for stud. I’m looking more for a Steven Hawking type, but disease free, of course.”

“Absolutely, madam. Fine arts, Law, Science?”

“Science, please, and I’m partial to electrical engineers.” Francois leaned in.

“I have one and only one Nobel Laureate in physics, but it’s outrageously expensive.”

“Not a problem.”

“And would madam like to schedule her appointment for implanting the fertilized embryo? I have next Tuesday available due to a cancellation.”

“Francois, would you be a doll and line up a surrogate? We’re finishing up our new line of cell phones with the product release in a month.”

“Yes, madam, I understand. Do you wish us to arrange for a surrogate who will also act as nanny?”

“Francois, you’re wonderful! Make sure she reminds me of birthdays and holidays. I promise I’ll try to stop by and see my child for all those occasions.”

“Of course, madam. And may I be the first to congratulate you on the wonderful news!”

The Worst Thing to Happen to an Inventor

Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Alva Edison

When Thomas Edison was asked about his failures while trying to develop a practical light bulb, his reply was, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”*

Inventors are driven to ask why; to find out what comes next. So are they happy when they get everything just right?

For inventors, the thrill of the hunt is the chase, not the kill. When all the challenges are met, all the goals achieved, it’s time to either take it apart and try something different, or else immediately find a totally different challenge.

Our minds tell us, “I’ve successfully found out how to do this; now in order to learn I need to try something new.”

* The World Bank. 1994. World Development Report 1994: Infrastructure for Development. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press…” (via Google)

Time, Time, Time

See what’s become of me.

Another masterpiece from Simon and Garfunkel. Great cover by the Bangles. Totally awesome guitar riff.

In the real world – time means that, just like everything else I possess, I am passing my time to others. My daughter’s soccer tournament; my son’s college preparation meeting.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

However, unlike so many challenges in life, it’s got a great guitar riff. (Simon and Garfunkel 1966) (Bangles 2008)

Life and music; music and life. They go together so well – almost as if there were some Supreme Being helping us through all these challenges.

But, if you read scripture, you know that God loves music, so there’s no surprise here.

And a one, and a two….


A Politically Correct Joke

A priest, a rabbi and a protestant minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and asks, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

A priest, a rabbi and a protestant minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and asks, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Three men from different, but equally valid religions walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and asks, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Three men from different, but equally valid religions walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and asks, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Three people whose race, creed, national origin, sex or sexual precedence with different but equally valid theological beliefs walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and asks, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Three people whose race, creed, national origin, sex or sexual precedence with different but equally valid theological beliefs walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and asks, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Three people whose race, creed, national origin, sex or sexual preference is inconsequential with different but equally valid theological beliefs walk into a business establishment that sells adult beverages, along with other high sugar unhealthy liquid refreshments that threaten health. The bartender looks up and asks, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Three people whose race, creed, national origin, sex or sexual preference is inconsequential with different but equally valid theological beliefs walk into a business establishment that sells adult beverages, along with other refreshments. The bartender looks up and asks, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Three people whose race, creed, national origin, sex or sexual preference is inconsequential with different but equally valid theological beliefs walk into a business establishment that sells adult beverages, along with other unhealthy refreshments. The employee, who makes less than minimum wage and must rely on tips to make a living looks up and asks, “If this is a joke, it isn’t very funny.”


Pity My Wife

Christopher Lloyd, genius as Emmett Brown, genius

Christopher Lloyd, genius as Emmett Brown, genius

If you’re a fan of Back to the Future (yes, I know it’s an oldie; well, it’s an oldie back where I come from) you may noticed that Doc Brown was a bachelor in 1985, 1955 and 2015. Did you ever wonder why?

Of course not.

One hundred twenty-seven clocks and a studio apartment-sized amplifier (with a very slight chance of overload). The guy talks to pictures, and names his pets after famous scientists; and all the scientists are male – where the heck was Marie Curie given his polonium fascination?

Then there was his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. (“Is this a robbery?” “No, it’s a science experiment!”)

Emmett Brown was the penultimate absent minded, obsessive compulsive, mad AND absent minded scientist. It was only when, after trying three other time periods, he finally met the right woman. A teacher with a love of real science who was also enamored with science fiction. The one woman for him.

Incidentally, it’s curious that his time machine needed to hit 88; when ham radio operators send “88” in Morse Code it means “Love & Kisses.”

On the other hand, my wife is the only woman for me. However, for her it’s kind of like living with Doc Brown. I drag home all kinds of things to feed my science habit. Don’t look in the bottles and jars on my microscope table unless you really like unusual insects and such.

Wife: “What’s this wire?”

Me: “It’s part of a project; you know.”

Wife: “You got another package today. What is it?

Me: “It’s connecting cable to allow RS-232 TTL signals to be interpreted on a standard USB bus.”

Wife: “Well, you ask a stupid question and you get…”


Wife: “Why do you need another computer tablet?”

Me: “Well, the other ones are busy and this one will be running software defined radio.”

Wife: “But didn’t you just sell one on eBay?”

Me: “Yes, but that couldn’t run actual Android, so none of the apps I need will run.”

Wife: “Well, you ask a stupid question and you get…”

Now, in all fairness I do have some good points, I cook; I help around the house; I chauffer kids, and when it comes to their science projects, it’s all mine. I even handle the student driver issues. However, to the other wives out there—if you get frustrated by clothes left on the floor; if you don’t understand why your husband who has a PhD in electrical engineering can’t run the dishwasher; if your husband collects old cars, or beer cans, or golfs every weekend…

Feel fortunate—you don’t know how lucky you are compared to my wife.

Are You Trying to Be Funny?

Actually, that was my plan, but with everything going on the way it is n the world, it’s kind of hard.

Coincidentally, this coming Saturday, 4 October 2014, is the annual SET – Simulated Emergency Test – in which ham operators check out their capability and techniques for providing communications in an emergency. Telephone and cellular systems aren’t designed to handle every user all at once; I’ve been told that they can handle about 1 out of 3 users, which is actually quite a few. However, when something bad happens, everyone tries to use the phone and the system gets overloaded. If you add high wind, snow, flooding, or whatever that knocks cell towers offline, it gets worse.

Police, fire and other public safety radios have their limits as well, so when needed hams help out by providing additional capacity. If the phones are out and people have gone to a Red Cross shelter, hams can help sort out who is at which shelter. This leaves the police and fire systems open to handle their communications needs. We can send messages on the ham bands by voice, computer links over the air, television, APRS – which is like a computerized twitter but it also shows the location of the sender, and yes, even Morse Code.

Of course, if the phones are out, we hams can check in by radio with a family member who’s a ham and make sure that everybody is accounted for.

Today’s blog may not be funny, but at least it’s something positive rather than another dismal, bad-news downer. So as we hams say, “73!” (best wishes).