Ben Franklin Was a Man Wiser Than MostOne of our personal heroes is Benjamin Franklin. We've read several biographies about the great man and have always marveled at his capacity to think and act on such a global scale. He is an exemplar well worth following and we try to daily.
Sometimes when we're stuck in traffic we like to play a little game with Franklin. As we plod along, we pick subjects out of the air or the environment next to the overwhelmed freeway and ask ourselves, "I wonder what Franklin would have thought of that?"
Music? "The rhythms are not wholly unpleasant, but the songs are not so pleasingly tuneful. I imagine such productions are an acquired taste which I have not yet cultivated."
Cars? "This wagon, capable of such speeds and versatile in the highest, is surely a godsend, but you say it dirties the air and the water and burns a fuel not in plentiful supply. Surely this godsend will soon become a pox upon you and with that I cannot not abide."
In the course of our daily reads, we came across one of Franklin's less-well known inventions, despite the fact that it forms the basis for those Franklin Planners that are so in vogue amongst the management guru set. Franklin devised a plan to guide his daily life based on 13 basic virtues. We thought it would be illuminating to take those virtues and "update" them, as Franklin might have done, for life in the 21st Century.
- Temperance: "Just because food and drink are freely available, do not feel obliged to consume it all. You will become diseased and surely be the subject of degrading comments, reality shows, and 12-step programs. Self-discipline is an admirable trait in all."
- Silence: "Silence is a powerful sword in the arsenal of persuasion. This is particularly true of the ruling classes, who more often than not, forget this important lesson. Speak not, lest you have something to say. The art of listening is more important than the art of portraiture. Practice it always by aspiring to become a true artist of the craft."
- Order: "A bird that lives in a disorderly nest will surely fall to the ground and learn the lesson of a place for everything and everything in its place. Distribute your time wisely and waste it not on trivial pursuit, the game or otherwise."
- Resolution: "Life is not a competition against your peers, it is a competition against yourself. Resolve to finish what you start, but be wise enough to change course if the situation dictates. A true leader understands the value of this advice and a leader who does not is more than a fool."
- Frugality: "Nations and individuals should have this in common - take on no debt you are unwilling to pay immediately, choose wisely those things to spend upon, and forego borrowing and credit cards when the swamp of their creation threatens to to consume the ship of your life."
- Industry: "Always work as if you are a fine craftsman writing computer code or serving in a McDonald's. Take pride in your work, but do not let it define your life. It is as important to have time for yourself as it is to offer your industry to a commercial enterprise. Balance is the key and those infernal cell phones are the harbinger of its ruin."
- Sincerity: "Sincerity is the key to all that life offers and it takes more than a well-placed smirk or a well-turned lie to convince others of yours. Always speak honestly, offering opinions both good and bad, but remember to couch those truths in a civil and helpful manner."
- Justice: "Every person is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, but must also submit to the judgment of their peers. It is understandable that those who are accused may differ in opinion from yours, but they should hopefully see this and atone for their transgressions. If not, society should be prepared to act and act decisively for the good of all."
- Moderation: "Moderation is the root of the tree bearing the fruit of a good life. Do not do too much or too little of any single thing. Work to create a balance in all things you do, for it is only then that the tree of life will bear the fruit of true happiness."
- Cleanliness: "Being unclean or unkempt in this modern age is a shameful thing. Wash daily, after using the facilities, and for meals. Wear clean clothing of good repair and be well-groomed. Baggy pants showing the ass of stupidity are an abomination as are capri pants and all things camoflauge. If you see others unfortunate enough to not have the ability to maintain proper cleanliness, endeavor to help them. That person and society will both surely benefit."
- Chastity: "Always give as much of yourself as you request from those you love and respect those who say no as surely as you would engage those who say yes. Promiscuity is not the mark of the worldly, but rather the mark of a person who does not value love."
- Tranquility: "The value of casting petty annoyances to drift away upon the current cannot be underestimated. Trouble yourself only with the important things and leave the worrying about trifles to those who are small minded enough to engage them."
- Humility: "Model those exemplars who are of the highest quality, but do not be overly critical if you do not reach similar levels of perfection. History has softened their faults as it will surely soften yours. The effort, rather than the accomplishment of humility, is the important thing to which you should aspire."
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Laissez Bon Temp Rouler You Incompetent CrapweaselsDespite the fact that we're really not very metrosexualish - we haven't worn a tuxedo since the blue crushed velvet number to the junior prom - we have a subscription to Esquire magazine. As we perused the pages of the March 2006 issue, we ran into a curious full-page ad sandwiched between the Dolce & Gabbana and Ravazzolo ads that caught our eye.
It was a public service ad co-sponsored by the Ad Council and the Department of Homeland Insecurity. It features a dramatic black and white picture of a flooded town. The buildings are a little old and shop worn. There is a half sunken boat (or car, it's hard to tell) in the background. The ad features the following copy in a faux handwriting font:
Every business should have a plan.
"At that point two of our buildings were already gone. The third was under water. We couldn't salvage much, including the press.
Fortunately backup systems were in place and everything was relocated. Because we were prepared. We never missed a day of publication."At first glance, it looked like a thousand other ads soliciting help for Katrina victims or exhorting people to have a disaster plan in place. But the kicker to this particular ad was the signature under the copy above - Mike Jacobs, Publisher and Editor of the Grand Forks Herald Tribune in Grand Forks, ND.
That's right, the ad features a flood that happened in 1997. In the wake of the largest natural disaster the country has ever seen, DHS couldn't find a more timely example of being well-prepared for natural disasters than a flood that was handled by FEMA more than eight years ago during the Clinton administration!
The following copy appears at the bottom of the ad:
"Whether it's a flood, terrorist attack or other disaster, every business needs an emergency plan. A plan can save lives, company assets and your entire business - at little or no cost to your company. You can't control what happens. But you can be prepared. Visit www.ready.gov for practical steps you can take now to give your company a better chance of survival."
That statement is rich. First, it mentions the ever present watch word "terrorist", a must for any Bush endeavor. Forget that the terrorists had nothing to do with the flood in Grand Forks or Katrina, but plenty to do with why the DHS response was so hosed.
The copy then goes on to talk about saving lives at "little or no cost to your company". Apparently DHS and FEMA took this advice a little too literally and didn't produce a disaster viable plan before Katrina in part, because it cost too much. Hopefully, businesses won't also find that a suitable excuse for their of lack of a plan. It could, as we can see, be a very expensive mistake.
The ad then chirps, "You can't control what happens (boy, you can say that again eh, Brownie). But you can be prepared," apparently a concept Brownie was a little unfamiliar with.
But they save the biggest and best joke for last. "Visit www.ready.gov for practical steps you can take now..."
Well, we went to the site and here are some of the nuggets DHS suggests on this ironically entitled site:
- Keep at least a three day supply of food and water. Great advice since it will take more than three days for FEMA to get anything to you. They did anticipate this glitch by recommending you also pack some "comfort/stress" foods, apparently to keep you calm as you starve.
- Under clean air - a section in which they refer to terrorist-launched biological and chemical agents as "junk" - they advise using, well, a rag over your nose and mouth to protect yourself because, "something over your nose and mouth in an emergency is better than nothing." Although probably not by much. And by the way, they're still recommending the universal fix-all for biological and chemical attacks of all kinds - duct tape and plastic sheeting.
- Under the first aid section it recommends a "tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant", something we're sure actual victims will need in great supply if you catch our drift.
It's a tragicomedy for another reason too. The point to the ad is to be prepared, something DHS is avoiding at all costs. It makes a great deal about victims getting themselves prepared - which is a correct and admirable thing - but the ad and the website never explain exactly what help you can expect from FEMA or any other government agency.
We have a question. If the administration truly believes that everyone is on their own in an emergency, then why do we have a FEMA or a DHS? If they can't protect us, and can't improve their abysmal record for providing help, then where is the money supporting this ad and the website and Chertoff's salary and Brownie's consulting fees going?
Oh yeah. It must go to paying all the lawyers who have to defend these crapweasels in front of the literally dozens of ongoing investigations into their malfeasance.
We fell better already, don't you? As they say in New Orleans, "laissez bon temp rouler - let the good times roll."
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, February 27, 2006
From the Poobah Files: Dog is Our Co-PilotDog. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world's worship.
Cats? Not so much.
Cat lovers, we know you love the tabbies and we know they are fine animals in their own right. We certainly wish them no harm, but they are finicky animals that are never quite fully domesticated. They view themselves as the center of the world, often looking disdainfully on their owners as inferior beings not worthy of their inscrutable attentions. True, they love to snuggle up on a blustery day, but only on their own terms. A soft purr is a nice thing, but they offer it only at their leisure, allowing you to momentarily intrude on their world only so you can cater to their whims.
We've had four dogs over the years. Each one with a fine and distinct personality. Each one counted amongst our truest and most special friends. Without exception, they loved us unconditionally, made few demands, and offered a special relationship in return.
King Domino I
Our first dog, King Domino I, was a purebred Boston Terrier. He arrived by train on our sixth birthday. When we went to the station to pick him up, we found the freight handlers had freed him from his crate and were playing with him on the plaform. A tiny puppy, hardly bigger than a teacup, scampered around the rough, grown men making them shriek with the laughter of children. He did it simply by being himself and following his centuries-old instincts. Play, and humans become putty in your paws.
Domino was a very smart dog. He accompanied his pack on many cross-country vacations, hiding patiently and soundlessly in our Mother's purse when checking into motels. Once in the room he would leap out and hide under the bed to avoid detection. He stayed their, short nose poking from under the bedspread, until we gave the OK for him to come out. We never taught him this trick. He wisely found it on his own.
Domino was our constant companion until we went off to college. He endured the same sort of hide-brusing, accidental punishment as any dog belonging to a small boy. But he suffered it gladly, rebounding with only a small yipe and never with a snap or a snarl. His tiny stump of a tail wagged constantly, showing his love for us and for life itself.
He stuck by us and we stuck by him as surely if we had been brothers. Our only separation was at the end while we were away at college. At the age of 12, he finally petered out and signaled my parents that it was time to move on. They stayed with him until he passed, petting his head and comforting him in his last minutes. They didn't tell us about it until we returned home for the first time. When they broke the news, we cried - something we've never done again to this day.
Roscoe, aka The Roscoe Man
Domino was followed by a Roscoe, a hound or indeterminate origin, with more confidence than we've ever seen in another mammal. He kept his leash tight and frequently showed the world who he knew to be boss. Unlike the mild-mannered Domino, Roscoe always challenged us as the acknowledged leader of the pack. We always won, but only after a display of his pack-leading prowess and firm hand from us. He would have made a fine wolf had he been born in the wild.
Roscoe was an escapee worthy of an Alcatraz-hardened criminal. As a pup, he routinely left the child's playpen where we kept him at night. He did this by scaling the mesh with his tiny paws, removing the stiching that held the mesh to the playpen, wiggling out the small hole, and flinging himself several feet to the floor. We eventually admitted defeat and gave him the run of the basement den.
Gandalf's Heartbreak, aka Chrissie
Roscoe was joined by a Golden Retriever Mrs. Poobah used for obedience training competitions. Chrisse - Gandalf's Heartbreak on her AKC papers - was everything Roscoe was not. Submissive to a fault, she sometimes yelped when spoken to harshly. She faithfully followed every command, did everything ever asked of her, and more.
On a walk along a lakeshore on a sub-zero Midwestern Christmas day, she showed her smarts by stupidly leaping through the ice and into the freezing waters. Emerging covered with ice, she just stood there with a dumb grin, wagging her ice-encrusted tail, ready to repeat the swim. She wasn't smart, but that didn't matter in an obedience dog. She was a contest champion several times over.
Roscoe went blind suddenly one afternoon after an afternoon nap in the yard. He adjusted a little crankily to his pedicament, but got around well enough. However, when we left Ohio for California we knew he would never survive the trauma of the move. We put the old boy down before we left, telling the Poobette he was going to the vet's farm. Just like in the movies, she didn't find out the truth until she was much older and we could tell her the story without breaking down ourselves.
Chrissie stayed on with us to California and thrived until her later years when she developed spleen cancer. The doctors gave her six months, but she didn't even acknowledge the illness for another three years. She passed while we were on a vacation. The dogsitter stayed on the floor petting her all night before taking her on the final trip to the vet the next morning. Although she died among friends, her pack wasn't there and we ache for that misstep to this day.
Fiona, aka The Fionarater
And now, we have Fiona. A Sharbrador (Shar Pei-Labrador), we got her nine years ago from the Oakland SPCA when the Poobette refused to leave without her. Full of life, a constant cager of love pats and dog bones, she enjoys her life with us like no other dog we've ever had.
Although she can present an imposing image - she's well-muscled, has a deep bark, and am unnaturally huge maw filled with large teeth and a black and purple tongue - she is so friendly that groomers give her the run of the shop while keeping the other clientele in crates. Every kennel, every groomer, every visitor has raved about her temperament and none of them has ever exaggerated.
Though the old girl is beginning to slow down, we expect she'll still be around for quite a few years yet. When the time comes we'll try to make her comfortable and return the love she's shown us in spades. And when she's gone, we'll talk about not getting another dog. Too much hassle. They make a mess. Our life would be so much easier without one.
But, we'll eventually cave in. Life without a dog is a life emptier than we could imagine. And so we'll go and find a new one. Not a replacement. Not one we will love any more or less. We'll find a dog that fits our family and gives us all the love we can handle.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Sunday, February 26, 2006
Omnipotent AdministriviaDear Readers,
We'd like to point out that we've made some site changes we'd like to tell you about. We're warning you this is mostly administrative detail and isn't a thrilling read. If you're not interested, just move along and keep the line going.:
- Over in the About Us section, we've added a Frappr map. It's a little feature where you can click, enter yourself on the map, and maybe make a few new blogger buddies. We encourage you to click away because our single pin is getting a little lonely.
- As you can see, we're just about to roll over 7,000 unique visitors and at the rate we're going will soon reach the arbitrary, but important milestone of 10,000. Not that you should care about this, but we appreciate it and wanted to say thanks.
- The list of Jr. Poobahs continue to grow. We try to keep the list fresh so we periodically purge blogs that have fallen way behind in posts. In some cases, like Amen Corner, we put them back when regular posting resumes. Recent newbies include Bring It On (where we throw in the occasional political piece), Frog Style Biscuit, Thought Mechanics, Consider the Boot, Sumo Merriment, and Hiromi X. Please patronize these blogs for they have good content.
- Omnipotent Pronouncements is a new feature that alledgedly collects our comments from your blogs and inserts them here. We aren't sure if we have configured it properly, but have patience.
- In Feeds and Subscriptions, our membership with a new feed aggregator, iopBlogs is pending.
- The Where We Are section welcomes several new directories where we are already, or soon to be, listed. They include Finding Blogs, Blogvertiser, and Blogebrity, where they added us to the C-List.
- There are a few new Causes Celebre as well. The Carry Onward! Network graciously allowed us to join and Change Your World passes the hat for nickels, dimes, and pennies.
- In Blog Doo-Dads you can see we have a diverse set of visitors, 71 countries on every continent (though not all are listed on the ClusterMap).
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Sunday, February 26, 2006
As We See It: Democracy in Retreat Edition
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Saturday, February 25, 2006
Iraq Civil War: Mission AccomplishedYAWN!
Another day, another outbreak of sectarian violence in the cesspool we call Iraq. Shiites vs Sunnis in a tag team death match that would have done Andre the Giant proud. The warring factions are beginning to turn their attention away from the troops and back to their usual business of rubbing each other out.
The latest outbreak of violence has some observers worried that a full-fledged "civil war" is coming, though we're not sure how you can tell civil war from normal behavior in that "budding democracy". We are left wondering something else - could this be the "out with honor" the Bushies so desperately need.
Certainly a civil war would be bloody, messy, and a tragedy for Iraqis, but the one advantage it does have is taking the pressure off the Coalition of the Stupid. While the Iraqis are busy fighting amongst themselves, they'll be too busy to worry much about the foreign infidels.
While the headlines scream about the violence, the administration can use the cover to pull the troops out - not cut and run mind you - but, gradually pull them out because a civil war means Iraq has reached the full flower of democracy. The Bush thinking would go, "Look at the US of A. We had a civil war and we turned out all right. We view this as a positive step in bringing democracy to the Middle East. And oh, by the way, we're bringing home the troops because, by gum, our mission in Iraq is accomplished," Bush will say in his withdrawal speech.
Hey, it could happen!
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, February 23, 2006
Turban-Swathed Foxes Guarding the Hen HouseDuring both of his campaigns, George Bush touted his ability as a "uniter, not a divider". He pledged to bring diverse political elements together to take care of the nation's business in an overwhelming display of unity. Many people, including us, have frequently criticized him for doing just the opposite, so it's with great surprise that we now utter some words we never thought we'd say aloud - George Bush was a man of his word.
Even though many would describe our nation as divided at every level of society, George has been able to bring people together in an unprecedented way. He has the uncanny ability to piss everyone off, regardless of political persuasion. Democrats, Republicans, Independents - it doesn't matter. He's an equal opportunity idiot. He always seems able to find just the right slant, just the right subject, to bring everyone in the county together in a rousing chorus of, "what the hell kind of drugs is this guy on?".
Most recent case in point - hiring the UAE to guard the nation's biggest ports.
This move is obviously so wrong on so many levels. That's what makes it the perfect stick for Chimpy McDumbass to bludgeon himself with. At best it is, "unbelievably tone deaf", in the words of normally supportive Lindsey Graham. At worst, he's hired a country known for exporting the terrorists he continuously yammers about to guard our ports - which he admits are poorly protected already. He has, in effect, given the keys of the hen house to the turban-swathed fox. The Emirs of Terror must have some big juju, because even normally preferred uber-contractor Halliburton wasn't considered for this deal. The Big Dick is probably unbelievably pissed about how this will effect his Halliburton stock, so our advice of Dear Leader is, "watch your back". Dick has a gun and despite his lack of combat experience, knows how to use it.
The trail of this story is now following a familiar Bushonian path. The Moron-in-Chief says he had no idea the deal was approved without his knowledge. Yet, he stands behind the decision, saying at one point that the deal was fully vetted, completely safe, and has his full support. According to him, it is an unbelievably great deal that will provide our vital ports with world-class protection, keeping the world safe for democracy and a growing trade deficit. In fact, he's such a supporter of it that he's threatened to veto any attempts to call it off.
You know, we believe we are so powerfully omnipotent that we'll go out on the safest, strudiest, and most stable limb imaginable - predicting how he'll once again snatch failure from the jaws of victory.
We predict Dubby Boy will pull out all his usual sabers to rattle. He'll whine and cry foul. He'll claim that reversing the decision is partisanship personified - forgetting, of course, that his own party wants his balls on a platter. He'll declare it unpatriotic not to hire a sponsor of terrorism to combat terrorism - because obviously, who knows more about terror than terrorists? Finally, he'll cave to pressure and call the whole thing off by claiming Clinton made him do it. Then, he'll cover the backtracking with yet another display of ineptitude designed to take everyone's mind of the dreaded affair. Wag the dog? Hell, the Chimp can wag the dog, the doghouse, the owner's house, and the dog pound simultaneously...while choking on a pretzel...and falling off a bike.
Never underestimate the power of a Bush administration hell-bent on shooting themselves - or someone else - in the face. As Deadeye Dick can attest, their aim in such matters is excellent.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, February 22, 2006
The Salmon Ladder of SuccessOur new job is a contract gig that will last at least three months and may be full time eventually. That's what happens when you are 50, laid off by an arrogant corporate prick, and cast adrift in our wonderful trickle down economy where gravity is apparently broken and causes the wealth to trickle up. The Chimp keeps saying the economy is cruising along, but close as we can tell, that only seems true in the streets of New Delhi and Bangalore. Still, after being out of work for a little over a year, it will be nice to get some income flowing again. We must do our part to keep the Bangaloris working, the CEOs in yachts, and a few scraps of food in our belly.
We were told to report at 10 am this morning, so we left home at 8:30, swimming like a salmon upstream along a 39 mile crumbling concrete river. We arrived on the dot, flipped our tail, laid some eggs, and swam off to die or be eaten by a hungry grizzly - whichever came first.
After being shown our standard issue cubicle, we settled down to work and ran into the first problem du jour.
There was a computer.
There was no logon ID ready.
We were told by the second banana (because the chief was out at a meeting and hence, too busy to deal with the likes of us) to return home and come back tomorrow at 11 am, when things would be more in order. Such a difference 25 hours makes, just ask Keiffer Sutherland.
So, we swam north again, this time completing the spawning run in about an hour. All the other salmon were already on their way to the processing plant by then apparently so the river was considerably less crowded.
Obviously not an auspicious beginning, but not completely unexpected either. In our experience - and we've worked at companies large and small, from household names like GE and Visa to outfits you've never heard of - American business is roughly as efficient as any enterprise run by a gaggle of junior Mike Browns with large egos and tiny penises.
Many people talk about the government, and by extension its employees, as though they are a swarm of locusts hungry for tax revenue and celebrating sunny days by burning piles of large-denomination, sequentially numbered bills. The assumption goes that if Mike Brown or George Bush is a moronic wastrel, then the same applies to our fellow citizens who man the trenches of the world's largest bureaucracy.
We've been a Federal worker. We served in the military. We've fought as a small pawn in the private sector's class war. We've seen the inflation adjusted coin from both sides and we can clue you into something - government is inherently no more inefficient than a large corporation. In fact, waste, fraud, and abuse are about as widespread in your average company as it is in say, the Army Corps of Engineers. Exhibit A - our first day at work.
Here's a fundamental law of organizational physics. The inefficiency of an enterprise is roughly exponential to the number of people involved in said enterprise. The only thing that is different it the scale. In the case of a large corporation, pretty big. In the case of the US government, unbelievably huge. Chevron wastes a buck. FEMA wastes a million. Same inefficiency, different scale.
Here's another immutable law of organizational physics. Workers are only as good and efficient as they are allowed to be. Just ask the career folks who suffered at the hands of Brownie and Chertoff.
And where do the future Chertoffs and Brownie's come from? The private sector. Where do they return when they've done enough damage and it's time for crony call at the Halliburton cafeteria? The private sector.
You do the math.
So the next time you want to reduce the government employees' already lower than private sector wages and bitch about how much they're costing you, give 'em a break. We're all in the same boat and lemme tell you...it's leaky as hell.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, February 21, 2006
An Open Letter to Our Dear ReadersDear Readers,
We are actually going in to an office today. This is quite a change in our day since we have been unemployed (we prefer the term "unengaged" because it is tres elegant) for a year. We once again join the productive members of society in their never-ending quest for filthy lucre and so, will continue to have a roof over our omnipotent head and food for our empty belly.
It's early yet, so we're not sure what effect the change will have on our blogging. To be sure there will be some changes, we just don't know what they will be. We pledge to keep up with the posts because your friendship and fidelity have become embedded in our life. You have made the awful journey of the past year so much easier to bear and to chip our allegiance away completely would be too painful. However, we can't guarantee anything, there being just so much omnipotence to go around.
So continue to check in my friends and we will continue to do what we do best - which is not working in an office by the way - blogging for our friends.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, February 21, 2006
From the Poobah Files: City of Lights, City of Laughs
We used to spend quite a bit of time in Paris. It was work-related, but we often had entire days to explore the city on our own. We got to know the place pretty well, well enough to sometimes guide Frenchmen from other cities around the place. We had a store of great little neighborhood restaurants, tucked away museums, and other less-often trammeled spots.
Nice place, Paris.
We and Mrs. Poobah took a trip there once. Paid for with frequent flyer miles from work, it was a nice respite from child care when the Poobette was very young. We walked the boulevards and did all the things that tourists so often do - and then some. Because our life is a constantly unfolding story for your enjoyment, here is one our favorites from the City of Light.
A nice romantic dinner, that's all we wanted.
"Bun, what would you like to eat," we asked. "Lebanese, Toulousiane, entrecote, cassoulet, whatever you want my dear. You are my queen." (We still, after more than 20 years, talk like that you know.)
"Chinese?" she asked.
"Um, bad choice in France my dear. They don't do Chinese, or Mexican for that matter. Too gauche for the well-developed palate you understand."
"Greek?" she offered.
"Sure, we could do Greek. I know a nice little place in the Latin Quarter. Very fun, and the food is good," we said.
And so, off we went. A short Metro ride and a brief walk and we were deep in the middle of a teaming Latin Quarter. There were so many people that we bumped into each other going down the narrow streets. Shills stepped out of all the tourist places trying to encourage diners in off the street.
"Psst. Hey, Mister. We have fabulous food. Couscous, wonderful tangine. You will like very much," one Moroccan beckoned.
"Dine in royal comfort my friend. Our food is the best you've ever eaten," said an Algerian.
"We cook for life," huffed a decidedly French Frenchman. "Our food is much better than these North African scum. Couscous...PAH!"
"No thanks," we said and turned off the main drag and into a side street lined with apartments. We headed toward a storefront halfway down with a small line outside.
"Poobah, my friend!" Niko said. "Please, come in," he said while jumping us past the line.
Inside, the place was dark and a small bouzouki band played loudly in the background. There were shouts of "OOPAH!"and crashing dishes on the floor. Our feet crunched on the broken crockery as we walked to our table. And there was Niko, obsequious and at our elbow the whole way.
"What can I get my special customers this evening?" Niko crooned in Greco-Franco accented English. "Who is this beautiful creature with you this evening? Judging from her youth and beauty, perhaps Monsieur's mistress?"
"Uh, wife Niko. Wife. Epouse. No mistress," we replied.
Niko smiled and hurried off to fetch the bread and wine.
We and Mrs. Poobah talked over the candles. We listened to the bouzouki band, clapping politely after each cacophonous number. Plates continued to joyously smash on the floor as is the custom in Greek places.
Soon enough, the food came and we dug in. It was wonderful and we enjoyed every mouthful, not only for the taste of the food, but the romantic setting.
The bouzouki band took a break and the place quieted down. We continued to talk softly over the candlelight.
We leaned close to offer Mrs. Poobah a candlelit kiss and suddenly our ass fell, embarrassingly and loudly, right through the wicker seat of the chair. The momentum carried our ample backside on through and collapsed the chair into a splintered heap with an omnipotent fella sitting, dazed, in the middle of wreckage. We did, however mange not to spill the glass of retsina we held.
There was a sudden hush. Everyone in the crowded place looked at us, many with that small grin the French sometimes get when something is hilarious and they don't want to let on that they find it funny. The bouzouki band, which had just retaken the stage for their next set, sat in silence.
"OOPAH!" Niko yelled at the top of his lungs. "Dance my friends. DANCE!"
Plates began to smash. The band struck up another ruckus. Niko and the crew from the kitchen formed a dance line. Some normally reserved Frenchmen joined in. Holding hands, the dance line came toward us weaving and shouting to the music and ouzo.
Niko fell out of the dance line as it continued on around the place and bent to help us to our feet.
He whispered in our ear, "I'll get you another chair my friend. We wouldn't want to spoil the romance of the evening, would we?"
"No Niko," I smiled. "I suppose not."
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, February 20, 2006
The Poobah Files: The Flight of Old 22From 1977-1981, we were in the US Air Force. During those four years we went to every continent on Earth except Antarctica and Australia - 24 countries to be exact. We traveled constantly and went to some wonderful places - Midway Island and Uruguay for example - and some not-so-great places - Saudi Arabia and Israel amongst them.
We attended many a humanitarian disaster and hauled strange cargoes like dead people, live goats, Susan B. Anthony dollars, and President Carter's limo (which had its own Secret Service agent, BTW). Spending all that time aloft you might expect we'd have a tale or two. And you'd be right. Here is one of them.
We had arrived in Catania, Sicily after a long day, laden with bags of mail for Navy ships in the Mediterranean, some spare airplane parts, and movies for the fleet. After an eight hour rest at a dumpy, local hotel and a quick meal of hard bread and sausage, we loaded up about 20 civilian dependents and headed for our next stop in Naples.
Just after nightfall, we took off and climbed out over the dark Mediterranean. The night was clear and filled with thousands of stars. At first, we could see a faint demarcation between the stars above and the darkness of the sea, but as we neared land, the lights from the ground joined the stars in the sky until we seemed to be floating motionless in space. It's very difficult on such nights to have any sense of movement. Other aircraft could be 10 miles away or 50 miles away. Their tiny flashing lights all look the same at a distance.
"IMPENDING MID-AIR!" he screamed into the head set.
As he screamed, the pilot woke up in a panic. The cup of coffee sitting in the holder next to him began to float freely, unencumbered in the zero gravity the step dive created.
I threw my book away and felt my body begin to lift out of my seat. I grabbed the arm rests and looked up at the windshield. I could see the white bulk of an airplane entirely filling my view. The white aircraft had green and red stripes running its length and there were people in the windows, completely unaware of us bearing down on them. As the aircraft screamed over our heads, I saw the name "Alitalia" on its side.
Over the roar of our own airplane I could hear the passengers in back screaming. Meanwhile, the co-pilot yanked mightily on the yoke and we bottomed out of our power dive. The gravity returned with a vengeance and I could feel it pulling at my body and the skin on my face. I was crushed back into my seat and was momentarily pinned there.
I heard the pilot yell at the co-pilot. "GODDAMNIT! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" I looked over and saw a dark stain spreading across the pilot's lap. The terrifying wake up had caused him to piss his pants.
The co-pilot began to yammer his explanation of what happened to the pilot. The navigator and loadmaster in back with the passengers were also talking wildly. I could still hear the dependents screaming and yelling as the crew in back tried to regain control.
"EVERYBODY SHUT THE FUCK UP," screamed the pilot. As silence returned, he composed himself and got the full story from the co-pilot. Once in control of his own voice, he clicked the radio button.
"Brindisi, this is old two two."
"Go ahead old 22," the controller said in heavily accented English. He sounded nothing like a person who had just allowed two aircraft to nearly merge into a single, badly mangled one.
"Brindisi, we have just passed within 500 feet of an Alitalia Boeing seven two seven. I'd like to report the incident," the pilot said quietly. We waited and there was no answer.
"Brindisi, old two two. Did you copy?" the pilot said a little louder. Still, there was no answer from Brindisi.
"Brindisi, old two two. GODDAMN IT, ANSWER ME! You almost killed us you sonofabitch!...BRINDISI...DO YOU HEAR ME OR NOT YOU ASSHOLE!"
Finally the radio crackled to life. "Who tell Brindisi how to control traffic?" the controller asked calmly.
"YOU MOTHERFUCKING, DUMB ASS! I WANT TO REPORT THIS INCIDENT NOW! PRONTO! PRONTO," the pilot screamed.
"Please do not use such language sir," the controller answered calmly. "I am sorry, but I have not a record of this incident so you cannot report it."
"WHAT," the pilot screamed back. "WHAT IN THE HELL DO YOU MEAN I CAN'T REPORT IT," the pilot continued. Only the soft rush of static shushed in our headsets.
"Brindisi?" "Brindisi?" "Brindisi, do you copy?"
Silence and not another word from the controller. Not even when we passed reporting points and not even when we left his assigned airspace for the airspace of another controller.
The rest of the trip, minus some time spent trying to calm the terrified passengers and clean the pilots flight suit, was uneventful. After we landed in Naples, the pilot stormed off to base operations to report the incident. We refueled, exchanged some passengers and took off for our base in England. There, the awful day was over and we all headed home to rest.
Several days later we were told that the incident had moved swiftly up the American chain of command, over to NATO, and finally to the US State Department. They had filed a formal complaint requesting an apology and that the Italian controller be disciplined.
The Italians replied several months later to say they had investigated the incident and could find no error in the controller's action. He was not disciplined.
And as far as I know, he may still be haunting the sky around Brindisi today.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Sunday, February 19, 2006
We're Confident We're Not ConfidentCatching up on our reading, we've read quite a few excellent posts today - most notably over at Anti-[Everything] - who has a great post on patriotism and the flag. We also spent a little time in a bookstore and between all these sources came up with about a dozen good ideas for topics. Unfortunately, we didn't write any of them down and we can no longer remember most of them. Such is the life of an omnipotent being who is not quite omnipotent enough to possess a good memory. Our poor memory makes us more than a little humble and so brought us to one topic we found intriguing.
It's A Good Thing
In our society, confidence is usually viewed as a good thing. It is the quality that helps people to rise above daunting odds and to accomplish things of greatness and small things as well. We envy it in sports players, business titans, and great actors. BASE jumpers have it in spades and who can look up to a Terry Fox or a soldier missing leg and learning how to walk again without seeing it? Each battles long odds or perfects a craft in a way few others can. Sometimes they are brave, other times just tenacious. Often they are willing to take a risk based on little more than their gut feeling. Confidence is the basic building block of heroism, success, and winning. It's also damn handy in just plain everyday life.
Sometimes though, people only give the illusion of confidence. For example, we are not particularly confident most of the time, though we're told we put up a reasonably good front. We constantly question ourselves and what we do and how we say it. We wonder what it is that makes one post work over another or why we sometimes can prevail over truly frightening odds while losing to something that is relatively easy. We don't consider ourselves remarkably talented or exceptionally smart. We're vaguely aware that others sometimes see something in us that we seldom see ourselves. We don't think we are the dullest hoe in the shed, but we're far from the sharpest either. We look at ourselves as basically your run-of-the-mill deity with too many opinions and far too much time on his hands.
When we look at others, we're sometimes awed. But sometimes we look at people and see what they may call confidence in a completely different light. It seems there's a razor-thin line between confidence and arrogance, between mild swagger and embarrassing hubris - and once you fall over it you look like a buffoon. Sometimes you even become dangerous.
Crossing the Line
The President - and for that matter many in his administration - are cases in point. They've long-since run past the line between confidence and mere arrogance. They've leapt over the hurdle of hubris and are running headlong toward a sort of penultimately dangerous degree of confidence. As a result, people are dying based almost solely on what their guts tell them. It doesn't get much more dangerous than that.
Chosen with great confidence, most of the President's men are cut from the same cloth. They're largely men of wealth and prestige. They are so confident in their abilities than no one, not even their closest confidants, can dare tell them they are wrong. One claims God talks to him - surely enough to give you an inflated sense of self importance - others assume he and they are right and so believe they can bend the entire world to the same conclusion. "Trust us" they say. "We KNOW we're right."
What IS the Answer
We freely admit that we have absolutely no confidence in the answer to some very important questions - what defines confidence, when does it get out of control, and how can we keep that from happening? We have a feeling that we desperately need an answer to that one and, omnipotent or not, we don't have the answer and aren't confident we ever will.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Saturday, February 18, 2006
As We See It: Fog of War Edition
After All, He Is a Combat-Hardened Veteran...NOT!
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Friday, February 17, 2006
Random BlurbsWork is the Devil's Plaything
It's our first full day back to work after a year-long hiatus. It confirms our notion that work is one of the worst inventions ever created by mankind. It hasn't been all that bad, but there are about 16,783 things we would have rather been doing.
Just sayin', that's all.
I'm Innocent Until I Prove You Guilty
The Big Dick, capping off a week of near-murder and shotgun-borne mayhem, has just given us all a tiny peak into what his legal strategy will be if he is ever brought to justice...on just about anything we'd wager. Write an executive order and declare yourself innocent. He seems to think it's going to work when Scooter rats him out like the conniving dog he is.
As we made the rounds of blogger buddies this evening we noticed more than a few have melancholy posts today. Miz Bohemia writes about a death too close. Quietly Making Noise ponders the incarcerated. At Knock Knock, Mary wonders where God's gotten to these days. And, Hiromi finds herself exposed.
Even though these are all stunningly good posts, here's to hoping everyone will cheer up soon.
I Said PEZ! Not FEZ!
A few weeks back on Belle of the Brawl we mentioned to the Pez Girls (DDDragon and Tan Lucy Pez) that there is a Pez Museum here in the Bay Area. We finally got around to looking at their site. Pretty interesting.
I once had a roommate who collected Coca Cola memorabilia. His collection grew so large and distinguished that the Coca Cola Museum now consults with him on many things Coke. Not that there is a big tie-in here, but junk food does make the world go around.
Shameless Plug for Weirdities
It might be the CIA Kid's Page, a post about the Secret Lives of Goat Parasites, or an eBay offer of a 100% mink penis muffler (with stand no less), but there is a niche for everyone along the information superhighway (geez, I haven't heard that since Al Gore used to say it). We pull together the 10 best each day in Weirdity, that little feature over there in the side bar.
Take a look. They really are weird. Even that one - especially that one - about Justin Timberlake's embarrassing tattoo.
And now, we bid you a big omnipotent adieu.
BTW, we've been asked to play guest editor over at Bring It On tomorrow, but it is just a copy of yesterday's post. So don't get all excited or nothin', just stop by and read everyone else.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, February 16, 2006
Can We Get an Amen?Many regular readers of this blog might surmise that we are anti-religion, anti-God, or anti-spirituality. While it is true that we take great pleasure in mortifying mullahs, poking at Pat, and jerking Jerry, we usually do it only when they've exhibited an unignorable degree of asshatery. We don't suffer political and social leaders gladly so we find it difficult to offer religious leaders a pass. After all, we do know something about this religion game - being an omnipotent being and all - so we're also intimately familiar with stupidity (even our own), wherever it comes from.
From a Suburban Methodist Tradition
We were raised as what we would call "suburban Methodist". Suburban Methodists subscribe more or less to the Ten Commandments - no killing, wife swapping, or stealing. Sometimes they forget about the coveting parts and they may "accidentally" pick up the occasional pad of paper from work. Some use the Lord's name in vain, but they usually feel bad about it later. Certainly they have no prohibitions against such dire sins as dancing or drinking and that makes them infinitely easier to get along with than say, your average Shove Your Head Under Water Until You Nearly Drown Southern Baptist.
Suburban Methodists put a premium on fellowship and socializing, with a little doing of good works thrown in. After all, it is a religion and such things are expected. However, sometimes what qualifies as a "good work" might involve a new air conditioner for the sanctuary or some nice altar drapes instead of say, an orphanage in Africa or a soup kitchen in the city. Sometimes their emphasis is on making the congregation feel good instead of making them want to do good, but we can't fault them for that. Ask any network executive. We all ultimately live and die by the ratings and making you feel obliged is certainly bad for attendance.
It might surprise some of you that the Poobah was duly baptized, took catechism classes, and served several tours as an acolyte (we really loved playing with those candle snuffer poles). It also might surprise some that we've read the Bible extensively, a bit of the Koran, some of the Book of Mormon, and even a smidge of the Torah. Great works of literature all, but not necessarily something we believe came directly from the hand of God. We're also familiar with the trappings of several religions, Snake Handlers and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a big shoutout to Moroni) among them.
We're All For Religion, Even If We Don't Believe
Far from disliking religion - which would be hypocritical given our upbringing and sense of open mindedness - we believe it is an essential element of society. It serves as a reasonably good social construct and is helpful to those who need something more than their own free will to get them through the night. Our attitude is live and let live. We've always believed that, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" rule is a damn fine one, whether Jesus thought it up or not.
This means we put some effort into not bashing religion so hard that it hurts, but it also means we're no more politically correct about it than we might be of say, Dick Cheney. In fact, we quite frequently back up religious types when we feel they have a valid position - not necessarily one we personally believe, but a valid one nonetheless. We feel our readers are sufficiently mature enough to not go around burning things or starting flame wars because we've said something which insulted them. And excepting a few minor incidents since we started blogging, this has been largely true.
So here's our official position vis a vis religion:
- We don't believe in God ourselves, although we freely admit we could be wrong. We believe that if there is a God, (S)He wouldn't be pissed off enough about our not believing that (S)He wouldn't slap on some God-sauce and cast us into an eternal barbecue. This position does not offer or imply carte blanche for any religious person to try to cajole, argue, beg, plead, or scare us into believing - especially when that prostilization involves trying to sway us to a single religion over all others. That is something we believe flies in the face of what God should be all about and probably pisses him off more than non-believers to boot.
- We believe that you have complete freedom to practice whatever you believe as long as those beliefs don't impinge on our freedom to do otherwise. This means that we don't want Intelligent Design taught as a science class (although we are open to teaching it as a religious theory if people in a particular locality can agree to that). We want abortions available for those who need them and you can opt out of that if you desire. We don't want the Ten Commandments or any other overtly religious items pasted to every available wall in any public building. However, we have no objections to the Pledge of Allegiance or the word God on our money. We also have nothing against Christmas or Hanukkah displays despite what Bill O'Reilly would like you to believe. Just don't prevent other religions from getting in on the act if they'd like to and we're all for you.
- We believe the vast majority of religious people are rational, reasonable people and that no religion (Islam included) teaches that killing people is OK. We would also expect that if religious people were NOT acting reasonable and responsible that other religious people would do there level best to condemn those actions without dragging all the innocent people from that religion into the melee.
- We believe that there are all manner of charlatans and crackpots who work the religion angle, but that not all religious people appreciate that any more than we do. Having said that, if you want to be stupid enough to hand over all your worldly goods to a smarmy, slick-haired, bling-bedazzled, sweet-talkin' televangelist, that's between you and said butt-munch. Just don't say we didn't warm you.
OMNIPOTENT NOTE: All positions stated herein are valid from the date you read them. If you find you do not agree with these positions you are free to read elsewhere or bring up your beefs at the complaint desk. Just don't assume we won't hand you your ass if you are too big a jerk about it.
We're quite religious about that.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Press Briefing Turns Ugly - Malveaux, McClellan EngagedThe White House press corps excoriated Press Secretary Scott McClellan yesterday during a no cameras allowed briefing on the shooting incident involving Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a transcript of the briefing:
McClellan: I'll start today's briefing with a short explanation of the events and then we'll take a few questions, provided they don't actually require me to provide any actual information.
Vice President Cheney accidentally shot 78-year old Harry Whittington in the face and chest on Saturday morning while both men were part of a quail hunting party in Armstrong, Texas. Harry is a longtime associate of the Vice President and contributor to many Republican political causes. Due to the valiant life-saving efforts of Vice President Cheney - who single-handedly, and at great personal risk, performed an emergency apendectomy in the corn field where the accident occurred. Happily, Harry survived because of the Vice President's selflessness, so that his donations to a wide variety of Republican causes will continue unabated.
Now for a few questions.
David Gregory (NBC): Scott, why the apendectomy when the victim suffered a gun shot wound to the face and chest?
McClellan: The War on Terror is the top priority of this White House and we will not rest until those responsible are brought to justice. Also, we need tax cuts and Social Security reform.
Gregory: Um, Scott, that wasn't the question. Why did the Vice President perform a medical procedure for which he is not qualified on a man who obviously needed different treatment?
McClellan: David your accusation is patently false and I take great umbrage at the implication that Mr. Cheney did anything other than what was right and proper for the circumstances. Also, the War on Terror is a huge success.
Would you like to take this outside? I didn't think so.
Helen Thomas (Hearst): Scott, why did you not call on me first, as is the tradition here in the briefing room. And as a followup, why did it take more than 18 hours to inform the media about this incident?
McClellan: Helen, Helen, Helen. Dear sweet Helen. You are one of the hardest working members of the White House press corps - the Grande Dame if you will - and we really appreciate your questions and input.
Oops, I forgot - War on Terror.
Now we can take the next question.
Suzanne Malveaux (CNN): Scott, can you tell us a little about what happened after the incident?
McClellan: Suzanne,, I've got to say that you are one hot babe. My mother keeps asking me when we're going out. I told her all about us you know.
I just love your dark hair, those dusky eyes, that mocha skin. I think we could really get it on. O'Reilly tells me the loofa does wonders.
Malveaux: Huh, you (unintelligible) hole? You obviously didn't hear the question. Would you like me to repeat it?
McClellan: Dear God no, Suzanne. I wouldn't inconvenience one who has become the light and entire purpose of my boring and pathetic life. The woman who I want to bear my children.
Excuse my distraction. Yes, the question.
After performing the apendectomy, Vice President Cheney and his party rode in their custom super-charged stretch Hummers to an undisclosed location for dinner. The engines of all 36 vehicles were left running as a special favor to our friends in Saudi Arabia. We value their unequivocal support in the War on Terror.
I'm also told that the party was served a lunch consisting of a trussed Mr. Whittington with an apple in his mouth. The main course was served with a side order of Potatoe ala Quayle, one of Mr. Cheney's favorite dishes - after whole fresh kitten in cream sauce of course.
The Vice President unfortunately carved off one of Mr. Whittington's ears and ate it before being told the Mr. Whittington was a guest rather than the entree. Mr. Cheney emphasizes that he eats all meats that he takes during a hunt because "waste not, want not" is his rule - except when it comes to offering government contracts to his friends. There he believes wastage is a patriotic imperative that keeps the hunt for weapons of mass destruction alive in Iraq.
Malveaux: Scott, a followup. How did Mr. Whittington react when the Vice President cut off and consumed his ear?
McClellan: Suzanne you dusky wench, Mr. Whittington expressed his thankfulness to the Vice President, fell to his knees and kissed the Vice President's ring. He then offered a generous donation to the Republication National Party. I'm told the donation was in the form of small denomination, random serial bills with, unfortunately, a small amount of Mr. Whittington's blood on them. They will be fully laundered - if you know what I mean (winking) - before they are spent.
Carl Cameron (Fox News): Scott, we know the Vice President is constantly hounded by a liberal media cabal intent on destroying this administrations' near perfect - excuse me, perfect - record on everything from the new prescription drug plan to the War on Terror. I just find this inexcusable.
McClellan: Carl, we appreciate your support for the administration and completely agree that any problems we may have encountered, especially those along the Gulf Coast, can be blamed on unpatriotic and obstructionist liberals who are opposed to the Constitution of the United States and the law of God, who created us all no matter what Darwin says - the big Pootiehead.
Did everyone get that quote or should I slow down?
Did you have a question? I like your questions Carl. They're all so very illuminating.
Cameron: No Scott. No question. I just wanted to put that comment out there to balance out the obvious left wing liberal stance in the questions all these other Pinkos of the Press ask.
Don Gonyea (NPR): Scott! Scott! What effect will the shooting have on people of color? It's apparent that many people of color were viscously murdered by the administration during the riots in New Orleans. Your policies target blacks, latinos, and native indigenous peoples on a racial-cleansing basis not seen since the Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking. What do you have to say to these people who, after all, are just innocent victims yearning to be free?
McClellan: We don't take questions from commie pinko fags. Shut your yap or I'll have you dragged out of here and fed to the dogs. I'm telling you that Barney has some sharp-assed teeth. I know. He's bit me quite a few times.
Suzanne, how you doing over there?
Malveaux: Mac, stop stalking me you pig! WHAT A CREEP!
McClellan: I can take one more question before we wrap things up.
Gregory, Thomas, Malveaux, Cameron, Gonyea, et al: Scott! Hey Scott! I've got a question. No me! Me! Over here! Helen, get out of my way you ignorant slut! (sound of chair being thrown...sound of gunfire...the President briefly enters the room, dodges several bullets, and tries to leave through a locked door before taking cover under the podium).
Bush (from under podium): Hi, ya'll. Just passin' through to say War on Terror, War on Terror. But I see yer bizzy so ah'll just hide under this here podium and take ah nap till yer done a-scrappin.
Malveaux: (Ripping open her top to expose her breasts) Scott, over here you burning hunk of missionary-style sex on a stick! I've got a question! Take me! Take me! Anything for an interview!
McClellan: OK, since there are no more questions I think we can all leave now - except for you Suzanne. For you, a personal interview. Wear the leather corset Condi gave you this time. I love the leather corset. Ohh, and the stilletos. Don't forget the stilletos.
Oh, and don't forget. War on Terror.
Thank you all for coming.
(End of Transcript)
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, February 14, 2006
From the Poobah Files: The Tale of the Exploding CoatDespite our omnipotence, we have made some spectacular mistakes over the years. True, we weren't screwed up enough to let people drown in their own houses, stumble into a no-win war, or let the nuclear Genie out of the bottle - but, we've had some pretty spectacular cockups nonetheless. We just admit them, unlike some others we could mention. Given the recent weekend of snow, this is the perfect time to admit to one of them.
During the winter of '78, the Air Force sent the Poobah on a mission to Ft. Drum in Watertown, NY. The mission? Support a Marine Corps training exercise that had been moved from Alaska to New York because - wait for it - there wasn't enough snow in Alaska.
While the Marines dug their accomodations in the snow by hand, the Air Force bunked at the local Ramada Inn. This was in keeping with an Air Force doctrine that suggested that the Air Force would not like to attend any wars unless there were suitable accommodations, a nice restaurant, and a bitchin' bar somewhere close by. Oh, and everyone had to be paid per diem too.
Before deploying, the Air Force issued full arctic gear for all the mechanics, despite the fact we expected to be outside of our heated hanger for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Unlike the Marines, who were issued no special winter gear, we toted a goose down parka and matching pants, a pair of goose down filled and fur-lined gunner's gloves, a warm hat, and a pair of Bunny Boots - weird white, inflatable things designed to keep the tootsies toasty warm.
For the first three days after our arrival there was almost no work. The weather was so bad that aircraft could not land to deliver the Marines' supplies. That happens when you deploy to a location with lots of snow...it, well, um, it snows.
We passed the empty time going to the movies, hanging out at the bar, and lounging around the heated, indoor hotel pool. The Marines mostly shivered in their ice caves and occasionally stopped by the hanger to see if we could spare some rags to insulate their field jackets and wrap their feet like refugees from Valley Forge.
On the fourth day, we were told there'd be inbound flights by mid-morning and were assigned to a "painting" detail. But this type of "painting" didn't involve houses, but snow.
Pilots landing in blowing snow have a very difficult time maneuvering because of a lack of depth perception. The Air Force's quite pragmatic approach was to "paint" the snow along the runways with lines similar to the ones you're seeing this week on the Olympic ski slopes. The lines give the pilots something to fly by and are much cheaper for the taxpayers than a multi-million dollar airplane spread around the place in large flaming pieces.
We used emergency flares to "paint" the snow. One end was a red smoke flare and the other that spewed white phosphorous - Willy Pete or WP for short. You ignited either end by pulling a small loop of string.
As we finished with the smoke flares we would put them into our parka pockets to take them to a "safe" location to burn off the Willy Pete. Simple. Expedient. What could go wrong?
We were loaded down with about 10 flares in each pocket - not quite as much explosive power as a WP rocket, but plenty of firepower nonetheless. As we pulled our the first flare, the loop of string caught the button of our parka pocket.
Suddenly, POOOOSH! A giant white-hot flame leapt from our pocket. Goose feathers flew. Unignited flares began to fall from the burning hole. Several more ignited as they fell around our Bunny Boot-clad. We stood there in a rapidly expanding pool of melted snow, looking a bit like a cross between Fourth of July fireworks display and a Winter Carnival celebration.
It really was quite merry.
As people began to come back from the places they'd run for cover, they began throwing snow on us to put out the fire. Of course, this devolved into a rollicking snowball fight with the Poobah as the target in the middle.
Soon enough the fires were out. Our brand-new, temporarily-issued parka lay in a smoking heap on the snow. Dozens of unignited flares lay where people had thrown them when they saw what happened to the Poobah. We saw stars from the blinding flash and lost a little hair off our arms, but were otherwise untouched. If it hadn't been for the fact it could have killed us, it would have been great fun.
When we returned home to North Carolina we returned our arctic gear to supply. The Poobah handed over the equipment as ordered, saving the parka for last.
We lay it like a dead bird on the sergeant's desk. There was a huge open burn in place of a pocket. The coat leaked goose down every time it was touched. It also had an 18 inch rip down the back where a piece of wire caught us. The beautiful rabbit fur lining on the hood looked like a hunting victim. It was missing clumps of red-stained fur and skin showed through in places. The damage came two days after the big fire when we'd spilled bright red hydraulic fluid while burying some in a snow bank. It scared the snowblower operators into thinking they'd hit a person with their huge chewing blades. Worked quite well as a matter of fact.
The coat laid there like a dead thing. Its mottled fur gone, huge burn in the side, leaking feathers, and with rips. It was obviously a total loss.
We began to explain what happened to the supply sergeant, but he held up a hand and said, "Don't worry kid. I don't even want to hear it. This shit happens every year."
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, February 13, 2006