Monday, January 22, 2018

God, my men will think I'm chicken! *

It's been a while since I pulled out this photo and looked through the list of names.  This project has been satisfying for me.  I now recognize virtually all the names and can describe most of the justification for their being so honored.  

But there are still a few, and in researching this post's legend, I learned quite a few things that I hadn't known.

For instance, which mission that the Air Force (yes and its antecedents) flew resulted in the most Medals of Honor being awarded?

I knew that one.

Ploesti. 5 Medal's of Honor, 3 posthumously.

Second question.  What was the first target in Europe bombed by the US Army Air Forces?

Ploesti.  June 11, 1942, 13 B-24s  launched to attack the city.  1 aborted after takeoff with fuel issues, the other 12 attacked.  Minimal damage was achieved, 6 aircraft recovered as planned in Iraq, two in Syria and the other 4 were interned in neutral Turkey.  I did not know that one.

So, I scored a 50 on that pop quiz.  Bummer!

I arrived at the subject of today's post, based mostly on a recent comment from Andrew, our classically trained rantconteur (yes, I know that is not an actual word, Google, but it better fits the man than raconteur), In which he asks (paraphrased) how we could have such a large fleet in WWII and still have had a lesser number of feckless and ill-trained captains than we do now?

My mind pondered about my service and agreed that the situation is very similar.

The example that popped into my cranial vault was Ploesti.  Intricately planned, but plagued by bad luck.  Checkpoints missed, weather, mechanical problems all contributed to the chaos of the mission, and that was all before they encountered enemy opposition.  However, perseverance and leadership salvaged what success could be had from the situation.  

I'll be discussing one of the Medal of Honor Recipients who survived the attack and indeed the war, Colonel John R. Kane.


There's something to be said for this picture.  I knew as soon as I saw it, he was not a "perfumed princess".
Source
Col Kane was born in 1907 and joined the AAF in 1932. He arrived in Africa in July of 1942 and over the next year received 3 of the top 4 Military awards for Valor.  He received a Distinguished Flying Cross for actions taken in an Attack on the Harbor at Naples that sunk a cruiser and battleship and a Silver Star for out flying a ME-110, denying him a successful shot until the ME-110 had run out of ammunition and returned to base. 

Being a Fighter Pilot has little to do with flying a fighter. However....

On August 1, 1943, 178 B-24s launched from Libya on the attack most people think of when Ploesti is named.  As mentioned earlier, bad luck was plentiful, with aborts enroute as well as a couple of actual crashes.  Weather and a difference in procedures, caused the attack to unintentionally be split into two waves.  Col Kane's flight approached their target area approximately 60 miles behind the lead elements.  The element of surprise was lost.  In addition, their route followed a railroad line into the city.  Unbeknownst to them, the German commander had positioned a AAA railroad train on it.

Col Kane had modified his bomber with 3 .50 cal machine guns in the nose that could be fired from the cockpit.  He shot all 2500 available rounds on ingress.  Unfortunately, the target area had been attacked by an earlier flight that had missed their target.  The gunners were alerted, but also, smoke and flames from burning petroleum added to the confusion and danger.
Tail End Charlie from Col Kane's Group
Source

Col Kane continued his attack and eventually dropped his bombs on their target and began their egress.  During the attack, Col Kane's B-24 had been hit 20 times by AAA as well as countless small arms rounds.  He'd also lost an engine.  Fuel was too low to allow a return to Libya, the nearest reachable recovery base was 900nm away on Cyprus.  Col Kane decided to violate Turkish Airspace and fly direct to Cyprus.

On landing, he hit an unreported wall, and the aircraft was badly damaged, however the crew egressed successfully.  The bomber was scrapped.
The source says this is the picture of Col Kane's bomber, although reports from the mission said he was flying "Hail Columbia".  Update: This source says, at the time of the picture, it had been transferred to a different squadron which used Snow White names as a naming protocol, later it was transferred back to the original squadron, and when it flew the Ploesti mission, it was renamed "Hail Columbia".
A final bit of knowledge about this attack of which I was unaware.  I had never heard about any reattacks of the target after  this one.  Evidently, it was frequently attacked up until Romania surrendered in late August 1944.

You might recognize the Narrator's voice.

I found this picture of Col Kane and immediately recognized the man.  
Source
A strange resemblance to the man in the masthead above, bottom row, third from the left, no?

Col Kane resigned from the Air Force in 1954 and passed away May 29, 1996.

In one of his last public statements, he said
"I still recall the smoke, fire and B-24s going down, like it was yesterday... Even now, I get a lump in my throat when I think about what we went through ... I didn't get the Medal of Honor. The 98th did."
Nope, not a perfumed princess.  Warrior!

Col Kane's Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 1 August 1943.On this date he led the third element of heavy bombardment aircraft in a mass low-level bombing attack against the vitally important enemy target of the Ploesti oil refineries.
En route to the target, which necessitated a round-trip flight of over 2,400 miles, Col. Kane's element became separated from the leading portion of the massed formation in avoiding dense and dangerous cumulus cloud conditions over mountainous terrain. Rather than turn back from such a vital mission he elected to proceed to his target.
Upon arrival at the target area it was discovered that another group had apparently missed its target and had previously attacked and damaged the target assigned to Col. Kane's element. Despite the thoroughly warned defenses, the intensive antiaircraft fire, enemy fighter airplanes, extreme hazards on a low-level attack of exploding delayed action bombs from the previous element, of oil fires and explosions and dense smoke over the target area, Col. Kane elected to lead his formation into the attack.
By his gallant courage, brilliant leadership, and superior flying skill, he and the formation under his command successfully attacked this vast refinery so essential to our enemies' war effort. 
Through his conspicuous gallantry in this most hazardous action against the enemy, and by his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Col. Kane personally contributed vitally to the success of this daring mission and thereby rendered most distinguished service in the furtherance of the defeat of our enemies.

* Attributed to Col Ted Timberlake, Chief Operations Officer for the Attack, on being told he could NOT go on the mission as he knew too much about Allied Plans to be risked.  I understand the sentiment. 

Sources:  My Primary Source is, once again, Home of Heroes.  Always a good read there.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_R._Kane
http://www.nytimes.com/1996/06/12/us/john-kane-89-who-led-raid-that-bombed-nazi-s-oil-depot.html
http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2813/kane-john-r.php
http://www.homeofheroes.com/wings/part2/09_ploesti.html
https://airforce.togetherweserved.com/usaf/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=Person&ID=126906
http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/jrkane.htm

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Huh?

(Source)
So let me get this straight.

Congress cannot do their jobs, one of which is providing money to operate essential government services in the form of a budget.

Some in Congress want to shut things down so that people in this country under a special program can stay. Now wasn't that an Executive Order from the Obummer then rescinded by the Donald? I'm confused, what the Hell does Congress have to do with that?

When was the last time the Congress of this here United States did their job and passed a budget. A budget, not some continuing resolution thing to keep things running while the politicians play politics.

April of 2009. That's when. Almost nine years ago.

And the Congress-critters are blaming the President? Seriously?

I had an email from one of my senators (lower case is intentional) explaining that. Seems that in a Democrat controlled state, which Little Rhody is, there is no truth to be had. The media continues to toe the party line, the elites lie to us, and no one here has a bloody clue.

Odd that.

Hey Congress, pass a budget, send it to the President so he can sign it or veto it. Until you do that, why are you blaming the guy in the White House?

Isn't it that simple?

I dunno, I just dunno. Some people's kids...

Meanwhile...





Saturday, January 20, 2018

Tha mi nam Gàidheal

River Dee, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
(Source)
Or if you prefer, Tá mé Gael in Irish. In English - I am a Gael. Many of my ancestors spoke Gaelic, some in Ireland, some in Scotland. My immediate ancestors were mainly Scots with a hefty side order of French, seasoned with a bit o' English. According to the DNA test The Olde Vermonter had, we've a lot of Irish in us if'n you go back far enough. Apparently the Vikings came a calling as well. My ancestors must have been a fun bunch, when they weren't sacking and pillaging that is.

Anyhoo.

I have always had a fascination for the Gaelic side of things. My paternal grandmother came from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, she was born not too far from that river depicted above. She was a wee sma' thing, under five feet tall, with a heart the size of all Scotland. I miss her, a lot, she passed back in the winter of '72. I was in my first year of college, all the brightness in the world seemed to dim when she left this vale of tears.

But as the years went by I began to embrace my Gaelic heritage because of her, she taught me that much and I am grateful for that.

I was rather excited to discover that the Irish numbered amongst my ancestors back in October. Of course, I have always enjoyed the music, the food, the folktales of both the Scots and the Irish. Must be in the blood.

Now back in the early days of The Chant I would post the occasional bagpipe tune, much to Buck's annoyance, he often said that I should post a warning when I did that. So I did, once or twice. There's another person I miss, a lot. Blogging was more fun when Buck was around. Och weel...

Anyhoo.

Gaelic music isn't all bagpipes and drums ya know. There is rich tradition with harps, and flutes, and fiddles. The human voice is also a most magnificent instrument and yesterday I was introduced to the music and singing of a lovely lady born and raised on the isle of North Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland in the wild Atlantic. She grew up speaking Gaelic (which is the language of today's post title).

Now, I wasn't introduced in person, more's the pity, as she is a sweet and lovely lass. No, I was introduced via a post from David Warren, "Pineapples or elephants?" So I had to go exploring to hear what her music sounded like, and I am glad I did.

Here is Julie Fowlis, enjoy -



The song, Hùg Air A' Bhonaid Mhòir, sounds all serious and such doesn't it? Well the title, in English, is "Celebrate the Great Bonnet." Yes, bonnets, hats if you will. (Covers, lids, chapeaux, caps, etc.) The song is rather whimsical in actuality. Here are the lyrics (in Gaelic and English -

Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                    Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                     Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
             
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                    Higher than the corn-stack frame
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                     Higher than the corn-stack frame
             
Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                     Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                     Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
             
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                    Higher than the corn-stack frame
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                    Higher than the corn-stack frame
             
Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                    Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile               More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                     Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
             
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                    Higher than the corn-stack frame
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                     Higher than the corn-stack frame
             
Da thàbh air an fharaidh                     Two spoon-nets in the loft
Tha rud shìos anns a charaidh           There's something in the fish-trap
Da thàbh air an fharaidh                      Two spoon-nets in the loft
Tha rud aig an fhaoileig                       The seagull has a catch
Da thàbh air an fharaidh                      Two spoon-nets in the loft
Tha rud shìos anns a charaidh           There's something in the fish-trap
Da thàbh air an fharaidh                      Two spoon-nets in the loft
Tha rud aig an fhaoileig                       The seagull has a catch
             
Ged tha mi gun rud agam                    Although I'm empty-handed
Tha rud shìos anns a' charaidh          There's something in the fish-trap
Ged tha mi gun rud agam                    Although I'm empty-handed
Tha rud aig an fhaoileig                       The seagull has a catch
Ged tha mi gun rud agam                    Although I'm empty-handed
Tha rud shìos anns a' charaidh          There's something in the fish-trap
Ged tha mi gun rud agam                    Although I'm empty-handed
Tha rud aig an fhaoileig                       The seagull has a catch
             
Da thàbh air an fharaidh                     Two spoon-nets in the loft
Tha rud shìos anns a charaidh           There's something in the fish-trap
Da thàbh air an fharaidh                      Two spoon-nets in the loft
Tha rud aig an fhaoileig                       The seagull has a catch
Da thàbh air an fharaidh                      Two spoon-nets in the loft
Tha rud shìos anns a charaidh           There's something in the fish-trap
Da thàbh air an fharaidh                      Two spoon-nets in the loft
Tha rud aig an fhaoileig                       The seagull has a catch
             
Ged tha mi gun rud agam                    Although I'm empty-handed
Tha rud shìos anns a' charaidh          There's something in the fish-trap
Ged tha mi gun rud agam                    Although I'm empty-handed
Tha rud aig an fhaoileig                       The seagull has a catch
Ged tha mi gun rud agam                    Although I'm empty-handed
Tha rud shìos anns a' charaidh          There's something in the fish-trap
Ged tha mi gun rud agam                    Although I'm empty-handed
Tha rud aig an fhaoileig                       The seagull has a catch

O hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                 Oh celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                     Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
             
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn        Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                    Higher than the corn-stack frame
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                     Higher than the corn-stack frame
             
Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                    Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
Hùg air a' bhonaid mhòir                     Celebrate the great bonnet
Cuiribh oirre 's leigibh leatha             Add to it, leave it alone
Tuilleadh air a' bhonaid eile                More on the other bonnet
Chan eil leth gu leòr oirre                     There's not half enough on it
             
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                    Higher than the corn-stack frame
Bhonaid a bh' aig Dòmhnall Bàn       Donald Ban's bonnet
Ann an Bothalam na tàmh                   Is to be found in Bothalam
Bha i uiread ris an spàrr                      It was as high as the roof joist
B' àird' i na lòban                                   Higher than the corn-stack frame
             
B' àird' i na lòban                                   Higher than the corn-stack frame


Catchy tune, innit? I trust you did the sing along thing, right? (Believe me, I tried.)

I am now addicted to Ms. Fowlis' music.

Though as always, YMMV.

But as Buck might have noted - At least I didn't make you listen to the bagpipes, now did I?


Friday, January 19, 2018

Oh, Hear Us When We Cry to Thee...

USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62)
US Navy Photo
USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)
US Navy Photo

The United States Navy announced on the 16th of January that -
USS Fitzgerald: Courts-martial proceedings/Article 32 hearings are being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against Fitzgerald members. The members' ranks include one Commander (the Commanding Officer), two Lieutenants, and one Lieutenant Junior Grade. The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide.

USS John S. McCain: Additionally, for John S. McCain, one court- martial proceeding/Article 32 hearing is being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against one Commander (the Commanding Officer). The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide. Also, one charge of dereliction of duty was preferred and is pending referral to a forum for a Chief Petty Officer. (Source)
In addition -
Additional administrative actions are being conducted for members of both crews including non-judicial punishment for four Fitzgerald and four John S. McCain crewmembers. (Source)
Serious charges, absolutely warranted in these two cases. Seventeen Americans lost their lives in these two incidents, seven aboard USS Fitzgerald, ten aboard USS John S. McCain. Seventeen Americans dead in mishaps which could have been avoided.

The full accident report for both ships is available here (see the links near the bottom of the article). I highly recommend you read through that. It isn't easy reading. Sailors exhibited considerable heroism during those moments after the collisions, when the ships went dark and the cold sea began to pour in. Mistakes were made. We cannot fully judge those people who are being held accountable, that is for a jury of their peers.

USS Fitzgerald:
  • GM3* Kyle Rigsby of Palmyra, Virginia, 19 years old.
  • PSC* Xavier Alec Martin of Halethorpe, Maryland, 24 years old.
  • YN2* Shingo Alexander Douglass, of San Diego, California, 25 years old.
  • STG2* Ngoc Truong Huynh of Oakville, Connecticut, 25 years old.
  • GM1* Noe Hernandez of Weslaco, Texas, 26 years old.
  • FC1* Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan of Chula Vista, California, 23 years old.
  • FCC* Gary Rehm, Jr., of Elyria, Ohio, 37 years old.
(Source)
USS John S. McCain:
  • ETC* Charles Nathan Findley of Amazonian, Missouri, 31 years old.
  • ET2* Kenneth Aaron Smith of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 22 years old.
  • ET1* Jacob Daniel Drake of Cable, Ohio, 21 years old.
  • IC2* Logan Stephen Palmer of Harristown, Illinois, 23 years old.
  • ET2* Dustin Louis Doyon of Suffield, Connecticut, 26 years old.
  • ICC* Abraham Lopez of El Paso, Texas, 39 years old.
  • ET1* Kevin Sayer Bushell of Gaithersburg, Maryland, 26 years old.
  • IT1* Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr. of Baltimore, Maryland, 23 years old.
  • ET2* John Henry Hoagland III of Killeen, Texas, 20 years old.
  • IT1* Corey George Ingram of Poughkeepsie, New York, 28 years old.
(Source)


We send our young men and women forth to defend freedom. Those men and women often don't get to pick and choose where they go or who leads them. They deserve the very best training and equipment we can provide them.

They also deserve the best leadership.

Careers will end and lives will be destroyed by these impending legal proceedings. Will all of those ultimately responsible be punished?

No. Of course not.

Not unless we reach into the halls of government and punish those who would over commit our forces, who would stint on training and equipment. Those who believe we can make war "on the cheap." Those who would promote leaders based on anything other than the ability to lead. We must hold the nation's leaders accountable, regardless of party affiliation.


To those who died - may your memories be a blessing and may you never be forgotten.

God speed, may you have fair winds and following seas...

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!



*Posthumous promotion

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Adventures in Dermatology

(Source)
Wednesday it was an afternoon trip to my dermatologist, regular visit, nothing earth-shattering, however, I had various bits of my anatomy poked, snipped, and frozen. Things that didn't look "quite right" were removed.

A couple of spots on my ears (port and starboard), and one on my face, were frozen off with liquid nitrogen. A fun thing I've blogged about before.

The Missus Herself accompanied me and at the office inquired of the doc, "Can you remove those skin tags off of my husband?"

Not sure if he had heard her correctly, he looked at me, I was, of course, glowering at the love of my life and wondering just what transgression I had committed now for her to bring the wrath of needles and scissors upon me. I shook my head no. She, who simply must be obeyed indicated, politely but firmly, that what she said is what would be.

Something along these lines...



With that, the doc's comely assistant came into the room with a sharp needle and a selection of other medieval looking instruments. (Okay, they weren't that bad, all shiny and sterilized looking they were. Yeah, shiny.)

Said comely assistant indicated that I would feel a "slight pinch" with perhaps a "slight burning sensation."

The first one wasn't too bad.

The second, a bit worse.

The third through sixth felt as though I had been impaled on a saber and then dipped in lava. The comely assistant said, "Yes, those areas of your neck are probably more sensitive."

Trying to be funny, I wanted to say, "Ya think?" Which came out more along the lines of "Dear Lord, make it stop. Make it stop."

Not wanting to appear weak in front of the ladies, I grimaced manfully and stated, "Damn, that last one hurt."

Afterwards the "snipping of the skin tags," (about which I'll say no more) then proceeded. An event which left no impression on me. I was still smarting from having my ears and face deep frozen then the whole "impaled on a saber and dipped in lava" thing which made that which followed (the snipping) small beer indeed.

What with all of the manly grimacing and gnashing of teeth that were in it.

So yeah, that was fun.

Friday morning I'm going to the dentist, to try and forget all that.

If you read in the paper Saturday that I collapsed under torture and gave up everything I know, well I'll just say this, we all have our breaking point. Everyone, eventually, talks.

After all...






Wednesday, January 17, 2018

No Humans Here, Go Away

(Original)
Well once again it's pet peeve time here at The Chant. Where I gripe about things I don't like. (And you can chime in with your "favorites" in the comments.) Today's topic covers those annoying automated phone systems that so many companies are using now. I was inspired to write this post by listening to a colleague trying to reactivate his corporate credit card the other day.

Back in the day it was fairly simple to get around the automated system by simply pressing zero when the machine begins its spiel. But the folks who program those systems defeated that dodge fairly early in the game.

Pressing "0" remains a viable option in many systems, but not until you've had to listen to the whole thing. Many, if not most, of which start like this:

Hello. You've reached [Some Organization Name].

Listen carefully because some of our options have recently changed...

Oh wait, I missed a step:

Press 1 to continue in English...

Presiona dos para español.

Can't forget that, can we? Are there more selections in cities with a high proportion of immigrants from non-Spanish speaking countries? I know that in Boston, in hospital reception areas, there are signs which indicate the many (over 20 as I recall) translators available to the discerning potential patient who may or may not speak English.

Did they have similar services in Korea when I was there?

No.

How about Germany, or the Netherlands?

No.

Most countries expect that if you are using the local services, then by all rights you should be able to speak the local lingo. Except here in the immigrant-friendly US of A. Because we're all immigrants here, right?

Wrong.

But yes, I digress.

These systems certainly free up a human from having to answer the phone. A good system is designed to allow the caller to get useful information without having to ask a human. For instance, perhaps you need to fax something to the company, many systems will give you the fax number, the email address, etc. of the company. No need to bug a human.

Of course, most people calling don't want the fax number, email address, or some other useful tidbit of information. No, they wish to speak to a human for one reason or another.

Now my doctor's office has one of these automated systems and I've gotten used to it, even if it is most annoying at times. And really, how many times does this happen -

Bubba: Oh my Lord, I have just cut my foot off with a chainsaw.

Cletus: Geez Bubba, you probably should see a doctor about that.

Bubba: You're right Cletus, let me call my doctor! Hand me that phone.

Hello, you have reached Little Rhody Medical Services, if this is a medical emergency, hang up and dial 911.

Bubba: Well heck yeah, I should just dial 911.

Seriously, that's the message I get when I call my doctor's office. Do people in this day and age not know to call 911 when they have an emergency? Hell, people call 911 when their pizza is late. I guess that common sense ain't all that common.

Now I want to address that whole "some of our options have recently changed" thing. Now 99 times out of a hundred they have not changed, they're the same options they've always had. But I swear, just last week my doctor's office actually changed one of their options. For the first time since they installed the system, an option had actually changed.

Are you like me, you know exactly what option you want so that when the recorded voice starts reading off the options, you go ahead and press "1 1 3 5," or something similar? Expecting to hear "Doctor Smith's office, can I have your name and date of birth?" Thinking (hoping) you've reached the appointments line. And instead you hear, "That is an invalid option, press 1 to go back to the beginning."

So you press "0," thinking that that will produce a human on the other end.

Nope.

That is an invalid response. Please hang up and try again.

Really? Try again?

And if you're calling on a cell phone and you're cheap (like me) and your minutes are precious and oh so few, you finally get to the correct option and hear -

All of our operators are busy right now, assisting other customers. Please stay on the line, your business is important to us.

Then the elevator music starts to play. Over, and over, and over, and...

Eventually you hang up, not wanting to waste those precious minutes. Thinking, "If my damn business was so damned important to you, you'd hire more people to answer the phones." (Nah, I never do that.)

On the other hand, have you ever been in a doctor's reception area and listened to their side of the conversation?

Receptionist: No ma'am, we don't have an appointment scheduled for you. Would you like to make one?

Caller: No, I know I have an appointment on Wednesday.

Receptionist: Wednesday this week?

Caller: Yes, I'm sure it's today.

Receptionist: No ma'am, I'm not showing anything in our appointment book.

Caller: I'm sure I had an appointment today with Doctor Green.

Receptionist: Uh, this is Doctor White's office. We have no Doctor Green here.

Caller: Well, let me talk to Doctor Green's receptionist...

No, really, I have heard that very conversation while waiting at the front desk. Folks get confused, call the wrong number, wade through the system, only to discover that they've got the wrong number.

If Skynet ever becomes a reality - once the computers become self-aware - there will be no launching of nuclear missiles to destroy the human race, no, every single phone call on Earth will go to an automated system. We will all die of starvation, or commit suicide, while trying to complete our calls, while listening to horrid elevator music.

(Source)
Or yeah, that could happen.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sticks and Stones

Image result for sticks and stones
XKCD.com
I'm not sure if that 'toon helps explain the title or if invalidates it.  Either way, it's an interesting way to get to my point today-  words are just that- words, and we put far too much emphasis on some of them.  Air passes the vocal cords and then the lips and tongue help shape it into words as they pass out of our mouths.   They can sound eloquent, mean, motivational, insensitive, wise, threatening, or a multitude of other adjectives depending on the viewpoint and emotional state of the listener.

Here's another:

Image result for sticks and stones
Calvin and Hobbes
In this one, little Susie Derkins starts off strong, but by the third frame, she's allowed her emotions to get the better of her.  And as a result, she's hurt by whatever words Calvin threw at her.  One of the important aspects of this though, is that both Calvin and Susie are children, not to mention fictional comic characters, and probably incapable of fully using logic to prevent the words from cutting.

We're not children though.  We are far more able to weigh and value words that are spoken, able to consider the source and context of them.  And thus, we're able to prevent the cutting and pain.  Then again, it's somewhat immature and petulant, sometimes adjectives used to describe a child, for an adult to discount intent, context, the audience, the situation, etc.

As a society though, we've either grown far too sensitive, forgetting the lessons we learned as children, or we've decided to jump on the snowflake bandwagon, finding fault in every word that isn't blanketed in generic softness.  And too many Americans seem to go around looking for ways to be offended.


Sticks and stones is an "old adage" with an adage being defined as a proverb or short statement expressing a general truth.  When we stifle the truth though, all sorts of bad things happen.   It's even worse when one lies or obscures the truth to fit an agenda.  A couple friends of mine had a well-mannered discussion regarding the recent and alleged statement by our President regarding the condition of various third world nations.  As a former member of the military, I've been all over the world and while the description might very well be mean and insensitive,  it's often an apt description nevertheless.  Sure, I wouldn't use it when speaking to a wide audience or with anyone from one of those places, but neither was Trump.  However, have you googled the place recently?

One part of the discussion centered on the position that while the comment might be crude and not "Presidential," similar language from other politicians goes unchecked and without consequence.   He also expressed the opinion and that several cities in the US, long under Democratic rule, are on the path to becoming similarly described.  The other side of the argument was more of an emotional one, with a statement that there are far more accurate words that aren't as antagonistic and foul.  Continuing with softer language that the statement lacks compassion for nations of poverty and with minimal social order.  


I for one and tired of the nearly overwhelming penchant for soft pedaling in our society, never calling a spade a spade, nor using the harsh language that a situation sometimes deserves.  I tend to appreciate less softened language and factual or more pointed discussions that don't shy away from what is true and what needs to be said to effect change.  I sometimes had to yell at my kids, maybe even with a little harsh language, even now as they are adults, to get my point across. When we avoid telling the truth or what people need to hear, often because of some sense of politeness or to limit the effect on someones feelings, it does no one any good, and prevents the "shame" that forces behavior to change.  Some examples?  The tremendous lack of nuclear family structure in the Black community in some areas of the US, how welfare perpetuates poverty, how California is crumbling under the weight of its own welfare system, how welfare use by immigrant populations is over 50% and nearly 75% for some demographics.  We are a compassionate country, and we always will be, whether or not we allow unfettered immigration, build a wall, allow amnesty, expect violent criminal non-citizens to be deported, etc. Those are all inconvenient truths that deserve to be aired, in order to make fact-based vice emotional hard decisions.

Then there's the fact that this statement, if true, wasn't even said in public.  It was said in a closed session in the Oval Office, and one of the offended quickly ran to a camera to make a record of the incident.  Does that mitigate the comment or serve as a defense of the President?  I don't know and more importantly, I really don't care.  It's Susie Derkins allowing herself to be hurt by the name calling, and a petulant member of congress, one with a suspect history of lying about Oval Office happenings, who whines about it for political gain.  Some on the left wish for a continuation of mealy-mouthed politicians that say nothing to offend, expecting that to bring about some sort of Utopia.  My friend used that in his counter-argument that this desire and perspective is admirable, but Pollyannish.  A world without diversity of thought, or adversity forced by challenges, will never result in an improved society. 

MikeRowe.com
I'll end my rant with a link to an article from the Daily Caller which describes how Mike Rowe politely and brilliantly destroys one person who doesn't want any diversity of thought and who relies on emotional pleas vice tangible discussion points.  On a similar note, another friend told me about a college professor  who judges debate competitions. She said that the "personal/emotional argument" now carries as much weight as a logical, carefully crafted argument.  A master of the crafted argument, Mike Rowe might be more eloquent than the President, but like him, he gives no quarter as he stands his ground against the idea that different (read that as Right Wing and Conservative) opinions must be suppressed.  Check it out here:  Mike Rowe

Ok, I'll get back in my box now.  Thankfully Sarge lets me out every once in a while.