USS Elliot shipmate meetup

L-R: Orlando Brown, Mark Turner, Robert Nordman

I got the urge last week to set up a meeting with my former USS Elliot shipmate, Orlando Brown. Orlando, or “OC” as we call him, lives near Creedmoor and so picked out a beer joint in that neck of the woods. It took me the better part of the hour to navigate my way there last night, with my T-Mobile cellphone losing its network signal in the thick woods.

When I walked in, 15 minutes late, there was OC along with another shipmate I hadn’t seen for over thirty years: Robert Nordman. I had been hoping that OC had thought to invite him, which was easy to do because he and OC live so close to each other.

We spent three hours catching up, telling sea stories, and being thankful that we’re still here to tell the tales. Rob was in very good spirits in spite of having been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. He has always worked his ass off at whatever he does and OC and I kept him out later than he would’ve liked as he was running out of steam.

I was also struck by Rob’s mention that many of our shipmates are dealing with illnesses, many of which sound like Gulf War Illness. Some of these guys can’t even walk anymore and they’re no older than 50. I’ll have more to say on this in a future post but last night served as a kick in the pants to pursue my own Gulf War Illness issues, get what I have diagnosed, and potentially get my VA disability claim filed. Life is too short, y’all.

Anyway, I love these guys like brothers.

Isaac Hunter’s Tavern story runs


A few months back I showed my friend Heather Leah around the ruins of Isaac Hunter’s Tavern for a story she was writing for the WAKE Living magazine. The story just ran in the Fall 2018 issue and included a few quotes from me. Not only that, it announces that plans are afoot to better memorialize the tavern that helped put Raleigh on the map! Heather also added some photos of some artifacts associated with the tavern which really brought the story to life.

It was a great story and tells of an even greater future for Isaac Hunter’s Tavern!

RIP Burt Reynolds

Yesterday, legendary actor Burt Reynolds died. The star of Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, and other films was 82.

I got the chance to briefly meet Burt when he gave a pre-game speech to Florida State alumni on November 10, 2001 when N.C. State was the visiting team. He was of course mobbed by FSU well-wishers that day but kindly took a moment for me to take a photo of him with my starstruck mother. Meeting him meant a lot to my mom but what always struck me about the photograph is that Burt truly looks like it meant a lot to him, too. It wasn’t a faked smile, or a pained look like he had somewhere else to be. He truly seems like he enjoyed the moment, like he had known my mom forever.

You often hear of celebrities who seem nice in public but turn out to be jerks when the cameras aren’t around. Burt Reynolds was exactly who he seemed to be: just a funny, kind, down-to-earth guy.

Rest in peace, sir.

Down the memory lane rabbit hole with BBSes

I’ve been reading through Adam Fisher’s Valley of Genius book and got to the chapter about The Well, one of San Francisco’s first online communities. It reminded me that I, too, was online as early as 1982, dialing up BBSes from my family’s 300-baud modem. I think the first BBS I called was run by a guy at the University of South Carolina.

Of course, a few years later in 1986 I had set up my own BBS in Great Falls, VA called the Basement BBS. At its peak it had 350 members, two high-speed (19.2 Kbps!) modems, and an early consumer hard-drive (10 whole megabytes!). Good times.

Valley also reminded me of my occasional hobby project of figuring out how to get the Basement back online here in the age of the Internet. This has proven to be more challenging than I expected, because:

1. DOS is a strange world, indeed, with lots of obscure drivers, configuration files, and confusing syntax.
2. I have forgotten 90% of the DOS secrets I once knew.
3. Modern virtualization systems were not designed with DOS virtual hosts in mind.
4. Virtualized DOS systems run far faster and with far more memory than their 80s era computers ever had, which causes problems.

Building a virtualized DOS environment is akin to assembling a ship in a bottle. You’re building a replica of an ancient artifact using very limited tools. All this, and I haven’t even gotten to the magic of modem emulation that will connect my BBS to the larger Internet.

This is the perfect geek project, though: a completely useless exercise in technology exploration. I hope, though, that at the end of it I have something to show for my trouble. But if I don’t that’s okay because I will have learned something anyway.

The Oak City Dairy Farm

Oak City Dairy Farm auction notice in the Raleigh’s Evening Visitor newspaper

Today I learned my home sits on what was once the Oak City Dairy Farm, owned by Thomas B. Bridgers. The dairy cows and equipment were sold at auction in July 1883 following Mr. Bridgers death. The farm sold in 1899 to Lewis T. Christmas, a pastor from Charleston, West Virginia.

The ad in the old Raleigh newspaper, the Evening Visitor, has the auction information as follows:

Sale of Personal Property.

I will, on Tuesday, the 26th of July, 1883, at the Oak City Dairy Farm just north of the city of Raleigh and St. Augustine Normal School, offer for sale to the highest bidder, the personal property belonging to the late Thomas B. Bridgers, deceased, consisting of two brood mares, one colt, six mules, two bales cotton, nineteen cords of pine wood, three cords of oak wood, twelve seasoned cedar posts, farm tools and implements, buggy, wagons, etc., including the entire outfit of Oak City Dairy, consisting of sixteen head of Jersey and Ayeshire in bred milch [sic] cow, in excellent order, with capacity of from three to five gallons per say, and all necessary cars, jars, pans, buckets, horses, wagon, etc., for a first class dairy business. Also one Ayeshire bull, two Jersey bulls and eleven head fine heifers and calves. An itemized inventory of this property or any information can be seen and had by applying to the office of George H. Snow, Esq., attorney.

Sale will commence at 11 o’clock a.m., promptly. Terms of sale cash.

MARY M. CHRISTMAS
Executrix of T.B. Bridgers, dec’d.
june28-tds

The Last Deployment Hat Toss

The Coronado Bay Bridge, 30 March 2018.

When the family and I toured San Diego this spring we took a harbor cruise around Coronado Bay. Here the Coronado Bay Bridge acts as a prominent landmark for the surface fleet of Naval Base San Diego, tucked just inside the bridge. On your first trip out as a fresh-out-of-bootcamp sailor you’ll inevitably be told to crank down the ship’s mast to avoid hitting the bridge.

On your last pass under the bridge, however, there is a different ceremony. It is a local San Diego navy tradition that on your last trip under the Coronado Bay Bridge you toss your cover (or “Dixie Cup,” as the white enlisted canvas hats are known) into the water. So many times I passed under the bridge that I really, really looked forward adding my cover to the submerged pile beneath the bridge. That day came for me on Monday, 20 January 1992 when I rode the USS Elliot (DD-967) back from my last WestPac deployment. It was the day before my 23rd birthday.
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For the Comedy Iconoclasts of ‘SCTV,’ a Joyful Reunion Tinged With Loss – The New York Times

I loved watching SCTV. It was a brilliant, funny show.

On a warm Mother’s Day afternoon here, sunlight streamed into the gold-filigreed lobby of the Elgin Theater, where traveling vaudeville acts passed through a century ago. A troupe from the more recent past, though also tinged with nostalgia, would soon take the stage: the cast of the cult TV show “SCTV.”

The afternoon of clips and conversation, hosted by the “SCTV” fan Jimmy Kimmel, will be part of a Netflix comedy special directed by Martin Scorsese, set for release in 2019. As a sellout crowd of 1,300 pushed by, the 40-year-old friends Jeff Maus and Eric Makila stood finishing their beers, having a fanboy moment about the show, which debuted more than 40 years ago.

“This is hometown love,” Mr. Makila said.

“I gave a speech to my class on ‘SCTV’ in Grade 3,” said Mr. Maus, who grew up in nearby Paris, Ontario. “It was the only hip Canadian show we could lay our hands on back then.”

Source: For the Comedy Iconoclasts of ‘SCTV,’ a Joyful Reunion Tinged With Loss – The New York Times

Young Women Are Convinced Motherhood Is Going To Suck — And They’re Right

Some of the child-free women I know have shared this article. Personally, I don’t get it. The way I see it, jobs are a dime a dozen. Building a company, building a career might seem important, but building a human being? Building a human being? There is nothing more important, challenging, fulfilling, frustrating, or valuable than that.

When I was 7 months pregnant, my mother told me her biggest regret in life: that she had been a working mom. “If I had to do it all over again, I would have stayed home with you and your sister from the get-go,” she said.

I was surprised by this admission, to say the least. Sure, when I was a kid, my mom would sometimes complain about missing a field trip or a PTA meeting, but to be honest, she complained about most things, so it didn’t seem like her job ranked super high on the list. Growing up in New York City in the ‘90s, I’d watched the rest of my friends’ moms slowly drop out of the full-time work force, taking lower-paid part-time administrative positions or scheduling their days around manicures and aerobics classes and harshly worded sit-downs with the nanny. But my mom had kept on working, rising through the ranks to become a corporate executive before retiring a few years ago. I had always been proud of my mother for having (it seemed) seamlessly integrated her career with motherhood. It never occurred to me that she didn’t feel the same way.

Source: Young Women Are Convinced Motherhood Is Going To Suck — And They’re Right

Political frustrations

I have been wondering more and more about my obsession with politics. Like many obsessions, it borders on unhealthy. Often its frustrating, particularly to watch progress get thwarted come the next election.

I was feeling this way about the recent Democratic primary for the Wake County Commissioners. I’ve felt the incumbents on the ballot, Sig Hutchinson, John Burns, Erv Portman, and Matt Calabria, have done a fine job guiding the county but several fellow Democrats had a differing opinion. Portman and Burns were sent home Tuesday in favor of former school board member Susan Evans and newcomer Vickie Adamson. Hutchinson and Calabria retained their seats.
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With Oliver North, NRA’s descent into crackpottery continues | The Kansas City Star

I met Oliver North several times when he shopped in the Northern Virginia hardware store where I worked in high school. He was a neighbor and, though I didn’t know her, his daughter was in my high school class. When the Iran-Contra hearings took place my instinct was to cheer on my neighbor until I came to realize that lying to Congress – the People’s branch of government – really wasn’t anything to be celebrated.

Once North was convicted of felonies and his reputation was in tatters he crawled his way back into being a conservative pundit. I’d say both he and the NRA are getting what they deserve.

The National Rifle Association, which proclaims its devotion to the Second Amendment and the rest of the Constitution, announced that Retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North will be its next president. How perfect.

The New York Daily News reports: “North’s nomination will likely draw rebuke, considering his involvement in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, in which senior Reagan administration officials covertly sold weapons to the arms-embargoed Iranian regime, and used the proceeds to fund the right-wing Contras guerillas in Nicaragua. The scandal left a dark stain on Ronald Reagan’s administration, although congressional committees found no evidence to suggest that the President himself was aware of the shadowy deals.”

North was convicted on three felony counts for his part in the scandal that rocked the Reagan administration (including misleading Congress and ordering that documents be destroyed), though he successfully had his conviction overturned on the grounds that his congressional testimony, obtained under a grant of immunity, may have tainted the jury. So, naturally, he now will lead a group that touts its devotion to law and order and the Constitution.

Source: With Oliver North, NRA’s descent into crackpottery continues | The Kansas City Star