Rob Nordman


The wonders of Facebook has connected me with new friends and reconnected me with old. It has allowed me to connect with people I would’ve given up for “lost” just ten years ago. I have been especially happy to rekindle friendships made while I served in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Elliot DD-967. There is nothing like the bond built by shipmates, forged in the unforgiving environment of the sea.

My shipmates are family, and like families everywhere we may have our differences but there’s no denying that bond. This brings me to my friend Robert P. Nordman.

Nordman, as I called him, joined Elliot about the time I did. He was trained as a Gas Turbine Systems Electrician Fireman (GSEFN) – an engineer or “snipe” as they’re proudly known. Nordman and I worked on completely different levels of the ship, him workspace being the engine room and mine the topmost deck of the ship. Still, I would joke with him on the messdecks, chat on the fantail during a break, or see him out on liberty. More often than not, though, Nordman would be late for liberty (or miss it altogether) because of the demands of his job. He would spend a lot of his liberty either preparing the ship to depart or preparing it to be in port.
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Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

RADM Kevin Sweeney stepped down as SECDEF chief of staff this weekend. I served with Sweeney when he was a mere lieutenant serving as Combat Systems Officer (CSO) on the USS Elliot DD-967. Though some considered him an “arrogant prick,” Sweeney seemed to me to be a brusque-yet-squared-away sailor and I have been pleased to learn of his career success.

Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney, USN (Ret.), has stepped down as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense. He has served in this role since January 2017. “After two years in the Pentagon, I’ve decided the time is right to return to the private sector. It has been an honor to serve again alongside the men and women of the Department of Defense,” said Sweeney.

Source: Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

Raleigh’s Civil War Breastworks – the original “Beltline”

Raleigh’s original “Beltline” – the Civil War breastworks

Hours of toiling with Google Earth (GE) has allowed me to get a good feel for how the 1865 map of Raleigh’s breastworks matches up to local landmarks. I created an image overlay in GE, then marked with a pushpin landmarks that are still around today. A bit (okay, hours) of stretching and rotating the overlay image got me a close match of where things were as compared to today.

Enjoy!

Behold Camp Holmes

The Google Earth mashup of Camp Holmes

After messing with Google Earth for hours tonight I finally got a rough idea of the location of one of Raleigh’s Civil War “camps of instruction,” Camp Holmes. It seems to have been west of the modern-day intersection of Capital Boulevard and Wake Forest Road, where the Raleigh Bonded warehouses and Norfolk Southern’s Raleigh Yard are today. Being that most of the camp is now a railyard, poking around there is not feasible. Still, there might be interesting finds on the periphery, perhaps the treeline south of Georgetown Road.

Who knew that those dingy warehouses and railyard was once the site where 9,000 Confederate conscripts trained to become soldiers?

Camp Holmes – Raleigh’s Civil War “Camp of Instruction”

Camp Holmes (including “officers quaters”)


A friend shared a historical map this morning that caught my eye. It is a map of the old breastworks built by the city of Raleigh to impede approaching Union troops near the end of the Civil War. I’d seen the historical marker (H-30) a mile away from my home, mentioning that breastworks were nearby but I’d never seen them and didn’t think much about them until now. So, one of my upcoming projects is to trace the path of the old earthen walls so that I can visit these sites to see if there’s anything left (update: found them!). After 153 years, it’s unlikely I’ll find any remnants of the five-foot-tall earthen walls and gravel but you never know.

Another detail of the map caught my eye, however: Camp Holmes. Curious about what this is, I did a few Google searches and was surprised to learn that nobody really knows where it was. It’s plainly on this old map, however, so a bit of Google Earth magic should show me roughly where I can physically search for it (update: found it!)

My Camp Holmes searches brought up a few lonely hits, one of which is a letter detailing an inspection made of Camp Holmes by Confederate assistant adjutant-general LtC Archer Anderson in June 1864. It provides an interesting look at the camp. There are others online, too, in the form of handwritten letters which will take some deciphering before being posted online.

As the letter appeared in a US Congressional publication in 1900 it is now in the public domain. Here it is in its entirety. I’ll post more stories as I learn more about the camp.

June 16, 1864.

Report of inspection of Camp Holmes, a camp of instruction near Raleigh, commanded by Major Hahr, with the following: staff: One first lieutenant, adjutant; one first lieutenant, receiving officer; one assistant quartermaster; one assistant commissary of subsistence; one surgeon and one assistant surgeon; one chaplain; one first lieutenant, commanding guard; four second lieutenants, drill-masters.
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An Oral History of “We Built This City,” the Worst Song of All Time | GQ

I found this amusing. The members of Starship discuss “We Built This City,” arguably the worst song of all time.

Thomas: Bernie didn’t say “mambo,” he said “mamba,” which is a snake. Marconi created the radio. Maybe Bernie meant to say “mambo.” Maybe it means: If you don’t like this music, some really angry snakes are gonna come out of the speakers.

Thomas: At one point I did start to sing “mambo,” to try and be more grammatically correct, and after a while I thought, “Fuck it,” and went back to “mamba.”

Source: An Oral History of “We Built This City,” the Worst Song of All Time | GQ

Alan Frederick Swanstrom Obituary – Cary, NC


I learned last night that my friend Al Swanstrom died last week. I originally knew Al through my working with his wife, Pam, back at HAHT Software over twenty years ago. Al was so sharp, friendly, and funny. It was always fun trading quips with him. When he campaigned for a state senate seat a few years ago I did not think twice about standing for hours outside a polling place in “unfriendly territory” to help support him. It was sad to learn he was ill.

My thoughts are with Pam and her family in this difficult time.

Having been born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Al was an avid Packers fan. He was also very proud of his father’s Swedish heritage and recently connected with his Swedish relatives.

Al was an IBMer for over 30 years and traveled worldwide in various roles. During his career, Al was granted several patents. After retirement, Al dedicated his time to public service, including serving on the Town of Cary Planning Board, Wake County Planning Board (Chair), and North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Throughout, Al was a tireless volunteer for Triangle Wine Experience and Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.

Al was the architect of his life and many things of beauty. He was happiest sailing and diving with his family, woodworking, working on his cars, designing a new technical solution and spending time with the “Coffee Gang.”

He was an officer of the Triangle Bailliage de North Carolina of the Chaîne de Rotisseurs and a past Maître of the Triangle NC Chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux. Al shared his knowledge of wine and passion for culinary arts with friends in both organizations. He was a great host and welcomed friends into his home.

Source: Alan Frederick Swanstrom Obituary – Cary, NC

Red Hat stock pays off again

Back in 1999, I was working at a local, famous IBM/Linux VAR called Indelible Blue as a Linux Specialist. One day I was investigating a customer issue with a CDROM drive and filed a bug in Red Hat’s Bugzilla bug tracking system. Months went by and I didn’t think much of it until later that summer when I received an email from Red Hat telling me I had been awarded a few hundred shares of pre-IPO stock!

I was amazed at Red Hat’s generosity of giving out pre-IPO stock to anyone in their bug tracking system. I sold the majority of the stock before the Dot Bomb era of 2000 but kept some shares around largely for sentimental purposes. With last month’s announcement of IBM buying Red Hat, I decided it was time to cash in the rest of my shares. Thanks to IBM’s purchase of Red Hat, my shares have brought me a welcome chunk of change.

It’s funny to think that my decision to file one bug over 19 years ago is still paying off today, and in a big way!

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!