Eagle Field Fly In 2011 - 3

I have been interested in living history ever since I got involved in Civil War Re-enacting in the late ’90s when we lived in Iowa. Back then I did the tactical stuff, marching around the field shooting a springfield rifle (sans bullet) in set formation of the Napoleonic style. I quickly discovered that I was really a lot more interested in the sociology than the history. I was more fascinated with understanding how and why Johnny did than what Johnny did.

Eagle Field Fly In 2011 - 1

This past Memorial Day several World War II re-enactors came to the Memorial Day event in Santa Cruz. I thought it was cool so I introduced myself and talked to them for a moment. I met DJ Tom LG and his lovely partner in crime, Rosey Lakos with a small entourage in tow. Their uniforms were excellent and they were, in the parlance of the day, charming.

DJ Tom LG “delicious assortment of original viper jazz, hokum, big-band, Latin swing, Western swing, old-time, rhythm & blues and vocal oddities from the 1920s through the 1940s on LPs, 45s & 78s.” He does regular gigs through out the Santa Cruz area. The day I met them, Tom invited me to his Monday gig where they would be celebrating Memorial Day with some serious swing dancing and wartime era music. I had to go check this out. I really love the music and style of the war years.

Eagle Field Fly In 2011 - 2

All of this long story leads to how I ended up out on Los Banos at Eagle Field watch Mitchell B-25s fly in. Tom and his re-enactor friends had WWII field hospital, office and photographers office set up. It was a rather small group but it was fun. The Eagle Field event is really a reunion of the WWII pilots who trained there. Apparently there used to be a large number of aircraft that would come in. On the day I was there, there were 2 B-25s that looked like they were just off the assembly line and several trainer aircraft. We chosen to leave before the festivities really got started. This particular event was more of a local social event and less about the living history.

There is a Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive event in Kelly Park in San Jose the beginning of August. I am looking forward to going to check that event out. According to Tom, the focus there is more on the living history aspect.

I have not written anything on my blog for quite a while. About a year. Seems the way with a lot of blogs. I’ve actually been doing a lot of work on the blog recently. I moved the blog back to Movable Type. WordPress was not what I wanted. I put a new graphic design in place. I designed my own Flickr image display. The blog has been my practice arena to remember and improve my html, css and javascript skills. So now, I’d really like to start writing again.

It is interesting, what many people want their blogs to be. Like so many things in life, we start out with very grand intentions when we set up our blogs. I think everyone goes through the phase where they think they will earn some money from their blog. That is the dream that Google AdSense was selling. That was an interesting evolution. Google AdSense will not be a significant revenue stream for the vast majority of bloggers. Guy Kawasaki could not even make it work.

The most interesting blogs are the ones that actually have something to say. Usually a theme or a topic that they are focused on. My own blog hit its high water mark during my first tour in Iraq (Kuwait, actually). I do not really know how many readers I had but there were quite a few. In the hundreds. People read my blog because I was talking about an experience that they were interested in. I was a deployed sailor talking about life on deployment and the war in general. That is what people tuned in to read about.

So, how do you keep a readership? Joey de Villa is still blogging after good lord knows how long. Technically speaking, Post Secret is a blog. As is Engadget and several other tech blogs.
So, obvious very focused and entertaining blogs draw readers. But what do personal blogs need in order to be interesting? That will be part of the effort here.

The other goal here is to have a place to practice html, css and javascript. The goal is to have this be a showcase of my web development skills. We’ll see.

We attended a very nice Memorial Day event in Santa Cruz, which is a bit surprising.

Freedom is not free. The price is non-negotiable. Each generation pays for the freedom of the next generation in blood. Memorial Day is a day to celebrate that purchase while honoring those who paid for it.

US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Pernaselli 27, of Monroe, N.Y
KIA 24 April 2004, Northern Arabian Gulf, Operation Iraqi Freedom

US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher E. Watts 28, of Knoxville, Tenn
KIA 24 April 2004, Northern Arabian Gulf, Operation Iraqi Freedom

US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal 24, of Smithtown, N.Y.

KIA 24 April 2004, Northern Arabian Gulf, Operation Iraqi Freedom

I remember these three men because I have a connection to them, albeit a slightly removed one. These men were killed by a suicide bomber who was attempting to attack the Khor Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT). These men were about to board the dhow when the suicide bomber detonated his weapon killing these three men and wounding many more.

As a result of these actions, I ended up serving on KAAOT in support of security operations to prevent further attacks.

Petty Officer Bruckenthal was the first Coast Guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam war. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery. When I finally make it to Arlington, his is the first grave I would like to visit.

I will never forget.

The Holiday season is here and I home to participate. I’m pretty excited about that. I get to play Christmas music until after New Years. I love Christmas music. Soon we’ll watch What A Wonderful Life. Then we’ll watch White Christmas. Those are the traditions at my house.
I am Thankful. I am thankful that I am home this year. I am thankful that my wife’s battle with cancer has gone so well. I am thankful for my wife of 21 years. I am thankful for two of the most awesome kids ever. I am thankful that I have a job Sven if I don’t always like that job. I have lot to be thankful for.
The holiday season is here.

I have used Movable Type installed on my own webhost for 5 years or so. After several false starts on WordPress I decided to make the switch. Maybe.
For several years I really liked Movable Type. I could manage the design of my web site using html and css. Movable Type took my html and css as templates to produce the final product with all of my blog entries incorporated automagically. Movable Type even permitted text files to be linked so that one could avoid the Movable Type editor altogether. The system was relatively clean and straight forward to use.
Then came Movable Type 4.2. Six Apart made some fairly radical changes to the template structure which broke existing templates during upgrade. The new template structure fragments the html into blocks – header, body, footer, sidebar, etc. It might be possible to work with the new structure in order to implement the old. I have not yet taken the time to sort it all out. 4.2 came just as I was about to head out on a military deployment to Iraq. I didn’t have time to figure it all out then. By the time I returned, I’d lost interest.
I’ve been watching WordPress for several years. Twice I made attempts to move my blog to WordPress and then changed my mind. After I returned from deployment, I started looking into what I wanted to do about my blog. For several years I’ve been watching all kinds of cool widgets and themes coming out for WordPress. The bit the really got my attention was the iPhone WordPress client. I figured Six Apart would surely make one as well. Not so far. That finally motivated me to move my blog over to WordPress and see what it is really like.
Movable Type is definitely an industrial strength weblog content manager. From a single install of MT it is relatively painless and instantaneous to set up multiple blogs with multiple users of varying access privileges. That part did indeed work very well. Up until 4.2, managing the look and feel of the various web sites on which the multiple blogs existed was also fairly simple. There was one html template for each view (main index, archive index, comment input, etc.) associated with the blog. Movable Type included some advanced features that made it really simple to reuse common elements across multiple templates. The style of the entire weblog could be managed from a single style sheet. Multiple style sheets could also be used from within the constructs of CSS. 4.2 made some radical changes to the template structure which complicated the construction and management of the html significantly, at least in my opinion. I’m sure that the folks at Six Apart are convinced that the new architecture is a vast improvement.
What then of WordPress. Facebook integration is available through a widget. Digg integration into one’s blog is available via a widget. Mobile device specific layouts that are triggered automatically are available through a widget. Flickr integration in a manner more meaningful and elegant than the gawd awful Flickr badges is available in the form of a widget. Having watched with envy as my buddies running WordPress blogs kept getting all the cool gadgets and toys I decided it was time to get it a try.
Wordpress sets up more quickly and easily than Movable Type. The SQL setup is pretty much the same for both but installation of the WordPress software is easier. Customizing WordPress is both easier and significantly harder. Simpler because so many things can be customized simply by installing a widget. If the customization you want is available in a widget, adding that customization to your weblog can be done in minutes. Likewise if the customization you want is available as a theme. Most things that can be handled in modifying a style sheet are also fairly easy provided that you have a working knowledge of CSS.
Anything that does not fit into the categories mentioned above falls into the significantly harder class. Customizing the header of you blog, which is a fairly simple html and css task in Movable Type, is more complicated in WordPress. It requires mucking around with the WordPress php code. When I’m wearing my web designer hat, I’d really prefer to only have to work with html and css. JavaScript, php, perl and all the other languages of the web are great but it should not be necessary to fiddle with php in order to insert or change a graphic in the page layout. That’s crazy. But that is what is required to peak, tweak and/or modify in any significant and meaningful way the page layout of a WordPress weblog.
I know that there are a lot of business and corporate blogs that run on WordPress. However, in my mind, WordPress is excellent weblog software for non-technical to moderately technical non-professionals who want to run their own blog. I honestly believe that most of these people would be a lot happier on Squarespace or similar. But, if you really want to install and maintain your own blog software, WordPress is a decent choice.
For web world professionals who maintain blog sites for clients I think there are better solutions available. Movable Type is an industrial strength blog engine. Once you get your head around the template architecture that they use the page layout that Movable Type can support is limited more by the skill of the designer than Movable Type.
I’m not yet ready to go back to Movable Type. I like some of the things I’ve been able to do with WordPress but I do not like the hurdles involved in customizing a WordPress layout. So, I’m exploring other weblog management systems looking for something lightweight, easily incorporated into an html CSS web site. MODx maybe. Any suggestions?

After some years of running on Movable Type, I’m switching things over to WordPress. WordPress is far more widely used and supported. There are more plug-ins, more templates, and just more support in general for WordPress than Six Aparts’ Movable Type. So, Six Apart, it’s been good knowing you.

So the final conclusion would seem to be that whereas other civilizations had been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions and providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania; himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down. And having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer, until at last, having educated himself into imbecility and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and became extinct.

Malcom Muggeridge, Hoover Institute at Stanford, 1979

I first heard this quote in a podcast by Ravi Zacharias. I like it because I believe it to be an incredibly accurate and concise summary of modern society or at least Western society.

Y’all do remember that the title of my blog is Smittie’s Ramblings? Today, the emphasis seems to be on rambling or at the very least, randomness.

I am still trying to get back to FOB Hunter. Remembering a photo I saw from back near the beginning of the war, I have resorted to sitting out on Route 6 with a cardboard sign that says FOB Hunter or AWOL. We’ll see how successful I am. It’s got to be at least as effective as the other methods I’ve been trying over the past two weeks.

SSG LaRocque apparently got lonely down there at FOB Hunter without me. He showed up at my CHU door on Thursday night. Haven’t seen him since save to borrow a pair of pants. He’s off to this meeting or that. A very important and in demand person here.

So, the wait continues. I really would like to get back down to FOB Hunter for the last few months of this deployment.

Apparently, I now work for the Sabers.

1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry has returned home to Fort Hood, Texas. I worked with them for seven months. The 1-9 CAV built FOB Hunter. When they arrived on the abandon airfield of Qal At Salih there was nothing there but a few runways, some taxiways, several hangers that they called Haus for reasons I have not yet figured out. It was summer when the 1-9 CAV arrived. There were no air conditioners. For the first month or so there wasn’t even any ice.

FOB Hunter is pretty comfortable now. The 1-9 CAV and supporting units built it up pretty nicely. For all that, I won’t mind the day when FOB Hunter is in my rear view for the last time.

6/12/04 17:49

I am still at COB Adder. With luck I’ll be back at FOB Hunter tomorrow for the final push to finish this tour. It’s been a good break. I am looking forward to getting back to my team. Reading their reports for the past week it looks like things are nicely busy down there. Looks like they’re getting out to do some real CA work. That will be good. Quite possibly we will be given the chance to go out with some significant accomplishments.

A445 Iraq 08-09 -  - 441

Despite all my reservations about the Army — I still bleed Navy Blue and Gold — with any luck at all, I will be re-enlisting in the Army on FOB Hunter. I expect that it will be a good event. I had the chance to re-enlist in the Navy out on KAAOT on my last tour over here. I ended up extending my enlistment in the Navy after I returned from that deployment. The extension was a non-event. A purely administrative event the belied the significance of what I was doing. Based on that experience, I decided that I would re-enist on this deployment. Military service is an important part of my life. I have a lot of complaints about the Army. I regret not having managed my Navy career better so that I could have retired from the Navy. That was my fault. The Army is giving me the chance to continue a life that I enjoy. I enjoyed the Navy more but, at the end of the day, I would rather be serving in the Army than to end my military service. I owe a heart felt thanks to my chain of command, First Sergeant Luedtke and Lieutenant Colonel Clark for their patience and affording me this opportunity.

Al Sharif Alarrdy 2009-04-23~60

I look forward to continuing The Face of Iraq project, catching up on all the work Team RONIN has done while I’ve been goofing off for three weeks. I want to thank the team and especially my team sergeant, Staff Sergeant LaRocque for the opportunity to get a break. Now it is time to go back to work. Despite what a lot of the main stream media seems to be saying, Iraq is on its way to standing on its own two feet. I believe that Team RONIN and the rest of Alpha Company, 445 Civil Affairs Battalion has made a contribution to the province of Maysan in getting to the place where they can govern themselves. I believe that Iraq will succeed. I don’t know that it will be the success the United States would like to see but it will be their success. It will be a success defined by their culture, background and environment. That is as it should be.

Thanks for the break. Time to quit goofing off and get back out there.