Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tech Frustrations Ben Will Never Have

10 Terrible Tech Frustrations My Toddler Will Never Have.

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What the Heck????

15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Star Trek | Geeks are Sexy Technology News.

Ummm… when did Red Shirts become “Command” Crew members? Red was always “Engineering” and security. While some Red shirts were command qualified (Scotty, Commodore Stocker), it was never the path to command a Starship… I so hate it when geek sites get Star Trek stuff wrong…

I Can’t See You, Daddy…

Ben has suddenly, and by that I mean in the last week, become afraid of the dark.

Super Why would Scare Me too...

Super Why would Scare Me too…

In a way I blame “Super Why?” since they’ve done at least two different episodes recently that deal with having the problem of being afraid of the dark at night. I guess if a masked gigantic eyed green bug looking critter flew into my room in the night, I’d be a little scared too.

I have never really been all that afraid of the dark, mostly because for pretty much my whole life I have been blind as a bat. Okay, not quite blind, but 20/600 means that sans spectacles I pretty much see the world as variously colored blobs, which at night means that I see about 50 Shades of Grey blobs (pah-dump-pish).

In fact, when I was trying to qualify on the M-16, the targets were some 200 yards away, which is outside of my visual detection range. So instead of really trying to actually hit my target, per se, I was just “having fun” unloading 7.62 rounds as fast as I could in the general direction of downrange. Staff Sergeant Carr walked up behind me (I was prone) and literally kicked me in the ass, screaming, “What the (really bad word deleted) are you shooting at, Bowman?”

What really freaked him out was the next day when I aced the night (really dark) .45 Pistol combat course. I couldn’t see the M-16 Targets, but the dark didn’t bother me at all. If the had put me on the range at night, I would have aced the M-16 course too.

So it was a little weird to me when Ben, who has never been afraid of the dark before, suddenly became terrified when the lights went out for bedtime. He would cry and fight, he really got upset by it. You never really know how powerful your love for a child is until they look at you with tears in their eyes and a trembling voice says, “Daddy, please turn the light on…”

Last night was no different, although Ben had been a little sick most of the day and so was extra grumpy. He was asleep when I turned out the lights at midnight and turned in myself. At 2:30am he was awake and crying, “Daddy, I am scared of the dark. Please turn the light on.”

I held him for a moment and assured him that I was there.

“Daddy,” he said, “I can’t see you.”

Ben is still too young to take it on faith that I am there for him. And I am too old to not want him to be assured that I am.

The light stayed on all night.

Cami & Ben

Cami & Ben

What a Qual Board is Like

For the record, much more fun to BE the Board than to be the examine…

Ants Are Fascinating…

Ben being fascinated by the Ants

Ben being fascinated by the Ants

I suppose that I could take the time to wax poetically about the picture, but the simple way is to just say that Ben is fascinated by ants. I am not certain as to why, although in my younger days I certainly spent a good deal of time just looking at ants and imagining that I was one of them. I never had one of those “Ant Farm” thingees, but now I wonder if I missed out on something?

When I went to look them up online I found that are fairly cheap, but then again, it’s basically a box, for ants. Like I said, I never had one as a kid, and I think that if any Parent, Grandparent, Aunt/Uncle/Cousin or sibling had ever given me one as a gift I would probably have tried to pretend that it was no big deal. But I also know that I would have been… well… fascinated by them.

April 10, 1963 – Loss of USS Thresher

 In the late summer of 1984, I was finishing up my Submarine Qualifications aboard USS Michigan SSBN-727(G)[1]. My belief was that my final Qual Board[2], to be held in early November, would be focused especially on damage control. I had already shown myself to be a pretty good systems guy, and my watch standing as Missile Compartment Roving Patrol and Strategic Weapons Technician had shown that I was very adept at both understanding a given situation and anticipating the sequence of any evolution for a casualty situation.

The “red sig” from Lt. DJ Fairfax

So I had come to believe that my Board would focus outside of the Missile Compartment and the Missile Control Center, probably more on Engine Room and Air systems, which for some reason, I had passed but had received a “red” signature[3] on the Block Check out from my own Division Officer, Lt. David Fairfax. I was pretty determined to smoke my board, so I buckled down and hit the books determined to know more about the subjects than anybody else.[4]

During the process, I pulled out the big green Ships Systems books. Most folks avoid these because while they are the “official” NAVSEA books, they also can be a bit overwhelming information-wise and they tend to not be as interesting as actually tracing out a system yourself or talking to an expert. But the Damage Control book was enthralling because I learned, in August of 1984, that the US Navy had intentionally and purposely dropped a whole bunch of depth charges on USS Thresher in the summer of 1962.

The manuals noted that the Navy had been both surprised and disappointed by the results of the test, which showed that Thresher had been “significantly damaged” by the pounding.[5] The Thresher completed the tests and proceeded to the yard where the repairs and previously delayed overhaul took place.

Keep in mind that in 1962 the Thresher was THE cutting edge technology in underwater warfare. There had NEVER been a submarine like her before and in truth, the Navy had no real idea of her overall abilities or capabilities. Much of her short life was dedicated to learning how to use new weapons systems with the new design of the subs. No one knew for certain how things worked. They knew how they were designed to work, but as my own experience aboard Michigan would teach me, that is NOT the same thing.

After the loss of Thresher, Admiral Rickover would be the only high ranking Navy official to speak truth to power and say as much. He innately understood that reactor start up procedures took too long and it was clear to all that Thresher had lost power and had a reactor SCRAM. He alone told the Board of Inquiry and Congress that “When fact, supposition and speculation, which have been used interchangeably, are properly separated, you will find that the known facts are so meager it is almost impossible to tell what was happening aboard Thresher.”

It was a sobering thing for a twenty year old aspiring submariner to read.

And it drove home to me, more than anything I had previously learned or believed, that going to sea in ships – especially ships that are designed to go underwater, is inherently dangerous.

I remember sitting in the crews library and imagining myself asking the men who went down on Thresher if it was worth it? Did they believe in what they were doing? Was it so important that the risks are worth the danger?

In my mind, they said, “Yes.”

The Navy literally revamped the entire submarine construction and maintenance process and procedures following the loss of Thresher. Today the Navy employs a program known as “SUBSAFE,” which verifies that every part, every weld, every document aboard a boat is 100% in compliance with every safety precaution that could possibly be imagined.

And it’s still dangerous.

We have not lost a boat since 1968. But – and it gives me chills to write this – we will. It is as inevitable as the tides. Someday, when we least expect it, when we have become complacent or sloppy or even just confident in our abilities and skills, we will.

And the lessons of Thresher, now fifty years old, will be dusted off and revisited, along with new lessons learned. Men will be remembered and an entire new generation of young boys will go to sea and ask their ghosts, “Is it worth it?”

Yes, it is.


[1] As she was then. Today she is still in service as SSGN-727.
[2] Submarine Qualification Board – a Three Qualified Member Panel (including at least one officer) which personally and intensively examines every submariner at the completion of the Qual process and then recommends to the Commanding Officer that a sailor be designated “Qualified in Submarines.” Trust me, this board is a serious exam and one which few people pass without at least several “look ups” and trips back to the board members over the course of several days. It is also one of the most rewarding moments in life when all three members sign off of the qualification card.
[3] Indicating that he had some belief that I while I passed his checkout, he did not feel that I was 100% “up to and touching” on the material.
[4] Which, by the by, paid off handsomely at my board. I had one “lookup” which had nothing to do with Damage Control or Air Systems, only a minor “ulee” question about the forward drain pump and maximum rpm.
[5] Normal Polmar will later note in his book, “The Death of the USS Thresher” that the Navy had subjected Thresher to “a greater intentional pounding than any submarine in the history of the US Navy.”

Cami at Moss Beach

Jack Dodger Bowman

Back in December of 2006 some person who had no heart left a box along side a country road near Modesto with some puppies in it. A few weeks later, the dogs, rescued by the SPCA were playing and running about as I sat in a chair at the SPCA office and watched them, tying to figure out which one would be good for me.

One of them, the only one that clearly was not of the same litter, a little Jack Russell Schnauzer mixed mutt seemed to be avoided by the exuberant puppies in the main group, and he made his way over to the chair, put his paws on my leg and looked up at me with a smile. I still watched for another few minutes, but already the choice was made.

For the record, I named him Jack not because of his breed, but because I am a Sailor.

For seven years, Jack has been the constant in my life. Though changes and moves and bad times and good, Jack has always been there.

When Ben came along, Jack took it upon himself to watch over him. One of my favorite pictures is Ben sleeping with Jack keeping an eye on him. Once they played in the crib together, although I am pretty sure that Ben enjoyed that far more than Jack.

Along the way, as you mostly know, Ben developed severe eczema, which has defied all efforts at treatment and cures. In desperation we sent Jack to stay with my folks in Tehachapi for two weeks to see if anything changed.

It did. Ben’s skin cleared up, he slept well and was getting better and better every day. Within a couple of days of Jack’s return, Ben is broken out all over in a rash, scratching like mad, bleeding and and in horrible pain again.

Jack Dodger Bowman – Official Portrait

Over the next few days I will have to find a new home for Jack. He is simply put, the best dog ever. He is 100% house trained, indoor dog who loves to play and run around. He is quiet, although he does like to sing if you encourage him. He gets along with most other dogs. He is, of course, fixed. He has some odd, un-doglike eating habits. He is not a quick eater, he likes to enjoy his food, one kibble at a time. He likes human food more than doggie food, and his favorite thing is cheese.

My parents have two dogs already, along with about a dozen cats, so on a permanent basis that’s not really an option. I haven’t really decided whether I want to find him a place where I never see him again or where I can see him on occasions. I want him to be happy and have a good home, and while I wish it could be with me, it really cannot be as it would probably cause Ben to be even more sick.

It makes me very saddened, but I also know that I have to find him a place to go away from Ben, who is probably the only person for whom I would ever even consider giving up Jack.

So if you have any ideas, or know a really good home looking for a great dog, drop me a line. I’ll give them all the best consideration and do what I think is best for Jack, and I hope for me.

Either way, it will be best for Ben.

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