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March 6, 2014

So who am I anyway?

Assuming that people other than my family might be reading these fragments, I should probably give a brief overview of my chaotic life. This will give many a chance to opt-out of reading any future meanderings and maunderings.

I was a technical writer for most of my life, but I have worked in more discrete occupations than most other people (albeit less out of desire than out of the need to keep my family fed). Many of these jobs will be subjects of posts so I won't detail them now. I write poetry (I am an occasional contributor to The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form), collect books, study colonial American history, write essays about nature, and much more. I used to be a consistent contributor to Salon Magazine's Table Talk.

I am still a fat man, although I have been a strict vegetarian for more than three years. I have had a beard of some type since I was 18 years old, and currently wear it both grey and bushy. I wear a fedora and carry a cane.

I wear bifocals. I prefer work pants or bluejeans to flannels, but usually wear Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and sandals for most of the summer months. I prefer long-sleeved shirts in colder weather but invariably roll up the sleeves.

I try to have a notebook and pen with me at all times but, because I am easily distracted, I currently have about 30 notebooks awaiting transcription into one ... oh look! a squirrel!

I am married and have four children and three grandchildren. I am wonderfully proud of every single one of them.

I drink red wine and occasionally whiskey. I used to smoke a pipe and still have a large collection tucked away in my closet. I haven't smoked tobacco in nearly five years. I go to the gym several times a week.

I am currently trying to finish writing three books.

There is a picture of Tom Baker as Dr. Who hanging over my desk.

Navy Coffee

On the carrier, the media needs of the crew were handled by the ship's PAO (Public Affairs Office). As I mentioned before, we published and broadcast in several different forms.

Some of the operations were automated. There was an easy listening radio station that played huge reels of tape that we changed every few days. A news rebroadcast station played AFRTS broadcasts or the BBC World Service. The third station used live DJs and news readers. We had volunteers to fill some of those slots and me and my crew handled the gaps in the schedule. Other than the volunteers, there were only five or so of us to staff the media complex.

I, for example, had a late night jazz show, a classic rock show, and assembled and read radio newscasts. My subordinates were all excellent guys, each with his own talent set who had similar duties and schedules.

We also ran two television stations, one for entertainment and one for training. We swapped-off as director, engineer, camera man, and newscaster to produce a nightly news show. We collaborated to write the scripts and try to find some kind of graphics to use. We all loved to direct since it meant we got to sit at the video mixer which looked like the Death Star controls in Star Wars (because that's what they used to make it seem like future tech).

You have to remember that this was before the ubiquity of the internet made everything easy to grab. We seldom, if ever, had any video of world or national events, so we maintained files of potentially useful photos and graphics, royalty free clip art, and Navy source materials to try to flesh out the newscast and incidentally to act as art for the ship's daily newspaper.

Before and after the nightly TV news, two men handled the running of the television programs and movies that were broadcast throughout the ship. The others helped edit, write, rewrite, layout, and paste-up the eight page daily newspaper. When that was done we interviewed, wrote, and edited Public Relation Release news and feature stories about members of the ship's crew and sent them to their hometown newspapers. Wrote articles and laid-out the monthly support magazine that was mailed to the sailors' families.

We also scheduled the training television channel, developed scripts, graphics, and talent for demonstrations and instruction. We set up the lighting, audio, and props, then rehearsed, produced, directed and videotaped the shows.

Did I mention that we also ran publicity tours, arranged and staffed special events, and dealt with visiting VIPs when we were in port.

So we had five men in the department and a handful of volunteers to help out with some of the radio and television duties. Our days were long and hectic. it wasn't unusual to see some of us pounding the typewriters in during a TV show or movie. Drills, formations, maintenance, and cleaning would have been like vacations if they hadn't invariably put us behind schedule.

I, as leading petty officer, also had administrative duties. Working up evaluations and keeping personnel records, recommending promotions, ordering supplies, training, working with other departments etc., etc. In my copious free time I was also the Jewish lay-leader for the ship, conducting sabbath services.

The schedule was ridiculous. We'd work twenty hour days for four days straight and then take a half day off to sleep and recuperate.

We were fueled primarily by coffee. There was a 50-cup percolator in the office I shared with the Lieutenant who acted as Public Affairs Officer. It was refilled three or four times a day so you might be able to imagine the volume consumed and our slight obsession about finding the fastest routes to available heads (toilets). This wasn't normal coffee either, our preference (when we could get it) was for the 5 pound olive green cans of "watchstander" coffee which boasted about 50% more caffeine than normal brews.

I'll post a story here some other time about how I poisoned my father by mistake with watchstander.

I became so accustomed to working with the constant buzz, that it took me a decade or so after I left the Navy to bring my consumption down to just 10 cups a day.

Winter doldrums

It has been a long and somewhat grim winter for me. I haven't written much for public consumption. Spring seems just around the corner and the creative juices are starting to rise like maple sap.