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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Who the hell am I anyway?

Greetings Earthlings, my name is Jim Wright and I come in peace, mostly.

I have thought about starting my own blog for many years, however, until recently I was an active duty US Navy Officer, and as such I didn't feel free to speak about things that interest me, things such as politics, the government, and the current batch of jackasses that have hijacked our society. Now that I am retired, I feel no such constraints, and so we begin.

A bit about me, who I am, and why I am the person that I am: I grew up in Michigan's lower peninsula, in the rural country around Grand Rapids. This was in the 60's and 70's. To be perfectly blunt about things, I was a geek with the usual geek interests. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), being a geek wasn't a popular lifestyle choice, but I had a pretty strong sense of self even back then and was never particularly concerned with what other people thought of me. Still, I had a pretty happy childhood and have little regrets. After high school, I did a couple years at the local Junior College, had a couple of minimum wage jobs, and eventually figured out that the Standard Midwestern Life(tm) probably wasn't for me. In those days, and to a large extent even now, if you lived in Southern Michigan you either worked in the auto industry, the furniture industry, or raised cows - none of which appealed to me. I grew up reading Science Fiction (especially the works of Robert Anson Heinlein) and listening to my dad's sea stories from his time in the Navy, and more than anything that's what I wanted: adventure, the kind of adventure that Heinlein talked about. So, in 1984 I screwed up my courage and enlisted in the US Navy as a Seaman Apprentice. I figured to do a standard hitch, five years, learn a skill, see the world, meet exotic women in foreign ports, you know, the usual - then get out and find a real job. It didn't exactly work out that way. In the 80's the Navy's recruiting slogan was "It's not just a job, it's an adventure." Well, they weren't kidding, it was an adventure in every sense of the word. Those were the days of Ronald Reagan, we were building up a 600 hundred ship navy, the Soviets were the "Evil Empire," and Ketchup was a vegetable. Say what you want about Reagan; whatever he was, he was dammed good to the military. In future posts I'll probably tell you about some of my adventures, and there were many, but today I'll simply say that it was everything I'd hoped for - and then some. I saw the world and met some incredible people, people that I admire and respect to this very day, and realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Eventually I made Chief Petty Officer, and later was commissioned to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer. CWO's are a strange breed of cat, they are unlike other Naval Officers - they swill black coffee by the gallon, are perpetually grumpy gruff SOB's, and are emphatically not gentlemen, and they never get invited to functions where polite people gather. If you're not familiar with the Navy, think of CWO's as the Navy's trouble shooters - they are expected to be the absolute, unquestioned experts in their particular specialty, and experts at everything else too. Their authority comes from their experience and ability to GET THINGS DONE. They are expected to break the rules (within certain limits), they are expected to improvise on the fly, and more than anything they are expected to accomplish the mission - no matter what. They lead by example and command enormous respect. They get the dirty jobs, the ones that nobody else can do - or would want to do. And being a Navy Warrant was the perfect job for me, in fact, there were days that I would have paid them for the privilege of being "The Warrant." When I was enlisted I was a cryptologist, a fancy word for code breaker, but later I moved into the emerging field of Information Warfare, eventually becoming one of the Navy's foremost experts in tactical application of the field (kind of like being the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind). Most of my career is classified and don't expect me to talk about it here. I served all over the world, both afloat and ashore, and deployed to a number of combat zones including Iraq. I worked for, with, and led some of the finest people in the world and I have enormous respect for my brothers and sisters in arms, they are amazing people doing largely thankless jobs for little return, far from home often in the dark and wretched corners of the world. And they do it not for glory, or money, or patriotism, or for a college education, and they certainly don't do it for "freedom and democracy" - though all of those things are important. No, they do it because that's who they are, because they have conscientiously chosen to place their precious selves between their fellow citizens and war's desolation. They do it for honor and because they feel it is their duty. They do it because they are professionals. There can be no higher calling.

No matter how much you love something, eventually the time comes when you can no longer do it. For the last sixteen years my wife has placed her own life on hold to follow me wherever and whenever the Navy willed. She did this without complaint (mostly!), and I can't thank her enough for her unwavering support over the years and all those long long times she waited for me to come home from some distant shore. But, eventually you get tired of picking up and moving every couple years, you get tired of sinking roots in a place and then having to pull up and leave it behind, you get tired of the disruption to you life. You just plain get tired of living out of boxes. It can be especially hard on a child, new school, new friends, new place every couple of years. And so, after 23 years I decided to pack it in. I retired without fanfare on 1 Aug, 2007 to the wilds of Alaska where I intend to live a quiet life of fishing, hunting, woodworking, and writing. So far, its working out pretty dammed swell. We live outside Palmer, Alaska, a tiny town 50 miles down the Glenn Highway from Anchorage, the last bastion of broadband internet before you hit the the Alaskan bush country. I have a very large wood shop, bigger than most people's houses, stocked with whatever equipment I can scrounge from Craigslist. I work in Alaskan native hardwoods, turning bowls on the lathe and making fine handmade furniture. I fish for salmon and trout and spend time with my wife and son. I cook. My wife has began a new career, finally getting to use her MBA, working for a terrific company in Anchorage and with good people.

I still do a little consulting for the military and eventually I intend to become a writer full time. This blog is a first step in that direction. I intend to update every day, or whenever I feel like it, writing about whatever I'm interested in at the time. Expect subjects to include: Things That Make Me Go Hmmm (all things California, etc), Things That Piss Me Off (religion, politics, Intelligent Design, people who drive too slow in the fast lane, etc), Things That Irritate Me (that Head-on commercial, talk shows, cell phones, stupidity for the sake of stupidity, etc), Things that I Like (tools, movies, breasts (kidding, I'm kidding - maybe), writing, humor, cooking, gadgets, etc), and Things I Intend To Accomplish Before I Die (become Emperor of the Universe, etc). I hope you enjoy it.

5 comments:

  1. ooo, first comment.

    Jim, it's not the first time I've said this, but I'll say it again. Thank you for your service, Chief.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your writing.

    As an aside, I also was enlisted in 84, in college and in the AF Reserve. I was doing it for the college money (as a poor kid), but I also have that, "for honor and because they feel it is their duty," thing. I've asked my doctors to remove that damn duty bone, but they haven't been able to find it, yet. It still gets me in trouble.

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  2. Hey, Steve Buchheit! Welcome aboard, always nice to hear from the good folks in Orwell. You've been at this blogging thing much longer than I, I look forward to your comments and advice. Mind if I post a link back to Storybones?

    Yeah, duty, it's gotten me into trouble more than once. Then again, like you it paid for my education and took me all over the world. There could be worse things!

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  3. Jim, no worries about the link. I'll also put one on mine to yours. Heck, I might even highlight it as a post.

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  4. I liked you before (I joined the station relatively recently) but knowing you were a Heinlein fan nails it.

    Thank you for all that you've done in the Service and thank you for all that you're writing: you are always interesting to read.

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  5. Dear Jim,
    Thank you for being who you are, and for all that you have done for us, the citizens of the country we love & call home. I've been reading for a while, but hadn't read this until now. Your being a Heinlein fan explains a lot - the direct, unadorned style, sans Hemingway-esque posing. I wish you the best of luck with everything, the writing, the woodworking, and life. Your many and varied insights on and opinions of the current state of affairs are much appreciated in my little corner of Tejas.
    Sincerely,
    Amy K. Eoff

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