Route 20, the Constitution Highway, passes in front of James Madison’s Montpelier estate. Arching trees cover both sides of the highway, so large that the outstretched branches reach across the road as if to shake hands. Depending upon
It can be
The cool green tunnel of leaves provided a welcome, if temporary, respite from the harsh July sunshine.
The sunlight filtered through the arched green canopy like nature’s cathedral with backlit green, deep gray shadows, and pools of golden sunshine laying across the macadam creating the illusion of a stained glass window.
The wind moaned through the trees as if the ghosts of the enslaved have been given tongues.
The thunderstorm ripped away the leaves, leaving the grasping skeletal branches heaving up to the heavens as if in supplication. Have mercy on us. Spare our limbs.
A vivid rug of cardamon, tobacco, butterscotch, and aubergine leaves carpeted the highway, deadening the sound of our wheels, like it had done since the time of coaches and wagons.
A hobby blog is essentially a blog that is set up and populated with content for the blogger’s personal enjoyment as a hobby, rather than to promote goods or services, or as a moneymaking endeavour to earn a meaningful income from the blog itself.
Hobby blogs can of course be monetised too, and many are – but the main purpose of a hobby blog is to provide a platform for the blog’s author to talk about whatever is of interest to them, the things that they find important, or news that they want to share.
Hobby Blogs (such as this one) have fallen out of fashion. Experts like Cristian Mihai decry them and strongly recommend that to be successful, a blogger needs to find a niche that she is both knowledgeable and passionate about. For me that could be libraries or the military/veterans or poetry or nature or personal observations, or…..
Most of you do write blogs based upon your interest or interests. Those blogs work for you. If you do not like what you are doing, why do it? They run the gamut
(The blogs listed here are blogs that I enjoy reading and do not reflect all of the excellent blogs out there, whether I read them or not I selected a few diverse blogs that are produced regularly or frequently, if any of you are wondering or care.)
Blogs that I read and might consider to be Hobby Blogs because of the diversity of topics that they cover include Seoul Sister by Judy Kim or Brothers Campfire by Benjamin Thiel. I consider Omnia Caelum Blogs: Poetry Art Music by Francisco Bravo Cabrera to be a hybrid blog because it covers a diversity of things within the fields of poetry, art, and music with a few personal essays occasionally in the mix. This opinion is mine and any blogger may or may not agree with it.
Four reasons why Hobby Blogs still have a place:
Fills the need of the blogger to write and share
Fills the need for readers who like reading about a diversity of topics and points of view
Crosses niches so you get exposed to things you were not aware of
Chances of serendipity–happy accidents, like browsing a bookshelf in a library.
Now I have a question for you–I’m trying to straddle a fence here. Should I start a second eQuips Poetry blog that would be limited to just poetry?
ThriftBooks, a very good place to buy inexpensive second hand books, has published a list and map of what books ThriftBooks’ customers read the most by state in 2020. Some like Alabama’s Where the Crawdads Sing or Alaska’s How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics may make sense. Virginia’s 1984 seemed like more of a surprise to me.
My writing wandered nowhere
disappearing into potholes.
Paths to success uneven
because of all the plot holes.
So I tried a different route
Uncertainty my only guide
Obstacles became plot lines,
My writing is much better now
With cause for jubilations.
From reading your introduction, Nick Danger was the manifestation of the Ranger being unable to relieve the Connie and the Midway riding to the rescue on its thousands of horsepower. It was cross fertilized by the hours you whiled away reading Raymond Chandler. Did you always intend to be a writer or was this a pre-Internet way to stay busy?
No, Ranger’s collision happened in the Straits of Malacca after we completed Indian Ocean Deployment #1. We had been relieved out there by- Coral Maru?- and returned to Japan after months gone. Ranger was headed to the IO to support Hostage Rescue operation “Eagle Claw” when she was struck by a merchant ship. Damage was significant.
With Ranger needing repair, she was directed to head for Yoko for repairs and we were directed to return to sea and assume Ranger’s role way out there after only a week or so ‘home” in Japan. There are many stories about the interpersonal relations of the Ranger crew and the Midway families while we were gone. Nick Danger was a project intended to relieve some of the anxiety and endless sameness of operating in a pleasant blue environment. We were in Perth Australia on IO #1 when word came about the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran. We sortied north out of Freemantle, Perth’s port city, assuming we would head north to take station in the North Arabian sea. Instead, we were directed to proceed to Mombasa, Kenya, for a scheduled port visit. It was very cool, with a little apprehension about what was happening next.
2. Which was more difficult, what you did with the squadron or keeping Danger’s adventures from flying too far afield?
They were literally the same thing. Afloat, we worked Squadron business as an integrated part of flight ops for Air Wing FIVE. The Air Intelligence officers assigned to the squadrons were seconded to the Carrier Intelligence Center- CVIC. We augmented the Ship’s company intelligence staff, performing the mission briefings and debriefing the aircrew on their return four hours after the brief. Also worked recognition issues, other training, handed out cameras and film, worked on relevant charts, answered questions and tried to keep them accurate. Merchant shipping was big on the sea lanes, and periodically SOVINDRON (Soviet Indian Ocean Squadron–not an official acronym, used by the CVIC) would deploy a submarine to keep us on our toes- nothing hostile, just interested. So it was all one kluge of unstoppable activity, of which Squadron mess treasurer (“Get more plaques made!”), legal officer blah blah went along with SERE school in California or Maine (Search, Evasion, Resistance and Escape), JEST (Jungle Evasion and Survival Training) in the Philippines to ensure we were all on the same sheet of music. SERE school was pretty interesting, beatings and waterboarding included, no extra charge. That was all part of working.
Liberty was very much like the bar scene in the original Star Wars film. It included Tokyo, Hong Kong, Subic Bay, Bangkok, Mombasa, Perth and Nairobi, among others. At the world-famous Grace Hotel Coffee Shop in Bangkok, they served the employees of the clubs on Pat Pong Road after the bars closed down. At the bar there, one of the other fighter guys shouted out: “Where am I going to find an Laotian lady at this hour?” He succeeded.
3. It seems like you published a chapter of Nick Danger every day? Was this the schedule and how did you find the time to be a naval officer and a writer?
I tried to publish something every day that the Midway Multiplex would print. The trick was to try to do something we all knew about in a unique environment. The PacMan game machine in the Dirty Shirt Wardroom was worth several issues and plot changes. It was written in the same way we did operational things. In between flight operations or in a spare half hour between one thing and another (the only other things were eating, sleeping or working out), I would jam some paper in an IBM SelEctric typewriter, bang on it for a while and then run it down to the newsletter guys. There was, I heard later, some mild controversy over the idea that one of the squadron guys was generating the continuing story, but RADM Bob Kirksey apparently thought it was good for morale or something, and I tried to stay a bootstrap away of anything that would get in the way of good order and discipline. Apparently it worked. Racy enough for the time without being too disruptive. But to a crew used to the Philippines, we were indeed the Navy’s “Foreign Legion” in perpetual motion.
4. What is the significance of Nick Danger, Third Eye? Is he psychic or does it have some other meaning?
It was an idea borrowed from the Firesign Theater, a comedy troop of deranged hipsters popular in the early 1970s. The term ‘Third Eye’ was their attempt at jamming the vaguely spiritual references of the crazy late sixties (Hindu and others) and 1940s cinema noir into the reality that we were actually a ship of war on what appeared to be the razor blade of conflict.t we were actually a ship of war on what appeared to be the razor blade of conflict.
5. What is the relationship between JR Reddig and Vic Socotra?
JR was a new Ensign fresh out of NIOBC (Naval Intelligence Officer Basic Course) and volunteered for Midway, then considered a two year ‘hardship’ tour. After two IO deployments from Japan, they offered him a one-year tour in Korea at USFK (U.S. Forces, Korea) to “get even” with the other Intel folks who got three year tours at CONUS-(Continental United States) based squadrons and ships. I was irate about that, still in the Foreign Legion mode in Korea and wrote a fun book about it called “The Snake Ranch Papers,” named after our hooch at Yongsan Garrison at Seoul. I actually got more operational time in Navy and Joint before it was cool. Then OSIS (Ocean Surveillance Information System) and anti-Soviet sub analysis as things got strange with the Soviet Union. Writing a newspaper on the floor of the stock exchange is how one watch officer described it.
Korea time included a military coup in Korea, civil Unrest at Kwangju, Analogous Response ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) ops in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor and best fun. With Cold War, Persian Gulf War and GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) were four or five undeclared but real contingency ops, mostly focused on the Persian Gulf. Other assignments included organizing Congressional Travel to Haiti, Burma, PRC (People’s Republic of China) & Pyongyang, and more excitement. Writing about it meant a certain dual tasking and processing of life, since I was supposed to provide accurate notes as “aides memoire” to the trips and then I could play with it if I got time. As with all things Midway, it was part of a continuous process of all sorts of unrelated things jammed into one very large one of operating a nuclear-armed (“I can neither confirm nor deny!”) mobile airfield far from America’s shores.
“Vic” came from the early days on Midway in the northern Arabian Sea. Much later I was working at CIA HQ on the Community Management Staff in Y2K times. The Farm- the CIA training facility on the Neck- had done some business conducting classified seminars for Government customers, and we were billeted behind the fence for a couple of those sessions.
The place is interesting, and includes property that was once colonial. The house where the last Royal Governor of Virginia hung out was one of the interesting parcels. I did a photo journalist story about the place- nothing about who ran the facility or why. I duly submitted it for Agency review prior to posting it. They said “no” because “the location is classified.” Now, the fact that everyone on two rivers knew what and who ran the place was irrelevant. I decided to keep doing what I was doing, but nothing more about the Royal Governor, nor what we call “True Name” blogging. There were a lot of people at Langley operating in various manifestations- covered, uncovered, ambiguous, so things like pen-names were common not only in professional tradecraft but social situations.
Vic Socotra is the phrase we used for Soviets operating (or hanging on the hook) in the approaches to the Suez via the Gulf of Aden at Great Socotra Island. When we arrived at what became GONZO Station, we would say it something like “Soviet Indian Ocean Squadron NOB continues routine operations in the vicinity of Great Socotra Island.” That lasted a couple weeks since they normally were doing nothing. It soon became “SOVINDRON vic Socotra NTR.” Or, better said, nothing to report.
Vic Socotra became a more general locational phrase to identify things happening at the SOVINDRON anchorage, or in the general vicinity of the island, toward the entrance to the shipping channel up the Red Sea.
6. The Midway seems to cast a spell over many of its crew and now it’s volunteers. What spell did it cast over you? Did any other job ever come close to the Midway’s Magic?
Yes. And yes. Yes, no, yes. This is one of your volunteers, who asked what bunkroom I lived in for two years, and then sent me a picture of what it looks like now. Sleep was precious there. I still could reset the circuit breaker out in the passageway in the deep silent darkness when the line tripped out. Nick Danger happened because the lunk private detective seemed to be just what we needed at the time. Ever have a job that occasionally meant hanging out of the moving helicopter at ten thousand feet tracking a missile shoot? Once, suiting up and strapping on the back seat of a 55,000lb. Phantom fighter, being hurled off the front end of a moving Midway to go feet-dry and pass Mt. Fujiyama inverted before a routine recovery on the field at Atsugi Naval Air station? The one that still had hard-stands for the Zero fighters that once operated from there against us? Meeting one of their then-ancient aces- Warrant Officer Saburo Sakai, thanking him for his service and hospitality in his land?
7. Your blog, https://www.vicsocotra.com/ is deliciously ambiguous. I love your tag line “Purveyor of Glib Words to the World.” How long did it take you to come up with that and has it been difficult to live up to that motto?
That all gets to the nature of what I have done for fifty years. It started before the internet, of course, and when I saw or did something I thought was interesting, I would write a letter about it, addressed to one or two folks and with enough carbon paper to keep a copy. There is a body of that stuff from Midway around someplace, and another one or two about the last cruise of the IJN Nagato, initially the same sort of thing I did penned by the American XO who took the Japanese battleship down to Bikini Atoll for the Crossroads atomic tests. Great story he did not finish, and may have been one of the Navy people who died young because of radiation exposure. He was a great pal of my Uncles, and his papers were all I had. Part of the dynamic tension in the business was that we wrote for a living- taking the words from the aircrew or the meeting or the trip and crafting them into a narrative that made sense. That stuff was stark and hard edged and based on fact. Taking those sorts of situations and breathing things into them for context- non-frightening context-was the ability to use a slippery glib word for something intensely real. Describing a routine catapult shot on a routine relocation hop. Drama and routine all wrapped up in one- the essence of the Midway experience. She also was home to pals who went to war on her in the Gulf. She is a ship of magic.
8. If life is a conspiracy theory, which theory do you find most plausible?
This week demonstrates the whole thing. I lived the sixties- all of them- as a teen. A President was murdered in public. Then a spiritual leader of great stature was shot down on a motel balcony. And then a brother of the murdered President was shot campaigning for the same office. And the attempts on the lives of other Presidents and governors of Southern states. None of them had much explanation, except for “deranged lone gunmen/women.” Now, we have a clumsy attempt to insert millions of bogus votes in an attempt to remove a legitimately elected President on a fraudulent vote count that is the product of increasing fraudulent activity that incudes our 7th District of Virginia Congressional representation. The idea that hundreds- thousands- of people who swore the same oath to defend the Constitution that I did- participated in this and that it seems about to be successful, and maybe permanent. I find this all wildly improbable in the nation in which I was raised. I think there is the distinct possibility that it is true.
9. What are your current literary inspirations?
I wrote as things happened, and cleaned it up when I could spare the time. The best effort is a biography of an older pal named Donald “Mac” Showers, one of the last survivors of the station HYPO codebreaking group at Pearl from WWII. Unlike most, he had no civilian job to return to after the end of hostilities since he was so young, and stayed in. I came to his attention through my use of a disparaging- glib, if you will- term about General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. I called him “Doug-out Doug” in some social context and it concerned Mac because his boss, Chester Nimitz had a primary directive: “Don’t disrespect the General.” We got over that and became friends. The very idea of getting the Japanese to disclose their target at Midway atoll happened at the corner of Mac’s desk in The Dungeon at Pearl Harbor, conceived by the legendary Jasper Holmes. So that was fun and took a couple years of meetings. But we traveled together through the big Defense reorganization of 1948, and the creation of CIA and NSA, and the later abuses that occurred, and the fixes to the scandals of Watergate, and establishment of the FISA Court system, and his final retirement with the current Intelligence Community I served. The last volume is about the ten-year decline of his beloved wife to early onset Alzheimers, and what it takes to live a 26-hour-day with dementia sufferers and their loved ones. My Dad was doing the same thing when he told me what it was going to be like, so it was personal and real. All the Intel issues he worked are now back in full bloom, so real life with him was also time traveling into the past and future. Anyway, that book is complete, but deserves proper traditional treatment.
Others in Process:
“The Lucky Bunch:” Naval Intelligence and the Mob in New York and The Castle on the Hudson. Fun with Lucky Luciano.
“Love and War in the West.” Civil war family romance amid the Rebel and Yankee aligned recent Irish immigrant community in a tumultuous America. Really fun, and true.
“Snake Ranch Papers” a 14-month one year tour in the Republic of Korea during a military coup conducted by Lt. Gen Chon tu Hwan.
“Boondoggle” Congressional travel in a Haitian-Burmese-North Korean crisis. Oriented to fine hotels in pariah nations.
“Tales from Big Pink,” life in the remarkable Arlington, VA, in the go-go decade that followed Y2K.
“Cruisebook,” the last Cold War Med Cruise 1989-90 as the Wall Comes Tumbling Down and the long struggle….ends?
There are a couple others, including a cookbook I was working on with pal Jinny Martin. She had been an attache wife, and I asked her, and pals from the circuit for sure-fire dishes to prepare when Hubby says he is coming over with the Hungarian delegation for drinks. It was fun, while in progress with lots of photos. I edited her group’s memories of having families in the Philippines and Japan in Cold War times.
And cars- Dad was assistant head of design at American Motors, and he was in that crowd of forward thinkers and creative artists. I came home from high school one afternoon and his gang had a collection of racing machines in the driveway, including a Ferrari Testa Rosa. We were part of it all- first ticket was 120-in-a-50 violation in a pals 440RT Charger while still on my learners permit. Other memorable rides included the Syclone World’s Fastest Production Pickup Truck, the black-and-white-beetle convertible “Shamu” and the 1959 Rambler Cross Country station wagon that Dad designed. Fun stuff in the go-fast years.
Currently in work is a book called “Swamp Postcards,” devoted to this crazy year, and “The Seventy Days” between the election and what is coming next. Glib words conceal the humorous enormity of what is going on in the wide world and right here
10. If somebody asked you why, how do you respond?
I am a predigital creature, but collected sights and situations that were interesting were always…interesting. I felt we lived in times that had a historic aspect, having studied them in college, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and Harvard’s JFK school of Government later. Seeing how it really works was something that kept me going, in the Fleet and Washington and on the streets of places like Pyongyang. It made telling the story of it fun, even if living in the lower rack of a four man compartment on a WWII ship was a necessary part of the whole story. I volunteered for Japan duty out of a failed attempt of the heart, and what the meaning of being alive really is. I still don’t know, but it is…interesting. This is the first time in life that things are not hurtling from one thing to another without respite. It is a treat to be able to look back at it all with wonder.
After reading Audrey Driscoll’s series on Twenty Years a Write, , particularly Part 4: Reasons to Write and Publish, I thought it would be very interesting to collect quotes from other bloggers to put together in a future blog post. Why do we write and/or publish?
I invite each of you to either answer that question in comments or send me an email. I’d like you to include you name, your blog’s name and it’s URL. I’d like your responses by December 1, 2020.
Thanks for you consideration. I’d like to publish them sometime in December
I’ve read dozens of books about heroes and crooks and learned much from both of their styles.–Jimmy Buffet
Learn what your opposition thinks. Have you ever wondered why someone can support Trump or Biden or neither? Read a book to explore the other side’s point of view.
Do well on a Jeopardy quiz. A recent show had a question about Colson Whitehead. The Underground Railroad is a book I might never have read except for a book club I joined.
Discover a new favorite author or genre. I discovered Amor Towles (Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility) from that same book club.
You already know you are not a huge fan of a particular author. At my last library, several of the librarians were huge Carl Hiaasen fans so I read a few books too. While I found him moderately entertaining, I did not become a fangrrrl.
You wonder what all of the hype is about. In the 1990s, J.K. Rowling had at least three Harry Potter Books on the Best Seller List. I read the first one and got hooked.
Rediscover a new book format. Another blogger recommended Isabelle Allende’s Long Petal of the Sea. I listened to the first one on CD and have since listened to two more titles. To me, it brings the novel alive that reading it in print, might not.
Decide which is better–the movie or the book. I loved the both the Lord of the Ring movies and books. I could never get into the Hobbit book but I loved all three Hobbit movies.
You’ve seen the movie so you want to re-read the book.Little Woman has been remade several times as a movie. It is now for sale on the paperback racks. Don’t people know that they can read for free on Project Gutenberg?
We each have our own theme preference. Normally, I try not to judge someone’s blog theme, however when:
Your graphics interfere with my ability to read the print of your blog post. Splattering your portrait repeatedly is even more obnoxious than the selected graphics to highlight what you are writing about, yet obscure the words you write.
Your blog automatically zooms to the top when I’m trying to read or write a comment.
Your blog will not allow me to go to the spot that the click here might indicate.
I have to really like your blog to want to bother with the inconvenience of navigating it .
Blog posts that are difficult to read or navigate are ranking up there with people who blog so frequently within a single day that they have become inadvertent spammers.
Like many of you, I have just tried the new Gutenberg Editor and like most of you, I hate it.
I Googled how to revert to the old classic editor and because I am old, I printed out the directions. What the instructions fail to mention, is that you need to be at least at the Business Level ($300/year) before you are allowed to install Plug-ins which would include the Classic editor.
Although we’ve never met
except in bits and bytes,
I feel we’ve met each other
in the blog posts that we write
We sometimes bare our souls
and sometimes share the pain.
If it’s not a blog we care for
most of us refrain
from acting like the trolls
who can drive us all insane.
I don’t have the memory or the capacity to recognize all of you who deserve mention (so if you are left off the list, please accept my apology) Since this is International Friendship Day and I live in the United States, I hope my fellow Americans will not take umbrage at not being mentioned at this time.
On June 12, when I looked at my statistics, I realized I had published my 1,000th blog post. I started on February 12, 2017 so it only took me three years and four months.
Quip–a witty remark. E-Quips (think e-book or email) is hopefully a witty blog. Is it?
Since then, I’ve expanded what I write about and feel more comfortable taking a stand on some issues. As a Libra, I try to look at both sides of an issue before making a final decision.
Blogging (almost) every day is a personal decision. I am retired and usually have the time to write. I don’t feel the need to be long-winded in order to get a point across. I also feel that many people cover a topic with more eloquence or authority than I do and the librarian in me wants to share those writings with you.
So I’d like to share my gratitude
For those who like my attitude
This is real, not platitude
Though it might just be a pat-itude.
When I lived in San Diego, I used to take writing classes almost every quarter from the University of California, San Diego Extension program because it was:
Had great teachers
Offered a variety of classes
Gave me a reason to permit myself to write
That is correct. Unless I had a paper to write or a work assignment, I never gave myself permission to write just because I enjoyed doing it.
I had forgotten about that until Teagan R. Geneviene of Teagan’s Books.,commented that
I let myself buy all sorts of paints and some canvases when I first moved, wanting to get back into that (after a decade long break), and I haven’t even done that. I’m “working on” allowing myself time for creativity and relaxation… working on it.
That was exactly how I felt about allowing myself time to write.
Fortunately, one of the last classes I took at UCSD Extension was a blog writing class–three years later, I’m still blogging.
It has become addictive and unless I have written something every day, the day feels unfinished, almost wasted.
On the plus side, I think that my writing has improved and it is easy to come up with new topics (even before the ready made topic of Coronavirus). I am old enough to have something to say and hopefully something worth sharing.
On the negative side, because writing is so easy for me, I know I do not push myself hard enough to improve. (I’m relying too much on the idea that practice makes, if not perfect, at least improvement.)
Do you enjoy doing something that you do not give yourself permission to do? Why are we like that? Do we feel that we do not deserve to do something just because we enjoy it?
In 1865, Mark Twain published his first short story, Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog. Later, he changed the name and published it as The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. This same story also had a third title, The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
The current frog jumping record was set in 1986 by Rosie the Ribeter, who jumped 21 feet, 5-3/4 inches.
Mark Twain’s story about a pet frog named Dan’l Webster and a casual competition between two men betting on whose frog jumps higher, is the origin of National Frog Jumping Day. The annual Frog Jumping Contest, which began in 1849 in Calaveras County, California is also an origin of this holiday. The international counterpart of this celebration is February 19.