funranium: (Duck 'n' Cover)

Cross-posted from Funranium Labs

My old wonderful curmudgeon of a boss from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the man who gave me a not so gentle kick and made it possible to be a health physicist, has just moved into hospice care. He said, and I quote, “You’re too damn smart to spend the rest of your life swinging a meter. Get your degree and start telling guys like me what to do.” As if I’d dare tell him what to do without asking his opinion first; it’s a damn fool of an officer that doesn’t listen to the sergeant. Bill is similarly too damn smart to have spent his life swinging a meter but found his joy in being a cantankerous smartass, which is part of why he was made my boss (quote: “He’s an ass who drives people crazy, but he’s a smart ass. You two should get along perfectly.”)

We spent an awful lot of his smoke breaks listening to his stories of the Navy and decades gone by at LLNL. I did my best to absorb them all and I became a font of institutional knowledge that convinced people that I’d been working there longer than I’d been alive. It is time to share my favorite of his stories, “The Tale of the Dolphins", to honor Mr. Shea. This is a story of Navy traditions, drinking, and attempted drowning in Hawaii. Admittedly, saying "Navy traditions", "drinking", and "attempted drowning" in the same sentence is thrice redundant.

Bill was a submariner in the 70s, at the height of the prison inmate enlisted men/frat house officer Navy at the same time that Admiral Rickover’s Nuclear Navy was really coming into its own. He arrived in Pearl Harbor, fresh from Nuclear Power School to be assigned to his boat. As he approached his boat there was a large group of men punching one solitary seaman in the chest, right up until the moment one man picked him up and threw him overboard into the harbor. When Bill saw this he not-quite-quietly said, "Aww man, why did you go and do that?"

The EXTREMEMLY LARGE Chief of the Boat, the man that did the tossing, says "And why shouldn't I?" in an EXTREMELY LARGE manner to Bill.

Bill shook his head in disappointment, "You tossed him in the harbor. He's gonna leave a fucking ring around the boat we'll have to clean off before we leave." It is important to remember that the Navy area of Pearl Harbor was a goddamn toxic cesspit with untreated sewage at this time. If you’ve been to Pearl recently and think it’s still a goddamn toxic cesspit, just know that it’s much better now. To suggest that the seaman was filthier than Pearl Habor itself...

The COB squints at Bill's nametag. "Shea. I'm gonna remember you, Shea."

Old Style Enlisted Submariner Badge (courtesy of the US Navy)

Bill had walked aboard in the middle of a "dolphin" ceremony where a newly minted submariner is granted their pin with the dolphins on it that denotes that they have successfully completed their training on all the major functional areas of the submarine and, therefore, more useful than mere ballast. When Bill got his dolphins several months later, they threw him overboard twice. Oh yes, the Chief remembered him.

Oh, I forgot. The punching? That was the lucky new submariner's team punching his pin into his chest without postbacks. For Bill, when the pin was first presented, it was at a bar. It was shown to the recipient, but then quickly taken away. A water pitcher was found. Everyone in the bar poured what was left of their drinks into it. The barmat was wrung out to fill the pitcher. The dolphin pin was then dropped in and Bill was told to chug and come up with the dolphins in his teeth. Immediate vomiting would have been considered unlucky, so Bill had to make it at least through the next game of darts before a strategic chunder was approved.

There you go, The Tale of the Dolphins. If you have a tale of your time in the nuclear Navy you’d like me share with him when I go visit in the next couple weeks, I’m always happy to learn a new story. And I know he enjoys when I spin him a fine yarn.

funranium: (Default)
By popular request, on June 12th, 11:30pm to 1:30am, at Granada Bowl in Livermore, we shall take to the lanes once more in our finest fines to roll in style and *DOMINATE* the music request list in honor of the passing of [livejournal.com profile] graymalkn with another round of Formal Wear Bowling.  Pictorial evidence of the first round of Formal Wear Bowling can be found here.  A brief FAQ:

Q: Can I wear a tuxedo?
A: You may.

Q: I like my kilt.  Is a Bonnie Prince Charlie okay?
A: Of course you can.

Q: How about a zoot suit?
A: You have one of those?

Q: Do hoop skirts and corsets work?  I've got all this Faire/Civil War garb I don't get to use enough.
A: If you are up for the challenge of navigating a bowling bowl around all that, sure.

Q: I only own sweatpants and a curry stained work t-shirt.  Am I still allowed to come?
A: Oh, okay, but at least wash them first.  Stay classy!

Heather, AKA [livejournal.com profile] bilunabirotunda, is the keeper of the music list.  It is our goal to keep the suburban white high school kids' hip hop from ever defiling the speakers with our complete, total, and utter domination of the music request list whilst looking stunning and throwing rocks.  Dancing in the lanes is encouraged...particularly when "The Safety Dance" and "Hot Hot Hot" come up.

This is not an exclusive invitation to the bounds of my friendslist.  Even if you never met Erik but this sounds like a celebration of awesome and you want to play, you are welcome to join because a celebration of awesome is exactly what this is.  Use of porn name (any variation of your middle name + the street name of any street you lived on as a child) as bowling name is strongly encouraged; I am Ed Gold. 

The only somber note we intend to introduce is that at least one lane will have the player "Graymalkn" on it.  Please come take a throw on it when he's up.  Don't worry about bowling badly on the memorial game; he never broke 100 while in his monkey suit.

See you there.
funranium: (Default)
Erik Fitzpatrick, better known to The Internets as [livejournal.com profile] graymalkn, wielder of multipledigression.com, is no more.  He has ceased to be.  You may fill in the rest of the Dead Parrot Sketch quietly to yourself.

Since learning of his unfortunate demise at lunch time, I have spent the afternoon thinking of how very many of the adventures I've had in the last fifteen years have either directly involved Erik or been instigated by him.  These are stories that many of you at one time or another have endured at cocktail point as I enter raconteur/bartender mode.  Because I know how much he hated my bullet point posts, allow me to enumerate in no particular order:
  1. An abortive drive to Vancouver to get Tim Horton's doughnuts, that didn't quite make it much beyond the southern border of Oregon.
  2. Being the loudest thing on Treasure Island for several Fourths of July.
  3. Formalwear Bowling.
  4. Introducing me to Urban Exploring on my return from Antarctica, and thus making The Golden Age of Ording possible.
  5. The Proud Dwarven Maritime Tradition.
  6. While we are speaking of Mike, The Humphrey Room Inconveniencer.  A wonderful study in the limits of slack vs. inconvenience.
  7. A relationship and help recovering at its end.
  8. The inspiration to actually goddamn make something.  There would be no Steins of Science with out the Typewriter-Keyboard Conversion project.
  9. Homestarrunner.com, the second time.  I blame Antarctic dementia for failing to heed his & Mike's words the first time.
  10. Dry Ice bomb detonation of the Death Star.
  11. The friend who prior to my departure thought that my year in Antarctica sounded like the best thing ever, rather than crazy.
  12. Dance, Dance Immolation
  13. A vegetarian willing, on many occasions, to discuss the merits, ethics, logistical, and food preparation concerns of cannibalism.
  14. The man who gave me two copies of Cryptonomicon at the same time so that ONE of them would stay intact long enough for me to complete the book, knowing my previous history destroying that book by accident.  It was just that important to him.
  15. Seriously, Urban Exploring.  I received an angry fist for getting to do Urban Exploring as a part of my job in places he couldn't get to and nor could I take pictures of to share.  I did a better job decommissioning former nuclear facilities by his inspiration.
  16. Introducing me to Oingo Boingo with their "Farewell"...dammit.
  17. He introduced me to Ole's Waffles in Alameda.
This is far from an exhaustive list.  Mighty Wurlitzers crop up in it now and then.

More importantly, Erik was a principled man that made a difference.  He worked in schools teaching elementary school kids that science and computers were awesome.  He left a relatively decent job in the games industry to instead be IT and computer education to Walden House.  He was proud of being an poll station monitor.  And then he decided the only way he was really going make the world better by following his dream to become a lawyer.  Next week, he was supposed to start his internship with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Death Penalty Project in Louisiana.

He was going to be a GOOD lawyer.

While most of us were too busy trying to make a buck and make ends meet, Erik found a way to make his daily bread and help many, many more do the same.

And now he is gone.  The world is so much the poorer for his passing.  I was looking forward to voting for him someday.  As a member of my shadowy cabal for world domination, a public face is necessary to be loved by the masses.  It is good for that love to be genuine, well-earned, and returned by the recipient.

Erik Allen Fitzpatrick, 1975-2010

December 2012

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