Culture on My Mind – A Career in a Coffee Mug

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
A Career in a Coffee Mug
March 3, 2023

The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have a tradition.

Well, okay, they have a lot of traditions. Trust me, as a Navy veteran, I know this all too well. But one of the fascinating ones among the senior enlisted and the mustangs (a commissioned officer who began their career as an enlisted service member) centers on their coffee mugs.

Coffee is life blood in the military. From long hours spent on watch to even longer hours spent performing collateral duties, the cups of caffeine can be just what you need to keep moving. Ships usually have a set of coffee mugs available for use in the coffee mess – the space authorized for preparing and dispensing coffee and assorted accoutrements – but Sailors, Marines, and Guardsmen also have their own personal mugs. The senior enlisted, known as non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the Marine Corps and Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) in the Navy and Coast Guard, also tend to have special personal mugs. Some of those special mugs come with command iconography and such, leaving no doubt as to whose mug is whose.

The tradition has to do with the seasoning of those mugs. You see, NCOs and Chiefs typically take their coffee black and believe that not washing their mugs is good luck. The coffee stains on the inside of the mug build up over time, effectively telling the history of the mug and its owner. The more sludge in the mug, the more experience the owner has.

One example comes from the Naval Historical Foundation and Coast Guard Senior Chief Darcy Collins, as found on the Navy History Tumblr page.

seasoned mug

Some studies suggest that the practice isn’t that unhealthy so long as you don’t share the mug with anyone and drink the coffee black with neither cream nor sugar. In fact, the Navy Times picked a few suggestions from the fleet for the perfect mug, including drinking coffee black, drinking the entire mug, and even seasoning it with leftover grounds like a cast-iron skillet.

The last suggestion on the list is the most important for any servicemember: Don’t wash the mug. Ever. If the owner washes it, the respect for them goes overboard. If a junior member washes it, even through ignorance or on a dare, there is no end to the harassment that they will endure at that command and beyond.

After all, the fleet talks and reputations have long lives.

I’ve seen my share of deeply seasoned mugs, but my personal mug only had minimal stains. I take my coffee with cream/milk and sugar, and I also prefer to drink from clean vessels. I’m a bit of a germaphobe that way.


Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.


Culture on My Mind – Behind the Scenes of Nautilus

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Behind the Scenes of Nautilus
October 8, 2021

This week, the educational side of YouTube is on my mind. Specifically, I’m looking at a slice of submarine history with the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

The Submarine Force Library and Museum is home to the USS Nautilus (former SSN 571), the first nuclear-powered submarine in the world which now serves as a National Historic Landmark to educate visitors about the United States submarine force. The museum sits downstream from Naval Submarine Base New London on the Thames River, which is where I served for part of my submarine career. In normal times, it receives approximately 250,000 visitors per year.

The museum has a tour route through the forward compartment of the Nautilus, offering an in-person look at life on a nuclear submarine, including where sailors would eat, sleep, and work. In early 2021, Commander Brad Boyd presented a series of videos that go beyond the normal tour route and offer a substantial amount of historic and experience-based information.

I went through sub school with Brad and we served together at two duty stations. I was very pleased to see the news in 2018 when Brad took over as the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of Historic Ship Nautilus, and this series was part of a larger effort to keep the museum in the public eye during the pandemic. It was a smart move during a tough time to run a public attraction.

Brad was recently relieved as OIC and sent on to his next duty station. I wish him and his family the best of luck. I know he’ll do well in the future.  

This series of eighteen videos represents a great way to learn about history and life in the Silent Service. 

Episode 1 – Nautilus Introduction and Overview

Episode 2 – Nautilus Torpedo Room

Episode 3 – Nautilus Wardroom

Episode 4 – Staterooms

Episode 5 – Operation Sunshine

Episode 6 – Attack Center

Episode 7 – Sonar, ESM, and Ship’s Office

Episode 8 – Control

Episode 9 – Radio & Interior Communications

Episode 10 – Crew’s Mess

Episode 11 – Storerooms and Battery

Episode 12 – Berthing and Chief’s Quarters

Episode 13 – Gallery and Storeroom

Episode 14 – Berthing

Episode 15 – Underneath the Superstructure

Episode 16 – Escape Trunk

Episode 17 – Sail

Episode 18 – Bridge


You can find the Submarine Force Museum on YouTube, Facebook, and their official site. If you’re ever in Groton, Connecticut, it’s also worth an in-person visit.


Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The Thing About Today – October 13

October 13, 2020
Day 287 of 366

October 13th is the 287th day of the year. On this day in 1775, the Continental Congress established the Continental Navy, which was the predecessor of the United States Navy. As a submarine veteran, I would like to wish sailors past and present a happy 245th birthday.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Train Your Brain Day, National Yorkshire Pudding Day, National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, and National No Bra Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1269, the present church building at Westminster Abbey was consecrated.
  • In 1792, the cornerstone of the United States Executive Mansion (known as the White House since 1818) was laid in Washington, D.C.
  • In 1843, B’nai B’rith was founded in New York City. It is the oldest Jewish service organization in the world.
  • In 1881, the first known conversation in modern Hebrew took place between Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and friends.
  • In 1884, the International Meridian Conference established the meridian of the Greenwich Observatory as the prime meridian.
  • In 1885, the Georgia Institute of Technology was founded in Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately, Georgia Tech selected the asshole of the insect world, the yellow jacket, as their mascot.
  • In 1892, Edward Emerson Barnard found the first comet discovered by photographic means.
  • In 1908, Margaret Travers Symons burst into the UK parliament and became the first woman to speak there.
  • In 1939, actress Melinda Dillon was born.
  • In 1941, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer Paul Simon was born.
  • In 1956, television producer Chris Carter was born.
  • In 1962, actress Kelly Preston was born.
  • In 1964, actor and producer Christopher Judge was born.
  • In 1976, the first electron micrograph of an Ebola virus was taken at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by Dr. F. A. Murphy.
  • In 1983, Ameritech Mobile Communications launched the first United States cellular network in Chicago.

October 13th is the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

This international day encourages every citizen and government to take part in building more disaster-resilient communities and nations. In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 13th as the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction as part of its proclamation of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.

In 2002, the General Assembly decided to maintain the annual observance as a vehicle to promote a global culture of natural disaster reduction, including prevention, mitigation, and preparedness. The name and date became official in 2009.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The Thing About Today – March 27

March 27, 2020
Day 87 of 366


March 27th is the eighty-seventh day of the year.

First, it is International Whisk(e)y Day, a day to recognize Scottish, Canadian, and Japanese whiskies (no e) as well as Irish and American whiskeys (with an e), as well as supporting Parkinson’s Disease research. This celebration is not to be confused with World Whisky Day (in May) or National Bourbon Day (in June).

Second, it is World Theatre Day, an observance that was started in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute to recognize the international theatre community.

Third, it is International Medical Science Liaison Day, a day to honor the scientific experts who help to ensure that drugs and/or products they support are utilized effectively by physicians, and serve as scientific peers and resources within the medical community.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Joe Day, National Scribble Day, and National Spanish Paella Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1863, Henry Royce was born. An English engineer and businessman, he founded Rolls-Royce Limited.
  • In 1886, Apache warrior Geronimo surrendered to the United States Army, ending the main phase of the Apache Wars.
  • In 1915, Mary Mallon was put into quarantine for the second time. Known as Typhoid Mary, she was the first healthy carrier of disease ever identified in the United States. Since she was asymptomatic, she continued to work as a cook, exposed others to the disease, and caused multiple large outbreaks. She would remain forcibly quarantined for the rest of her life.
  • In 1935, actor Julian Glover was born.
  • In 1942, actor Michael York was born.
  • In 1952, Singin’ in the Rain premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
  • In 1967, actress Talisa Soto was born.
  • In 1970, actress Elizabeth Mitchell was born.
  • In 1971, actor Nathan Fillion was born.
  • In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration approved Viagra for use as a treatment for male impotence. It was the first pill to be approved for this condition in the United States.
  • In 2004, HMS Scylla, a decommissioned Leander-class frigate, was sunk as an artificial reef off Cornwall. This was the first event of its kind in Europe.


In 1794, the United States Government established a permanent navy and authorized the building of six frigates: Chesapeake, Constitution, President, United States, Congress, and Constellation.

Before this point, the naval forces were under the Continental Navy, which was established on October 13, 1775. Of the original six frigates, only the USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides”, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world – remains, berthed in Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts as a free-to-tour educational museum.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.