Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008

What is a year without a recap? The theme of 2008 is Army.... Given that I spent 5 months on active duty for my Army training this Summer, combined with the trepidation before and recovery from it been the prime factor for this year.

Obviously I feel great relief that I finally went to and completed BOLC II/III (though of course it now leaves me open to being grabbed for a deployment, though that is pretty low priority right now given my states current plans). I got to meet some great people, have some fun times (and lots of VERY boring times (I played a lot of video games, watched a lot of TV, saw a hell of a lot of movies and drank a crapload of alcohol)). Interesting note? My BOLC II/III post

Relationship-wise I have a lot of ups and downs. Lots of first and second dates, lots of emails written and lots of anxiety and talking about myself (well, I do have a blog so obviously I like talking about myself and sharing my opinions). I got the "friend zone" speech twice and, as the icing on the cake, basically got "dear john'd" (or Jodie'd as we would say in the Army) this Summer. I am on an "up" right now, with my Match profile happily deactivated and no concerns about the midnight kiss tonight.
I can't have a blog with a title like mine and not go into my favorite subject, Movies, TV, Video Games...
  • Movies - Quite a year. I think I saw more movies in the theater this year (thanks Army) than I have since 2000. My choice for movie of the year is simple, my brothers would not be surprised given that he has always been one of my favorites, Iron Man. Really, of all the movies this year this is the one that stood out.
  • TV - Sigh... The damage that the writers’ strike wrought on this industry is still not easily calculated. So many freshman shows from last year took irreparable damage, including my much beloved Pushing Daisies. I think the damage will still reverberate for a while (Chuck and Terminator).
  • Video Games -
    Big news was that I bought a Wii and wrought destruction on my parents house. Best game? Shocker I know... Left 4 Dead I mean, c'mon!! Zombies, teamwork and fun? Really no question. Most novel? Endwar. Fascinating user control (controlling the units with voice? sooo coool.....) and of course gives me a good Army fix.

Well, I am going to keep it somewhat short. I think I touched on the high and the lows and I am ready to move on to the next year....

Happy New Years everyone! I will be partying it up with my GF at the Gaylord at some big party this evening. I hope you have a great night and an even better New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

I need a vacation after my Christmas Vacation...

oh wait, thats right... the next thing up is New Years.... That will be relaxing.

I hope Santa was good to everyone. I know that I have no complaints (though I could get nothing and just be happy to be around the family. It's not like I can't purchase most everything I want anyway).

I had some late nights hanging with friends the past few days (4AM on Friday and in my best (read least) decision, 2 AM last night....) I know that I am dragging a bit right now. But it was worth it.

Time to stop now and start contemplating this year that seemed to shoot past (except when it REALLY dragged, like when I was doing my Army training).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

I hope everyone out there has a fantastic Christmas! I know that I am looking forward to spending time with my friends and family the next few days.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Universe is Random

One of the contractors in my Division was struck by a car.... while in a clearly marked pedestrian crosswalk.... wearing bright, obvious clothing in early morning daylight... at around 30mph (apparently she flew some 10 ft in the air when hit).
Luckily she was not killed (though 2 hip bones and her femur were busted. She was in surgery the next day to have pins put in).

It does make one pause. That sheer dumb, random chance that will strike you, even if you do everything right and still have something bad happen to you. I think this one of the most frustrating things about the world we live in. That luck plays such a factor (not that I am one to complain... I would say that I am a pretty lucky guy).

The funniest thing is that so few people are even willing to acknowledge that luck plays a factor in their lives. So many people claim that their rewards/results were from hard work, dedication and their own skill. But when it comes down to it those items just facilitated an environment that enabled them to fully exploit the opportunity that was presented to them. If they didn't return that call, reply to that email, get that workout in (or heck, get born to the right parents or get the good DNA).. then the opportunity passed them by. But we as humans like to believe that we are in control, so we minimize the fact that there is so much out there that is out of our control...


BTW, the coworker? Just got out of the hospital today... And promptly slipped and fell again. (nothing major, still went home)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Royalty?

First Oboma's recently vacated Senate seat goes up for bidding.....
Now Caroline Kennedy is being mentioned for the replacement of Hillary Clinton's Senate Seat.

Ah, the Kennedy family. Pushed into greatness by primarily by the death of a mediocre President (reference, Vietnam escalation, Cuban Missile Crisis). Most recently trying to get acclaim for Ted Kennedy (*cough* killer *cough*). Lately bemoaning the fact that with Ted soon to leave the Senate there won't be a Kennedy in the Senate for the first time in 50 years..

Really, the Kennedy's are the Democratic royalty. There is very little that they can do wrong and very rarely criticized.

Now along comes Caroline. Its hard to find an article that doesn't speak reverentially about this plan to place her into Clinton's seat. Words like "legacy" and "aura" are all tossed about. But really, lets use the correct word... "connections", "nepotism", "crony-ism"... This woman has no place in Senate. She has never served in public office or ran for one in her life.

So NY, (in particular Gov. Richardson), it seems that the media has crowned another of the Kennedy clan to public office. So mote it be.

I think it's funny that Americans seem intent on recreating the House of Lords here in the Senate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Courtesy...

Really people? Whatever happened to the one of the best underpinnings of society? Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. (Or, “Do unto others as you would want done onto you”) This rule seems badly fraid in todays world. Where things are pretty much all about you… To take the time to pause for a second and contemplate what you are doing and the effect on others around you…. Saying “please” and “thank you”

But C’mon…. This rule should be even more in effect when it comes to the workplace, where there are even more protocols in place. Let me give you the jist of a conversation that took place yesterday afternoon… And let me preface this by making the positions of those involved
Me: Federal Employee with significant responsibility (branch/section chief with 30 contractors working for me)
FBG-SA (Formerly Big Guy, Still Asshole): Contractor who works for one of my peers in another division in the same Office
Also present, my Divisions Program Manager – COG (Cool Old Guy)


Me – (coming in and asking questions about the topic of the day that interests our Office Director)
FBG-SA – What are you doing down here? (without even standing up or making any effort to talk FTF)
Me – (ask legitimate business related)
FBG-SA – (eventually provides answer to question… in most pompous, arrogant manner possible)

Never in the conversation was any attempt made to talk with me or COG like we were people… at all times the most condescending tone and mannerisms were used. Implications about other personnel in the office were made in dismissive manner.

I wouldn’t treat anyone this way. Not a peer, not a subordinate and most definitely not 2 people who are higher in the chain than he was. While I stayed on target, COG was definitely stewing and stuff like that (getting someone senior to you PO’d at you) is not good for your career, no matter how technically capable you are (or at the very least it will limit how far you will go).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Savoring...

I look forward to and also dread the Wednesday nights. Because on those nights I get to experience 2 emotions at the same time, happiness and enjoyment from one of the best shows to grace the TV in a while, "Pushing Daisies." However that pleasure is bittersweet when it is combined with the grim knowledge that soon this experience will end, and not even in a satisfying manner.... just abruptly killed because the 13 episodes were already shot when the notice came that there would be no more episodes.

RIP Pushing Daisies... Unfortunately very soon there will be no Piemaker to come by and give you a reprieve, even for 30 seconds.

Schadenfreude

Watching the twist of pain about this whole selling of Obama's Senate seat...
Seeing the networks being "shocked, shocked I tell you" in their reporting on corruption in Chicago/Illinois politics.

I just am eating my popcorn and enjoying the show......

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Netflix on Tivo!!!

You got Tivo in my Netflix. No... You got Netflix in my Tivo.

So while I was always kind of interested in the Netflix Watch Now option, I must confess that I haven't really used it too much. Then they put it on my Xbox360... and I was impressed. Then it appears on my Tivo... and I am estatic that it is there. (I of course had been following these plans for a while, ever since they were announced.).

Though I must say that I am now somewhat disappointed.... I played around with it for all of a 15 minutes before it crashed... and then it crashed again. Very disappointed that Tivo would release something that so reeks of "beta".... This is not a polished product if it has crashed (luckily a "soft crash" where it boots me back the main menu, not rebooting the Tivo (which can take upwards of 5-10 minutes)) both of my Tivo's (a Series 3 and a Tivo HD) as well as my brother's Tivo HD. Not cool. Hopefully they are using the data from us 'chomping on the bit" early adoptors and are getting a fix ready shortly. Because overall, from the few minutes that I saw? Really cool.....

Monday, December 01, 2008

Exhausted

Everyone else out there yawning their way through their Monday? I know that me and caffeine have been good friends today.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I know that I did! Lots of food, lots of family (yep, I am a lucky one... I love spending time with my family. They are the greatest), lots of friends, lots of booze and lots of video games (see previous post for that). And as an extra bit of fun, my Hokies won on Saturday, gaining them a shot at the ACC Championship (I would not have bet on this happening this year).

My brothers and I ran the PWBA Turkey Trot through Del Ray on Thursday (a little pre-eating penance). I shocked myself with my sub 9-minute miles for the entire 5 mile race. Given that I hadn't been training much for the past 2 weeks that was nothing short of miraculous. I love that race, it’s a lot of fun and just the right distance.



Now get back to work!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wii's are dangerous...

As has been widely reported, Wii's have accounted for any number of injuries (mostly to property as the Wiimote is not properly tied to the users wrist).
Another key item to keep aware of? What is around you when playing the game.....

Scene: My parents living room. After Turkey day food has been consumed. I brought the Wii over to play with my brothers over the holiday.
Situation: A very engaged game of Wii Tennis. After a bit of warmup into the game everyone finally had the hang of the game and the play turned more vigorous. After a ball comes to my play I decide to overhand (very much like a serve) the ball back. Not accounting for the light fixture that was immediately over my head.
The remains of the light fixture, after some of the lingering light bulbs (completely shatter had been removed with the expedience of a sweet potato... as all the other potatos had been converted into mashed potatoes) had been extracted.

45 minutes of cleanup later, I would say some 99.8% of the glass was finally recovered and removed. Consider this a lesson learned.

Hope everyone had a fantastic Turkey Day!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Casualties..

First they killed Lipstick Jungle, and I said nothing.
Then they killed the Ex-List, and I was unhappy.

Now they have killed some shows near and dear to my heart, some of the best shows to come out from last years debacle of a TV season have not been told to make any more episodes than the ones already in their original 13 episode order:
  • Pushing Daisies - Really? Big mistake! This may have been one of the better TV shows on the air! This is a tragic loss for television viewers (or at least those craving more then the next top-whatever or something more than your regular murder of the week).
  • Dirty Sexy Money - Another tragic loss. This show was all that was good about drama shows. The over the top characters and acting, the crazy plots... this had it all. Very sad.
  • Eli Stone - Fun and creative. You never knew where this show would head and it has such a clever premise.

And yet, such fine shows such as Private Practice and CSI:Miami remain on the air.... It's embarassing...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Game Overload!

Okay, I know that game developers love to have new titles available around the holidays, but....
Are they trying to turn me into a social hermit? In the past few weeks the following games have entered the scene:
  • Dead Space - really, there was no way to avoid this game.... Zombies in space! You cannot play this game in the dark, way too creepy.
  • Gears of Wars 2 - Like this game
  • Endwar - This game may have the coolest way of commanding your units in a RTS game that I have ever seen. And it actually makes playing RTS's on the Xbox 360 feasable. Though you do look kind of dorky yelling at your xbox through the voice controller.
  • Fallout 3 - Love me some PIP Boy. Can't believe that it took ten years to get the sequal to this awesome series.
  • Call of Duty: World at War - Very cool. Obviously when I have more time I will look forward to delving deeper into this game.
  • Left 4 Dead - Zombies!!! Really.... 'nuff said.

And because appparently since I feel that that I have too much free time, I bought a Wii last week (impulse buy when I was in Best Buy shopping for a PS3, I saw a few behind the desk and asked if I could get one). I managed to get my parents to play it for a hour and a half on Saturday night. And yes, I will probably still buy the PS3 (gets me a Blue Ray player and a game system).

And now my poor Tivo's are feeling neglected.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

I hope everyone had a great day off (its sad that a day devoted to the masses who protect and defend this country is less observed than days devoted to individuals).

I think this day means more to me since that day 3.5 years ago when I raised my hand to joing the Virginia Army National Guard. In the years since then I have the honor and pleasure of meeting and serving with hundreds of individuals. More than any other point in my life I know more people that are out there on the front lines, placing their lives on the line executing the orders of the government (no matter how you argue it, we are out there executing our missions per the oath that we all took, to protect the Constitution and to follow the lawful orders).

I hope that everyone takes the chance to think about about those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that are out there every day, placing their lives on the line to protect this great country (and you). I had the pleasure of thanking a Veteran while out for a hike earlier today, its a great feeling to acknowlage their service. It is a great feeling.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Peering pensively ahead....

So America spoke, that’s democracy. In 2 short months America will have a new President (I actually thought that the odds are that we would see a Hispanic President before a Black president, in particular given the current trends in demographics). The wheels of our peculiar system continue to roll, and time will tell whether this selection is a good one or a poor one. Am I am a little cynical of a populace that while screaming "Change" also turned around and re-elected perhaps the most ineffectual Congress in the history of the US (really, their biggest feat is that they managed to be have a lower approval rating than GWB).

So I will continue to peer pensively into the future. Hoping for the best (maybe, against the odds Obama will drift into the center like Clinton) but fearful and concerned for the course that my, our, country is on with him at the helm. I know that the first referendum will occur in less than 2 years... and of course I know that I and countless other people will continue another course of actions that make this country great, dissenting, dissecting policy and making our opinions known.

So congrats President Obama (yes, as I stated I will not play the word games that the other side plays, he is our country's President and I will not pretend that he is otherwise (i.e., no "he is not my President")). You ran an excellent campaign (McCain really only found his game right at the end, way too late in the game). By now you have received your first Presidential Daily Brief (it’s a scary world out there... I am so glad I only have an inkling of it) and are starting to realize the the true depth of the situation that we are in. This will be the most important 4 years of your life and I hope and pray that you make the right decisions.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted.

Go McCain!

I officially will be fully entitled to whine/bitch/moan/pontificate/editorialize for the next 4 years if my candidate does not win (god help us...).

Go VOTE!!

And if you are undecided (how you are I have no idea), vote McCain. You cannot go wrong with voting for a true American Hero who has a long history of leadership and excellence.

Remember, if you don't vote you can't complain. Slaves keep quite. Citizens vote and let their voices be heard.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fallout 3

Dear mister stick in the butt (SITB), (reference Opinion Letter in the Washington Post)

I would say that I am sorry that you are offended, but I am not. Mr. SITB, that is the wonderful thing about this country, that people can say/do things that you find offensive and still do them. Freedom of speech does not mean that you are entitled to go around in your little bubble and demand people remove anything that offends you...

The ads in Metro Center for Fallout 3 are some of the most clever that I have seen (since mostly adds just blur into the background) in a long time. The way that all the ads, well, add up to present the product are very effective and somewhat entertaining.

As a lifelong resident of the DC area, I know that this area is constantly under threat... you know what? I and everyone around me continues to live our lives... I am probably more happy that my city will get a good representation (given that the producers are in Bethesda, I expect it will be so)... and so what if it is in a post-apocalyptic world?
I for one am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new game, Fallout 3. I loved the first 2 and look forward to playing this game, considering it has been almost 10 years since the last.

So much for giving new shows a chance

One of my favorites of the new shows, the Ex-List, got pulled effective today.
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117994775.html?categoryid=14&cs=1&nid=2630

Maybe we will be able to see the other 7 episodes in burn off time sometime in the future.

Guess the main character will be doomed to a life of singledom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MIA

It has been 2 weeks since my last post (why does this feel like Confession?).

Yep. So I have been busy. Dating, working, working out, drilling (3 day Army drill this past weekend. God was I wiped on Monday), and just plain vegging. Nothing too exciting so I simply fell back on following other people lives and living mine.

I tasted Georgetown (very tasty, FYI), had a couple of cupcakes, ran a convoy (10 vehicles, 26 Soldiers up 110 miles (taking 3-3.5 hours)), shot some rounds (qualified with my M16, 31/40), been on a couple of dates, ran a bunch of miles (after taking a bit of break after the Army Ten Miler), went on 5 dates....

What I am watching? Love, Love, the Ex-List! I really think Heroes has turned around. Still watching Fringe and am fascinated with Life on Mars.
What am I playing? Braid (thanks G, thats a bunch of hours I will never see again) and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Dead Space to my door (good god there are a lot of cool games coming out right now). And I am torn as to purchase the new Portal maps (how I loved that game).
Well, enough for now.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hooah!

Army Ten Miler - This is the 6th time that I have run it!

Really, I don't think you could ask for a better day for a race. Quite a contrast from last year’s "hell race" which actually killed someone. My time this year definitely reflected the awesome weather, a very respectable 91 minutes (obviously a 9:10 pace... gotta love the easy math).

The crowds, the attitudes (everyone was in a pretty good mood), the course (such a pretty course) and even the weather all combined to make it a great morning for a run.

And really! The wounded soldiers making the run? It makes the heart break to see them injured but it also causes my heart to swell to see them come out and run. I know that I and most of the other runners would definitely give them a quick word of encouragement or cheer (I of course went with the ubiquitous, "hooah!").

Now I need to rest my aching body one more day and then it is back to the routine.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Push

Neither one stuck their foot in their mouth. Very much not up to expectations.

Though I guess that technically is a win for Palin, since she hasn't exactly had a stellar time in the media as of late (not that Biden has exactly been stunning people). She most definitely outperformed expectations.

I still stick with my status from Facebook, "Dan is I suppose I should be a good DC person and at least watch the debate... though who really cares about the VP? I vote for the President, not the VP."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Let's Go Hokies!

I was lucky enough this past weekend to attend the VT/Nebraska game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.

It was quite an experience. 88 thousand people were in attendance, maybe all of 6-7k of them were Hokie fans. But we represented, almost all wearing Orange (some wearing the more camouflaged Maroon) and apparently we were far louder than any visitor team that any of our neighbors could recall (my family was sitting almost opposite to the Hokie corner and you could clearly hear the cheering and chanting from across the ginormious stadium).

Really, the game was a sheer, grip the edge of your seat game. While the Hokies grabbed the lead early with a Safety and a quick TD from an interception, there was no moment that night that that I felt completely comfortable with victory (probably due to my having seen the Hokies blow it so many times at this point when they do get ahead).

I will say that I have nothing but good things to say about the Nebraska fans. We were sitting deep in their territory and answered many questions (the most popular being of course, "What is a Hokie?") and other questions (I think overall they were impressed that so many people traveled so far for this game). They were also very gracious in defeat (it was such a close game they could be angry at their own team but not us... particularily since there really is no bad blood between VT and Nebraska), I even was given a brand new Nebraska hat as we were leaving the game

Other than the football game I was quite impressed with Nebraska (not that I would live there or anything... far too pedestrian unfriendly for my taste) but it has been 11 years since we went out there. I saw a number of relatives that I haven't seen since then and was actually pretty impressed with the way that they have developed downtown Omaha.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New TV Season - Sundays

A good way to prepare for the new week.
  • The Amazing Race - Only Reality show that I really love. Travel, adventure, action and intrigue. What is there to not like?
  • Most of Fox - Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad (just not a fan of King of the Hill)
  • Brothers & Sisters - Another great show.
  • The Unit - Hooah!
  • Valentine - Gods? Why not, seems worth a try.
  • Easy Money - will try most anything once.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New TV Season - Fridays

This is a rare night. One channel, 3 shows. I can hear my Tivo's sigh in relief about this evening.
  • Ghost Whisperer - Yeah... I like JLH.
  • The Ex List - will give it a few eps
  • Numb3rs - Good interplay between the cast. Like the application of Science to real problems.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New TV Season - Thursdays

The only other, all 4 recorders running at the same time day!

  • NBC Comedy block: My Name is Earl, Kath & Kim, The Office and 30 Rock.
  • CSI - It will be interesting to see how Grissom disappears from the show
  • Grey's Anatomy - Yeah I watch it. You got a problem with that?
  • Supernatural - Back from Hell!
  • Life on Mars - I am intrigued. The British version was fun, I will be interested to see how the American on will be.
  • Eleventh Hour - Will give it a try.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New TV Season - Wednesdays

This is a much more relaxing night, though it makes up for it with quality by having 3 shows that I love!
  • Pushing Daisies - Yes, I love this show. Quirky, funny, romantic, and just plain clever. I eagerly await the return of the Piemaker and his motley crew.
  • Dirty Sexy Money - Delightfully sinful. Willing to take every cliche and hyper-extend it. I can't wait to see more of the Darling's exploits.
  • Bones - Love Bones. The interplay of the characters is fun. The season opener in London was entertaining ("lets get out of here before someone else dies").
  • Knight Rider - Will give it a shot
  • Private Practice - Why not, just as background TV
  • CSI:NY - Same as above.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New TV Season - Tuesdays

Hopefully today goes better than the disaster that was yesterday.

Tuesday is a bit less busy than Monday (what day isn't this season?)
  • NCIS - Yep. I watch it and enjoy it.
  • House - Fun.
  • 90210 - On the bubble about this one. Currently use it as a background show.
  • Priveleged - I LOVE this show. by far the best of the breed.
  • Fringe - Looks like it has everything. I think that it just needs a bit more to "click"
  • Mentalist - I will give it a look. Deep six otherwise.
  • Eli Stone - cute show. Definitely low tier but fun to watch.

Car Free?

I went car free yesterday, though for me it isn't that hard. During the week my car will probably move 2, maybe 3 times (grocery store and maybe gym). When you live 3/4 mile from work and have a gym that is 1/2 mile away there can be many days where you can do without a car.

Ironically I do this and I have one of the most efficient cars out there, a Prius.

Disaster!

Dear Verizon FIOS... Perhaps changing the location of all the channels on the first day of the new TV Season was NOT a good idea. While I appreciate the additional HD Channels (SF Channel HD!!!) I do not appreciate that my poor Tivo's were very perplexed by this change. Read that as, I will be d/l-ing every show that was on last night since I was out of the condo yesterday evening (and I don't generally watch live TV so I was very perplexed when I saw no new shows on my Tivo's when I got back).

Monday, September 22, 2008

New TV Season - Mondays

And now to ignore all the political stuff and focus on what I find very important, the new TV Season! A bit late given the early start by the CW and Fox, but now that the teeth of things are starting:

What I will be watching (I am going to break :

Monday - Holy crap this is an awesome night (thank god for my Tivo Series 3 HD boxes, 2 channels per box)

  • My Own Worst Enemy - should be interesting to see how it plays out. Slater looks to be a good addition to the TV lineup and the story sounds intriguing.
  • CBS - pretty much the entire night. This may be the best night for comedy on. Big Bang Theory, How I Met your Mother, Two and a Half Men, and the new show Worst Week.
  • Samantha Who - Loved the show when it was on earlier!
  • Boston Legal - the last year. I will miss it when it goes off the air. I predict that the ending scene will be the Alan and Denny drinking scotch on the balcony. It would be fitting.
  • Heroes - Looking forward to seeing how they can redeem themselves this season.
  • Chuck - really looking forward to the new season.
  • Gossip Girl - good for the images (what can I say, I am a guy and there are some fine looking women in this show) and for the teen drama.
  • CSI Miami - I will have it on the background while doing other things. This is the show that I dump if I start running low on space (maybe after watching the first few minutes for the "Horatio Gaze." (which is absolutely hilarious to me))- I will have it on the background while doing other things. This is the show that I dump if I start running low on space (maybe after watching the first few minutes for the "Horatio Gaze." (which is absolutely hilarious to me))

Yes... I am a TV whore. Good old DVR's allow me to have a life though. Must... resist... temptation... to buy more storage capacity for my Tivo's......

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arr!

Gotta love Pirate Day! Anything to distract me from this election....

Anyone who disagrees with me can go walk the plank.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Theme of the Day

I had my 9/11 moment earlier this week (though the flags flying everywhere definitely do pull at my heart this day):


Driving back on 395, a long, busy weekend. Finally almost home at 10PM (after leaving at 4AM on Friday), wearing my Army uniform and ready to see my parents and head to bed.


But as I cleared the turn that brought me right past the Pentagon from the HOV lanes all of that popped from my head.



Yes, it struck me... to see that flag there, in the foreground (not seen here) the lights representing those who lost their lives that day. In my hometown –Arlington, VA.

9/11 is and always will be personal to me. While I was immensely lucky to not lose anyone in the events of that awful morning, everything about it strikes a chord with me and my life:

  • The poor, brave souls on UAL Flight 93. As someone who has flown so often in my life, I have little trouble imagining the terror and confusion on the plane that morning. People just like me that were traveling for business or pleasure and expected the greatest inconvenience to be dealing with the cramped seats, bad food and delays of air travel, but instead faced a horrible situation where the passengers rose to the challenge to protect their country.
  • The civil servants, military personnel and contractors working in the bowels of the Pentagon to keep this country safe. Having been a contractor, serving as a National Guardsman and also being a civil servant, these were my people. My coworkers (in the grander scheme), comrades and peers who lost their lives in an unprecedented attack.
  • And of course the lives lost in the WTC. I have lived in NYC, worked in the high-rises and consider it my second favorite US city. My family works there, my brother lives there.. Really, nothing can compare to the horror, terror and anger I felt at this violation and senseless loss of life that these attacks resulted in.

So, yes I slowed (not safe I know but I did look and there was no traffic at all behind me), I felt myself finger the flag that sits on my right shoulder of my ACU's and tossed off a short salute as I drove past. 9/11 was one of the impetuous for me to join the Guard and driving past in uniform like that was fulfilling a promise of mine to not feel as helpless as I did 7 years ago.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Juliana Hatfield rocked!

(or is "pop-ed"? She seemed confused as to whether she was pop or rock) All I know is that I really enjoyed her show.

A confluence of events led me to seeing her concert last night, an random click-around on Facebook that brought me to her fan page, the fact that the show was at Iota (a scant 15 minute walk from my place) and a date that ran short (nice girl, just not enough in common to make me think much of anything will happen. biggest hint to myself that I wasn't interested was that we were wrapping up and I glanced at my phone and thought, "cool! I can still make Juliana's show")..

Interesting note, I was standing next to some guys and this one was saying that he remembered that he had seen her a decade ago in southern VA, the other one then said that it was probably at Virginia Tech, probably in 1993. This caused me to pop in that I could definitely place it in 1995, since that was when I first saw her perform. This is funny because the 3 of us (and I have no idea who these guys were) were probably 10% of the audience at that show... It is a small world...

Man can she sing and play that guitar! I love her lyrics, they definitely are deeper than most. And at 41? Couldn't guess that, she is hot!

A well spent $15!

Monday, September 08, 2008

With great power comes great responsibility

So my Company (military unit, not commercial entity) has a new commander. With that came the discussion of having the Company sound off with a slogan when the come to attention.

Me, being the smart-ass that I am, promptly suggested (purely in jest, I swear) that we should go with "Can you hear me now?" We are a Signal (radio and computers to you non-military types) Company so that brought a few chuckles and then we moved on to other items of discussion.

That was until a couple of hours later when I was heading to the drill floor to see final formation and lo, what do I hear my platoon sergeant telling my Soldiers to sound off with? Yep, you guessed it, "Can you hear me now!"

Yes, I cringed.. and was still cringing the next few times that it happened. Hopefully (and it looks like it has some buy-in) we will be moving on to my next suggestion, "Signal Strong!", by the next drill.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I love this country

"I've got liquor, cash, food, ammo and weed," she said as she floated out of sight. MSNBC
Other than the last one I can completely understand. I guess it all depends on where you live down there.. I know that I have a few relatives riding it out in NO (their place is well above sea level and was perfectly fine during Katrina).

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Uniforms

As noted I have some issues with the new Uniforms (mainly the new one that doesn't have a jacket).
But compared and contrasted, I like that we went with the Blue uniform.
Old Class A
New (or Old Dress Blue. Main difference will be no bow tie, just a regular one)


Anything that doesn't have me wearing hospital scrubs green wins... And given my branch, Signal, gotta love the Orange (there is VT bias).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Final Thoughts on Signal BOLC III

I have to be a little careful on this one.. The Internet can sometimes take a wrong turn and have this pop up on the wrong screen. And there is more than enough information in this blog for it to be traced back to my real life (it has happened before).


But here is my final take-away..


The course, overall, served it's purpose. People such as myself had to muddle through basic material that we already knew (hello... MS in Computer Science with 10 years of industry experience) but there were a few things that I didn't know (mainly radios).

One interesting trend throughout both BOLC II and BOLC III was how keyed the course is at the Active Duty side. We are constantly told statements that start with, "when you finally get to your unit" or "the first time you are in front of your platoon." Very useful advice for the AD folks, not so much for those of us in the Guard, since most likely we have been doing that for at least 6 months, longer for some. We just roll with it and roll our eye's (exchanging glances with our fellow Guardsmen).

The field problem could use more relevant equipment, since it uses old stuff that no one, not even the reserves, uses anymore. But given that the priority is equipping the field units that obviously will take a backdoor until everyone else is equipped (though I am not sure Iquite agree, since it would make training much more useful). Though I guess it does a good job at giving a bit of a feel for things, though it depends on which track you went through how useful the training was.

Alright, that is it. No more talking of Army training for a couple of more years. Thank god I am done with TRADOC, after basically being under them for the past 3 years (minus a little break where I was with my unit).


Back at it

5 months is a long time to be away from work. I actually was back at work the day after graduating from SBOLC, Thursday.



Seeing a lot of my coworkers (and my boss... a pretty good guy that shares my somewhat off sense of humor), meeting new coworkers, seeing how some projects have proceeded and, well, it felt good to be needed (the past 5 months left me somewhat feeling like a cog...). People were happy to see me, willing to listen to my input and it was interesting to catch up on some events. Hopefully it will be a while before I am not excited to go to work, because right now it's a pretty exciting prospect.



Nothing like being away to give you new perspective in life.

Excellent Decision

Ever since I heard her name mentioned as a distant possibility for VP, I had been hoping against hope that McCain would make the right decision and go with her. And against all the pundits arguing for Romney and all, I was right.

McCain/Palin!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I am vain...

I just caught myself polishing the German Badge that I was awarded last night as I walked past it...

That big badge on left (my right) above my name tag is the Gold Badge.

I think I will post a comparison photo later in the week as a pictorial example of why I like the above uniform so much better than the current Green Army Class A/B. The only issue I have with the uniform above becoming the standard is the new class B Uniform, which makes our Soldiers wearing it look like TSA Baggage handlers (see below)

And on another completely unrelated note, I got me some dates lined up! After the unfortunate slow communications fade that was pulled on me by the girl I was seeing before I left for this Army stuff (really, if you have seen someone for more than a month... can't you at least send a note saying it is over? I just find it really cowardly to do that and actually lowers my opinion of those that do it) I am back into the dating pool... yah... (note my enthusiasm)

As a nice corollary for the slow fade I have been told that the girl got back with her ex from 1 year ago and that they just got married... (It's been less than 2 months since I last saw her). Very soap-opraish.... Not like me at all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Signal BOLC III Field Training Exercise (FTX)

Saturday
The first day of our FTX. We started off with a formation at 0430 (which, yes, means that I had to be up around 0400... so ready to go home, these early wakeups are a bitch). We then slapped our helmets on and went off to an undisclosed location to draw our weapons (back to the old M16A2), masks and sundry other items (magazines, cleaning kits, blank firing adaptor). We got some breakfast and then it was off to the offices in the motor pool to begin planning (we had to backbrief the Battalion Commander at 1500). We then loaded up and rolled out to the site we would be heading to so that we could complete our training. Lots of sitting around afterward (there was only one computer so even with people's laptops there was only so much that could done by everyone), a MRE for lunch and then back to work. We made sure that everyone knew the plan and presentation because they had the habit of selecting random individuals to present to the commander. This was good as later on during the presentation I was called out to present 2 sections. Then we rolled right into preparing for the Rock Drill the next day at 0800.

Unfortunately about 1600 I had a headache coming on, followed by intense nasuea by 1800 after I had dinner. By 1945 I abandoned a presenation and ran for the bathroom. I vomitted and looked horrible (pale and disoriented) and the sargeants decided that I would be visiting the ER. Another round of vommiting there and then some bloodwork and for whatever reason I was admitted (I got to bed by 0445. This was supposed to be a good nights sleep since we were sleeping in the motor pool and I was hoping to get a good 8-9 hours in). Many poking and prodding later and I obviously did not get this benefit.
My view that night... I didn't even have a book on me.
Sunday
By 0730 I was awakened for more bloodwork, visits by Doctors and breakfast. At least I was able to watch some television and keep myself somewhat entertained (as it seemed like every time I was about to drift off to sleep someone came in). That continued until they finally decided to release me at 1300 to go back to the field problem. I was then tasked to work in the NOSC (Network Operations Support Center) until they could get me out to rejoin my unit. Most of the work involved monitoring the radios and making sure that the reports were updated on a number of big boards. They finally let me sleep for a while around 1800 and then for whatever reason I was shunted out at 2300 to join everyone in the field. I then crawled into an open cot and promptly fell gratefully asleep.

Monday
A moderately late start (0700), personal hygene and then breakfast. Then we fell into our routine. We had a couple of classes that we had to qualify on and the permanent party (about 6-7 soldiers and NCO's that are there to operate the equipment and also serve as drivers when we have to conduct movements) started running us through those classes. In addition we had 3 positions that had to be permanently staffed, one in the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) to monitor the radios and 2 on the ECP (Entry Control Point). Based on the rules of the exercise we initially had to create a 360 degree permineter but after that was under control we just had to protect one entry point. Additionally one squad was always on ready alert, our QRF (Quick Reaction Force), who would be ready to sally forth and engage the enemy (or at least hold them off until everyone else was ready).
The standard meal cycle was hot food for Breakfast, MRE's for Lunch and hot chow for Dinner. We quickly settled into the routine, taking care of classes, PLENTY of downtime (Suggestion for you high speed types that are pulling this up searching for Signal BOLC III or OBC (that or BOLC II are probably 70% of my traffic).. bring playing cards! Many games of Hearts and other card games were played).
We did have one notable attack. In a simulate mortar attack we had our comms knocked out and the sleep tent gassed... yes, gassed. Industrial grade, anti-riot grade CS (tear gas). This is why we have the masks... I think I set a new personal record for getting that sucker on (I don't think it even had the chance to hit the ground before I was all masked up). I hadn't been gassed since Basic Training but that was more than enough incentive to move quickly... Except for a tingling of the skin I had to ask people if the grenade had really gone off....


The Sleep Tent aka Home Sweet Home

The rest of our encampment. On the left under the Camo netting is the TOC and all the MSE equipment, on the right is our 5 ton truck.

Tuesday
Not too much sleep overnight (between attacks and shift work). We expected that we would be jumping sites today (packing up everything and then setting up at another point). We received word to perform a recon and stand by for a jump (which meant mainly taking down cots, packing bags, taking down tent and camo netting). After performing the recon we then waited for word to jump. It came and then we moved out. Everything was ready to go in short order, we collected the brass that was laying around and made sure we reset the site as well as we could. Then we moved out to the other site.
I would say that this was the most impressive part of the FTX. We had done some pre-planning and had everyone ready to assault and clear the next training area. We were told that we did a pretty good job (given that we hadn't practiced that much as an infantry unit before) and cleared it in short order before our HMMV's and Truck rolled in. Then in a little over an hour we had the radio antenna, the CP tent, all the HMMV's shelters wired together, the sleep tent and the chow tent all set up.. It's amazing what can happen when everyone is working together and with an overarching purpose.
After that it was back into the routine, training soldiers on the required training, pulling duty, responding to the occasional intruder, catching sleep when you could and sometimes just not moving (it was hot and humid).
An intense Heart's game
Wednesday
More of the same. Funniest event for me was that evening when we had to bag extra chow (call came in at 2400) so I woke up the guy nearest to me and said that we needed to clean the chow tent. He geared up (we had to wear our gear (including helmet) everywhere except the sleep tent and the TOC) and went with me over there. He was so discombobulated that he tactically entered the tent and said that it was clear. He apparently was so out of it he though I meant the military definition of clear, checking things out and killing/capturing any enemies in the destination area..
Wednesday was also the only day that we had inclement weather. Late afternoon we could see the weather coming and it just deluged us (probably about an inch of rain in an hour). Luckily we all retreated to the tents (since there were reports of lightning) and overall came out pretty dry.


Me with the standard load-out. Rifle, Mask on the left, LBV(Load bearing Vest), Kevlar Helmet and not seen but camelbak.

Thursday
Last Day!! I had my duty that day (everyone was tasked with an additional task to do in the field. Some went to 15th Signal Battalion (AIT Students) and did tasks there. Some had to be leaders of the platoon for that day. I drew the other task, serving in the NOSC and manning the radios, preparing and presenting the Battle Update Brief (BUB). So at 0500 I was up and headed over there. Since we were the last shift we didn't participate but it was very interesting and educational to observe. Shortly after it was over we started the process of getting the 2 platoons back in, sending out Frago's (Fragmentary OPORDs (OPerational ORDers)) to the units to get ready to redeploy. Then we monitored the movements and preperations as well as cleaning up the building that we were in. We rejoined our fellow soldiers around 1330 or so (and immediately began cleaning, getting the rifles and the masks ready to be turned in by 1600 or so). We got back, helped a bit more and then just waited around to finally get released around 1700. Everyone pretty much made a beeline for their rooms and the wonderful showers and beds that lay within. (remember, no showers since Friday evening)

Prepping for the BUB
More preperation for the BUB


And as a parting image... yes, those are Krispy Kreme's. 4 of the 6 days we had these come along in the morning chow run (they are generally available in the chow halls so it makes sense).
..

Thursday, August 21, 2008

So tired..

I so want to write down the stories of our FTX (Field Training eXercise) but other desires take primacy... shower (no shower since Friday = beeline for a shower on Thursday evening), food (need for something far different than what was offered, hence the desperate call to Papa John's and the simple smile that comes from remembering that you had loaded the refridgerator with bottles of Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat and they were nice and cold waiting to welcome you home) and now sleep (he abilitity to even keep the eyelids open to compose this post are waning..).

Needless to say I am back, alive (though hospitalized at least for a day), tired, gassed (god, how I hate tear gas) and oh so ready to go home in just 6 days. I now am a fully qualified Signal Corp Officer in the US Army and will be affiliated with the regiment as of tomorrow. Did I say that I am ready to head home now?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Got Gold?


I do!
Today I finished the last event of the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. I completed the requirements tonight, the final 100m dash. 13.8 seconds when the requirement was 14. Now I have a very cool achievement that I can proudly wear on my uniform!
The final Tally:
  • 25K Ruck March
  • 200m swim in 5 minutes
  • 3000m Run in 13:28
  • Shooting 6/6 with a 9mm handgun
  • Passing a medic test
  • Jumping 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump
  • Throwing a shot put 29 feet
  • and of course the 100m dash in 13.8s
I am very proud of this! This is something that I couldn't have done a couple of years ago and now I have some very tangible rewards. I will have to post a picture of it on the uniform, it looks huge.

Off to the field, going dark until Thursday.

Week 12 of SBOLC III

Last week of classes!
Monday started early, as we had a weigh in prior to our PT test on Tuesday. This meant that I was tired (dropped caffeine and any carbonated beverages since Tuesday) and somewhat hungry (went on a very precise diet). I weighed in 8lbs less than when I started the course (same bodyfat though). A generous breakfast (gotta have energy for the PT test) and then off to classes. Another exciting day of classes and then a lot of free time (no gym either) afterward.

Tuesday was the Record APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test). I knocked out 60 push-ups in 2 minutes, 56 situps in 2 minutes and ran 2 miles in 15:29. All in all I scored 241 points (out of 300 possible, which was way into the passing range) based on my age and sex, 15 points better than when I took it last time. Breakfast was a combo event, we went offbase to Cracker Barrel and had our SGL (Small Group Leader), Maj Something, give us a short course and brief us on the upcoming field exercise and our roles. Another class in the afternoon and then we hosted a reception/social for the incoming class at the bowling alley (yes, I bowled... won 2 of the 3 games).

Wednesday was the last day of classes. We started the day off with an Outprocessing Brief. They returned some of our records and outlined what we needed to do to go home. Then off to classes. Following that we had the field events for the German Proficiency Badge; High Jump, Sprint and Shot-Put. After 20 attempts (and yes, I mean literally 20 runs at that damn bar.. I finally got a grasp on the style and also tucked my shirt in (yes, I was that close)) I finally cleared the 4"5' pole. However I was so pooped by the high jump that I failed on the 100m sprint, 14 seconds was the goal and my best attempt was 14.4s. The I handily hurled the shot-put for 28-29 feet. The Sargeant-Major offered to let me and a few others retest on the run on Friday. Most of us who tried went to a local steakhouse, T-Bones, for a late dinner.

Thursday began the "Road to War." We started the day with Jagerball (a sort of modified Rugby with you being frozen after getting the ball (no touch, or at least not too much)) which my side handily won even though we were outnumbered. Then we were briefed on the situation and received our Operational Order (OPORD) from higher. For this we are back into our "flows" though now we are calling ourselves Platoons (Red and White). Each days leadership has to put together the requirements and build up the information/planning for the coming time in the field (Sunday - Thursday). Everyone was assigned various positions over time (some as Platoon Leaders, other who had to visit 15th Signal (AIT for Signal Soldiers) and assist their training, or work in NMOC (Central Command Post). I and a few of my buddies get the first shift in the NMOC.

Friday morning I tried the 1000m run, failed it (hate running in the morning and overextended myself). I still felt REALLY sore from the jumping today but was offered the chance to try the 1o0m again in the afternoon. The rest of the day was spent testing and prepping the equipment that we will use and prepping our briefings for the coming days. As noted I passed the run and am good for the Badge!

Early morning tomorrow (0430 formation). Heading to bed soon. Should have some good pictures and stories from this exercise when I get back.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Now I really have the Olympic spirit...

Last night was the German Proficiency Badge field day. First up was the high jump. 4ft. 3in. After some horrific runs on it I finally got the hang of it and after some 15-20 times (and a tucking in of my shirt) I finally got it. Though I suspect that is why I had issues with my sprint.

Then it was the 100m sprint. Target time for my age group? 14 second. My time (and subsequent retries)? 14.4 seconds. I think I hyper extended my muscles jumping (my right butt muscles were sorely protesting even then).

And finally shot put (15lb ball, 24.5 ft target distance).. Some people did all these movements.. me, came up to the line, leaned back and hurled it for 27ft.

Here I was thinking that the high jump would get me and now I have to do the sprint again. I am getting another shot at this on Friday. I will retry the 100m and can also try for the 1000m (target time of 4:10).

I am definitely feeling achy this morning from what I did yesterday evening.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My baby is back!

7 weeks in a crappy PT Cruiser (oh how I loathed that car). $7,500 of repairs, $1200 of car rental (all on the other guys insurance). Took longer than I would have liked but I have it back!

from this:To this:

Friday, August 08, 2008

Week 11 of SBOLC III

Another week closer to home. Overall just not an exciting week.
We spent 3 days going over some of the software tools that are being used in the JNN System. Then the other 2 days were devoted to radios of various sorts and sundries. God, the Army has a LOT of radio's, all fulfilling a certain niche. On the plus side the mostly all seem to work the same way and a fair number are programmable by a computer (entering in comm plans by hand is tedious). Some of them are pretty cool and have some neat capabilities, but I must say for a bit there we pretty much fell into the mode of, "oh look, another radio." I would like to say that enthusiasm is high but I would say that a lot of us are watching the clock/calander intently and am ready to do our time and go home.

On the plus side, we ran Willard Hill (evil .5 mile section of trail with a truly nasty grade) for the last time on Wednesday and on Thursday and Friday it was sleep in time (oh, I mean individual PT time). We have the final APFT test on Tuesday and I get weighed (or in my case, taped) on Monday morning. Other than completing the field exercise this is the last graduation requirement.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Best sign I have seen all year!



1109 Restaurant, Downtown Augusta, GA


Really... I love this sign! And the food and beer aren't all that bad either.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Another year older.

How come I am always on (or just ending) military duty on my birthdays? I really need to have a conversation with Uncle Sam about that one...

Is it appropriate that I feel 2-3 times my age right now? That of course is my own fault, choosing yesterday to do the 25k Death March. But one does feel that you can feel that specter of age looming in the background, as it takes longer and longer to recover from this sort of abuse. Luckily my feet aren't as bruised as they were yesterday, but most of my lower body is seriously feeling beat up (in particular my glutes and my shins).

I do feel lucky that my parents choose to come down to visit me this weekend! It was definitely a nice "pick me up", since it spans the time since the 4th and until I can get home. I know that I spoiled but I feel blessed that I can see my parents (and almost all of my immediate family) all the time when I am at home, so going without is somewhat sad at times.

I felt that I learned stuff over the past year, got do some neat activities and see neat places and I hope that I can apply that to make the next year of my life even better.

Now I need to go take a nap (or is that birthday nap? I love how I can just add birthday to everyday activities once a year) because I am still short on sleep thanks to yesterday brilliant idea.

PS to the family that read this, replying to this post does NOT replace giving me a phone call today.....

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Going for the Gold

I rucked 25 kilometers (15.6 miles or so) with a 25lb rucksack this morning. 3 full camelbaks were consumed in this endeavor. Me and my buddies walked it together, chatting and motivating each other. We completed the march in 247 minutes, 3 minutes under the standard. Now I need to find a place to crawl into and take a nap since this thing woke me up at 0230!

We are going for the Gold!

Team work, I haz it!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Week 10 of SBOLC III

Entering into the homestretch. Just 3 weeks and change before I can, as we reservists joke, head home to Ft. Living Room.

This week we broke up from the "flows" (man, that name sticks in my mouth... it's a seriously unmilitary name) into our Tracks (now we are talking! this sounds much more military!). About 45% of the class moved into the S6 Track (since their follow on job is more of a staff job that focuses on radio's, Blue Force Tracker, and that sort of stuff... they are also not normally headed into Platoon Leader jobs), 35% into the Division Track (this is mine. The focus is on the latest Army platoon/company level (which supports a battalion) structure, using a system called JNN-N (Joint Network Node-Network)/WIN-T (just a follow on/latest and greatest version of JNN... it even has the new holy grail, wireless access to the network on the move for the command post). Students in this track will most likely be Platoon Leaders in this new force structure), and the remaining 20% into the Network Operations Track (these guys are mainly in the fixed installation that the Army has that supports the field operations).

The splitting up the flows is good since we were completely on a different schedule from the other 26 students in the other flow and now everything has been stirred up. It means getting to see and talk with some new people!

Most of the week was powerpoint slides on how this new system works. We did have an exercise at the end where we had to put together (as a team) a presentation on a theoritical scenario where we had to specify how things would be deployed to support that scenario. It was actually kind of fun taking the task and building the end product and eventually giving the presentation to the instructor.

This week brought me closer to my GPB goal, as we had a First Aid Test (10 questions based on the Army FM that we had to get 8 right on... no retakes.). Tomorrow will be the Ruck March. 25k... We have to be there at 0300.....

Monday, July 28, 2008

Every vote counts?

This is embarrassing. America's best and bravest have problems getting their votes in so that their voice may be heard as is their right, and all that is heard from the other side of aisle is crickets chirping, a resounding (and damning) silence.
Rep. Roy Blunt, the House Republican whip, on July 8 introduced a resolution demanding that the Defense Department better enable U.S. military personnel overseas to vote in the November elections. That act was followed by silence. Democrats normally leap on an opportunity to find fault with the Bush Pentagon. But not a single Democrat joined Blunt as a co-sponsor, and an all-Republican proposal cannot pass in the Democratic-controlled House.

Analysis by the federal Election Assistance Commission, rejecting inflated Defense Department voting claims, estimated overseas and absentee military voting for the 2006 midterm elections at a disgracefully low 5.5 percent. The quality of voting statistics is so poor that there is no way to tell how many of the slightly over 330,000 votes actually were sent in by the absentee military voters and their dependents and how many by civilian Americans living abroad -- 6 million all total.

Nobody who has studied the question objectively sees any improvement since 2006, and that is a scandal. Retired U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Charles Henry wrote in the July issue of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings: "While virtually everyone involved ... seems to agree that military people deserve at least equal opportunity when it comes to having their votes counted, indications are that in November 2008, many thousands of service members who try to vote will do so in vain."

I freely admit to being biased on this issues, as I am a Soldier (though unlike my Active Duty comrades I can go cast my vote at my polling place). But for these Soldiers (and those other service members) to not have their vote counted as is their right is embarrassing. Yes, the majority of these votes are probably going to be Republican but every member of Congress (and not just the Republicans) should be falling over themselves to support this bill (and any other that gives full representation to this most prestigious class of voters, those who have risen above most people and volunteered to place their lives on the line to defend this great country). To have their voices silenced over partisan politics is sickening. Shame, Shame on every Democrat Congressperson for this....

The Soldier Voting Scandal
The Military Voting Scandal Continues

Friday, July 25, 2008

Week 9 of SBOLC III

Radios, Radios, Radios.. That was the theme of the week. We spent the past week first on antenna's (like this OE-254 Antenna that we are erecting here)

Then it was on to the actual radios. Pretty good instruction since I really did not have much experience with them before. We covered the most common radio, the SIGNARs, MBITR, and the FBCB2 (Blue Force Tracker). Actually was some of the most useful training so far given my lack of experience in this area.

In other news we started the paperwork for outprocessing on Thursday, less than 5 weeks (33 days from today) left.

I also got to shoot again and got 6 out of 6 so I can try for the Gold on the GPB.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Going to have to settle for Silver

I shot today for my German Proficiency badge. 5 out of 6 (2 from prone, 2 kneeling and 2 standing) with my 9mm. Qualifying me for the Silver assuming I pass the other events. I can't even blame the gun since I (unlike almost everyone else) was shooting my own pistol, my P95 Ruger (which I let a few other people borrow). I guess I will be "only" walking 20km for the Ruck March as opposed to the 30km for the Gold.... Oh wait, did I win or did I lose?

And on another note (and the more liberal readers may want to stop here).... I just bought an M4!!! I had bid on it at Gunbroker.com and it arrived at the gun store today (which I picked up before my test). So looking forward to getting this out on the range!! In particular since BOLC II really made me realize I need the extra gun time (and if it makes the liberals reading this happy, at least salve your concious that I am a Soldier and this is the weapon type I will most likely be taking overseas... and the once a year qualification is just not enough gun time).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maps? I am in the Army, I don't need no stinking maps..

Oh wait, I am a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, and as the saying goes, you can't get lost without LT.

So I am really missing my super-cool car that (STILL) remains in the shop... with my 2nd favorite feature (the first being the wonderful mileage that my Prius gets) being the built in GPS system. Which would have been bloody useful today as I wandered around Atlanta, in search of the Coca-Cola Museum (I was fine, I had directions and everything... until repaving of I85 caused that exit to not be available, nor any of the other ones for 3 miles... which is a lot in a major city like Atlanta). After much wandering I finally found some of the roads that matched what was on my directions and I was finally able to find the place.

Then of course I dead-reckoned a course that would take me straight to I-20 and went through some of the neighborhoods that had me VERY intent on not stopping (I got there eventually but I felt extremely concerned (and I know enough to be concerned about certain neighborhoods, this wasn't some suburb boy driving through an urban area, this section was Sketchy based on my extensive visits and living in urban areas))... Though that is a risk that a GPS would not have saved me from, it comes up with some VERY (read, not the safest) interesting routes at time.

BTW, Love you Coca-Cola! Free admission for Military! Y'all are awesome!!!! So I got to taste the drinks of the world, wander around a place dedicated to one of my favorite non-alcoholic beverages (trust me, based on the amount of Coke products I consume its like Mecca for me) and even got a nice little souvenier when I left (little coke bottle).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Geeky week

First I discover "The Middleman" TV show. I know, at first I discarded it... after all, it is on the ABC Family channel. But then I watch it. And its GOOD! Very much in the off sense of humor, much along with things like "The, Tick", Mystery Men and others of its ilk.

This week also premiered "Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog". Joss Whedon is the man. I just finished it and it was awesome.

The "The Dark Night" came out and I watched it today. Also awesome.

Just such a good week for geekdom.

Week 8 of SBOLC III

Yah! 2 days where I could sleep in (and the promise that from now on there will be no more morning PT on Thursdays)! It felt really good to sleep in.

We went over Signaling fundamentals this week. Basically we went over the major communication systems that we, the Signal Corp, use to support Army operations in the field. It was kind of annoying that most of the material was on a system that is going to be completely gone from the entire force (including us National Guard folks) in a little over 2 years or so. We also learned that we were the last class to have this emphasis and that they were switching more to the new system for the following classes. I actually studied for this test, since a lot of the equipment was new to me though the overall fundamentals were familiar.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I have hated those Che shirts for years

Since, y'know, I actually have some grasp on history.
This guy's article pretty much sums it up.
T-shirt depicts 'pathetic and brutal legacy'
What T-shirt should you wear when you need to blend in with terrorists? Incredibly, we have an answer to that question.

Wearing this shit shows how woefully uneducated this country can be. I know some people explain it's not the person but the idea that it represents (some sort of misguided revolution), but it really comes down to the actual image, that of a murder (and a woefully incompetent revolutionary.. if you want someone to embody revolution).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fun weekend or "Why I should check the weather before heading to the Amusement Park"

A nice relaxing weekend. Took it easy on Friday night, had a few beers, some pizza and went to see Wall-E. Cure little movie, I can see why it, like almost every Pixar movie, did so well, it plays at a lot of levels.

Saturday morning I did something I hate, waking up early, to be with some of my classmates for a 6K Cross Country run. It was a lot of fun, a very challenging course, all dirt and all up or down it seemed, and I finished in 38 flat. Killed some time, bought some beer for a party (Leinenkugel... love that beer. I got both the regular and the Berry Weiss (probably like the original more but it was still really good and popular) and joined a bunch of my classmates for a cookout. Lots of fun was to be had that afternoon and that evening.

A later start than I planned on Sunday, but it was all for the best. Driving west to Atlanta I ran into some dreadful downpours that made me glad that I wasn't heading there as early as I planned. After pulling over and confirming that the front had passed I went on Six Flags Over Georgia. Everything was reopening when I got there and I had the pleasure of just being able to walk onto most of the rides. I rode most of the coasters (skipped the wooden ones, I just don't find them as entertaining anymore) and really enjoyed 2 of them, Superman (anything where you are hanging like that is cool) and Goliath (TONS of fun, the negative g's were so cool, it was like you were floating off before plunging again). Another front did come through and shut things down for a bit (I just found a dry spot and sat and read this new John Ringo novel, Yellow Eyes (a Posleen/Aldentia war novel) and waited it out). I had a funel cake before leaving and was quite satisfied with the day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Week 7 of SBOLC III

Wow, its been 7 weeks.. now if only I can FFWD this a bit more and its almost time to go home.
This week we wrapped up our time at the School for Information Technology (SIT) here at Gordon. We completed our last test there and have now transitioned back to the building we started in 6 weeks ago.
Still doing PT 5 days a week at the 0530 time (whee....). This week we completed the first 2 German Proficiency Badge events, the 200m Swim (7 minutes for my age group, I did it in 5:15) and the 3000 Meter (1.85 mile) Run (standard was a blazing 14:30 (7:50 mile pace... still better than the under 30 set who have to do it in 13 minutes)) which I completed in 14:24 (yep, by a scant 6 seconds. I felt like I was going to die after I finished). The run really had me concerned and I really considered it the most like to kill my GPB goal, I feel that the rest are attainable and challanging. Next up we will be shooting (yah! I like this one) 9mm handguns at targets later next week. Then sometime soon we have a "field day", with 100M sprints, long/high jump, shotput throw,(the latter 2 actually sound like fun, as far as I can recall I have never done these) then finally a ruckmarch and test of first aid.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My hotel room hates me

I just can't figure out whether it is trying to trap me or keep me out. As it stands in the past 3 weeks I have had the following problems:
  • Getting locked in the bathroom. Yep.. Nothing like being trapped right after a shower by a door where if you turn the handle it just spins. And of course the door opens inward (yes, I was contemplating my "Fox Mulder door kicking skills" as I reached the point of frustration/"don't even want to think about telling this story when explaining why I missed formation". After about 6 or 7 minutes of vigoriously yanking on the door it finally popped open.
  • Power circuits have blown twice so far, driving me to leave to seek AC and entertainment options.
  • My front door stopped working. And even though I knew it was a door problem I had to tromp back to the front desk (driving a mile, parking, waiting in line) to get a new key issued that of course did not work. Then wait another 50 minutes for the guy to come and verify that, yep, the door is broken. Have him remove the lock and wait another hour for him to come back with a new lock.

So right now its 2 (or 3) to one that the hotel room doesn't want me in there.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth!

I know that I am happy to be back in DC, at least for the weekend (not looking forward to the drive back to GA on Sunday). To see my family, roommates and well, home. Hope everyone had a safe and fun 4th.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Zonk

I learned a new word today. Zonk. Somehow its an Army thing that once in a blue moon the commander of a formation will call "Zonk" and the activity will be cancelled. Today it happened at a Battalion level run that we were supposed to have this morning. (had to wake up 50 minutes early so that I could be there for accountability, stretching, etc)
Come 0530, the BN Commander (a LT COL) called Zonk and it was mass chaos as everyone raced for their cars.. it was awesome. Like a good soldier I went back to my room and went back to sleep, I have a long drive later today to bring me back to DC.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Movie Roundup

Since I had a nice slack weekend and of course I was bored (though here at BOLC III I have way more toys available) I hit the movies (and watched a few from Netflix).
  • Get Smart - I actually really enjoyed this movie. The casting seemed right and it had just the right level of campiness.
  • Wanted - Pretty pictures. Yeah, thats the best compliment that I will give it. Plot could have been better and it was fairly entertaining as long as you completely shut off your brain and just rolled with it.
  • There Will be Blood - Bleh. Long. Boring. Not really sure what people saw in this movie.
  • No Country for Old Men - Long. Good. Definitely reminds you of the extremes that people will go through for money.

I have also been downloading Doctor Who (god, I really enjoy this show... still can't believe that I am saying that (I always thought that the fans of Doctor Who were the way too dorky, and this is coming from me so that says a lot)) and have started rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.... It's finally been long enough that I can watch the show and not have perfect memory of how the episode went.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

4 ugly words

I don't normally post much on politics, but hey, I am a native Washingtonian and it's in my blood so here are 2 things that have been bouncing around my brain.
As one of my favorite comedians of all time would say, "Now, I don't want to go off on a rant here"

1. "He's not MY President". I remember starting to see/hear these words early in the Bush Presidency (or even the more delusional, "Jeb Bartlett is my President"... way to separate fiction from reality there y'all). I know that you may have voted for the other candidate but here is the harsh reality, (the very necessary reality for the continuation of American democracy). That person is YOUR President. Unless you change citizenship to another country just because you voted for the other guy does not, I repeat, not, make the duly elected leader of your country not your President. That is the beauty of the system, if you don't like the person that was elected in accordance with the laws of the country then be even more active (and vote) for the who you think will do a better job. It burns the very core of the system to understand that while you may not have voted for that person, the majority (or otherwise given our peculiar Electoral College system (and BTW, its the law of the land... want to change it? Elect people who will)) of your fellow citizens have chosen to be OUR leader for the next 4 years. Make fun of him, question his policies, and downright disagree with him all you want (Freedom of Speech, wonderful thing about this country), but you undermine the entire system when you pretend like he isn't your President (it's embarrassing, for you, when you act like a petulant baby). And as a note, if that other guy wins? You are going to find out how whining/babyish it sounds when the Republicans start using it (though this Libertarian will never let those childish-antidemocratic words ever pass his lips).

2. Stop this Impeachment shit (and I am talking to both parties). Both sides in the past 16 years need to fracking grow up. Being President means making decisions. Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes they are right. But if you really can believe that people are so callous with decisions that have such wide-reaching impact then you have never really had Responsibility for much more than a paperclip, let alone the lives of others.

Rant mode off.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tired

I know that I haven't written much lately on my Army training. I would write if something really interesting were happening, but so much of what I have done here for the past 5 weeks has been the norm for me. i.e., lots of computer stuff that I have already done or that is so trivial at the level that it is taught that I pay attention enough to pass the tests, quizzes, and hands on exams handily but in reality my brain is stuck in low gear and not engaged. I will quickly say that I understand why the Army and the Signal Corp put together this plan of instruction, that for the uninitiated this is an excellent grounding in fundamentals that will prevent those new to the field to not be completely overwhelmed. But for about a 1/3 of the class this is not the case, many of them are in the same mode as I am in. Some of us are able to help the newbies but sometimes our help can be a hindrance, since we are so accustomed to working in this field and on problems of higher organization/complexity that we can make things too complicated. For a bunch of these people this is the first time that they have had a command line interface, dealing with a computer based on memorization and logic as opposed to clicking on the GUI (graphical user interface) that is old hand to a lot of us (I have been dealing with computers and programming them since I was in elementary school, which makes it over 20-25 years).
So instead we listen, maybe try to get a tidbit that we don't know and engage in the longest running game in the Army, trying to stay awake in class (this being a techie school it might as well be sponsored by Red Bull and Monster). I finally understand how the Infantry folks felt during BOLC II, feeling that they were paying penance and just checking another box. I do remain hopeful that the last 3-4 weeks plus the field exercise provide some mental stimulation since they cover material that is not really encountered in the civilian world.

Of course I am finding it a bit easier to stay awake now that I am on post finally. The extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning, the overall more relaxed morning and afternoons (and even the occasional noon nap) are making this a little more tolerable. It has helped me recover from NO, which took quite a while given that my poor body was not used that, both the staying up late (4AM EST) and the drinking (oh the drinking... boy can my family put it back).

To give an idea how ready I am for the 4th holiday (they give us the 3rd as well) I just paid someone $150 to take my CQ (charge quarters) shift on the 4th (its a full day shift on a holiday, but well worth the cost). He was already going to be here and I desperately didn't want to be here in GA, now that is capitalism at its finest. I am so ready to go home, see the improvements to my Condo and just relax away from the Army a bit.

And as a side note... $7000 in damages to my poor Prius. Hopefully I will have her back in another 3 weeks so that I can ditch this dreadful Dodge PT Cruiser. I miss my GPS, cruise control and a vehicle that doesn't turn like a beast.

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Orleans

Hurricanes. Hand Grenades. And a slew of other drinks and miscellanious shots. Walking along the mighty Mississippi while eating a Beniate from Cafe du Monde. Hitting the poker room at Harrah's (did well when I was sober. not so well when I wasn't). Strolling down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Staying up too late and sleeping in. Family. Seeing my cousin marry a great girl. So many great highlights to an awesome visit to the Big Easy.
It was too short and I didn't want to leave, in particular when I had to return to Georgia.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Crash

It happened in an instant. Just long enough for me to glance to the left, see the car and exclaim, "You are not about to do this." Then a crash. The damn Private was cited for failure to merge by the MP's (military world is wierd (at least to a reservist like me). Nothing like the police saluting you before begining the investigation), USAA found him at fault and I now have a rental. A quick trip to the ER since my neck was twinging found nothing wrong in t
I hate this town and all the driving around. 9 weeks til I can go home to DC where I drive 3-4 times a week and mostly for short trips, not the 40 some odd miles I have been doing daily lately here in Augusta.

I hope they can fix the damage, I love my Prius.

4 weeks here and a carcrash and witnessing a stabbing. God I hope this trend ends.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Violence

It's funny. I have lived in/near big cities my whole life (DC, Boston, NYC, Houston, SF) and serve in the National Guard but I have never really encountered any violence in my life. Until Saturday night. I decided to get out of my room and check out downtown Augusta. Set up in a bar, listened to music and observed the crowd.

This one group caused me to notice them, as some of their members were admitted to the bar and some were denied. They drifted away.

About half an hour a group (3 or so guys) of that party returned and continued to argue with the bouncer. In a blink the bouncer gets jumped, with them smashing a bottle on him and then shoving him down and were kicking/punching him. In a flash (as I turned to let the bartender know that their security was getting attacked) the Bouncer then stabs one of the assailants. Assailants run away (saw the ambulance down the street as they arrested the bouncer). I am the only witness to the events leading up to the event(it happened so fast I barely had time to notify the bartender).

I am so on the bouncers side... with the original assault and the odds he was completely justified in response. In a poor situation, not defensible nor with anything resembling good odds (and support quite a bit away).

A very odd end to a Saturday night.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

God Help me...

but this actually seems like a good idea (even though every Libertarian bone in my body is screaming to say so)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/05/AR2008060503434.html
Announce a schedule of gas tax hikes of 50 cents every six months for the next two years. And put a tax floor under $4 gasoline, so that as high gas prices transform the U.S. auto fleet, change driving habits and thus hugely reduce U.S. demand -- and bring down world crude oil prices -- the American consumer and the American economy reap all of the benefit.Herewith concludes my annual exercise in futility. By the time I write next year's edition, you'll be paying for gas in bullion.

Only caveat would be that every cent collect be sunk either into public transportation or into new energy research (peak oil has me REALLY concerned), maybe in a ratio of 70/30 (since the transportation is a short peg and people like seeing quick results. The other is a longer plan hence while it should be getting as much as it can you must face political realities). I am talking seriously tight oversight to make sure this happens, no pork barrel shit that so often occurs. EVERY SINGLE CENT.

The current American attitude of ignoring it until a crisis is too dangerous with this one (sometimes I think we should have selected the ostrich as our national bird, as we seem stick our head in the sand and ignore the problem as much as we can), we MUST come up with a solution and lessen our dependence on this region of the world (and that doesn't even take into account of not wanting to send any more of my fellow Soldiers (or myself) back to that god-forsaken region).

The current solutions that I have seen all involve a "and then a miracle happens" (as a SF fan I call this the Star Trek technobabble solution... where they face this insurmountable problem and all of a sudden the engineers/science officers whip this technological solution right out of their asses (they even had it inserted in the original scripts, where the writers would make a note for the technology continuity folks to insert a solution)) scenario where we somehow solve our energy problems. They all seem to fall under, "we can defeat any problem put in front of us" and that really scares me, since this problem is so big and affects every aspect of our lives that it scary to think about its impact. This problem is so ginormous that we have to start tackling it now as well as come up with ways to stretch and husband what resources we have. This problem is why I am not really worried about Global Warming (lets ignore that solving this will definitely curb the other "problem"), this problem is far more likely to end with fights over what resources there are remaining, with some of those fights eventually ending with bright flashes and enormous fireballs.

The American Way of Life (TM) (as defined by the silly dream of everyone having a huge house in the suburbs, 2+ cars etc) is dead if we don't start making corrections, though I would argue that its going to change anyway (heck, the overall impact of this dream is what got us to this problem in the first place. 3 (maybe 4) people do not need a 3-4k sq ft houses). But hey, its been well established that I hate the suburbs/exaburbs. My fellow Americans, be they on the far right, the far left, and that so helpless and clueless group in the middle (that the ones on either side feel is their responsibility to shepherd) will drive me batty/be the death of me yet.

Honest to God, I actually have dreams (and fantasy's) where I can solve this energy problem. (though all those seem to involve miracles as well)

hat tip to CDR Salamander

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hot enough?

All I can think is thank god this training is indoors, since its been awfully hot (Cat V days in military terminology, the worst and most dangerous category). My "Flow" (yep, that's how they broke us up, into "flows" (basically 27 per flow, an A-Flow and B-Flow). Not platoons, not squads, not something military sounding, but flows.......) is working on basic electronic foundation stuff. Resistors, capacitors, inductors, AC/DC. I am having flashbacks to end of high school/first year of college, the last time I really thought about this stuff. Luckily its coming back, but you can see that a lot of people struggle with it.



Friday was an "Organization Day". Basically a picnic. In almost 100 degree weather. Lucky us. Though it did allow me to sleep in late (didn't have to show up until 930... a nice switch from the 0530 during a normal day). And we did get out early.



Friday night was definitely interesting. I went to an indoor football game (hey, the tickets were free) then headed a couple of blocks over for the downtown "First Friday." Basically its an event where the businesses downtown stay open, there is street food, different vendors set up and there is music. Very fun (and a very different set of food in my stomach, teriyaki with payaia).

I sampled some more of the local food over the weekend. I hit this place called "Sconyers" and was quite pleased with the BBQ there. They had a big master plate (1/4 chicken, 2 ribs and a healthy scoop of pork and beef BBQ plus sides) that pretty much sent me into a food coma. Good thing I went for a 6 mile run in the morning (wow did that wipe me out as well! 1 liter of water right before and completely drained my camel-back on the run) along the canal here in Augusta. Not as nice as the C&O canal but it is also a more functional canal than that one.