Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sad News

I'm sad to report that my comrade Staff Sergeant Jeffrey J. Hansen passed away at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany Sunday. His family was at his side. It's difficult at this time to convey the degree to which we will miss him.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What's Cool?

I've got no new information to pass on regarding my injured comrades from my previous post, so I'm just going post something else that's been on my mind lately.

What makes someone 'cool'? Of course the word and idea behind it is very subjective. But overall who are people who are respected? The first thing, and the most cliche'd is that a person who is respected must respect themselves. Maslow's heirarchy of needs says that a person's ultimate need is self actualization. But like being cool being self actualized isn't something one can follow down a checklist of items in order to achieve an end. Most importantly some people's goals for achievement can be impossibly high.

Back in elementary school one of my teachers told me one of the dumbest things I think I've ever heard. 'Never let your reach exceed your grasp.' What kind of Marxist 'worker's paradise' crap is that? If a person limits their dreams to only those things they know they can achieve then that person has no dreams. Their goals will be as simple as the acquisition of material things or money merely for the purpose of having them.

I'm going to paraphrase what I remember as Vonnegut who said man's purpose in life was 'to be the eyes, the ears, the consciense of the creator of the universe...'. I'm a bit hamstrung with that one since I have no faith that there is a creator of the universe, but I can make allowances. If in place of the creator of the universe you inserted the idea of a collective consciousness of all mankind, then that's an idea I can get behind. But how does that make one cool? By most standard definitions the last three paragraphs I've written would make me decidedly uncool in pop culture circles. Eh, pop culture morons. If your life goals are to provide decoration and entertainment, then that's fine, but I sort of feel sorry for you.

So to be cool one must have a consciense. Okay, I could go for that I guess. What else?

What do I think is cool? People who've accomplished something. People who are educated, and strong, and able. Look at my friends list, there's a bunch of guys close to the top that I'm serving with over here. Every one of them is in my opinion 'cool'. Except for the fact that one of them is a Yankees fan, I couldn't think of a bad thing to say about any of them.

I know I quote Heinlein alot, but here's another one from him that I quite like: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." I think to be cool one should be a bit more capable then a one trick pony. To be accomplished, to be able a person should be well rounded, a rennaisance man as it were.

So in my opinion a person who's cool should be accomplished, and have a conscience. Good starts there. But where is this taking us? Why does it matter?

Hey, it's just a blog. I can't offer all the solutions. It's just my observations of the world around me...

I'm going to close this meandering with a quote on love I found while looking up some Vonnegut stuff:

"Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous." Think on that one, if I can maintain some self-discipline I'll blog on it next time.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm OK

Two days ago my unit had a serious accident. While out on patrol one of our humvees slipped off a canal bank road and into the waterway. Several of the crew were critically injured and have been medevaced to Germany. The families of these soldiers have been informed of the incident and the soldiers' status.

Those of you who are religious please include them in your prayers, everyone else hope for the best. I'll advise with more details when I have them, and I'm allowed.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Man Culture?

It's my night off and I'm indulging with some relaxation time in front of the TV. What's on? Thought you'd never ask. I just got done with Jeffrey Ross's documentary about a USO tour of comedians Patriot Act. Now I'm watching season two of Entourage.

Entourage is amazing. For the unitiated it's about a group of four guys, one actor and his three friends following him around Hollywood. Why do I like this show so much? I've pondered on it a bit. Their value system is so divergent from mine. Where's the appeal? Then it hit me, this is a show about men. Unlike every fucking modern sitcom from Raymond to King of Queens to According to Jim and all that other shit, this show doesn't belittle us, or make us look like clowns. Well, there are moments, but in the execution of a man's life he'll make himself look like a clown from time to time.

What's man culture? I feel often like I have to apologize for having a y chromosome and a penis. Modern media, philosophy, and culture have somehow made me out to be the bad guy. Where the hell did that come from? Seems to me we've got at least as much to be proud of as to be ashamed of.

So where am I going with this? What's got my brain tied around this particular topic at this particular moment? I was in a message board debate earlier regarding a person who was offended about being addressed as a 'girl'. Contextually this is difficult to relate, on the one hand I could see her point. Calling any adult by the term normally used to denote a child can be seen as offensive. But in certain contexts it can signify affection, familiarity, or the existene of a mentor/apprentice relationship.

I'm tired of being made to feel apologetic for my gender. Some will argue that with the existence of Maxim magazine, Xbox, Tarentino films, and the eventual resurgence of Dick Dale men's culture never went away. Could be they're right. I say let's celebrate men's culture again. Cleavage, red motorcycles, and well done steaks for all my men, dammit!

This message sponsored by Guiness, Ducati, and World Cup Rugby.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sweaty sheets should be more fun

Well, we're officially on the night shift now. It's usually almost the regular lunchtime when we get off work, so I've been going to the gym, then coming back and going to bed.

Last night however was my night off. I sat around and played poker, watched baseball, surfed around, went for a run...well, we really don't need a catalog of the entire evening, do we?

Anyway, after I got back from breakfast I turned in. I woke up in the middle of the afternoon (clock said it was 15:24) and the first thing I noticed was silence. That in itself is pretty weird, since the generator out behind our living area makes a pretty constant low level hum, and you can always hear the air conditioner. The lack of noise from that particular appliance led me directly to my next discovery. My bed was soaked! I have no idea how long the power had been off, but it was friggin' hot in that room! I went outside and there were a couple Malaysian guys servicing our generator. Unfortunately they spoke no English, and my gift for language and non-verbal communication had deserted me sometime in the middle of the night.

They stared at me as I tried to ask when the generator would be back on, and I'm probably lucky they weren't armed, as I'm sure some of the gestures I was using could easily have been misinterpreted. I shuffled back to my room and changed my sheets and laid down to try to go back to sleep. No luck.

It's definitely going to be a long night!

Sweaty sheets should definitely have been more fun!

Monday, August 7, 2006

It's possible that I'm evil

As least as some would define it. I prefer to think of myself as pragmatic, but a persons perceptions are their everything, so believe what you will. Here's my thoughts:

I read this story online a few moments ago:

Lebanon Demands Cease Fire

Now here's the thing. Despite all this, Lebanon's prime minister is still referring to these unfortunate civilians killed in this raid as 'martyrs'. A typical bullshit concept that puts the worst possible face on innocent death. It relieves the government of all fault in their deaths, and consigns their fate to their god.

I say if Lebanon wants a cease fire, then let them round up and turn over to the Israelis every member of Hezbollah they can get their hands on. And if we can find the few that were responsible for the Marine Barracks in Beirut back in '83 then let us have those. Impossible you say? Well, needs must when the devil drives. If the Lebanese really want the bombing to stop, then they'll find a way that doesn't involve begging, hat in hand, for a result you know won't come about.

My first forray into political blogging, and I'm sure it's not going to make me popular. In fact I know some people I respect (Hi Mom) who will read this and likely be horrified by it.

Now, do I have the guts to hit 'post'?


Don't worry, this won't involve whipped cream, sweater puppets, or baby oil.

But a common question posited by women to men is 'what are your fantasies?'.

I have a few of them, none of which will probably fit the mold.

Fantasy number one is simple, it's to be involved in something while we're over here. To friggin' shoot back, to do something more useful than stare out into the landscape of Iraq and pray that SOMETHING happens today. Of course someone is going to hit me with 'be careful what you wish for'. To that I say 'bring it!'.

Fantasy number two is indoor plumbing. I just woke up an hour or so ago, and I hate having to stumble out in the middle of the night (which since I'm now on the night shift is actually around 3pm) to go pee.

Fantasy number three is the most fleshed out. The theory of relativity says that as one's speed increases relative to another object then the sense of time is compressed relative to the other object. For the purposes of this narrative we'll call the other object 'everything else' and the object traveling at speed will be me on the Ducati (Monster S2R since I can't quite swing the price of the Monster S4RS).

In my mind's eye I see myself stuffing a a couple hundred bucks in the pocket of my jeans, throwing on my helmet and walking out to the bike. It's a late spring day in Nebraska. Sunny, but the heat hasn't really kicked in yet. My hands are already buzzing with anticipation. I crank the starter, and then I'm in nirvana. I thread my way through town (damn stoplights, stupid mini-vans) until I'm on the I-80 exit, then the fun begins. 25mph warns the sign on the tight right hander putting me into the interestate. Yeah, right. I lean on the throttle, and look over my left shoulder, good to go. Once the turn straightens out I find that I'm very likely committing several moving violations. And the beautiful thing about relativity is that my sense of time while I'm doing this is suddenly not in synch with 'everything else'.

Now if someone knows some good places in eastern Nebraska, West Iowa, Northwest Missouri to go carve some corners please let me know. I'm not sure I can handle riding all the way to Colorado every weekend.

My dad is always on me to put up some more photos. Here's a couple of me and my battle buddy returning from an immediate reaction force mission. Don't let the term freak you out. The immediate reaction force usually rolls out to chase kids away from the gate, or to guard a bunch of engineers building a new fence. But its outside the wire, so it's better than sitting around and picking your nose.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Some Words

I enjoy words. The encapsulated meanings of ideas, the ability to combine them together in differing contexts and create satire, drama, humor, exposition, to define a convincing argument. My ability to communicate both verbally and in writing is probably the gift of which I'm the most proud.

I'm just going to jot down some words, their definitions and expound a little on what they mean to me.

aesthetics: plural but singular or plural in construction : a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste and with the creation and appreciation of beauty.

Now I'll never be accused of being an aesthete. In fact I'm probably the exact opposite. I much prefer the beauty of ideal functionality over the decorative. In my view man's artistic endeavors are at their best when they achive a purpose in engineering. That's why I find this:

to be one of the most beautiful works of art man has ever created. Every line is form. Every curve, corner, surface, the entire shape designed to get the maximum performance out of what were once lumps of inanimate metal. Certainly it was created for a terrible purpose, but that does nothing to detract from it's overall beauty.

Mediocrity: The state or quality of being mediocre.
Mediocre:Moderate to inferior in quality; ordinary.

Now that's a funny poster, but it gives me a larger message. I'm all too accepting of mediocrity in others around me, and even moreso in myself. I've got no excuses for my own mediocrity. Everything about me speaks of the far right end of the bell shaped curve. Truly the quotation "There's nothing so common as talent squandered." applies to me. I have a lackadaisical attitude about most of life. I can do better. I should have, up to now, done better. But Hollywood movies lie. The protagonist doesn't just one day discover his calling and is suddenly endowed with a font of energy and motivation. True success comes from tenacity. The day after day sustainment of excellence. It's hard, which is why truly successful people are pretty damned rare.

Love: Far too many definitions to list, so I'll pick a couple I like best. From the master himself Robert A. Heinlein. "Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." Next we have the inventor of the modern story William Shakespeare: " My bounty is as deep as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite." Now I'm sure someone's going to think I missed Yeats or Shelly or some other murkier and more romantic old European, but these are not in my.... my....

(Patsy: Idiom sir?)

Idiom, yes, thank you.

Camaraderie: a spirit of friendly good-fellowship. That's the Webster's definition. BUZZ, not even CLOSE! No one who has experienced the camaraderie of soldiers could define the concept so lightly.

For the past five months my mortar section had been attached to another platoon, separated, and integrated into other working units to accomplish a different mission, but today we got back together for four days of intensive training. It was a long day in the hot sun refreshing skills, and learning some new ones. At the end of it we got to promote one of our guys (Congratulations Specialist Cromwell!), and then went to dinner at the chow hall together. And we clicked back into old familiar rythms as though we'd never been apart. I looked around the romm surreptitiously and could see some envy at the spirit we share. Of course if I said any of this out loud to the guys they'd laugh me all the way out of Iraq, but in a way I don't think they'd be suprised either.

Well, not as many words defined, but alot of words typed. Hope it was fun to read. I know tomorrow's Friday back home, so someone go pull a black and tan and stare at a pretty bartender's ass for me while watching the Cubs get creamed. Time is flying over here, and I'll be home before we know it!

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Balding is a condition, bald is a choice

Well, I broke down today. I'd been trying to grow my hair out since we were in the field on Fort Polk for three weeks (bathrooms were few and far between). I've accepted that I have both thin and thinning hair. So immediately following my morning shower (which thanks to the vagaries of changing to the night shift took place at 1500) I looked in the mirror, grabbed my trusty Mach 3 Turbo and off it all came. Like the subject line says; balding is a condition, bald is a choice.

Folks are still asking what they can send in care packages. I went around to my guys (the ones who were awake anyway) and took a brief survey. Here's the results:

camel hair brushes (to clean the dust off weapons)
lens cleaning kits (for goggles, sunglasses, and weapons' optics)
battery powered digital alarm clocks (timex makes some good inexpensive ones)
single serving powdered drink mixes
good coffee (now that we're on the night shift)
hard bristle scrub brushes (for cleaning dust/mud/sweat off of body armor, boots etc.)
band-aids (for little ouches that you don't want to bother the medic with)
insulated coffee mugs
candy (the selection at the PX sucks, specific requests were starbursts, jelly beans, gummy bears, no chocolate)
electricians tape
Nebraska Huskers memorabilia (posters, bumper stickers, hats)
One guy wanted a signed poster of the 'Scarlets' Nebraska Dance Squad

If anyone wants to send a care package our way drop a line and I'll send you my address.

Thanks again for your continued support!