Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thoughts and Prayers

Weerd's wife is going in for surgery today.

Our family included them in our prayers.

Please add them to yours.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The NCO Creed

This is the next in my series of posts that deal with the military.

The Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Creed was something that I first began hearing about two hours after I got to Basic Training.  It was also one of the last things I read before I signed my discharge papers.  If you want a mission statement for my life, both now and when I was in the Army, this is it.  It serves as a reminder of the standard to which a leader should hold himself. 

No one is more professional than I.   I am a Non-Commissioned Officer, a leader of soldiers. 
As a Non-Commissioned Officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as “The Backbone of the Army.”

This is what I am, not what I do.  I will never allow myself to be less of a professional than anyone else.  I set high standards, and strive to achieve and surpass them.

I realize that I am a member of a group that has a distinct mission and role in our society.  I am an individual, but my importance as an individual is surpassed by the importance of my group.

I am proud of the Corps of Non-Commissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the Military Service, and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself.

I am proud of my ability to call myself a leader and the accomplishments that other members of my organization have achieved.  I will never bring discredit on them or myself through my actions.  There are no excuses for compromising my integrity or morals.

I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit, or personal safety.

My needs are not as important as the needs of my subordinates.  If they work late, I work later.  If the workload is heavy for them, it’s heavier for me.  If they’re working in crappy conditions, I have no business working in a nice comfortable office.  Rank does not have its privileges.

Competence is my watch-word.  My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind – accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers.  I will strive to remain tactically and technically proficient.

I must always be able to not only do my job, but the jobs of my subordinates and immediate superiors.  I cannot expect my people to do their jobs right the first time if I can’t do it.  I must understand the job of my boss so that I know how best to support him.  My basic jobs are to get the job done and take care of my people, in that order.  Sometimes these come into conflict.  I must have the ability to find a path that satisfies both goals.  Being technically proficient means that I have the skills and knowledge inherent in my job.  Being tactically proficient is to be able to apply these skills in a real-world setting.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a genius if you don’t get the job done, but you can’t get the job done if you don’t have the skills.

I am aware of my role as a Non-Commissioned Officer.  I will fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that role. 

Again, I know to which standard I am held, both by myself and by society.  I will meet and surpass that standard.

All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership;  I will provide that leadership.

All people deserve to be led by a professional.  People don’t crave management, they crave leadership.  Sometimes a leader has to give express instructions that cover all the details.  Most times it’s only necessary to make sure people know what needs to be done, with what resources, and when it needs to be done by.  A leader has to be able to provide both kinds of leadership, and knows when to apply them.

I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own.

In order to lead someone, you have to know and understand them.  If you can’t be bothered to remember details about your people like their backgrounds, education, experiences, and families, how can you expect them to trust you?  If you can’t keep it all in your head, keep a leader book.  Your personal needs, when compared to the needs of your subordinates, come somewhere between whale scum and the bottom of the sea.  If people know and understand that you put them first, they will walk over hot glass for you.

I will communicate consistently with my soldiers and never leave them uninformed.

Keep your people informed.  Even if people don’t like the truth, they hate falsehoods and cover-ups.  Don’t be cruelly honest, but don’t pull punches either.  If they know they can trust your word, they’re less likely to doubt your motives when told to do something.

I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment.

Nothing destroys a group like favoritism and/or bullying.  If someone deserves a raise, promotion, or pat-on-the-back, give it to them.  If they deserve a reprimand or worse, give it.  Some of the people who I have the greatest respect for weren’t afraid to chew my ass the day after recommending me for an award.

Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine. I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my soldiers.

I will do my job in such a manner as to give my boss the greatest chance of success in doing his job.  I will never neglect my responsibilities so that my boss will have to fulfill them personally.  My superiors will know that when I am assigned a task, I will carry it out to the best of my abilities, and if I ask for help, I really need it.

I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers, and subordinates alike.

Loyalty is not lock-step acceptance of orders.  Loyalty is letting your boss know when you think he’s wrong.  Loyalty is also keeping this to yourself when you’re speaking to or around people from outside your group.  Support those around you, and make sure they know they can come to you with a  problem in confidence.  Never complain about the boss in front of your people.  If he’s an idiot, they’ll figure it out on their own, but don’t confirm it.  Never sell your people out, no matter what. 

I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders. 

Most times, you will be on your own.  You may not have been given the authority to do what you think needs to be done, but you still have to do it.  It’s easier to ask forgiveness for getting the job done by going beyond your orders than it is to fix a problem that’s become worse while you wait for someone to tell you what to do.  Train your subordinates to think, and your job will be easier. But remember, you can delegate authority, not responsibility.  If you or your people screw up, take the ass chewing.

I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage.

Once you’ve sold out once, you will never be trusted.  Never lie.  Never cover up.  When you screw up, and you will, admit it and take your lumps.  You’ve earned them.  Don’t shy away from the hard decisions.  Never take the easy wrong in favor of the hard right. 

I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Non-Commissioned Officers, leaders!

Again, a reminder of the standard that you are held to.  Also an admonishment that you will support your peers and help them to live to this standard. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Overheard in the car

DaddyBear, braking hard to avoid rear ending the moron in the car in front of him who stopped 20 feet short of a red light:  "Dickhead!"
Irish Woman:  "Now dear, it's the Lord's day."
DaddyBear:  "Of course, dear, you're right.  Hey, Holy Dickhead!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Night Earworm

This popped up on my playlist while BooBoo and I were driving Girlie Bear to her mom's house tonight.  It's one of my favorites.

It's a dead man's party
Who could ask for more?
Everybody's coming
Leave your body at the door
Leave your body and soul at the door


I thought it was a trade, but apparently Jimmy's coming back to the States too.

Oh well, better luck next time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thought for the day

Is it just me, or does everyone else get a mental image of Morgan Freeman playing Dracula on Electric Company for the song "Peck on the Neck" when they see this?

Or am I just the freak here?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Suffer the little children....

Nothing like the "sins" of the mothers coming back to bite the daughters in the ass.  An Episcopal preschool in Texas has refused to admit a 4 year old little girl for the horrific sin of having two mommies

I'm not as good a Christian as I could be, but I at least recognize that you don't encourage people to live better lives by shunning their children.  We all come to the Lord as sinners, broken and bereft.  But you don't punish the family of someone you consider a sinner in order to make a statement about the sin.

Is homosexuality something that transgresses against the mandates of Christ's Gospels?  Who knows?  I've read the new testament a few times, and I've never seen it mentioned.  There are some passages in the Old Testament which seem to be where all of the justification for the kerfluffle over gay marriage is coming from.  But that raises the question of do we put the laws of the Old Testament, in all their intricacy and breadth, over the law of the New Testament, which is to love each other as Christ loves us.  Period.  Not "Love the people who look and think like you" or "Love the people who don't stray from the norm".   Do we shun a "sinner", or do we accept the person who does things we disagree with as a member of Christ's flock and try, through our own example, to help them to live better lives as Christians?

Look, I'm the last person who should be judging who should and who shouldn't be allowed to marry.  I admit that.  Is marriage between two adults who happen to be of the same sex wrong and evil and blasphemous?  Not my call.   What happens between two adults is none of my business.  If a church decides not to take that same stance in regards to the adults, that's their call.  They can deny them access to sacraments such as communion, confession, or marriage.  Their church, their rules. 

But a child that is being raised by two gay parents has no dog in that fight.  This little girl only knows that two women love her, and are trying to get her into a school to start her education off to a good start.  My guess is that the parents in this situation will take their child somewhere else so that the little one won't be mixed up in the chest beating that this kind of situation can bring on both sides.

If a church restricts me in a way that I don't feel is in keeping with Christ's message or enforces rules that I find offensive, I can leave, will leave, and have left to find another place to share my worship.  This "Christian" church should feel ashamed of itself and re-read the Gospel which was brought not for just a select group, but for all.

Military Equipment Categories

This is the next in line for the military stories posts.

When I was a young sergeant, I was transferred from the easy life of a desk jockey in Germany to the Intelligence Center in Arizona.  It wasn't the same as being sent to a division, but it was a big difference for me.  I'd spent the last three years learning how to shuffle and produce paperwork with the best of them, and now I was drawing field gear and heading out to the desert to learn, train, test, and fix.

My first day with my unit was Monday.  Monday was Motor Pool Day.  Our battalion commander sergeant major loved the motor pool.  It was brand spanking new, so he made us keep it looking new.  Think steam cleaning vehicles every time we drove them off of concrete and sweeping the red kalichi dust off of the tarmac at least once a day.  Think using a plumb line to make sure all of the trucks were lined up in a perfectly straight line.  He was one heck of a sergeant major, but he was over the top in an occupation that makes everyone who succeeds a little OCD.

On the plus side, he made the mechanics personally responsible for any equipment in the motor pool that didn't work, even if fixing them was my job.  That meant that when a vehicle, trailer, or generator stopped functioning, they came out and made heroic efforts to either fix it or get it replaced.

My platoon was equipped with one HMMWV, six M577 armored command posts, and six 10kw diesel generators, along with assorted trailers and such.  In Germany, if I needed a military vehicle, I'd sign out a VW van. Electricity came out of a wall socket, and water came out of a faucet.  Here, I was signing for a 35 ton APC, learning the care and feeding of a diesel generator, and washing/drinking out of a water buffalo trailer.  Since I was the new guy, regardless of rank, I got the track, trailer, and generator with the most problems.  I got to know our mechanics very very well over the next couple of years.

Within a week of signing for my track and all its contents, we were prepping to go to the field for a week.  By the field, I don't mean go out and train under a scenario to sharpen your warfighting skills.  By the field, I mean drive out to a training area, set up all of your equipment to highly inspected standards, and give the same training to mostly uninterested officers, NCO's, and IET privates. Our job in the TOC was to set up, give briefings on the technology we had to show the students, and then run the students through a few hours of simulated use of the equipment in the afternoon.  It was interesting the first couple of times I did it.  It got old fast.

Halfway through the 3rd day of doing this, my generator started roaring like a jet trying to take off and billowing black smoke.  It got shut down before it blew up or caught fire, and we connected and fired up the spare.  The next day, the motor pool sent out Specialist P to work on it.  SPC P was one of the head generator mechanics, and was a walking fire plug of a Puerto Rican.   He took one look at the generator, and pronounced it "f***'ed". 

Thinking he was being sarcastic, I inquired where in the manual I could find the correcting procedures for a f***'ed generator.  He gave me the look he must have reserved for fools and small children.

"Sergeant, no military gear is ever good, even when it's brand new.  There are only three classifications of equipment:  Broken, Fixed, and F***'ed.   Broken means that it's not working but can be fixed.  Fixed means it's working and hasn't broken yet.  F***'ed means it's not working and nothing we can do will make it work again.  Your generator is f***'ed.  You should tow it back to the motor pool and we'll work on getting it sent to the depot to be repaired or replaced."

As I've become the mechanic version of an IT worker, I've taken this philosophy to heart.  No equipment is ever good.  It may be working now, but it's only a matter of time before it fails.  The trick is to know what is most likely to fail and be prepared for it.  And when it's f***'ed, be ready to admit and and get a new one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

OK, what will you do if elected?

Mid-term elections are heating up.  Locally, we've got a Senate seat being given up by the retiring Jim Bunning (R) being contested by Jack Conway (D) and Rand Paul (R).  Of course, our Representative, Jim Yarmuth, is up for re-election, and for the life of me I can't remember who's running against him.  Hmmmm, that doesn't bode well for the GOP in that race.  Gonna have to do some homework there.

From the Democratic side, I'm hearing a lot of "The Republicans are evil!  Bush caused all this! Hope and Change is working!  More stimulus!  Tax the rich!  Pay off the poor!".

From the Republicans, it goes "Obama is a moron!  We're circling the drain!  Cut Spending!  Lower taxes!"

From what I can see, the issues that I care about are, in no particular order:

  1. Economics - Get the government out of the private sector and let the market figure out which companies (Auto manufacturers, banks, mortgage lenders) deserve to survive.  Quit giving my money (I earned it, and it was taken from me while I was looking down the barrel of a tax law) to fund the latest pandering of either party to their political base.  It's a simple formula.  Let me keep more of my money, and I promise to spend it or invest it wisely and pay taxes on the income from the investment.
  2. The War - Yes, our combat troops are out of Iraq, at least for now.  But if you try to tell me that the Iraqi security forces are cohesive and competent enough to keep that country from sliding back down into the sewer, I'll call you a blue faced baboon of a liar and a fool.  We'll either repeat our mistake in Vietnam of just leaving and not getting involved as that country fell to our opponents, or we'll be back in a year or so.  As for Afghanistan, are we following the right strategy to bring the people over to some semblance of good government?  Is Karzai and his group of kleptocrats the right horse to bet on?  Can we convince the Taliban that it's better to work with us to improve their country and let us go home than it is to continue to martyr themselves at the point of a bayonet?
  3. Health Care - It's none of the Federal government's business how I pay for my health care and how much I and my employer pay.  Want to make me happy?  Get rid of the national healthcare bill, and let insurance companies compete across state lines for customers.  Let me buy my medications from whomever is licensed to sell them to me.
  4. Defense - I'm pro-military, as you may have guessed.  But having grown up around the Air Force and spent most of my early adulthood in the Army, I know there is a lot of wasted manpower and money in the defense establishment.  Want to cut the defense budget?  Try cutting out a lot of the fat in the procurement process.  Tell the Pentagon to scale back its fanatical obsession with buying the new shininess from BAE and Lockheed.  How about we do a non-political evaluation of all of the bases, overseas and domestic, that we have and decide if we need all of them without Congress messing it up, and then actually close bases in less than a decade?
  5. Border security - I find it personally insulting that my grandfather came through Ellis Island and worked hard to stay out of trouble and be productive to become a citizen and now someone can slip across our southern border or jump off a container ship in Oakland and expect to be taken care of by our social safety net while working in a gray market of slave labor.  Want to make me happy?  Get all of those who are here illegally out, be they a Hispanic day laborer who slipped across the border at Nogales, or an Irish student who entered the country through LAX and let his visa lapse.  Prohibit the federal government from doing business with any company that uses illegal immigrant labor in any way.   Let the economy absorb whatever damage that causes.  Close the bloody Mexican border using whatever means are necessary. Better control the Canadian border if that becomes necessary.  Force ships coming into our ports to be inspected for illicit human cargo.  If we need immigrants to do work we don't want to do, then let them in in a controlled manner, either as legal residents or as foreign workers with an expectation that they will take themselves back to their home countries after a very finite period of time.

Here are a few "issues" that are being brought up that I don't want to hear about from politicians:

  1. Gay Marriage - It's none of my business, and it's none of the federal governments either.   Let the states and the courts figure that out.  Find another subject to talk about. 
  2. Mosques - It's either a location that's a few blocks from Ground Zero that just happens to be right for building a Muslim community and worship center, or it's a victory mosque being built to stick a thumb in our eye on the site of a national tragedy.  Either way, it's not a federal issue.  I have my own opinion, but I'm not using it as a political yardstick. 
  3. Abortion - It's the law of the land, no matter how I feel about it.  Until either the Constitution is changed or the Supreme Court changes it's mind, quit yammering on and on about it.
  4. George Bush - He's been out of the White House for a year and a half.   Democrats have been in charge of Congress since 2006.  Either share the blame for the mess we're in or stop dredging up old news.
  5. Barack Obama - Personally, I think he's the second coming of Jimmy Carter.  I hope he's a one term president.  I don't agree with his politics or his work ethic (Wish I had that much vacation time, even if they are working vacations).  He's the president.  He's a citizen, unless something unexpected crops up.  Move on.  You can talk more about him when he's an actual candidate in 2012.

To summarize:  I have a pretty well defined set of things I want to hear about from political candidates.  I'm tired of distractions from both parties that keep us from discussing those things.  The more you talk about the distractions, the less likely you are to get my vote.  It's the right of someone who considers himself to be a political independent to look at both parties and decide which one's candidates turn his stomach less when deciding how to vote.  Your goal is to be as non-nauseating as possible by telling me what you believe are the important issues in our country, and what you plan to do about them.  If we can agree, then you may earn my vote.  If we don't, well at least you got consideration.  Try to baffle me with bullshit, and you won't even get considered.

Not a good idea

Slashdot is reporting that Amazon is considering placing advertisements in their ebooks to keep prices low and up the amount of profit from their sale. 

Let me be clear:  If Amazon does this, I will stop buying ebooks from them, period.  There are more than a few publishers and sellers of ebooks that I can go to other than Amazon.  If all of the book sellers I use start including advertising, I will stop using electronic media to read books.

To put it bluntly, I hate commercials. 

I read books for escapism.  I'll be the first to admit that.  I read so that I can stop concentrating on the real world for a while and either learn something or be entertained.  You cannot swing a dead Windows box around without hitting an ad or product branding in almost every other form of electronic entertainment.  My dead tree magazines are almost half full of advertisements.  I use an RSS reader in part because I don't want to wade through half a web page of banner ads and pop-up/-under ads that slow down my system.  I use the DVR on my cable box to record a lot of the programs I watch primarily so that I can fast forward through the commercials. 

When I go to the movies, there is now about 20 minutes of commercials and previews shown prior to the feature.  I pay about $60 a month for cable television, and I still have to deal with commercials, especially when I'm up late at night and can't sleep.  Ever try to find something interesting to watch at 2 AM?  Half of the channels have turned into a QVC shopping channel, or are given over to infomercials. 

So I read.  I used to read a lot more, but I still read as much as I can get away with.  The advent of the ebook and reader software on my phone have made it a lot more convenient to grab a few minutes to read a few pages.  I've started budgeting myself to four ebooks a month because I found the convenience of surfing Amazon or WebScriptions so easy to use that I found myself spending my entire personal entertainment budget for the month in an afternoon.

But I'm paying for the books.  I expect to be left alone to my thoughts when I read, not bombarded by still more ads.  If Amazon and the other ebook vendors have to raise prices a bit to keep the books ad-free, so be it.  I have a set amount each month that I spend on books, electronic or dead tree.  If the price of ebooks goes up, then I will adjust the number I buy accordingly, but I will continue to buy. If advertisements are mandated, that will dry up entirely.

Amazon, please don't kill the golden goose.  Housing the data for an ebook has to be cheaper than warehouses full of paper books.  Downloading a book to my iPhone has to be cheaper than shipping it to my house.  Amazon charges almost as much for an ebook as they do for a dead tree version, so their profit margin on them has to be at least as good.  Fill them with advertisements, and you will kill the medium.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Updating the Blog Roll

Just adjusted the blog roll quite a bit. 

If I trimmed you off by mistake, drop me a line and I'll re-add you.


If you're sitting on the couch watching Disney Channel with your son, and the following things happen while watching "Handy Manny", you're probably dreaming:

  1. One of Manny's anthropomorphic tools destroys half a day's worth of work through tomfoolery, as they are want to do, and Manny responds by saying "If you do that again, you little pendejo, I will weld your molten carcass to the sidecar of my motorcycle!".
  2. Mr. Lopar, instead of running a candy store, runs a medical marijuana dispensary.  He is wearing a white tee shirt with a marijuina leaf and "Legalize It!" stenciled on it.
  3. Kelly, who is still running the hardware store, has changed her look a bit.  She's gone to a very butch haircut, no make up, a flannel shirt worn open like a light jacket, and a Che Guavera tee shirt.  She engages Manny and his tools in a debate on the merits of the recent Proposition 8 decision.

I'm not sure what brought this on last night, but I figured out it was a dream when the screwdriver started cussing at the wrench in Spanish.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thoughts for the day

"I don't have pet peeves.  I have serious psychotic hatreds" - George Carlin

"I don't give a F***.  God sent me to p*** the world off" - Eminem

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Over!

In Ventura, California, there's a small park that used to be a cemetery.  In order to make "better use" of the land, the city fathers decided to remove the headstones and turn it into a public park. 

Read that again.  They hauled off the headstones, but didn't remove the human remains that the headstones were placed to memorialize.  When I was a kid, I was taught early that you don't walk across graves.  It's disrespectful, and I wouldn't want someone to run around over my grave, so I don't do it to other people.

One of the remaining headstones is for Pvt. James Sumner.  Pvt. Sumner was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Grant for actions he took while fighting Apaches in Arizona Territory.  Today, his grave is open for anyone who is using the park to run across, let their dog use as a toilet, or have a picnic.

Here's the money quote:
"We are treating him pretty darn well, except for the poop,"
The good people of Ventura seem to be good hearted, but absolutely clueless about respect for the dead.  
 "The people who use the park are the most reverent, in my opinion. Sometimes, people will come up and pick up my dog's poop before I have a chance," said Beverly Karbum, 58, who was walking her Australian shepherd Roxanne.
OK, for a moment, let's forget that this cemetery holds the final resting place of a military hero.  Let's just say it contains the mortal remains of several thousand human beings, who were laid to rest there.  Why in the name of all that is holy did the city of Ventura think it would be a good idea to take away the grave markers, leave the remains, and let people walk their dogs over the top of it, even if they are going to clean up what the dogs leave behind?

And it's even worse that the grave of a man who earned our nation's highest honor is being desecrated.  Some veterans want to move his grave to a veterans' cemetery in Bakersfield, but that leaves behind the thousands of graves that are being walked on.

If Ventura wants to make this land a general use park, then they should move all of the graves, bodies included, to another location where they will be protected.  Failing that, they should fence off the area where the graves are located, and add parkland adjacent to the cemetery.  All of the grave markers should be placed back over their original graves, and the people of Ventura should learn how to show respect for the dead.

H/T to Spike over at the GBC.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why I love being Scandinavian

I Give Up

Old glasses aren't helping that much, still getting headaches, and my left eye doesn't want to seem to focus well with or without glasses. 

I just made an appointment for a new exam and glasses.  Updates to follow.  I just don't want to look like this again:

Grumpy Dad of a Beautiful Daughter

Girlie Bear isn't the chubby toddler I see in my mind's eye when I think of her.

She turns 12 later this week.  She's tall, getting curvy, and has long legs.She's discovered toenail polish and she and Irish Woman have delved into the world of tasteful application of make-up on special occasions.

She went shopping with her aunt on Sunday and came back not with toys, but with a new dress, matching pumps, and a new purse.  The dress is very pretty and flattering to her without making her look like a street walker, but it's a long way from the little bubble dresses we used to dress her in so she could go play with her brothers.

I'm doing everything I can to prepare her and myself for the day when the boys come sniffing around.  I've tried to make her a confident, self-assured young woman that won't let anyone treat her poorly.  I've kept the lines of communication between us open, and encouraged her to talk to Irish Woman about stuff that she doesn't want to discuss with her dad.

However, when she put on that dress to show us on Sunday evening, I knew my little toddler image was definitely no longer accurate.  Now, I know I need lots and lots of guns.  I need to get back in shape so that no boy will entertain thoughts of hurting her due to his sense of self preservation.

And I need to learn how to let her grow up without pushing her out of the nest too quickly and without smothering her.  Push too hard and she'll be dumped into the deep end in a pool full of sharks.  Hold on too long and I'll either driver her away or make her hesitant when she has to be independent. 

Of course, I can see myself doing something like this:

H/T to Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for cheering up a grumpy father.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

48 hours in glasses

Well,  it's been two days.  No eye strain. No headaches.  Everyone has gotten the comments of "Gee, you're blind!" out of their systems at work.  BooBoo has successfully smudged them on only one occasion. 

On the plus side, I can see again.  On the negatives, falling asleep with your glasses on while you're reading is painful.

Monday, August 9, 2010

For Shame

Shame on the police at the national mall in Washington DC. A group of students was moved to begin singing the Star Spangled Banner while visiting the Lincoln Memorial. They were quickly shushed by Officer Friendly because they were in a 'content neutral' area.

Riddle me this Batman. If it's not appropriate to sing patriotic songs near memorials to our national heroes and war dead, exactly where is it appropriate?

The official who commented in the story said that the area was off limits so that other visitors wouldn't be bothered and could just be tourists, and that would be how president Lincoln would have wanted it. Someone needs to tell the tourists that those piles of stone weren't erected for their entertainment. And something tells me Honest Abe, who asked for Dixie to be played on the White House lawn after making a speech about the end of the Civil War, would not have objected.

Thoughts for the Day

  1. You can complain that your husband doesn't do enough of the yard work, or you can complain that you were stuck in the house all morning while he went out and mowed, trimmed, weeded, and cut down for 3 hours.  You can't complain about both.
  2. If you write a PERL module, please write the documentation so that the users will know which function to call.  Bonus if you provide code samples.  Minuses if the titles to your functions don't describe what they do.
  3. There are few better ways to begin a Monday morning than a cup of hot coffee and a bowl of Life cereal.
  4. If you go to the zoo, and it's 90 degrees in the shade, don't complain that all the animals are just sitting around.   If you don't feel like running around in your front yard to entertain passers-by, then why should the animals?
  5. Dropping a check into the printer can make it hard to deposit.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


The Hall of Fame Game is beginning!

And yes, I do believe I am ready for some football, thank you.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Can't be that High

I saw this over at JRebel's, so I thought I'd try it out:

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

Funny thing is, I'm not even close to being the nerdiest guy in my office.  How'd y'all do?

Bowing to the Inevitable

I have to face facts. I'm not a young stud anymore.  I turn 40 next year, my oldest is starting his second semester of college, and I wake up every morning creeky and crabby.  My hair isn't as thick and lustrous as it used to be, and there's almost as gray in it as brown.

And to top it all off, my vision is going.  35 years of squinting at computer screens, reading in bad light, and sitting too close to the television have finally taken their toll.  I've had glasses of one form or another for years, but they were always necessary only when my eyes got tired.  Now, I think I need to wear them all the time. 

I've got my glasses out, and I'm seeing if the old prescription is good enough to not need to get a new pair.  I haven't worn them in quite a while, so this is going to take some getting used to.

Watch this space to see how much of a poindexter I turn into now that I'm wearing glasses almost full time.

Passing of a Hero

In memory of SGT David C. Dolby, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division,  May 14, 1946 to August 6, 2010.

The word hero gets used a lot in our culture nowadays, but it's rare that a true hero is celebrated.  Only a very few heroes are awarded the Medal of Honor while still alive.  The actions that earn that highest award tend to be fatal.  David Dolby was one of those special men.

One such hero passed from our midst yesterday:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, when his platoon, while advancing tactically, suddenly came under intense fire from the enemy located on a ridge immediately to the front. Six members of the platoon were killed instantly and a number were wounded, including the platoon leader. Sgt. Dolby's every move brought fire from the enemy. However, aware that the platoon leader was critically wounded, and that the platoon was in a precarious situation, Sgt. Dolby moved the wounded men to safety and deployed the remainder of the platoon to engage the enemy. Subsequently, his dying platoon leader ordered Sgt. Dolby to withdraw the forward elements to rejoin the platoon. Despite the continuing intense enemy fire and with utter disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Dolby positioned able-bodied men to cover the withdrawal of the forward elements, assisted the wounded to the new position, and he, alone, attacked enemy positions until his ammunition was expended. Replenishing his ammunition, he returned to the area of most intense action, single-handedly killed 3 enemy machine gunners and neutralized the enemy fire, thus enabling friendly elements on the flank to advance on the enemy redoubt. He defied the enemy fire to personally carry a seriously wounded soldier to safety where he could be treated and, returning to the forward area, he crawled through withering fire to within 50 meters of the enemy bunkers and threw smoke grenades to mark them for air strikes. Although repeatedly under fire at close range from enemy snipers and automatic weapons, Sgt. Dolby directed artillery fire on the enemy and succeeded in silencing several enemy weapons. He remained in his exposed location until his comrades had displaced to more secure positions. His actions of unsurpassed valor during 4 hours of intense combat were a source of inspiration to his entire company, contributed significantly to the success of the overall assault on the enemy position, and were directly responsible for saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. Sgt. Dolby's heroism was in the highest tradition of the U.S. Army.
 At the time of this action, Dolby was a Specialist 4.  He probably had no official leadership training, and it's doubtful that he had anything other than rudimentary knowledge of how to call in artillery and air support.  It's doubtful that he was even close to the top of the command chain in his platoon.  But none of that mattered when the world dropped out from under him and his comrades.  When his leadership was killed or wounded in the first moments of the battle, he stood up and took charge.  He placed himself in danger to take care of the wounded, coordinate the efforts of his platoon, and knock out enemy emplacements.   This 20 year old did more in that 4 hour stretch than most people will do in their entire lives, and our world is a better place because of his actions.

Sergeant Dolby, may the Lord keep and protect you. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's hard to be a mammal in my house

Reading Material Bleg

This isn't for me.  I have quite enough books, magazines, and websites to read.

This is for Girlie Bear.  She's about to turn 12, and I want to introduce her to science fiction.  Unfortunately, my introduction to science fiction at that age was geared extremely towards things that interested me as a boy, mostly written by Terry Brooks, Robert Heinlein, and J.R.R. Tolkien.  I honestly have no idea what a young girl wants to read in the SF realm.

So I need advice from any of you ladies that started reading science fiction at a young age.  What authors and books would you recommend for a young lady who likes to read, but hasn't started reading science fiction yet?

My plan is to buy her a couple of books and just have them on her bookshelf ready for her to pick up when she wants to, so there won't be any forced reading, book reports, or testing involved in this.  If she wants to pick it up, then I want to have something that she will enjoy and will make the world of SF reachable to her without it being something that will bore her.

So, what say you?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Here's a Hint

If you come to me to ask how I do something that I do routinely, I will show you the method I use to do it.  This isn't the "right" way to do something. It's the way that has worked best for me over the times I have done this particular task.

Please don't insult me by saying such things as "That's a kludge" or "That's a stupid way to do it".  Also, if I have showed you how I do something, I will point out traps that are easily fallen into, and will adise you away from them.   If, however, you then go on to do said task in a way that you think will work better, I will applaud you.  No-one says you have to follow my suggestions like a robot.

If, however, you should purposefully jump into those traps I told you about, or discount my advice and get stuck in a large set of problems caused by your choice of methods, please don't expect me to play the part of Mr. NiceGuy while I work to extract you and our servers out of the quagmire you have thrown them into.

The Beatles

Like a lot of children of baby boomers, I grew up listening to the music of the 1960's.  My mother was an unrepentent hippie, so I heard a lot of Hendrix, Moody Blues, Jefferson Airplane, and of course, The Beatles.

She had every scrap of vinyl the Fab Four ever released, both in LP and 45.  She kept them in a special box, in a special corner of her closet.  Once or twice a year, she'd sit down with a stiff drink or something a little more herbal, take the records out, look at them, and play them one by one. 

When I was five or six, just prior to the beginning of school, I decided I wanted to figure out what the big deal with all of these records was.  I somehow got into her closet and dragged the box out to the porch.  I took each of the albums and 45's out and looked at the jacket art.  Most were interesting, although I remember thinking that the white one was pretty boring looking.  I wanted to see if there was anything else interesting inside the album covers, so I took each of the records out and set them on their respective covers.  And I sat there and looked at the liner art for a long time.  I couldn't read, but I recognized some of the words, and looked over all of the lyrics and liner notes.

Did I mention that this was in the summer just before school started, during a hot, sunny, North Dakota afternoon?  And I had those vinyl records out for a long, long time in direct sunlight.  At the time, I thought it was really cool how the vinyl changed shape over time.

My mother came out of the house looking for me, and found me with her prized possession slowly warping its way to oblivion.  It is a testament to her self control at the time that I was not beaten to death right there on the spot.  I did, however, receive the worst spanking I ever had, and was sent to my room for the rest of the day while she tried to salvage her collection and have a good cry.

I did a lot of really bad things as a kid and teenager, but nothing seemed to upset her as bad as the day when, in the innocence of a child, I destroyed her Beatles records.

In tribute to my love of the Beatles, and my grown-up understanding of why she was so upset, I submit this, courtesy of GraphJam:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Report

Lo and behold, I finished a book.  For me, that's an accomplishment.  When I can only get about 20 minutes a day to read, finishing anything lengthier than the back of a cereal box is memorable.

Last night, I finished Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey.  Plot synopsis without too many spoilers:  Man returns to this world after spending 11 years in Hell without dieing.  He's back to kick ass and chew gum, and he's fresh out of gum.  He bumps up against unholy ethereal creations, Homeland Security, and life in Los Angeles.

It's a gritty and fun page turner.  The main character is the ultimate anti-hero.  That is to say, he's a mean SOB who's mean for a reason. 

If you're devoutly Christian, be warned that this book pokes all kinds of holes in and fun at Christian dogma about God, Lucifer, angels, and the residents of Hell. 

I'd suggest this as a good weekend read.  Since it's the first of a series, I'll be getting the rest of it as time goes by. 

New Series of Posts

Today I'm starting a series of posts that detail some of the things I learned during my years in the Army.  I'll try to not turn these into a bunch of "no shit, there I was, up to my ankles in mud, blood, and beer" posts, but some of these things have been rattling around in my mind for a while, and it's time to let them out into the wild.  I'll rely on you guys to keep me honest and not let me turn this into a series of war stories.

First, a couple of disclaimers:

First of all, a lot of the things I talk about in this piece are taken from other sources. Either it comes from people with whom I’ve served, whose work I’ve read, or who’ve I’ve heard speak on television or at lectures.  Where possible, I’ve attributed my quotes or phrasing to the source.  If I’ve missed something, please bear with me, I’m only human.

Second, I’m not Sergeant Rock or Audie Murphy.  I did some really fun and cool things when I was in the military, but I was never a Ranger, Special Forces, or even Airborne or Air Assault.  I had the privilege of working with and for some excellent leaders who came from backgrounds in these specialties, and their influence is found thoughout this piece.  Also, I didn’t attain high rank within the military.  I served as a Sergeant (E-5) for the last 6 years of my 9 years on active duty.  Sergeant was the rank I wanted when I was a private, and that’s where I got to and stayed.  I don’t have some hokey reason like “I wanted to stay in touch with my people” or some such garbage for not doing those things necessary for promotion.  To be honest, I was having too much fun being a buck sergeant to want to be promoted.  I did try for OCS once, and when I left the Army, I was promotable to Staff Sergeant, but I took the tests for OCS to satisfy someone else’s ambition, and I went to the promotion board so that my supervisor wouldn’t get in trouble.

Last, I don’t want to drop names, but I feel that some people need to be singled out by name.  The people who influenced me are still a part of my life, even though I haven’t seen most of them in years, and they deserve my thanks and recognition.  Drill Sergeants  Decker, Hill, Busby, and Dunlap, who taught me that convincing your subordinates that you’re a little crazy is an effective motivational tool.  SFC Gardipee showed me that ability is what makes you a leader, not gender.  Command Sergeant Major Byron taught me that it’s more important to accept a bad order with dignity than it is to let the bastards know they’re getting you down.  Captain Degnan taught me that a good leader cares more for his troops than he does for himself.  Captain Fasone taught me that you should never be 100% satisfied, and you don’t have to be a nice guy or be liked to get results.  Captain Randy Jones showed me that it’s OK to be liked as long as you are respected.  Lieutenant Harold Brown taught me that teaching is a two way street, and noone goes home if we all don’t go home.  There were others of course, and I will bring them up as we wend our way through my ramblings.

As for those who I never knew, but who influenced me, they did it mostly through the books I read.  I’ve been reading military nonfiction, fiction, and science-fiction for most of my life, and it’s had a pretty profound influence on what I’ve become as an adult. 

First to come to mind is David Hackworth.  Colonel Hackworth entered the Army as a private, was battlefield commissioned in Korea, and served several tours in Vietnam.  I read his autobiography “About Face” when I was a 19 year old private, and I’ve re-read it about once a year ever since.  I regularly read his newspaper and magazine articles, and have read all of his books at least twice.  If only half of what he wrote about himself and his life is true, he’s still as hard as chicken lips.  One of my regrets in life was not to have met Mr. Hackworth before he died to thank him for his service and message.  I’m 39 years old, and I still want to grow up to be David Hackworth.

Next is Anton Myrer.  Mr. Myrer wrote an excellent novel titled “Once an Eagle”.  It’s the story of a man who joins the Army just in time for the Mexican expedition, serves in France in WWI, leads a division in WWII, and finally ends his story as an observer in Vietnam in the early 1960’s.  He’s the archetypical good soldier and leader.  Juxtaposed to him is the careerist officer that works his butt off to get promoted at the expense of his subordinates and peers.  Excellent reading for anyone who wants to be a leader.  As a matter of fact, I’ve never met a good officer or NCO who hadn’t read this one at least twice.

Next comes Robert Heinlein.  OK, most of his work is escapist, right-wing pulp.  But “Starship Troopers”, while pretty na├»ve about military life, is an excellent read, and some of its message means a lot to me.  I especially like the theme of “If you haven’t proven that you are willing to sacrifice for the benefit of society, you don’t get to have a position of authority in society.”  More politicians should have to pass a quiz on this one.

Also, please forgive me for rambling.  Old age tends to do that to me.  Don’t think 39 is old?  Ask any 18 year old private what he thinks of a 39 year old veteran, and one word will come out:  old.
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