Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Distressing Story from Afghanistan

Distressing, depressing, either way...

Just read this article about another valley in Afghanistan where things aren't going quite so well. Unfortunately, this time it seems like it's the Americans who are purely at fault. What kind of commander decides that Counter-Insurgency = engaging the "enemy"?

I think the most distressing element of this article is that everything the Brigade and Battalion officers say are so blatantly maneuver warfare tactics:

"[W]hen it comes to the enemy, you have leadership, supply chains and formations."

"if you degrade formations, supply chains and leadership near simultaneously, you’ll cause the enemy in the area to collapse, and that is what we’re trying to do here."

"dislocate the enemy so they don’t want to continue operations."

I'm glad that the younger officers seem to be getting it, and I am not surprised at all that the enlisted soldiers have been getting it from the very first day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I hate that I don't hate Amazon.com

I've never really liked the idea of Amazon.com, and yet I've always found myself shopping there. And the main reason that I shop there is that the technological elements of the site are so far in advance of any other online bookstore. It started simply, with the "If you liked this, you might like these..." suggestions (which I found myself using more for my dissertation research than any kind of academic database), and then when Amazon introduced the "25 books quote this book" and "this book quotes 25 books" it got even handier for research.

Plus the free shipping and steep discounts can't be beat.

But there's always been a slightly guilty feeling, and after reading this interview with Jeff Bezos, I think I finally understand why. Although he gives the "right" answers to the questions about books and reading, they are so obviously stock, and it's obvious to me that whatever it's humble beginnings, Amazon has never been about a love of books, its always been about the technology.

And his final quote is really what sums it up:

Lyons: Do you still read books on paper?

Bezos: Not if I can help it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Pregnant Soldiers

So this briefly made news recently. Apparently a general decided to implement some fairly restrictive rules on sex between soldiers. Or, more specifically, rules on the side effects of sex between soldiers. And, of course, the National Organization for Women is up in arms over the Army telling women to be responsible. (And the men, who are also being held accountable should the female in question identify who it was that got her pregnant).

At least I think they are, because based on the limited comments Terry O'Neill has made in interviews, they just think "it's a dumb idea":

"Well, it may be his prerogative to be dumb, but that's really not a very good idea."

"It's a dumb move. You don't punish women for becoming pregnant."


"clearly wrongheaded and stupid"

It's so good that Ms. O'Neill can express the problems with punishing soldiers for getting pregnant and getting themselves out of deployments. Oh - and by thus utilizing such an "out" creating negative stereotypes about women's ability to perform equally with their male counterparts in the Army.

Now, many of the issues raised by this order are valid, and need to be discussed. Although we don't have a draft at the moment, someday we might, and the equation of citizenship and service is one that goes back to the ancient Greeks. It has been persuasively argued by a number of feminist theorists that the cultural associations between service, and especially military service, and full acceptance and citizenship are pretty strongly linked. This is one of the reasons why having women in the military is such an important point. The last time a draft was instituted in this country, women were barely allowed into the military, let alone near combat. Now, women are serving everywhere but combat (and that only technically - there are women riding in turrets, performing patrols, and putting themselves at risk every single day alongside their male brethren).

If we do re-institute a draft, the question of women, and frankly, pregnancy, will have to be addressed. If women are eligible for the draft, will pregnancy disqualify them from service? If so, what are the implications of a woman getting deliberately pregnant to avoid compulsory service? What if a woman gets pregnant to avoid the draft, and then later gets an abortion - will that return her to draft status, qualify as a criminal offense? If so, will women be more likely to carry a child to term, producing an un- or under-wanted child?

And how all of those concerns will affect the current precarious position of abortion rights in the United States is anyone's guess.

Luckily, though, the United States military is still an All-Volunteer force. And one of the elements of volunteering is the understanding that a recruit surrenders certain rights for the eight years of their Military Service Obligation. Completely honestly, I think one of the rights female soldiers should be required to give up is the choice over whether or not to get pregnant. Mandatory birth control of some sort, followed by (for example) punishment for failing to obey an order.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Google Analytics Report

Well, a big thank you to all of my anonymous readers, who have bumped me to 208 unique visitors in the last month. Yea! And apparently 2 visits from an Opera browser - if anyone wants to pony up and tell me if that's any good, please let me know.

Truly, though, I discovered that this guy apparently follows my blog. I believe that he is the first complete stranger who does this, so a big shout out to you Pilotmedic. I assume you found my blog through the CRC entry, which is still consistently at the top of the list of pages visited (hardly a surprise, as the place is a pit, and very confusing). Judging by your recent pictures, I can only assume you were at CRC sometime last month, so wherever you were headed off to: good luck, and stay safe. If you're in my neck of the woods, send me an email and we should get some Chinese food.

It is also good to know that my "Hot Chicks and Airports" blog post is still in the top five most viewed posts. Apparently 5 people in the last week alone have come to my blog looking for "hot marine chicks." What's interesting, is that if you put that search into google, my blog doesn't even show up, so who knows how they're getting here.

Macbeth

So, I'm watching an old TV4 version of Macbeth. No one of real interest in it, except for Lorcan Cranitch, who plays Macduff - which is hardly surprising since he pretty much always plays the proficient, if annoying, cop...

But it occurred to me that the play hinges on Macbeth being upset that Banquo's children will become king and not his own. On the face of it, this sounds legitimate, but it occurred to me that Macbeth is almost always played by someone in his mid-40's or so, with Lady Macbeth about the same age, and I've never seen any mention made of him having any children of his own, anyways.

Am I missing some essential Chekhov-ian line in the beginning about his children? Or is this just something that most people overlook?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ahh.. Iraq

and it's wonderfully intelligent "porn blocker":

this one gets blocked

and this one gets through...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beware the men in blue hats

So, my international travel was a bit annoying this time.

First - a remarkably rude stewardess on the United flight yelled at me that I had to check one of my carry-on bags because it wouldn't fit in the overhead compartment. Now, this was factually correct, but it would have fit, had not someone who got on the plane after me swiveled it from sideways to lengthwise so that he could put his own (larger) carry-on bag in sideways. Rat bastard.

Then, we get on the flight to Baghdad, are in the air twenty minutes, and the captain gets on the intercom and says "Psych! we're not landing in Baghdad tonight, we're gonna turn around and go back to Kuwait, we'll fly in tomorrow." So, I have to book a night in a hotel in Kuwait. Okay, that wasn't so bad, and if there's one thing the Arabs do well (besides kebab), it's breakfast. So I got to get up, have a good breakfast, and fly into Baghdad under cover of... sun.

On my way back into the airport, however, I had to go through security. At the end of the X-ray machine is a gaggle of men in blue hats. For anyone who has been through Kuwait, you know who these people are. For anyone who has not, if a main in a blue hat comes up to you, ignore him and do NOT let him pick up your bags. I learned this lesson the hard way after a couple trips. So this time, before I can even say a word, they've loaded my tiny suitcase and my back pack onto their cart and start walking the twenty feet towards the check-in counter. Now the one word in Arabic I will remember for the rest of my life is "la!" And I say it, again and again, but the man in the blue hat ignores me. At which point, I figure screw it. So I let him carry my bags the twenty feet on his little cart and when he looks at me expectantly for his payment for this service, I just shrug and say "no cash." He motions at the cart, and I shrug again, and explain to him (in English) that I didn't ask for his help, it was only twenty feet, and there's no way he's getting any money from me. I don't know if he understood a word I said, but he eventually got the point and grumped away. Made me feel good, though. I hate those guys.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AAA Conference 2009

Lots of good deals on books, including an ethnography of strippers, how can you go wrong with that?

No nibbles on the academic front, I haven't decided if I should put that down to an inherent limitation of liberal-influenced departments who are uninterested in military anthropology, or my own personal lack of a serious CV. I plan on working on the latter and see if that helps next year. What with all the books I've purchased, I should be able to get some book reviews out of them, at the least.

Otherwise, there were some very interesting sessions, and the anti-military anthropologists seem to have calmed down, although there were still many discussions that transitioned seamlessly from ethical to political concerns over use of the military.

Finally - the main question raised for me over the course of the weekend was where did all the hottie anthropologists come from? My recollection of students in my grad classes were all mousey, and a bit leathered. Yet, wall to wall hotties at this conference. One answer I realized at the end of the conference was that a lot of them were from the academic presses which were selling their wares at the book fair, so that explains some of it - but there were still a lot more attractive women that I could have reasonable expected.

Philly Fashion Update

So, I have just completed my weekend at the AAA national conference (more on that later), and I felt it was time for my next fashion update.

Apparently, butts are out, legs are in. There's this new phenomena called "skinny jeans", which I guess are supposed to make you look skinny. Or something. I don't really see it working, but whatever. The takeaway is that these skinny jeans are tight on the legs, and alternately tight and loose on the butt, giving everyone (and I mean everyone) a horrible, wide, flat butt. It's really a shame.

Also, height is a good thing again, I saw at least four different women standing 5'8" or above wearing some serious stiletto heels, such that some of them were taller than me.

In the world of anthropology, styles remain roughly the same.

For men: business casual.

For women: dreadlocks, dashikis and various other forms of ethnic garb. This is especially true for the white female anthropologists, who I really think look a little out of place given their... well... whiteness.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

At least it's a dry cold

I don't recall which book it was in which discussed how most Americans have never experienced true hardship - cold, heat, hunger, etc. For most people, cold is the time between your car and the building. Same with heat. With very few exceptions, hunger is only experienced by Americans as "I need to go get something to eat," as opposed to "I haven't eaten for days."

During my time in the Army, I have experienced "true" cold - cold in which there was no foreseeable end in sight, when you are in the field, the cold lasts until you come back from the field, which on some occasions is days away. It sucks.

And yet, even with that experience, it wasn't until this trip here that I finally came to the realization that there is a distinct difference between a dry cold and a wet cold. Much like heat, the dry cold is much easier to deal with.

And the large proportion of this is because of the mud. Even in the States, when it's cold and rainy, and even when you are out in the field, there is still infrastructure, electricity, and (most important) paved roads. And roofs that keep the water out.

The last time it rained here, I discovered that my roof leaks. So not only was it wet and gross outside, it was wet and gross inside. And muddy - it sticks to your shoes, and collects on the back of your legs. Your shoes get both wet and dirty, your socks get wet and dirty. And the air is just saturated with wet. And dust.

The most recent rain dropped the average temperature here by about ten degrees. And did I mention it was wet? Three days later, the rain stopped, and it dried out. But it was still cold. And that was my realization that there is a distinct difference between a dry cold, which sucks, and a wet cold, which REALLY sucks.

It's still cold now, but at least it's a dry cold.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adam Lambert

My only awareness of this guy is from RoflRazzi, talking about his femininity. Never heard his music, don't really care.

But strangely, I now have more respect for him:

But he noted that Lady Gaga smashed whiskey bottles during her performance, Eminem rapped about rape and Janet Jackson briefly groped a male dancer.

"Janet Jackson, crotch grab," he said. "I haven't heard one peep about that."

He said that "if it had been a female pop performer doing (his) moves that were on the stage, I don't think there would be nearly as much of an outrage."

"I think it's because I'm a gay male," he added.

Offered a chance to apologize, he declined. He said he didn't consider that there may have been children watching because his American Music Awards performance came at nearly 11 p.m., and that it's a parent's job to monitor what their children are watching on TV.

"I'm not a baby sitter," he said. "I'm a performer."

Asked what he'd do differently if he had the chance, Lambert said, "I would sing it a little bit better."

Source: Associated Press

You go, girl!

Friday, November 20, 2009

First Names

I've recently gotten into an online argument (it's like the Special Olympics, I know), and in the course of this argument, I realized I was switching back and forth between first and last names.

For the last ten years, I have either been a graduate student or an enlisted soldier (or both). Which basically means that when I wasn't calling someone "sir" I was calling them "Captain something" or "Professor something."

I think one of the biggest, but subtlest changes, after finishing my dissertation (and almost finishing my contract), has been moving to using first names for professors and officers. Its an odd shift, calling someone "Mike" or "Bill" instead of Professor Smith or Captain Green. (Especially when the name is "Bob" which is my father's name, and constantly freaks me out). Assuming I ever actually get an academic job, referring to other professors by first name I'm sure will be as big of a shift.

But this whole thing has gotten me thinking about first and last names. On the one hand, as a friend of mine put it "he asked me to call him Bob. I don't know, it's like 'no, I respect you too much to not call you Colonel." What's interesting is at the same time, I have used first names to denote respect, and last names as a subtle insult.

I think this is very similar to the technique a sergeant has for making a "sir" into an insult.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Iraqi ingenuity

So, apparently the rainy season is upon us a month or so early. And me without my boots...

But, as seems to be my lot, my roof leaks. The last time I was here during rainfall, my roof leaked, as well. Maybe it's me. But I mentioned this to the "landlord" and he had the "engineers" work on it.

Apparently, the best technique to fix a leaking roof here is to just install another roof on top of it...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's started

Well, after three months, I am proud to announce the discovery of my first lost sock.

It's entirely possible that I have lost socks on this rotation before, but they must have been lost in pairs, as this is my first encounter with the lonely sock, the only one of its type sitting sadly in my sock drawer, surrounded by matched pairs of other varieties.

I think it must be lonely. Do you think socks pair bond like wolves, or do they not really care which sock they end up with at the end of the day?

Sometimes I mismatch socks on my feet, and now I worry that I may have encouraged the other socks to try and force them out. It's entirely possible that socks are strongly against miscegenation...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Traffic

So, I just recently finished reading Tom Vanderbilt's book Traffic.

It was pretty interesting,although he seems to put a bit too much reliance on the advantages of market-based solutions to traffic problems. For instance, he tries to make the case for HOT lanes as a solution to traffic problems, which I fundamentally disagree with. This mainly comes from my admittedly shoddy memory of the Dulles Access Road commuter sticker, which was an HOT solution of a sort, except it wasn't really a solution so much as a traffic jam. So there was the creation of the Dulles Toll Road, which is also a toll-based solution to traffic problems, but isn't. Again, its just a traffic jam which people have shown over and over again they are willing to pay to travel on.

He also ignores the effects of a market-based solution when he gets the opportunity to sit in at the Los Angeles traffic control hub during Oscar night. Possibly one of the most interesting parts of the book, except that the entire thing is about how the rich and famous in Los Angeles are catered to by the traffic control system. Lights are computed based on getting these rich people to their award night, without much concern for the regular inhabitants of the city who have to commute to and from their normal regular lives. Maybe I'm a bit Marxist but this kind of elitism has always bugged me (see my rant on the Fly Clear program, I'm so happy that's gone away).

Moving on, though, he does point to the distinct traffic cultures which exist around the world, from driving in some idyllic village communities in Europe to the insanity which exists in many third-world countries. My own personal experience of this was one night in Baghdad in 2004, when we shut down one half of a four-lane highway because of an accident and shooting. After being stuck at our improvised roadblock for about ten minutes, the Iraqi drivers just started moving over into oncoming traffic on the other side of the highway, bulldozing their way up and around the roadblock before coming back onto the correct side. And the amazing thing about this was it worked. No one in the United States would have ever done this, we all just sit and wait, and sit, and wait, until whatever the problem is gets cleared out. It's kind of a shame, really, we are driving automatons in the States most of the time.

However, I think if Vanderbilt had gone to a military post, it would have added a very interesting element to his "driving culture" theory. Because driving on a military post is a world in and of itself.

First, the speed limit. The highest speed limit here is 30MPH. On the clearest open road. Most areas have a speed limit between 10 and 15 MPH, and one of my favorite signs makes it clear that if you try and drive faster than someone can jog, you can get a ticket:





I don't know if you've ever tried to drive 5 MPH. It's almost physically painful. Plus, most cars idle faster than 5 MPH.

Moving on, Vanderbilt also talks about the overabundance of signs on the road. For instance, the Children Playing, School Ahead, signs like that. The people that are speeding through the streets and not paying attention and will hit a kid playing, well, he's not the kind of person that will slow down because of a Children Playing sign..

And that brings me to my next on-base piece of signage I find very amusing:



I fucking hope so.

And last, just because soldiers apparently have a sense of humor:


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Roommates

So, he's not exactly a roommate. I share a trailer with one of the TCNs here, and a bathroom, but we each have our own "room." Anyways, I recently got a new roommate. My old roommate was quiet, except for the five different languages that would blast from his TV on different nights, and a bit OCD when it came to keeping the bathroom clean. So much that I occasionally felt bad, since, well, I'm not.

He left. My new roommate is, well, not as clean. And he spits, loud. Like really loud, sometimes it makes me think he's about to throw up. Its quite disturbing.

And I don't know what he does with the toilet, but it's like he can't go into the bathroom without spraying the toilet down with water. And the floor.

Like, seriously, what's up with the water?

Oh, and the smell.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's a topsy-turvy world in Iraq

Dana Perino and Michelle Bachman are on BBC

and Nigella Lawson is on NPR

Weird

Sunday, November 1, 2009

No H1N1 virus for me...

I have anti-microbial ballpoint pens...

Here's my issue with this (above and beyond the silliness of an anti-microbial pen): it's effing Skilcraft. The company doesn't really need to market silly gimmicks to its customers - they have one of the largest captive audiences in the world...


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

OMGWTFElmo?!?!?!11?!?

So, I was heading out for my normal morning chai this morning, and trying to find something to listen to on the radio.

We essentially have three choices of english language programming: AFN music, AFN talk, and BBC.

BBC was talking about cricket or something, AFN Music was playing its morning hip-hop show, which really isn't my bag, so I flipped to the talk channel.

And for some reason completely beyond me, they were playing Sesame Street. In an odd bit of irony, they were playing an episode on voting (and the meaning of unanimous). So my first thought was that it was some kind of misguided attempt at Stategic Communication to the Iraqis as they ramp up for their next election. I seriously hope I was wrong (although I wouldn't put it past the Army to try something that facile).

Apparently AFN has completely revamped its schedule, as they used to play Click and Clack on Wednesday mornings. And after Sesame Street, they've apparently started playing Oprah.

The most shocking thing is that they're removed Rush Limbaugh and replaced him with Terry Gross. Now, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a not a fan of Rush, but I will admit he's dynamic and interesting. Terry Gross, by contrast, is the most boring interviewer in the history of the universe (honestly - an hour long interview with John Cusack, and she spends 45 minutes talking to him about The Grifters).

People raised hell when Stars and Stripes stopped carrying Ann Coulter. I wonder how they're going to respond to this.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What's Wrong with Nation Building?

I tell my friends that I'm so liberal I support the war in Iraq. What I typically mean by that is that if American soldiers pulled out (even today), there would be a civil war and millions of people would be killed. For the same reason, I support peacekeeping missions in general, and even, horror of horrors, nation-building missions. These are all attempts, at their heart, to improve the lives of people living in other countries. I am not a fan of unrestrained capitalism, and but I am a fan of unrestrained development. And sometimes, the military is the best tool for that job, especially when people are killing each other and sometimes you just need a tank or two to get in the way and make it stop.

How many American troops do you think would have been necessary to keep Rwanda from becoming a bloodbath? Reading the accounts of both UN Peacekeepers and the survivors of the genocide there, I personally think it wouldn't have needed very many. Considering that UN forces were unable to actually run missions, and still managed to save quite a few lives (most well known at the Hotel des Mille Collines, but also in many other areas of the country) simply through their presence, how effective do you think a couple tanks and twenty soldiers who were able to defend themselves would have been? Yes, there is the possibility that this would have made the hotel more of a target, but as we saw in Somalia, twenty soldiers are capable of dealing out a hell of a lot of damage on under-armed and poorly trained insurgents in a stand-up fight.

But getting back to my point - in a recent article in Time magazine, a line caught my eye: "With his advisers split between advocating a full-scale counterinsurgency, which some Democrats say amounts to nation-building". Now, seriously, what is wrong with nation building? We performed nation building in Germany and Japan after World War II, South Korea, the Philippines, and these are all thriving nations, with a solid, democratic, and peaceful government, who are relatively staunch allies of the United States.

And the liberal part of me points to the "relatively" qualifier as the most important part of that phrase. These are not puppet governments in some imperialistic American attempt to take over the world. These are governments which are looking after the interests of their own people, not falling into lockstep with American desires. That those interests tend to coincide with America's is not an indication of any conspiracy or imperialism, its simply that democracies tend to get along with other democracies, and this is overall a good thing for the world.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weather and Weather Reports

It's a desert. Luckily, it's started cooling off, so even though it gets up to the nineties during the day, at night it cools down to a very pleasant sixty degrees.

However, it's a desert. So even though the weather is cooling down it's still sunny.

In fact, as Yahoo Weather puts it:

Today: Plentiful sunshine.
Tonight: Mainly clear.
Tomorrow: Mainly sunny.
Tomorrow night: A mostly clear sky.
Tuesday: More sun than clouds.
Wednesday: Sunny.
Thursday: Abundant sunshine.

I wonder if they're going to start turning to a thesaurus for synonyms of "sunny"?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not a good year for Asian grad students

But apparently, it is very important to every journalist writing about this case that Annie Le was 4'11" and weighed 90 lbs.

I've been following the story as best I can, and literally every single article points this out. Hey sure, she was slight and could have been easily overpowered, I get it. But every single story?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The hillbillies next door

So, we have new neighbors, who my team leader affectionately calls "the hillbillies."

Seeing as how I have seen like three white people (not counting us) around here, I don't know if the term hillbillies can properly apply to a bunch of TCNs, but it does seem to match their approach to life.

First, they are bad neighbors. There has apparently been some land dispute over who gets how much space on the compound. The new people (the hillbillies) have decided to claim their space via the simple means of marking it out with trailers. Not that big of a deal except going to bed one night, my car was parked like this:



And when I woke up, it was parked like this:



Nice of them to tell us so we could move our cars beforehand... luckily, they left us an exit, about a hundred feet down the row.

Moving on, here is a comparison of how our people place their trailers:



And how the hillbillies do it:



To the uneducated eye, it might appear roughly the same. However, notice how on our trailers, the trailer itself is supported by a nice big solid piece of concrete:




And how on theirs, the trailer is supported by, well, what is most likely a piece of aluminum:



Notice here what happens when the cheap metal has some extra weight on it:





I know it doesn't look like much, but for anyone who has tried to move a desk or table single-handed, and turned it just a little too far, that bit of torque is all it takes to cause a collapse...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Old White Dudes

So, I have a friend who used to constantly confuse David Strathairn and Sam Waterston. I can sort of see the similarity, but I'll let you decide:



Personally, I thought these three guys were the same actor: (one of them plays a villain in a TV show I watch, the other just had a bit part... but I was totally like "Ooh, the big demon guy is in this one... I was wrong, nor was it the grumpy old man from like every Primetime drama ever, apparently)



Can you figure out which one is which?

Friday, August 28, 2009

I really don't want to be a conspiracy theorist

But then stories about fake moon rocks show up. I mean, really... is NASA trying to destroy itself?

Luckily, though, I'm not as crazy as some. I mean check out some of the comments posted in response to the articles about Lynn Jenkins. Really, I don't think she meant it as a racist comment... but I would accept an argument along the lines of underlying, unknowing racism (sort of logophallic, but about race - logoleukos?). However, most of these comments simply state "of course she's racist, she said 'white'!"

Moving on to even better ones. Wonderful Yahoo news article about those right wingers even more crazy than the birthers - who would have thought that was possible???

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Second run news

So,

I was looking at the Odd News section of Yahoo, and I came across a couple stories:

"Retailers who sell children violent or pornographic videos will be immune from prosecution for the next three months after the discovery of a government blunder 25 years ago." - Apparently with the switch to the EU, there's some legal loophole which makes the old law invalid for three months. So here's my movie idea: these two boys have only three months to buy as much pornography as they can get their hands on. And here's the spin, they have to do it with Pounds Sterling.

The second story:

"Workers at a crisis-hit boiler factory in France have stripped off for a nude calendar in a bid to save 204 jobs slated for redundancy." - Huh, this sounds vaguely familiar. Except there's something in my head about music...

Finally, however, an original news story which is just full of hijinks:

"The deaths of no fewer than four people after being trampled by cows in the past two months has prompted Britain's main farming union to issue a warning about the dangers of provoking the normally docile animals."

Some of my other favorite sentences from that story:

"Barry Pilgrim, a 65-year old from the area, was trampled to death by a cow as his wife looked on." - I guess it was easier than filing the divorce papers...

"The cattle are interested in the dog, not the walker," said Robert Sheasby, Rural Surveyor at the NFU. "As the cattle try to get the dog, there's a high chance they will get the walker too." - I didn't know there was such animosity between the two species.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Get Over It

FBI Director Muller is outraged by the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

You know, I think we tried moral outrage before, and it didn't really work. Are we worried that the cancer-infected al Megrahi has not suffered enough in British prison? Is that what prison is for, punishment and vengeance?

I don't know for certain, but I would be willing to bet that Mueller, appointed by Bush, has all the right Christian credentials for a Bush appointee...

Maybe he should try practicing some... isn't compassion one of the fundamentals of Christian belief?

Torture

I was reminded of this old movie by a headline I saw in the news yesterday: "Report: CIA conducted mock executions of detainees"

Now - is this really torture? There are some things which I believe are torture (waterboarding obviously being the most commonly discussed; but stress positions; lack of sleep, food, etc. are also pretty commonly placed in that category), and there are some things that are not, and then there's a large grey area. The problem as I see it is that discussions about that grey area need to be separated into two different categories:

A) When is torture valid?

B) What constitutes torture?

The answer to A is a simple ethics question, and I don't know if it can ever actually be answered for anyone except for the individual involved. Some might say "never," but others might have a difference of opinion. As Michael Levin has pointed out, the moral arguments for or against torture are (because they are moral arguments) necessarily relativistic. To paraphrase: we've established that torture can be justified, now we're just haggling over price.

Personally, I think torture is wrong not because of any inherent concerns for the victim, but for the torturer. We don't torture because we're Americans. Full Stop. However, each answer to this is unique to the individual, and arguing about it is similar to arguing about the existence of God - in the end it comes down to your own personal beliefs. However, the slope of "when is it justified" needs to be met consistently and heartily with "never!"




Question B, however, is more empirical, even if it's still not set in stone. If we can establish that torture is illegal in the United States, then we simply have to determine what is torture and what isn't. I'm not usually a big fan of magic lists, but it seems to me that sometimes we need stricter definitions of acceptable and unacceptable. This gets me to my next point, we need these definitions because our own personal definitions are so fungible.

Take mock executions, for example. The AP article presents mock executions as yet another in a long list of torture tactics labeled as "harsh interrogation measures." But is it? Yes, it is a bit shocking, but no physical harm comes to the subject (I am ignoring the combination of other techniques here - I only want to talk about mock executions). And just twenty years ago, mock executions were seen in a comedy to obtain information from a terrorist.



I remember no outcry about this particular scene, no ACLU or Amnesty International issues with the mock execution so vividly portrayed on the screen. In fact, all I remember is laughter when the reveal occurs and the helicopter is shown to not even be off the ground.

So, in twenty years our definition of a single act has been changed from comedy to torture. Obviously, we need to change with the times, and our definitions will need to change as well. Our morals should not.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hooray for translated grammar

this is the kind of stuff I deal with every day:

"two army officers and two soldiers were perished when a stationary car exploded on a road 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of the restive northern city of Mosul."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Optimist vs Pessimist

So, almost the exact same quotes, completely different headlines.

First, from the Financial Times:

US sees quick victory in Afghanistan


By Daniel Dombey in Washington

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, on Thursday rejected the idea of US troops staying in Afghanistan for decades, insisting the Taliban and al-Qaeda could be defeated in “a few years”, although he agreed development efforts would continue long afterwards.


Second, from AP (only in the Arizona Star Net, for some weird reason):

Downbeat Gates: Afghan war won't be won anytime soon

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon presented a grim portrait of the Afghanistan war Thursday, offering no assurances about how long Americans will be fighting there or how many U.S. combat troops it will take to win.
Defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida will take "a few years," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, with success on a larger scale in the desperately poor country a much longer proposition. He acknowledged that the Taliban have a firm hold on parts of the country President Obama has called vital to U.S. security.


Apparently whether "a few years" is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your perspective...

I think the Financial Times needs a better editor, though. Everyone knows that commas and periods go inside the quotation marks. (Unless you're linking to something, as I've discovered - it just looks wrong when the link includes the comma.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Naivete

So, I read this article on the post.

Here's a word game - replace "DC" with "Baghdad." It still works.

The funny thing is that when read the news stories, Iraqis are complaining all the time about corruption in Iraq. And then I read about this stuff happening in the States. And this wasn't even hidden - I'm always drawing comparisons with lobbyists and special interests, politicians flying to Italy, Spain, and Germany on "delegations" to investigate "port security". We just accept it in the States, in a way that Iraqis don't. And I don't know who's naive, us or them.

Should we expect as much out of our politicians as Iraqis seem to?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Blindness, the movie

So, I just got around to watching Blindness, a movie which uses the physical blindness of its characters as a metaphor for the inability of humans to "see" pain and suffering around them.

Apparently the National Federation of the Blind threw a hissyfit because the movie portrays blind people as "one dimensional" in their responses to blindness.

A) No, it doesn't. In fact there are a lot of different characters who react in very different ways to their blindness. Some assist one another, some look out for themselves. Some learn to adapt quicker than others. One even gets (understandably) upset at his wife (who can see) trying to help him do simple tasks.

B) I guess they might have noticed this if they had seen the movie.

(Bad Joke, but I couldn't help it)

This again

Ephebophilia is not pedophilia.

Whatever these men might have done, it is ridiculous to accuse them of a paraphilia associated with abuse and truly immoral (amoral?) activity. As the adult industry can attest, throw an ill fitting plaid skirt and pigtails on a twenty five year old, and you have "teen".

(Link is safe for work, my ISP over here limits even the hint of adult content)

So, to round this out, here is an excellent piece from the Economist on some of the other silliness we have in defining "sex offenders" and how we deal with them. My favorite line in the article (or at least the most relevant), is this:

Sex-offender registries are popular. Rape and child molestation are terrible crimes that can traumatise their victims for life. All parents want to protect their children from sexual predators, so politicians can nearly always win votes by promising curbs on them. Those who object can be called soft on child-molesters, a label most politicians would rather avoid. This creates a ratchet effect. Every lawmaker who wants to sound tough on sex offenders has to propose a law tougher than the one enacted by the last politician who wanted to sound tough on sex offenders.

As usual, it's "all about the children."

But what we end up with is a purely emotional response rather than looking at the actual scientific examination of many of these activities:

Politicians pushing the get-tough approach sometimes claim that sex offenders are mostly incorrigible: that three-quarters or even nine out of ten of them reoffend. It is not clear where they find such numbers. A study of nearly 10,000 male sex offenders in 15 American states found that 5% were rearrested for a sex crime within three years. A meta-analysis of 29,000 sex offenders in Canada, Britain and America found that 24% had reoffended after 15 years.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Primates kick ass!

Saw this on Fail Blog, looked up the safari site, and there's the picture...

Awesome.

Crazies and Super-Crazies

Now that I'm back in the hell-hole, I don't really have much opportunity to listen to the crazies very much. Rush is occasionally on the radio when I go to dinner, but that's about it for my exposure to him. And on the other side of the fence there are people like Max Fortes, who is a crazy on the left. (And by crazy, I mean it, he has a comment about not believing Al Qaeda was behind 9/11).

These are just regular run of the mill crazies, though. The super crazies are not very often on the radio, or hosted on their own websites. They're the ones who post comments, or, certain other things I'll discuss in a moment. I once had a discussion with a friend of mine over whether or not the crazies on the radio actually believed what they were saying, or if they were just saying it to make money. Generally, we felt that they were just saying it to make money. The listeners, however, we had no doubt actually believed every crazy word coming out of the crazy mouths. Case in point, a wonderful and thoughtful comment on a right-wing blog from Brenda:

"Uh. NO. The reason we don't "like" BO is because he is a lying, alien COMMUNIST MUSLIM. His ideas are to CHANGE AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, One Nation Under GOD, into The United Socialist States of America. He wants to kill the heart and soul of the country--Free Market Capitalism--by installing govt. controlled businesses, Cap and Trade and "GREEN" programs, reduce the population and Social Security payments thru INFANTICIDE and EUTHANASIA of the aging population via govt. 'healthcare', encourage women to work outside the home and abandon motherhood to daycares which will 'indoctrinate' the babies into socialism in order to increase the tax-payer base, abandon all Judao-Christian MORAL VALUES, sell out America to China and the Middle East, overload the Social Services System with illegal aliens, dead beats, Sloths, and Liars, nationalize the media in order to stifle opposition to him and his disgusting programs, and place the most completely INSANE BURDEN OF ECONOMIC DEBT on our children and theirs, resulting in WORKERS receiving 20% of their paycheck, with the rest going to the deadbeats. Everyone who CAN will LEAVE America. This is THE WAR OF ALL WARS: Spiritual Warfare between the powers of darkness and GOD. The prize of America will go to the winner!"

Yeah, spooky. However, I'd like to draw your attention to the "alien" statement in the first sentence. Now, considering how crazy this person is (super-crazy), she might actually believe that Obama is an alien from outer space. However, I suspect rather that she is one of the group of people now known in common parlance as "birthers." (What is it about the right wing that they just can't nail down good names?)

EDIT: I never expected to find a website talking about Obama's extra-terrestrial ties. I will never underestimate the internet ever again. Now if I could only find that nun thing...

One of the more famous, in my circles, anyway, is a man by the name of Stefan Frederick Cook. I will not honor him with a rank, whatever the Army might allow him to claim. Mr. Cook made news by refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because he didn't believe Obama was a legitimate President. Then dentist, real estate agent, and attorney, Orly Taitz took up his case. I was always a bit confused over this fiasco. I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist (I swear, it's fun to imagine them, but I rarely actually believe them). However, after discovering that Mr. Cook volunteered in May for his deployment, only later requesting it be revoked, everything kind of fell into place.

Either:

A) he volunteered to deploy, and then, like Wesley Snipes, got some bad advice from his lawyer

or

B) he volunteered to deploy so that he could then, in a blaze of media suck-up, publicly announce he could not because Obama is a secret Muslim Communist terrorist born in Kenya

Either way - he did not have to make any public show of it at all. As he was a volunteer, all he needed to do was simply ask the Army not to deploy him. Simple as cake. Instead, he makes a big deal, gets the story in the press, and allows the crazies to prattle on once again about how Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist communist, out to destroy the country with his socialist programs, born in Kenya, rather than Hawaii where there is legal documentation, plus two birth announcements in local papers (it was all a plot you see, they knew he was going to be the first black President when he was born, so they had to put those announcements there to establish his credentials. Or even better, they hacked into the archives of the papers and placed them there later, cause that's so easy to do...)

So, the long and the short of this post is that maybe I was more sane when I only had the crazies to deal with, and not the super-crazies.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Iraqi Food

So, anyone who knows me since 2004 knows how much I love Iraqi food. Today one of our interpreters brought in food for a "welcome here" dinner. Kabob, lamb, bread, hummus all the fixings. The funny thing is our interpreter was like "Iraqis complain about not having food, but look at this! I said enough for five people, and they give us all this." Now, it was good, very good, but it was a lot of food.

Here is what was left after we all ate as much as we could:



And a closeup of Iraqi Kebob, because it's my favorite food in the whole world:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crazies on TV

So, I came across this clip on another blog:



Now, Army of Dude does a great job of nailing down what a despicable thing it is to say that the Taliban should just kill him, and how much of a poser Ralph Peters is, so I'm not going to go into that.

I simply want to mention the glaring mistake that I heard this man make. His bullshit about "you always know where the other members of your platoon are" is just that, bullshit. In '04, when I was in Iraq, at night, on a patrol, there was some miscommunication. I'm not gonna blame anybody, I misheard, they misheard, and before I knew it, I was standing in a market square in Baghdad with only a half dozen or so ICDC as my escort. The two soldiers (a lieutenant and a platoon sergeant) I had been with before that had gone off somewhere to do something cool and high-speed. Luckily, nothing happened, and thirty minutes later I was back with my escorting platoon and moving on back to the base. But I'll tell you, this kind of shit does happen, mistakes do occur, and accountability is not always 100%, whatever Butt-Munch Peters might think.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Traveling to Baghdad

So, last time I was here, and flying back and forth too much for comfort, I was in the airport in Kuwait and a guy walked up to me and asked me for a light. Let me describe this young man: 23, white, tall, athletic, ACU backpack. He sits down, and the first thing he says is "I don't know why they ask us to travel in civilian clothes. We stand out like sore thumbs." He was absolutely right.

So, I'm flying out this time, sitting in the smoking room fishtank, and I start to count up the number of people sitting in the smoking room with me who are most likely going to Baghdad on my plane. At least three, up to maybe six of the people. Like soldiers, contractors have a particular look. Brown combat boots, typically high-speed, cargo pants, polo shirt. And, often, an ACU or brown backpack... So much for incognito.

Some other interesting things I saw at the airport:

A full on female bodybuilder. Tanned, breast implants and all.

Five people from my CRC class.

One woman with (fe?)male pattern baldness who actually ended up getting on my flight to Kuwait.

Fort Benning CRC Survival Guide – Step by Step instructions from my experiences

CRC stands for Conus Replacement Center. It's kind of an odd name, when you think about it, since you're replacing someone OCONUS. Anyways, CRC is particularly shocking for those who haven't dealt with the military before. It's also confusing, and there is very little information that I've found on what you need before you get there, and what to expect when you do get there. So, here's my own little day by day guide to the CRC experience.

Only use Internet Explorer to use any of the sites listed below, Firefox will have display problems.

Day One – Saturday

This is just a processing day. However, don’t think that makes it okay to get there late. If you get there Friday night, great, get up early for that first formation. If you plan to arrive before Friday, don’t bother. You can get a room in the barracks, but that’s it. It is entirely possible to get there Thursday night, sit there for 36 hours and then not get a spot.

“How can this be?” you might wonder. Well, it’s because the first formation they set up tables, and then they say “A through L in this line, M through Z in the line.” Then all the contractors make a mad rush to get in line. If you’ve ever seen Europeans get on a bus, it’s like that, but with 300 people. This is one of the few times when you want to get involved in the mad rush. Get to the front of that line and get a low-numbered badge. There are enough things that happen based on badge number that you want to be in the first fifty if possible, but definitely in the first hundred. If you end up in the back of the line, and get badge 268 or something, and they only accept 267 people, it doesn’t matter when you got there, you’re going home and have to reschedule.

(Some might notice that this is a good way to draw out your stateside time with your company. I suppose it might be, but most people want to get through CRC and out so they can start earning their money)

After that process is done (all told it takes a few hours), you head up the hill to sit down, get your stupid briefings (“I’m the chaplain, come talk to me if you get stressed”) and then you’re done for the day.

Day Two – Sunday


Another boring day. Head up to the hill, get more briefings. This is usually the day that they hand out your packet, and tell you how to fill out each form, etc.

Today is also the day that you have to do computer training. Make a note, though, computer training is on the honor system at CRC, so make of that what you will.

Required courses are:

AT Level 1: https://atlevel1.dtic.mil/at/

SAEDA https://atiam.train.army.mil/soldierPortal/atia/adlsc/view/public/7827-1/CM/553G-NG0001-A/553G-NG0001-A.HTM

EO/Sexual Harassment (you will not be able to complete this online, there is a problem with the flash player): https://atiam.train.army.mil/soldierPortal/atia/adlsc/view/restricted/12447-1/CM/VMP/553G-NG0035-A.HTM

Hot Weather Injury (some people reported problems with this one): https://atiam.train.army.mil/soldierPortal/atia/adlsc/view/restricted/10680-1/CM/VMP/553G-NG0012-A.HTM

The following can be found at the ATSC Homepage

Cultural Awareness – (country)
Combat Stress/Suicide Prevention
HQDA Fraternization
Army Values
Collect and Report Intelligence
General Orders

SERE TRAINING – no, not the SERE school, there is a mandatory online SERE 100 course which you can take online. This will save you about six hours of classroom time, you cannot do this in the computer lab, so get it done on your own time before you leave.

Here’s the address: https://jkolms.jfcom.mil/html/desktop/student/jkddc/BrowseCourses3.jsp?indx=0

The course is J3TA-US022, you have to browse by course number…

If you have already been through CRC before, they will inventory your stuff to make certain you have your OCIE issue.

Days Three and Four – Monday & Tuesday

The specific days that specific things happen might change from cycle to cycle, so I am going to break it down by station, rather than day.

1) Admin SRP

The most important things for this location are your CAC card and your PRO-File paperwork. Before you get to CRC, you should make certain you have:

A Letter of Authorization (LOA)
An Army Knowledge Online (AKO) account

With you AKO account you can do your computer training before you leave, and you can also get your PRO-File filled out. If you don’t have your PRO-File filled out before you get to CRC, you will wait about three hours in line.

PRO-File is here: https://medinah.sed.monmouth.army.mil/PRO%2DFile/

And only use Internet Explorer.

Fill out the form, and this is most important, print out the certificate that you have it completed. You can then hand that to the ISOPREP people and be on your merry way.

In addition to this, get your CAC card before you leave. Any base with a DEERS office should be able to do it for you. Most you don’t even need an appointment, although it will take about an hour and a half to get seen. In order to have a CAC card issued, you need to be in the Contractor Verification System (CVS). Make ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that your information is correct in CVS before you go to get your CAC card. There were people who got kicked back because a letter was out of place in their name. Match everything up between the CVS entry and your LOA.

Once you get your CAC and PRO-File, there are a couple stations left, like legal, which you just have to walk by and have them stamp your sheet.

Then, you’re done with SRP.


2) Medical

Okay, here’s the worst of it. From what I saw, this is the list of what you need:

Basic Physical with CBC and UA (they'll know what it means)

HIV Test
TB Test

Vaccinations:

Hep A
Hep B
MMR
Polio
TD
Typhoid

Yellow Fever (if Africa is anywhere on your orders – they go off the orders, not where you’ve been told you are going)

Also, if you are going to Afghanistan, you will need Malaria pills. They will issue them if you don’t have them, but that will hold you an extra day.

Bring two pairs of eyeglasses if you wear them. If you do not have optics for your mask already in hand, they will make some for you, but that means you are guaranteed not to leave until Thursday afternoon, so plan accordingly.

You will receive smallpox and anthrax at CRC if you qualify for them.

3) CIF

This is the easiest station. The people here are government civilians, and thus not the most enthusiastic, but generally helpful. If you already have all your gear, you still need to go through CIF just to sign an updated form. If you don’t it will take you maybe an hour to go through and get all your stuff. As a regular contractor, basically all you get is body armor, helmet, and a couple duffel bags.

The biggest problem here is if you have ever deployed or received gear from the Army, and you still have those items on your record, they will not issue you any more gear. There was a guy who had $1400 worth of gear on his record, from 2003, because he had handed it to his former employers before he left Kuwait to go home, and they were like "Yeah, we'll get it turned in for you." He didn't have the hand receipt for it, and then he proceeded to sulk because he "wasn't going to pay for something that's not my fault." Yeah, well, learn this when you deal with the Army - if you signed for it, it belongs to you. Dead Stop. They don't care who you gave it to, where it went, or frankly, if it got blown up when your tent got hit by incoming. (True story - a friend of mine spent six months before they finished the investigation into how much of his gear got burned up when his tent got hit). Keep track of your stuff, and never believe anyone when they say "I'll take care of it for you."

Day 5 – TSIRT Training

This is the worst day of CRC. If you have been through CRC in the last twelve months, bring your training sheet from the last time you went through, it will get you out of the TSIRT training. Otherwise, bring a book or a gameboy, and just go through it. You won’t be done until at least 6:00 PM, be prepared.

Day 6 – Make-Ups

If you are lucky enough to be a contractor who is flying out commercial, you can be done Thursday morning, assuming you have no deficiencies. The most common ones are:

TB Test (since you have to wait 48 hours for it to be read)
Optics for your mask (delivered Thursday afternoon)
CAC card (if you were a no-go at Admin, they will likely make you wait until today to get it done)
CIF (if you were at the end of the medical line, chances are you didn’t make it to CIF that day)
Malaria Pills (delivered Thursday afternoon)
Other medication (checked Thursday afternoon)

If you have any of these deficiencies, you will not be able to get out of CRC until Thursday night. This is why they say not to book a flight until after 8:00 Thursday night if you are going home.

If you are flying out with the military flight, I feel for you. You will basically be bored all day Thursday, then go through a bunch of Army mickey mouse on Friday until you get on your flight. Then Ali As Saleem in Kuwait, which I don’t think is as bad as everyone else says it is. I would much rather have been stuck there for a week than be stuck at Camp Striker at BIAP for a week, that place is a real pit.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Benning Sucks

not much else to report, more when I actually get out of this hellhole.

However, this story caught my eye. Apparently Melissa Trujillo is angling for Andy Rooney's position with insightful and relevant journalistic work...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

You Mean Beside the Red Lobster?

So, I'm back here in wonderful Columbus, GA. I mean, really, if you have the means, I highly recommend it. Really, and there is no sarcasm here. It's just Heaven on Earth down here.

Aside from the heat. And humidity.

Now, here's a funny thing about Columbus, GA. They have two Applebees. Maybe some people are fans of this place, possibly because of their great salad bar. But as white trash restaurants go, Applebees is right there on the top of the list. Some might say Waffle House, but since I think Waffle House is simply awesome, I can't label it as such.

Moving on. The title of this post is an inside joke for everyone who has ever heard me talk about Basic Training. Something happened while I was there which became a source of amusement for me, all of my teammates, and pretty much anyone else I talked to about it. So, if you've heard it, skip ahead.

It was the last week of Basic, everyone had relaxed a bit, and I was on an early morning ice run with my drill sergeant. (No battle buddy, that's what happens at the end of Basic). I know my family is coming down, and all the restaurants the senior drill had recommended for family day were, well, bad. (Golden Corral, Red Lobster, Applebees) My father likes good food. Not necessarily white linen $100 a plate food, but good food. So I ask my drill sergeant if there are any nice restaurants in Columbus I can go with my family. His response, and I SWEAR TO GOD THIS IS TRUE, was "You mean besides the Red Lobster?" I love this story because it sums up the general attitude and background of almost every drill sergeant at Basic Training. Call me elitist, I don't care, but when Red Lobster is your idea of fine dining, there's something not quite right.

So, this evening, I need to run out to Kinkos to print some stuff up, and I figure as long as I am out, I will get some real food to eat, and I look up local restaurants to find something decent. I'm not looking for anything really nice, by the way (not Red Lobster nice, at least), so I end up going to TGI Fridays. Which happens to be, you guessed it, right next to the Red Lobster. And a Chili's. And a Barnes and Noble. Frankly, this TGI Fridays is in The Biggest Strip Mall Known To Man. This strip mall was so big, they had a Sears. It literally trailed off into the distance so badly I couldn't see what was on the other side of the Sears. It was like one of those big Mills Outlet Malls, but outside instead of in (I guess Georgians like the heat so much they hate the idea of walking around inside an air conditioned building while shopping). There was a Carabba's, an Olive Garden, a couple other decent places. And one of TWO, yes TWO! Wal-Marts in Columbus (I think that might be for a different blog, though).

So, maybe I misheard my drill sergeant. Maybe he didn't say "Besides the Red Lobster." Maybe he said "Beside the Red Lobster."

Building Gnomes

I don't believe it, actually. I think that in the last seven years the building gnomes have been hard at work. I doubt that any of that strip mall actually existed except maybe the Hobby Lobby.

I hate that store, it's almost as badly named as Stoner's Pot Palace.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sketchiest Physical Ever

So, I'm heading back to the wonderful fun in the sun place we all like to refer to as the sandbox.

In order to do this, I need to have a physical and a dental exam. Now - there are three classes of dental readiness, 1, 2, and 3. Class 1 is perfect teeth. Class 3 is teeth so bad you can't deploy because you might have an abscess that leads to an aneurysm and you die. Class 2 is EVERYTHING in between. And I mean everything. We had a guy in my Reserve Unit whose teeth were literally falling out of his jaw, they were so bad. I think at point he mentioned he had not brushed his teeth since he was 13. This man was identified as Class 2.

That little story is to put the next one in perspective.

So I go to get my physical, at a little walk in doctor's office. I mistakenly bring the DA form I got in an email and give it to the doctor. So now she wants to do all sort of stuff, run $300 worth of tests (over and above the tests required by the Army), she's worried about my cholesterol, what have you. And of course, she doesn't speak good english. And I am trying to explain to this woman that all the Army wants to know is that "this person will not keep over and die of a sudden and unexpected heart attack in the next twelve months." That's it. Your teeth can be rotting out of your skull, and they'll take you. They don't care about HDL or LDL or any of that other crap. They just want to know you're not going to die on their watch.

Okay, so that fight's over, we compromise on an additional $30 test so she can sign off on the pulmonary part of the exam. Then I have to get blood drawn. This nurse is the worse phlebotomist ever. Granted, she found the vein on the first try, so I'll give her props for that (but I have good veins for that sort of thing). Then she starts drawing the blood, holding on to the test tube with one hand as well as the little butterfly thing (which as I recall is there so you can just tape down the needle, and reaching across herself with her other hand to grab the next test tube, putting pressure on my arm, and then apparently wondering why the test tube isn't filling up as fast as it should (maybe because you left the rubber band on my arm for two minutes, and now you're pinching off any circulation that might have been getting through...

Okay, so that's done. Let's add up:

attempt to upsell the blood tests
poor bedside manner
horrible phlebotomist
- oh, and terrible customer service.

All this makes it sketchy. But, I have to admit, does not qualify this experience for the sketchiest physical ever.

That accomplishment was reached when I gave my urine sample in a plastic dixie cup and was told to just leave it on the counter.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

silly herbal companies

So, I've already discussed Zicam, and it's particular silliness (although I didn't mention that Rush Limbaugh believes that the FDA going after Zicam is a direct attack against him because of his political views...)

But, I was driving home this afternoon (quick fashion report: SHORT shorts are back, I'm just waiting for the new crop of Nair commercials now), and I hear an ad for a new drug... called Quietus.

Now, this drug supposedly helps you deal with tinnitus, so sure, I can see the ad guys in the room, "Let's do something with Latin, that will make it sound more medicine-ey." "Yeah, so it makes your ears quiet, you know, so how about Quiet-us?" "Excellent, Bill, let's go with that that." (Apparently Bill used to work for the car companies: Integr-a, Acur-a, Sentr-a)

Unfortunately, neither Bill nor his boss seems to have read more than a couple books in their life (or, for that matter, seen Children of Men).

Do you really want to take a drug whose name means death...?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

News tidbits

Fly Clear goes down

Zicam was invented by a crazy. Maybe the FDA should regulate some of our medications... Now, this is a little amusing, but the sheer number of people with degrees from these diploma mills in positions where they can actually do harm disturbs me more than I can possible express.

Jason Jones is absolutely The Man

So, I don't exactly when Jason Jones went to Iran to do his pieces for the Daily Show, but, compared to reporting from most other news sources, I have to say that Daily Show's fake news has once again set the bar for "real" news sources.

First, a wonderful piece in which Jones interviews one of the leaders of (presumably) the opposition:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jason Jones: Behind the Veil - Persians of Interest
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran


A very good bit of reporting for any news source. However, this clip was then followed by the son of the cleric in question, with probably the best piece of advice for how to handle Iran right now:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Ebrahim Yazdi's Arrest
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Fashion Report

Sorry for the lack of updates, recently, so I will break the silence with a new fashion report. In this case, this is not a college girl update, as I sadly no longer spend significant time on campus being a student to observe the fashion trends there. In this case, I have noticed a significant number of women wearing high waisted skirts. Much like white pants, this fashion is only something which a woman with a perfect body can pull off. The slightest bulge in the wrong place becomes over accentuated and it just looks... well, wrong.

What a shame

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sometimes your age really hits you

I remember when the phrase "if nothing else, just to see a 5 Megawatt laser fire" inspired boy genius Chris Knight to finish college.

Now, we have a laser which "lasting just a few nanoseconds, the system is capable of generation 500 trillion watts of power"

All I can say to that is: look what you have high power, limited firing time, unlimited range. All you need is a large spinning mirror and you could vaporize a human target from space...

I hope a responsible agency knows about this.


/geek

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ethnic (mis)casting

This post is not about actors being cast to play ethnicities which are not their own (Mexicans as omni-Hispanics, Asians as omni-Asians, etc). For instance, the new movie Star Trek (awesome movie) cast John Cho, a Korean, as Sulu, originally played by Japanese George Takei. However, in this case, the actual ethnicity of the character is really irrelevant to the role or any underlying themes. (Well, actually, Sulu was deliberately post-ethnic in his original character concept.)

I am actually referring to films in which the ethnic undertones are specific to the films characters as displayed in the film. For instance, I love Strictly Ballroom (I'm a little gay sometimes), but I have always had a problem with the fact that the underlying message of the movie is "white people can't dance." Scott, who has been dancing since he was walking, can't understand the basics of "true" dancing until he is instructed by his Hispanic girlfriend's family. Sure, it's a common trope, but what really bugs me is that every character in the movie is blond-haired blue eyed white boy poster child, except that the actor who plays Scott is dark haired, dark eyed, and generally Hispanic looking himself. (I suspect he's Italian with a name like Mercurio, but my point remains). So, the "white boy" who learns to dance can't even be played by a white boy...

Not necessarily a big deal, but Hispanic/White relations are hardly a loaded topic. When we deal with Palestinian/Arabs and Israelis, however, there are some serious emotions, so much that it seems one can't actually cast two actors of the correct ethnicities in a movie together. Don't Mess with the Zohan, a wonderfully funny movie with the deliberate message of "why can't we all get along?" has Adam Sandler in the title role fall in love with Dahlia, the Palestinian hair dresser from the other side of the street (nice metaphor). Only problem is, Dahlia is played by Emmanuelle Chriqui, who is Jewish (Moroccan Jewish, strangely enough). Why couldn't Adam Sandler actually date an actual Palestinian woman, or at least an Arab. And there are plenty: Salma Hayek and Shannon Elizabeth are of Arab descent. Okay, they're a little too well known, and obviously American. Chriqui is not well known, I only know her as the chick from that Lance Bass movie and the lesbian ex in The OC (did I mention I was a little gay?). How about Amal Hejazy, Farah Bseso, Clara Khoury, Amal Murkus, or Nadine Salameh?

Finally, what brought these thoughts back up for me, was watching a little indie Israeli movie called The Band's Visit about an Egyptian band trapped in a small Israeli town. Nice, light, but touching movie about the possibility of overcoming ethnic differences. But the main character is played by Sasson Gabai, a Jewish Israeli actor.

I don't have any objections to ethnic- or race-blind casting in films. Or weirdness, Observe and Report had one of the coolest and weirdest moments ever with the casting of the crack gang as a white trash guy, a hispanic guy, a thug black guy, a random white guy, and an asian guy. I think it's best to go about it that way, but when the ethnicity of a character is integral to the plot, maybe there should be some truth in advertising...