Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Emotional Reticence

So, I've had a number of questions from friends and family about when exactly I will be finished with this particular time in Iraq.

I usually respond to these queries by, well, not responding at all, or at the most obfuscating any empirical answer. Although in some part this is a standard OPSEC issue, it also gets at the inherent superstition involved with being in a war zone. In addition, this inherent superstition also explains my other elements of what I call emotional reticence - my personal lack of much emotional affect, not only when I am here in Iraq, but in general over the last eight years (and, to be honest, some time before that, but that was due to a different sort of PTSD).

Although I can't say with any empirical certainty, I suspect that many soldiers experience a similar response to their own deployments. We grew up on war movies, most soldiers can quote Full Metal Jacket from memory (and most drill sergeants and privates at Basic do so at length), have seen Saving Private Ryan more times than 40 year olds have seen Star Wars, and are inherently aware of the tropes involved in these movies. As such, we know a number of things:

1) Most people who survive combat do so because of luck
2) You can cut your odds a bit through training and preparation, but at the end of the day you didn't get hit by the incoming because you just happened to choose that moment to get out of your chair.

Now, a lot of "luck" is also the Confirmation Bias, but that doesn't change the fact that soldiers believe it. And the things we believe define our universe.

Which is why you will find many soldiers following the rules on How To Survive a War Movie

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The comments are always better

than the original story. I think that one of the reasons I haven't blogged much in the past couple months is that I've just been commenting in the comments sections of articles I read instead of posting my thoughts here. There are other reasons, as well, such as a distinct lack of time and, frankly, internet access. But, I think that when news sites and opinion sites started allowing for readers to "join the conversation" they have essentially coopted a lot of the blogging which average people like me would usually do on an issue (Facebook too - it's a lot easier to just paste a link to facebook and make a snarky one-sentence comment about it).

In this instance, however, I would like to point anyone to a recent Mother Jones article about the lack of workers applying for an unskilled labor position. The comments on this story are much more amusing and interesting than the story itself, primarily because of a wonderful sidetracking series of comments in which the commenters argue over the relative merits of the words "assorted" versus "miscellaneous" as it pertains to shopping for donuts. The most interesting thing about it is that with the exception of a few choice insults, the argument is pretty well grounded in definitions, both of the words themselves, and the appopriate use of each.

This thing is freaking my out


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Freaky freaky freaky

Octopi scare the crap out of me. They can perform complex tasks, solve problems, and draw connections (like squirting out a lightbulb in its tank at night because its lonely and wants the company when the handyman comes to fix it).

And now they can gamble...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why are vampires getting younger?

the original Dracula was 400 something when he seduced Mina Harker, quite an age difference. (published 1897)

Anne Rice's Louis was just shy of 200 when he first appeared in print. (1976) (Lestat broke the cycle, being almost 250 when his book was published in 1983)

Stefan, the hero of the Vampire Diaries novels, was 500, (1991) but in the TV remake he has become just over 150. (2009)

The Civil War motif continued in True Blood/Southern Vampire Mysteries with Bill Compton. (published 2001)

Angel was turned in 1891, putting him just a tad over 100. (series premiere 1997)

Edward Cullen is 104 when he first seduces Bella Swan. (published 2005)

I know that statutory rape is a big deal these days, but does the difference between 100 and 500 really matter all that much? I haven't read, well, any of the books mentioned above, except for Anne Rice's, but is there some significant to the fact that the "younger" vampires were also turned into vampires when they themselves were young? Is there a verisimilitude in this "youth" (Dracula was a fully grown man when he became a vampire, and is thus allowed to be 500) when the issue of seduction of teenage girls raises its head?

The pedophilia angle was well developed in one of the best vampire books I've read in a long time, Let the Right One In, about a child vampire (sort of like a vampire version of Lolita, but in which Lolita has the power in the relationship). I won't spoil the ending of the book, but the vampire, Eli, turns out to be at least 200, and probably older, breaking the "younger vampire" cycle.

In other news, police in Michigan recently arrested a 100 year old "vampire" trying to rob a liquor store...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I knew it might happen

hedging enough with that title?

Apparently the original Codey Wilson video has been removed. I assume it has something to do with the investigation the Army has launched. What gets me about that, is that the investigation began with a complaint from LGBT activists.

As I mentioned previously, yes, there are an abundance of gay stereotypes in the video, but these are hardly uncommon stereotypes. See Will & Grace, Jeffrey, Queer as Folk, or even the new Modern Family show. And the video is so over-the-top with this imagery, it would appear obvious to any observer that the soldiers are satirizing the stereotypes, and not indulging in them.

Whatever, the video has since been reposted to a number of different accounts on youtube, so it's still out there.

Hopefully this one will last a little longer:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Satire or Homophobia?

Personally, I think that this video is evidence that whatever the higher ranking (read: Cold War Era) officers and NCOs might be saying about the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the majority of soldiers on the ground (in this case, literally on the ground in Iraq) really just don't care.

Although there may be some stereotyping here, I don't see it as homophobic so much as the stereotypes being displayed are

1) the most common cultural references for what "gay" means
2) a post-modern pastiche of the silliness entailed in maintaining the DADT policy (does anyone REALLY think that this will happen?)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dear Lord

Apparently Dyncorp has been training the Afghan police, but forgot the simple basic step of teaching them how to adjust their sights...

Now I don't know about other training, but in Basic Training we spent a week just learning how to zero in a weapon. When a unit goes to the range, everyone has to zero in their weapon, EVERY TIME, before they can move on to the qualification range. Zeroing a weapon, by firing at a target, adjusting your sights, firing, adjusting... until you get it perfectly centered, is one of the absolute fundamentals of any marksmanship training. It makes me wonder if this was incompetence, laziness, or racism that was leading to this little... oversight*.

Now, there are many other issues related to the Afghan police, not just how well they can shoot. But shooting, as one of the basic and fundamental skills of the job, as well as a main symbolic identifier of the job, is essential to creating the identity of a policeman, soldier, Marine, what have you. Shoot**, in the American military, one of the things that Marines hold over soldiers (among many others), is that their basic qualification tests are harder than the Army's, this is one of the things which drives both the elitism and the esprit de corps*** of the Marines.

So will teaching the Afghan police how to shoot properly improve their overall proficiency as police? Probably not. But although it might not be sufficient, it is most definitely necessary.

*Ha! a pun, get it? (lack of) oversight... I kill myself sometimes.

** Another one!

*** I'm on a roll today...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

AFI's "top" science fiction films

So I just came across this list of AFI's "Ten Best" films from a bunch of different categories. Some of them I agree with, and some are film genre's I just don't follow (like Gangster Films).

But their top ten list of Science Fiction Films is just ridiculous. Sure, 2001 was a classic, I don't dispute that, but in terms of best science fiction movie ever, I really don't think it makes the grade. And Terminator 2 over the first Terminator? Really, the second movie was fun, but that was about it. The first was a true classic. And although I'm not a big fan, the Matrix should be on that list.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


So I went to my first MMA class last night. (The one good thing about VBC is that they have a lot of free classes available, not just gym classes, but Arabic classes and UMUC courses, too).

Ouch. I actually have to work to find a position I can carry my backpack in so it doesn't hurt my shoulder where it's rubbed raw. And now I know why all MMA fighters have those thick bull necks - everything is sore, but I can barely move my head today, my neck is so sore.

It was fun though, hopefully I'll keep getting my ass in gear and go a few times a week. I probably burned a thousand calories last night.

The book that haunts me

Back in High School, I had to read the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. And yes, I highlighted the whole thing in the link because it always seems to be stated that way, title+author. Never "Rebecca", it's always "Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier." I hated this book. I hated the movie, even if it was Hitchcock. I think I actually hate this book more than anything else I've ever read. And for some reason, this book seems to follow me around like an annoying puppy.

And somehow, I'm in Iraq, and the stupid book pops up in the donated books sitting at the Green Bean. Staring at me. Thankfully, some officer just grabbed it and recommended it to another officer as something he would like to read. This is why I never wanted to be an officer.

Monday, March 29, 2010

More disgusting

Doesn't investment carry in itself some inherent risk? (does "in itself" and "inherent" make that sentence redundant?)

Apparently real estate investors in Virginia are pissed off and suing because Fort Lee is going to build its own hotel for transitioning soldiers, and they had gone to all the trouble to toss the dice on hotel investment in the area, so now their "sure thing" investment is being put into jeopardy...

God forbid we should actually try and provide soldiers and their families decent accommodations close to the base, without worrying about crime and other problems (read comment #9 on the story).

Things to never say on an airplane

We all know not to make jokes about bombs or guns or whatever.

But here's one that I knew of, but actually had the chance to encounter in person this flight: don't ever say "Fuck you, BITCH!" to a flight attendant... This statement caused us to be an hour on the tarmac waiting for said passenger to be ejected from the plane and remove his luggage.

It was pretty funny, though.


It's always unfortunate when your leave becomes more busy than your work week. So, to everyone I didn't get a chance to get in touch with, or talked to only briefly, I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to meet up.

I am back to the wonderful world which is "the sandbox" and our internet has been down for the last week straight, so I don't know how often I'll get to post. Despite recent guidance, the NIPR computers here still block access to all social networking and blog sites... so I am forced to use the pay-per-minute style ISPs to do much of my research, limiting my time to actually address simple issues like a blog.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

TV Connections

So, much like David Mamet has a pack of actors he likes to draw from, apparently so does Carlton Cuse. I picked up a box set of Brisco County, Jr. at the DVD shop a couple weeks ago, completely unaware that the show was by Carlton Cuse (now famous as one of the producers of Lost). I just remember a friend raving about it back when I was a freshman in college (yeah, that long ago). And since I'm a big Bruce Campbell fan, I figured I'd check it out.

Now, it's a fun show, and the comparisons with Lost are kind of interesting, and have already been made on a number of Lost forums. However, what's interesting to me is to see the awkwardness of Cuse's first attempt at this, compared to the smoothness with which Lost is (usually) written. (We'll ignore Season 3). The biggest funny thing to me, though, is the number of actors that have appeared on both shows:

John Hawkes
M.C. Gainey
Patrick Fischler
Francois Chau
Sam Anderson
Andrew Divoff
Although he wasn't in both shows, Mackenzie Astin was in Lost, and is also the son of John Astin, who was a regular on Brisco County (and Addams Family, of course)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Actors who look like each other, plus!

So, I was watching the most recent episode of Lost last night, and one of the characters reminded me of someone, and I couldn't quite place it. Then I realized that he reminded me of another character on Lost. So much that I actually thought it was the same actor for a moment. Of course, it ended up being a different actor, but the similarity is a bit uncanny. I have commented on the similarities between particular actors previously on this blog, but this one has a little bonus.

The bonus to this particular discovery, is that one of the actors is Arab, and it once again demonstrates a point I make frequently, no matter what you look like, there is someone in the Arab world who looks just like you, only Arab:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A tale of two earthquakes

So, Chile got hit by a big earthquake today, an 8.8 strength one.

Not exactly news, the largest earthquake ever recorded happened in Chile in 1960.

However, I think it interesting the disparity between the toll in Chile (first reports of 82 dead), and the damage in Haiti (230000 dead). Now, maybe the different between an 8.8 and a 7.0 doesn't seem all that big, but one has to bear in mind that the MMS Scale is a logarithmic scale, so a magnitude 9 earthquake is 31 times stronger than a magnitude 8, and almost ONE THOUSAND times stronger than a magnitude 7.

So, the damage caused by the two earthquakes are the inverse of the power of the earthquake (assuming the death count in Chile tops at around 200). What does this say about the disparate infrastructures, the money invested in earthquake proof architecture and other technology, and the oversight of government in large disasters?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just waiting for the crazies to ramp up on this one

So, Fox News recently reported a rumor: "The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina."

First, the lack of any length or details in this report bothers me. The Army is investigating "allegations," it's not even investigating people at this point, almost two months after the "allegations" were made. Second, the timing of the allegations fits smoothly into the post-Fort Hood timeframe of "We need to start investigating Muslims!" Finally, the fact that it has been picked up only by crazy blogs (read the comments...) and right wing media at this point suggests to me that there isn't much substance to the story.

Thankfully, I also encountered this blog when doing some more research on the story, who helpfully explains the coded language used by the CID representative at Fort Jackson: "If there were substantive leads for an ongoing investigation, he would have said simply that the investigation continues and then said nothing more about it."

But, the story fits so well with the right's attempt to create a narrative that the Obama administration is soft on terror, and the Army is being crippled by its attempts to maintain political correctness. I don't think either is true. Frankly, I even think the Nidal Hasan issues were not related to his religion, except only peripherally (the Army does not have enough Muslim individuals in counseling roles, so even as a subpar performer, he was kept on so that Muslim soldiers would have someone to turn to - they do this with officers from other faiths as well...).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


As I have previously mentioned, there are only three english channels currently available in my area: AFN, BBC, and a third station which seems to change formats about every three months or so

Even when that third station was decent, that meant only two stations playing music for the english speakers at any given time. The interesting (and strangely pleasant) side effect of this was that when driving down the road, if you saw someone singing, the chances were pretty good that they would be singing the same song you were listening to. I maintain that this is one of the main reasons why radio still exists in the United States, despite over a hundred years of personally owned musical listening devices. I still feel better hearing a song I like on the radio than when I play it on a CD, somehow knowing that there are other people out there listening to the same song at the same time gives me a feeeling (real or fake, who cares) of being connected with them - that somehow these people are members of my own little Imagined Community. Knowing this for a fact, by seeing someone singing the song you are listening to, is even better - and so rarely happens in the media heavy world of the United States that it's a pleasant and unexpected perk.

However, given the fact that AFN plays 80% crap, 19% decent, and only 1% good and innovative music means that my own tastes are a bit underrepresented. Luckily, I just discovered that my truck does, indeed, play the mp3 CDs it claims it does, so I can make my own mix CD of my 80 favorite songs to listen to while driving around.

And there's something strangely appropriate to driving around a military base while listening to Honour.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dick Cheney and homosexual rights

So, a lot has been made of Dick Cheney's recent statement of support for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Do a google search, and you get dozens of hits on liberal blogs, gay blogs, and just one hit on the first three pages from a conservative blog (this may change in the next couple days as the impact of the statement spreads).

However, I found one part of Cheney's statement very interesting, and it's not one that has anything to do with the policy itself: "Twenty years ago, the military were strong advocates of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' when I was Secretary of Defense," Cheney said.

Ummm... when you were Secretary of Defense, it was still illegal to be homosexual in the Army, Dick...

Maybe it was just a brain fart on Cheney's part, or maybe he was misremembering discussions about the homosexuality policy at the time (they were ongoing for quite some time before 1994). Or maybe the man's being disingenuous and trying to maintain his "what the generals want" position in general.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


is disgusting

Oh, get over it

Tea baggers need to learn that their protests, name, and general demeanor are just silly.

And it's an effing comic book!

My favorite quote: "Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips told Yahoo! News that it "sounds less like a genuine 'we're sorry' than it does a 'we're sorry we got caught' statement."

Honestly, what does he expect them to do? I worry about the future of America (truly, I am not being hyperbolic) when this kind of crap goes on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fashion Report: Baghdad

So, the style this year is digital grey patterns.

Just kidding. Contractor fashion is a realm in and of itself, but civilian, so there are some personal touches which the soldiers here (obviously) can't reflect.

First - men's fashion hasn't really changed. Cargo pants or khakis and a polo shirt is the outfit of choice. Usually with brown combat boots or sometimes hiking boots (most seem to prefer the combat boot style to reflect their "authenticity"). Button up shirts are also acceptable, but much less common than the polo.

Women: although the khaki/polo combo can be seen, I have recently encountered a surge in khakis with a flannel button-up over a t-shirt of some sort. Originally I noticed this style predominantly on KBR employees, who form their own little subculture here on Victory Base, but recently the style has spread to the DOD contractors as well, so I have to assume it reflects some ethereal trend in the female subconscious here.

It is not surprising, of course, as we've had a few years of 80s fashion, so the resurgence of 90's fashion (read: grunge) is the next logical step. And everyone's already wearing the boots...

In looking up grunge, I found this awesome timeline for people who fell in the cracks between major music movements.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Palin

So, I just read an interesting piece on Slate about Palin's... well, insanity and complete unfitness for office. (It's by Robert Kaplan, who I have always had tremendous respect for).

He compares Palin to Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes.

However, I think a more up-to-date analogy would be Bob Roberts...

I find it interesting how many "bad" pictures there have been of her at the recent tea Party event. And I'm waiting for the conservative outcry about it. However, of them all, I think I like this picture the best...

The Unit, part 2

get your head out of the gutter.

Well, I finished watching the series (it's amazing how fast something goes when you watch one episode a night before going to bed). Overall, I thought it was well done, aside from some weirdness in the middle which I think is what ended up getting the show cancelled in the long run. I get the feeling the writers were trying to capture some of the Lost/Alias weird metaphysical angle, but they failed utterly. First was the introduction of a psychic, which was actually kinda cool, since her character was greeted by "aren't you one of those people that studied people staring at goats?". Nice reference.

However, rather than play with that, somewhere the writers got even weirder, and had an episode centered around the Spear of Longinus, and the next episode was some weird acid trip by one of the main characters. Combined, I think it was these two episodes which just killed it. The show was already suffering from a poor attempt to move from an episodic to a story-arc season, and the clunkiness of that poor execution combined with the insanity of mystical monks and swordfighting was the deathblow. It was kind of a shame, I think there was one more season in it, if nothing else than just to resolve a few of the smaller things floating in the background (rich people conspiracy theories that overlaid most of the show I would have liked to have seen completed).

I think, like many things, one of the big problems was the inability of the founder to step away from the project. Again, I like Mamet, but he is absolutely not suited to directing or writing for television.

Mamet hanger on count for The Unit:

Rebecca Pidgeon
Ricki Jay
Max Martini (iffy, but he was in Redbelt)
William Macy
Bai Ling

A welcome recurring role from Summer Glau, though, didn't even know she was in the show (and in a bikini...)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Urban Dictionary

I swear people just sit around trying to invent words that refer to nasty things.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I don't know what's more distressing

about this article:

1) that they had to use 12 year olds to study teenager sexuality

2) or that the "successful" group of abstinence-only instructees (12 year olds) still had a 33% sexual activity rate.

3) or, of course, that somehow this is going to get twisted into some kind of "evidence" for religious abstinence only programs...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

OMG Make the Mamet Stop!

So, without decent internet access, and pretty much television only during meal times, one of the things most people end up doing in Iraq is watching TV episodes on DVDs, so they're a few years out of date.

Currently, I am watching The Unit, which I hate to admit is a pretty good show. I hate to admit it because it's a bit of glorification which I don't personally like. But production values are high, the choreography is well done, and the soundtrack is remarkably good. David Mamet produces the show, with his sister, apparently.

Now - the critique:

1) The gung-ho military can do everything, and should do everything attitude. Now - yes, these people are Delta Force, consummate professionals. But in the pilot episode they perform a mission on US soil, without suspension of posse comitatus. Sure - the team was the best equipped and trained to perform the operation, and the FBI guy on the ground as kind of a jerk. However, two episodes later, the FBI is looking into the illegal action and the writing gets pretty bad - stuffed shirt bureaucrat questioning the honorable and heroic actions of our team (!) But the show doesn't really dwell on the point that the team did in fact violate federal law, and one of the most important ones at that. Maybe we could have had a line about the dangerous precedent of the military making its own decisions about right and wrong rather than leaving it up to the civilian government?

2) Damn spooks are just petty bureaucrats out to fulfill their own agenda, and use our heroes for their own purposes. In the SERE episode, the team goes through SERE school (surprise) with a new twist - a female interrogator (presumably CIA) who is running some kind of psycho-biological experiment on them, bringing up elements of their past, etc. Rather than just three days of resistance, this new program goes as long as she wants, etc. But she makes a damn good point - the paradigm for hostage taking has changed: it's no longer about troop movements and holding out until mission orders change, it's about propaganda and money. So perhaps SERE school does need to change to reflect that paradigm (caveat: never been to SERE, I have no idea what their operational parameters are)

3) As I mentioned, David Mamet produces, but most of the scripts are written by other people. The problem is that on a few episodes he does write and direct, and those episodes are pure Mamet all the way: "I want to talk, I would like to talk to you about our relationship. Yes, about our relationship I would like to talk to you. No - no, this is about, it is about us" Etc. And after watching 11 episodes of normal dialogue, it is PAINFUL to experience. Now, I love David Mamet. But his meter takes some getting used to, because it is absolutely not the way normal human beings talk, and in the context of a show about normal Americans (superheroes or not), it is completely out of place.

4) Was it part of the pre-nup that Rebecca Pidgeon is legally required to be in every production Mamet does?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why the test

so, I tried to look at the Plot Summary for the movie "Swingers" - and I get this:

Hence, the word. Apparently one "fuck" doesn't trigger it. And there's something in the Swingers plot summary which does as well. What a stupid effing bot.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010


So, pizza made by Iraqis is now on the top of the list. So, to recap:

Pizza made by Iraqis
Pizza made by Filipinos
Pizza made by Indians
Pizza made by the DFAC

A lot of my good feeling for the Iraqis' pizza is probably based on the Nutella pizza they had for dessert. Because anything with Nutella gets 5 stars in my book.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Culture of War

I follow a milblogger or two, and Army of Dude I particularly like, mainly because he is at the moment attending college, and his take on college life and especially the problems with the different GI Bills are very telling and amusing.

His most recent post has one of those shocking moments that just make me realize how old I am:

"An 18 year old in college this year would have been nine years old during the invasion of Afghanistan and eleven years old during the invasion of Iraq."


I guess Colbert is happy they didn't name it after him

otherwise he'd be responsible for the problems on the space station.

The sad state of broadcast radio

I mentioned the strangeness of the floating radio stations here in Iraq. However, it did occur to me this morning that I have heard more new, good, and interesting music on the AFN network here in the last four months than I heard the two years I was in the States.

Now, I think this has less to do with the superior quality of AFN than it does with the ridiculously poor nature of American radio (specifically, corporate owned media such as Clearchannel and Westwood One). But I have actually purchased four songs I heard on the radio here after hearing them, compared to the big whopping ZERO songs I've heard on American radio that have intrigued me enough to buy them...

I miss the original WHFS. If I have to move - I am going to move somewhere I get reception on WRNR.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fashion and Public Schools

This appears to be more and more of a hot button issue these days.

Today I saw three stories alone about fashion issues relating to public school activities. One is from a few months ago (I think the ABC website is apparently so bass-ackwards they're not even linking to proper stories). One is from last year, and one is recent.

In the first case - students were suspended from extra-curricular activities because of behavior which occurred outside of school.

In the second - a student was arrested for refusing to leave the high school prom because she was wearing an outfit which did not conform to the dress standards laid out beforehand.

In the third - students got in trouble for wearing t-shirts which were reminiscent of 9/11.

The first two stories directly address the problems related to attempting to maintain some kind of order in the public school system, which is particularly difficult in an age when students are encouraged to "express themselves" with no consideration of social mores.

Now - I am far from a conservative person, in thought or dress. I just recently purchased a second suit, and they are both hanging in my closet and will likely not see the light of day until (hopefully) job interviews next year. My preferred mode of dress is jeans and a t-shirt, or maybe cargo pants but just because they have two extra pockets which are excellent for carrying books. But I certainly wouldn't think of wearing a bathing suit to work. There are simply some conventions which students need to learn, and among those conventions are appropriate and acceptable attire and behavior.

Turning specifically to the article about cheerleaders who took racy pictures of themselves over the summer and were then suspended from extra-curricular activities (like cheerleading) because they put them on myspace - who still uses myspace??? But - an important that was not made in the article, and I hope the lawyers make in their case, is that these girls were not suspended from school. They have a right to an education, just as they have a right to express themselves in any way which they see fit, online or in person, anytime school is not in session.

And for the most part I agree with the decision of the principal (I think the "apology" to the coaches was a bit extreme and ridiculous), and I am overjoyed that the school district administration didn't roll over when angry parents got huffy about it. At no point does it seem that these students' inherent right to attend school was infringed - they simply lost their privileges to represent the school in an extra-curricular activity. And given their embarrassing behavior, why should they be allowed to represent the school?

Finally - the last article, which I think is the most complex. I specifically did not mention in my beginning that these students were Muslim. This seems to have been the source of a lot of the concern. Take a look at the picture:

If a bunch of white students had been wearing that sweatshirt, with those words, I think everyone would have thought it was a statement about the power of the American community to bounce back from a terrorist attack. However, because these students were Muslim, this message got inverted, and somehow people took it as a pro-terror statement, that the Muslim terrorists can bounce back from our attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Stupid. But, unfortunately like most stupid things, understandable. It is interesting that the message can be so changed based simply on the messenger. It's not exactly McLuhan's truism, but definitely a wonderful instance of people over-reading what should be a simple message.

All of these add up to a complexity of freedom of expression, the power of administrators, and modern connectedness and technology. How these things are going to get resolved is beyond me, but I think that we are going to need more than just a Bong Hits for Jesus resolution to establish what we can and should expect from teenagers (and parents) in our civil society.

**footnote - the problem of clothing and acceptable behavior is not limited to the United States.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Don't ever give them a real email

Even legitimate companies are desperate for customer contact, it appears. I don't even know what it was I "contacted" HP about originally, but I'm always careful to uncheck the "Please contact me about special deals" box every time I fill out a form...

And then I get this email from HP today:

"We received your e-mail address through the HP/Compaq registration process, but are unsure whether we may contact you. We want to give you the opportunity to receive valuable information like support alerts, new service updates, warranty extension reminders, and other communications—all tailored to your registered HP products and interests."

So, seriously, this is almost as bad as Facebook's constant "updates" to its security, which always seem to restore the "security defaults" to "make my personal and private information to every single person in the world".

"We know you said not to contact you, but we wanted to contact you and make sure you really didn't want us to contact you."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Order Date--OrderType---------------------------Effective Date
2009/12/29--HONR[Honorable Discharge Orders]-----2009/12/29


Friday, January 1, 2010

Radio Stations

All right - so when I first got here in July, there were three radio stations available to the English speaking audience: BBC World News, AFN, and what appeared to be some AFN talk radio station.

Then, they changed the talk radio station to NPR International.

Well, about a month ago, NPR went away to be replaced by Jack FM, and for about 2-3 weeks there was what appeared to be a pirate metal station broadcasting on a low-power frequency. That's gone.

So now this morning, it appears that the AFN station is gone, too, so now we have two radio stations playing Jack FM.

Oh - and our internet sucks tremendous buffalo penis. Our compound internet has been down for three days now, so I am using a pay service at the local Green Bean. I am currently getting more than twice the download speed I get on the best day on our "dedicated" internet at the compound, and it is in the middle of one of the busier times of day. So - Great American Networks = total crap. (Is that libel?)