sig's blog

What We're Really Fighting For

This guy has a refreshingly honest soul-searching look at the Iraqi elections and his own notions about what we're doing over there.[quote]I still am no Bush fan, and I know that America got lied to. I know we shouldn't have gone, and I think Rove is as evil as they come. But through all this deception and lying, through all this dismemberment and pain, America has wrought a beautiful, fantastic side effect: joy, freedom and a hope for peace. Does it take lies and misdirection to do this?? Is this what the other side of justice is? I feel like such a whiner and I don't know what to think anymore. Ultimately, in total defiance of my mother and grandmother’s teachings, two wrongs have made a right and my moral compass is tired and busted.[/quote]

Food for thought.

Sig

What We're Fighting For

OK, not really.
[quote]It is thanks to our brave sons and the lives they are willing to give that we can continue to drive our Durangos and Suburbans and not have to fit into something smaller. We should acknowledge that it is Daniel, and his his countless lost brothers in Iraq, that are securing for our generation comfort, luxury, and style, and making sure that our freedom comes with ample cargo space and seating for nine.[/quote]

Just made me laugh is all. There are some other good ones at this site, particularly the article about building a Linux system for "Grandma." Macslash was trolled pretty hard by the so-called review of the Mac Mini by a "DeVry-educated MCSE."

Sig

Crunch Time

I don't hate studying Russian. I don't hate DLI. I don't hate the Army. I don't hate our teachers.

I do hate that we have insufficient time to achieve the proficiency we need to do our jobs.

I do hate that they keep pulling teachers from our class--or not replacing them when they retire--such that we no longer really have enough people to do small group and individual labs and speaking. I really hate that when we bring this up at a meeting given FOR THE PURPOSE OF AIRING OUR PROBLEMS, we are told that "the cold war is over" and that Russian is not a high priority for the Army right now. Like that excuses everything.

I do hate that our teaching team is feeling the stress from our low scores on testing and that their solution seems to be to pretend nothing is wrong--until they decide to explode on us with no warning.

I do hate that our teacher can yell and swear at our section for the failings of the other sections and we cannot respond in any way, shape, or form. I hate that because some of the other students act like high school students right before summer break, the hammer is coming down on us.

I hate that they decided to tell us two months from graduation that our specialization is now at 108% capacity, and that I could easily serve my entire 8-year enlistment at the rank I started with. It's not every day that you find out your job is obsolete before you've even finished training for it.

If I'd known how ridiculous this was going to get, I would have either a) signed up for a much shorter term or b) picked an entirely different MOS.

Scroungers Get Smacked Down--Hard.

From this article, courtesy of BlogsOfWar:[quote]Six reservists, including two veteran officers who had received Bronze Stars, were court-martialed for what soldiers have been doing as long as there have been wars–scrounging to get what their outfit needed to do its job in Iraq.

Darrell Birt, one of those court-martialed for theft, destruction of Army property and conspiracy to cover up the crimes, had been decorated for his “initiative and courage” for leading his unit’s delivery of fuel over the perilous roads of Iraq in the war’s first months.

Now, Birt, 45, who was a chief warrant officer with 656th Transportation Company, based in Springfield, Ohio, and his commanding officer find themselves felons, dishonorably discharged and stripped of all military benefits.[/quote]

Any time someone starts talking about appropriations or creative accounting, I instantly picture James Garner's character in The Great Escape, so my instinctual reaction is incredulity. However, this isn't a few tins of milk or even a few barrels of gasoline:[quote]But when Birt's unit was ordered to head into Iraq in the heat of battle in April 2003 from its base in Kuwait, Birt said the company didn't have enough vehicles to haul the equipment it would need to do the job.

So, Birt explained, he and other reservists grabbed two tractors and two trailers left in Kuwait by other U.S. units that had already moved into Iraq.

Several weeks later, Birt and other reservists scrounged a third vehicle, an abandoned 5-ton cargo truck, and stripped it for parts they needed for repair of their trucks.[/quote]
So now I'm thinking, Holy crap that's a lot of equipment to borrow (and subsequently piece out). But the story goes on in some detail, and a few other items are worth mentioning. First, they sounded like they really needed it. Yeah, yeah, they all say that, but it's all about accomplishing the mission, and it sounds like that wouldn't have happened had they not, ah, borrowed this stuff. Second, the unit the stuff was borrowed from was not using it, and had in fact never even reported it stolen. It's one thing if you rip off guys that are about to be flying into danger, but those guys were already out, and they left this stuff behind. Does that make it right? No. But it's not as though this theft increased the risk to anyone else, or so it seems from the information given.

The sentences are... harsh. Really harsh. They weren't stealing and selling this crap, like that bastard a few months back who was caught eBaying body armor lifted from stores while Marines were going without.

I'm not in any position to judge. I don't have the details, I haven't been there, nobody's shooting at me, etc. But if I were waiting out in the sandbox for some joes to bring me some petrol so I could not be a sitting duck in enemy territory, I'd want them to do whatever it took, within reason, to get it to me. Here's hoping someone with authority feels the same.

Iraq War Vets in Homeless Shelters

This shouldn't be happening.

U.S. vets from Iraq war emerge at homeless shelters - U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era. [The US News -- Military]

OK, a few cases in an article does not an epidemic make, but it's still scary to think about, particularly in my profession and at my age. Homeless war vets are old guys from 'Nam, not guys my age, right? Stupid to think that way, but hell, I'm still 16 or so inside my own skull--nowhere near the 26 years that my ID puts me at. It boggles the mind that this is going to start happening to my own generation.

This is a grim repeat of the phenomenon that occurred a while ago, when people my age were getting married, and then divorced, and now married again. What the hell? I'm not old enough for that. I'm not even old enough to be married myself yet--

But I have been. For 4 and a half years. Go figure.

I'm convinced that inside every broken down old man is a 17 year old kid wondering what the hell happened. It makes you look at them different.

Unfortunately, I don't have anything insightful (or even inciteful) to add to this article, except to note that deficiencies in how the VA is able to take care of veterans are only going to have a greater impact as time goes on while we fight this War Against An Abstract Concept.

Research Confirms the Obvious

Well, obvious to me, anyway.

From a sample of 175,000 15-year-old students in 31 countries, researchers at the University of Munich announced in November that performance in math and reading had suffered significantly among students who have more than one computer at home. And while students seemed to benefit from limited use of computers at school, those who used them several times per week at school saw their academic performance decline significantly as well.

"It seems if you overuse computers and trade them for other (types of) teaching, it actually harms the student," says lead researcher Ludger Woessmann in a telephone interview from Munich. "At least we should be cautious in stating that increasing (access to) computers in the home and school will improve students' math and reading performance." full article

I find the modern trend of throwing computers at our schools to be thoroughly repugnant. Computers are expensive. Hardware, software, connectivity--but more than anything, ongoing support and maintenance. Keeping things remotely modern is a huge expenditure for budgets that are always too small, and few environments are as hard on computer resources as a classroom filled with bored students.

And I can guarantee you that some of them are bored, because computer-based curriculum sucks. Universally. Computers in schools are usually a solution in search of a problem--much like my web server, except that I have put less than $500 in hardware and software into this thing. (I've probably spent more on my internet connection than I have on my computer over the last two years.)

What was my point? Oh yeah. Computers in school. Can be useful, usually aren't, cost more than they're worth, usually suck up resources better spent on teachers and new sousaphones for the marching band. And, as the new research suggests, using them turns your brains to mush and gives you delusions of relevance, causing you to run your own webserver and blog about random things.

Update! I finished the article and found an even better/funnier/more ironic quote:

"There's this sort of bizarre belief that computers cast a spell over students and teachers and schools," says Christopher Dede, professor of learning technologies at the Harvard School of Education. "Can you imagine what would happen if you had the same in business, asking if computers were interfering with performance? It would be a big joke."

As someone who worked in tech support, I can't count the number of times where computers interfered with people's jobs--even when they were working properly.

How Jawa Got His Medals

From the forums:

well, I joined back in 1990. Since I was really, really smart, I got to be a truck driver. but then the war in Iraq happened, and they discovered they didn't have enough massage therapists for all the Air Force pilots. So I was sent to MT School, which is a grueling 4 hour course. I tried as hard as I could, but in the last 10 minutes managed to pull a muscle in my little left toe, and recieved an L7 profile.

I was sent to Iraq anyways and joined the arts and crafts platoon. Along with a few other dedicated soldiers, we created chains of paper rings to decorate the tanks and APC's. I received my first Purple Heart for a nasty paper cut I recieved on my right thigh while fighting off Iraq insurgients who were hooked on red construction paper. Later I would receive a Silver Star for "Merit".

after a year of physical therapy for the paper cut, I was sent to Somalia to assist with the day care center platoon. Although most people are only aware of the Black hawks getting shot down, there were other wounded. 4 of us got really bad infections from an Enemy Projectile Vomit Attack that got us in the eyes. This led to my second purple heart and first bronze star.

At this point, the military knew I was something special and asked if I would like to try out for the (then) top-secret intur-service co-ed broomball team. Our goal was to whip the evil Marine Corp, who had just beat the Russians the year before.

Unfortunately, a minor problem happened over in Bosnia, and I was once again called to duty. I was assigned bodygaurd duty to one Herbert Wlaker, who was the village cobbler in the northern region. My duty was not easy, as the cable on his TV went out on a daily basis. I managed to cut my finger on a piece of coaxial cable, which led to my 3rd Purple Heart.

Since I was experienced in Muslim activities by now, I was asked to go to Kosovo. I was put in charge of the "Sweating to the Oldies" program for the Kosovar refugees. My biggest issue was finding Kosovars who weren't already starving to death. I think I did a good job, but eventually, and old knitting injury to my left thumb acted up, and I had to step down.

At this point I wanted to see what it was like to be a civilian, so I came back to the states. However, I was quickly sadden by society. But since there wasn't a war happening, my talents weren't needed.

But then we decided to go back to iraq, and since I had first hand knowledge of the area, I got the opportunity to go back. One crazy day, while trying to sell Churro's from my Army Sponsored Street Vending machine, I got a really bad splinter in my arm. It was so bad I couldn't move for three days in a really dirty ditch. Once I was found, I was medevac'd to Ladnstuhl, where my recovery was pronounced as nothing short of a "miracle". Once I had recovered enough to be able to type, the military quickly snatched me up and sent me away.

That's my story. And I'm sticking to it.

I wonder if Jawa shouldn't have his own topic here.

More on BCT

COL (ret.) Hackworth wrote an article entitled March of the Porcelain Soldiers a few years ago that I just recently noticed. It is unfortunately dead spot on about some of the problems in Basic even now--unfortunate not because he's pointing out the problems, but because they exist. Particularly in regard to the additional problems which exist because of gender integration in BCT.

I would say that our drills succeeded to the extent they did in spite of policies, not because of it. I don't know that I will ever get over the instinctive stab of terror that comes whenever I spy a round brown, and that may be a good thing.

Seattletimes.com: "'Major screw-up': Boot-camp virus runs rampant"

Quoth the article:

The respiratory virus now infects up to 2,500 service members monthly — a staggering 1 in 10 recruits — in the nation's eight basic-training centers, an analysis of military health-care records shows.

This is pretty freaking disturbing, actually. From the article, it doesn't sound like the semi-infamous "Ft. Leonard Wood Crud" that most of us got in BCT, but the symptoms could be hard to distinguish from a "regular" illness until it's rather too late. I spent most of Basic with bronchitis with varying degrees of severity. At several points, it was bad enough that I was coughing so hard as to induce vomiting. Since so many people get sick, there's a definite laissez-faire attitude: as long as you're not dying, they give you some acetominophen and maybe some cough drops and tell you to suck it up.

I ended up in the infirmary for 2 days during my FTX, after I was unable to stop coughing for several hours at a stretch, and couldn't lie prone at all. My platoon sergeant threw me in the back of the truck (almost literally) and drove all the way back from the field, slowing the truck long enough for me to fall off and check myself in. Even now, I suspect the only reason I got to go was that they were planning to tear gas us pretty heavily, and there might have been some doubt as to whether I would have survived that. I know I had such doubts.

Time Lapse

I'm home alone, absorbed in the Internet when I have other things to do while my wife is out doing... something. It's November 2, 2000, and I've just been relieved of a job in a struggling Vancouver, WA PC shop. I'm looking for work--or at least, I'm supposed to be.

I'm avidly reading the various reports. As a freshly graduated poli-sci major with no hope of ever being involved in the field--indeed, almost no desire to do so--I'm eating this stuff up. FL is big news, but not (yet) the only news. I lurk in web-based chat rooms at, seeing what sorts of nonsense today's youth is spouting when they should be doing homework. My sweetie comes home, but I'm still reading, making bets with myself, laughing, enjoying the spectacle. By 11, I'm tired, and there's nothing really new to see. George W. Bush has been declared the victor by most everyone, and I'm heading to bed.

Fast forward a few days. I'm still absorbed, but this time by the radio, not the web, as I listen to arguments before the Supreme Court, and periodically to Rush--can't be beaten for spoken word entertainment, short of Bill Cosby. I still don't have a job, but I don't blame that on the incumbent.

***

And neither do I give credit to the incumbent now for my current employment, though some would say I should.

***

November 2001. I'm working again, but have already gone through a job in the last year. Right as the election is being decided, I'm hired to provide internal support at HP Vancouver. It's a good job, working with good people, and a valuable learning experience, but it doesn't last, and now I have just started a new position back closer to home, in Port Ludlow.

September 11th is still a fresh wound, of course. The day of the attacks, I was interviewing at PLA, and now I'm working there. Still uncertain--I'm a temp-to-hire, but Kurt likes me and wants to keep me. Sure, I'm using a Pentium without a mouse and my desk is about 4 feet square, but at least I'm not bored. Still, it's hard, signing a lease when I don't know whether I'll be employed after the new year. I do not blame the President for my woes.

***

November 2002. I couldn't tell you a thing about November 2002. I'm working at PLA as a real full-time employee--for the first time in my life. Work is... interesting. I have a lot of frustrations. None of them are the President's fault.

***

November 2003. It's been a big year.

PLA dries up suddenly in March, not quite a year after I was hired on full-time. Kurt feels horrible, but there's nothing he can do. For the next few years I will regret not guilting him into cohosting this server on his unmetered T1.

In April, still unemployed, I answer my country's call and enlist in the United States Army National Guard. My scores give me any field I want. I choose intelligence. It's an 8 month waiting period to go to basic, so I still need a job.

In June, I'm hired to do deskside support at Subase Bangor. It looks good on paper. By day two, my new coworkers are cheerfully confirming my voiced conclusion that the entire operation is held together by us, the overstressed techs, who are to work tirelessly for the remainder of the year without proper tools, parts, or instructions until they lay us all off. Greatly amusing work ensues. Our parts room is re-dedicated to screaming and breaking stuff, since there are no useful parts to speak of.

By November 2nd, I'm counting the weeks until I can go active duty and quit my job. I'm back to talking in my sleep, a sure sign of job stress for me, and my attitude could use a lift, but I'm still swinging, still trying to hang things together for my coworkers who don't have my escape route. I document processes by myself for their benefit. I act as queue manager for weeks because I'm the only one who has ever used Remedy before, and our actual queue managers are too busy attending meetings.

Two weeks later, I will be fired for, among other things, "not being a team player" and "not following process." All unofficial, since they are unable to provide a single shred of documentation to suggest that they ever even mentioned these nonexistent problems to me. I will spend the remainder of 2003 working on my 2-mile run and playing X-Box.

***

My firing? Sucked--sort of. But definitely not the president's fault.

***

I'm home alone, absorbed in the Internet when I have other things to do while my wife is out doing... something. It's November 2, 2004, and I've been active duty since January 5. Right now I'm doing homework--or at least, I'm supposed to be.

In a few hours, I'll get tired and switch off. For better or for worse, we will have a president selected for the next four years, and whomever it turns out to be, hopefully wise advisors and congressional oversight will keep him from mucking things up too much.

Yeah, I know. It's a dim hope. But I gotta believe. I swore an oath.

And no, that was not the president's fault, either.

Sig

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