SigSpace - Form Without Function http://www.sigspace.net Так мое слово становится камнем en Archived. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/674 <p>Assuming I can figure this out properly, I am archiving this site in preparation to start over from scratch.</p> <p>I initially set this site up under Drupal 4.6 back in March of 2005. After not quite 5 years of experimentation, guesswork, not reading the instructions, and not staying current on updates (I'm not even certain which version is running at the moment, 6.something), I figure it's time to start clean, either with the current version of Drupal (likely) or WordPress or something (also possible).</p> <p>The content here will (if this works right) end up on http://archive.sigspace.net, and the new site will appear at this URL.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/674#comments Drupal NearlyFreeSpeech.net Site Notes Mon, 22 Feb 2010 20:35:00 +0000 sig 674 at http://www.sigspace.net Review: The Death of a Car http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/672 <p>This review will be slightly longer than normal, owing to the fact that I'm actually reviewing a whole bunch of different things. The scores are at the end.</p> <p><u>Executive Summary</u>: A pickup truck murdered my beloved 1988 Toyota MR2. The insurance company totaled it. I found a 1987 MR2 in much better condition and bought it. In between, I was treated very well by everyone involved.</p> <p><strong>Part The First: Clash of the Titan</strong><hr><br /> On a Wednesday morning, I stopped by the mail building to get the company mail. I usually just leave the car running and run in for about 20 seconds to do this. As I was getting back in my car, I noted with irritation that my left taillight was out. Shall I replace it this afternoon, I wondered? No, it can wait. I am eating dinner at Mom's house. I shall do it tomorrow.</p> <p>In retrospect, I probably would have been insanely irritated if I had replaced the bulb.</p> <p>On Thursday morning, I drove my hour commute to Camp Murray, contemplating all the while the many minor things that my car should have, starting with an oil change and ending with a viking funeral. New latch for the moon roof. New seals for the trunk. Brakes, possibly. Some new belts, probably new spark plugs, and almost certainly a new air filter. Paint, obviously. A replacement for the bent rim that caused the car to wobble horribly at 25 mph. Also, I was noting some intermittent pinging, even with the plus gasoline. Just how much was I going to spend on this thing, anyway?</p> <p>Slightly bummed from this mental wheel-spinning, I decided to stop by Vic's for coffee. Vic's is the only place on Camp Murray you can get coffee; as such, it could be terrible and still do a brisk business, but it's actually pretty good and reasonably priced. I park across from the entrance (not in the line of spaces right in front of the building) and go in to order a 20 oz Americano. The gentleman ahead of me gets his coffee and heads outside. I make small talk with Vic.</p> <p>*crunch*</p> <p>"Oh dude," quoth Vic. "That guy just backed into the little red car."</p> <p>Sigh. "I'm going to need my coffee before I go look at that."</p> <p>Sure enough, by parking across from the entrance, I placed my car in just the perfect location to be murdered by a 2004 Nissan Titan.</p> <div align=center><a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/670"><img src="http://www.sigspace.net/files/images/IMG00172.preview.jpg"></a></div> <p>The left light cluster is left dangling, and the metal around it is crunched in a bit, too. It doesn't look <em>that</em> bad, but given the age of the vehicle and the difficulty of getting parts, I knew I was looking at a potential car-killer.</p> <p>The driver was very apologetic; he "just didn't see" my car. I have another photo where you can more easily see how the top of my car is still lower than the top of the <em>bed</em> of the Titan. We exchanged insurance information, and then he left for his meeting, almost hitting another car on his way out. I took pictures, picked up shattered plastic, and went back inside to put more sugar and creamer in my Americano.</p> <p>I was not terribly upset. Annoyed? Yes. Angry? Not really. Nobody was hurt. Nobody was shooting at me. It just wasn't that serious. You can't have 500 million cars running around this country without them occasionally overlapping in time and space.</p> <p><strong>Part the Second: Releasing the Hounds / Insurance Adjusters</strong><hr><br /> I delayed calling USAA, the insurance company for both vehicles. I didn't want to deal with it and I had lots of other things to do. However, it needed to happen, so at 1500, I called and reported the accident. I had his insurance policy information on hand, and they asked a whole bunch of questions. They were very professional and sympathetic, even laughing weakly at my weak jokes. The call took 10 minutes.</p> <p>They called back at 1640. The other driver had been contacted and accepted fault. They made arrangements for me to bring the car to a shop (suggesting one when I had no particular input) and had a reservation for a rental car. I could drop off the car the next morning at the shop and then Enterprise would pick me up.</p> <p><strong>Part the Third: Letting me down gently</strong><hr><br /> I slept in on Thursday morning, since Precision Collision didn't open until 0800. They were kind and sympathetic. Yes, it was tragic, and no, they really don't make cars like this any longer and that's a shame. 36 miles per gallon? Really? Wow.</p> <p>The adjuster came out to look at my car and immediately got that expression on her face. You know the one. The one that the doctor gets when he has to tell little Emily that grandma isn't going to wake up. That was the look she had. I could tell she was searching for words, so I saved her some time. "You're going to total my car, aren't you?"</p> <p>"Well..."</p> <p>For those who haven't gone through this, the repair shop does up an estimate and sends it to the insurance company, which then decides whether it is cost effective to fix the car or whether it's better to declare it a total loss. If it's going to be a close thing, the insurance company might send another set of eyes to look at the issue. I'm sure there's more complexity to the issue, but it's mostly under the hood.</p> <p>They called Enterprise, which sent someone to pick me up and bring me back to their lot to get my rental car.</p> <p><strong>Part the Fourth: Wheeled Titanic</strong><hr><br /> Stephanie at Enterprise was also quite sympathetic. She rushed me through the paperwork and was quick and professional throughout. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but she got me the damage waiver coverage on the rental at no charge, which was cool. Alas, the only thing they had available on the lot was a <a href="http://images.google.com/images?q=large+ugly+car">2009 Chrysler Sebring</a>. This is a very nice, very comfortable car that I utterly detested on sight; driving it didn't generate any more positive feeling. I will say that it had a pretty great audio system, but it's about 17 times the size of my beloved MR2, and it felt like I was taking up two and a half lanes. However, I was at least on the way to work. Also, it would prove to get about 30 miles to the gallon, and that's not bad.</p> <p><strong>Part the Fifth: Waiting around</strong><hr><br /> Meanwhile, my wife had already been looking on Craigslist for another MR2--just in case. Why? Because my wife is awesome. Most wives would make me replace my MR2 with a 4-door sedan because I'm a responsible parent and stuff now, but my wife is the coolest. Several tantalizing possibilities presented themselves, but we were waiting for the estimate and then the verdict from the insurance company.</p> <p>The estimate came that afternoon: $1,337. Ouch. The verdict didn't come until the following Thursday, so in the mean time I drove my land yacht (with good tunes) and searched Craigslist compulsively in the evenings.</p> <p><strong>Part the Sixth: Value is relative.</strong><hr><br /> USAA decided that $1,337 was too much to pay for a 1988 Toyota MR2 of dubious value, so they totaled it, giving me $2,287. <em>Sweet.</em> I had meanwhile scheduled a 4-day weekend, so I had time to go car shopping.</p> <p>[Also on Thursday, I called Enterprise to find out if I could get a smaller car, but all they had was a Dodge Avenger. No thanks.]</p> <p>About this time, a guy living in Maple Valley named Bill decided that he was going to get rid of his garaged silver 1987 5-speed Toyota MR2, mostly to make room for his new ungaraged Mini Cooper (blue with racing stripes). He posted this car on Craigslist, offering a free 1977 Ford Courier to the purchaser of his MR2. 40 minutes later, I responded, and within a few hours we'd set up a showing on Saturday afternoon (so my brother/mechanic/smart guy I know) could look at it.</p> <p>Somehow my parents got involved. I think it was so we would have enough drivers in case we took the Courier, too. The four of us drove over in my wife's Subaru. The short version: although it needed a few odds and ends, the car was a VERY good deal. The Courier was more than a little scary, and we respectfully declined.</p> <p>Cash switched hands. Titles were signed. Bill was a little disappointed that we wouldn't clear up his Courier infestation, but still happy to send the car to a new home--enough so that he inexplicably knocked $100 off the price.</p> <p>We discovered a few minor deficiencies in the first five minutes of driving it homeward, however, which somehow escaped detection during the test drive. <ol> <li>The brake lights didn't light up, although the driving lights did. <li>The driver's side power window was a little fidgety; we drove home with the window 1/2" down. <li>World's Worst Windshield Wipers. <li>The fancy Kenwood stereo would only play Abba.</ol> <p>We solved the last one at the gas station, fortunately.</p> <p>Halfway home, we realized that the t-top was slowly leaking icy water onto my brother's jacket, which absorbed about half a gallon before it all soaked through at once, eliciting the most amazing screams.</p> <p>Triumphantly, we stopped for dinner at the Big Apple Diner in Chico, outside of Bremerton. I don't know why I look at the menu; I almost always order the corned beef hash, which is fantastic.</p> <p><strong>Part the Seventh: Making Adjustments</strong><hr><br /> Title, insurance, bridge toll transponder: lots of little things to do. Expensive, some of them. A 15a fuse fixed the light issue. A good deal of fiddling resolved the Abba issue (yay iPod) and also enabled the Bluetooth so my phone calls route through the car stereo (helpfully pausing the music). I figured out a temporary workaround for the window. New wipers (on sale!). More air in the tires and a cheap car wash. My car is ready to commute.</p> <p><strong>Summation</strong><hr><br /> A Titan killed my car. The insurance company hooked me up with a rental (that I hated, but not their fault) until they decided to pay me for my car: specifically, two and a half times what I originally paid for my car <em>six years ago</em>. I then used most of this money to purchase another, similar but much cleaner and prettier car, and after a long weekend of not very hard work, I'm ready to drive my new car to work. I should total my car every year.</p> <p><u>2004 Nissan Titan</u>: Great for killing MR2s, but watch that spoiler, since it will punch out a reverse lamp. Poor visibility to the rear and apparently some control issues. 4 out of 752 smashed beloved MR2s.</p> <p><u>USAA</u>: Friendly, quick, and helpful on the front end, though I could wish they'd made a decision a little sooner. They sprung for a large rental; no skimping. Not their fault I hated it. 11 out of 13 proof of insurance cards.</p> <p><u>Precision Collision</u>: Friendly, sympathetic, and quick. We had the estimate same day. They also helped me remove my personal effects from the murdered vehicle, and were appropriately somber at the occasion. They didn't actually fix my car, so I can't judge that, but if I needed it done, I would probably go there first. 46 out of 52 demolition derbies.</p> <p><u>Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Bremerton, WA)</u>: I hated their car, but they tried. And the stereo was truly kick ass. They also didn't bat an eye when I chose to ruck march home instead of accepting a ride. 17 out of 19 fifty-ton sedans.</p> <p><u>Craigslist</u>: You have to sort through a lot of people who are just dreaming ($7k for a non-turbo '91? Please.), but overall pretty helpful. Still can't find any Cortinas, though. 1 out of 1 misclassified personal ads.</p> <p><u>1997 Silver MR2</u>: Time will tell. But it surely does clean up nicely.</p> <div align=center><a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/671"><img src="http://www.sigspace.net/files/images/IMG00182.preview.jpg"></a></div> <p><Strong>Vendors</strong><hr></p> <li><a href="http://vicspf.com/">Vic's Espresso and Eats</a> <li><a href="http://www.usaa.com">USAA</a> <li><a href="http://www.precisioncollisionautobody.com/">Precision Collision</a> <li><a href="http://www.enterprise.com/car_rental/deeplinkmap.do?gpbr=4526&amp;bid=004&amp;cnty=US">Enterprise Rent-a-Car</a> (Auto Center Blvd, Bremerton, WA) <li><a href="http://www.craigslist.com">Craigslist</a> <li>Big Apple Diner <a href="http://soundbiteblog.com/2007/01/26/big-apple-diner-business-bites-on-the-kitsap-peninsula/">[review]</a><br /> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/672#comments automotive Review Tue, 02 Feb 2010 08:15:28 +0000 sig 672 at http://www.sigspace.net Raise a glass. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/669 <p>I'm not a civil rights icon. I'm not a president (live or dead). I'm not (yet) a dead serviceman, nor am I much concerned with Labor. I did not "discover" North America. I'm not a Christmas tree, a groundhog, a secretary, a boss, a pumpkin, an Easter bunny, a cupid, a leprechaun, or a turkey.</p> <p>Nonetheless, I get my very own holiday. Veteran's Day is all about me--me and the millions and millions who signed on the dotted line before me, signed it along with me, and will be signing it when I'm dust.</p> <p>So raise a glass, if you will (and metaphorically if you must), to Rodger Young, Roy Benavidez, Audie Murphy, Gary Shughart and Randy Gordon. Raise a glass to Jared Monti, Michael Murphy, Jason Dunham, Ross McGinnis, Michael Monsoor, and Paul Smith.</p> <p>But keep it raised for <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/273">Ray Joseph</a> and <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/506">Big Edge</a> and all of the other guys you didn't read about or see on the big screen.</p> <p>And then keep it raised for every joe who has arthritis before his time, nightmares he doesn't remember, scars that won't heal, kids who don't know him, and missing limbs and comrades.</p> <p>Keep it raised for every joe that has ever fixed a truck under fire, every admin puke that stayed late to make sure the dependents were taken care of, and every chaplain that shouldered another man's load.</p> <p>Keep it raised for every gate guard, school teacher, bus driver, lawyer, computer nerd, mechanic, short order cook, and garbage man that ever wore a different uniform.</p> <p>Your arm may be getting tired by this point. It should be.</p> <p>Sig</p> <p>(If a raging bender at 0800 is not your style, there are some <a href="http://soldiersangels.org/index.php?page=project-valour-it#additionalinfo">other appropriate ways</a> you could be channeling your appreciation.)</p> <p>[<font color="red">Addendum</font>: And if you're <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/596">Peter Jemley</a> or <a href="http://jawa.sigspace.net/">Ron Arlt</a>, today would be a great day to keep your mouth shut.]</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/669#comments Military US Army Wed, 11 Nov 2009 16:02:58 +0000 sig 669 at http://www.sigspace.net Disconnected http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/668 <p>Not that it will really make a huge difference here, since I've been posting so little anyway, but we're turning off our home Internet connection effective tomorrow. The rates went up just as we were contemplating shutting it down to save money prior to closing on our first home in a few months. I still have access at work, of course, but I don't have much time or inclination to do personal webwandering while I'm at work.</p> <p>I haven't decided what I'm going to do with my web site here, which has been running some flavor of <a href="http://www.drupal.org" rel="nofollow">Drupal</a> (starting with v4.7) since March of 2005. I am looking into some method to archive it in a static manner such that I don't need to pay the (very small) extra premium for an SQL process. I may go to a more conventional (or at least, more minimal) journaling system in the future, since Drupal is and always has been rather overkill for my needs. But for now, I don't have time or inclination to write about much beyond the demands of my job. I still do a fair bit of reading online, however, and I <a href="http://www.google.com/reader/shared/08584736946057434155" rel="nofollow">share</a> a fair bit of the things I find interesting, occasionally with commentary.</p> <p>Prior to Afghanistan in 2006, the idea of voluntarily going without Intarweb access would be completely foreign to me. But having been disconnected involuntarily for weeks at a time, I find that I really don't have that much problem with it. There are plenty of other things to do with my time, after all. Of course, it helps that (as in Afghanistan), I know it's a temporary state. We'll probably hook up again when we get into our new place in February or March--so I can play Left 4 Dead 2, if nothing else.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/668#comments Site Notes Sun, 01 Nov 2009 21:58:00 +0000 sig 668 at http://www.sigspace.net Don't let the door hit you on the way out. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/667 <p><a href="http://blog.thenewstribune.com/military/2009/10/02/watada-discharged/">Watada Discharged</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>The Army discharged Lt. Ehren Watada on Friday, writing the final chapter on the case of the most prominent military officer to refuse a deployment to Iraq.</p> <p>Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek confirmed that Watada, who had refused to deploy to Iraq in 2006 with his Stryker brigade because he believed the war was illegal, finished outprocessing shortly before noon Friday.</p> <p>The Department of Justice dropped an appeal in May against a judge's dismiss key charges against the lieutenant, effectively leading to Friday's dismissal. Watada submitted a resignation request "for the good of the service in lieu of general court martial" at the end of June, Piek said.</p> <p>The Department of the Army approved that request in September, and the remaining pending charges against Watada were dismissed late last week.</p> <p>Piek couldn't confirm the type of discharge, citing privacy laws, but Watada lawyer Kenneth Kagan said it was granted under "other than honorable conditions."</p></blockquote> <p>Why aren't we allowed to call it a "dishonorable" discharge any longer?</p> <p>I expect to spend a chunk of my allowance on good whiskey when we finally get rid of <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/596">one of our <em>other</em> problem children</a>.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/667#comments Iraq Stupid People US Army Wed, 07 Oct 2009 03:55:22 +0000 sig 667 at http://www.sigspace.net An odd bit of trivia. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/666 <p>My custom <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/404" rel="nofollow">404-not-found page</a> has 20,100 hits as of about 10 seconds ago. That is all.</p> <p>Oops, up to 20,104.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/666#comments Site Notes Fri, 18 Sep 2009 03:21:27 +0000 sig 666 at http://www.sigspace.net This is what I get for making plans. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/665 <p>As if to mock my <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/664" rel="nofollow">Bataan ambitions</a>, I tweaked my back again on Thursday morning.</p> <p>What did I do?</p> <p>The proximate cause of the latest back-tweaking was, believe it or not, a sneezing fit. But in the grand scheme of things, the answer is "went to Afghanistan." I can go to my journal and identify the exact date that I first experienced back problems over there, and the intermittent problems since are all--I am convinced--encore performances.</p> <p>I do just fine as long as I don't sit down for more than a few minutes. I can stand or kneel indefinitely. Actually, even sitting is just fine--until I try to get up. Getting out of the low-slung '88 Toyota MR2 after a half hour drive to work is... unpleasant.</p> <p>It will go away in a few days as long as I don't do anything too stupid. Or sneeze again. In the long term, I should probably consider options that don't involve TriCare, since I have never been able to get anything more than vitamin M (i.e. Motrin) from the military medical establishment.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/665#comments Humor Sat, 05 Sep 2009 16:15:04 +0000 sig 665 at http://www.sigspace.net Because "Bataan Happy Fun Kittens and Rainbows March" doesn't flow off the tongue. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/664 <p>I wasn't always a lame ass admin puke. It's hard to remember sometimes that even as recently as six months ago, I was a lame ass intel puke--and while the transition to admin was sudden and hurty, it was relatively recent.</p> <p>Harder still to remember is that once upon a time, I carried a ruck and some really expensive equipment on and off helicopters, and rode around in HMMWVs, and even returned fire occasionally.</p> <p>There aren't many cool military jobs stateside. By and large, the more interesting the job, the less application you have in times other than war (or deployment). My wartime job is interesting. My stateside job involved signing my name to a lot of forms today so I could get some pay problems unFUBARed. Yeehaw. It's important--certainly to the soldiers getting paid--but it's not terribly interesting when you get down to it, and the fact that I'm actually pretty good at it is more depressing than encouraging.</p> <p>I've been thinking about it more since I've been going through photos from Afghanistan in 2006 and planning for some of my soldiers to come back from their current tour there. I'm fortunate to have been able to go the places I've been and see the places I've seen and shoot at the assclowns at whom I got to shoot; not many get those opportunities even once, let alone get paid to have them. I should be grateful that I got to go at all, not annoyed that other people are having fun without me. I should be glad to be here and enjoy my family and my friends and my nation. And I should remember, too, how much I wanted to be back here when I was over there and all of the stuff that I wanted to do then but couldn't. And I should do some of it.</p> <p>OK, so I'm still holding off on forming the Police cover band. But I did start geocaching a little, using the ridiculously expensive set that I have signed out from work (for um, training). I am reading more. I'm writing a bit more, although work still sucks up most of my writing energy. And I'm looking at doing stupidly ambitious things, just because I can.</p> <p>I decided last week that I am going to try to go to White Sands, New Mexico in late March for the <a href="http://www.bataanmarch.com/" rel="nofollow">21st Annual Bataan Memorial Death March</a>. 26.2 miles, starting at 0700 and ending when you hit the finish line or fall on your face. For added fun, I have tacked on the additional intent to compete in the "military heavy" category, which means regulation uniform and boots and a 35-pound ruck sack.</p> <p>Step one was finding out if I would be allowed to take time off to do something so lunatic. I e-mailed my battalion commander and full-time boss for permission. His response, paraphrased, was "I'm game, who else is going?" In the last few days, I've found another MAJ and a 1LT who are "strong maybes," but no enlisted takers--I'm not sure what that says about our relative abilities to perform on-the-spot risk assessments.</p> <p>There's still time. Registration doesn't even start until mid-November. Meanwhile, the LT and I have been doing some easy pace (4 or 4.5 MPH) rucks around Camp Murray, just to get a feel for the undertaking. The Bataan march will be the equivalent of nine laps, roughly. Hopefully, we can find some more interesting places to train up.</p> <p>I'm actually really excited for this, which is pretty stupid on the face of it, but it's something that I know will be a) difficult, b) painful, and c) absolutely within my ability and will to accomplish. Added bonuses are getting out of my office, and associating with other insane people. If I can actually burn some of my accumulating leave at the same time, so much the better.</p> <p>Anyway, that's one of my projects for right now. When I get some new strings for my bass, maybe I'll start working on another.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/664#comments History National Guard US Army Work Tue, 01 Sep 2009 02:51:41 +0000 sig 664 at http://www.sigspace.net Your tax dollars at work http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/663 <p>I'd apologize for not updating, but I don't want to be <a href="http://xkcd.com/621/" rel="nofollow">this guy</a>.</p> <p>Annual training was splendid, thanks for asking. I probably ought to post about it. Note, I didn't promise to post about it. I didn't even suggest I was thinking about a post. I just said that I probably ought to. You should see my "probably ought to" list some time. It's absolutely horrifying in scope and scale, and that's just the work-related stuff.</p> <p>Ahem.</p> <p>OK, so with the September drill weekend just a few weeks away, instead of preparing for that I got to spend Wednesday through today (being Sunday four days after aforementioned Wednesday) at a conference for the brigade-sized-element-that-is-not-really-a-brigade over my battalion. Being that this is toward the end of the fiscal year (which is a whole 'nother post that I will also probably not actually write), said BSETISNRAB was able to attain <a href="http://www.suncadiaresort.com" rel="nofollow">really swanky accomodations</a> for only a fair bit above the normal lodging rate authorized for this region. (For the curious, we stayed in the "Deluxe Lodge Studio Room.") Because they are pretty clever, they set up the tables in such a manner that there was no electricity for me to charge my laptop, meaning that I could only do about 90 minutes of work (on battery) while they were yammering on (and on and on and on).</p> <p>The first portion of the conference was for the AGRs (Active Guard/Reserve--the full-time permanent people who run things the <em>other</em> 28 days a month). We showed up on Wednesday afternoon, got checked in, and had the conference all day ("all day" adjourning around 1430) Thursday and then Friday morning; checkout was at noon, and then the commanders and senior NCOs started showing up for the second portion, which was geared toward them and scheduled in a similar non-grueling manner. Since I'm cool like that (and because it was recommended for unit readiness NCOs), we stayed for the entire period through Sunday noonish.</p> <p>The accommodations were nice. REALLY nice. The conference was a little disappointing. Much of it ought to have been directed at the commanders and 1SGs rather than the full-time staff. It's nice to know that our NCOERs and OERs are ridiculously behind (my company is 52% up to date, vice the BSETISNRAB average of roughly 60%), but I already <em>know</em> that and know that it's a problem. However, <strong>I have no control over this and damned little influence over it.</strong> I cannot make people do their evals; I certainly can't make them do them <em>right</em>, and even giving a class on it would be problematic since a) I'm not actually in a position of authority and b) I have never actually written an NCOER for anyone but myself (yet another post).</p> <p>During the second portion, they unveiled Yet Another Tracking System for me to maintain. In this case, it's a comprehensive know-all-do-all web-based retention tracking tool that will feed stats up to the state level and allow us to keep better tabs on soldiers who are thinking about escap---er, allowing their contract to lapse. Retention tracking is important, no question, but this tool is <em>really</em> detailed: name, contact info, family and spouse info, pay entry base date, birthday (?!), ETS date (obviously), contact records, counseling records, and all sorts of other silliness in this big-ass color-coded Excel spreadsheet to which everyone and their mother will have at least read-only access. In theory, the Retention NCO (a one-weekend-a-month soldier) would keep this up to date, but since so many of those fields are things requiring access to personnel records, in practice it would find its way to my plate.</p> <p>First and most obviously, this is a massive privacy invasion. There is no need for that many people (and they included everyone in the NCO support chain, chain of command, and retention system) to have that kind of information on my soldiers. All it would take is one jackass to lose a laptop and it would be in the open. Since that happens roughly every seven minutes within DoD, this is of concern to me.</p> <p>Second, this is the fourth or fifth place that some of this data is stored and updated--by yours truly. Seriously. I have to update many of these things on the battalion's Access database, the Reserve Component Automation System (RCAS, web-based, frequently down for no reason), Commander's Dashboard (ComDash, web-based, usually works but isn't super detailed), and Digital Training Management System (DTMS, web-based, slower than payday, and designed by people who hate soldiers) already. I do not need <em>another</em> One True Solution for tracking soldier data. I need three <em>less</em> solutions.</p> <p>Here's how we track retention in my company. Each month, I run the retention report on ComDash, which pops up everyone in the unit who is scheduled to get out in the next six months. I must update their status (even if there is no change) at least every 30 days during those six months. I put in who contacted the soldier, the date they did so, the soldier's intent (get out, extend, undecided, etc.), any supporting notes, and check a few applicable boxes. Usually, I print this report out before drill and put it in the Retention NCO's box; it's his job to hit up as many of those people as possible and find out what their plans are and what it would take to include the Nasty Guard in them. He makes notes on the sheet, and I update ComDash on Monday after drill. If we're doing really well, we can record it as "Already Extended" and file the accompanying paperwork.</p> <p>Some soldiers just aren't up for it any longer; they want to do something else with their lives. Some are lazy. Some want more than the Guard can provide, and seem not to have realized that with the current economy and new political climate, we can't afford big (or any) bonuses to keep them in uniform. Some just have done their time and aren't willing to deploy again. I did 11 (mostly) easy months in theater; who am I to tell someone who has spent 27 months in Iraq that they need to step up to the line again? If I think it's good for the unit and good for the soldier, I will try to talk them into it, but I won't try to guilt or trick them into staying in.</p> <p>[Ironically, our Retention NCO inadvertently ETSed when his paperwork got screwed up and he was mistakenly listed as ineligible for extension. Don't worry, we got it fixed.]</p> <p>The point of this digression is that the current system takes me about 15 minutes--<em>per month</em>. I don't need or want yet another spreadsheet to track the soldier's family situation and factors coming up in their lives. That's clearly an officer idea, or from the perverted mind of a full-time Recruiting and Retention Command (RRC) puke. In a company of only 61 soldiers, where even the platoon sergeant might have 12 people under him, a good NCO can keep track of his people with a notepad and a bad one wouldn't use the spreadsheet anyway. If we lose someone to civilian life, it is not because we didn't know exactly when and why it was going to happen. This is a solution in search of a problem.</p> <p>The conference wasn't <em>all</em> about making more work for SSG Sig. A big portion of it (outside the sessions) was supposed to be networking and crap like that. Oops, gave away my attitude a little. I'm not a big socializing networking sort of person. This may amaze some of you, but I don't actually like talking to people I don't know. That's one of the reasons I do so well squirreled away in a SIGINT company office with only a taciturn cav scout for company. I was able to put a few names to faces, and gain new appreciation for some people at echelons above BN, but I'm not a big drinker, particularly when I'm one of the two or three most junior people in a crowd.</p> <p>We aren't into golf or the bar scene, so a lot of the amenities of the resort were somewhat wasted on us. We did go for a nice walk or two, and play on some playground equipment, and even take Siglet for his first swim. He was unimpressed, mostly (I think) because the water was chilly, although he stopped whining once he saw the ladies. Way to suck it up and drive on, son--you're a credit to your gender. In the evenings, we went out to eat (cheaper than eating at the resort, even at "discounted" prices) or did a frozen pizza in the oven, and played Nintendo DS games while waiting for Siglet to fall asleep.</p> <p>Overall, it was somewhat entertaining, and the closest I've had to a vacation since I started this job back in March. I have taken one (1) day of leave since then, and that was a must-stay-home-to-watch-Siglet deal (not that I didn't enjoy it), so this was kind of nice. Still, there's a lot of work that did not get done in a timely fashion, and I'll be playing catch-up right until the drill weekend. I would have been a little happier if we had more small group sessions so I could pick the brains of some of the other Readiness NCOs, and a little less time getting briefed on stuff that applies to only a handful of people in the audience.</p> <p>One plus: I sat through the brigade (well, BSETISNRAB) command sergeant major's brief on the wacky National Guard enlisted promotion system, and I think I can definitively say that my briefing is both better-focused and more entertaining than his. I finished working on it at annual training (in the evenings after my regular training and frantic attempts to do my day job), but then they never scheduled a time to do it so I'm giving it at September's drill. Interestingly (to me), I don't like talking to individual people but I have little problem telling groups of them that they are doing it wrong.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/663#comments Family National Guard Siglet Work Mon, 31 Aug 2009 03:58:46 +0000 sig 663 at http://www.sigspace.net Siglet guest blog http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/662 <p>Hbk;bkbbjk;bkbk;n hgyg iutf uijmujl..l.fr m </p> <p>Fghfghfgh<br /> Iqapo0-h ojnigij09u09u3093uefsd0fasd;ofmkpsdofjskmiop5fnpojfpsodopjkdflkdq b xzbh xzbn xcpoksdfposkdfpsodfsdfsfsod n cccccccccccccccccccccccccxjncccccccccccccccccccccccxjnfujhb 5vj 6n h65 c dxnb n b bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb </p> <p>[Originally composed in Word.]</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/662#comments Siglet Thu, 16 Jul 2009 00:23:12 +0000 sig 662 at http://www.sigspace.net