Friday, December 21, 2007
Funny picture aside, I just want to wish everyone a warm and happy holiday. I won't tone it down, like some of the stores and other PC crowds; Merry Christmas!
I hope that all of you get to spend it with family, friends, or otherwise happily engaged.
I'll be busy spending time with my wife and kids, a friend whose husband is deployed (and her kids), and catching up on school work.
We miss our family back home, but that's why I get paid the big bucks (if you believe that, I've got a bridge that I'll sell you cheap).
Have a safe and festive Christmas.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
A warm wish for a happy Thanksgiving to everyone that stumbles across my little speed-bump on the information super-highway. I hope that yours went better than it did for the critter pictured above.
We had a much smaller Thanksgiving than we are accustomed to. We usually have several young Marines over, hoping to brighten their holiday a bit, but we were unable to do that with our moving situation. We still have stacks of boxes in our house, so we were in no shape to have a house full of young, hungry Marines. Instead, I had one Marine, a friend of mine that I've known for over 15 years, over to share our meal.
A good time was had by all, and it was very tame. I probably stayed up too late talking to my friend, but I enjoyed it. He seemed to enjoy it as well, and was returning from his Haikido dojo at about the time that I was getting out of bed this morning (he's a very dedicated individual).
I could get used to quiet Thanksgiving celebrations, but I will probably not get the chance for a few more years. We will probably continue to have groups of young Marines in our home for future holidays. It just seems like the right thing to do (and we enjoy it). My friend will, hopefully, be able to join us for those celebrations as well.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Don't you just love moving? I hate it. It's official; it sucks. I've done it plenty of times while a member of this gun club, but this one beats them all. We have one week; start to finish. That's our timeline. Joy.
We've moved out of the "projects," and into a house that has an extra bedroom. Since we were in a high-rise building, it will be nice to have a yard. We'll also have neighbors that are closer to our age and, perhaps, not as slovenly as the pigs that we lived with in our last housing.
Our new house is currently stacked with boxes, and we have a ton of unpacking to do (well, three tons actually...that was the final tally of the weight). My wife will be going over to the old house in the morning to clean, while I stay at the new house to shuffle boxes around, unpack, and make room for our shipment of furniture that is arriving sometime tomorrow. More joy.
I must have a short memory. I must have forgotten how much I hate moving. Perhaps there's a chemical in the cardboard that makes me forget...or I'm just forgetful.
I also started my next term at school this week. Well, the term started anyway. I didn't exactly start anything, except moving three tons of crap from one house to another. I'll get some school work done sometime this week, I hope...now which box did I pack those books in...one of the brown ones maybe...
Friday, November 9, 2007
The Road is a work of art that anyone who is having a bad day should read. Is your outlook grim? Read The Road. The setting is artfully depicted with both tone and style. Not only is the plot grim, but the writing style is as well. Throughout the work, various cues enhance the sense of nothingness and despair.
The Road is a page turner, not because it's packed with action, although there is some of that, but because it is well written, and compels the reader to seek more. Throughout the book, I was hoping for things that almost didn't come. The author's use of archaic terminology adds to the sense of primitive existence. The relationship between father and son is perfectly demonstrated, with hints at willingness and sacrifice on an extreme level.
I cannot give much more away without "ruining it" for you, but suffice it to say that this book is well worth the read. It's not a long read, and you'll find yourself thinking about it for days, maybe even weeks, after you've put it down.
Friday, November 2, 2007
I was the Commander of Troops for the ceremony, and I didn't booger the sequence of events too badly (kidding, it went off without a hitch).
PAO (Public Affairs Office) had a couple of Marines there taking copious photographs, and they took a few of my daughter and me dancing. I hope to get copies soon.
In keeping with the tradition of the Ball, the younger Marines were well behaved, and they minded their manners until the C.O. departed. Once the C.O. left, somebody told a group of young Leathernecks that were congregating around the keg that, "Elvis has left the building." The young warriors then rolled the keg out onto the dance floor, and the festivities began in earnest. Nobody got out of hand, and our entire unit had a great time celebrating our Corps' 232nd birthday.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I enjoy playing golf, and usually get out every weekend for a round. I also enjoy writing little tidbits to post on this blog. For my current college class, I had to build a website. Not a cheesey single page that merely demonstrates a few HTML features, but a real website with a purpose. I've discovered that I thoroughly enjoy it.
I secured web hosting for my site and registered my own domain. Nothing screams amateur like a URL of "mysite.someoneelseshost.com". Having a real host and domain presented some new challenges. Not only have I had to learn much more about HTML than I thought I would, but I've also had to learn how to use FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, to publish the content of my site. It's much easier than I anticipated.
Some FTP software allows you to edit your pages right on the host's server. I opted for a free FTP client, and it does not have that feature. I edit my pages on my laptop, and then upload the new version to the server with my FTP software. Since I've fallen in love with HTML Kit, I prefer it that way. HTML kit is an editor that allows me to edit my pages and, with a single click, preview them either in my browser, or right in HTML Kit. Pretty nifty. It also has some trouble-shooting tools that I've (thankfully) not had to use yet.
In a nutshell, building a website has been fun, and it has been a great learning experience. I fully intend to keep it going after the class ends. I recommend that others take a stab at it. Who knows what kind of things you can come up with when you let your imagination run free?
Friday, October 19, 2007
School is coming down to crunch time, and I have a big pile of stuff to get accomplished over the next couple of weeks. I don't mind, but it doesn't leave much time for blogging. Quite honestly, there hasn't really been anything interesting going on here to blog about. I'm between stories at the moment, but I'm working on a doozie. My final project for my English class is a short story that I'm sure will amuse some, and anger others. Oh well; can't please 'em all.
Some of my millions of readers have already read a snippet of the story, but it has undergone a few major changes since I posted that tidbit. My Editor In Chief rejected my original plot idea and made a "polite suggestion" that I change it ("I hate it; it's well written, but a horrible story," was part of the conversation).
I was fond of the original plot idea, but fully understand that many people would not find it amusing at all. The current version may be gentler, but still has plenty of conflict to keep the imagination running on all eight cylinders.
Once the dust settles, I'll post the finished product and, perhaps, spend more time writing on here. Until then, the world will just have to do without frequent posts on Write On The Right.
If you are craving stories from military folks, you can always check out the latest fare at Writing Along. Tell 'em I sent you, and you'll get a free one year supply of air!
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
It never fails to amaze me how much some people will take advantage of a situation without realizing the consequences. My current term at the University of Maryland consists of all web-based courses. I was a bit aprehensive about the unfamiliar format, but it's actually very enjoyable. I have, however, been amazed at the fact that some of my "classmates" either cannot read, or simply don't care about their grades.
One key feature of these online courses is a feature called "conferences." Conferences are simply a spot on the website where the professor can post various topics and assignments, and the students can respond in writing. For my web development course, one of our recent assignments was to install and evaluate a web browser other than Internet Explorer or Netscape. I was eagerly awaiting the posting of the conference, so that I could pounce on Firefox. Firefox has been my browser of choice for a while now, and I am very pleased with it. Well, somebody else beat me to it.
Keep in mind that we were tasked with posting a written evaluation of a web browser...to me that would indicate a thorough description of features, pros, cons, etc. The individual that chose Firefox before I was able to posted an "evaluation" that read something like this: "Firefox is great. It's the best browser out there." That might not be verbatim, but it's pretty close. The "evaluation" was indeed two sentences that lacked any usable information. I was a bit irate when I read it. It's one thing to not be able to choose my favorite browser because I was too slow on the draw. It's another thing to lose out to someone that doesn't even provide an evaluation!
I posted a response to that individual's comment that actually consisted of an evaluation of Firefox, and I followed the spirit of the assignment by posting my own evaluation of an entirely different browser (see my last post).
Not only did that one individual ignore the parameters of the assignment, but the majority of my classmates did as well. Instead of everyone evaluating a different browser, most chose to simply post their own evaluation of Firefox...WTF? A couple of people were bold enough to cut and paste the description of the browser from the Mozilla website. I could have sworn that that was plagarism, but I could be wrong.
In a nutshell, these people either do not care about their grades, or can't manage to comprehend verbiage as complex as "each student will evaluate a different browser." Oh well. They're making my performance stand out in a positive way. Perhaps they'll keep it up for the duration of the class, but I hope not (for their sake).
Monday, September 17, 2007
As part of a class assignment, I had to try out a web browser other than Internet Explorer, and write an evaluation of it. I was going to use Firefox, since that's what I'm used to, but somebody beat me to it. Instead, I tried SeaMonkey. I'm glad that I did.
SeaMonkey has many features that are similar to Firefox, such as tabbed browsing, popup blocker control, and enhanced security, but the overall interface is much simpler, and it speeds up the loading of web content immensely.
I had planned on playing around with it long enough to "evaluate" it, but I think I might stick with it. You can click on the link above to check it out. It downloaded fast, installed easily, and I haven't had a problem with it yet.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
You'd better watch out,
You'd better not cry.
You'd better not pout,
I'm telling you why;
Typhoon Nari's coming to town...
Yep; another typhoon is a comin'. This one is a baby compared to the last one, but paper airplanes will certainly be in order...
You can keep an eye on it at Typhoon 2000.
UPDATE: The storm passed a bit south of us, and didn't amount to much. We had tropical storm conditions that night, but the storm had cleared out by morning. Quite a disappointment. Oh well, no cleanup to be done.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I detest quitters. Nothing gets my blood boiling more than hearing a 19 year old young man or woman tell me that they "can't" while on a PT run. During my time in this gun club, I've witnessed just about every variation of quitting that you can imagine. One of my least favorites is a young man or woman falling behind during a PT run. Do they think that they're fooling anyone?
More often than not, those that fall behind during a run are simply quitting. They experience a bit of discomfort or fatigue, and they choose to slow down. With a bit of "motivation," they usually speed up. In other words, they were quite capable of running faster, but simply chose not to. Quitters.
One early morning, our company assembled on the PT field for our weekly Company PT Session. One young lad (we'll call him PFC Lawson) had tried all week to get the medical folks to put him on "light duty". He was unsuccessful. The medical personnel had caught on to his act. His only physical ailment was a weight problem, and an aversion to physical activity. I was thrilled spitless to see him at PT.
As the gray of morning began to sneak over the horizon, the First Sergeant took charge of the company formation and we began our run. As the air, thick with the Okinawan humidity, began to warm, steam rose from the pavement of the well worn road. We trotted along at an easy warm-up pace, and all was well. As the air warmed even more, Lawson began dropping back. I could see the sweat running off of his pale, soft body. I imagined him in civilian clothing, walking through a supermarket. I could almost see him grabbing frozen bags of pizza rolls from the low-slung frozen food bins and thought, "I'd never guess that this young man is a Marine. He looks like a doughnut shop addict."
I couldn't understand how a young man that had made it through boot camp could allow himself to deteriorate into such a sorry condition.
I dropped back a bit in order to encourage the young man. He was huffing and puffing, and made every attempt to show me that he was truly struggling. The rolls of excess pounds on his waist were bouncing up and down as he stumbled along. His green tee-shirt was soaked with sweat, and was pasted to those rolls on his waist. He had a look in his eyes that reminded me of a child pleading for a piece of candy that wasn't allowed before supper.
At this point, many people would be inclined to ask, "Are you ok?"
I already knew that he was ok, since he had been looked over by the medical section the afternoon prior. Instead of inquiring about his health, I asked him, "Do you like being a quitter? Do you like being labeled by your fellow Marines?" "Get your butt up there Lawson!"
"I can't," was his feeble reply.
I'm willing to bet that my blood pressure skyrocketed at that moment. He had uttered the words that I hate. He had staggered into the no-man's land of lazy, spineless quitters. He had admitted to giving up after facing only a wee bit of adversity. He had flipped my switch from "nice" to "mean sumbitch."
I ran right next to him as I yelled into his ear; "Get your butt up there NOW Lawson. If you don't, this run will last until the freakin' sun goes down. I will run your sorry butt until church lets out on Sunday!"
The look on his face transformed from that of a pleading child to that of an injured puppy. "NOW numbnuts!"
He sped up. He caught up to the formation of Marines, and seemed like a man transformed. He held his head higher, adopted an air of confidence, and kept pace with his peers for the rest of the run. It was like ancient magic, producing a prince from a frog...well, not really, but you get the idea.
"You see that Lawson? You could run faster! All it took was a little effort and dedication on your part!"
I quoted Fight Club as I playfully smacked him in the back of his mostly bald head: "Like a monkey, ready to be shot into space!"
He wasn't anywhere near the end of his necessary personal journey, but he had taken a crucial step forward. All it took was a bit of forceful motivation. Ahhhh, the satisfaction of seeing a quitter take a turn for the better...good times.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
While my kids are back in school, I am as well. I found myself missing it during the summer, and I'm happy to be back at it. Since both of the classes that I'm taking this term are web-based, I'm a bit worried that I'll struggle to adapt to this new format. So far, it hasn't been an issue, since both of my professors seem to be very skilled at expressing various topics in writing.
One of my classes is (another) writing class. I enjoy writing, but have never been very good at creating works of fiction. This class will primarily involve writing short pieces of fiction, and I'm hoping that it will help me overcome the apparent block that I have in that department.
Those of you that have read any significant amount of the content on my blog know that I mostly enjoy writing about non-fiction. It's gratifying, and I seem to have a knack for story telling. All that I need to do now, is come up with ways to adapt that to fiction. I have one short piece that I wrote about a month ago that I can work on improving. A certain couple of test readers thought that it has potential. I thought that it was pretty weak, but our inner critics are often the harshest.
It will undoubtedly be an interesting journey, and I'm hoping that it goes well.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
I recently ordered Hogue grips for my M9 pistol and M4 Carbine from a business that goes by the name of Dallas Tactical Supplies. They had what I needed for my military weapons, their prices were fair, and they ship to FPO addresses. I still cannot imagine why other vendors that sell military tactical supplies wouldn't ship to FPO's, but there are those that don't. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot...
I received an email from DTS confirming my order immediately. I also got a rapid response to my email to them regarding shipping. My order got here in less than a week! For those that are unfamiliar with the mail situation in Okinawa, that's lightning fast.
I'm tickled pink by my experience with Dallas Tactical Supplies, and fully intend to spread the word among my fellow Marines. They are indeed a top-notch business that cares about customer satisfaction. I'll be turning to them in the future with any needs that I have for military gear.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
One day, when I was about eight years old, my sister and I were playing in the living room while my mom chatted on the phone in the kitchen. I had my toy drum, which was a constant companion for me. I was particularly fond of marching through the house with it while my dad played "Little Drummer Boy" on the stereo at Christmas time. That song is still my favorite Christmas song. My sister and I were chasing each other around the pool table, and poking, tickling, and occasionally hitting each other in the typical playful manner of little kids. I remember her hair flying wild as I rounded the corner of the pool table, only to have her turn on me and tickle my ribs. I giggled with delight.
I had put my drum, and drumsticks, down on the floor during our chase. I reached onto the pool table and rolled a ball into a pocket. We were not allowed to play with the pool table, and my sister said, "I'm going to tell. You're not s'posed to be playing with that." As she tried to make her way to the kitchen to tattle on me, a wrestling match ensued. She's almost four years older than me, so it was a pretty one sided match. As our wrestling and tumbling neared the kitchen, she grabbed one of my drumsticks and poked me in the face with it. It was a gentle nudge, but I knew that we were never supposed to poke each other in the face ("You'll put an eye out doing that!").
This was my chance! I hollered to my mom, "Mom! Suse poked me in the eye and hit me!" My mom didn't miss a beat: "Well, hit her back." My sister's gentle poke with a toy was met by me winding up and punching her in the arm as hard as I could. She immediately started crying, and I felt about two inches tall. She ran off to her room, and I didn't see her for at least 15 minutes.
Such was the "rivalry" between us as kids. It's funny to look back on these things, but it also reminds me of how hearty an upbringing we had. We typically settled our differences ourselves, and learned many lessons from that sort of relationship.
Friday, August 31, 2007
When I was a (younger) kid, I was fascinated by guns. Watching old westerns and WWII themed movies with my dad had much to do with that, I'm sure. My dad always owned guns, and he grew up around them as well. Dad and I would regularly make trips to the desert to ride dirt bikes and shoot, and I have many fond memories of those trips.
The first rifle that was solely mine was an M1 Carbine, much like the one pictured above. I had a fondness for this little carbine, since I had seen it so many times in WWII movies. Being that it was much smaller than standard rifles, it fit my small young frame well. I think I paid a little less than 100 dollars for it, and am astounded by the prices of them today (about 1100 bucks I think). I used mostly my money, and my dad helped a bit with the cost.
The M1 Carbine is only effective out to about 300 yards, but can be wielded with deadly accuracy in the hands of a skilled shooter. My first trip to the desert after purchasing the carbine was an exciting one. I was looking forward to shooting it for the first time, and almost thought about riding dirt bikes as an afterthought. While driving down an unpaved desert road to our shooting spot, we spotted a good size rattlesnake on the shoulder of the road. My dad stopped the truck so that we could get a look at it. Dad hates rattlesnakes, as do I. I asked him if I could shoot it with my new rifle. "Well, I hate to see a rattler hanging around in a well traveled area; go ahead," he replied.
I got my new carbine out of the back of the truck and carefully loaded a few rounds into the detachable magazine. Since I had never fired it before, I had no idea how it would shoot. We approached the snake, which was still coiled up on the side of the road, and I took aim. I was well outside of the snake's striking distance when I shouldered the weapon. I squeezed off a round and was pleased to see that it had found its mark. My dad was very impressed. I was overjoyed. The little carbine had very little recoil, and that first shot gave me confidence in its accuracy. I carefully cleared the weapon, Dad checked it, and I put it back in its case for the rest of the drive to our shooting spot.
When we got home that night, Dad was boasting to my mom about how impressive a shot I had made. "It's not easy to hit such a small target with an unfamiliar rifle," he said. I don't think my mom was nearly as impressed as my dad would have liked, but she was pleased that we had a good time.
I got to be very skilled with that little carbine, and put many a round through it. I find myself wishing that I still had it today.
I purchased a wireless adapter card for my son's desktop from geeks.com, and it came with no driver, instructions, or anything. I contacted the geeks via their online contact form, and have as yet to receive a response (going on two weeks now). I ended up going to the manufacturer's website and downloading the necessary driver and installation instructions. Thanks geeks.
I also recently purchased a 4 gigabyte USB flash drive made by Centon. It seemed like a great deal at the time...be wary of "great deals" when it comes to electronics. Their thumb drive seems to get tired when copying large files to it. It will download a bit, stop, rest, download a bit more, and then rest some more. Heck, my old 512MB drive was lightning fast in comparison. I'm waiting for a response from them as to whether or not they have an updated driver for the damned thing. The problem with that is, when I try to use it on another computer, that latest driver won't be installed. I think I bought a piece of junk. Great features, combined with horrible performance, adds up to a piece of junk.
From now on, when I find myself in need of any type of electronics, I will NOT cut corners. I'll stick with reputable manufacturers, and high-end products.
In the mean time, I'm going to see how far my slingshot will launch a 4GB thumb drive from my 9th floor balcony.
Friday, August 24, 2007
We've returned from our one week vacation to Okuma. We had a great time, and found ourselves wishing that we could have stayed longer. The weather was great, and everyone had a good time. We took a trip in a glass bottom boat, rode jet skis, got beat half to death on a "ski tube," and spent plenty of time playing in the water.
Next week I'll be back to work, and the kids will be back in school. I'm reminded of the Staples commercial where a man is school shopping with his obviously unenthusiastic children with "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" playing in the background. While my wife and I thoroughly enjoy the company of our kids, it's also nice to get back to a regular routine. The kids tend to get a bit edgy after spending so much time together. They are always well behaved, but they do bicker a bit when they spend the whole summer together.
I'll be back in school on September 3rd, so I'll be a bit busy for several weeks thereafter. Since I enjoy school now, I don't mind staying busy. I'm looking forward to continuing down the path of higher education, and challenging myself academically. I'm sure that my parents continue to be amazed by my fondness for school. Amazed or not, I'm willing to bet that they're tickled pink.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I talked with my friend Gawfer today, and realized that I hadn't transfered any of my pictures from my feeble old blog to my new one. That would be the reason for the spat of pictures. I also realized that I've been remiss in taking pictures of Okinawa in general. I'll have to do a better job of that from now on.
In a nutshell, I'll be out of touch for about a week (darn), and I won't be answering the phone, emails, etc. That breaks my freakin' heart. I'm sure that the world will survive without me for a week (maybe). I'll be back in uniform, defending the rights of all in about a week and a half. Until then, remember that alcohol is temporary, while video is much more permanent...hehehehe. Semper Fi.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
As many of you know, the battle of the high definition disc formats rages on. It's almost amusing to watch, but it's disturbing when one thinks back on the fight between Betamax and VHS. How many people bought Betamax players, only to have them become obsolete when VHS took the lead? They were left with an expensive player that they couldn't find movies for.
The same dilemma faces today's shoppers. While both BluRay and HD DVD players have been reduced in price, the HD DVD players lead in sales due to drastically lower prices (and they've been out longer). Unfortunately, BluRay leads in sales of movies, because the movies are cheaper, more abundant, and the wildly popular Sony Playstation 3 comes with BluRay capability built in. I think that Microsoft really screwed up when they didn't include HD DVD playing capability in the Xbox 360 as a standard feature (customers have to buy it as an option).
In addition, Sony PC's can now be had with BluRay players/burners built in to them. Add to this the willingness of movie studios to join the fray, and you have a real mess. The latest blockbuster movies being released in high definition formats are being released on one format or the other. Spiderman 3 will only be available in BluRay, while some others will only be available in HD DVD. Smart consumers won't give in to temptation, and will wait to see which format wins before purchasing a player.
I, for one, will NOT buy one of these golden machines until it becomes clear that the disc format will remain available for years to come. If I had to guess, I'd say that BluRay will probably win out; but that's just a guess.
Take the poll in the sidebar!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Saturday, August 4, 2007
These pictures are just a few little reminders of what our young men and women are going through while we sit in our comfortable homes. Tip of the spear:
Friday, August 3, 2007
Since I've been away from work for the last month, and will be for another week, my regular routine has been all messed up. As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended a maintenance management class for three weeks, and I'm now attending the Radiation Safety Officer's Course, which lasts for two weeks.
I'm learning everything that I never wanted to know about radiation and radioactive materials. Some of it is very interesting, but much of it is not. In addition, the overwhelming majority of it does not apply to what I do. This course can be, however, worth a few bucks outside of the military, since it's very expensive for civilian companies to get this training for their employees. The course is mandated and regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the NRC also requires any commodity that transports, stores, or routinely handles radioactive materials, or radiation producing devices, to have a Radiation Safety Officer that has received this training. The course is also ACE accredited, and is worth five semester credit hours (two upper level!).
Upon completion, I will have been away from work for five weeks. I'll then be back to work for a little over a week before going on leave for a week at the beach resort at Okuma. What a shame (sarcasm).
After our mini-vacation, the kids will start school again, as will I. I've enrolled in a web development course, and another creative writing course. I already got my books, and continue to be amazed at the prices of these golden texts. For 55 dollars, I received a small, soft-cover handbook for the creative writing class. How many of you would pay 55 dollars for a paperback book? Unbelievable.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
I love gadgets...always have. GUNZ sent me a gadget a while back that came in very handy during the recent typhoon. It's a flashlight with a built in AM/FM radio. The nifty part is that you don't even need batteries for it. It has a built in "dynamo," which you operate by turning a small hand crank. Crank it a few times, and you're good for five minutes or so. Call me crazy, but that's the kind of stuff that I get a kick out of (I suspect that GUNZ does too).
I started purchasing Compact Discs, or CD's, when that form of media was very new. Most music stores of the time didn't even have much of a selection of CD's. Needless to say, I've collected a large number of them over the last 20 or so years. Because of the size of my CD collection, I've been wanting an Ipod for a while now. My wife was going to get me one for my birthday but, fortunately, the PX was out of them at the time. An Ipod would allow me to "rip" all of my CD's onto one portable device that I can connect to my car stereo, home stereo, or laptop. Pretty handy. I'm happy that I didn't buy an Ipod.
After hearing about the above pictured gadget, I read about 80 different reviews about it. With one or two exceptions, the reviews almost rabidly praised the thing. It's the Iaudio A2. It's made by Cowon, a Korean manufacturer of high end MP3 players, and it's a fantastic piece of gear. It plays just about every format of audio and video that you can come up with. It has a much larger screen than a video Ipod, and watching movies on it is actually pleasant. The sound quality is amazing, and it's easy to use. It's significantly larger than an Ipod, but it makes up for that with an unusually long battery life (18 hours of audio, and 10 hours of video), and the very large screen. I've only had it for a couple of days, but I love it already.
I've been busily "ripping" my CD collection onto it, and took it for a drive today when we went to the beach at Camp Schwab (about one hour away). It performed well, and didn't have any hiccups en route. I love the fact that you don't need any special software to use it. Just plug it into your computer, and it is recognized as an external drive. You can just drag and drop files into it. Alas, for its size, its hard drive is a bit small; it's only 30 gigabytes. While that's fairly large for something this small, Ipod now has an 80Gb player out. Since I'll be using it almost exclusively for audio content, however, 30Gb should be plenty for me. I'll put the occasional movie on it, but I don't see a need to keep movies on it.
All in all, I think that I've bought a great piece of equipment, and I look forward to taking all of my music with me. My CD collection will have to get by without me for a while.
If you'd like to take a closer look at the Iaudio A2, you can do so at Newegg. Their shipping is lightning fast as well!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I wrote this a few months ago, but thought that I'd dig it up for fun's sake. The bibliography is included at the end. I didn't take shortcuts on my research; I simply didn't include a variety of emotionally motivated documents in the piece, or the biblio. When I started this blog, I decided not to venture into politics, as that makes for a much less enjoyable writing experience, as well as a combative comments section. This will be a rare trip into the political arena. The only reason that I can see for this piece actually offending anyone is if they are emotionally opposed to firearms. As most rational adults know, emotions are not a good basis for important decisions (unless we're talking about marriage; that's a different matter entirely). After reading what the far left had to offer, disgust and common sense took over. How sad. Enjoy the piece, pay attention, and take note of those that would deny us of our Constitutional Rights. They're out there; on both sides of the aisle.
The Fallacy of Gun Control
Guns are to crime as gasoline is to drunk driving. Both are elements in equations with many variables. Gasoline does not cause drunk driving. This fact is undisputed. Guns do not cause crime. This fact is not undisputed. Why? Are we ignorant enough to believe that there was no crime before the advent of firearms? Are we foolish enough to believe that the invention of firearms caused a spike in crime? Apparently so. The anti-gun crowd would have us believe that guns are the root of all evil. As much as the emotionally motivated folks on the left would love to believe this, it simply isn't true. Guns don't cause crime any more than gasoline causes drunk driving. The array of anti-gun laws has done nothing to reduce crime. Enforcing existing laws would do much more to curb crime than enacting new anti-gun laws would. The bills-du-jour of the far left would only inhibit law-abiding citizens. How deadly are these evil guns that the far left wants to ban?
In 2003 there were a total of 17,096 homicides (by all methods), and a total of 752 accidental deaths by firearms. That adds up to 17,848 deaths that could possibly be the result of firearms (this does not include suicides, as that is simply an asinine figure in this discussion). (Bureau of Census, 2005) In comparison, deaths from cancer of the colon, rectum and anus registered at 55,616. In other words, you were more likely to be killed by your own rear end than by a gun in 2003. If that's not enough, pneumonia killed 63,241 in 2003. Alzheimer's killed 63,343, and heart disease killed 901,753. (Bureau of Census, 2005) Mother Nature kills far more humans in America than guns do. In addition, since 1993, gun deaths have been on a steady decline. Why is the far left so adamant about their hatred of firearms? If they succeeded in repealing the Second Amendment, and confiscating the firearms of every law-abiding citizen in America, what would be the result?
Enthusiastic gun owners are fond of saying that if guns were outlawed, only outlaws would own guns. As cliché as that may sound, it's entirely true. It is already illegal for convicted felons to possess a firearm in America, yet many still do. Many violent criminals are repeat offenders. Many violent criminals also obtain firearms in ways that are already illegal. If they disregard current laws, why would they abide by additional laws? Banning firearms would not affect criminals. Only those that choose to obey the law would turn over their firearms. What would have happened in the late 1700's if colonists had surrendered their firearms to the British? We would still be ruled from London. Why can the anti-gun enthusiasts not understand the very clearly worded Second Amendment?
The Second Amendment clearly states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." (U.S. Constitution, 1997) Some would say that a "militia" is a military body. Upon forming that militia, it would indeed be a military body. What would be the makeup of a militia? Would it be ordinary citizens? It was in 1776. Let us take a peek at what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about a militia:
"The name of various military units and forces, raised locally (and usually for the purpose of local defence) from the civilian population of an area, and distinguished from professional standing armies as the latter developed." (Oxford English Dictionary, 2002) That's pretty clear-cut. A militia is made of the civilian population. In order to assemble a militia, that population would need to be armed. This is simple common sense. Yet another indication that opponents of the Second Amendment are motivated by emotion, vice logic. Various anti-gun bills have been proposed over the past several years. For some reason, the authors of the bills chose to label them as "crime bills."
One of the most infamous "crime bills" to date is the Assault Weapons Ban, or AWB, included in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. That sounds like a great bill. Unfortunately, it only created a definition of assault weapons based on mostly cosmetic features, such as bayonet lugs, folding stocks, and flash suppressors. (Caldwell, 2003) Let us dissect the impact of this law, one bit at a time. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, rifles and shotguns (the targets of the bill) were used in less than 10% of crimes in 2000. Handguns were the weapons of choice by criminals. (BATF, 2002) In addition, the Department of Justice also concluded that "the ban's impact on gun violence is likely to be small at best, and perhaps too small for reliable measurement." (Wikipedia, 2007) Assault weapons are scary looking. Perhaps that's the motivation for the left to condemn them. I will say from personal experience as a U.S. Marine, that I would much rather have a good hunting rifle if I were seeking to kill humans. Most assault rifles are inferior in both design and caliber of ammunition. They may allow the user to fire many shots, but they lack the accuracy and punch of a good hunting rifle. Still, Carolyn McCarthy decries assault rifles as "weapons of mass destruction" in an essay that emotionally claims that they increase the threat of gun violence. (McCarthy, 2006) Banning things has not worked in the past, and it will not work now.
Banning alcohol didn't work. Prohibition created even more crime. Illegal drugs are a problem, and they continue to flourish. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 23.7% of high school seniors report that they used marijuana in the past month. (Bruner, 1998) If banning drugs and alcohol don't work, why would banning guns work? They would still flourish, but only in the hands of the criminal element. Would any of us want to live in a nation where the criminal element is well armed, and we are not? We could certainly rely on the responsiveness of various law enforcement agencies, but that would only result in a thorough investigation after the fact. Police forces are very skilled at investigating crimes, once they've been committed. Cops don't materialize out of thin air when violent criminals confront us. During the 1990's, Americans used firearms to defend themselves from criminals at least 764,000 times a year. (Ruoco, 2005) Gun laws don't protect us. Guns do.
Vermont has the most lax gun laws in the nation. In fact, the Brady Campaign gives Vermont a "D-" on "laws shielding families from gun violence." (Brady, 2005) Vermont must be rampant with violent crime! On the contrary, Vermont had a murder rate of 1.3 per 100,000 in 2005. (FBI, 2006) In comparison, Washington D.C., which has some of the strictest gun "control" laws in the nation, had a murder rate of 35.4 per 100,000 in 2005. (FBI, 2006) In 1976, Washington D.C. enacted a virtual ban on handguns. Between 1976 and 1991, Washington's homicide rate rose 200%, while the U.S. rate rose 12%. (Ruoco, 2005) Restrictive firearm laws don't reduce crime. The idea of potential victims being armed reduces crime. Vermont demonstrates that fact.
Infringing on gun rights doesn't reduce crime. Doing so simply takes firearms away from law-abiding citizens, and potential victims of violent crime. Supporters of anti-gun legislation have shown themselves to be more emotional than logical, and they cannot produce evidence that gun "control" reduces crime. States that have the least restrictive gun laws have lower violent crime rates than those that have the most restrictive gun laws. In the face of this logic, the far left continues to rabidly cry foul over our right to keep and bear arms. This is disturbing, to say the least. If the far left is this adamant about abolishing the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, what other Constitutional rights will they attack next?
(1997). U.S. Constitution. Retrieved March 10, 2007, from U.S.
Constitution Online Web site: http://www.usconstitution.net/const.htm
(2002). Oxford English Dictionary . Retrieved March 10, 2007,
from Oxford English Dictionary Online Web site: http://dictionary.oed.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/cgi/entry/00309562?quer y_type=word&queryword=militia&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_t ype=alpha&result_place=1&search_id=nmm6-kM6qVT- 13155&hilite=00309562
(2005). State Gun Laws: Vermont. Retrieved March 10, 2007,
from Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Web site: http://www.bradycampaign.org/legislations/state/viewstate.php?st=vt
Bruner, A.B. (1998).Adolescents and Illicit Drug Use. Journal of the American Medical Association. 280, 14-20.
Bureau of Census, (December, 2005). Deaths and Death Rates by
Selected Causes: 2002 and 2003. Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 2006, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://web.lexis- nexis.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/statuniv/document.htm
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, (2002, July).
Major Gun Types by Age Group of Possessor. Crime Gun Trace Reports (200) National Report, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://www.atf.gov/firearms/ycgii/2000/generalfindings.pdf
Caldwell, R. J. (2003, June, 16). Let Ineffective 'Assault Weapons'
Ban Expire. Human Events, 59, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/ehost/delivery?vid=3&1 0025966.htm
FBI, (2006). U.S. States Crime 2004 - 2005 . FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/vtcrime.htm
FBI, (2006). U.S. States Crime 2004 - 2005 . FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/dccrime.htm
Federal Assault Weapons Ban. (2007). In Wikipedia [Web].
Retrieved March 10, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_assault_weapons_ban
McCarthy, C. (2006). Assault Weapons Increase the Threat of Gun Violence. Gun Violence, Retrieved March 8, 2007, from http://galenet.galegroup.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/servlet/OVRC
Ruoco, J (2005, December 30). Gun Control. Retrieved March 10,
2007, from Just Facts Web site: http://www.justfacts.com/gun_control.htm
Monday, July 23, 2007
Shouting to his fellow Marines on the muddy, blood soaked battlefield of
Box checkers represent a type of person that you might find anywhere in life. They strive to do the bare minimum in every respect. If asked why they joined the Corps, the box checker will give a response along the lines of, "I needed money for college," or, "My parents were going to kick me out," or, "I couldn't find work back home." While these may be nominal reasons for seeking employment, they are not the right reasons for joining the Marine Corps. The box checker almost seems to make excuses for joining the Corps. The Corps requires discipline, dedication, and drive, not mediocrity. The box checker is simply putting a "check in the box" on the checklist of life. They are killing time, and collecting a paycheck. Their glaring lack of performance, in every area, hobbles any desire they may have to succeed. Box checkers are not trying to excel, they are trying to merely get by. Their military appearance is pathetic, like a trash bag full of doorknobs. Their performance at physically demanding tasks, in comparison to traditional Marine Corps expectations, is laughable, at best. Thankfully, they are routinely out shined by their superior counterparts, the motivated Marines.
The motivated Marine personifies what makes the Marine Corps great. Ask the motivated Marine why he, or she, joined the Corps, and you’ll likely get an answer similar to, “Because I wanted to serve my country,” or “I wanted to join the best,” or even, “I’ve always wanted to be a Marine.” These are not always tangible reasons, but they leave no doubt that you are dealing with a motivated Marine. The motivated Marine shows genuine enthusiasm for their job, and way of life. These Marines are easy to spot, with their short haircuts, clean dress, and confident swagger. Enthusiasm for their Corps almost oozes from their pores. They show up early, go home late, and can be counted on to get the mission accomplished. Their uniforms are immaculate, with knife blade creases, and lovingly polished brass. They are the ones that you want at your side in a pitched battle.
While both types of Marines have volunteered to serve their country, the motivated Marine seems to hold that ideal close to their heart. You can see their motivation and dedication in their every action. The box checker, however, is content to trudge along, doing the bare minimum to get by. Somehow, these two groups manage to co-exist, fight our nation's battles, and win against determined enemies. Even with a mild array of shortcomings, Marines stand ready to guard against the evils of tyranny around the globe.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Upon graduating from Recruit Training, I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a Drill Intructor. I idolized my fanatical, omnipotent DI's. They were dieties capable of anything. Much like my decision to join the Corps in the first place, I doubted my own ability to achieve the goal of becoming a DI. In late 1997, I convinced myself that there was only one way to reach that goal, and that was to simply take the plunge. I reported to Drill Instructor School at Parris Island, South Carolina in early 1998. I was a solid, aggressive, motivated Marine, but I found myself among an entire class of stellar performers. This was going to be no cakewalk.
I quickly discovered that my uniforms were sadly lacking. I needed to either upgrade or replace many of my items of military clothing. This was a costly venture, and my wonderful parents came to my aid. The irony of that is that upon graduation, I would not even be using my own uniforms, as the Corps would issue me "Organizational Clothing," for use as a DI. The highly demanding school, on the other hand, was a different story. We had countless uniform inpsections, and they were incredibly detailed. Everything was scrutinized, often with no notice whatsoever. We had to be "inspection ready" at all times. My roommate and I would take turns at lunch time ironing our uniforms with one hand, while slurping down a bowl of chili with the other. We even tried our hand at ironing the creases in our trousers while still wearing them. I don't advise anyone to try that...burns don't heal quickly. I learned a tremendous amount while in DI school, but some lessons cannot be taught in a classroom.
During the last few weeks of the school, all of the students are sent over to the different training battalions to "observe" with an actual platoon of DI's and recruits. The idea behind that is to give the students a glimpse of what they would be doing after graduation. After thinking that DI School was hard, the week of observation was yet another wakeup call. The hours were unbelievable. We'd be there at about four a.m. every morning, and leave at about ten p.m. each night. If we were lucky, we got to eat a meal during some point, but that was rare. A snack on the go was much more the norm. I lost almost twelve pounds in one week. I found out what the actual DI's meant when they told me to enjoy the "laid back," "easy" schedule of DI School. One thing became glaringly apparent: I had much more to learn, and it was only going to be learned by doing it.
DI School taught me many rules, regulations, and how to conduct very exacting uniform inspections. I also received a ton of refresher training in areas that I hadn't paid attention to since I was a recruit myself. History, customs and courtesies, military law, and basic infantry skills were all covered in great detail. What was not taught was the actual mechanics of training recruits. There was no class available that could teach us how to meld a young man into a Marine. That would have to be learned on the fly; much like being pushed into the deep end of the pool and being expected to simply learn to swim.
One of my instructors in DI School, who was also my "Squad Adviser," was a very refined man by the name of Gunnery Sergeant Franklin (name changed to protect the "innocent"). He was the one to help me discover that my uniforms were in sad shape by gently asking me, "Have you lost your fu#%ing mind?! Did you think that you could just show up here looking like a turd with legs?! Square this trash away today, or I'm gonna put my boot so far up your a$$ that you'll be smelling shoe polish for a month!" He was such a caring and considerate mentor...ahhh the memories. Needless to say, I heeded his warning, with some very appreciated help from Mom and Dad. I hate the smell of shoe polish, and didn't want to test the Gunny.
Gunny Franklin taught me many things in his gentle, tactful way. He was fond of reminding me that "recruits are miserable pieces of $h*t. It's your job to make a pitiful attempt to turn them into something resembling a Marine. Don't fu%& it up numbnuts!" The amazing thing about Gunny Franklin is that he treated everyone the same way. He would admonish actual DI's in the same fashion that he would admonish his students. We often had working DI's come give us various classes and demonstrations, and I once saw the Gunny whisper into a DI's ear, followed by the DI blushing and running into the head (bathroom). One of my fellow students had the cojones to ask Gunny what he had said to the DI, and Gunny replied, "I told him that if he didn't go tuck his shoelaces in, I was going to use them to cut his balls off." I would bet a month's pay that Gunny Franklin never graduated a recruit that wasn't qualified to be a Marine.
In the mid spring of 1998, I walked across the stage in the theater aboard Parris Island, and was handed the coveted Campaign Cover, or "Smokey Bear" hat, that I had been working so hard for for three months. I was a bonafide Drill Instructor. I was elite. I was a cut above, and I had no clue what I was in for.
I had 30 days of leave, or vactation time, after graduation. My wife and kids packed up and got out of our housing in North Carolina, and then headed west to visit family. My parents bought me my NCO Sword as a graduation gift; it sits in its cover as I write this, eager for use. After an enjoyable visit, we headed back to the South. I dropped my wife and kids off at a friend's house in North Carolina, and then headed to Parris Island to begin my fun filled tour as a DI. It was going to be a month or so before we could get housing, so I roomed with my roommate from DI school in the meantime. I was told that I would be given time off to move my family once housing became available. As much as I hate moving, I was looking forward to it, as I would get a break from the murderous hours at work.
I became a walking zombie. I wasn't sleeping or eating right, and I quickly came down with whatever crud the recruits had brought with them. I was a wreck. I had about an hour of free time one day, and I went to see Gunny Franklin. I had doubts about myself. I wasn't sure that I would be able to keep up the demanding schedule and work ethic for three years. He put my fears to rest: "Don't be such a wuss. Suck it up and get hard now! Those young men don't need some whiney little bitch; they need a Marine Corps Drill Instructor!" After chewing my ass for whining, he actually gave me some sage advice. He told me that I was going to face some unique challenges as a DI, since, like him, I wasn't a large man. "Recruits come from all walks of life. You're going to get thugs straight from their gang infested street corners. They're not going to be physically intimidated by a man of your stature. You need to convice them that you're the meanest, toughest, nastiest psychotic bastard that ever walked the earth," he said.
Gunny Franklin gave me a few tips, and I heeded them all. They served me well, and would have served any DI well. Some of his tips were:
1. Don't ever let them see you eat. If you eat, you're human. You need to be a monster. Eat when you can, but do it out of sight; granola bars and Power Bars are great.
2. Don't ever let them see you sleep. When you have duty (stay all night), keep the lights on in the DI hut and just put a tee shirt over your face.
3. Never smile.
4. Never laugh.
5. As much as the sand fleas itch, never scratch at a bug.
6. Never play favorites. Treat 'em all the same. They're all worthless, and you need to treat them as such.
7. Hate recruits. If you hate recruits, you'll love the finished product. Take every transgression personally; it will foster that hatred.
8. Don't ever forget that it's your mission to make 'em as hard as you can. They'll thank you someday.
I took his words to heart. I never let a recruit see me eat, smile, laugh, scratch a bug, or sleep. I vividly remember the sand fleas eating me alive as I was yelling at a recruit. I actually had a droplet of blood appear on his face from a particularly efficient sand flea on my face. He looked at me like I was a complete monster; I was pleased. I did everything that I could to convince my recruits that I was mildly psychotic. As far as they knew, I never ate, slept, or had emotions. I was there before they woke up, and well after they went to sleep. I would leave the light on in the "duty hut" when I stayed the night, and set my alarm for various times throughout the night. I would get up throughout the night and run the vacuum cleaner, toss a laundry bag full of padlocks into the dryer in the laundry room (that makes a hell of a noise), and tortu...I mean remediate the "firewatch," or the recruits that were on watch at night. They hated me. I became a recruit's worst nightmare.
I only had to physically defend myself one time, and it lasted for a fraction of a second. My fellow DI's came out of the woodwork as I put the young lad on the ground. The rest of the recruits were terrified of me after that; as they should have been. A few stitches later, the recruit in question was more than willing to toe the line. I developed a love/hate feeling for recruits. I hated recruits-- they smelled horrible, infected me with every manner of sickness that was available, took me away from my family, failed to do anything right, and cursed my name. That hatred would transform into love and pride as they made the transition into Marines.
No reward in the world can compare to seeing a group of men make that transition, and know that I had some small part in it. The look in a father's eyes as he thanks me for his son losing 90 pounds is remarkable. The rewards were not tangible, but they were huge. I vividly remember assembling my final platoon of new Marines on the quarterdeck the morning of graduation. I told them that, "The rewards for this job are few and far between. All of you, standing before me are my reward. The transformation that you've made is what makes this job worthwhile. You did it; I just pointed you in the right direction."
I never put my stamp of approval on a recruit that I didn't think was worthy of being a Marine. I never lost sight of the fact that I was entrusted with preparing somebody's son, somebody's child, for the rigors of battle. On one hand, I know that no parent wants their child to suffer abuse. On the other hand, I know that no parent wants their child to join the military and die in battle. I was not going to let someone die in battle due to being ill prepared. I only had a short three months to prepare them, and I put my heart and soul into it. While I never actually "abused" any recruit, I did everything that I could to train 'em hard, make 'em hard, and turn them into hard men. I hope that I didn't fail.