Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Gene Autry

Today would be the 100th birthday of Gene Autry. He was not only a Cowboy, but an inspiration to many. He was the reason that Christopher made the "Cowboy Code" blogroll.

This is indeed a day worth thinking twice about.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Online University Courses

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 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

Nobody Likes a Quitter

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

Creative Writing

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

Dallas Tactical Supplies Rocks

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

Sibling Rivalry

Growing up with an older sister can be a challenge for a young boy. I was lucky enough to have a sister that I grew very close to, and love dearly to this day. As expected, we didn't always see eye-to-eye as young kids.

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.