Thursday, November 26, 2009

Young at Heart

Are you familiar with the phrase, "Young at heart?" Are you as young as you feel? Are you older than you feel? I hope so. Here's to hoping that you feel about 20 years younger than you are! When I examine the idea of being young at heart, I'm reminded of a great song.

Most of us spend our lives ignoring our own mortality, and we spend our early years convincing ourselves that we're going to live forever. Occasionally, we encounter things that give us stark reminders of our own impending doom. Ever have a close call? Have you ever looked back on an incident in your life and thought, "Wow. I'm lucky!"? Our ability to ignore these things helps us perpetuate our contentment. Any psychology majors out there want to chime in?

It's amusing how we look forward to various milestones in our youth (becoming a teenager, driving, voting, drinking/gambling) and then the newness wears off as each box is checked. The pendulum of reality begins swinging in the opposite direction at some point, and we begin to dread new milestones (30, 40, and more). I disagree with this idea, to some degree.

I often tell my father that I'm still a punk kid. I feel like a punk kid on most days, and I occasionally act like it too. Some days I feel really old, older than I have a right to. Most days, I surprise myself. It's a neat feeling to say, "I'm 40 and I still feel 20." Does that make me young at heart? What really leads to that feeling? What sparks the imagination and keeps us arguing with our own mortality?

I know that we have a natural defense mechanism that allows us to degrade bad memories. The bad things that tell us we're going to die, or that a fire is hot, tend to get a little less bad over time. Some things don't. Some memories are so vivid that a mere smell or sound can bring them back as strong, or even stronger, than they once were. How does our brain sort these things out? If we can't get over bad things, most women probably wouldn't have more than one child! Just a guess on that one, but my wife agrees with that theory wholeheartedly.

What sparks your imagination? Do you feel young at heart? What keeps you that way? What makes you wake up one day and say, "This is an awesome day?" Is it knowing that people care about you? Is it knowing that there are more things out there to discover? Is it a hobby? A passion? What gets you fired up like that? What keeps you feeling younger than you are? What keeps you carrying moonbeams home in a jar? I know we've all had those moments, days, weeks, or even months and years. Or would you rather be a fish?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

A hearty wish of a warm, safe, and happy Thanksgiving goes out to all who stop by here. I hope that you have a great weekend, and that your turkey is moist, tender, and cooks fast enough to allow for maximum football viewing!

In regards to the photo above: Dear Mr. Bush, It's not a dog, and it won't fetch a tennis ball.

Sorry; I just had to do it. That picture is just a wee bit too inviting like that. Politicians make such easy targets.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Big Cities and Crime

I was recently thinking about how much I dislike big cities. I've visited several of them, and they all seem to have a few things in common. Some are worse than others (Paris comes to mind on the bottom end), but most are crime infested, crowded, loud, ugly, and smell bad. A co-worker was argumentative toward my assertion about crime, and I had to point out that crime is indeed worse in urban areas than in rural. One only need consult the DOJ or FBI for the data to support that. My co-worker had an interesting time browsing their websites.

This one is a no-brainer, and I even laughed when I saw a comment in response to a blog post on violence that countered with, "but we live in a diverse urban community." That should be your first clue that your neighborhood is plagued by violence!

Our DOJ routinely publishes crime data, often in conjunction with the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. It's absolutely no surprise that crime rates are higher (in number of crimes per 100K) in urban areas than in rural or small towns. I would love to hear your speculation as to why in the comments section. I know what you're thinking, and I ask that you give practical reasons, not emotional leaps to conclusion. Writing that, "there's more idiots in cities than in the country," doesn't explain anything (although I would agree).

Is it the draw of more social handouts in urban centers? Is it greater restrictions on gun ownership? Is it the lack of community cohesiveness? What say you?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Death, Taxes and Change

As I forced myself to take a break from my economics homework (I didn't have to try very hard), I tried to remember how old I was when I first heard the comparison of death and taxes to reliability; I was unable to come up with an age, but I think I was pretty young.

It's ironic that we use two universally disliked items or ideas (the connotation of these terms almost oozes out into your lap) to describe something as being reliable. Yes, we can always count on death, and we know that there will always be taxes (politicians should be a separate species from the rest of us humans). Shouldn't reliability be a positive thing?

I submit that there is another item in our world that we can always count on: Change. It has been said before that the only real constant in this world is change. A certain politician even ran on a mere promise of change...What sort of person buys into that, when all they have to do is sit back and wait for inevitable changes? I like to call that the "shiny trinket effect," and it works well with voters. Change is indeed a constant, and it isn't always good.

I have a friend that joined the Marine Corps a few years before I did, and left active duty as a Sergeant. When talking to him one time, I mentioned what an interesting twist of fate it would be if he had stayed in and I ended up working for him in some capacity. Not that he works for me, but our roles would probably be much different if he had become my First Sergeant, or Sergeant Major. It then dawned on me that his departure from our Corps may have been a good thing, because he wouldn't like the changes that have taken place. It's odd that one of the more prominent challenges that a career Marine faces is being patient enough to put up with "progress."

I have often said to peers and subordinates that the job of the Corps continues to get more difficult as society continues down its path of degradation. As the morals and standards of our youth (and even adults) decline, the standards of the Corps remain the same. Our job of bringing young adults to our way of thinking, nurturing strong morals, and enforcing higher standards, gets harder every day. I often wonder if it's all really worth it, and then I see a young Lance Corporal or PFC that is just as excited about being a Marine as I ever was. It's like hooking myself up to some sort of emotional battery charger; it reminds me that the patience is well worth it. What about these various forms of progress?

It's now acceptable for Marines to wear flip flops as "appropriate civilian attire." Really. In addition, just try asking a 17 year old Marine if he knows what those loops on the waist of his jeans are really for! This type of thing probably sounds very trivial to some people, but the level of discipline that we demand of our subordinates carries over into many realms other than mode of dress. This is, however, not a new concept.

There is a quotation that I'm fond of using in one of the classes that I teach, and it brings things back into perspective a bit:
"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint."

This quotation is not nearly as effective if you are unaware of when it was originally stated. This was first penned by Hesiod (often considered the father of Greek didactic poetry) in approximately 700 B.C. See? Nothing new here.

Every generation of Marine eventually reaches a level of maturity and wisdom that they feel grants them inclusion in an elite club: "Old Corps." How many retired Marines out there (or those that are no longer on active duty) have said the words, "When I came in the Corps...?" Yes; I know--We can't boil water in our helmets like you could. Noted.

My point is simple: Change will always happen, and we can't do much about it. Luckily, we have the wisdom to usually hang onto those things that we know we should not change. Today's young Marines have the same fighting spirit, drive to succeed, and esprit de corps that any previous generation had. I know that when I hang up my cover for the last time, I'll be passing the baton to an equally talented (even more so in many ways) and capable Corps of warriors.

Death and taxes indeed...

Friday, November 13, 2009

WTF For Sale

I came across this ad on a local website:
"Looking to buy a Goat. Anyone know where I can buy a goat? I have some grass i need cut and I don't feel like cutting it. I also hear goats make good golf caddies. Thanks for your time only serious sellers only please..."

(link to ad here)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 USMC Birthday Message

I shamelessly stole this from Eric.

This is one of the best birthday videos that the Corps has made to date. Well done.

Happy 234th Birthday Marines!

To my fellow Marines, including those no longer on active duty, I say, "Happy Birthday."

Here's a bit of the trivia from Marines dot com:

"During the American Revolution, many important political discussions took place in the inns and taverns of Philadelphia, including the founding of the Marine Corps.

A committee of the Continental Congress met at Tun Tavern to draft a resolution calling for two battalions of Marines able to fight for independence at sea and on shore.

The resolution was approved on November 10, 1775, officially forming the Continental Marines.

As the first order of business, Samuel Nicholas became Commandant of the newly formed Marines. Tun Tavern’s owner and popular patriot, Robert Mullan, became his first captain and recruiter. They began gathering support and were ready for action by early 1776.

Each year, the Marine Corps marks November 10th with a celebration of the brave spirit which compelled these men and thousands since to defend our country as United States Marines."

A great post about our heritage can be read by visiting Taco's blog here.

D.C. Sniper To Be Executed

John Allen Williams (who later changed his name to the more appropriate "Muhammad") is set to be executed today. To this I say, "It's about damned time." This one is a no-brainer.

One of the pinheads that likes to spend their time milling about outside the prison walls at execution time said,
"The greater metro area and the citizens of Virginia have been safe from this crime for seven years," Panilaitis said. "Incarceration has worked and life without the possibility of parole has and will continue to keep the people of Virginia safe."
I have a couple of questions for the starry-eyed protester--Does your crystal ball use batteries, or is it powered by fairy dust? By what other means are you predicting the future? How many people should go ahead and bet their lives on your assurances that monsters like this one will never get out of prison? In the mean time, I'll rely on the method that absolutely guarantees that the offender will never repeat their wicked crimes.

Story here.