Friday, December 31, 2010

Things I'll Miss About Okinawa

Having written about what I miss in America (and dislike about Okinawa), I suppose it's only fair that I write a bit about what's good about Okinawa.  Don't mistake my eagerness to return to the States as disgust toward Okinawa.  While there's certainly things that I dislike about this place, there are also many things that I like.  Here's the short list:

Low crime rate.  There's not much crime here, and the little bit there is can mostly be classified as petty.  Okinawans have no worries about letting their small children walk the streets, day or night.  Criminal behavior brings dishonor to a person's family, so it just simply isn't done (for the most part).  The locals are peaceful, by nature, and very polite.  It's not uncommon to see cars and homes left unlocked here, with no real worries of theft.  I would worry more about theft on base than out in town.  There is a nice display of ancient urns (the type that hold a decedent's ashes) outside of a nearby museum, and they're simply left sitting there unguarded.  I remarked to my wife that if they were left out like that in America, they would be stolen or vandalized.  

Polite people.  The people here are very polite, and quite helpful.  I'm not saying that there are no polite Americans, but let's be honest; if you go to any city in America, you are bound to encounter rude people.  That's not the case here; the only rude people you are likely to encounter here are Americans.  It's sort of embarrassing actually; we're perpetuating our own stereotype.  

Great local cuisine.  There are a couple of restaurants that I'll certainly miss when I leave here.   One place is a little izakaya near our house (like a neighborhood bar and grill) that serves a variety of Okinawan and Japanese cuisine.  If you want good sushi, there's no substitute for being in Japan!  I'll also miss the "sushi-go-round" restaurants when we leave; they have little plates of individual pieces of sushi circulating the entire restaurant on a little conveyor belt.  You can just reach out and grab the dishes as they pass by your table.  That way, you only have to purchase one piece at a time; if you don't like what you grabbed, you've only spent a couple of bucks on one small dish.  

Amazing scenery.  I'm living on a tropical island; the scenery here, particularly the beaches, doesn't get much better.  The towns and cities are appalling, but the rural areas and beaches are absolutely beautiful.  I'm talking postcard perfect tropical views.  The buildings here ruin many views, since they're all drab concrete structures (even the smallest houses are concrete), but that's the price you pay when you live in typhoon alley.  

Living here has been a positive experience in many ways, and I'm glad that my family and I have had this opportunity.  I'm particularly thankful that my kids have had this experience.  I am, however, more than ready to head to my homeland. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Things We Take for Granted in America

Having spent the last six years living in Okinawa, Japan, I have been compiling a list of things in America that I miss.  The amazing thing about my list is that so many of the items on it are things that I took for granted while living in our great nation.  Now that I'm in a place where I cannot have or experience these things, I truly miss them.  How many of these things would you miss if you couldn't have them for a while?

One of the most overlooked luxuries in our country is the wide open space that we enjoy.  Living on an island teaches you the value of space in a big way (pun intended).  Everything here is small: the roads, the cars, the houses, the stores, the people, the towns...The list is endless.  Most of the people on this island cannot fathom looking across a never-ending landscape with land from one horizon to another.  Don't get me started on the tiny roads and ridiculously low speed limits!  I can't wait to hit a truly "open" road again, or see the mountains, deserts, and plains.  Here's a few more items from my list:

-Food and restaurants.  I never thought I'd say that I miss various fast food joints, but I can't wait to get back and get me some Arby's and Carl's Jr.  Good Mexican food?  It's non-existent here.  Real barbecue?  Forget about that in Okinawa.  A decent steak?  Nope.  Fresh ingredients that are actually recognizable?  Not here.  Well, that's not entirely true, but for the most part, you cannot find fresh produce like you can stateside, and the meat here sucks too.  The fresh stuff out in town is ok, but the selection is very limited and quite expensive.  I will say, however, that the farmers' markets in town are MUCH cheaper than on base!  We just have to go on the internet to try and figure out what some of the produce is.

-Considerate drivers...I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong.  Keep in mind that there's a difference between being rude, and being inconsiderate.  American drivers might be rude, but they're not nearly as inconsiderate as Okinawans.  Okinawan drivers are not only disgustingly unskilled, they are the most inconsiderate drivers I've ever encountered.  They are completely oblivious to other vehicles.  It's routine to see a little bongo truck puttering along the highway at 30kph (about 20 mph) with 20 or 30 vehicles lined up behind it, unable to pass.  Pull over?  Nope, not here.  Okinawans are very polite, but they are not considerate of others.  They might smile and wave, but they'll do it right before they pull out in front of you, stop in the middle of the road, or take half a day to turn through an intersection.  I'll take rude American drivers over this in a heartbeat.  That punk American kid might flip you the bird, but he'll at least get down the road at a reasonable speed.

-Reliable and speedy mail or shipping.  In America, we gripe if we order something online and it takes longer than two days to get to us.  Over here, it's not a matter of days, but more like weeks (or even months) before that small package from Old Navy gets here.  If a company ships via UPS, forget about it.  Letters and packages to and from family are a crap shoot.

-Digital cable, and high definition broadcasting.  I was blown away when I visited my parents and saw HD programming on their television.  The crappy, snowy picture on our TV here is downright annoying.  Old VHS tapes play a better picture than our cable company does.  I don't watch much television, but it sure would be nice to count on a real schedule, and be able to make out all of the details of a sporting event.  I'm also looking forward to enjoying the football season again; I just can't bring myself to get up at 2 AM on Monday morning to watch the games on my crappy cable here. 

-Shopping choices.  My wife and I have become real pros at shopping online; this has grown out of necessity, not choice.  We pretty much have one place we can shop, and that's the base exchange.  Shops out in town are interesting, but not of much use.  Neither my wife nor I can fit into the clothing that is sold out in town, and we wouldn't really want to anyway (they'll slap Hello Kitty on anything over here). 

-Vehicles that don't feel like they'll crumple in a strong breeze.  Vehicles that meet American safety standards will be nice to experience again.  Our tiny little cars here were a novelty when we first arrived, but now they're just crap.  You can't even find a pickup truck here.  What kind of country doesn't have pickup trucks?  I know what you're thinking, but Toyota seems to only market their pickups to other nations.  The 4Runner is what's popular here (called a Hilux Surf here).  

-More than one radio station.  We have exactly one radio station that broadcasts in English, and that is AFN, or Armed Forces Network.  Depending on the day of the week, or time of day, they might be playing rock, country, or R&B.  There are no other choices for radio programming that can be understood.  There aren't even any decent Okinawan stations.  There's a couple of Okinawan AM stations that seem to be talk radio, but that's about it.

There are certainly more things that I miss about America, but this is the short list.  If you think your neighborhood sucks, or that you don't have much to choose from where you're at, try doing without all of it for a couple of years!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veteran's Day-- A Time for Thanks

I hope that everyone I know is enjoying a long weekend.  This weekend is very special, and I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to those that have served our nation in one of the most demanding ways possible.  If you get the chance this weekend, thank a veteran for their service.

I have read and received a few messages of thanks for my own service, and they are warmly appreciated.  I cannot, however, neglect to say thank you to those that have supported me in my own endeavors over the years.

I have to give a warm thanks to my wife and kids.  They have put up with so much over the years that there is no quantity or value that can really be placed on that.  Their sacrifice has been real, and I want them to know that I appreciate it.  The love and support that they have given me is immeasurably important.  I don't know how I could have made it as far as I have without them. My wife has been a rock of support over the years, and her patience, love, understanding, and sacrifices have been truly noteworthy.

To my parents, I say thank you for everything.  I don't have enough room to write a complete list of the things they have done for me, but they certainly did a great job of raising me.  Despite my faults and stupidity over the years, I think I turned out pretty good.  Thanks Mom and Dad; you've always been there for me in many ways.  I also must say thank you to my dad for his service during the Korean War.  Yep; he's a vet too.

To my sister, I say thanks and remind you that you are an amazing woman.  I've not stayed in touch with all of my fellow Marines that I fought alongside during the war, but I have vivid memories of many of them saying things like, "Hey guys, staff sergeant's sister sent another box!"  She even put special things in there that she knew my driver liked; he didn't smile much, but she brought a smile to his face during some particularly dark times.  She's a good friend, and I'm lucky to have her as family.

To the rest of my family and friends, I say thank you for being there.  There is no good way to quantify the love and support that I've been blessed to receive over the years. Just getting a nice email, a letter, or even a phone call can often make a bad day forgettable, or help the push toward getting the job done.  You never know how much somebody might appreciate your efforts.  Thank you all.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Woes of a Teacher

One of my favorite cousins is a teacher.  I think being a teacher is one of the most thankless jobs that you could possibly have.  To make matters worse, she actually cares about the kids that she's teaching.  Can you place a dollar amount on that?

She expressed some distress about the fact that a couple of her kids wouldn't stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance.  She then went on to express her distress over the school's focus on nothing but test scores.  Don't get me started!  I admire her patience for not smacking those kids or, more appropriately, their parents.

I don't have ANY sympathy for a school district that focuses more on test scores than it does on the kids and teachers in their charge.  My cousin sarcastically asked something along the lines of, "You don't do your homework or study for anything but I'm held accountable for your test scores?"  I shout a hearty WTF on that one! 

I shake my head in disgust at the piss-poor excuses for parents that keep sending their offspring into our government de-tuned schools.  I feel bad for the teachers that care; they get shat upon on a daily basis.  To my cousin:  Hang in there and keep making a difference!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Road Runner Sports Is a Class Act

Since I've been spending a lot more time running lately, I've made a couple of purchases from some specialized stores.  One of them is Road Runner Sports, out of California.  They specialize in gear and clothing for runners.  I was initially disappointed to discover that they didn't offer shipping via Priority Mail (USPS), since that's about the only method that works worth a damn for overseas military.  I decided that the wait couldn't possibly be too terribly long with UPS, only to find out that it really can be.

I made a purchase from Road Runner in August, and it still isn't here.  I contacted the folks at Road Runner Sports and let them know that I haven't received my order.  I also suggested that they offer Priority Mail as an option in the future, since they undoubtedly have more than a few overseas military customers.  I received an immediate response to my email informing me that they were sending me a free replacement order via Priority Mail, and apologizing for the slow shipping.  Wow!  Finally, a company that stands behind their products and provides top-shelf customer service!  That seems to be a rarity these days.

I think that in the future, I'll simply phone in my order and ask for Priority Mail shipping (if they don't begin offering it on their website).  Either way, it's a pleasant surprise to come across a company that truly values their customers, and goes out of their way to show it.  I believe that they've just earned a repeat customer.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Week in Review October 2nd

This past week was pretty routine, but I need to remind myself that what I find routine, others may (for some strange reason) find interesting.  I think it's, perhaps, because I'm a little strange that others may find my goings on interesting.  In the past, people would politely refer to that sort of strangeness as being "eccentric."  Oh well, such is life.

I'm currently training for a half marathon that I will run later this month.  I know I could go out and run the 13.1 miles, but I also know that if I train for it, I'll do much better and not find it unpleasant.  I'm enjoying spending more hours on the road, since I find running to be one of the most peaceful things that I can possibly do.  When I'm running, my phone will not ring, nobody will walk into my office to ask a stupid question, no idiot driver will pull out in front of my vehicle, etc.  With Fridays being my "long run day," I put another 12 miles on my running shoes to start the last workday of the week.

I finished reading a book titled Tai-Pan, by James Clavell.  I highly recommend it.  Clavell is the author of Shogun, which was wildly popular in the past, and is still a great read. Tai-Pan is based on the history of Hong Kong, and the settlement there of English traders and colonists.   I read Shogun some while back, and wanted to read Clavell's other works.  The amount of research that he did for his novels is impressive.

My son went to his school's homecoming game last night, and he's heading to the dance tonight.  I know that at least one of my occasional readers also lists Kubasaki High School as their alma mater. I wonder how much it has changed since then. 

After dropping our son off at the dance, my wife, daughter and I are going to dinner at a place called Sauce Live.  We've sampled the food there before and find it quite tasty.  Good barbecue with some Southern sides makes for a pleasant meal.  

The above picture is unrelated, but I thought it was amusing, albeit a little sad.  How was your week?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Somber Anniversary on 9-11

I'm at a loss as to what I could possibly say on this anniversary of one of our nation's dark moments.  I'm sure there will be plenty of "remember when" moments over this.

I have a few more questions to add to the many: Where is the outrage when December 7th rolls around?  Is there less outrage because the sneak attack was directed, mostly, toward military targets?  Is there less outrage because a lack of current memory has dimmed the vile spirit of the attack?  Do our citizens not care because most media outlets don't tell them to?  

On this anniversary of the largest attack on our nation's homeland since 1941, I haven't lost my anger over the one that happened before my birth.   I doubt that I'll lose my anger over the newer attack, despite what hollyweird and news outlets tell me to do.

This is not an occasion for celebration, but it is an important day.  Where are those flags that were flying on almost every house nine years ago?  Put 'em back up!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Underestimated Sources of Amusement

What do you find amusing?  Are there things that you routinely come across that always bring a smile or a laugh to you?  While some things almost always work, there's a few things that I probably take for granted, but still find amusing.  Here's a couple of sources of my amusement.

Stupid people in public.  Humans provide an endless source of amusement for me.  Sometimes they are frustrating, and I find that I have no desire to hang out with crowds of people.  There are, however, always enough folks around that do incredibly stupid things in public.  How about those people that will walk up to a strange dog and attempt to pet it?  Let's think about this one: Hmmmm. Large, potentially dangerous animal that I don't know...I wonder what will happen if I stick my hand in its face? 

Flashy junk on cars.  You've seen the car I'm talking about.  You know that 1983 clunker that parked next to you in the Wally World parking lot?  The one with a blue book value of about 200 bucks, but has 2,000 dollars in junk from J.C. Whitney bolted onto it?  Yep.  That's the one.  I love seeing the beat up old cars with the silly accessories from some mail order catalog hanging all over them.  Thinking about who drives these cars is sort of like trying to picture what the radio DJ looks like, based on the sound of their voice. 

Text Speak.  I know that some people are addicted to sending text messages from their mobile phones.  As this feature blossomed over the last few years, people began establishing shortcuts for many words (LOL, IDK, etc).  People still use these shortcuts, despite the advent of full QWERTY keyboard features for modern mobile devices, and commonly refer to this form of typing as text speak.  Some people will use this text speak stuff when typing at their home computer, or even at work.  Have you ever received an e-mail from someone that was full of the text speak stuff, and you knew that they sent it from their computer?  Have you caught yourself doing it?  How many kids today are growing up with this trend, and how many of them will be incapable of writing a clearly worded document? 

Clothing.  I don't even know where to begin on this one...Some of the garbage that is being sold as high fashion is amusing to me.  I saw a couple of shirts at the PX that looked like they were pulled from the bottom of a trash pile; they were pure junk, and looked like hell.  Perhaps they contained gold within the fabric, because the price was through the roof.  Some of the stuff I see people wearing causes me to giggle a little, and I have to watch them for a few minutes to determine whether or not they meant it as a joke.  I'm not just talking about kids; there's no shortage of adults wearing whatever some dim-witted celebrity tells them is cool.  Another thing about clothing that is amusing is that some styles today seem eerily familiar.  Some of the stuff that was popular in my childhood seems to be coming back around.  Does that mean that we got it right when I was a kid?  

Piercing.  This one is a huge source of amusement.  Have you seen some of the crap that people are now shoving through their ears, noses, lips, etc?  I wonder if they ever get that stuff caught on things.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vacation at Okuma

Not much to say about this one; it was simply amazing.  Here's a few pictures.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mattis Chosen to Head U.S. Central Command

General James Mattis, the blunt yet brilliant four star, has been chosen to head CENTCOM, or U.S. Central Command.  This will place him in charge of all U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, effectively making him General Petraeus' boss.  (Article here)

Mattis is, hands down, my favorite General.  He is a warrior first, politician last, and doesn't bother to sugar-coat anything.   Here's one of my favorite quotes (to Iraqi tribal leaders): 
"I come in peace; I didn't bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you with tears in my eyes: If you fu*k with me, I'll kill you all."
Some would argue that Mattis is a little rough and unrefined; I disagree with that description.  He is mentally sharp, well educated, articulate, and aggressive.  He's well suited to take the fight to the enemy, which is exactly what our nation is crying out for.

Congratulations to General Mattis; may much kicking of ass follow the appointment.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July to everyone that stumbles across this little blog.  It is my sincerest wish that all Americans take a moment to remember exactly what this holiday is all about.

Here is a link that every American should be forced to click: Declaration of Independence.

The text of this historic document is eerily poignant in this day and age.  What's worse is that there are U.S. citizens that vote, and have no idea what this document says.  There are also citizens that pay no attention to the origin of this holiday.

Our nation is not old; it is a child in comparison to many others.  We do, however, have the best one on the planet.  Some politicians, nay most politicians, are trying to change that. Far too many elected servants are trying to turn our nation into the very thing that we declared our independence from! 

Like every other Marine, I have written a blank check to all of you.  I have agreed to defend your right to do just about whatever you want, even incredibly stupid things.  The amount of that check will be filled in whenever I get done serving in this gun club.  I've agreed to pay up to, and including, my very life.  I really do feel that strongly about our nation, and its origins. 

A group of patriots that met in Philadelphia in 1776 felt just as strongly as I do.  I wish that more people would remember their pledge and sacrifices on the occasion of this annual celebration.  Enjoy your cookouts and camping trips.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Soccer Popularity Strangely Absent--How Not Shocked Am I?

Soccer is not as popular in the United States as it is in other nations; this is not disputed by any rational adults.  Some people are horribly vexed by this dilemma, while others are able to easily list the reasons why.  Here's my couple of cents' worth.

A gentleman by the name of Steve McCarthy once wrote that soccer often gives the people of various nations hope, and presents realistic goals of achievement to youth everywhere (except our nation, of course).  Americans are culturally different in that regard.  Which sports do our kids fantasize about the most?  Basketball? Baseball? Football? The feel-good piece by McCarthy sings the praises of soccer, and does it well.  It doesn't really explain why we, as a nation, don't really care about soccer.

 A soccer blogger wrote about his exterminator not being interested in soccer because the U.S. doesn't excel at it.  He goes on to state that this is the norm:
Americans are extremely competitive and always want to excel in everything they do. So, rather than watch a sport where the US will not succeed, the exterminator (and presumably countless other Americans) want to watch something else, something they can win.
I think this guy is horribly misguided.  His bug guy might not be articulate enough to say that he just doesn't give a damn about what many of us find uninteresting, but that doesn't equate to "presumably" countless Americans only being uninterested because we're no good at it as a nation.  The failed logic of that one is glaring!

Another gentleman, by the name of Todd Pheifer writes about America's fascination with violence; I think he may be on to something, but I question some of the associations with European soccer clubs; what's the first thing you think of when someone mentions soccer in England?  Does the word start with an "h?"  It does for me.  American football is indeed violent by nature; is that the source of attraction?  I don't know, but I think not.  I know that there have been some amazing games that I've enjoyed that had no real "highlight reel" hits.  The level of competition between the teams, the dueling between the QB, WRs and opposing defenses, the ballet-like abilities of the RBs, these are the things that inspire football fans! The big hits will always make web gems, but they won't create new NFL fans.

American culture is different than most other nations in the world; this fact needs to be acknowledged by those that puzzle over things like soccer.  Why is NASCAR so popular?  What about baseball?  There's no real mystery over what's going to happen during a NASCAR race; the drivers are probably  going to turn left. If they turned right on some of those oval tracks, I'd probably tune in to that race (yes, I already know that they race on road courses once in a while).  Baseball?  It's slow, and only punctuated by brief moments of exciting action.  Watching a pitcher that puts away a large number of high BA players is fun for me.  Why?  Does my playing of baseball as a child cause me to be interested?  Do all NASCAR fans have a deep-seeded fantasy revolving around driving fast?  

To me, it's not a mystery that soccer is not popular.  I suspect that as youth soccer programs grow and more of those youth reach adulthood (or something close to it), soccer will continue to grow in popularity in our nation.  Just please stop claiming that because I lack interest in a certain sport, I must hate it.  Don't claim that because the U.S. doesn't perform well at it that I must not be interested for that reason; my football team doesn't do very well these days, but I'd still enjoy seeing a live Raiders game!  Stop telling me that I must refer to soccer as "futbol," "football," or whatever somebody is calling it this week; I just don't care.  You can call it hamster ranching, and I'll still not care to watch it. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Bold Statement about Our Society

I was poking around a social networking site today and saw someone's link about an upcoming "documentary" on ESPN.  Now, while I enjoy watching certain sporting events, I would hardly consider professional sports to be the nucleus, or center of gravity of our nation.  Some folks believe differently.

A friend of mine mentioned the date, which is the title of the film, mentioned O.J., and stated that he still remembers where he was that day.  I can vaguely recall thinking, why are people so fascinated with this?

Why indeed?  Why are so many people obsessed with the woes of celebrities?  Where is the outcry over being cheated?  By cheated, I mean that a large number of folks looked up to O.J. as some sort of role model; they then proclaimed that he cannot possibly be a murderer because he was quite good at playing football.  This reminds me of the heated cries of support for a wacko child predator; he couldn't possibly be a bad guy because he was once pretty darned good at singing and dancing.  

These public displays of misplaced loyalty and admiration are a disturbing indicator. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.

Memorial Day was first proclaimed on 5 May, 1868 by General John Logan.  Pictured below is a remembrance ceremony that took place at Belleau Wood, site of a bloody, yet famous battle between German soldiers and United States Marines during World War I.

Please take a few moments on this day to remember what this long weekend is about. (Source article)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Movie Review: Daybreakers

Bottom line up front: Don't waste your time or money.

I sat through most of this movie, and ended up giving in to an overwhelming desire to walk out of the room. It's predictable, the acting is lukewarm at best, and Willem Dafoe actually disappoints in this one. Sad; I like him in almost all of his previous works.

The movie has a neat concept behind the plot, but it's so poorly done that it left me shaking my head. Avoid this one if you can.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chuck Taliano- We Don't Promise You a Rose Garden

One of the most famous Marine Corps Drill Instructors in history, by virtue of a captured moment of intensity, is feeling a bit under the weather. I'd ask that you offer your prayers and kind thoughts for him and his family.

Chuck Taliano was the subject of the above poster, and I have an autographed copy of it. I remember doing my best to be just as intense as him when I was wearing the big hat.

Chuck has been an icon, and a very generous individual. When I was doing my tour at Parris Island, he was at the museum quite a bit, and would autograph copies of the poster. It was sold there to raise money for the museum. I don't think he got anything out of the deal, except the satisfaction of helping the museum out.

Semper Fidelis Chuck; you'll always be a source of inspiration for Marines everywhere.

Chuck in 2004

Friday, May 7, 2010

Google Ranking and Other Search Engines

Have you ever wondered how Google ranks the results that you get when you search for something? What about other search engines; how do they work? The mechanics of search engine rankings (particularly Google) may surprise you.

Google page ranking is actually big business. It used to be bigger, and here's why: Web-based companies used to make money by simply offering to optimize a web site for search engines, and some still do. They banked on the myth that page ranking is some sort of mystery--It's not (at least not any more). The one thing that remains a secret is the exact algorithm that Google uses to rank pages.

Google works in a complicated way, but it's really not as complicated as some folks make it out to be. Google routinely "crawls," or examines web pages for content. In other words, if you publish a web page, Google will eventually examine it, and then index it for search results. If you have any type of site monitoring application, like Sitemeter, installed, you will regularly find page hits (visits), from "googlebot." This is not a person visiting your page, but Google's automated crawler; it's examining, or crawling, your page in order to index it. It's looking for some particular things, and it uses a mathematical algorithm to rank your page, based on those things.

The debate over which things on your page will sway the almighty googlebot is intense; some argue that incoming text links weigh pretty heavy, while others simply stick to the old-fashioned key word content. Here's what those are in a nutshell: If I type a word in this post, and then make it a link to a site (like this: Write on the Right), I've created an incoming text link to that site. The more of those a page or site has, the higher it will be ranked by Google. In addition, if I include certain key words in my blog post (like search engine, Google, SEO, etc), Google will index my site based on those words. The more relevant key words I have in my content, the higher the ranking.

Someone recently said to me that they don't understand how Google can continue to offer such effective search results for free. Well, it isn't really free. Google makes money the same way television stations do, by advertising. How many ads have you come across that link to a Google search result? Probably more than you've really kept track of. Companies also pay good money to get their pages ranked higher in Google search results; that's big bucks for Google too. Also, Google has its fingers in much more than search results; they have their own browser, and many other applications (like Blogger). I wouldn't be surprised if Google fielded its own operating system soon.

One more thing that is often overlooked is the power of blog posts for search engine ranking. My blog, for example, gives every post its own unique URL. Try hovering your mouse pointer over the title of this blog post; you'll see that the post has its own web address. Since the web page for this post also includes a link to my home page (Write on the Right), every blog post that I publish will serve to slightly increase my blog's search engine ranking by creating more incoming links to the home page. Who's confused? In other words, more posts equals more links to everything that I link to on the home page, and the home page itself.

Here's another bit of trivia: Text links work better than image links. What that means is, the text links that I have on a page will cause the target site to be ranked higher (based on what the text link says), while a banner or image isn't as effective in ranking. Google will index and rank images, but it doesn't do a great job of associating key words with them.

Other search engines, like Yahoo,, and Bing, use essentially the same concepts, but Google continues to be the heavy hitter. There are also search engines that are topic specific, such as medical and job search tools. All of this helps to make things easier for us when we need to find information, but it tends to dilute the effectiveness of optimizing your site for search engines.

Here's the bottom line: Links and keywords help ensure that people can find the web content that they search for. The next time you view a professional web page, try looking for the key word content that is intentionally placed there; you might be surprised how much you find.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Leavin' On a Jet Plane

It's that time again: I'm goin' to be a ramblin' man.

I'm heading out tomorrow on that wonderful flight from Okinawa to the land of real Mexican food, Southern California. It's a two week course that I have to attend, and I get a week of leave on the back end of it.

While I'm looking forward to the trip, I'm not looking forward to the trip. Traveling is, by its very nature, a pain in the ass. Some folks love living out of a suitcase, and shuffling through airports; most don't. I'm with the majority on this one. There is certainly a part of me that loves the adventure of the journey, otherwise I wouldn't be in this line of work. Mostly, though, international business travel is a hassle.

I will, however, get to see family, and even a friend or two. That will be nice. I enjoy the scenery of coastal California, as well. I'll miss my wife and kids, but that's part of the package.

See you on the other side.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Endless Supply of WTF

Some of us have the luxury of observing things and asking, "WTF?" It's easy to overlook the fact that other folks have to actually participate in the WTF. The sheer stupidity of the WTF often overshadows the plight of those subjected to it.

Here's an example: Shortly before Christmas last year, I saw a unit running down the road in formation, with every Marine wearing a Santa hat. They were wearing typical "green on green" PT clothing, with the addition of a freakin' Santa hat. They all looked absolutely miserable, except for the CO, who was leading the parade of WTF. This was a fine example of epic WTF that I was able to observe, while others had to actually participate in it.

There are many WTF moments in the Marine Corps; that's just the nature of this line of work. I believe this is the result of a couple of factors. First, stupid people get promoted too. Some guys, and gals, get promoted for reasons other than their leadership abilities; there's no denying that. They can be complete idiots, but because they score high on the PFT, they get selected over a peer for promotion (or they excel in some other particular area other than leadership). Instant WTF generator! Imagine the dumbest kid in your high school class, and then imagine him or her in charge of 100 employees. Can you imagine the WTF moments that would ensue?

Next, some leaders, particularly in the officer ranks, don't give a flying f^ck about the Marines in their charge. They spend their entire careers trying to generate comments for their own fitness reports, and scurrying to cover their asses. When something bad happens in their unit, they implement the most idiotic and useless measures, just so they can say, "This is what I did to fix the unfixable." If they can generate enough items to put on their fitness reports, they get selected for promotion. Yet another WTF generator.

Don't get me wrong; there's no shortage of great leaders in the Corps, but there's also a growing supply of bad examples. This is saddening in the worst kind of way.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Friend in Need

A buddy of mine over at Improvise Adapt and Overcome has suffered a family tragedy; his daughters' house burned down.

His ex wife and his kids have lost everything. If you have the time, stop by his blog and offer a word or two of support; he could certainly use it during these tough times.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week in Review 14 to 21 March

Thankfully, my wife made it back to Okinawa on Saturday night. She's glad to be "home," and I'm glad she's here. I think that my kids were growing weary of my cooking, if you can really call it that. My greatest culinary success was probably the night I went to Taco Bell.

My son had two track meets this week. On Friday he ran the 3,000 meter, and Saturday morning he ran the 1,500 and the 800. He did well in all three events. He wasn't first, but he wasn't last. He worked hard, and he improved over his times from last week. It's good to see him getting better.

We had a power outage at work, and I had to move my class to the officer's club for the morning. We set up a projector and screen, and I used my laptop to give a presentation on, of all things, public speaking. By the time I was done with my presentation, it was PT time. Big, big fun.

I took this morning off of work to get some administrative tasks accomplished today. With my personnel office being located on an entirely different base than where I work (or live), it creates some logistical hassles when it comes time to handle such things as travel claims or pay problems. I guess there is a silver lining though: I get to have lunch with my wife today.

How was your week?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mr. Mom and Week In Review

I guess this is a "two for one special." I didn't update last week, and much has happened. My wife had to fly back Stateside for a family emergency. I am now "Mr. Mom." In addition to missing my wife, I also have the pleasure of trying to do her job; I'm not as good at it as she is.

My son had his first track meet today. I dropped him off at 0800, went and got a cup of coffee at the PX, and got over to the field by about 0900 (when the meet was supposed to start). At 1420, he was finally done with his last event, and I was sufficiently sunburned. Since I was wearing sunglasses, I now have that stupid raccoon look.

My sis had a speaking engagement, and it sounds like she hit it out of the park. Way to go.

I had to drop one of my students for unprofessional conduct. It's disappointing when that happens, but the sheer odds of somebody doing something stupid almost guarantee that it will happen again someday. I hate to say it, but maybe some folks just need to pack their trash and find another line of work. I say that one moment, and then remember how we used to handle such matters several years ago; things have certainly changed.

I took my students on a little "intro run" around the base. Some of them are here from other locations (Korea, main island of Japan, etc), and they are unfamiliar with the layout of the base. I made sure to run by the chapel, the chow hall, the medical clinic, etc. I had my Garmin Forerunner watch on, and when the smoke settled, we had covered 7.1 miles. I felt great and wanted to keep going, but the students were not feeling it. It was good to get them out there and challenge them. Most of them are unaccustomed to running more than about four miles, and this was a good "welcome aboard" moment for them. They can curse me at their leisure.

How was your week(s)?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Week In Review 22 Feb to 28 Feb

I think that the words for the week are, "What the hell."

I tried to renew my family members' passports today, and that was a cluster f^&k. There is a form that I didn't fill out properly, and the reference even states that my command is supposed to fill that sucker out. What a shock. How about if the folks that are in charge of such things publish the instructions somewhere?

I had a nice day off with my wife yesterday, and we went to a neat park. The park even has a pond, and the fish in there think that anything with a heartbeat will provide them with food. Sweet.

My son needs special track shoes for his high school track team stuff. Super. More money to spend.

It could all be worse. I have a roof over my head, my kids are healthy, and we have food in the fridge.

Update: We were shaken out of bed by a 7.0 earthquake this morning at 0530. I guess it was time to get up anyway. The loudspeakers in the area were broadcasting some sort of announcement, but it must not have been important enough to wake up the bilingual person, since it was only in Japanese. If I were a betting man, I would have put money on it having something to do with "tsunami," but that's just a guess.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Movie Review: Gamer

The previews for this movie looked interesting, and the idea is pretty neat, albeit unoriginal. The movie is set in the near future, and stars Gerard Butler as a convict being "played" in a video game. Gamers have the ability to control real people in combat, with our hero being a wrongly convicted soldier, fighting for his life.

The only real star of the movie is Michael C. Hall, known for his role in the hit series, "Dexter," on Showtime. He plays an excellent psychopath, but the whole thing just stinks. I almost fell asleep a couple of times, and there's just too many points in the movie where I asked, "Why in the hell are they doing that?" There's even a creepy song and dance number near the end that just seemed way too silly for the mood of the film.

Overall, this was 95 minutes of my life that was completely wasted. Don't spend money on this movie. Poor plot, poor acting (with the exception of Hall), and a predictable ending. This one should be renamed, "Lamer."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Phishing and Other Scams

I get email updates from a site called, Lifehacker. They currently have an interesting piece that points out the above pictured flow chart, with a link to a previous article about phishing attacks.

It never fails to amaze me how some folks, who seem to be fairly intelligent people, can get taken by scam artists. The guy emailing you from Nigeria with a subject line of "Dear blessed friend," probably doesn't
really have 50 million bucks to share with you!

Here's a few tips that I hope are not new for anyone, but the recent article on Lifehacker tells me that some people just don't see the runaway dump truck heading for them:

-If a strange email has an attachment, avoid it! Only open attachments from trusted sources, and when in doubt, send a separate email to that source and ask them if they meant to send you a file, what it is, etc. I doubt if your freind or relative will cry too terribly hard if you don't watch the video they sent you of some kid crashing his bike into a porta-pottie.

-If you get an email from a company that you do business with, and the email asks you for personal information, report the email to the real company, because they won't do that! Popular methods for this scam include asking you to "update" your info, due to some sort of security "alert." A real email from a reputable company will ask you to simply go to their website, or call them. No reputable company will ask you for your personal information in an email.

-If an email sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Emails telling you that you have won something, and then asking you to send them a fee of some sort, are scams. Don't do it! If an email asks you for your bank account number and routing information, avoid it.

-Thanks! If an email thanks you for a recent contribution to a charity (these are popular after natural disasters, like the Haiti earthquake), and asks you to confirm your credit card number, and you don't hear alarm bells, you should get your hearing checked. Don't send your credit card information, or any other financial info, via email.

-Never give your email password to third party applications, or anybody else for that matter. I know that some sites ask for your email username and password, so that they can more efficiently provide you with some sort of functionality. Don't do it! There used to be some reputable sites that use this feature, and I think that a certain social networking site does the same thing ("help us invite all of your contacts!").

This list is not all-inclusive, but it hits some of the wavetops. If you're unsure, avoid the urge to click with that mouse button. There's more info out there, so do your homework, and don't get taken to the cleaners by an email/online scam.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Week In Review 1-7 February

It seems like I blinked, and my weekend is over. It's Sunday evening here, and I just finished up some school work, enjoyed a plate of pork curry, and now I'm browsing some of my favorite websites. What a wild life I lead, right?

I did a "run-swim-run" workout on Friday, and it was a good time. I was able to beat most of my students to the finish point, and that was a good feeling. I expected to be sore Saturday morning, but it just never materialized. Next time I guess I need to push myself harder, right?

My wife and her friend went to a local Okinawan salon to get pedicures. I don't personally get the fascination with it, but it seems like "nail art" is all the rage here. With the low prices and large number of businesses that provide that service, it's rare to see a woman walking around here
without something creative painted on her toes. My wife got cherry blossoms, given the time of year that it is.

It has been raining all week, all weekend, and is supposed to clear up in time to go back to work tomorrow. Isn't that how it usually works? We had planned a trip to the city of Nago to go check out all of the blossoming cherry trees, but the weather has been far too poor for that. Maybe we'll luck out next weekend.

At work, I have a bunch of staff sergeants as students, and one of the current batch is a prior recruit of mine. In other words, I was his drill instructor. It's very interesting to discuss his experiences with him, and learn about my time as a DI from the "customer's" perspective. I think he is exaggerating some of his memories, since I don't recall being quite as mean as he describes.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Favorite Sites

As I continue to make changes to the chaos that is my blog, I find more and more things that I just can't help but reorganize.

I removed all of my links to other blogs. I put them in my favorites instead. My list of links will now simply be websites that I frequent or find useful. Blogs that I find amusing will be periodically highlighted with blog posts, but I don't need yet another list of links when my bookmarks/favorites and my RSS feeds all work just fine.

If you had a link in my sidebar, rest easy; I'll still visit.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week In Review

This week was a little more relaxed, with one exception: I had a final exam in my economics class. I think I aced it.

My wife and I went out to dinner to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. I guess this means that we're serious about each other, right?

We ate at a place called Sauce Live (website here). The food was
wonderful. The theme is southern soul, and the menu is dominated by barbecue and traditional southern sides. We both had the ribs and chicken dinner, which came with fried potatoes, an amazing coleslaw, and a soft drink. Since this was our first visit, the owner brought us a complimentary order of hot wings to start us off. They were not like most "buffalo" wings, as Sauce Live has their very own hot sauce. Those wings were great, and I wish the place was closer to our house!

On Saturday, I took my wife and daughter to a local Okinawan optometrist to get new glasses. Going out in town is much less expensive than trying to buy glasses at the place on base (gotta love AAFES). The Okinawan couple that run the shop we went to are really nice, and their English is excellent.

A pretty slow week, but Friday's dinner with my wife was nice. How was your week?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review: Windows 7 Inside Out

I've been diving into this book, and it has turned out to be a treasure trove of information. Want to know how to set up custom file sharing settings? How about all of those crazy questions about wireless printing? This book will answer those questions, and even give you details about the tech stuff inside of Windows 7.

Windows 7 is turning out to be a winner. It works well, doesn't give me a ton of popup messages, and does what it's supposed to do. I still have questions about it, and want to know more about tweaking and tuning it, and Windows 7 Inside Out answers those questions.

The authors, Bott, Siechert, and Stinson, are experts in their field, and were privy to insider information during the development of the operating system, or OS. They know what they're talking about. They also had almost unlimited access to Microsoft for tech research, and they ironed out the details. The accuracy of the text is uncanny. If the book says to "click here for X," you can count on clicking there for "X."

The thickness of the book is daunting, but don't let that fool you. The book is well laid out, and the table of contents makes sense. I have no trouble finding the information that I want.

I particularly like chapter 8, "Organizing Files and Information." This is a must-read for anyone using, or thinking about using, Windows 7. Chapter eight goes over the layout of Windows Explorer, and the features that you can now have mucho control over (in a much more intuitive way than in the past). The authors even cover what to be careful about, and where to use caution. They go into greater detail in later chapters.

The chapter on security is something that I wish previous versions of Windows came with! If you set up a home network, you should read this chapter before you go "live." This book will also walk you through the actual setup of your home network. Want to plug your computer into your modem, your router, or go wireless? "Inside and Out" will walk you through it.

Throughout the text, there are little "windows" of text that are labeled as "Inside Out," like the title of the book. These are snippets of insight into the actual workings of the OS. They explain what Windows is really doing when you click on something, or choose a certain menu option. These little gems make the text more palatable, and add a touch of realism.

The book covers so much, that it would be unreasonable to expect a full account here. There is ten tons of info there, and it even includes a fully searchable electronic version on CD, with a few extras.

In a nutshell, this text will help anyone that is wanting to learn the ins and outs of Windows 7. The table of contents will guide you toward your target, and the information is spot on. This book is a keeper.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sleep Talkin' Man

This one is funny. An enterprising lady decided to record the wacky things that her husband says in his sleep, and then blog about it.

See it here: Sleep Talkin' Man
(Language warning, some of it is not suitable for the youngin's).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week In Review

The past week seems to have been a busy one, with work being what it is, and school getting close to crunch time. I have a new batch of students at work, and they are a lively bunch.

I got some great news from back home this week. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that I'm greatly relieved, and I'm sure the rest of my family is too.

A new combined enlisted and Staff Non-commissioned Officer club opened on Camp Foster here recently. My wife and I tried it out for lunch today, and they were serving what appeared to be their Sunday brunch buffet (it's Saturday here). The food was plentiful and pretty fresh. I was somewhat impressed, since most buffet food is barely warm and of questionable freshness. Since it was not Sunday, the price was much better than expected. They sure built a beautiful club, and I hope it gets plenty of use.

My dog knows what the word "cookie" means, and she can even recognize that word when we spell it. I think we've created a cookie monster, but she's not blue.

Windows 7 seems to be working out great for me. My computer seems faster with this OS, I get far fewer popup warning messages, and I'm having fun discovering all of the features that are packed into this version. I get a kick out of the people who tell me that, "Linux can do that!" Super. Enjoy yourself.

I was reminded of the phrase, "Excuses are like a$$holes; everyone has one, and they all stink." I stopped a young Marine in the PX today who was wearing sweat pants. PT gear, or what most folks would call athletic wear, is not authorized for wear on leave or liberty, except when conducting PT, sports, working out at the gym, etc. It's never been authorized for wear in the PX. When I asked the young man if he thought his attire would be considered PT gear, he responded with, "I just got here." I'm not real sure what that has to do with anything, but I guess he thought it was pertinent to the topic. I know I've offered up my own share of excuses in the past, and maybe I just notice it more now.

A buddy at work finally tried making bacon wrapped little smokies, and he quickly realized just what I was talking about after Thanksgiving. I have known for a while now that bacon is one of the greatest foods on the planet, but these little babies sealed the deal for me when my wife made them a few weeks back. They really do taste far better than you think they would. I wouldn't advise anyone to make these if they have an addictive personality. If we made these on a regular basis, I think my waist line would have its own zip code.

Some of you already know about my addiction to gadgets. I have a watch that has a built-in GPS receiver. I've had this little gem for about five months now. It's a Garmin Forerunner 205, and it gives me more information than I thought possible. It even hooks up to my computer, and the included software helps me manage my runs, monitor my performance, and set up future routes. It tells me distance, pace, elapsed time, elevation changes, and all kinds of other stuff. I can set the display up to show me whatever information I want it to, and keep track of my pace while on the go. With a half marathon in my future, this sucker is pretty useful. It also comes in handy when I lead my students on a PT run at work. I can set a steady pace, and work toward increasing that pace as the course progresses. The 205 is a bit on the bulky side, but the usefulness makes it worth it. I don't wear it as an every day time piece, but I've put a bunch of miles on it so far while running. I would recommend this product to others. There are newer versions out there that do other stuff (heart rate monitors, blue tooth updates to your computer, etc), but they cost a lot more money.

That's my week in a nutshell; how was yours?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yellow Box Okinawa--They Just Don't Give a Damn

My wife and I visited the Yellow Box Furniture store today. Yellow Box is a well known fixture here on Okinawa. Unfortunately, they seem to have let their success go to their head.

We stopped by the small shop that they have at our local military exchange. I don't know how that deal was worked out, but Yellow Box can sell furniture at our PX. Anyway, we have been on the lookout for a television stand. Not necessarily a stand really, nor an entertainment center, but a small, simple cabinet. We saw the perfect item at the Yellow Box, and decided to get it.

When we went in to talk to the young lady behind the counter, we asked if we could purchase that very item that was on display. She said that if she had them "in stock," she could not sell us the display model. Fair enough. She got on the phone and spoke to an unknown person, and informed us that they were indeed "in stock." Ok, so where are these "in stock" items?

"Well, they said they can have it there at our main store in two days, or deliver it, which I can set up a date for," she said.

How does that equate to being "in stock?" Sounds to me like the item is "in stock" in some far away place, not here at the store I'm standing in.

Because of that policy, Yellow Box lost a sale. Unfortunately, they don't seem to give a damn about such things, as evidenced by the salesperson's nonchalant attitude. They make plenty of money, due to the fact that they'll extend credit to any service member with a pulse. Is their success the reason that they don't care? Probably. A few young married couples with little or no disposable income are probably lining up to finance a new bedroom set as I type this.

I suppose that this lack of customer service is pretty much the norm everywhere these days.

Update: Since this post continues to gather an astonishing amount of attention, and an equally astonishing amount of irrational comments, I wanted to point out a few obvious (yet overlooked) points:
-This is a personal blog, documenting my experience at yellowdump.  I don't claim to speak for every customer that ever went there.
-There were no unreasonable expectations on my part; I left after they claimed that their item was "in stock," but wasn't.
-Just because you had a great experience at yellowdump doesn't mean that it's impossible for others to have a bad experience; that's just dumb.
-I have no financial stake in taking business away from yellowdump; again, this is just a personal blog.  
-No, there's no reason to suspect that any of the deleted comments were from yellowdump employees/owners, so please stop emailing me and asking (although some are pretty suspicious). 
-For those of you that can't manage to read the entire post, and simply get butthurt by the title, please use the hurt feelings report to document your butthurt.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Look, Same Great Taste

Well, I did it. I filed my old template in the "round file," and started from scratch. Unfortunately, all of my old comments were deleted, as were my links.

I'll have to manually add all of my links back in my sidebar, so please be patient if I had a link to your site or blog. As for comments, it's not a tragedy.

Thankfully, third party comment software is now gone. Blogger will have to suffice until something that works comes along.

If you're interested in a snappy new template, try Theme Craft. They have some really neat ones.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Intense Debate is a Football Bat

Have you ever heard the expression, "You're about as f^c&ed up as a football bat!"? That's about how the comment system on this blog is working out.

Since Haloscan decided to screw its loyal users, and this "Intense Debate" system doesn't work for crap, I have no comment system that I can count on. The XML code on my blog is so screwed up, I don't think it can be repaired. I'm about to scrap it all, and start over with a new template, sans third party comment systems.

I know what you're thinking: "Why didn't you back up your template before you installed (whatever)?" I did. My template, however, has migrated from the old Blogger, to the new Blogger. During the migration, I already had the Haloscan system on there (like a freakin' virus). That's the problem. I have no "clean" version of my template that will work with the new Blogger.

My apologies to the readers that do leave an occasional comment. I wish this new comment system had worked. I don't recommend "Intense Debate" to anyone, in any capacity. It seems amateurish, at best, and completely FUBAR at present. Their own developers, or whatever they are, couldn't even make it work right (after I emailed them a copy of my template code). That just sends me the wrong message.

In the mean time, here's a picture of a monkey riding a dog!