Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!  It's a beautiful fall day here in North Carolina, and I'll be frying a big ole bird soon.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Relocating to The South

My family and I have just relocated from Okinawa, Japan, to Eastern North Carolina.  We spent some time on leave in California in order to visit family, followed by a circuitous drive across the nation.  I've made some interesting observations during our transition.  I used to think that people in America were very rude compared to the people of Okinawa; that belief was effectively dashed upon driving through and settling back into The South.  

Folks on the coast of California met my expectations:  Rude, impatient, and linguistically challenged (family and friends didn't seem to fall into this category).  As we worked our way eastward, we met more folks that made me ashamed of the fact that I'm from California. 

When we got to The South, we were reminded of why we liked it here so much in the past; the people are really that much nicer.  If you look at someone on the sidewalk, they say hello.  If you slow down and ask someone for directions, they help you out, and might even give you directions to their competition's place of business.  The folks in the restaurants don't care that you sound different; they go out of their way to help you and make your meal pleasant.  Many of the things I've seen here would be met with anger or violence on the Left Coast.  It made me thankful that my parents raised me the way that they did (Neither of them are from California).

I have to say that our moving to North Carolina has reinforced my belief that California is a terrible place to live.  Even with a huge hurricane on the way, this place is just so pleasant that it sneaks up on you.  Coming from the jungles of Okinawa, the bugs here aren't even that bad.

I typed this out when we first got here, and it holds true today. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Typhoon Damage Stuff

Here's a few shots of the damage from the typhoon...Luckily, we escaped any damage to our home.  We watched a few patio covers get torn away and, as you can see above, there's a few trees uprooted and broken.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Okinawa Typhoon Season

Here's a picture of the super typhoon that is heading our way.  The island of Okinawa is circled in red.  This storm comes at a perfect time, as we are in the process of moving out of our house.  No need to clean the outside of our home, the storm will scour it for us!  It does put a bit of a damper on our Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Deuce Gear" AKA: Supply Issued Field Gear

Washin' the junk

In the earlier days of our Corps, our supply section was run entirely by Marines, and they were in charge of issuing out our field equipment (packs, helmets, tents, etc).  We called it "782 gear," or, "deuce gear," for short.  This was because you typically signed for the gear on a NAVMC 782 form.

Those days are long gone.  Now, the gear is maintained and issued at a "Consolidated Issue Facility," run guessed it, civilians.  They're a bit nazi-like when it comes to cleanliness of the gear upon turn in.  The ironic part is that most of my junk is obsolete and will be simply thrown away.  I still have to scrub it with soapy water and basically waste a day of my life getting any dust or stains off of it. 

It gets me one step closer to getting out of here though...

You know you have a tolerant wife when she doesn't complain about body armor hanging in her bathroom. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Moving Day is Approaching

My wife and I have been keeping busy by preparing for our upcoming move.  I tell myself that this is the longest we've been in one spot, but we've actually moved two times since arriving here in Okinawa.  After almost twenty years in this gun club, we should be old pros at moving by now, right?

We know enough to get ourselves from point "A" to point "B," but it sure seems like this doesn't get any easier over time.  I do sort of like going through some of the closets and such and finding things that I know I've looked for in the past: "Oh!  That's where this was!"

Another fun fact is that summer is the busiest time for moving in the military; it's often referred to as "PCS Season."  With that, everyone around us seems to be getting ready to move.  In the past, if we were preparing for a move, we could count on giving away stuff to our neighbors.  For example, the movers won't pack up cleaning supplies or liquids of any kind; this is the perfect stuff to hand off to a neighbor, but not if they're getting ready to move too!

It will be interesting to see how much our household goods weigh after the movers pack it up.  I'll dig out the paperwork from when we moved here and compare notes!  Perhaps I should make a small wager with my wife over how much junk we have accumulated since moving here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Common Sense in the Military

Having recently received orders back to the good ol' U.S., I now get to go through the time-honored hell known as "checking out."  Any time a military member gets orders to PCS (permanent change of station) to a new location, he or she must check out of various agencies at their current location.  

I've always looked upon the check out process with disdain, but I was truly blown away when I got my check out sheet this time.  Each location that I must go to is represented with a little spot for some representative to initial or stamp the sheet, which is two pages long!  Some of the agencies and such that are listed on this sheet are just absurd.

I like the Chaplain (the last one I actually met anyway), and think he's a great guy, but I cannot figure out why on earth I need to go see him in order to move to a new duty station.  The Red Cross?  Are you kidding me?  

Not only do I need to visit offices that I really have no need to visit, but they have certain hours (and days) for checking in and out.  Far be it from me to inconvenience these various support agencies...You would think that I'm here to support them, instead of it being the other way around.  

This entire process will involve me driving all over the island (all the offices are certainly not located on the same base) and wasting many hours that could be spent doing something useful.  At the end of it all, some disinterested PFC will glance at my checkout sheet and trade me a set of plane tickets for it, followed immediately by throwing the check out sheet in the trash can.  Brilliant!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Movie Review: The King's Speech

Bottom line up front:  This is a great flick, but you should watch it during the day.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, despite it being a bit of a slow starter.  The subtle humor wasn't so subtle that I didn't get it, and it was a moving piece with true historical significance.   

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush did a wonderful job, and they are to be lauded for their portrayals of difficult characters.  

I found myself rooting for the main character throughout, and was emotionally moved at the end.  

This movie is not action-packed, so don't expect it to be.  It is, however, interesting and worthwhile.  I found this flick to be worth my time and would recommend it with enthusiasm as a daytime or early evening diversion.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: In the Company of Heroes by Michael Durant

 Chief Warrant Officer Michael Durant was piloting a Special Operations Blackhawk helicopter over Somalia when he was shot down on October 3rd, 1993 and subsequently captured by the forces of Somali warlord Mohamed Aidid.  This book is Durant's recounting of his time in hell.

This book impressed me with it's accuracy and with Durant's modest writing style.  He doesn't praise himself nearly enough, which is refreshing.  He does, however, sing the praises of those that he served with, especially those that gave their lives trying to save him.  

This is a powerful story, and the book is very well done.  It sheds a small sliver of light onto the dark world of special operations, and it illustrates the bonds that warriors have.  Durant's memories and notes come alive in ways that will make you cringe one moment, and laugh the next.  He's got a talent for telling a story.

I recommend this book with enthusiasm; it's well worth your time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Movie Review: Hereafter

Bottom line up front:  Yawn.  This one is a sleeper.

I'd love to tell you how this movie ends, but I cannot.  Neither my wife, nor I, could stomach this one to the end.  We turned the damned thing off and watched the Discovery Channel for a while before going to bed.  It was that boring, really.   

I kept waiting for something remarkable to happen with the plot, but it just didn't materialize.  This movie is boring with a capital B.  

Don't waste your money or time on this one.  Perhaps when it is on cable, you can watch it before bedtime.  It would certainly help you sleep.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Government Shutdown and the Military

The potential government "shutdown" is a disgrace.  It's embarrassing as hell.  Each side blames the other for what should never have happened in the first place.

Let us backtrack a bit.  When was the budget originally supposed to be finalized?  I'll give you a hint:  It's due to be implemented before the start of the new fiscal year.  Still confused?  Try October 1st, 2010.  Who was in charge of (had a majority in) both chambers of Congress then?  Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Now we find out that our military will stop getting paid.  Does anyone else see the absurdity of this?  Members of Congress must get paid; it's in the Constitution.  Our military does not have that protection, despite the protection that the military provides to those same members of Congress. 

Luckily, I have enough savings set aside to get through this mess (for a while anyway), but many young families do not.  Many families that signed on for the sacrifices that come with military service are going to be left short. They probably thought that they could rely upon our government to hold up their end of the bargain.

Please write to your representatives, and even your unresponsive Senators, and tell them that they need to get off of their collective asses and do the job that we hired them to do. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Life Lessons, Good and Bad

I had a neat experience at work yesterday: I sat on a panel of Marines that were charged with trying to explain to a young Corporal why his unprofessional Facebook post was a bad idea.  I won't go into specifics, but let's just say that the lad had tactlessly whined about a certain group of Marines, and we assembled a panel of senior Marines that closely reflected that same grouping...poor guy. 

It was an excellent time to explain to him something that I occasionally lose sight of:  Every human being represents an opportunity to learn a lesson, be it good or bad.  Time for me to wax philosophical again...

I've mentioned before that my wife is an amazing woman; I'll go ahead and echo that again here.  She's an optimist, and I admire that.  I'm woefully short of optimism most of the time, as a result of my more "realist" approach to life (that's the code word for pessimist).  She tends to see the good in people at times when I cannot.  That leads me into the nucleus of this post, which is that we should value even that which we know is bad; it serves a useful purpose.

We often spend enormous amounts of time griping and whining about those that we disagree with or don't like; that's human nature in its basest form.  We don't seem to be very good at stopping and realizing that we should look to the advantage that those people bring us.  Instead of saying that you have to work or live with so-and-so, you should be saying that you get to work with them; it's an opportunity to learn. 

Some people spend their entire lives as a negative lesson, or an example of what not to do.  You've undoubtedly seen the demotivational posters about that, right?  Why spend your time complaining about that?  Why not spend your time learning from it?  So what if you've got a crappy boss; use that as a lesson on how not to lead when you get promoted into his or her position! 

If only we could follow that advice, right?  That's where my wife comes into play; she's far better than me (and most people I think) at seeing the silver lining in a grey cloud.

I just have to keep reminding myself that every negative person I meet is not a detractor to my life, but a useful addition.  Here's to hoping that we can all get a little better at following this simple lesson.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stupid--Don't Get it On You

I was browsing through some of the stuff that people post on a particular social networking site, and came across yet another case of terminal stupidity.  Dumbassery just doesn't go away these days, since there are endless barriers in place to protect the stupid people from themselves (lawsuits for hot coffee being hot is a prime example).  

So a certain person posted something on their site about drivers flicking cigarette butts out of their car windows and how much they are annoyed by that.  The original poster's friend then posted a comment stating that we should all call 911 to report these offenders for littering when we see it...Really?  911?  

That person votes, breeds, and drives.  Comforting, isn't it?