Monday, December 24, 2012

'Tis the Season

Merry Christmas, blogosphere...I've just been laying low. I'll fill you all in here pretty soon. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Truth Hurts...

...but I am the one foolish enough to go around speaking it...

The child in your heart, is frightened in the dark
Your fortress of fear, siege it with a spark
To light your world with love, my tender wounded dove
All that's set aflame is bitterness and pain
'Cause what you seem to fear, is anything sincere
Rather have an act, hiding knives meant for your back
But I'm not one of those, my wilted wild rose
Such a savage garden grows
From every seed of doubt you sow

I thought you'd wanna know...

The child in your heart, is chained and kept apart
A dungeon of dreams that never come to start
A life bereft of love, has wounded you my dove
All you can proclaim is jealousy and shame
How you're right to fear, a truth that is sincere
When your whole life's an act, only liars got your back
And you are one of those, demanding all control
Lilting towards repose
Losing every petal off your rose

I thought you'd wanna know...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Unrelated Information

1. The Drum Doctor and his Literate Lady recently moved into an apartment in the swanky Avenues neighbor hood of SLC. Tomorrow, to christen their new pad, they will be hosting a housewarming party. Interestingly, it is starting mid-afternoon; to get the partying started early, I wonder, or to ensure its early end? I will have to find out.

2. Earlier in the day, the final door-to-door campaign push for west-side state-rep candidate Angela Romero will be going on. I am planning to participate, although the last time that I did a certain needlessly hostile former friend was there as well, emanating ice cold vibes and insisting to meet the campaign manager in a separate spot at the end of the walk - I suppose because, oh my god, I am just such a dangerous and terrifying person, she feels threatened being anywhere near me. I mean, god forbid, I might try to say "hello"...Oh, it would just ruin her day. I certainly don't need to senselessly torment myself, but I want to do all I can to push Romero to victory, even if that means exposing myself to another round of passive hatred from a delusional narcissist.

3. I have three new songs in the works: one is kind of a ska/punk number with some interesting changes, another is a lament for lovely girls that self-sabotage due to insecurity, and the final an ode to my so-called 'crazy' best friend Mr. Bombs. The final song is a little bit disjointed, with a distinctly different feel to the verse and chorus, which I think mirrors the theme of the lyrics - although Remodel Man just found it frustrating. I was showing the song to the band last week, and Remodel Man proclaimed "That was fucking confusing! Dude, I don't play math rock!". While I share his distaste for songs that are needlessly complicated or overly jammy, I think the song is an interesting mash-up of styles, with just a slightly unconventional structure...but, perhaps it will have to stay in my solo catalog...

Have a great weekend everybody, and don't let the haters bring you down!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

War Story Wednesday: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

So I really do want to write an essay-style post about my personal experiences with female service members and my outlook on women in the military in general. Still, it is a difficult topic for me, on which I am emotionally conflicted. I'll work on organizing my thoughts, outlining what exactly I am trying to say, and get it written up in the near future.

For now, I was thinking about doing something topical, though hopefully not too politically divisive. In the final presidential debate this past Monday night, one of the topics discussed was military spending, with Romney advocating for increased defense spending and Obama pressing his view that it is unnecessary. Romney's contention is that in an increasingly unstable world, with the U.S. apparently stuck in the role of world police, our military needs to be even larger, stronger, and better equipped. Obama in turn spoke to a change in the nature of modern warfare and emphasized the efficient use of resources to obtain the maximum capabilities at the least cost.

This reminded me of the make-do attitude prevalent throughout the Marine Corps. Almost from the beginning of its creation, the Marine Corps has been a target for critics as unnecessary, outdated, or redundant. As a result, Marines get far less funding than other branches, often relying on Army 'hand-me-down' equipment and vehicles. I found these charts to help make my point:

First, we have a breakdown of the composition of the military by branch:

A little bit out of date, but if anything, the size of the Marine Corps has decreased since 2007. I believe the figures I heard recently were drawing down the total end-strength of the active-duty and reserve component of the USMC from roughly 220,000 to 190,000 Marines, roughly. I think the other branches may have had force reductions recently as well, but the ratio is probably the same.

Now, here is a breakdown of military spending by branch; notice that the Marine Corps funding comes from the portion allotted to the Navy:
A quick division problem shows us that the Marine Corps' $24.9 Billion makes up a paltry 4.8% of the $515.4 Billion in total military spending. So, while the Marines make up 14% of our total armed forces, they receive less than 5% of the money. How does that work out? Because Marines pride themselves on doing more with less. I mentioned army-hand-down equipment: The M1A1 Abrams tank was the deadliest and most survivable tank the world had ever seen when it first came into use by the U.S. Army, though the Marines didn't get them until a few years later. Since then, a newer version, the M1A2, has replaced the older version in the Army. Not so for the Marines, who have inherited the old army tanks. And, rather than buy brand new M1A2 tanks from the manufacturer, the Marines did an extensive maintenance overhaul to keep their tanks in top form (known as 'Service Life Extension Program', or SLEP). 

More recently, I saw the Commandant of the Marine Corps (their top man and representative to the Joint Chiefs of Staff) talking about prioritizing new Marine Corps spending in light of reduced budgets, around the time of the debt-ceiling debacle. During my time in the 'Corps, the hot new vehicle in development was the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a replacement for the aging fleet of amtracks. Even though this new vehicle was the stated number one ground-combat priority, the Commandant voluntarily recommended that the program be cancelled. While there was pressure to reduce all military spending, since the EFV program was the Marine's highest priority, they could have kept it. But, it was already starting to run over-budget, and the Commandant instead opted to put off developing a new amphibious assault vehicle while in the meantime the current amtracks, you guessed it, got a service-life extension re-fit. 

If the Marines, the Few and the Proud, can get so much done with so little...if they can be so few, and get fewer dollars still, yet remain proud...maybe the rest of the military could try as well?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Totally Un-Motivated Tuesday

Well, I find myself suffering from a case of "The Blergs" today. I don't really have the motivation to write about anything in particular, and if I can somehow summon the verve, I will probably just start a draft for tomorrow's war story post. I was thinking that last week might actually be the first week where I would have made a post all five weekdays, but alas, I got busy on Friday and didn't make it.

I've been thinking it might be fun to start painting some Warhammer 40k models again; there are some newer ones that I think are pretty cool. I would like to check out that new main set they've put out; very cool Dark Angels models that I was thinking would be fun to convert into robe-wearing blood angels. Of course, then I would start to get the bug to play again, and since there is a new edition, it would take me a while to get a feel for the rules changes, and even longer to figure out a solid list for my army. And, there is the big issue, the one that contributed to my long break from painting and playing: I don't have any good friends to play with. I was making a few, when I was playing in those tournaments a few years ago, but I couldn't really see myself just 'kicking it' with any of those guys. Well, maybe a few, but then the store moved and AH! It would be an uphill battle.

Well, hopefully I can get over myself. Stay positive, Captain, and look on the bright side...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Cat Attack Continues

Isn't she just precious? She sure is! And very silly, too:
But how is she getting along with her cat-uncle, the notoriously ornery Rowdy? Well, they certainly enjoy playing together:
 How do the gruff old tom and the new tiny terror do outside of playtime? Pretty good...
I think that's enough cuteness to get anyone through the second-to-last workday this week!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

War Story Wednesday: A Few Good WOMEN

For today's installment of War Story Wednesday, I wanted to address another disturbing occurrence that I personally observed: the treatment of women in the military (and the Marine Corps, specifically). Now, I have some specific anecdotes I could share...but I got distracted from writing my post, and now that the day is going on...I don't feel up to getting into it.

Rather, for now, I wanted to point out a couple of non-personal items relating to women in the military:
  1. First, I hope everyone out there understands that the nature of the two recent 'wars' has necessitated the involvement of female service members in an unprecedented way. Due to the quick overthrow of the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the resultant lengthy and turbulent occupations, women served on the front lines in a direct way like never before. Many of these brave women were near the action so that they could be close at hand in the event that a female Iraqi/Afghan needed to be searched. 
  2. Unfortunately, this was because of the enemy's willingness (sometimes even preference) to use women as suicide bombers. Although, I think that this was a rarer occurrence than it was hyped to be.  For example, there have been over 160 suicide bombings in Israel since the year 2000, only 8 of which were women. In Iraq specifically, an intelligence report showed that female suicide bombers were mainly used to assassinate specific individuals.
  3.  As a result, female Marine Corps officers will be attending Infantry Officers Course at Quantico, for the first time ever. One of my college professors, himself a former Marine officer, expressed his mixed feelings on the matter to me. His hesitation, shared by many, is the potential danger of female soldiers and Marines serving on the front lines being wounded or killed. Before you fly off and call him a condescending patriarchal male control freak and declare that women should be able to decide for themselves, it isn't simply the 'patriarchal male protective instinct' skewing the opinions of guys like him. It is the idea that most decent men are instinctively more protective of a wounded female than a wounded male, and, are more likely to freeze up or break down at the death of a female than a male comrade. My professor's hesitation was especially aimed at the idea of infantry units being under the command of a female officer; again, I know it sound patronizing and bad, but let me explain a bit more on his behalf. He was worried that a unit under the command of a woman would be much more likely to fall apart if their female commander were wounded or killed. At the risk of inviting feminist wrath onto myself (a statement that itself is likely to incite said wrath - sorry ladies, it's true), I have to say that I agree with him to a point. I know that there was only one female operating from my base in Iraq who was killed, and I spoke with her exactly once, but when I heard about her death...well, I was totally shaken. I remember her name: PFC Steele, from the Army National Guard. I don't remember the names of any of the guys from my base who were killed, even though there were 8 from my own battalion and several more from a supporting unit serving with us. Okay, I guess that is sexist? Go ahead and tell me how I am part of the problem...
  4. To end the list on a positive note, I recently discovered the facebook group "U.S. Marine Corps Females". I am a huge fan, because it isn't an exclusive group only for the Women Marines themselves, it just celebrates the idea of women being Marines, and the Marine Corps in general. Semper Fi, my sisters!
Overall, I have the utmost respect, pride, and brotherly/sisterly love for my comrades of the female persuasion. There are just a lot of problems that go along with it, though yes, the majority of the problems are spawned by indecent men. The kind of jock-bro men's men who view their sisters-in-arms as merely a less-capable soldier/sailor/air(man)/Marine, placing them at risk with their girlie-airheaded incompetence, good for little else than sex - "but she'll probably claim it was rape just to be a bitch." I think that prejudiced assholes like that should be made to serve on a "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy; I won't ask you if you're a total dickhead, and you don't act like one. 

Maybe next time I'll actually get a little more into my personal examples...