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?

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...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Little Lower than Literature...

...but still some great reads!

I've been reading a fair amount lately, as the written word can be so wholly-engrossing, to keep my brain stimulated and to help lighten my heavy heart. I finally finished up Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, about a World War II nurse mystically transported to 1700s Scotland. If I understand correctly, this is the book responsible for popularizing the literary genre of "time traveling romance." Well, it was pretty good, although it ended a bit abruptly and without satisfaction - no doubt to entice readers to grab its sequel, "Dragonfly in Amber". I am not so excited to start that book, as the friend who recommended the series to me is presently upset with me and being intentionally distant, so...I won't really have anyone to discuss the next novel with.

Also, I've gotten myself wrapped up in another series: the Sookie Stackhouse novels, by Charlaine Harris. These books, which are the basis for the popular HBO series "TrueBlood", are a quick and captivating read. Also, having seen three seasons of the television show, it is interesting to note the many differences. In a way, it is that rare example of the transition from page to screen adding more content instead of cutting this. A lot of it has to do with the narrative structure and first-person perspective of the novels; every book is told from the perspective of Sookie, so all of the scenes involving other characters that form the numerous subplots of the HBO series are either absent altogether or are mentioned in past-tense to Sookie. But overall, they are very enjoyable - vampires, shape-shifters, and telepaths - oh my!

Well, that is what I have been up to; that and writing a couple of new songs. I guess I'll get back to it. Hopefully I'll have a good Wednesday War Story to tell tomorrow, but in the meantime, I will be enjoying Sookie's vampiric escapades.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cat Attack Thursday!

Look at these cuties! 

On the left we have the elder Frankish statesman: Anri Rowdy les Chat,

 on the right, his darling young Latin cat-niece: Lilliana Bella las Gato.

  They are getting along fairly well, even maintaining civility at mealtime:
I'll have to keep the camera handy and snap some of photos of their cuteness in action, come playtime...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Unrelated Information: Choose Wisely

This Friday night, there are no less than three (3!) events competing for my attendance:

1. The violinist from Genre Zero has taken up with an additional band, the gypsy ensemble "Juana Ghani". They are playing a show tonight at Fats Grill. Support our fiddler! And also, maybe, ask her about that certain alt-rock band that she plays in...

2. I've been volunteering on weekends with a friend, Angela Romero, who is running for the Utah State House of Representatives. Tonight, she is hosting a fundraiser/birthday party, with a 'roaring twenties' theme. The theme was explained to me as stemming from the fact that her home district is #26, so throw on your best zoot suit (isn't that from the twenties? Or more like the thirties? Oh well), shiny dancing does, and tear it up with SLC's moving-and-shaking young democrats. At the Frida Bistro/Rico Warehouse

3. It's the 'First Friday' of the month, and that means that the monthly community gathering is going on in the garden under the billboard, AKA Urban Growth Community Garden. This is probably where I will actually end up, as it is just a few blocks down the street. Also, I am curious to see if those hooligans will come back!

Have a great weekend, and be sure to check back next week for the return of "War Story Wednesday"!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

We Interrupt This Regularly-Scheduled Broadcast... bring you a kitty!
I brought her home from the shelter on Tuesday, and she has hardly stopped purring since! It was kind of meant to be; I went looking for a smaller 8-week-old kitten, but the one I was looking at was taken. Curiously, while I was looking at the younger kitties, this slightly older black one in the next cage over was mewing at me. When they told me that the small gray guy I was holding had already been adopted, and was just awaiting pickup, I then went over to this little gal's cage to check her out...and she cautiously crept to my outstretched hand...then started enthusiastically loving on me! We totally bonded then, and I knew that I just had to have her...

...I've since named her Lily, and she's been following me around the house, only pausing her demands for petting and cuddling to eat, sleep, and explore. She's even been getting along great with our old-man kitty, Rowdy. We were worried he might feel that he was being 'replaced', but just this morning they were laying on the same chair, and he was grooming her!

Say it with me now: "AWWWWW!"