A tour in a single post

Sunday, November 16, 2003

One of those days.

I slept in today, was kinda nice.   Haven’t had a day off in about three weeks.  Normally sunday is the day of sleeping in for me, but for the last few weeks I’ve been involved in weaponry training on my days off.   Teaching other nationalities how to operate US weapons and them training me.

I’ve trained with maybe a dozen countries by now.   Most assault rifles tend to be of similiar design, so they’re not too complex to learn.   Heavy machine guns are a wee bit more complex.  Specifically, every single one has a different barrel replacement procedure.   In other words, when you shoot a lot of rounds very quickly, you have to change out the barrels before they start to melt.

Thus far my favorite weapon is the Finnish version (Sako) of the AK-47.

Time for chow.

unday, November 16, 2003


My ER1 robotics unit should be getting here sometime soon.

Working on some modifications.  Propulsion, power and onboard electronics.

Propulsion is gonna be expensive.   The default wheels are rather weak.  Solid plastic with no special traction.   So, it’s going to be a switch to either treads or high traction tires.   Treads, I would go with a custom joby from a conveyor belt manufacturer I know of.   High traction tires are around, but they’re barely a step up.

Power is the battery unit.   There’s a bunch of different batteries around.  Lead acid being the cheapest and heavy, polymer lithium ion being the most expensive and lightest.   Probably go with a standard lithium ion or NiCad as well as a docking station for charging.   Have to build a circuit that will monitor voltage levels, when the voltage drops too low the circuit will order the robot back to the docking station.

Other addons will be of course, weapon modules.   Rockets are rather easy to work with.   Simply run a line from the serial port over to a simple circuit on the weapon module.   Probably make a few rocket pods for ease of reloading.   Automating the rocket pod switching is possible, but that’ll be at some point in the future.

Other considerations are AirSoft automatic BB weapons or paintball rounds.  These of course are non-lethal weapons.  Unless someone screws with the velocity or ammo of the weapons.  Both systems have version with electric firing mechanisms, which is relatively easy to set up.  Simply send a signal to the port.   Might make a safety circuit that the robot has to disarm before it fires, so it won’t accidently go full auto.

Probably add some sonic sensors.  They work better than IR or visual for two reasons.   Good range, and they operate in any environment.   IR sucks on tracking black objects, because black sucks up all light (including the IR band).   It’s also short range.   Visual can also be deceived with too much or not enough visiable light.   Sonic works on any solid object, regardless of lighting conditions.   There are some good electronics on the market for working with multiple sensors.

Monday, November 17, 2003


Weather here sucks.   Cold and damp.   Around here, late fall and early winter is the rainy season.  Had to get up at 0500 for a damn meeting.  Watched a black market copy of Matrix Revolutions, which is technically legal because there are no laws on copyrights here.

Earlier I watched the sun start to set around 1700 (5 pm).  I thought about how soon I’ll be coming back to the United States.   It’s been a while.   A lot of my friends have moved on or graduated.  I have no idea where the hell I’m going to live.  College is there for me, obviously.   But do I want to go back to dealing with the general college population?   Most of them have done nothing with their life.  They don’t know what it’s like to go a week where sleep is a two hour chunk here or there.  Or staring at a huge lake hidden at the top of a mountain range while waiting for an evac chopper, freezing because the wind chill is pushing the temperature close to zero.

I’ve seen plenty of things I wish I could forget.   Yet, I don’t want to forget them.

The holidays are coming up.  I’ll be out in the mountains.  Some of my friends back in the States asked me what I wanted as gifts.   I have no idea.  I don’t want movies or CDs.  I have enough books.  I really want for nothing.  Everything I need I can procure easily enough.   Wants?   Well, I have some electronics that are handy and occupy my time.   Damned if I know what I want.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

My boss is out of the office at the moment.   It’s nice to often have a decent sized office to myself.   On the totem pole, personnel on the lowest rung DO NOT get an office to themselves except when it’s mostly used as storage space.   I’m literally stuck between lawyers and priests, which is pretty amusing.   The Law and God are on my sides, as I like to put it.

Looked into buying a HK94/MP5 clone.   Not too badly priced at $1200 but I still don’t want to shell out that much.   So I’m thinking of going with a MPA 971 9mm semiauto “Sports Rifle”.   Basically it’s a pretty ugly 9mm carbine that has a 70 round drum.   Reminds me something of a modern Thompson.  If one used hollowpoints, it would be a very good defense weapon.  Need to see if a Pennsylvania Concealed Weapons Permit would allow it to be concealed.

Personally, I’d rather have the micro-SAW that Swedish Special Forces let me play with.   It’s a M249 SAW with a cut down barrel, an extendable stock, optics rail, and a few other extras.  When fully compacted, it’s maybe two and a half feet long.  Doubt US laws will ever let me have one.

I had a good time shooting with the Swedes.   Great guys, probably the most fun I had since I got here.  Literally fired off thousands of rounds.  The range was a sea of spent brass casings.  I ended up coming back that day wearing more Swedish gear than American.   Had on a Swedish Sergeant cap, a mess of their unit patches and a combat knife.   They informed me that I was welcome to any bar near any Swedish base, and that I was one of their brothers.   So, if I ever go to Stockholm, they’re gonna throw one hell of party for me.  The offer still stands for any of the Swedes come stateside.

Saw Matrix Revolutions.  It was pretty good.  Agent Smith at his best yet again.  Decent music.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003


Back from Bulgaria.  With a bit of a headache.  Doing a row of vodka shots will do that.

If one ever goes to Bulgaria, I recommend hitting the cultural sites, walking around downtown Sofia and drinking the lager called “Zagorka”.  It’s cheap, and ain’t too bad.  I think I was paying $0.75 per bottle.

Went to see some various castles, some very old Bulgarian Orthodox churches, and a number of night clubs.  All were very impressive.  The hospitality was incredible in most places.  No place will automatically serve you a check, one must ask for it.  They see it as rude to interrupt your meal.  Course, it drives one near insane remembering that shaking your head means “yes”, and nodding means “no”.   Just go with “da” and “nee”.

Went to a casino to pass some time.  The floor manager was formerly a member of my Division.  I honestly did not believe him until he started rattling off the old places he went to drink outside of the small base the division comes from.  Small world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Spent the morning in a helo.   Winds got pretty bad in the mountains.  The damn aircraft was flying at a 25 degree tilt because of the crosswinds.   Still, I got a chance to get out and around.

Just finished up “Red Rabbit” by Clancy.   Decent stuff, involved around the attempted assassination of the Pope.  More I get around, the less amusing I find “action thriller” books.  Some of them are pretty accurate, but it’s just not the same.  Techno Thriller books are just bloody amusing.  Considering how often Microsoft products crash, I would not trust computers with my life if I could avoid it.  When I say this, people often point out computers in cars or airplanes.  Most cars have microcontrollers rather than full fledged computers.  ICC chips embedded in vehicles are technically “computers” in that they compute numbers, but they are moreso overgrown special purpose circuits rather than general purpose computational devices.

The more complex software gets, the more likely the odds of errors creeping in.  Not just coding problems, but often enough design problems that crop up.  Managers give different specs to differenct prograsmmers.   They often change the specifications without giving notice to all the programmers and generally do not completely check that the old code is compadible with the new requirements.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Finished the frame for my robot, WINTERMUTE.  Not too shabby.  I wish I had access to Radio Shack or any other electronics store.   There’s a lot of things I want to add or change but it takes weeks to get parts out here.  I don’t care for the front wheels especially.  I want to go more with a suspension system closer to RC cars.

There’s plenty of room for improvement on the hardware, but programming it will take time.  A program called Stragos is great for visual mapping and such.   One lays out a grid map of whatever environment.   You can set routes and such.  I wonder if it comes with the API to have the robot use sensory feedback alter the maps on the fly or if I’ll have to code ’em.

Picking up a good mic and a set of external speakers.  Also need a USB hub.   Blah, so many USB devices.   Thank all deities for USB, I’m old enough to remember serial and parallel ports.  Always hated them.  USB devices are getting better and better.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Another cold rainy day.  This apparently is the wet season in this part of the world.  In a way, it’s kinda nice.  Very quiet except for the light sounds of the rain hitting metal.

I wish it’d start snowing.   This place looks very beautiful when covered in snow.

Sometimes I stare into the night sky and wonder what’s going to happen.   Eventually I just let it soak in that whatever happens will happen whether I like it or not.  One must bend to the circumstances of one’s position.  The willow tree bends in the wind until the time comes that there is a wall of willow trees.  Then the wind bends to the willows.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Got some presents in the mail.  Bunch of nifty stuff.  One of my friends sent me a mini Rock garden.  I used to own one a long time ago.  Also a nice lil water fountain.  I like it.  Kinda relaxing.  Ever since the incident involving me sending three military police to the hospital, I was unfairly stereotyped as being a bit on the violent side.   So I get some interesting looks when I’m working on my rock garden and meditating.  There is a place and time for everything.   Just because I happen to be good at something (violence), does not mean I wish to employ it all the time.

Got a copy of Underworld on DVD.  Great movie.  The imagery was very beautiful.  Could have been better in a few minor details, but all and all, I liked.  The costumes were pretty decent.

Lately I’ve been feeling kinda off.   Maybe it’s the short days and long nights.  It’s fairly dark by 4:30pm.  By 5:30pm, it’s very dark.  Haven’t been sleeping well and I’ve been dreaming lately.  Can’t say I care for dreams very much.  The end of my stay here is coming to a close fairly shortly.  But that’s not what’s bothering me.  Something else is.  Can’t put my finger on it exactly.

I look like hell.  More than normal.  I need a long vacation.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Snow.   It almost looks nice around here when it snows.  It hides how ugly this country looks.  It also seems to deal with the excessive air pollution for a few hours.  Anyone that rags on environmentalists should take a tour of Eastern Europe.   After seeing commie environmentalism at its finest, one wonders if the eco-nuts have a point.

I spent some time with the demo guys a few days ago.  Set off 150 bricks of C4.  I still love the warnings on the side of each brick, basically saying don’t eat C4 or set it on fire.  You can actually cook with C4, it will burn nice and evenly without exploding.  But if, you try to stomp it out….    C4 needs heat and pressure to explode.  Still, treat it with respect.

Probably going to watch my pirated Matrix Revolution DVD.   As this region has no international statis, there are no copyright laws.  So, pirating music is technically legal here until the UN cracks down and changes some treaties.  Unlikely to happen.  Damn UN people are too busy breaking their own speed laws and acting annoying in general.   Craziest drivers I’ve ever seen are UN personnel.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Every time life seems to almost be normal, something unusual happens.  Today, I made a deal to trade Hershey chocolate for access to an AK47 and a few thousand rounds of ammo.  It is a weird world at times.  I hear from my friends back in the real world.  A lot of them are working unhappy jobs, dealing with college stress…   I got my own problems, of course.  Everyone does.  But they’ll never do things like this.  I’m not sure a lot of them will understand remotely what it’s like.

A long time ago, a professor told me life would be very different “in the real world”.  At the time, I knew he was technically correct, but he didn’t exactly understand what he was talking about.  I’ll have to stop by and say hello when I get back.

Things have been alright recently.  Not great, of course.  But good enough.  Won’t be too long till I’m out of here.  It feels nice.  The snow is melting, which is a shame.   There’s a lot of ice around, so one must be careful.

Been putting all my spare time into development of my robot Wintermute and my web site.  I lack access to tools and programs here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Wonderful.  Checking my gear.  GPS, radio, IR strobe, NVGs.  Spare batteries for everything.

I lived my life the way I wished.  I have few regrets.  Many times before an important choice, I asked myself if I would ever regret my decision.  It’s vastly amusing how quickly life can turn from pretty calm into a world of hurt.  Tis the way of things.

Things will turn out ok.  They always do.  So I keep telling myself.  Best prepare for the worst anyways…

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The snow is melting.  I like snow.  It really covers up a lot…  Snow purifies the world, cleansing it.

A few nights ago, I was on the border.  The snow was falling hard, and the wind drove down the temperature.  It was so cold, it burned the skin.  The silence was a change from the constant background sounds.  Only a few lights shown in the distance.

This is very different.  Everything of this place is different from the states.  We are trapped in this cage.  We can shop at only one place, and they screw us over on a regular basis.  I guess this reminds me of “company stores” of coal mining towns.

I got a few Iranian rugs today.  They’re absolutely beautiful.  They had to have taken a year to make.  Someone literally slaved over these rugs everyday, making them beautiful.  I will never know who it was.  A man or woman.  Cruel bastard or caring person.  Learning this skill had to have taken at least a decade of training.  Considering the size of the rug, it had to be a true master.

One of the Turks was explaining to me how much people in his country made in a week.   $50 was about average.   $35 was spent on food, housing and transportation.  $15 was spent on clothing, entertainment, consumer goods.  He explained that he and many of his countrymen loved American goods because he knew they would last a long time.  Expensive, but quality.  I hear occasionally about people making over $100k whining about how little their money goes.  Sigh.  Perhaps Americans define themselves by consumerism a lil bit too much.

Screw it.

I don’t exactly understand why people seem to trust me or think so highly of me.  I merely try to avoid trouble and do my job.  Attention is a dual edged sword.  I don’t really try to avoid it, but I don’t go looking it.  Suppose it does not help that I’m not exactly the most subtle type.  My idea of subtle is a bottle of whiskey, a battle axe and a full length duster.

I’ve been trusted with much for my age and official level of experience.  No one has ever told me why.  I guess it’s because I have completed every mission and assignment I’ve been handed.  Failure has happened, it does time to time.   I would actually enjoy some constructive criticism.  No one really gives me a complete picture of what they see me as.

Maybe because I’m carrying an assault rifle and ammunition every second of every day.   Heh.  Ah well.  It happens.

Monday, January 05, 2004

I miss the States.  The freedom to go where and when I please.  To have a cold beer, or some good Italian food.  I think I got minor case of food poisoning from the food at the Chow hall.  Hardly surprising, but still not fun.

I definitely want to get some good Italian food when I get out of here.  Here, the local manner of making spaghetti is to include a generous helping of water at the bottom of the bowl.  I guess they don’t strain it to remove nearly all the water.  Often enough, they serve spaghetti with a couple different sauces, not to include tomato sauce.  Not many tomatos are grown in the Balkans, supposedly.  I’d commit assault for a good bottle of tomato sauce..

It’s the little things that get annoying as the months go by.  The limited selection is the biggest thing.  “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murphy comes to mind when describing life, for the most part.  I’ve gone out of my way to try to mix things up a bit.

Got a medal recently.  I really don’t think I deserve it, I was just doing my job.  Maybe it was in recognition of my copious expert knowledge in profanity in multiple languages.  Ok, replace “expert” with “enough to get around”.

Yule and New Year’s passed.  Nothing special.  There was plenty of snow, which I always like.  I had off New Year’s Day, kinda.  Kinda being that I had to work that night.  Wasn’t really worth celebrating without ice cold alcohol, none here.

It’s hard talking to friends and family back home.  There is a lot I do on a daily basis can’t tell them about.  It’s healthy to have someone that one can talk to about nearly any subject.  I have mentors that I talk to time to time, but I can’t meantion most of my day over computers.  Computers lack a lot of human qualities, especially in the infinite amount of information conveyed by facial expression, galvanic skin response, and voice tonal.  (In other words, talking face to face.)

Monday, January 05, 2004

At times, I really think this world is a very odd place.  Most of the time it seems very clockwork in a perticular manner.  Sometimes, weird things happen.  The rational mind tries to correct these anomalies.  The average person is not perceptive enough to see or they automatically ignore such things.  At times, one wonders if the lunatics might be the sane, and the rest of us are off balance.

The one thing I’ve learned is to trust the instincts.  The subconscious mind sees more than the conscious and processes information more quickly.  This land is one giant graveyard.  Wars have been faught here for centuries.  I think this land is either cursed or spiritually poisoned.  Regardless, I recommend staying the hell out of the Balkans in general.

Friday, January 09, 2004

New lesson for the day.  Chopper rides at high altitudes are very cold.  Very tall mountains are extremely cold.  I was wearing so much cold weather gear it wasn’t funny, and the winds nearly knocked me sideways.  Thank the eternals that I had the intelligence to go with my nonregulations polar fleece and neopane ski mask.  The air will burn your face within a few seconds up there.

I miss beer.  Really badly.  But I’d commit assault and battery for a good Italian meal, damnit.  I’m craving it for some odd reason.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Bah.  Bad memories.  My sleep was not helped by a rude and arrogant roommate that was encouraging his favorite football team.  Unfortunately, said roommate is currently protected so I would be doing time if I assaulted him.  He happens to be a member of a minority, and is complaining that he’s being oppressed by people asking him to keep the noise down past midnight.  At about 3 am I am tempted to violently destroy the TV and lights that he insists on turning on.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

It’s been a decent day.  Had the office to myself again.  Boss left the country for a while, I’m doing his job.    Did some cleaning and disposing of surplus “stuff” that tends to accumulate in any office if you’re not careful.  Got to listen to my own music.

Been running around a lot recently.  Tis how it is, I suppose.  Packing up and getting ready to ship stuff back stateside.  Fun stuff.

Soon enough, Italian food will be within my grasp.

I have fought superior numbers before.  I’ve fought people when they’ve had weapons and I have not.  I have been taught very well how to fight to maim or kill any enemies.  Unfortunately, this also means I can’t fly off the handle and send this guy to the hospital just because he’s been interrupting my sleep for weeks.

It just doesn’t seem right that in this day of ‘freedoms’ and ‘equality’, a hypocrit like him gets to hide behind a cloak of ‘oppression’ to hide being rude, arrogant, lazy bastard.  In a better world, I would be allowed to take care of the problem instead of letting it continue unchecked.  Sigh.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

This one is gonna be short.  I’m in the middle of nowhere.  I see one person once a day.  Sometimes people pass my location, however it’s rarely.

Because food takes such a long time to get here, it usually cools to room temperature by the time I can eat it.  So, now I’m fighting something that might be food poisoning.  Wish they’d just give me damn MREs.

Good news is I’m getting more sleep than normal.  The end of this hellhole is in sight.  Soon enough I’ll be able to sleep in, enjoy an ice cold beer and eat real food that won’t kill me.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Still feel like hell.  Better, but like hell.

I spent a week at a remote outpost way out in the middle of nowhere.  Now that I’m back, I wish I was there again.  Too many people here, crammed into a small area.  Too many officers.  Have to watch what I say and to whom.  ugh.

A friend of mine told me that an old Canadian alcohol mandated a portion of Canada’s rum production must be diverted to the military.  So specific parts of the Canadian Armed Forces get a literjon of rum every week.   These days, drinking is so damn restricted in a military environment, it’s not worth it.  If you have rank, you can get away with anything.  If you’re low ranking, you can and will get hit with anything.  Real or imagined.

Screw it.  My tour is ending soon.  I think I’m getting tense because the end is so near, yet so far away.

Beer and italian food.  That’s all I want.  An ice cold beer, and good chow that won’t mess with my system.   Nothing like selecting an evening meal based on the likelihood of it making you sick.   Didn’t see that on the recruiting poster.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

SF was kind enough to drop off a lil gift to thank me for some of the stuff I “procured” for them.  They’re decent guys, all and all.   Heck, they took some time to teach me some more shooting techniques.  Their pistol training is very good, I’m familiar with firing 9mm handguns already but it was a handy way for me to teach other new handgun shooters.  Their rifle techniques are handy, but I carry an M16A2 so not everything carried over as well.

I’m not sure whether their Sergeant Major paid me a compliment or what, but when he stopped by the range, he asked me what section I was in, what class I graduated in, why wasn’t I carrying a knife, etc etc.  I kinda just gave him a blank look until it dawned on me that he thought I was one of their soldiers.  Considering I had shot groups equal to about half his soldiers and I had my GoreTex jacket on…   The GoreTex rain jacket has no unit insignia nor any name.  Just my rank, Specialist.

He was kinda amused that a Signal spec4 would be the only bastard crazy enough to WANT to do weapons training in the snow.  He was nice enough to give me a lift back to civilization.  Not sure whether his politeness was pro forma or because he thought highly of my shooting.

I shot damn near every weapon carried by any European military.  The only exception I think is the British carbine, which I don’t care for so much anyways.

The M16 started its life as a deathtrap for soldiers.  Units forced to carry the original M16 were slaughtered.  The first unit in Vietnam to get in an even fire fight with VNA soldiers carrying AK-47’s received 93% casaulties.  The M16 has made a lot of improvements, of course.  But in the recent Iraqi War, incidents like PFC Lynch’s weapon’s jamming are still common.  We’ll never know how many American casualties were directly or indirectly tied to the M16, but it has been too many.

Anywho, I get out of here very soon.  Back to ice cold beer and hot Italian food.  It’s so close I can feel it.  I won’t miss this place, but I will remember with fondness some of the memories of the experiences I had here.  I don’t think I’ll ever have some of the experiences I’ve had here again.

Friday, February 06, 2004

At the moment I am trying to control my seething rage.

In certain subjects I am more sensitive than others.  Insulting my intelligent and my age are right up there on the list.  Calling me an idealist is rather off the mark, as I’m a very cynical bastard. The other comments went south from there.

The person threw some rather deep stabs is a friend of one of my friends.  My friend wants the two of us to be friends.  This was not a good first impression.  I know how deeply it will hurt her if the two of us get off on the wrong foot.  I had no problems with the guy until he made rather insulting and unjustified comments.  I’ve known her for ten years…

Sigh.  I’ll let her know how I’m feeling and the reasons why.  I know she will more or less understand.  How she deals with him is her choice.

I almost never give second chances.  Usually I trust my first impressions.  If this is not extending the olive branch, I have no idea what is.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The end of my time in this hellhole is coming.  When I’m not outside the wire, sometimes my thoughts go to what I’ll do stateside.

I have no place to live, no job, no furniture, etc.  Heck, the sneakers I own are over a year and a half old.  No place to buy new ones around here.  Most of my friends have moved on.  I still chat with them, but they’re progressing.  I’ve spent much of my last few years doing stuff for the Army.  Usually going from one unnice place to another.

I know I’ll work something out.  But the future kinda unnerves me.  99% of the time I just focus on the here and now.  That’s the best thing to do when you’re carrying live ammo.  Losing focus can be a bad, bad thing.  It also bothers me that a few people are rather worried about me.  It’s nice to know people care, it really is, but I don’t like having their worries hanging over me.  Again, that’s why it’s best to forget and focus on the present.

A medal and $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee.

I know spending time around college kids will drive me insane.  Most of them don’t have a damn clue about the world.  I’ve seen first hand how they react to bad situations.  They’re weak of spirit.  What they see on CNN means nothing to them.  Having a tenured professor try to explain ‘the real world’ to me drives me even further up a wall.  90% of what most people learn in school is worthless.

Still, sometimes I see something restores a little bit of my hope in humanity.  Questioning authority, seeking truth, dissent.  College kids volunteering to work at a shelter, or raise money for charity.  Even if they don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of charity, it’s good that they care.  I’ve seen ‘adults’ sneer at this showing of humanity, using terms like ‘naive’ or ‘bleeding heart liberal kids’.  The smug accomplishment of sucking down oxygen for a few years hardly counts as being superior.

I saw photos of the protests in Miami.  Hundreds of police fighting unarmed kids, for the most part.  Some of those kids showed more bravery than I’ve ever seen.  In one clip, a young girl was hit with a less-lethal projectile that seriously injured her, dropping her on the spot.  Contrary to popular opinion, less-lethal projectiles and weapons cause serious injury and death.  Another girl ran up to where the fallen girl was lying,  picked up a burning CS canister and threw it away so other kids would rescue the injured.  I know exactly how hot those cans get when burning, and I know whoever that brave kid was, she was gonna need major work to repair the burned flesh on her hands.  She did this while having who knows how many weapons aimed at her, knowing full well what could happen, with no means to defend herself.  I sincerely hope that if needed, I could show a fraction of the courage that young girl showed.

Six hours of guard detail in the freezing cold.  We ‘procured’ a Hummer to keep warm in, thankfully.  It’s not so bad if you get a detail with a decent person and can make a conversation.  We had a long discussion on various animals we killed, cleaned and cooked ourselves.  Since the other guy grew up on a farm, there was some good stories.

I got three medals for my work, and four ‘I Was There’ medals.  Plus all the badges I accrued.  Schutzenschur, US weapons, etc.   Whee.

All I really did was my job.  Screw it.  Other people, not meantioning ranks, got plenty of much higher medals for shuffling papers and sucking up.  At least I got things accomplished.

Friday, February 13, 2004

In retrospect, it’s not much of a mystery why lately I’ve been feeling tired all the time.  I keep a tight reign on my emotions, of course.  But I’ve been getting annoyed a lot more easily than usual.

Hardly surprising considering that I’ve been living off of stimulants (caffiene, nicotine, etc), sleep deprivation and stress for many months.  Basically, I’m used up and need some recovery time.

The regs call for a two week leave because of our long deployment. Our commanding general said “No”, that we couldn’t afford losing personnel for that long.  Of course the General, a few Colonels and a Sergeant Major went stateside for a week for a two hour ceremony.  They went TDY, meaning it counted as work, not as leave.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Free, free at last.

Gods, it’s so freaking odd being back amoung Americans again.  I went to a mall to get my cell phone activated again.  Seeing healthy people, overweight ones at that, was a shock.  No burning piles of trash, no starving dog packs, no assault rifles anywhere.  Stores filled with consumer goods, most of it useless.

No black markets, or even grey markets.  If I saw a parked van, I didn’t have to be careful, wondering if it had any explosives.  No UXO (Unexploded Ordinance).   The majority of the cars are actually bought, instead of stolen from Germany.

Legions of civilians.  These lacked haunted looks.  Those that were my own age seemed young and weak.  I saw a couple of kids in their younger 20’s attempting to put off a ‘tough’ demeanor.  In my mind, I automatically assessed their abilities, likelihood of carrying weapons, where their reinforcements would be, and what level of training they had.  I automatically relaxed when my assessments told me I could mop the floor with them and any buddies they had in the wings.  No thoughts, only reflex and instinct.  Gods, I need a beer.

I really haven’t had a decent meal yet.  I’ll stop at the supermarket and buy stuff to make a nice meal for myself.  My package from Stone Brewing Company did arrive.  Ruination Ale, Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale, Stone Porter, etc.  Drinks worthy of Baccus himself!

I look at the civilians around me.  They don’t see anything.  They operate on instinct alone, blind to everything.  Part of me thinks of them as weak cattle, another wonders how lovely it must be to be as blind and dim as them.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Went to a party tonight.  Went alright, had fun.

Bah.  A reminder that I don’t fit in well with the rest of my age group.   I did have a good time, but there were constant reminders that I don’t belong in that world.  Not sure where I do belong.

The Darkness sinks in, as I stare into the beautiful stars.

The feeling of being alone has finally sunk in.  It tagged at me once in a while when I was deployed.  Here, I realize.  For all the good and bad, I’m alone in a world of my own making.  It’s for the best at the moment, it really is.  I have an uncertain life, and I don’t want to hurt anyone that cares about me.  It’s enough to look forward to a brighter future, maybe that I’ll find my tranquility.  All things are possible.

Until then, I walk beneath the stars, alone but free.

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Ruffling through some of my old writings

I wrote the following on Tuesday, March 02, 2004.  I was going through some old writings and found it entertaining.

Life always finds a way of amusing itself at my expense.

I’m staying at a friend’s place at the moment, and it is lasting a few more days than I expected.  So, I needed to pick up some supplies.  Smokes, Mtn Dew, and a shirt.  Ah yes, a cheesy overpriced t-shirt from a skate shop.  Didn’t care for the logo, but a shirt is a shirt.

Since I was there, and had nothing else to do, I decided to go see Lord of the Rings, the third episode.  It started at 8:00.   It was 6:38 at that moment.  Damn.  Well, picked up the shirt and the smokes.  Dew I wanted cold, so I could wait until the movie was over and pick it up at a convience store.  6:53.  Still had an hour to kill.  Damn.  Well, food was sounding good and there was a nice Chinese place at the lower level of the strip mall.  Beijing Moon.  Good stuff.

Ordered beef Lo Mein and a pizza roll.  Finished both and was having a relaxing tea, as I toyed with the few remaining noodles of the lo mein.  Hunting for any hidden beef remains that may or may not have existed.  Pop pop.  9mm semi auto.  From working with the M9 in the Army, I knew what a 9mm sounded like.  Crack.  Probably a .38, a revolver at any rate.  Low caliber.

I remember continuing to sip on the nice tea, even as some glass flew into the booth in front of me.  I was the only customer in the place, and two cute young ladies were behind the counter. After the shooting stopped, I motioned for them to stay still and stay down.  Despite using Army hand signals, they got the idea.

Outside, several people were running in different ways.  One was limping towards the beer distributor.

I went in, told the ladies to call the cops and some paramedics.  Waited a few moments to make sure no bullets flew again.

At the beer distributor, the guy that was shot was on the ground.  He wore a grey shirt, so the oxygenated blood showed up very clearly.  Single entrance wound, left hip.  Meant the bullet was still in him.  Blood was not shooting out, so it’s unlikely a major vein or artery was hit.  Of course, lucky for everyone, a brand new cotton t-shirt makes a wonderful pressure bandage.  I got a bystander hold the shirt down and keep pressure.  Cops rolled in very quickly, I identified myself as a medic.  Partially true, everyone in the Army is given some medical training.  I went through a combat lifesaver course myself.  Close enough under the situation.

I kept the victim talking.  He meantioned his stomach hurt.  There was a funny lump underneath his sternum.  Yep.  9mm.  Right under the skin, foot and half perhaps from the entrance wound.  Not anything to do but keep pressure on the entrance wound and wait for the paramedics.  Put my jacket under his head to make him more comfy.  Minor bleeding by his left ear.  Because the gunshots were so close, my guess is either powder burns, or he fell and scrapped himself up.  Couldn’t tell.  Superficial anyways.  Probably stung tho.

Paramedics eventually showed up, tho.  I helped prep the IV bag.  Not that hard.  You stick the bag with the non-needle end of the line, run some saline through to clear out the air.  Turned the drip off and handed it over to the medic.  He stuck the guy, as I held the bag.  Eventually the rest of the medics brought in the stretcher, and took him off my hands.

I went outside and lit up.  The cop asked me firmly to wait inside the beer distributor.  Not normally a problem, but I didn’t want to put out my smoke.  Cops questioned me, took my info, then released me.  A reporter from Chan 8 was onhand, of course.  Out of politeness, I provided some loose details on the shooting.  She commented on my hair, and asked if I was military.  I meantioned I was just getting back from overseas.  The look I gave the camera guy as he was setting up was enough to let him know how much I would be pleased with talking on tape.  As I said, they were polite, so I was polite.

7:54.  Six minutes to get to Lord of the Rings.  Good timing.  The movie was alright, all and all.

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Politicians and Civil Rights Reform

Politicians, bah.    Gods, Hope n’ Change is wearing thin these days.

Folks did not like the NeoCon rule.  The excessive fearmongering, Iraq, excess spending, infringements on civil liberties, creation of entire new beaucracies, etc.  It ended up with Bush having an extraordinarily low popularity, and with Congress having even less popularity.  Comes the election.  Change is promised.  It sells, the bums are thrown out.  Not much changes.  Few if any of the Bush era excesses are repealed.  Certain Republicans are shocked (shocked!) that now the shoe is on the other foot.  They are actually surprised when their base is declared the enemy.  DHS is declaring right wing extremists, primarily veterans, are the most significant threat to the United States.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans is little more than rhetoric and a few unimportant wedge issues.  Both love spending, taxing, controlling and economically destroying US citizens.  The only significant advancements in civil liberties are those that the citizens take for themselves.  Either through the courts or forming special interest groups powerful enough to threaten the politicians.

The US Constitution was written to strictly limit the role and abilities of the federal government to specific activities.  If an activity is not enumerated in the Constitution, they are not allowed to do said activity.  This has been strongly ignored since FDR.  Now, the view is the federal government is allowed to do anything which is not strictly forbidden.  The Bill of Rights is only marginally enforced by the courts.  The Executive and Legislative branch have given up nearly all respect for the Amendments enumerating specific civil liberties, and only bow to it when forced to do so by special interest groups.

A lot of folks in the media are giving the NRA flack for actually trying to have the Second Amendment respected and enforced.  They claim that the NRA is manipulating Congress and the courts for malicious purposes.  The Second Amendment is very clear in its intentions.  The Constitutional arguments that it applies only to the National Guard or only allows government entities to be armed is beyond tortured logic.  There is no government on this planet that has ever existed that has denied itself weapons. None.  Even the Vatican grants weapons to some of its employees.  The sole purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  Why this is necessary is interesting philosophic debate, but is not essential to the central point.  Folks are allowed to have guns and the government bears a heavy burden in any restrictions they may wish to impose.

My point isn’t to rehash the Second Amendment or RKBA.  It is to point out that the government has a very strong desire to disarm its citizenry.  It is significantly more difficult to oppress a minority group if they are well armed.  It gives the potential for the government to answer to its citizenry.  It’s not a magic wand that grants freedom, liberty and prosperity to all.  It merely gives you a chance.  One you must maintain.  All governments become more restrictive and oppressive as they age.  It is the nature of all governments, as far back as human records go.  The citizenry must hold their own against their own government.  The most intelligent way to do so is to band together for a common goal.  Even if I disagree with the individual actions of a special interest group such as the ACLU or the NRA, I very much agree with the sentiment.  Banding together for mutual protection is the only way to hold your ground, and possibly retake some.

In the last few decades, think of what ordinary citizens have accomplished.  Concealed carry reform has spread.  Obscenity laws have been dismantled.  Income taxes are merely crushing instead of blatantly confiscatory.  The Internet has taken mass information dissemination away from the hands of the few and has given the chance for any one person to get information out to millions.

Despite the plethoria of infringements, there have been a few advances in civil rights directly in spite of our politicians.  Some of these are minor, some are significant.  It grants one hope.  Real hope, not the plandering of a Chicago politician who has never held honest employment in his life.  Get involved, do what you can.  Don’t protest to ‘feel good’, be effective.  Law suits, bribery (the legal kind, campaign contributions), networking, etc.  If what you are doing is not effective, drop it and try a new set of tactics.

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