Monday, March 31, 2008

OMG Funny

If you don't have nine minutes, a box of tissues, and a chair in which to collapse in laughter, then skip this. Otherwise, do not drink in the vicinity of your keyboard and do not stop before the 1 minute 50 second point. At that point, it becomes clear why the other guys on the stage are laughing so hard. If you can stop after that, you're a better man (or woman) than I.

Hat tip: Jay

Saturday, March 29, 2008

C-130 Jump

I finally found a little time to download footage of last Friday's C-130 jump and do a little editing. This or a wet t-shirt contest on some Mexican beach. No contest. This marks my seventh spring break at Gila Bend with the jump team and, I guess, my last. This is what I'll miss most about the AF.

Blue skies. Doc.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

The World Spins Madly On

Still in that two weeks of jumping, but sometimes the world encroaches upon even our happy places. Sometimes there are words. Sometimes music is better.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Milestone: Jump #900

This particular aging airframe was happy to hear from a flight surgeon a couple weeks ago, "You have the vital signs of a teenager." Part of the reason may be having a hobby that keeps me enthusiastic about life. And in regard to that hobby, yesterday afternoon, in the company of four other enthusiasts, I made jump number 900. To say we had a blast doesn't scratch the surface.

The good news from the Arizona desert is that uplinking through my Treo works like a charm. The bad news is that after making nine skydives in a day, I have just enough energy left to shower, eat, and fall asleep before 9:00 p.m. And, because the nylon flashing on the rig slides under my nails a few times every pack job, typing is now a rather torturous activity.

Nonetheless, I wanted to say hello. An old friend has been busily snapping photographs, and when I can catch up with him at the end of a day, I'll post a few.

Until then, blue skies to all. Doc.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Aging Airframes in Perspective

A quick post, and then, likely, silence for a bit. I leave in the morning for two weeks of balancing bent space against aerodynamic resistance for about a minute at a time, as many times a day as I can pack and get back on the airplane.

And speaking of airplanes. I've said once or twice that a good way of understanding the age of our current USAF fleet is to imagine if say a WWII bomber had been flying as long. The KC-135 came into service in 1957 for instance. That would be the same as if there had still been operational squadrons of B-17s in 1994. Try to imagine that. And the 135 will be around for at least another decade yet. Imagine B-17s flying over Baghdad in 2003. Just try.

So, for what could be my last post for a bit, chew on this link.

To help put this aging airframe issue in perspective, we recently matched the various dates when aircraft from the Air Force fleet officially entered service (Initial Operating Capability) with the events that were occurring during those same respective years. On a first glance this comparison is amusing. However, upon a second look it is clear that we face a very serious situation and must do everything possible to address this critical issue. As one Air Force senior leader recently remarked, “It was kind of a nostalgic fly the same jet as a 2-star that I flew as a butter bar. I'm finding it difficult to see the humor in my one-bar son flying it.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Marines Invade Berkeley

Some stuff you just have to share. When it really gets good is about three and half minutes in when he's interviewing the yahoos on the street. The best comedy is still real life.

Hat tip: Lex

Monday, March 10, 2008

On Cuba, Firsthand response from Phil

After reading a George Will op-ed piece on the Cuba embargo Sunday, I posted an invitation to Phil, from The Archer Pelican, to respond. Not that he should know anything about it, since he only just spent the last week or so in Havana. As I suspected, the information from someone freshly there, contradicts the pundit, just a little bit. Thanks Phil.

Into the Wild, Atonement

Watched Into the Wild tonight.

I do movies. I'd seen 90% of the nominees for any award a few weeks ago.

That said, the three best movies I've seen in the last 12 months were Reign Over Me, Once, and now Into the Wild. The common element, I think, is that they're about relationships. Like the other two, this one gets five stars from me.

And while we're talking movies, if you haven't seen Atonement, it's worth the time too. But don't go thinking it's a romance. It's not. It's about exactly what the title suggest: how do you atone for the unredeemable act? Some consequences can't be undone. You live with them for the rest of your life, however long or short that is. That is what Atonement is about. And it's worth watching. It was also my pick for best cinematography, and still is. See it and see There Will Be Blood and tell me in which you think cinematography plays a more significant role.

But, before you see either one, see Into the Wild.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

George Will on Cuba

On today's opinion page was a piece by George Will on Cuba, and on the continuing embargo in particular.

Cuba is a sad, threadbare geopolitical irrelevancy. Far from threatening Castro’s regime, the embargo has enabled Castro to exploit Cubans’ debilitating mentality of taking comfort from victimhood — the habit, more than a century old, of blaming problems on others, first on Spain and then on the United States.
Interesting timing, considering that the same was a topic of conversation at the bar at Plate on Friday night. What I'm really hoping is that sometime soon Phil, who recently visited Havana, will weigh in with the perspective of someone who's had "boots on the ground" since the "regime change." If we can call it that.

3 Doors Down, "When I'm Gone"

Friend Jay over at The Extended Table posted a sort of playlist, not of songs, but of bands. "Southern Fried," he called it. I intend to use it to put together my own radio station on Yahoo Music, for those days I need a trip home and don't quite have the time to get on a plane for the weekend. I am happy to say though, that I'll be on such a plane in late May, flying back to then drive back across to CO with my daughter who's in school on the coast.

But we won't be hitting the road until after the James Taylor concert at Walnut Creek (which number one daughter was willing to hang around in NC an extra two weeks for--I ask you, did I raise her right, or what?) The tickets are already in the study firebox.

I learned something from Jay's post though. I'm a fan of 3 Doors Down, but not enough to have known they were a "southern" band. Piper's list, btw, is a series of links to vids on YouTube. Something to work your way through on one of those evenings you really don't feel like doing anything other than donning the headphones and nursing a couple fingers of Russell's Reserve, neat.

On the whole list though, Piper singles out one vid for special notice. You'll understand why I'll do the same here.

Hat tip: Jay

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Wendy Aarons to Proctor & Gamble

It's taken years, but my friends, the web-savvy ones are well-trained when it comes to forwarding things, be it virus warnings (most of them now check one of the many hoax sites before forwarding) or funnies (they never forward without a note, letting me know my life will be poorer if I don't take the time out for whatever it is they're sending). The few acquaintances left who blindly forward everything that someone else forwards to them each have their own filters in Outlook. >-) (And they wonder why I don't ever reply to the one e-mail where they actually say something once ever six months.)

Last night, a forward arrived in the read-this-I-promise-you-won't-regret-it category. The sender was so right. As it turns out, this is not new. In fact, the author of the letter below, Wendy Aarons, posted it to her own blog back in March of last year, after it gained famed originally on in February of last year. McSweeney's has an entire section devoted to "Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond." The point of all this is, yes lot's of stuff that gets forwarded isn't what it pretends to be, but this, so far as I can tell, is exactly what it claims.

And beyond that, it's the funniest thing I've read in weeks. A good friend of mine who also happens to be an award-winning author likes to say that the mark of really good writing is when you think, "Wow. I wish I'd written that." Well, this is like that. And those of you who know me, also know, if I were a woman, this is exactly the sort of thing I would write about something like this. So, kudos to Wendy for what follows; and hat tip to Freda, for forwarding it.

An Open Letter to James Thatcher, Brand Manager, Proctor and Gamble

Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your Always maxi pads for over 20 years, and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core™ or Dri-Weave™ absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from "the curse"? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my "time of the month" is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call "an inbred hillbilly with knife skills." Isn't the human body amazing?

As brand manager in the feminine-hygiene division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customers' monthly visits from Aunt Flo. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend's testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey's Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy! The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in capri pants. Which brings me to the reason for my letter.

Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: "Have a Happy Period."

Are you fucking kidding me?

What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness—actual smiling, laughing happiness—is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak girl, there will never be anything "happy" about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlúa and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreens armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory. For the love of God, pull your head out, man. If you just have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like "Put Down the Hammer" or "Vehicular Manslaughter Is Wrong"? Or are you just picking on us?

Sir, please inform your accounting department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flexi-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullshit. And that's a promise I will keep. Always.


Wendi Aarons
Austin, TX

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

On the Opinion of our Peers

Two observations and a story.

Observation 1:

First, it occurs to me that a healthy disregard for the opinions of our peers is something that some people never develop. Oh, they matter. But only sometimes and in regard to some things. I think I'm known for speaking the truth. That matters to me. It doesn't matter to me that I'm known for doing so somewhat indelicately--what one unfortunate supervisor whom I revere to this day as the finest officer under whom I ever had the honor to serve referred to as "poking sticks at snakes." "But they're snakes," never seemed to answer the mail on that. I've gotten better though, more choosy about my battles. Still . . . >-)

So, in some respects, I do care what people think. Should they ever think me dishonest, cruel, ill-spoken, etc, then I suppose I would admit the need to seriously examine my behavior. But, if the labels they're tossing my way tend more toward "nuts," "flippin' crazy," "completely out of his gourd," well, those are just reminders that I'm probably still a hell of a lot happier and better adjusted than they are. >-) (There are psychiatric labels for this sort of conceit, I'm sure, but I am more resistant to cure in this respect than MRSA.)

In my case, it took a long time for me to reach this place. In some respects, I often think my current disregard for the head-shaking of my peers (my best friends just cheer--it's one reason they are my best friends) is a sort of balancing of the scales. I cared, like most teenagers and young adults, way too much, for way too long about the illusive twins of approval and acceptance. Way too long.

Observation 2:

Which brings me to my second observation. It also occurs to me that, at least early in our lives, we tend to possess that healthy scorn for the approval of our peers in uncannily inverse proportion to our need for it. The person who is part of the "in" clique has more peer approval than he or she knows what to do with, so whether they care or not doesn't really matter.

The person who marches to the beat of Thoreau's different drummer though, that poor person has a real need for a numbness to criticism or even attention. You may be thinking, I'm sure, that such a person's eccentricities are themselves a sign of possessing that precious disregard, and rarely, you would be right. More often though, the gene of utter uniqueness isn't paired with either the gene of self-confidence or heedlessness. Doubly cursed, such a one is equally incapable of running with the crowd and of not caring where the crowd is going or that it notices her solo journey.

A Story:

Way back in . . . well, a while ago--the year I graduated from college actually--I gave Britney (unborn at the time) a run for her money in the field of short marriages. (Hang with me. It relates.) Right after graduation, I'd looked up a girl I'd been thinking of for no less than two years, but had never dated because when we'd met, she'd been the girlfriend of a fellow student and friend. He'd moved on and I moved in. We dated through my summer leave, kept the flames burning through the fall, and then I flew her to Sacramento for her fall break in October. After 10 blissful days, she wanted nothing so much as a proposal. I held out for a couple of weeks (well, maybe a week at least) after her return to Western Carolina before admitting to myself that there was really nothing about bachelorhood nearly so appealing as beginning and ending each day in the glow of her raven-haired, blue-eyed, Cherokee-cheek-boned smile. Had her continuation at school been certain, I'd not have considered it, but she was thinking that finances were going to force her to take at least a semester off. So I asked if she had plans the day after Christmas, offered a suggestion in case she didn't, and she said, "Yes, yes, oh yes." Yeah. Exactly like that. Like it was yesterday.

And so all was excitement. For a few weeks, maybe a month. Then, the opinions of peers began to kick in. Back on campus, in the dorm, on the court (she was "most athletic" in her high school class) she began to hear, "Why do you want to get married? You can have any guy you want. What are you thinking?" Had they known me, they'd have known what she was thinking. That 6'1" tanned blond guy in the flight suit driving the British convertible when he wasn't flying wasn't exactly hard up for options either. But, by the time Christmas rolled around, "Yes, yes, oh yes," had become, "How would you feel about waiting until June?" This, two whole days before a wedding to rival Princess Diana's. Hmmm. BOLDFACE: BAIL OUT! BAIL OUT! BAIL OUT!

But, I was, back then, among the most susceptible of humans to that despicable craving for approval and acceptance that this post is all about. I knew what I needed to do. It was, as they like to say in physics texts, intuitively obvious to even the casual observer. But the thought of attempting an explanation to all our friends and family who expected a blissful event in two days time was petrifying. And so, knowing it wasn't the right thing to do, I stood there as she came down the aisle, and I betrayed us both.

A week in NC visiting relatives. A flight back to California one week after the wedding. Last, "I love you," I ever heard from her in the airport in Louisville, KY, changing flights. Two weeks in Sacramento, growing distance, faraway looks, "What are you pondering there?" "Just thinking about what I'd be doing if I weren't married." "I'm afraid it was just that the, you know, was so good." October, inseparable. January, low-level, moved to the couch, unable to sleep with someone not wanting to be touched, and needing to sleep before days zipping along at 250 kts and 500 ft. Three weeks to the day after the wedding, a trip to the airport, and in the worst winter storm Sacramento had seen in decades, I sent her back home to NC.

It's still open for debate whether the dumbest thing I've ever done was on the day after Christmas or on that day three weeks later. But looking back, one thing about the whole affair that is clearer to me now than ever is the role played by an inability to ignore, disregard, brush off, rise above, and otherwise overcome the opinions of our peers, hers and mine. Her lack of immunity to those opinions had basically killed a thing of such intense passion that I long ago gave up the hope of seeing its like again. My own hypersensitivity to those opinions had allowed me to ignore her one brief plea for help, "How would you feel about waiting until June?"

The opinion of our peers. What do they know of our hearts? Of our choices? Of our fate? The objective value of those opinions is constant over time. What changes is our understanding of it. Our susceptibility to it. Our immunity to its influence. Until we can achieve that, we are ever likely to purchase acceptance and approval with self-betrayal. None of this, mind you, is meant to be chiding. These are observations only; not lessons. For those born susceptible to it--and God knows most of us are; I know I was--no amount of reading or schooling can impart the needed disdain. Only time and life do that, and even then, not always, not for everyone.

As I said, I'm busy balancing my own scales in that regard. That I'm also feeling a little déjà vu these days is sad, but I would be the last to condemn anyone I otherwise admire so much for a susceptibility I once sported myself in spades. At any given time in this journey, we each have just so much disdain to distribute. If we march to a different drummer in one corner of our lives, sometimes we need to keep step with our peers in another. We all choose battles. And for those of us able to take all comers if we so chose, sometimes there is more honor in ceding the field.

The Regret I Can LIve With and the Regret I Can't

There are two forms of regret hovering in my future these days. Of course, if I didn't think these translate to others' lives as well, I wouldn't think about them out loud here. Basically, we can call them the regret I can live with, and the one I don't think I can.

The one I can live with involves the long shot. Because it is the long shot, the likelihood of feeling that regret is pretty high. But the regret one feels for taking a chance and things not working out, however unlikely success may have been, is qualitatively different from the regret one is always in danger of feeling through playing it safe.

Maybe the difference boils down to whether our personality leans more to the pragmatist or more to the romantic. If to the pragmatist, then maybe you go with the odds and never look back, never wonder what if. But, if you're a romantic, and God knows it seems to be a trait that no amount of real life has been able to strip me of, then the almost certitude of failure does little to nothing in terms of negating the regret of not trying, of not giving even the thinnest chance an opportunity to defy the odds.

I can live with taking a chance and not succeeding. Even more so when success was never a thing anyone but I thought possible. But I can't, I don't think, live with always wondering what might have been if I had been willing to risk it all.

My life has never been normal, has defied one set of odds after another. I've at least one friend who never fails to point out my six- or seven-time membership in "the extra days club."* Given the choice though, I would rather die in joyfully attempting the "impossible," than live to a ripe old age in the safety of cloying normalcy. So, for those few friends who know the real topic here and think I need my head examined I can only say--"Yeah. So what else is new?"

*As he explains it, after some events--the ones of which we can honestly say, "I should've died that day,"--every day we live on is an extra day. Let me see: plane crash, car crash, coma, two unplanned canopy rides of less than 7 seconds, snake bite, rock helmet split open on a mountainside--I should stop counting, just in case nine lives is some sort of magical limit.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Little More on Entitlement

The best posts, in my mind at least, are the ones that generate discussion and comment. And sometimes, something from the comments box needs to be pulled out and posted for all to see. From Phil last night, (who has me scratching my head a little because he's commenting but not back to posting yet after his visit to the Emerald City--then I remember that was me for the last couple weeks) comes a good companion to the Troy Dunn piece. This one is from the Washington Post, and expands on that sense of entitlement that thinks want = get.

"You have people screaming at customer representatives at airports because it's snowing out -- as if they're entitled to have a sunny day," says professor W. Keith Campbell, who specializes in the study of narcissism at the University of Georgia. "That's where it gets out of hand. With entitlement, the issue is, yeah, there are certain times where we're entitled and other times we're not. The problem is when we have that meter wrong."
Read the article here.

Hat tip: Phil

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Gift of Want

Got a great link today from a friend. Great at least for those of us with children. If you don't have children, you can skip it. If you do, it's probably worth four minutes of your time.

Troy Dunn is interviewed here on CNN. He's the author of Young Bucks: How to Raise a Future Millionaire. It sounds more mercenary than it is. He thought, he says, of titling it, How to Raise a Future Philanthropist, "because you cannot give what you do not have." Good point. He also makes great points about why the usefulness of getting four years of college under your belt should be a considered decision, as opposed to an unexamined assumption. For most, the answer will still be in favor of college, but he makes a good point of removing some of the stigma from making a solid business decision in another direction if you're one of those with such an opportunity.

And then, there's my favorite among his points: the importance of giving your children the gift of want. Rather than explain what that is, I'll let him do it here.

Hat tip: JPL