30 June 2006

Public Service Announcement

Men, when you are in the gym, please refrain from all of the following vocalizations:
1. Whales humping
2. The 17th hour of labor contractions
3. Steam locomotive boiler exploding
4. Singing along with the music in your head, loud enough for people several yards away to hear you
5. Speaking the words to the song on your iPod, and getting them wrong (tip for people with iPods: You have an iPod so you can block out the sound of the rest of the gym. That means the rest of us shouldn't have to hear you, either)

For pete's sake, guys, it's a bench press, not childbirth. A muffled grunt is okay, but save the growling, squealing, screaming, and yelling for your wife/girlfriend/right hand. Thank you.

28 June 2006

What I Think About When I'm At Work Late For No Good Reason Because Other People Are Too Stupid To Do Their Jobs Correctly

What am I defending? Am I defending my ideals? My country’s ideals? What are those, exactly? There’s no book anywhere that says exactly what the United States stands for in the world. We claim to support notions like human rights and equal justice, but we hold on to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay without bothering to charge them with anything, without offering them basic rights. We engage in torture. Our executive branch has lawyers who parse through the language of our international agreements to explain why we don’t have abide by them, why we can hold and torture prisoners indefinitely without telling them what they’re charged with. I don’t even understand why. Is that what I’m defending?

We claim to support things like freedom of the press, yet members of our Congress want a resolution denouncing (not to say prosecution of) one of this country’s premier newspapers, claiming the paper, by uncovering secret programs by which the government examined data on American citizens without warrant, has put “its own arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda before the interests of the American people,” as if the interests of the American people were in fact served by allow the government to spy on them.

I don’t believe these things. If I’m that far out of the loop of what America and Americans believe, then I shouldn’t have to be here. Contract or not, if I can’t support the things I’m supposed to be defending, I don't really grasp exactly how the government expects me to be willing to die defending them. You wouldn't lay down your life for something you don't believe in, would you?

22 June 2006

Job Hate

Okay, it's time for a poll.
How many of you work in jobs where results matter more than procedure?

This is what I mean: You're given a project. It's due on a certain date. A certain level of quality is expected.

You complete the project ahead of schedule, and the quality exceeds expectations. Then it turns out you didn't follow the guidelines established three years ago by a committee of people who have never done anything like this project or, if they have, last did it during the previous decade. You did your project more efficiently and met every requirement, and the only net impact on the war is positive. But because you didn't follow the established, outmoded procedure, your project is trashed.

Does this happen to anyone else? What sorts of jobs are like this, because I need to avoid them. I can't imagine that finding a better way to accomplish a task is really frowned on by many organizations other than the military. I'd like to hope that a profit-driven business would never elevate procedure above results.

People are always telling me that the civilian work world is just as bad as the military one. (Never mind that telling me this is like telling a depressed teenager that these are "the best years of your life." Anyone who says that to a young person should be shot in the face immediately.) But just because civilian jobs are as much about who you know, how you play politics, and who's bread you can butter as military jobs are doesn't mean that civilian companies must exalt procedure to the same degree as the military does.

Please, tell me about your job. Is your company this backwards? Because I sure as hell don't want to work for them if they are.

21 June 2006


Remember that fascinating little news story back in May about personal data theft at the Department of Mismanaging Veterans Affairs? Recall how the theft occurred because some yokel at the VA took home all our personal information on some CDs and a laptop and left them in his house where burglars broke in and took them?

In the days after the story was reported--two weeks after the actual burglary, because the VA didn't want anyone to know while they "investigated"--we were all instructed to log in to a personnel website, where we would be told if our information was, in fact, among that stolen by the thieves. I dutifully logged in and learned that I was not among the victims. I was happy about that, but still find the situation deeply disturbing especially considering the government plans to require ALL of us to get ID cards with personal information on them to be stored in a giant government database somewhere, probably to be managed by people even less knowledgeable about proper treatment of sensitive materials than VA employee who brought all our info home on his laptop. (And what the hell was he doing with that anyway?)

Then today--let's see, it's only six weeks after the theft--I got an email telling me that my information had been stolen. This is not a direct quote, but I believe I said something like this:


Ahem. Today, the VA finally got around to offering free credit monitoring to the people it screwed. Except, wait! No, really, I mean, wait. It'll still be another two months before they decide how to set that up, much less how to inform us that they've done so (I'll already be deployed by the time they manage to get around to that). Should be I happy that they're trying, or still fuming that they're so fucking incompetent? I can't decide. I don't want to be both. I think I'll go with furious, because it's easier to maintain.

It's not just the incompetence on display. There's the delay in telling us. There's the incapacity of the government to get around to offering us some sort of protection until fully four months after the theft. There's the fact that Jim Nicholson is still the VA Secretary (not that I should be surprised; Don Rumsfeld is still the Defense Secretary and he's got Abu Ghraib and Haditha on his hands). There's the fact that this sort of thing will no doubt continue unabated as the government continues to insist on getting its hands on more and more of our personal information without taking any real measures to protect it. It's a wonderful future we're building, isn't it?

20 June 2006

I'm so Sorry

A week? It's been a week? What the... how did it go a whole week?

Well, anyway. I actually had a post rambling around in my head this morning, based on an event that occurred on my commute this morning. I was going to write it at work, but, like most of the last week, today was busy at work. I'm choosing not to complain about that for now because it's nice to have something to do. However, I'm also fast approaching the point where I'll have plenty to do on my own, preparing for my deployment.

I left some notes so maybe I'll have time to write it tomorrow--although there are still plenty of things to do, things like writing a commendation medal for one of my troops who is separating next month. Shouldn't be too hard.

Air Force writing depresses me. The other day I threw together a few bullets for my LT, who's done a good job this quarter and deserves an award like "CGO of the Quarter." He'll be getting "Pilot of the Quarter" instead, which I think of as a lesser award but it's something, at least (I'll keep my opinions on how the awards were decided to myself). There are like 17 awards for each quarter. Five bullets--little sentence fragments about what somebody did and why they deserve an award. It's not hard. I think it took me about five minutes. And today I was complimented on how wonderful they were.

What? It took me FIVE MINUTES. ANY other supervisor in the squadron could have done the same, but apparently five minutes is too much time to spend writing an awards package for the people who work for you and make you look good. Apparently they're all spending one minute on the project. That's embarassing.

The other day I read about this new air taxi service that's starting up in Florida, called Eclipse Aviation. I thought it would be an awesome place to send a resume to, but it turns out they won't hire pilots with less than 1000 hours of pilot-in-command time. I have, like, 70. Or so. That's the problem with being a copilot. I have well over 1000 hours, but most of them are secondary time. So phooey on them. I'll start my own air taxi service. With blackjack. And hookers. In fact, forget the air taxi and the blackjack.

I'll write more soon, I swear! At the very least I have books to review.

13 June 2006

Amusing Music

I've been putting together a wish list of CDs on Amazon.com. All the trance and other electronica I own I've listened to about a thousand times, so I need some new stuff. Loath as I am to pay regular money to record companies for CDs, I want the music more. Sadly, even DJs who don't need a major label to get their records produced end up working with studios that are in turn owned by some major record company or othere. Today's CD ultimately owes its existence to Warner Music. Bastards.

Anyway, while putting together the wish list I accidentally clicked the "one click purchase" button instead of the "add to cart" button on Amazon, so today I got a CD in the mail I hadn't been expecting. I'm enjoying this a great deal. I'm also amused by some of the liner notes. For example, track four on CD two: "Acoustic guitar and overtone chanting recorded & played by BT in a tunnel by his house (in the middle of the woods)."
Track two on CD one: "Attention train spotters: Yes, that's a 303 (through a Roland modulator and enough guitar pedals to confuse a quantum physicist)."
Track eight on CD one: "Inspired by Kurosh's tape on a 1 am drive from Dominique's house. Recorded & mixed in the buff in five hours that night by Brian Transeau."

It may not be much but since most electronic music CDs have no liner notes apart from ads for other CDs, I was amused. The CD is ima, by BT.

12 June 2006

A Sensless Waste of Human Life

When I fly locally, I fly out of Peter O. Knight airport on Davis Islands. It's a nice small airport and very close to the house. It's also surrounded by water and development, which makes it fun to fly out of but somewhat unforgiving.

Today we're having a tropical storm. It's a dreadfully lousy day to fly and an even more dreadfully lousy day to fly a small airplane like a King Air 90. Granted, the King Air 90 is big as general aviation aircraft go, but this is a small airplane as far as I'm concerned and should not be flying into tropical storms.

A King Air 90 crashed at Peter O. Knight today. The pilot was killed, the other occupant of the plane went to the hospital with burns, and a cat and dog in the house the plane crashed into died (the human occupants were okay). Apparently the plane landed and skidded off the runway into the house. Bear in mind we're talking about a short, wet runway here, but given the severity of the crash there are clearly going to be mitigating factors.

This is a sad event and I'm not here to make jokes about it, but a news item on the local channel caught my attention. The NTSB will of course come down for an investigation and will release a report probably in the next six months about the ultimate cause of the accident. Normally the NTSB scrambles an accident investigation team within an hour of a crash's report, and they fly in to the location.

Not today. Because of the weather, the NTSB investigation team chose not to fly to Tampa. They're taking a bus. What should this say to pilots? Don't fly into tropical storms! The fellow who crashed took off from Sarasota this morning--a bit south of here but still feeling the full effects of the storm--tried to go to Orlando but was turned back because of severe thunderstorms, and chose to fly instead to Tampa and land at the smaller of our two general aviation airports, with only a non-precision approach in less than two miles visibility. No part of what this pilot did today was a good idea.

A few weeks ago I was looking forward to flying to Atlanta for a bachelor party. Even though the weather here in Tampa was gorgeous, it was sketchy in Atlanta and I couldn't be assured of safe landing conditions. I really wanted to go, but I made a smart decision not to risk flying into uncertain weather. I have over 1000 flight hours, so this was actually the voice of experience talking, not the voice of uncertainty.

I can't say how much flight time the pilot in today's accident had. He certainly had better flight equipment than I would have had I flown to Atlanta--probably an all glass cockpit (which is to say fancy electronic gadgets instead of good old-fashioned pitot-static instrumentation), GPS, hopefully an NDB receiver based on the instrument approach he was flying. And above all else, he was from Sarasota. He knew when he took off there was a tropical storm 100 miles offshore. He knew the weather was bad in Sarasota, worse in Tampa, and unlikely to be better in Orlando. The flight was so short he probably took off while the severe weather warning was in effect in Orlando. And he took off anyway.

We don't, and never will, know exactly why he chose to ignore his better judgment--I say better judgment because he must have heard the same voice I did, whether it was experience or uncertainty, telling him this was not a good day to fly. It's a shame that, on finding he couldn't land at Orlando, the pilot didn't divert southeast to Palm Beach or that vicinity, where he could have landed in clear air. Worse still is knowing that Sarasota is just an hour away by car on I-75, two hours from Orlando. If the pilot needed to be here for some reason, he had a much safer option available. But the car he could have driven here safely is still parked at the Sarasota airport. What a shame.

Candidate Comedy

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has been mulling a presidential run in 2008 for some time. He's a somewhat unconventional type. Instead of a self-important memoir, Huckabee published a book about how he lost a bunch of weight. Interesting guy. You know how some politicians--I'm thinking Bob Dole and Al Gore, for example--turn out to be interesting and semi-human once they finally get out of politics? Huckabee might just have figured that out. This is his plan for raising money for his campaign:

"I've got a map of 7-Elevens, a bunch of blue steel revolvers, and some ski masks. We're going to go all over the country and raise money in a very unique way."

Maybe he's gone a bit overboard. Or maybe he just doesn't want 2008 to be boring.

11 June 2006

A Sunday Complaint

I was going to sit on the porch and work on Lauderdale this evening, but the words just aren't coming, so I might as well put something on this poor neglected blog.

I'm sorry I've been neglecting you, blogosphere. It isn't intentional, really. It's just that I've got a girlfriend for the first time in eons, and frankly I'd rather spend time with her than the intarweb. You understand. What you may not understand is how I ended up with a girlfriend. I'm not sure I understand it myself, so if you come up with a good answer, please let me know.

I've also done something bad to my back again, only I don't understand at all what it is. After getting better for two months, in the last week or so it's just become more and more painful, more and more limiting, and then Friday night it was positively awful. I'd have liked to take my girl out to a club or something, but I could only lie on the couch. Saturday morning it was better, but not much. I went to the pottery studio, and that didn't seem to bother my back much at all. I made three cockroach traps, and tried to make some other things but mussed them all up. I did put a bunch of stuff in the bisque kiln so I can glaze it before the big summer sale in July.

Then I went to the gym. I hadn't gone on Friday because I didn't feel like staying at the base, so I was going to Friday's workout on Saturday. It's just arms, so it's not a big deal, and I was sure there was no way I could hurt my back. Ha! I was doing narrow-grip chins when pain shot up the left side of my lower back, like someone had reached in there to grab the lower-back muscle and ripped it right off the bone.

Needless to say I stopped and came home. But the exercise I was doing in no way uses the lower back. I have no idea what happened. I went to my girlfriend's house for a big lasagna dinner (it was going to be a cookout but she changed plans earlier in the week; good thing too since our friend Alberto was busy dropping rain all over town all evening and a cookout would have been very bad) and couldn't get comfortable. No matter how I sat or stood my back was killing me. Later I tried lying down on my back and my stomach and still couldn't make it stop hurting. I ended up coming home not long after the guests left, not what we'd hoped to do.

So of course today it's not bothering me all that much. I'm loath to do anything even remotely strenuous lest I strain it again. I have a physical therapy appointment tomorrow morning, for which I kind of hoped I'd be in the same excruciating pain I'd been in Saturday night, but of course like anything broken my back will be just fine when I take it in to the shop.

Earlier this afternoon I got to drive in to work and take care of a few things on the off chance we end up evacuating the jets to Wichita. I drove in right during one of Alberto's rain squalls and my was it fun. Waves were breaking against the Bayshore seawall high enough that there was a constant spray over the balustrade and four inches of standing water in the northbound lanes. And this was just an early rain squall from a very weak storm. How exciting! When the fat part of the season gets here we'll really have ourselves a party!

07 June 2006

What Not to Worry About

This man is not fit to be a United States Senator. I say this on the basis of his comment today that there is no more important issue in America right now than banning gay marriage.

There may in fact be no less important issue in America today than banning gay marriage. Here is a sample list of things that are more important. Feel free to add to this list as it is far from complete.

1. The Iraq War
2. The slow loss of our liberty to a cretinous power-grabbing idiot who occupies our highest office
3. Terrorism
4. The matter of whether world opinion of the United States can get much lower
5. The NSA tapping our phones for no reason
6. The capacity of our economy to absorb continued increases in energy costs
7. The man who oversaw the illegal NSA wiretapping program taking over the CIA
8. The fact that crime rates are rising again for the first time in a decade
9. The Real ID act, which will produce a massive storehouse of personal data to be maintained by the government, which has already proven itself incapable of protecting such data
10. The fact that American consumer debt has leveraged the worldwide economic expansion for the past few years and the slowdown in housing prices is putting a crimp on our ability to continue spending
11. The continually increasing budget deficit that the current administration has shown no interest in, not to say no capacity for, bringing under control
12. Social Security's eventual bankruptcy shortly before today's under-30 crowd attempt to retire

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Wasn't too many posts ago that I listed a quote by H.L. Mencken, "The whole purpose of practical politics is to keep the population menaced by an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." This gay marriage issue, in particular the idea of adding it to the U.S. Constitution, is nothing more than just a pointless hobgoblin, a diversion, an attempt by the President to rile up his base and stop all of us from thinking rationally. Why? Because when we, the people, think rationally, we'll realize how inept our leadership is. They can't have that, at least not until they've completed construction on the police state they're trying to turn this country into.