Monthly Archives: April 2006

Hello

So there are a number of new people here. Why not say hello and introduce yourself? You don’t have to of course. But if you do, just add comments to this post by clicking the link in this post’s header. Also you can get a custom avatar but I think you have to e-mail me… For some reason, it won’t let you select your own yourself.

Also, I don’t know if you’ve looked at the section I just put up that describes the political platform I want to see, so if not, go and visit MY COUNTRY. I think it’s pretty damn good.

In other news, I have a three-day weekend right now and I overclocked my system to 2.65GHz but then it crashes to desktop after a little bit in Battlefield 2. Hmm…more voltage needed!

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Random: Iran, Bush, Dems, Terrah, Energy, Nintendo

Iran

Ahmadinejad gives the peace sign!

I’m already tired of this charade they call diplomacy with regards to Iran. Is there any doubt that no one is going to change their minds? President Ahmadinejad is calling the U.S.’s bluff, knowing that the U.S. is inextricably locked into both Iraq and Afghanistan right now and that the pre-emptive policy the U.S. adopted did not lead to the success it hoped for. Ahmadinejad also wants Iran (and himself) to be the example of an entity that stood up to the U.S. He’s also challenging the idea that only a few countries can be trusted to be nuclear. Think about how other countries feel about being left out of the club. You’d resent it too.

Meanwhile the U.S. is charging ahead in its usual manner, pushing for U.N. resolutions and claiming publically that it’s relying on the system to fix the problem. I can’t think that strategic types inside the Beltway think that any more talking is going to change things unless the U.S. concedes nuclear exclusionism. Which means they have to be gaming Iran right now. I mean, right? They’re not THAT stupid, right?

What does Iran have to lose by continuing to resist? It will be a victim if the U.S. attacks it, and just drawing out the whole ordeal is harming relations between the U.S. and its “allies” who aren’t looking forward to sticking their necks out half-heartedly again. If the U.S. takes any action against Iran like sanctions or bombing or invasion, it will be nothing but a rally point for Iranians, even those who in general want to shed the aging conservatives who rule Iran.

Even if the U.N. resolved to take action against Iran, that’s not going to change anything. Iran has no need to budge.

Ahmadinejad:

“Before the report’s release, Iran’s president said he doesn’t “give a damn” about calls to end his country’s nuclear program.

Speaking at a rally in northwest Iran, Ahmadinejad said his country had a right to pursue nuclear technology.

“Those who want to prevent Iranians from obtaining their right, should know that we do not give a damn to such resolutions,” said Ahmadinejad, according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

“Enemies think that by … threatening us, launching psychological warfare or … imposing embargos can dissuade our nation to obtain nuclear technology.””

Bush relying on

I watched President Bush talk on CNBC in front of the White House, and he mentioned Iran. He made it sound like he was putting his full faith into the U.N. to resolve the matter. Sound familiar? This is why this whole thing is a charade. It’s like Caesar refusing the mantle three times.

Smartly Iran is not messing with oil output — I mean, after all, it’s a fucking slot machine for their coffers and hostile action against world oil supply would constitute a declaration of war among American hawks — yet American “experts” warn not to trust Iran. This whole trust thing is so out of control, by the way. Go back to the Dubai ports deal… We’re not exactly as welcoming as we claim to be.

Of course Iran is pursuing a destructive policy for itself in the long term but in the short term it is trying to be the example. Oil profits will continue for a while but I think the end of those days are coming faster than people expect. Also, there are plenty of other countries in the world who just said fuck it with regards to trying to being political players and instead are concentrating on making their national businesses competitive, and even protecting themselves against the corrosive effects of unchecked globalization. Iran is running an inefficient government right now.

Energy

Gas is affecting decisions I make. I don’t drive to the movies anymore and I certainly don’t drive down to Nashville on the weekends. Even drives to the mall just to go driving are scrutinized. At some point I think this will happen on a larger scale. Think about what we’d lose if we could no longer go on the great American cross-country drive?

I was listening to NPR the other day and it had some guy talking about how nuclear power is not the way to go, in light of the Chernobyl anniversary. I forget what the statistic he mentioned was but I’m not sure I believe it. It was something like how all the combined renewable energy sources produced more power in 2005 than nuclear energy did. Is that possible? The point was that perhaps we do not need the potentially devastating nuclear reactors when in aggregate the growth of renewable energy will suffice. Personally I don’t think nuclear energy is so bad. Wired had an article extolling nuclear power’s virtues.

That all got me curious so i went to the Dept. of Energy’s site and started looking at more numbers. Check out the DoE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site, for example. Great stuff available…

The State Dept’s 2005 Terrorism Report

This new report (warning: PDF file) is chock full of misleading statistics and back-slapping for countries united in the war against terror.

It starts off with a dubious claim that Al-Qaeda is losing control over its operational arms, citing Zarqawi’s letter to Zawahiri that was intercepted. I would not say that Al-Qaeda is losing control at all — in fact, its efforts to control or re-appropriate Zarqawi to other positions indicates its concern at maintaining its accessibility to Muslims everywhere. They want to push jihad as a global and spiritual movement, not bloody violence, beheadings, and massive slaughter.

One salient point that was barely touched was that the increase in the number of radicalized Muslims meant that attacks could be expected to be small, poorly organized, and unpredictable, demonstrating the wish of newly radicalized Muslims to try to take any action possible, despite their lack of expertise. The key point is that the report tacitly concedes that the movement is growing quickly and out of the control of counter-terrorist agencies.

One thing I hate about the report is that it lists countries and their contributions to the war against terror, which amounts to Bush’s listing of members of the “coalition of the willing”. It demonstrates an attempt to show how everyone’s working together, holding hands and singing, and generally improving the world.

This is sobered by the year’s statistics, which basically say that Iraq’s innocents are dying at extremely high rates, and that Iraq contributes to most of the global terrorist attacks. Suicide attacks, rare in Afghanistan in the past, have picked up considerably at the end of 2005 as information-sharing and further radicalization of Islam spread. Hurray!

I hate those statistics that compare the number of terrorist “attacks” and people injured/killed year over year. I mean, that doesn’t mean anything. 9/11 immediately added over 3,000 people to the count. So theoretically if that was the only attack that year, you could say that attacks dropped sharply from the previous year, even though that attack was more deadly and effective than any others in the last few decades.

It’d seem to me to be more important to look at the spread of Muslim extremist attacks and techniques employed around the world. Or arrests in various countries. But the writing on the wall, the fact that radical Islam is spreading across the planet, is not good to talk about publically. The small community that made up terrorism is now a massive movement.

Fucking Dems

So Bush’s approval rating is in the toilet, Iraq is sucking, and gas prices are bleeding us. What do the Dems do? They make themselves look bad! AWESOME! GOOD JOB GUYS! Yes, let’s put taxes on gasoline. Let’s punish oil companies by taking windfall profits. Let’s inhibit a free market that’s trying to act upon supply and demand in what is already a heavily manipulated market!

How do the Democrats do it? They’re probably STILL going to lose in 2008.

In Clive Hamilton’s “Growth Fetish”, he argues that the left has lost its influence because it has adopted the same addiction to economic growth that the Republicans have. By admitting that the most important thing to solve all ills is to grow economically, the Democrats concede that altruistic and un-business-like principles like helping the poor and feeble are not sound policies to follow in a society that loves growth. Therefore both political parties are mired in the same box of thinking — meanwhile, the Republicans have differentiated themselves through exaggeration from a growing group of more conservative liberals, and have taken power in this manner.

I think what we need is the birth of a new party, a party that seeks the “post-growth society” that Hamilton discusses, a society that seeks more reward than just growth and higher wages. A society that seeks more personal enrichment, community, and “eudemonism” (Hamilton’s term), or seeking happiness in life as the main goal.

Optimism

I’m not pessimistic. Really. I mean, I’m pretty fucking happy with how the oil thing is going. On CNBC they are talking about oil independence and alternatives and reduction in consumption and all sorts of things I wouldn’t have expected to hear so soon.

The faster oil prices go up, the faster we’ll take the threat seriously. And take me, for example. I think I probably represent a lot of 20-30 somethings who don’t want to just get some ordinary desk job but instead want to work for a meaningful cause even if it means a pay cut. And what I’m interested in is working for an organization that is pushing for weaning ourselves off a carbon-based economy. It’s probably the most important thing humans need to address right now, besides the Internet.

That these ideas are already hitting the mainstream is highly encouraging. I believe that all these smart, un-utilized minds will thirst to work on finding new solutions and improving alternative energy collection efficiency so that all these different forms can be combined to greatly reduce the so-called carbon footprint.

When Bush, an oil man in the flesh, is at least publically talking about it also, that is encouraging.

Look at this MSN Money article on the true cost of hybrid cars. The Prius is the only hybrid that will save you money over five years right now — and its new version with 90mpg and a much more powerful engine will come in 2008. The other cars still lose you money, but surprisingly only $300 to $4,000. Considering how little attention has been placed on hybrid technology (even as combustible fuel is the #1 waster of energy world-wide), the fact that we’re already that close to reducing the costs of owning a more environmentally and consumption friendly car is amazing.

I predict that within the next decade we will experience an energy Renaissance where we will free ourselves from energy waste and will actually find it an art and a worthwhile pursuit to adopt ecologically friendly policies. I think it will all happen much faster than the timelines suggest, as all this untapped energy and talent dogpiles on.

It makes me giddy to think about the after-effects of this conversion.

Nintendo Love

I own Nintendo stock. And I’ll be adding more if I can get good prices. Yesterday the company announced that its new console would be called “Wii” (Whee). The mainstream immediately poo-poo’d the name, just as it initially panned the Revolution a year ago when Nintendo announced it at E3. Nintendo claims it represents their new branding of fun, community-based play as well as two i’s to represent the innovative new controller.

My thought is that the name will become recognizable over time, if not always in a positive way. Already the press generated has really helped awareness for Nintendo. Meanwhile, Microsoft announced that losses for the unit that includes its Xbox 360 doubled its losses from last year, presumably from the costs of developing, manufacturing, marketing, and releasing the 360 this year. Sony is expected to take a huge financial hit also once it releases the PS3.

Meanwhile Nintendo is posting great financial numbers and is embracing gamers old and new. I’m sold!

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Fun with Guns

This week we primarily did urban movement drills, which consisted of taking fire in a street (think Black Hawk Down/Mogadishu Mile) and taking cover, evacuating from the ambush and securing the entire team. We used simrounds, which are small rounds that look like 9mm except that the tips are collapsible plastic filled with paint. They travel faster than paintballs and leave pretty big welts. They don’t always break or show a lot of paint so you can’t tell where you hit someone always, but they’re more accurate and better for training.

The main thing I learned from the training was that it’s fucking difficult to exit a vehicle and take cover, then coordinate moving large squads through buildings quickly and efficiently. Against a coordinated, intelligent enemy, we would take massive casualties. I guess my point is that we take a lot of things for granted in war these days. We don’t have to worry about overhead attack, enemy reinforcements (save for swarming of angry locals), heavy armor or concentrated artillery. Under directed, sustained firepower, we would lose a lot more people. All we really get hit by is what you can’t really completely defend against: surprise IEDs. And given the higher difficulty we’ve given that type of attack to the insurgents, they’ve moved on to the softer targets: Iraqi police and off-duty locals who consort with us.

Unless you’ve had constant practice and drilling with the same group of people under a variety of conditions, if shit goes down then it’s going to be mass confusion and a lot of opportunities for friendly fatalities. It’s worrying. But it also shows that if we DO regain the momentum, then our enemy will be severely ill-prepared for dealing with it. We have vastly superior individual and small team training.

Today we got to familiarize ourselves with foreign and non-standard American weapons. We fired AK-47s and AK-74s, collapsible stocks and not. Wildly inaccurate and hard to load mags and change the selector to semi or auto. The selector goes from safe to auto (multiple rounds at once), and then to semi. Seems kind of weird to me. It’s hard to line the sights up for double taps.

We used a few variants of the H&K’s weapons, including the MP5: the small one you see in movies that has a little forward pussy grip to hold onto (MP5KA4), a 5.56 variant (HK53), and a suppressed version (MP5SD2). The small one is hard to shoot because you fire it away from your body. The suppressed version was my favorite weapon of the day. It has a small profile and is light. The suppressor on the barrel removes a lot of the noise and kick, so you can fire quickly without losing sight picture. It’s also quiet, which makes it feel efficient. It really doesn’t even sound lethal.

MP5KA4

MP5SD

The shotguns were fun. We fired a Bennelli Super M3 90 and a short shotty. They had less kick than I thought they would. They’re super easy to load. I’m not sure I want to see what these would do to someone up close, or be around one when used to destroy a door lock.

We also got to fire the M2 .50 cal, which is the big gun you see on top of HMMWVs from footage from Iraq. It shoots nice and slow but its rounds will bust shit up quickly. Its rounds are about as big as a couple of your fingers. You’d definitely keep your head down (and try to keep it on) if fired upon by one. You get a kick out of firing these.

Lastly, we got to play with, but not fire, a PKM, the infamous machine gun from Battlefield 2 that people use as a sniper rifle while dropping to the ground and killing you in one shot somehow!

Etc.

I paid $39 to fill up my gas tank the other night. I think businesses are already making decisions to curb the effect of gas prices on their business, by purchasing alternative energy credits and cutting energy consumption. I think gas prices are elastic enough for consumers like you and me though until gas goes up another two dollars or more. I mean, people still need to get to work. They’ll have to cut it out of other purchases instead. That’s the effect of energy on inflation.

The Dems cheered when Scott McClelland resigned. Oh, but look, he’s being replaced by a FOXNews radio host! The Dems win again! SURPRISE, LOL! SUCKERZ!

Meanwhile, Hillary is criticizing the Republicans for a proposal cutting war spending in order to finance border security. The Republicans think she’s being stupid because obviously that money won’t come out of buying equipment for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Without researching deeply, do we know this for sure? What about payoffs to lucrative relationships between politicians and defense contracting executives?

I was thinking that congressmen really need to start using the web to disseminate their views on the different things they vote on. They can get some intern to do it. Voting records for congressmen are very misleading, for example, because they don’t say why someone voted yea or nay for something. It could have been they were voting against one clause in it, or against the pork barrel amendments to the proposal, or whatever. A congressman’s web site could make that distinction.

Finally, I’d just like to say something to you, Julie: you’re fucking hot.

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Foggy Saturday Morning

For some reason, it’s foggy outside. I guess it’s been humid all week and poured down all day yesterday. The air conditioning is still not turned on in the barracks.

I finally figured out how to get both cores on my CPU to work. I had to use a later version of a Windows install! In fact it was a pretty cool moment when I found out it was working. I saw both cores on one monitor, and the super hot Julie showing me her new tattoos (which requires toplessness!) on the other! It was like being in fucking geek heaven!

So I got everything installed pretty quickly after that since the system barely hesitates ever. And my benchmarks are where they should be. I compared mine vs. the best AMD and Intel benches, where my CPU should be (at a lower clockspeed), and vs. my old computer’s specs. As you can see, it was quite an upgrade!

Sandra - CPU Arithmetic Sandra - CPU Multimedia Sandra - Memory Bandwidth

I’m very happy now. Battlefield 2 runs great at 1280×1024 on high settings. I wonder how it’ll run with full anti-aliasing on! Also, the LCD CPU/RAM meters on my keyboard show both cores’ usages.

I relaxed last night with some Sonic. I was pretty tired after a week of firing a couple thousand rounds, storming through a mock-up house and clearing rooms. I crashed pretty early later. I just had to get some tater tots and a banana split though. You know what bothers me every time I go to Sonic though? That mysterious red button. You press it so that the person comes on and takes your order. But how do you know they’ve turned off their receiver once you’re done? What if they’re listening?

There’s got to be some black market for conversations overheard by Sonic employees of people in their cars, chatting away freely. I wonder if Sonic just tapes it all and develops some end of the year comedy mix tape for its executives. I can just see a big conference table seated by a lot of balding types wearing suspenders laughing hysterically at unsuspecting customers’ random conversations.

The NBA playoffs begin this weekend. I’m stoked. It’s literally my favorite time of the year, every year. Especially in the early rounds when there’s like two or three games on EVERY DAY.

I haven’t been following basketball that closely this season so I’m taking the top seeds all the way. The only upset I’m taking is Dallas to go all the way to the finals. Partly favoritism, partly a sense that they believe they can actually beat San Antonio now. Duncan is a little hurt. Don Nelson and Michael Finley, the kings of choke, are gone.

I’m taking the Pistons to go all the way again. I know, not exactly rocking the boat. But they’re pretty damn good. And better on offense this season.

I just wish those fuckers at ESPN would stop gaming the playoffs so much that they actually believe the Kings can beat the Spurs in the first round. Tom Tolbert predicted that the Kings could beat the Spurs. Steven A. Smith is his usual loudmouth, idiotic self. Bill Walton will bring much misery with his inane, Will Ferrell-doing-his-Harry-Caray-impression ramblings. Sigh. =(

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Moussauiouiiuai, and Following the Defense Money

9/11 Trial

The Musawi (Moussaoui or however the fuck the news is spelling it is way too goddamn difficult for a transliteration) trial is just another reminder of how eerily ignorant people are right now.

The guy’s probably going to be sentenced to death. I’d say most Americans want him dead. The things he’s saying in court are not really helping his case.

Of course, that’s mainly because there’s a huge gap in understanding between Americans and the extremists.

I am not quite sure why people haven’t wondered why Musawi wants more Americans to die. Or why he wants many more 9/11s. When some of the 9/11 victims’ families were asked whether they wanted him put to death, their responses were either demanding vengeance (death sentence) or punishment (life sentence). The latter bunch were the most amusing because they wanted Musawi to spend years in jail thinking about all those innocent people that were killed.

Oh man, I’m sure Musawi’s just going to cry a river about that one. Maybe one day, yes, he’ll wake up and realize that violence begets violence and that what he’s been involved in is bad. But, uh, I wouldn’t count on it. More likely, he sees a vision for Islam and sees those who stand in his way. An Al-Qaeda member sees Americans as accessories to their government’s policy. They see it as the last pillar of Islam, the responsibility of carrying out jihad. They see the Americans as having humiliated Islam, subjugating and exploiting Muslims and Arabs, deserving vengeance from a righteous hand.

Why would they care about a few Americans dying when millions of Arabs and Muslims live subserviently under the hand of the American despots/infidels/dictators/imperialists?

Al-Qaeda appealed for Americans to not vote for Bush, which of course was seen as evidence that voting for Bush was the right thing to do. But the important thing behind Al-Qaeda’s words was that they were establishing link between the government and the people, demonstrating that both have the same views. Perhaps only a theoretical idea but it serves to add legitimacy to jihad.

In Musawi’s words, to be put to death is not a guarantee of becoming a martyr (wait, wait, sorry, I meant shaheed…you know, because that’s what the informed journalists are using!!!) but it does allow one to go to Heaven.

You know, if you ask me, this is just another example of the U.S. getting itself into a lose-lose situation. I mean, what was Musawi charged with exactly? I’m not saying he’s innocent but he sounds like he’s the scapegoat for 9/11, something he’s relishing in court. So we kill the guy (after a lengthy time in jail). It isn’t really going to help us too much either diplomatically or with our own conscience. The only plus side (and really the only thing I support the death penalty for) is that we’ll know he’s no longer on this earth. What’s the point of imprisonment? He’s not going to reform. The experience would only confirm his beliefs.

I think the idea of prison reform is a fucking mess. Almost all the major terrorist leaders spent time in jail. It was during that time that they became hardline born-again religious fanatics. Their cells confirmed their rejection of society. Almost all of the major terrorist leaders group together their prisonmates who they also converted while in prison. These people become their most fiercely loyal cohorts.

In Iraq, Abu Ghraib had become a place where inmates went to be safe (well after the photos came out, I mean), well-taken care of because of American detention rules. When they were released, they’d gone through their rites of passage. They were hardened. It was a training camp.

The same shit happens in the U.S. but that’s for another entry I guess. The prevalence of gangs and drugs and extremism in the prison system, with little effect on reform, does little for the argument of life sentences.

Musawi is a lose-lose for the U.S. and everyone knows it. He certainly enjoys it. What are we going to do? Maybe we should just release the fucker. Seriously. We’re not going to win the war on terror by just eliminating each and every extremist combatant. In fact Iraq has spiralled into a massive training ground and the terrorist community, which used to be rather small even before 9/11 is now a pan-Arab ideological movement. We’ve compounded our problems and there’s no way out now.

It makes me sad. When will the U.S. start making rational risk analysis decisions? When will it get its head out of its myopic foreign policy mindset and look at the bigger picture?

Defense Money

Money is drying up in Iraq. I bet contracting jobs are becoming less available, the massive salaries contracting. You should expect to see the number of deployed soldiers begin to fall off next year. The official report will be that responsibility has been turned over to the Iraqis in more and more areas of Iraq.

Where is all that defense money going to go for research and manufacturing? Where do you think? Instead of using our troops for defense, we’re going to tell the Iraqis that they need to step up and defend themselves. And hey, in order to do that, they’re (and by they’re I mean the U.S.) will need to pony up a shitload of money in order to buy weapons.

We’re going to flood the Middle East (even more) with our weapons and vehicles. We’re going to open (even more) military training schools and consultancies. We’ll book it as healthy trade with Arab nations. We’ll talk about how much we support their efforts to get back on their democratic feet. They’re going to replace all those AK’s with M-16s, those Datsun pickups with HMMWVs. Helicopters, jets. C-130s, C-17s. Gold mine!

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Messing with My Computer

This weekend I was toying with SiSoft Sandra, a computer benchmarking and reporting suite, running benchmarks to see how my computer stacked up with other similar ones.

I’d done this a while ago (I got this computer in February and maybe had it running a couple weeks in, but I’ve been too occupied lately to really check it out) and noticed that my scores were pretty low.

So this time I finally had some time and a little more knowledge (gleaned from excellent forums out there) about overclocking. After cutting my memory multiplier to 5/6, but upping the CPU, DRAM, and Chipset voltages, I was able to get the processor to run at 2.5GHz from the default 2GHz. This is a great increase. I could probably up it even more given safe temperature readings (still around 32-35). That’s why I got these computer parts. High degree of overclockability.

I figured out that my Sandra benches after overclocking my CPU were about at half of what they should be. Well, my processor was a dual-core, so maybe it wasn’t using both?

Turns out that that’s right. After re-installing Windows to try to change the HAL layer to “ACPI Multiprocessor PC” but having no luck, and then noticing after removing the boot-up splash to reveal that only one core (cpu0) shows on the boot screen, I realized that my dual-core wasn’t even working right! And I’d never noticed, since the computer has never really buckled even when running intensive applications.

So I tried all sorts of things. I upgraded AMD drivers, reinstalled WINXP SP2 MCE 2002 (rolled up to 2005) from scratch, tried the Microsoft dual-core fix. I tried forcing HAL updates. I updated to the latest BIOS for my board.

I found some things I missed. Two power connectors weren’t connected to the motherboard, which according to a rep for the mobo I have in one forum I read are necessary for stability. I also moved my RAM chips to the setup required for dual channel RAM.

Obviously in building a computer from scratch after not having a new one for a few years, I didn’t know my shit on the new tech. So I’m not surprised that I never noticed that I was running single channel RAM. I also never suspected both cores weren’t being recognized — the CPU is reported correctly.

But now I know, and I don’t know what to do to fix it. I’m thinking I should just try XP Corp or even XP Pro x64. I dunno. It sounds like a BIOS/mobo error to me, but believe it or not none of the sites I go to for information talk about this kind of situation.

I figure I’ll just try another Windows install to see if that will detect my dual-cores.

Otherwise I am stumped. I might work on it next weekend as a project.

I do like having dual channel RAM now with a CPU greatly overclocked. I just wish I could figure out how to enable both cores!

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Daydreams

Upon returning from block leave, I found out this one guy on my floor was found dead in his room. (mentioned before) I don’t know what happened but he was one of the first people I met when I got to this unit and it’s weird to think that he’s dead. Also his truck’s still here. I’ve had my grandparents die but really that’s the closest I’ve ever been to directly knowing someone who’s died, which I guess must sound strange given my current profession.

Also, I was unceremoniously dumped in a two-week “train the trainer” class. The class’s goal is to teach urban combat skills to support soldiers. I did this class before I deployed last year so I knew what to expect: long days that start early and end late, being exposed to the weather for twelve hours a day with few breaks, and thousands upon thousands of shots fired.

We’re practicing how to maneuver, how to fire our weapons in any conceivable situation, all the basics we’ll need when the shit hits the fan. Right now I’m dehydrated (It’s pretty hot right now and in fact the barracks are extremely hot also, because in the military there’s central air and the military post is the only authority who decides when heat switches to A/C and vice versa. They always switch well past when it’s needed, so I’m sweating my balls off here!) and my face is quite red. I haven’t gotten much sun this winter. I have raccoon eyes from my Oakleys. My hands are also red. Everything else was covered up. Except for my neck, which doesn’t feel very good when my weapon sling rubs it. =P Plus after switching to “safe” on my weapon a couple thousand times and doing malfunction drills, my fingers feel numb. And then there’s sore back and feet from wearing body armor and standing all day.

But you see, I’ve sort of missed this. First of all I like the feeling of seeing when other people are definitely in a world of hurt deeper than mine when we train. A lot of the people are smoked right now.

Second, this reminds me of airborne school, which, while it was infuriatingly frustrating, had its nostalgic moments. Like when we’d get dismissed and I’d drive up to the shoppette and buy two Powerades (like I did today) and down them in no time flat, unwinding by sitting in my car and listening to music. All I had then was pretty much the music in my car, my cellphone, and the little privacy the interior of my car afforded.

Army training can be fun but not when it impedes on your personal time. I’ve probably fired more shots on my weapons than a huge percentage of the rest of the Army has. I get more training than I’ll ever need. And it’s fun to be outside of the office, popping off double taps.

I got the same sensation today as I have in the past. That sensation where you start fantasizing about downing a big, ice-cold Mountain Dew, or eating some food that’s really salty (like Sonic’s tater tots). It really becomes an obsession, something that makes you actually smile. In Ranger school, the combined sleep and food deprivation mean that soldiers start hallucinating, running off into the woods because a cheeseburger started to waddle away. Shit like that.

This training sucks because I have to get up early, and don’t get home until after 6PM, but it’s really one of those things I’ll enjoy looking back at. Firing over and over and over get you more comfortable with a weapon. You end up with black carbon on your face and sore fingers from speed-loading ammo and operating the weapon. But afterwards, you feel much more confident with it.

So after I indulged in the day’s daydreams, I thought of some others. I fantasized about the food Julie and I cooked when we were together, like the omelet we whipped up with prosciutto and cheese, and the garlic buttered steak we had with grilled pine nuts and crispy green beans. I thought about the yummy egg soup and bread sticks and crackers and cheese we had for lazy weekend lunches. I savor those moments more than I do the excellent food we had out. Not to take anything away from the restaurants, for Julie took me to some awesome ones and we had outstanding food (perfect for someone who was in Iraq for that long!). But love is in the details it seems.

I loved hearing Julie come up the steps when returning from work, knowing I was there waiting for her. I loved feeling Julie curl up onto me when we slept. I loved talking idly with her in the kitchen by the counters while she smoked. I loved watching Julie feed her fish, Sushi.

I thought about how I missed doing for real in Iraq the things we’re training for now. I enjoyed the time we spent staging at bases, waiting for the time to execute the mission, catching a nap or chatting with the Iraqi soldiers (who gave me food and drink constantly), messing around with my team. I’d have fun with my team, like when we were sitting in the middle of the desert (waiting of course) just bullshitting about which actors were in obscure movies while kicking up super-fine sand (so powdery and light you could kick up a mound and barely notice until your boot is full of sand) underneath our boots and looking up at a completely clear sky with millions of stars and the occasional overhead fighter jet support. I enjoyed driving down the streets of Iraq at high speed during the day, seeing how Iraqis lived and reacted to us. I did not (really) enjoy but I guess appreciated driving into the infamous Sadr City at night. I enjoyed sitting in with some Iraqis and asking them about Al-Sistani and the Shi’ites and what being in the Kuwait-invasion Iraqi Army era was like. The rest of the deployment, the time not spent seeing Iraq for real? Yeah, I could’ve done without that.

I also missed my H3O buddies from language school. My sunburns made me think of the ones I’d get going surfing in the frigid California Pacific, paddling like a frightened duck on my board. I thought of how the Prodigy would laugh hysterically at things, Monkey Pope would come in with some big new love for something cool that we’d all get into after that. I remembered about how we all went into the main office of our company to check our language scores, and how I showed up a little late so when I found out I passed, we all celebrated with hooting and hollering and then went and celebrated by turning in Monkey Pope’s car to the shop and going out to Chipotle.

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