Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

This fuckin' town is killing me

I remember calling the guy who places me in new jobs (called a "detailer") many months ago, trying to figure out what I was doing next.  I decided I needed to make up for a couple of years of cushy jobs by taking something hard.  I told him Afghanistan, Iraq or Horn of Africa - I figured they're always looking for people to fill the slots, but I was wrong.  They had nothing for me.  A couple of years ago you couldn't beg someone into an augmentee job.  So he told me he had a job for me in a certain 5-sided building sunken city of complex, non-euclidean geometry.

I tried to explain the difference between the building and Afghanistan.  "One place is a meatgrinder and a hazard to life, limb and career.  The other is a country in Central Asia."  It didn't work.  Here I am.

And it turns out I'm right.

If it's not the whacko hostage takers getting gunned down right next to your bus stop...

...or the people shooting at your building in the morning before you show up for work...'s the (stupid) Al Qaeda wannabees looking for friends who will help them blow you up.

Of course, you'd be right to point out that I am a volunteer and I didn't have to stay in as long as I did to get to work where I do and when I do.  And you'd be right.  Then I could point out that we also wouldn't be here if our civilian leadership had had a better notion of grand strategy and the use of the military as part of the continuum of foreign policy and not the sole source of foreign policy for the last 15 years or so, and I'd be right.

But I wanna' play the victim today, and hindsight is always 20-20.  Still doesn't change the fact that I eat my breakfast a mere few hundred yards from people who are trying to kill me.  They won't succeed...

I've been doing the Crossfit thing for the last month or so; it's been good for ripping about 15 lbs or so off my fat ass.  I had to scale this workout though (did 5 rounds and only 20 reps of each exercise) because let's face it - I'm not in the shape these gals are in.  Not even close.

Whatever.  I'm out of time and out of bullshit.  Long drive ahead of me tomorrow back up to the Land of Lovecraft to hang with the family this weekend.  I'll have time to think about the (non-) plot of my writing next month.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Well shit what do I do now?

 Facebook Friend: "I've decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. 50,000 words in 30 days, blahblahblah..."

Me: "I thought of doing that once and writing a story that's sort of a combination of Patrick O'Brian and H.P. Lovecraft. I'd call it Master and Cthulhu."

Friend: "You must! I mean, come on: O'Brian even has a book call The Yellow Admiral which is already *this* close to the Admiral in Yellow. Ocean voyages...sunken cities of madness...this stuff writes itself! You owe it to the world, man! C' it! All the cool kids are!"

So now I'm thinking about it.   Even slinging bullshit, can I get 50,000 words out in a month?  I must admit, it's very tempting.

And even along the lines of what I discussed above.  I wrote a short piece about 18 months ago that was accepted by a Lovecraft-inspired e-zine.  I even noticed that Crum just found it a couple of weeks back.  I figure a fictitious early 19th Century sea voyage of a ship named Innsmouth from the east coast to the Pacific Northwest - through the mysterious waters of the South Pacific, home to R'lyeh, and the big smelly mud-flat of Lovecraft's Dagon, with some native-bred-to-Deep-One intrigue (linking the Pacific-origin of the "Innsmouth Look" to the ship and the story), apeshit madness and mutiny, and throw in the discovery of some bizzare, artifact-driven combination of celestial navigation and ship propulsion that brings Yog-Sothoth into play and I could probably cobble together 50,000 words of crud under the "No plot, no problem!" mantra.

I must admit, it is tempting...since I'm living 400+ miles from my family and have no friends I have several hours a night.  It would put that 18 month-old blog with just two posts on it to some use.  I'm about 95% sold on the idea of it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tee-pee for your mental bunghole...

Fourteen years ago yours truly was in graduate school, studying remote sensing, quantum mechanics, orbital mechanics, cosmology, semiconductors, optics, and a whole host of other brain-grinding classes to earn the title "Master of Science in Applied Physics" with a specialty in space systems. Long, had days of class followed by studying well into the evening; it's a good thing I was single then.

On a typical school night I'd study until 10 pm, then clean up and shower. Then I would de-compress my strained brain by seeking out what it desperately needed - Beavis and Butthead.

There was a certain brilliance to their imbecility. While their adventures were pure, unadulterated silliness, their running commentary while watching the music videos of the day was priceless and really quite insightful. Yes, the Stone Temple Pilots were a shitty Pearl Jam copy. Yes, Ace of Base sucked. Yes, Pantera rocked. It was, for a time, the sole redeeming program on MTV. It's cancellation in 1997 marked the day the channel went from 99% shit to 100% shit.

Music was at an interesting point then. Technology was coming on strong, but not so strongly that you didn't still need some modicum of talent to make it really, REALLY huge in the biz. I've often wondered what a Beavis and Butthead video critique would look like today. Would they wear meat dresses while they watched Lady GaGa spew her highly derivative, talentless crap all over the screen? How would they react to a System of A Down video?  I no longer have to wonder.


Well, according to the New York Post they almost are.  If Mike Judge can keep his comic and artistic integrity that's so evident in King of the Hill, Office Space, and Idiocracy - and why shouldn't he.  I ... gasp! ... would actually be seen watching MTV!

In case you haven't figured it out, the first eight seconds or so of this short video should explain how I feel:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's all Greek to me.

While at one of America's mega-monopolizing book stores today I picked up some new brain food:

Closeup of Vase
Image Source
Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.
Man, sounds like they had some real Tea-Partiers on their hands in the days of "hallowed antiquity". 

Yes, I'm going to read Thucidydes' History of the Peloponnesian War.  I'm actually doing a good bit more.  I'm embarking on a personal study of the war based upon three books:

The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan, widely considered the definitive, single-volume source for the "general reader" looking to understand the event.  It is still around 500 pages -  a decent chunk by anyone's standards.  From it I hope to get a reasonable understanding of the conditions that led to the war between Athens and Sparta and, as the book boldly promises, lessons and insights that are as relevant today as they were 2500 years ago.

The next book I plan to read is A War Like No Other by Victor Davis Hanson.  Definitely a controversial author for his conservative views and support for the war in Iraq, Hanson is nonetheless one of the foremost military historians in the country.  This book examines how both sides fought - on land and on sea, weapons, organization, tactics, etc. - within a somewhat disjointed (he admits as much in the preface) accounting of the history itself.  

Finally, there is The Landmark Thucydides edited by R. B. Strassler, apparently the only amateur of the bunch.  Unlike other translations, this has additional notes and appendices by classical scholars that will help put the text into context for the "uninitiated" reader.  I used a similar annotated text when I read Clausewitz last year, and On War is only 150 years old, so I figure if I'm going back to Greece in the 5th Century B.C., I'll need much the same.  My plan, in reading the above two books (which reference Thucydides extensively) is to refer to Strassler as a primary source to go back to and do all the extensive digging and thinking when I feel the need to do so.

I know I'm getting it backwards, I should probably read the primary source first.  But as many academics will tell you, you smash your brain against the primary source only to finish it wondering "What the fuck did I just read?" until your secondary sources shed light.  I'm not in school anymore, so I'm running straight for the light.

Why am I subjecting myself to this?  Because Daniel Drezner told me I should.  Well, not exactly.  I have, however, deepened my interest in history in the year I was away from the blogosphere, and also gained a new interest in strategy, policy and decision-making, both historic and current.  And to tell you the truth, in much of what I studied over the past year (unfortunately I did not get to study the Peloponnesian War) does echo still today.

In fact, my interest in these topics has expanded so much that I'm planning on writing about them more often, as part of a new policy think-tank.  I think I'll call it:

The R'lyeh Institute for Policy, Strategy and Highly Incomplete Thinking, or RIPSHIT.  Look for it, coming soon...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Every Child Left Behind

I was wondering what to write about when I found this outstanding video on a friend's FB I'm going to be lazy.

Information, knowledge about HOW we learn, cultural assumptions about who can be educated and standardization / anaesthetization in an industrial-era education system are bad news for our kids.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Write something. Just...write something!

Life pretty much revolves around commuting right now. Since graduating, I've been moved to a job in DC R'lyeh. Instead of ripping my family out of a house, community and school system (this time one we actually LIKE) yet again, we made the decision that I would be the one to go and I would visit the family as much as possible.

Driving to or from work in DC R'lyeh is a laughable proposition, so I take the train. For those who have never taken the Metro, please share in the experience:

The 6 am trains aren't that bad. Not very crowded, and it's easy to tune everyone out with headphones, put on some classical, and read a good book.

Weekends are a different story. For all but two since I've been here (the end of July) I've headed back north to RI. This is where you find out how much the I-95 Corridor FUCKING BLOWS. (Flights are fairly inexpensive; would that I had the $800+ per month to fly back every weekend.) So I've spent much of my time thinking about how to get from the Beltway to RI as quickly as possible by car. The best way I've found (north to Scranton, PA then east on I-84 to RI) still takes 8-9 hours depending on traffic. Until this past Friday.

The view from my weekend...

Average speed was about 1.5 mph for about two hours. When in the middle of a traffic jam I often find myself wondering if it was caused by someone being an idiot and, if it was, if the bastard who caused it "paid" enough. I guess this poor, dumb bastard did. Interestingly, knowing what had caused it made the situation easier to bear. No, not because I was glad the dude got shot and killed. (But, dumbfuck, don't pull a gun on a state cop unless you really, really mean it. And if you have a firearm, it helps not to draw attention to yourself by stealing vehicles.)

Coming back today was similar, but different. I need to take some rural side roads, and passing through a local Fall Arts Festival delayed me for an hour. Hmmmm...Fall Arts Festival. On Columbus Day. I wonder if it used to be a Columbus Day Festival. But not anymore. Now we all have to feel guilty about the course of history. I find recent bitching about holidays to be annoying. All the wingnuts want you to be suitably penitent and somber on any holiday dealing with the military, and want you to thank a vet for every single holiday. And if you're not a Christian you should remain in bed and only breathe just enough of their air so you don't die on December 25th. And if you're a moonbat then any holiday - period - is at its very root a celebration of genocide.

So I had contemplated making a handy-dandy do-it-yourself holiday admonishment mad-lib-like thingy where you could choose from three columns and mix and match to make a silly sentence like

"Don't wash your car on Labor Day because you're just celebrating genocide by giving money to the evil car wash", or

"Don't fart on Thanksgiving because this is a Christian country and Jesus will sic the veterans on your ungrateful ass."

Instead, I'd invite you to make up your own.

But where was I? Oh, back to the driving. I don't always mind the long delays or the long drive. It gives me time to listen to the classic hard rock / metal station on Sirius and remember my misspent youth. Lots of repetition, but lots of good driving songs. Like this old favorite of mine. For some reason, the pedal always hits the floor.

"Don't floor the accelerator when you hear Billy Squier. You're just memorializing Hitler when you do!"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So what the Hell do you write...

...when you haven't written in forever?

An update? Naaaaaaaah...suffice to say I'm fine and nothing cataclysmic happened.

Hell I have no idea what prompted me to even look at this site again. I wasn't sure where to look for it but then again, you don't find R'lyeh on maps any more these days.

I did find I had received some recent hate mail dealing with Allah panties. Apparently I'm going to get VD from isrelain areal sharen in bed. I hope she's smokin' hot.

Wow. Maybe I'll change my mind and side with the Teabaggers on the whole Ground Zero Gay Wedding Mosque thingy.

Shit...that was an update. Oh well, I guess I'll start writing shit again. Or at least trying. Beats deleting this thing. Well, maybe not. It'd be easier if I hired a typist to take dick-tation - errr, the words I say and type them out.

I think her name's Isrelain.