17 April 2006

Howdy!

Well, I’ve been back from Germany for over a week now, and my apartment is still trashed from my frenetic burst of packing the night before I left. Admittedly, I’ve had less time actually in my apartment than the full week–I managed to lose my keyring somewhere in Germany and I spent three days in a hotel before I could contact my apartment complex for a replacement key. Mostly, though, I’ve just been a victim of jet lag.
I have, however, replaced my computer and bought a new cell phone since I’ve been back. So it’s like I’ve been lazy. Just completely irresponsible. 🙂
Germany was very, very boring. We each worked five days (of the 21 days we were there), and neither the local nor the Missouri command had any training or activities for us beyond that. I was almost put on suicide watch. This is because the rest of the company did nothing but lay around the barracks all day and have the some of the dumbest conversations I’ve ever heard. I, on the other hand, know better than to be a barracks rat. I was at the gym, at the library–anywhere else. So, since I wasn’t talking to them, obviously I was depressed . As if! Actually talking to them is what would have made me depressed!
I thought about taking a MWR trip while I was there, but I just couldn’t justify the expense. The “Castle Tour”, for instance: for about $80.00, I’d have to arrange to be on a different base at 3 a.m., where a bus would pick me up and drive me to two castles in different parts of Germany. Not only would I also be responsible for my own meals, but each castle would also have it’s own entry fee (not covered by my $80.00) and neither allowed pictures to be taken inside. So I passed.
I did see the movie Munich while I was in Germany–so that was apropos. The movie itself was an utterly fanciful, anti-Israeli historical revisionism which I won’t even get into here. Suffice it to say, I don’t recommend the movie. I do, however, recommend Slither, a rather seamless blend of body-snatcher and zombie movies, with just a hint of HPL–starring Nathan Fillion (formerly captain of the Serenity!)
On the up side, I discovered a new favorite writer. A retired USMC officer named John Poole, who writes about military tactics and theory–and has lots of juicy stuff relevant to Kevin’s and my project. I actually overspent my intended budget for the trip buying his books–in fact, after I bought one of each title the PX had in stock, they bought some more (he has about eight titles out now, I have five of them).

Pre-box is immensely busy. I usually work out there alone; today I was supervising a team of ten people. We were still swamped when we left. I don’t think we have room for all of those books!
Oh, and get this–one of the “girls” (I put that in quotes because, although she is several years younger than I, this young lady has 8 children. I call her “Ma Kettle.”) who came out to help me said that I was obviously a “nice guy.” Now, when I’m in practice, I can hit a human-sized target nine out of ten times at 500 yards without a scope. My martial art of choice is Filipino knife-fighting. I am not only a former U.S. Marine, I am an ex-mercenary. What the hell do I have to do to get a bad boy image???

Anyhoo, great to be back. My current project is getting everything in line for next March’s OCS class.

26 August 2005

Well, the big news this week was going to be that W. “Hock” Hochheim, one of the great CQC instructors anywhere, is giving a seminar in Kansas City in September and that I would be attending. Instead, that has been overshadowed by the fact my good friend and kali instructor, Mike Olive, will be taking an indefinite hiatus from teaching martial arts. In light of this, I have decided put a moratorium on my own training for a few months. Although the Band of the Rattan continues through the MU Columbia Kali Club, I am not interested in joining another college martial arts club–Kirksville left a bad taste in my mouth. And I’ve already spent the last two years trying to train without an instructor. The up side is that my debt is nearly gone, I’m scheduling viewings for some nice, well-priced properties in Columbia, and I’ve got a great idea for my own business once I’m completely solvent. (By the way, I had mistakenly told a few people that I have a positive net worth now for the first time since my divorce. I actually don’t–but I will on the first of September). I have found a great series of books on financial planning called Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by former U. S. Marine and multimillionaire Robert Kiyosaki. I’m halfway through the second one; I’ve given the first to Jeremy, with high hopes. I recommend these books to EVERYBODY.

11 August 2005

An elderly woman develops an interest in organic foods. The next time her husband goes to the store, she reminds him to buy only organic groceries. The old man searches all over the maket, but can’t find the organic foods section. Finally, he grabs some vegetables and tracks down a grocer. “These vegetables are for my wife,” he says,”have they been sprayed with poisonous chemicals?””No,” answers the grocer,”you’ll have to do that yourself.”
—–
Sorry I didn’t write last week; Jeremy was on vacation and I couldn’t figure out how to fix the internet connection when it crashed. MBS is in serious over-drive; we had two hours of mandatory overtime last week, 10 this week, and 10 again next week. It’ll be a nice paycheck, but I feel like my arms are falling off. I’m having to take my bodybuilding supplements just to keep up at work (of course, “keeping up” for me means out-working everyone else. I’m so competitive!)… and I still have no energy left for training. I’ve been home for, what, three months now? And I’ve made it to three kali classes? Of course, that’s more a time-slot issue.
I got an employment packet in the mail from KCPD. I’m not getting my hopes up, but man, it’d be nice… I visited my grandfather Monday after work. I realized that I’d only seen him once since I deployed–over a dinner when I was home on leave. Turns out he has quite a few old war stories–I wish I’d been able to stay longer, but I had to get some sleep before facing the Speedy-Packer (that’s the name of the machine I’ve been operating lately. I feel so dirty when I say it!). According to the Libertarian newsletter, a higher percentage of Americans are now in favor of impeaching President Bush than were in favor of impeaching President Clinton. Interestingly, most of those in favor seemed to make the qualification “if it could be shown that he deliberately misled congress about his reasons for going to war”–I thought that that was what an impeachment would investigate. On the up side, the U.N. is moving in to relieve most of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and Presisent Bush has finally set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq–starting next January, if the Iraqi elections come through.

1 August 2005

A blonde decides that she needs to supplement her income, so she begins canvassing a wealthy neighborhood door-to-door offering her services as a handyman. At one house, a man offers her fifty dollars to paint his porch. She agrees, and he tells her that the paint is already in the garage. After only half an hour, the blonde again knocks on the man’s door. “I’m all finished,” she says.
“Well, that certainly was quick!” the man replies.
“Thank you. Actually, I had some paint left over, so I gave it a second coat.”
Impressed, the man reaches for his wallet and begins counting out $50.00.
“And by the way,” says the blonde,”it’s not a Porch. It’s a Ferrari.”
—–
Sorry I’ve been incommunicado for a couple of weeks; I had some personal stuff to get sorted out. The up side is, I’m getting my promotion points straightened out, I’ve got almost everything ready for Warrant Officer school, and I’ve gotten a second (and much more positive) opinion on the subject of ADSW with Kevin. I may also get my Corporal rank returned to me before I put in my Warrant Officer package.It’s been almost a month since “A” company sent me my travel voucher to sign, and still no word from them, or from DFAS. Josh and John continue the good fight. I watched Sky High this last weekend. It was a cheesy Harry Potter rip-off, but it had its clever moments. Ranging from the all-to-obvious (Lynda Carter’s parting shot is “I’m not Wonder Woman, you know.”) to wonderfully hidden (Kurt Russel plays the main character’s father, whose power is super-strength. Leafing through his old Sky High yearbook, we come across his senior picture–taken from his role in Disney’s The Strongest Man in the World.) All-in-all, another recommendation for video rental. I have been nominated to compete for Poet of the Year in the International Society of Poets, an annual competition for a $20,000.00 grand prize. Unfortunately, I’d have to be in Washington, D.C., all next weekend as a condition of the contest (their annual international convention),and I have neither the time nor the funds to do so. Mayhap next year. I’ve written Mike an e-mail letting him know that I will be unable to attend kali class for the month of August. We’re finishing peak season at MBS, and I’m running out of time to get my ducks in-line for MOARNG when I start back in September. Finally, a hearty congratulations to Dave and Renita, who just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it.

10 July 2005

Okay, the verdict is in: either movie would be a decent video rental, but I would advise you not to waste your money at the cinema. In other words, CRAP! and CRAP!. Warning: if you intend, despite my advice, to watch these movies on the big screen, read no further: movie spoilers ahead.—–Let us begin with The Fantastic Four. This is Marvel’s second attempt an a FF movie. The first was so horrible that it went straight to video and disappeared from shelves nation-wide after about a month. This particular movie is much higher-budget, but still poorly written and easily predictable. I might have forgiven them had Jessica Alba finally gotten naked on film, but alas, she continues her pretense of morality by only stripping to her underwear (Again. And again.). Also, while I am fully prepared to suspend my disbelief for a comic book movie, I can’t suspend it quite so far as the director would like. I am prepared for cosmic rays to grant superhuman powers; that’s part of the fantasy. However, I am not prepared for a machine which not only generates and contains cosmic rays (which pass through the entire planet without slowing down), but funnels them through a hose. Also, since my suspension of disbelief is based on the comic book characters, major changes to said characters ruins the movie. Doctor Doom (a FF staple villain) as metallic mutant rather than a powered-armored antagonist is not something I’m prepared to forgive. And finally, if your grasp of science is so weak that you don’t know the difference between chemistry and physics, don’t put it in your dialogue. Especially from the characters who are supposed to be super-smart. As for The War of the Worlds… How on Earth can a director of Spielberg’s caliber take an intelligent classic, remake it with a huge special effects budget, and still manage to destroy it? The tripods, in this version, are not sent to Earth in the invasion. Rather, they were buried here millenia ago (the estimate given in the movie is a milllion years, but this is apparently based solely on the fact that they were in a lower geological stratum than the sewers of New York city) and the aliens simply decide that now is the time to return to Earth and conquer. Of course, they are still destroyed by bacteria… which raises two questions: why did they allow human civilization to advance at all, rather than simply maintaining a presence on Earth, and how could such “vast intellects” not have detected bacteria over millenia of observation? The “heat rays” were well accomplished as effects, but the “black smoke” failed to appear at all, which I found dissappointing. The imperviousness of the tripods in Spielberg’s version is not based on the simple toughness of the material, but on an invisible force field which they generate (shades of Independance Day). Of course, while the entire U. S. military fails to generate a single enemy casualty with any weapon available to it, Mr. Cruise’s character handily lops a piece off of one with a hatchet. Mr. Cruise is also obliged to point out to the U. S. Army infantry platoon he’s conveniently passing by when the enemy’s “shields” go down (he can tell because birds are perching on them), because apparently these trained combatants, who have done nothing but observe and engage the enemy for days, fail to notice. My favorite line is piece of unintentional humor delivered by Tim Robbins. Now, I have neither read the book nor watched the previous movie edition lately, so this line may be a reference to previous material. I am inclined to believe, however, that it is simply Hollywood directing its usual moral support to the Palestinian movement to murder their own greatest benefactor and the strongest democratic presence in the Middle East: Israel. Be that as it may, the line is: ” Occupations always fail. History has taught us that a thousand times.” This delivered by a white man in New England. There is more, but that’s enough for this e-mail. My best to everyone!

8 July 2005

This will be the first edition of the Qatari 2600 (I keep trying to get away from that name, but I really like it) from my gmail (that’s Google e-mail) account. My quest for financial independance continues. Kia has been added to my list of conquered obstacles; next paycheck should take care of my 401k deployment catch-up. Also, I just received a letter from A Company; apparently, my old Ops Sergeant is “no longer with the company”, and I’m ready to be processed for per diem (about $1,500 worth, by guesstimate). Coincidence? Kevin and I spent the weekend studying Modern Arnis at a seminar with Remy Presas, Jr. Guro Presas was very personable, and we had a great time–although we have both decided that Modern Arnis is not our style. It appears to specialize in stick-grappling, or utilizing the traditional Filipino baston (a rattan rod) as a lever to increase the torque* of joint manipulation techniques. I was so bruised, blistered, and exhausted by Sunday night that I had to call in sick from work–admittedly, rather than going straight to bed, I stayed up with Kevin and watched an entire season of Babylon 5. I hope to start attending different seminars regularly. I think that I’ve finally gotten my sleeping schedule straightened out, and I may be contacting GM Folkes in the near future about resuming classes with him.
My kicks suck now.
We’ve got a bunch of summer temps working overnights at MBS, and I am achieving sort of a cult status: I’m that guy who can do anything. All the lost books, all the computer questions, all the machinery they can’t drive… it all comes to me. It’s kind of funny, because Kevin (Meyers) was never trained as a troubleshooter before he became the shift manager, so he didn’t retain the position. But now that I’m back, I’m working as one, anyway.
The other night I came into the middle of a conversation between my friend, Jay (the night security guard at MBS) and another employee, in which the other employee was stating that he could understand rifles for hunting and home defense, but that he didn’t think that handguns should be legal. This is how the conversation went:
—–
Me: Well, what about carjackings? You’ll never be able to bring a rifle to bear inside an automobile.
Him: Well, if he’s not trying to kill me, I don’t need to stop him. He can take whatever property he wants.
Me: How can you assume that a person who would steal your car with you in it isn’t going to try to kill you?
Him: I’m prepared to die.
Me: That’s all well and good, but if he kills you in the commission of another felony, odds are good he’ll kill someone else. If you have the chance to stop him and don’t attempt to, then you are an accessory to his future killings.
Him: It’s not my place to stop murderers.
Me: It’s not your place to track down murderers. But if you wouldn’t prevent a murder when you have the opportunity, then you condone murder. And if you condone murder, then you are evil, and have no business judging other people’s legal and ethical decisions. Like gun ownership.
—–
(sigh). I never make any friends.
I’ll be catching War of the Worlds and The Fantastic Four this weekend, so be prepared for a diatribe if they’re crap. Oh, and apparently Mike has something in the works for the Band of the Rattan. Business dealings; it’s all very mysterious and exciting. I can’t wait to get the skinny on Sunday.
Until next time!

*or, “tork” if you are the mechanic who destroyed my oilpan in Louisiana.

24 June 2005

I told my supervisor that I had decided to leave MBS permanently. When he asked where I’d be going, I told him that I had finally decided to follow through with a dream that I’d had since not long after my divorce: I was going to take classes in massage therapy and become a licensed massaginist (if you don’t get it, say it out loud). He asked if I couldn’t do both, so I agreed that with his permission, I would work at MBS *and* be a massaginist. Okay, I’m not really leaving MBS. I have, however, put in an application for a daytime position. It will mean giving up my shift differential, but I can afford it more easily now that Nextcard has been paid off. Besides, I’ll make some of it back on my next wage review in four months. If I get the job. So, the hip hop station was playing last night, and several times I was treated to Beyonce singing *Soldier*, one of the main (and few) lyrics of which is “If ya status ain’t hood/I ain’t lookin’ at ya.” Out of intellectual curiosity, I have decided to establish by exactly what formula or criteria one’s status may described as “hood” or not.
Well, as you may remember, I re-financed my car through Mizzou Credit Union a couple of weeks ago, which is how I paid off Nextcard. Apparently (and I know because I have a copy of the check), Kia processed Mizzou’s payment, withdrew the funds, and then *forgot* that they had done so. Wednesday I got an account overdue notice from them. I took it straight to the credit union, and Kia is “researching” it. Go them. Looks like this weekend I’ll be watching “Nation ofthe Dead” (or whatever it’s called). Apparently, it’s been getting good reviews. Mostly, I’m gearing up for next weekend studying kali with Kevin in Topeka.
Have a great weekend, everybody!

6 June 2005

Well, the big news is… I’m not moving to Kansas City any time soon. Nothing bad happened, I’ve just been sort of evaluating after a year at home, and I’ve decided that: A) I really don’t want to move to different city this year, no matter how cool a city it is; B) I don’t want to be a rookie cop all over again at 33; C) I’ve already got 4 years toward retirement invested in MBS (and I’m sure they have a KC branch I can move to eventually); D) The reason that I kept this job so long is that, once I get my bills paid off–which will be SOON–it’s perfect for taking college classes. Plus, free textbooks; E) I kinda like Columbia, anyway (I’m still getting my own house.)—–
Compared to that, everything else is pretty minor. I got a *glowing* wage review and a dollar-an-hour raise at MBS (that’s big for them); I missed kali class on Sunday ‘cuz I couldn’t FIND the damned thing; I’ve started back to the gym and have whittled myself down to a svelt 203 lbs. I’m taking an OSHA course (on my own initiative, which should get me another good pay raise in six months) for forklift safety, and I’m watching a bunch of videos for Kevin’s and my project. Now that I don’t have quite so many things happening at once, it should be pretty cool. I know several of you are disappointed that I’m not moving to KC. So am I, really. It’s just too much, too soon. I should be transferring all of these addresses to my new e-mail account soon; these updates will be coming from xxxx.
All my best,Jason C. Diederich