March 31, 2004

OIF

I love writing OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM in my husband's address...

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LAUGH

Got a funny email forward today:


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I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.
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Gardening Rule: When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.
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The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.
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Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.
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There are two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead.
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Life is sexually transmitted.
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An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys.
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If quitters never win, and winners never quit, then who is the fool who said, "Quit while you're ahead?"
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Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
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The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
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Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.
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Some people are like Slinkies . . . not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs.
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Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.
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Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?
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Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
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All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
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Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut saves you thirty cents?
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In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.
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Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
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How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
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AND THE # 1 THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: You read about all these terrorists --- most of them came here legally, but they hung around on these expired visas, some for as long as 10 -15 years. Now, compare that to Blockbuster; you are two days late with a video and those people are all over you. Let's put Blockbuster in charge of immigration...


I needed a laugh today.

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CHERNOBYL

How sad I feel after looking at these photographs of Chernobyl, via Annika. But life is not always about feeling comfortable, and these photos deserve attention.

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March 30, 2004

WRITING

I don't think I've blogged about my new job yet: I'm teaching ENGL 101 Introduction to Writing this term. It came as a surprise to me too; another class got cancelled and they offered me the position a week and a half ago. So I started on Monday, and it's going to be fun but time consuming.

Anyway, I've hit a gumption trap. In the past I have used some of my old examples of writing in class for discussion because, well, because I am a masochist. I think that my students deserve to see how I write before they entrust me to teach them to do it. I did this when I taught ESL, and the students appreciated it, but in that setting I didn't really think too much about the topics. But tonight I have spent the last hour vetoing papers.

It seems back in college I mostly wrote about controversial stuff, and I'm not sure I want to open myself up in that way. It's different teaching a heterogeneous group of Americans instead of a group of middle-aged Koreans. That paper about gay marriage? Perhaps not in a military setting. The one on how Malcolm X is a racist? Not with half of the class being African-American. OK, how 'bout the one on hate speech? But what if they disagree and we spend the class debating the First Amendment instead of talking about the thesis statement?

All of a sudden, everything I've talked about before in my ESL classes seems controversial and scary for this class. Why do I feel like I'm walking on eggshells when most professors in our education system have no problem laying out their beliefs in class?

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ASTUTE

An observant reader sent me a great link. Take that, European Jerk.

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UNFAIR

No time to blog, but I was flipping through the paper at work this morning, and an editorial caught my eye; naturally it's on what a horrible man President Bush is. There was one paragraph that finally made me say ein Minuten bitte:

When he focuses on human embryos, he speaks of his obligation to foster and encourage respect for life, but when respect for human life gets in the way of his wish to strike back at those he considers enemies of the United States, he is willing to bring about the deaths of thousands of innocent human beings. These are not the actions of a person of principle.

That's unfair. We all have conflicting values that depend heavily on the situation. I don't support indiscriminate killing, but I do support taking a life under certain circumstances. That sure doesn't mean I lack principles, it just means that my principles can't be summed up and contrasted in one small paragraph. It's completely unfair to write an editorial saying the President has a "meandering moral compass" when everyone has nuances in their value system.

MORE:

My ein Minuten bitte has caused some wrinkled brows. No, it's not proper German; it's a line from Eddie Izzard's stand-up routine about Martin Luther. We use it a lot in our house here, as well as the Simpsons psuedo-German quote Das Phone ist eine nuisance phone! and the Family Guy's Du werdest eine Krankenschwester brauchen!

We love fake German.

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AMERICA

I'm proud to live in the same America as Tim and Smash.

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March 29, 2004

WHY

Michele questions blogging. I can relate.

(Thanks, Beth.)

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OPERATION AC

I charged home from work at 2130 tonight and soaked up as much beer, Chex mix, and South Park as was possible in 30 minutes. And then I got hit with Greyhawk's guilthammer.

My dad's worked in air conditioning for his entire adult life, so it only seemed natural that I should donate to Operation AC. Especially after reading "I would like to continue but we operate on donations and people just are sick of hearing about the war and have essentially stopped donating all together."

Well, that was enough to make me give up a couple of DVDs. Maybe you could too? At the very least, you should go over to Mudville Gazette and leave some morale-boosting words for our brave servicemembers. I plan to wait until this comments section gets sufficiently big (read more than 8!!!) and then print it and send a copy to all of my husband's soldiers.

Get 'er done, readers.

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WHITE

I almost cried I laughed so hard. Thanks, Rocket Jones. Also thanks for pointing me in the direction of a surprising article by Jimmy Walker.

I work 13-hour shifts today and tomorrow, and after I get off work I sit in German class for three hours. I'd love to blog, but my splitting headache says otherwise.

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TEENS

Not all teens are morons. I just read via Tim about two who grok: 15-year-old Jessica Brasda and 19-year-old John Moreno.

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WEAKNESS

Many months ago the Air Force Major asked me why the Army sees comfort as a sign of weakness. I don't know if the Army instills it in us or if it's something innately human that the Army has merely tapped, but I know I feel it too. I am dealing with my own feelings of weakness. Desire to hear from my husband is weakness. Complaining is weakness. Letting someone see me sad is weakness. Not grokking is weakness. A comfortable deployment is weakness. To an outsider it probably sounds like I'm crazy, but at least it makes me compatible with the Army mentality.

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March 28, 2004

SUPPORT

Oda Mae pointed out a recent article in The Prague Post Online written by "a founding member of the Prague branch of American Voices Abroad." That's enough to make me want to stay far away from this article, but there are a few things I'd like to address. (Usch, and I have lots of work to do today...)

Farnsworth's premise is that we should feel more emotion and sorrow for innocent Iraqis who have been killed than our bloodthirsty and automaton troops. While I do regret the deaths of innocent Iraqis, I side with Den Beste when he says that in war there is no such thing as a civilian and that I value American citizens more than citizens of any other country. In that sense, Farnsworth's article doesn't really bother me because we're arguing apples and oranges.

I've also already addressed the meaninglessness of the Support Our Troops slogan, but I'll say again that simply holding a sign that says you support our troops is not the same thing as writing a soldier a letter or donating to Soldiers' Angels. It's an empty phrase when paired with opposition to the war on terror.

So Farnsworth and I have no common ground for any sort of discussion. I've come to the realization that it's hardly worth getting upset over someone who's so far from my line of thinking. But there are a few flaws in his reasoning I'd like to mention.

There are parts of this ruse that I might buy. Most soldiers are young and can hardly be blamed for finding themselves in the middle of a war. Many of them signed up facing the choice between lousier work and joining the military. Some joined to afford college, as did Jessica Lynch, only to find herself maimed in battle and then used for Pentagon propaganda. Some find a military career attractive because it offers the benefits, such as subsidized housing and health care, of a semisocialist organization.

In light of my revelation yesterday, I must strenuously say that if you're not prepared to fight a war, don't sign on the dotted line. This recent (though not surprising) crop of conscientious objectors and jerks fleeing to Canada deserve contempt, not sympathy. Don't join the military for college perks (another post for another day) or housing benefits or any of the other benefits that distract you from your real mission: to go to undesirable corners of the world and kill people. If you can't handle that, then you had no business signing up. Period.

News of such U.S. atrocities in Iraq has come out in scattered reports. U.S. Marine Sergeant Eric Schrumpf revealed that his training in civilian casualties taught that killing a large number of innocents all at once looked bad but that killing them a few at a time was OK. About the civilian woman he had just murdered because she stood too close to his target, he said, "I'm sorry, but the chick got in the way."

Turning to the psychopathic tendencies within the war, we have Corporal Ryan Dupre blurting to a reporter, "The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy. I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him."

Maybe I'm a hardened old Army wife, but this doesn't bother me at all. Our servicemembers have to have some way to deal with their mission. Whether it's detachment and indifference or raging hatred towards the enemy, they're both coping mechanisms, and they're both valid. I've heard my husband say that he'd take anyone out who looked remotely suspicious. That's a healthy way of dealing with the stress of combat. Would we rather our soldiers stopped to contemplate their ethical dilemma and in the meantime get wasted by an IED in a Coke can?

SOT involves a "my-side-versus-your-side" premise while creating a mental shortcut around actually thinking about it. Are we supposed to support any U.S. soldier on "our" side more than every single Iraqi? ... Are we supposed to support any Sergeant Schrumpf more than however many "chicks" he murdered? Should we support "our" troops over their civilians?

Yes.

Personally, I support those with whom I feel kinship. I feel none at all with the chicken hawks in government running this aggression and none with troops like Schrumpf. I do not support them. I feel sorry for but little kinship with soldiers who find themselves in a bad position and just shoot wherever they are told, as the captured soldier said. I support them as much as I sympathize with them. But I feel more sympathy for the civilians murdered by U.S. weapons, for the children sliced to pieces by cluster bombs, for the women blown apart by bunker busters -- and for their survivors.

Well, then that is where you and I differ, Farnsworth. Look, I've met dirtbag soldiers. I have heard firsthand one private's despicable tales from Kosovo, and that's why he got chaptered out and his buddy is now in jail. There are jerks in our military, but there are jerks in every demographic of society, and there are Iraqi jerks and Afghan jerks and surely Farnsworth has met some jerks in Prague. But don't quote two soldiers and blow their remarks out of proportion into the reason why we should support Iraqis instead of our troops.

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USCH

For those who have an interest in linguistics, Amritas has commented on how easy it is to make a noun a verb in English, based on the closing line to my recent post Soldier. This used to drive my Swedish teacher nuts, because we would always change the function of Swedish words in ways that her usage just wouldn't allow. For example, a common expression of dismay in Swedish is usch, so we turned it into an adjective (Det känns så usch) and even morphed it (Oj, det var uschligt.) My classmates and I even borrowed it into English, and it became so common in my usage that my husband has even picked it up. A common question around our house is "Why are you so usch?" It's really easy to do this in English -- it's a fun way for one's lexicon to grow and new slang to be formed -- but the Swedish and French speakers I know seem to not have the same flexibility with language that we do.

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AVERAGE

I've gotten this email forward before, and although parts are a bit stereotypcial, overall I really like the image it conjures.

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155mm howizzitor. He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must. He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job. He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death then he should have in his short lifetime.

He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them. He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed. He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding. Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood. And now we even have woman over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so. As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot...a short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.


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March 27, 2004

LAWYER

Figures that Saddam would have a French lawyer.

And do we have to throw the no-WMDs-yet paragraph into every single article?

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SOLDIER

I had a realization today about the deployment. I can safely say that I have done less complaining about the soldiers being gone for a year than other wives I know have, but I have in fact grumbled a little about how long a year is and how hard it is on the soldiers. But today I realized I've been looking at this all wrong. Deployment is in fact the raison d'etre for a soldier. It's the default position.

My father is a sales manager for Carrier. His employer pays him to sell big corporate air conditioning jobs. They don't pay him to sit in his office and get ready to sell these jobs, or to have his co-workers come in and pretend to be potential buyers so he can run through a would-be scenario. His job is to actually do the selling. In the same way, my husband's job is to actually be a soldier, not just to train to be one. Going to CMTC and gunnery and training exercises is a vital part of my husband's preparation, but his actual job is to be in Iraq (or Afghanistan or Haiti or wherever the heck else they send him).

Therefore, I think the analogy to the Superbowl is not entirely accurate, though it still has merit. Instead I think that I should start looking at this is the way it's supposed to be. My husband is supposed to be in Iraq because that's what his job is, just as a firefighter is supposed to fight fires or a teacher is supposed to teach. In fact, I've heard the word "soldier" used as a verb many times in our short Army career, and all of a sudden it makes more sense.

A soldier is supposed to soldier. In Iraq. Period.

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MU.NU

Pixy Misa from Ambient Irony helped me move over from my old Blogspot blog to my new mu.nu one. I simply mentioned in a blog post that I wanted to explore other options, and abracadabra he set everything up for me and welcomed me on over. Mu.nu has been great, and it's been easier for me than Blogger (e.g. comments included, search engine for site, uploading photos, etc). So if anyone is interested in moving his blog or starting up a brand new blog, Pixy has made an open invitation to mu.nu! There's always room for one more, and then maybe you can see your name in lights!

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LINK

Thank the lord for Victor Davis Hanson...

Nor do we have anything to apologize about to the Europeans. We liberated the continent, sent it billions in aid, protected it from Soviet Communism, supported the EU and German reunification, created NATO in part to keep internal peace, intervened in Kosovo to stop more European genocide, and have well over 100,000 troops there still to protect it sixty years after it nearly destroyed itself. We no longer expect gratitude or even memory of the past, but we do expect maturity and not the patronizing lectures from a Spanish or French foreign minister who should know better — given the respective histories of their countries and our own during the last century.


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GROK

The husband is leaving today for a week-long mission, so he wrote a long email yesterday before he left. Two paragraphs stood out as blogworthy...

The line for phones is HUGE! It doesn't look like I will be able to call tonight. What makes it worse is that I have to go out to XXXXX tomorrow for a week. So, if I don't get to call tonight, you won't hear my voice until next week. Emailing isn't bad though. I remind the guys about how hard we don't have it. Our grandparents generation fought in WWII where 1 in 4 died, hot food was unheard of and you didn't have waterproof jackets made of Gore tex. We finally got to the PX at FOB XXXX where one of the privates bought an X-box. Two of the others have TVs. I'd sure as hell like to get home as fast as possible, but it's not THAT bad. I guess I'm just frustrated at all the whining I'm hearing lately.

And later on down the email:

I haven't been doing as much reading as I thought I would. I still haven't
finished the Bernard Lewis book. I'm looking forward to the Christopher Hitchens book. If I hear one more private that didn't finish High School wax philisophic about the problems and OBVIOUS solutions to complex foreign policy problems, I'm going to scream.

Sounds like we're both dealing with under-informed co-workers! He closed by saying he was going to go read my blog; I'd bet you a DVD that makes him the only guy on his camp who gives up time communicating with his family to read the news instead. And I couldn't be happier.

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