June 16, 2007

NOT A TEEN

Those of you who've met me in real life met me in situations where I was Trying To Look Grown-Up, like at conferences and stuff. Even then I generally feel like a kid at the big table, but at least I try. On normal days, I don't do much for myself. I usually have comfortable basic clothes on and spend most of my time in a ponytail. Sometimes I look with envy at really put-together women, but never enough to put effort into my own appearance for just going to the store or around town.

Today at the library I was looking with interest at a display for a teen crafts class. The girl librarian, who must've been around my age, saw me looking and told me I should sign up. I said I'd love to but that it says it's for teens. "Oh, well, how old are you?" she asked, in a way that suggested she'd fudge a little for me if I was 20. "Um, like 30," I said.

Think I need to update my look?

This story killed my husband. He mused that the target age group when the library organizes something for "teens" is like 13-16. He said, "You look young, but no offense, you clearly don't look half your age."

At least I don't look as young as my Swedish friend, who got offered a coloring book on an airplane when she was 20.

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ANIMAL FARM

The dog's lived with us for two years now, and apparently he's made himself quite at home. I walked into our room just now, only to find that Charlie's really gotten in touch with his human side. There he was, sprawled out in the middle of our bed, sleeping with his head on a pillow. If he opened his mouth and spoke tomorrow, I really wouldn't be that surprised.

rightathome.JPG

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THREE THINGS I LEARNED THIS WEEK

1. If you plant an apple tree, you'd better like Japanese beetles.

2. When you go in to scout out a new sewing machine, you will get wooed by the glamour of the really nice machines. Then in the car on the way home, you will suddenly break out of your hypnosis and wonder why you were considering spending an extra $600 so you could monogram something.

3. When you accidentally put double the flour in a batch of cookies, they don't necessarily get ruined...but you don't necessarily feel the need to eat the entire batch in one sitting either.

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RECOVERING

Just...dang.

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June 15, 2007

TWO YEARS

Today is actually another anniversary for our little family. Two years ago we brought a little Tibetan terrier home with us.

eightweeks.JPG

Happy Pupversary, Charlie.

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FIVE YEARS

Five years ago today, I was trying not to barf. I was so nervous that morning, for no good reason at all. People were a tad concerned that I was having cold feet, but I told my husband on the phone that no matter how sick and nervous I looked, it had nothing to do with doubts about marrying him. Once I headed down that aisle, I was fine, and I was even better when it was over.

Greatest thing I ever did.

weddingkiss.gif

We had such high hopes to return to D.C. today and relive our honeymoon. But as we waited to see how much homework he'd have this weekend, we ran into snags for a dogsitter. The trip back to D.C. will have to wait a little bit. I was quite disappointed at first, but then I finally came to my senses and told my husband that it doesn't matter where we are or what we're doing, we're just so lucky to be spending the day together.

And adding another photo to our collection.

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June 14, 2007

LOVE THAT PERSPECTIVE

Happy Birthday, Army!

Last night we watched the movie The Great Raid. As a wife, I find watching movies like that extremely sobering, for there's no way to feel sorry about 15 month OIF deployments once you've imagined your husband a Bataan Death March POW. There's nothin' like a healthy dose of Perspective.

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June 12, 2007

BASIC ECONOMICS

The best thing The Onion ever wrote was the Point/Counterpoint on Africa.
Point (college student): Nigeria is a land filled with culture.
Counterpoint (Nigerian): Get me out of this hellhole.
That sums up Africa and the West's relationship to Africa better than anything else I've ever seen. Except for maybe this new interview with a Kenyan economics expert:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid.

Read the whole thing to get a real economics lesson instead of the feel-good economics that Westerners think runs the world. And if you have more time, read the book Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux.

UPDATE:

Marc's right; the article is from 2005. Hardly new, though I just found it today. Oh well, the message still applies cuz we sure didn't take it to heart over the past two years.

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TRUE ROMANCE

This story (via Matt Sanchez) tickled me. Apparently a retired policeman and a retired Marine subdued a crazy man on a plane. I love that the old guys stepped to the plate. But I really, really loved what the policeman's wife said:

Hayden's wife of 42 years, Katie, who was also on the flight, was less impressed. Even as her husband struggled with the agitated passenger, she barely looked up from "The Richest Man in Babylon," the book she was reading.

"The woman sitting in front of us was very upset and asked me how I could just sit there reading," Katie Hayden said. "Bob's been shot at. He's been stabbed. He's taken knives away. He knows how to handle those situations. I figured he would go up there and step on somebody's neck, and that would be the end of it. I knew how that situation would end. I didn't know how the book would end."

I love that. "I knew how that situation would end." What utter confidence in her husband. I think that is so cool.

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June 11, 2007

DELUDED

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.
     --Fight Club

Apparently a poll of 13-18 year olds found that 73% of them are Fight Club kids.

In fact, the teenage boys expected to make an average $174,000 annually. Teenage girls expected to earn $114,200.

The reality check:

Median earnings of men who worked full time, year round in 2005, the latest year for which Census Bureau statistics are available, was $41,386.
Women working full time made a median $31,858.
Fewer than 5% of the U.S. population makes more than $100,000, according to the bureau. Only one household out of six report a six-figure income, according to the Federal Reserve's 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

We live in a world of fine lines. I think about these fine lines all the time when I think about my imaginary children. We've taught every child in our country that anyone can grow up to be President of the United States, but I think we've forgotten to tell them that only one person actually gets to do it at a time.

Getting rich takes effort. It either takes a boatload of sacrifice and savings, or it takes extreme ambition and hard work. It's something you have to earn. That's why lottery winners usually end up right back where they started. It's why people like M.C. Hammer end up broke. If you don't get rich the old-fashioned way, you're less likely to understand what it means.

I plan to teach my imaginary kid to be old-fashioned.
And, as much as I enjoyed the movie, my kids won't be Fight Club kids.

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THE REAL WORLD

The other day ArmyWifeToddlerMom let down her hair and griped about the media. She mentioned that Ben Affleck was on the TV and the news station labeled him "political activist", to which I commented

What I find delicious is when actors like Ben Affleck -- people who, at worst, dropped out of high school or, at best, attended a few college classes -- act like they know so much more than the stupid, downtrodden, brainwashed soldiers -- people who, at worst, dropped out of high school but got a GED or, more often than not, attended a few college classes. Why exactly is Ben Affleck's opinion on foreign affairs considered more valuable than an Army specialist's? They have nearly the same schooling, but the specialist has actually done more in the real world...

This morning I found a post from one such specialist, working in the real world. He's seen more in his Fifteen Months and Counting than Ben Affleck has in his whole life.

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June 08, 2007

DEBATE

I watched the Republican debate the other day and read the transcript from the Democrat one. I thought most of the questions seemed normal, though I did think it was a tad douchey to ask Huckabee to pin down exactly how many days he thought it took for God to create the world. Nobody asked Hillary to explain what exactly she thinks of Saul Alinsky. Some stuff just isn't important for the presidential debate.

That said, I love Frank J's suggestion for debate questions. It starts with "If you had to pick a minority group you like the least, which one would it be?" and gets even funnier.

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OPENING MY MIND...OR TRYING TO

I started reading The Closing of the American Mind with rapt attention. I was gasping out loud through the first segment. The second segment got me bogged down a little bit in Socrates and Nietzsche, but I suppose I merely proved the author's point, that college students are no longer given a basic understanding of philosophy and thought. Touché, Bloom, I had a hard time with that segment. I'm wrapping up the third segment now, and I noticed the parallels between what I am reading in the book and this article, Idiot Compassion:

The world, viewed through the liberal's gray colored, politically-correct glasses, makes no discerning judgments, or at least incorrect ones. Hence, we get addle-brained protesters picketing to save the lives of serial killers on death row or human shields willing to give up their lives to protect suicide bomber cults and Islamic terrorists. Since all killing is bad, it must be bad to kill Islamic terrorists or convicted murderers. This idiot view, foregoes the greater good and lapses into solipsism.

I also found an interesting tidbit that would've come in handy when an old friend told me my anger made me no better than Mohammad Atta and that I should read some Gandhi:

The biographies of the Buddha reveal that in one of his early incarnations, he met a murderer of 1000's of men. Acting correctly and with compassion for all sentient beings, the Buddha's incarnation killed the murderer to prevent additional suffering. That is true compassion!

Last week when I was reminiscing, I also found an old email from Bunker in which he was flipping through Plato's Republic and thought I might want to give it a try. That dovetails nicely with The Closing of the American Mind, and so I might have to sit down with a little Plato and see if I can make myself smarter.

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June 07, 2007

VILE

You really must go read "In Saudi Arabia, a view from behind the veil," an article about the horrific gender segregation. It's absolutely vile. Go here and click on the top link to read.

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June 05, 2007

WE REMEMBER

dday002.jpg

At the edge of the cliffs, the wind is a smack, and D-day becomes wildly clear:
climbing that cutting edge into the bullets.
-- John Vinocur

dday003.jpg


photos taken by Sarah
Normandy, France 1999

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ALWAYS SATISFIED

Our old neighbor was an Army dentist, and I asked him once if there was any difference in having soldiers for patients. He said he loved having soldier patients, because they never argue or complain. He said most of the time they fall asleep in the chair and he can do all his dental work without issue.

I love that soldiers can sleep anywhere, eat anything, and be happy doing whatever it takes. My husband can sit in the hottest, loudest, most cramped airplane seat and be fine, because it's still more comfortable than a tank.

I love soldiers more than anything, which is why I got such a kick out of Lemon Stand's post about soldiers eating in an Air Force chow hall.

I can totally imagine their faces. I love it.

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June 04, 2007

GETTING OUT

I just found a great post from a Marine's girlfriend over at Loquita's Blog. At this point, he is talking about getting out because he doesn't want to put her through a deployment. This bothers her.

I don't want LT to make a decision about staying in the Marine Corps based on not wanting to put me through the lack of work-life balance inherent in the military lifestyle - intense training schedules, never-ending and always inconvenient or last-minute (or both) changes to those schedules, and of course deployments.
...
Maybe I've just become too invested in my mil-spouse persona, and I don't want to give up the feeling of having a shared bond with others... And as ashamed as I am to admit it, I'd go so far as to say I don't want to give up on this new kind of clique that I'm eligible to be a member of.

And who would LT be if he wasn't a Marine? How will my view of him change, and what will our life be like post-USMC? I don't even know for sure what career or profession he would end up in. He talks about becoming a firefighter or a police officer. But how would he or I know if those jobs are any more conducive to maintaining a good work-life balance? At this point, I've adjusted to the military thing, I've found support through reading blogs online, and I'm not anxious to go through any more big changes...

I can completely relate to this feeling. When my husband applied for Civil Affairs the first time and didn't get in, he decided he would get out of the Army. And I cried. Oh how I cried. And tried to pretend I wasn't crying, because it's his job and his choice to make, and I didn't want him to stay in just so his wife would stop crying.

Often we hear about wives who urge their husbands to get out of the military. But it's something entirely different to urge your husband to stay in. You can emotionally blackmail someone to stop doing what he loves, but how do you make him keep doing something you want him to do...without the blackmail?

I was so scared, lying there in the dark that night, talking about getting out. What would we do? Where would we go? All we've ever known together has been the Army, and I was terrified about getting out. Terrified about finding another job, devastated about letting go of retiring at 42, and scared to death that he'd get another job only to find he hated the civilian world even more than he hated Army Finance.

But how could I make him stay? I wasn't the one doing an unsatisfying job. I wasn't the one who felt betrayed by the Army because I'd offered to make myself more useful only to have them brush me off. I wasn't the one who ultimately had to choose.

Luckily, he wasn't at the point where he could get out quickly. Luckily he still owed the Army another three years after that fateful night, and he managed to find his way into Civil Affairs a year later. And he's happy again.

But could I have really let him get out? I don't really like to think about that. If the situation came up again, we'd discuss again.

And I'd cry. Oh how I'd cry.

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THAT'S AN EXPENSIVE FRIENDSHIP

My very first blog post was actually an email to Steven den Beste about a lecture I overheard at our on-post college. The professor was spending an awful lot of time bashing the US instead of teaching the subject matter. One of the things I overheard was:

he was lecturing about how, despite what any sources say to the contrary, the American government does not give any humanitarian aid to foreign nations. He said that all American aid comes with strings attached, unlike aid from other countries like Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany. He said that the US does not donate any money in the world for purely humanitarian causes. I couldn't help but be shocked by this statement, considering that he was lecturing to 16 American soldiers and family members. I thought it was rather gutsy of him to make such statements.

Four years later, this statement doesn't bother me as much as it did that day. I have come to understand that aid without strings is pretty stupid, and there's no reason to fault our country for wanting something in return for our help. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. By all means, string away! I think we could use more strings attached to the things we do (both at home and abroad).

However, I still think we give a heckuva lot of aid out that gets us very little in return. This is a perfect example.

AT-Bridge-005.jpg

That's a picture of construction being done on a bridge between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

By summer 2007, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team hopes to open a $43 million, more than 2,200-foot steel-span bridge that will link the two sides.

The bridge — which will span the Oxus River, famously crossed by Alexander the Great during his conquests — will provide a valuable trade route straight from Tajikistan to the ports of Pakistan, allowing overland movement of essential goods and hopefully, economic development in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian nations that avail themselves of the trade route.
...
Currently, the only way to cross the river is via a ferry that costs $15 per person, a stiff price for Afghans, whose average annual income is $800.

Project staff could not provide figures as to how much each side — Afghan or Tajik — would benefit economically from the bridge. But both sides of the bank already appear to be steeling themselves for a boom — new hotels have popped up on either side and residents and government officials from both nations say they’re optimistic.
...
Walls, who in addition to serving as project manager is also a resident engineer and the contracting officer’s representative, said he also hopes the completed project will send a message to those who use it.

“The people of Afghanistan and the people of Tajikistan see we’re building something constructive,” he said. “It shows America as doing something to help the country.”

The United States gets absolutely nothing of economic value from Tajikistan. They don't have oil. Their main export is cotton, grown at the expense of their environment and the Aral Sea because of stupid Soviet planning. And Afghanistan means nothing to us save the terrorism aspect.

There's only one conclusion: We spent $43 million dollars to win the hearts and minds.

Seriously, I'd love for this professor to explain to me the selfish reasons behind fronting the money for this bridge. Halliburton didn't make any profit, and there's not a drop of oil crossing the bridge. We simply paid $43 million dollars so people in that region would like us and maybe think twice before joining al Qaeda. That's it.

The next time someone tells you that the US never does anything for humanitarian reasons, remember this bridge. Nothing in the world is a free lunch -- not even in Sweden, despite what this prof says -- but building a $43 million bridge just so people in the area will like you comes pretty damned close.

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June 03, 2007

REMEMBER

Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
-- "Remember" by Christina Rosetti

Most days I do forget and smile, but there are still plenty of days when I remember and am sad. And June 3rd will always be one of those days.

R.I.P. Bunker Mulligan

A tribute over at SpouseBUZZ to his legacy

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INJUSTICE

Our best friend from college is Indian. He got a computer science degree and then got a work visa from his employer. And unfortunately, to my understanding of the system, his work visa is tied to the job he applied for, so he hasn't been able to be promoted once in the past five years. He's waiting patiently in line for his green card so he can advance in his job and become a bigger asset for his employer.

He's also one of the smartest and most informed people we know. He's the guy my husband calls when he wants to talk politics or foreign affairs. And if he has to get in the same line as Mexican fruit pickers, I will be royally disgusted with my country.

(this article also via Hud, who calls it the nail in Bush's coffin)

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