03 February 2007

Trying something new

I promise not to do this often. I know some of my readers lack high-speed connections, and I apologize to them in advance. I know some of my readers probably find country music loathesome, and I apologize to you as well.

But I had CMT on as my background noise the other day and caught this one... Darryl Worley is, it seems, a big fan of our fighting men and women. He's done some good work on the subject before (and some that's been a little over the top). His song "I just came back from a war" is quite good.

But the video is fantastic. Aside from being a little heavy on images of Darryl singing, that is. Other than that, this is a pretty good depiction of what it felt like at first (and feels like sometimes even now). I really enjoy the last 60 seconds or so.

As always, when talking about this stuff, I make no claim that my experience is or was like anoyone else's. But this seemed to hit the nail on the head, particularly for those of us who didn't go as Active Duty types. At some point, they just drop you off back home. Very weird.

Oh - and no - I have no idea what uniform that chick is wearing in the very beginning. Just ignore that.

It's good shit.

Wildlife news

I was checking out TBO.com to see what sort of horror and madness is going on today. Lots, it seems. Abby may be commenting on lots of things today. But one jumped out at me: Endangered Cranes Killed In Storm.

The entire group of young whooping cranes that came south this year with the assisted migration died in the recent storm. Mostly because they were in pens. Makes it hard to get to high ground.

You can learn about the assisted migration program through the Whooping Crane Eastern Partership site.

Long ago and far away, Abby worked for a federal agency involved in this program. I had the opportunity to go out and see a lot of this firsthand. You can say what you want about the federal government, but there are a lot of phenomenally bright, devoted, intellectually curious and hardworking people in your federal natural resources community.

The whooping crane migration was a nightmare of coordination and committees. But still, somehow, it happened every year.

The young whoopers in the first year of the migration suffered a pretty hard toll from bobcats once they made it to Florida. So the "crane people" decided that in future years, the youngest group of cranes would be penned to protect them.

Yes, they decided, nature must take its course, but the young cranes were too valuable to let bobcats eat them all. So - the pens.

They're still penning the cranes to prevent evolution from weeding out the ones with no good bobcat survival skills. The pens cost an entire cohort of cranes this year. Let's not discuss the actual investment of your tax dollars those cranes represented. The best laid plans of mice and men...

It's here

I woke this morning to the Gun Pimp on the phone - my M9 arrived. Happy hapy joy! Note to self - avoid driving before consuming coffee - you're a danger to yourself and others.

Looks good. I'm pretty happy with the turnaround to get the replacement here.

Initial notes -
1- These 15-round magazines (3 of them) look way better than the ones I was issued. If the .mil bought the good magazines, half of complaints about the M9 and M16 platforms would just vanish.
2- I'd never noticed the half-moon rear sight paint before. I think this is because on the M9 I was issued for Iraq, there was no paint. No red safety dot, nothing on the sights. That worked just fine, this will work better.
3- Man, they really like the stick figures in the safety part of the manual. If I get really bored, I may scan some in and make sarcastic comments about them.

Well, I'll get this thing to the range later. I think I've got some new shooters to take out in the near future, and I'd like to have this available, so I have no choice but to put a couple hundred rounds through it to make sure it works.

Product Endorsement! Dog water

I have this groovy setup for dog water. It's the Petmate LeBistro water dispensing thingy.

Of course, I bought mine before they became "anti-bacterial!" Mine is 2.5 or 3 gallons, but I never fill it all the way. If you put too much water in, creepy stuff starts to grow in the bowl. I don't like to drink nasty water, so I assume the Bad Dogs don't, either. I fill the bowl, then fill the jug a third to half full. That seems about right.

Due to its design, occasionally it make a water jug "glugging" sound. This scares the beejesus out of Sparky. I love glancing out into the kitchen if he drinks right after Casey, because I know what's about to happen.

Glug glug!

He leaps backward, then backs out of the kitchen while looking at the water thing with great distrust. Too funny.

02 February 2007

Well, I'll be damned....

So I just got this forwarded email from Abby's Mom. It was a link from an old school friend of mine who...(c'mon, can you guess?)...has a blog! Groovy...

I kinda checked out of my hometown in a big way when I joined the Marine Corps. There weren't many people I cared to keep knowing, but Jess is one I feel very bad about not doing better at keeping up with. She's a wonderful person. She came to my wedding, and visited when I got back from downrange.

So I went to her blog. And it looks like her life is very good right now. And you know, there's probably no reason for that to make me as happy as it does. Actually brought a tear to my stony little eyes. Good for Jess.

So, without further ado, if you care to drop in on her, go here.

Damn. The blogosphere. Cool.

Being prepared

Many of my fellow Floridians are having a very crappy evening. The news coverage of the tornado situation (Florida - where the weather tries to kill you all year 'round!), combined with a comment on my earlier Laundry Loadout post, got me thinking about emergency preparedness.

We're pretty well set here at BDC. In hurricane season, we become very well set up. Hey - it's a small house, I'm not keeping 55 gallons of drinking water in here year 'round.

But what I don't have is a good first aid kit. Oh, we've probably got enough crap around here to perform surgery. But it's not in one place. So I did a little googling...

There's a fantastic site called LifeKit that appeals to me immensely. OK - so the really cool kits are like $1500 and would probably enable you to be seriously useful if a 747 skidded off its runways near your house. But if you poke around the site a little, they've got some nice cheaper setups for less than $50.

But none of those include DRUGS. And let's be honest, in most awful situations, you're just as likely to need antibiotics, anti-screaming shits drugs, and painkillers as anything else.

And the packages suck. So I kept looking. I found another site for discount cool shit.

Hmmm...those first aid kits are ok, but they still lack drugs. However, the same site offers really good prices on one of Abby's Favorite Things In The Whole Wide World - PELICAN CASES!!!!

I'd tell you all about these fabulous cases, but even thinking about them makes me almost too giddy to speak. But if you were going to pack your own first aid kit, you'd want to do it in a Pelican case. 'Cause they're so damn cool.

I was just about to pull the trigger on this one. Selected it in yellow (going with the whole "hi-viz" theme). Entered all my info...shipping and handling was like $16! WTF??? I don' think so, Guido....

But I think I'm going to keep an eye out, and pick one up (somewhere where they might charge me more, but at least the won't pretend it's "shipping"). Perhaps on Fleabay. Because Pelican cases ROCK, and I'm getting kinda stuck on this vision of a bright yellow one strapped in the Jeep...

You know what's awesome?

Velcro. Velcro is awesome.

I was a little burned out on Velcro for a few months when I came back from Iraq. Once the Army discovered the miracle that is "hook and loop fastener," it was sheer madness. They used it on all the equipment. They covered the new stupid Army Combat Uniform with SO MUCH Velcro that it became possible to take all of your laundry out of a washer by grabbing one sleeve.

So I took a couple of months off from Velcro.

But this stuff...man...you go to a craft store. Those places are creepy, and they always give me the feeling I'm trying to "pass," like I'm trying to get by pretending to be a normal craft-store person. But the crafts stores...man, that's where they keep the real good Velcro. The shit, as Dennis Leary once said, that killed Belushi.

Of course, Dennis Leary was talking about cocaine. Whatever.

So my enhanced tactical shoulder bag that's not a "purse" but that's more like a "purse" than it is like anything else, in fact maybe it is a purse but it's OD and I can stick a gun in it...that project? This velcro stuff makes it much easier. We'll see how it holds up. Pics to follow. I'm on the right track, but there's work still to be done.

What? No - I'm not drinking at 1700. I'm just thrilled about my bag and the Velcro. But it IS Friday, and it IS 1700. The cocktail hour approaches...

I can do that!

Old (that is, recovering) Marines are dangerous. When you're at boot camp, it's slowly drummed into you that "This recruit can't do that!" is NOT a valid response. After boot camp, young Marines are taught, by word and by example, that they can and must do anything.

Not trained to do something, but still it needs doing? Better figure something out, Devildog, because I can't do that is not a valid response.

I've seen some truly hilarious disasters result from this (involving, variously, camo netting, trailer hitches, floor buffers, commo wire - the list goes on). But it has always remained one of my absolute favorite traits of Marines in the ranks of sergeant and below. They'll get it done. Whatever it is. Somehow. It probably won't be efficient or pretty, and in fact it may be horribly unsafe, but it will get done.

The Army is a little different. Being a large organization, the Army has a course and a guide for everything. "Analysis paralysis" is a bigger problem in the Army. Soldiers will wait for a qualified "camo net installation specialist" to show up with "Field Manual 32-14 - camo net in the temperate environment" and the prescribed net-hanging accessories.

While the soldiers are waiting on those things, three Marine PFCs, under the direction of an overdue-for-promotion lance corporal, will be hanging by their toes and hanging the netting with 100mph tape. It's a cultural difference.

Anyway, the problem is that this carries over into later life. Marines will look at an idea, a project, and think, I can do that. Somehow. I can make that happen.

I have an old Marine friend who, being a bird lover, designed and built a remote-detonation device to keep squirrels out of his bird feeder. Sort of an anti-squirrel IED. An old Soldier probably would have just purchased something out of a catalog.

I'm not even going to comment on how awfully this manifests itself with vehicle repair. Or home gunsmithing.

But today I have a fabric-related project. Can't find the bag you want, Abby? That's no problem...I can do it myself!

Stay tuned for the doubtlessly disasterous resolution on this one...

01 February 2007

Sharing a moment...

...with Casey.

As you can tell, it's late. Mr. Abby is off to work very early, so he's all curled up in bed.

I decided to eat a pear. This, of course, brings the German Fruitbat out of the bedroom at a dead run. I stood in the kitchen munching on my pear while she gazed hopefully up at me.

Then I noticed a ruffled patch of hair on her back. Uh-oh, I thought. Does she have an itchy spot? (We're gaining on this issue since the antibiotics started, but I'm being paranoid)

So I stuck the pear into my mouth, grabbed the bottle of prescription Preemptive Itch Strike Spray the vet provided, and set to sprayin'.

Remember me telling you how much this dog loves fruit? Here I was, dangling a partially-eaten good-smelling pear at her eye level, and both of my hands were occupied with spraying. This resulted in a weird hysterical dance during which I swore at her. Quietly, so as not to wake Mr. Abby.

Being the human and having opposable thumbs, I did win. But it was close. Washed my hands (let's hear it for antibacterical hand washing foam! Yea!), then gave Casey a big chunk of pear.

I cannot wait until this weird skin disorder is in the past.

Seriously - when can we leave?

In more lovely Florida news...Diner Reports Razor In McMuffin.

Good lord. I'm not a big fast food eater if I'm not on the road, but one of the few things I will make a stop for if I'm tooling around town is an Egg McMuffin. Mmmmm...they're yummy.

Except, you know, when there are RAZOR BLADES in them.


So my Gun Pimp called earlier.

"Hey, Abby, guess what I have?"

I jumped in the shower and raced through the Tampa streets. Walked into Guns And SCUBA Supplies (Your Friendly Local Source for Expensive Stuff!). And my Gun Pimp looked up.

"I think we might have a problem. It doesn't say M9. I called you as soon as it came in, but I just don't know..."

He brought out a blue plastic box. This was not a good sign. The M9 does not ship in a blue plastic box. Opened the plastic box. Hmmm... extracted the pistol.

"Shit. Wrong gun."

The GP shook his head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to call you if they -"

"No. That's cool. Let's turn it around and get the right one."

They shipped a 92FS. Now, I'm aware for that for all intents and purposes these are the EXACT SAME GUN. But I ordered what I wanted, and that is what I shall have. Further, that writing on the slide - the "read manual before operation to avoid shooting small children or yourself" warning? That's super gay.

So. Back to waiting. I told the Gun Pimp to go ahead and get bitchy with the distributor - tell them lies, like that screwing up my order somehow negatively affected my life, and that they should send free additional stuff to make up for it. Doubt that'll happen, but we shall see.

Oh, by the way. Please do not be insulting my gun pimp in comments for not being certain it was the wrong gun. The actual FFL at my shop is in poor health, and so the SCUBA expert is the one usually in the shop. He's the one I refer to as my "Gun Pimp," but it's not really his area of expertise.

31 January 2007

Things you never knew existed

It's amazing the shit that's out there we'd never know about if it weren't for the internet. Mr. Abby just called me in to see this.

In case you're not clear, that's a plastic dog that plugs into a USB port and humps your computer. There is, of course, video. Go ahead, go watch it.

OK. So it should come as no surprise to us that this product hails from Japan. It is worth noting, before you shell out $45 for a set of three, that these are NOT flash drives. There's no memory storage capacity. It is, simply and entirely, a small plastic dog that will hump your computer.

Huh. Who'd'a thunk it? Shall we make this a product endorsement? No, I think we shall NOT.

Slow news day at BDC

I'm writing posts, but I'm not publishing them. They seem even more rambling and without point than normal (and that's saying something).

I've got several drafts saved that just suck.

I think not getting my M9 today has me bummed out. Or something. Tomorrow I'll take some dog pics and put them up. Everybody likes dog pics.

Oh - in news you truly don't care about, I ate a giant Quizno's sub for supper. I devoured the entire thing in like 45 seconds, and now I'm laying on the couch like an anaconda that just hoovered up a tapir. Ugh....


So I'm pissed. My gun didn't come in today. It'll get here tomorrow, but that made me cranky.

So I went for a run. But I didn't get good sleep last night and got up early for the world's most stupid reason (which I won't bother telling you about), so my run sucked weasel ass.

Then Mr. Abby came home and, although he's in the middle of coordinating logisitics for...some group of yahoos, is still persisting in insisting we have some sort of motorcycle related dinner outing.

So I'm tired. I don't have a (new) gun. All the phones in the house are ringing. Mr. Abby is talking into one and fumbling with the other. And some ASSHOLE knocks on my door. Which causes the Bad Dogs to flip the hell out into a barking, yowling, door crowding frenzy.

I open the door, kicking dogs, and stick my head out. Mormons! Two earnest looking young fellas with LDS nametags.

I'm afraid I wasn't as polite as I could have been. I should probably load up an extra gat and put out the claymores. Once Mormons get into your neighborhood, they can harder to get rid of than moles.

Only in Florida

You know, I probably don't want to live in a world where one's past can disqualifty one from any future random good fortune.

But still. Good Christ.

Registered sex offender wins $14 million lottery jackpot in Jensen Beach

Is there no justice?

FDLE records show Cowal is a registered sex offender and has a record of arrests for alleged offenses beginning in 1993, ranging from burglary, lewd and lascivious or indecent assault upon a child, trespass, aggravated assault, driving under the influence, probation violation and high-speed fleeing from law enforcement. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison between 1993 and 2000.

I can't even find the words. It's not like this is some good-ol-boy drinkin' and raisin' hell kind of record. We're talking about one of Florida's legion of child sex predators.

Now, according to the article, the guy opted for the $8 million lump sum, seeing as that's what you get out of $14 million after the tax bite (just lie back and think of England, oh taxpayer, or try to pretend it's all going to beer for soldiers). Anyway...$8 million.

Now, surely, the State of Florida ought to be able to snatch a goodly amount of that. Certainly, with that record, I'd like to think this jackass has been incarcerated. I'd like to think the State has some sort of program in place to recoup the funds spend on locking his ass up. And I would THINK there'd be some sort of fines levied for at least some of his crimes. Have those been paid?

I guess I don't have a problem with criminals (who've served their time) having good luck. But someone out there ought to be keeping track, and ensuring that this asshole pays back every dime the people of Florida have spent on his worthless carcass, and that he's made proper financial restitution for his wrongs.

Then, if there's something left, Mr. Cowal can perhaps go somewhere far away and enjoy it.

Showing mine over here, boss!

OK - I'm going to stop thinking about this post and just DO it, before it turns into one of those many things I put off far too long. Here was my task:

I was thinking it would be cool to make a meme about favorite childhood toys with pictures and descriptions. I found pretty much everything on Ebay and google images.

I'm going to preface this by pointing out that I was a rural only child. It's not like I didn't have toys - I did (I think) - but I don't remember playing much with them. If I wasn't walking around in the woods with a childhood dog, I mostly remember being holed up somewhere with a book. But...there were a few.

Remember this?

This game ROCKED. Now, there's wasn't much of a point to Hungry Hungry Hippos. You controlled the Hippo's mouth and tried to get your hippo to eat more marbles than anyone else's hippo. But it was cool. I mean, it has marbles. And hippos.

But for sheer parental annoyance...who remembers this one?

Oh, yes. You do. Now, this was only mildly fun, since I've always had about zero artistic talent. But it had pegs. And lights. So it was cool. And I'm fairly sure both of my parents still have scars on their feet from stepping on the pegs.

And then there were these.

I was born in 78. So I was the perfect age to be an utter little Star Wars dweeb. I had dozens of these things. And their ships. And their vehicles. The age of my greatest obsession happened to coincide with the age at which children like to have toys in the bath.

So yeah, I've been naked with Ewoks. And Admiral Akbar. And all the rest of them.

30 January 2007

The Rock from Iraq

So I'm having a nice glass of this merlot stuff and chilling out. It's a no-run day for me. When I started running a lot this summer, I tried to go every day, but that gets very rough on my poor ankle, so after two running days, I try to skip one.

See, I actually DID manage to get hurt in Iraq. Oh no - no actual "wounding" for me. And I'm very thankful for that.

Toward the end of our tour, we moved to Camp Happy. Camp Happy was a safe place, compared to our previous location. It was so safe that we were allowed to run around the inside perimeter of the camp. So I did.

My good efforts were rewarded by me being attacked by a rock. I'm out there, trotting slowly along, then SNAP! - a rock leaps up, trips me, and hurls me to the ground.

The embarassing part? This happened at the foot of a guard tower. I was laying in the dirt, starting to feel my ankle in a very bad way and thinking about having a good cry, when I heard a chirpy little voice.

"Ma'am? Ma'am, are you okay?" It was a friendly private from the guard tower.

Shit, I thought. Now I can't cry.

"Don't call me, ma'am - I'm a sergeant." I took a deep breath (not crying, not crying, not crying). "Yeah. I'm just going to drag my broke ass over to the aid station." (So far away I could barely see the building)

"Are you sure you don't need me to call someone, sergeant?" Goddam polite, helpful, useful soldiers.

"No, thanks. I'll make it. Thanks for coming down, private." I trudged off, dutifully not crying.

I'd so viciously wrenched my right ankle that by the time the medics x-rayed it, they were amazed it wasn't broken. After walking all the way to the aid station on it, I was amazed it wasn't broken.

It healed nicely (no lost mission time for Abby!), but they had hinted there might be some ligament damage. I don't know about all that, but I do know that if I pound it several miles on the pavement for three or four days in a row, it hurts. So I don't do that.

It IS a little embarassing that a badly twisted ankle is my war wound, but it beats most of the alternatives. And it gives me an excuse to sit around and drink wine every couple of evenings.

And to blog. And I'm working on a post...Hammer tagged me, and so I'm collecting some images....

Laundry load-out

I'm having a slightly hostile day here. But I did manage to accomplish LAUNDRY! Which bummed me out, but I'm having one of those days when EVERYTHING bums me out, so...whatever. It'll pass.

Anyway, I thought y'all might enjoy an image of my laundry preparations.

Yep. That's ten days worth of Bad Dog laundry (plus towels, I only do those every OTHER trip) packed up and ready to go.

What? Oh, you have a question?

Abby, what else do you drive around with? I mean, there's a bunch of crap there in your Jeep. What's up with that?

Oh. Well, there's the red and black toolbag. That has all my get-out-of-a-bad spot stuff. Winch cable, towstrap, treestrap, ratchet straps, bungee cords, zip ties, hatchet, chemlights, etc.

We also have the green plastic case of cheap handtools. My husband tends to steal my tools, so I bought a cheap set of ratchets, etc at WalMart and I hide them in the Abbymobile.

There's a tent - big enough for two friendly people or me and Casey. Semper Paratus.

Also, binoculars, a birdbook, two flashlights, Olay Daily Facial Wipes, a big bottle of water, Off! bug spray, a Tshirt I can put on to run in someplace if I've been running in a sports bra, a blaze orange hunting vest, a one-size-fits-all belt slide holster, and half a bag of Jolly Ranchers wedged under the driver's seat.

You just never know.

Hold on - another question?

Abby, you're a gun nut! Don't you have a truck/trunk gun?

Nope. I drive on and off base all the time and that's one rule I don't play around with. If I'm carrying, I carry. If I'm on a road trip, I just toss a pistol on the passenger seat and throw a shirt over it. That's why the generic belt slide.

29 January 2007

More on the movie issue

I detected a little disbelief when I was referencing Mr. Abby's weird-ass taste in film in a recent post. Of course he likes all the stupid guy movies, but that's not the disturbing part. Nor, really, are the foreign films about family dynamics and food. I don't get the obsession, but I'm down with ethnic cooking flicks.

No - the weird part is when he brings home something utterly off-the-damn wall. Long ago and far away, when we were dating, he went to the base video store. Now, there ain't a lot of options at the CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA video store. But he came back with a weird one.

Ever hear of "Passion in the Desert?" I still cannot fathom why he picked it. Even weirder, we watched the entire thing. I endured it - he seemed to really enjoy it.

It's a mystery.

Story Time! INS

Several years ago, when I was newly released from God's Blessed Marine Corps, I worked as a security guard Up North. The company I worked for had a contract to provide armed security at federal buildings, and that's what I did.

Soon after I was hired, before I started my climb Up The Ranks of security guards, I got called to fill in at the Immigration and Naturalization Service for a week since their normal guard was...I dunno, fishing or something.

Yes, this was shortly pre-9/11. INS is now called [pause for Google search] US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Whatever.

This was the setup. It was an office in a small building in an office park. This was where people in all stages of the immigration process came to get forms, file paperwork, follow up on paperwork, have interviews, etc etc.

It was Hell on Earth.

The office opened, I believe, at 0800. People would start lining up before 0700. People do not go the INS by themselves. They take their entire families. We had zillions of hispanic immigrants, of course. This particular metropolitan area also has zillions of Somali refugees. And many, many southeast Asians.

OK. So we're getting the scene set. By the time the doors opened, there were eight billion people there. The average group size was...four people. The instant the doors opened, they formed a pretty good line (it's worth noting that orderly lines are a western european concept. Truly. Apparently standing patiently in line with the assumption that the que will progress in an orderly manner requires a leap of faith most folks from the developing world can't quite make).

Do not think for a second you could get out of line to pee or go out and have a smoke or whatever. If the guy behind you wasn't feeling kind (and remember - random kindness toward strangers is also a phenomenon largely confined to the western world), you were headed to the back.

Most of the line was out in the hallway. Once you got through the big double door, it continued through one of those maze-type things. After the maze, you'd see an INS employee in an elevated cage who would hear your issue or take your form, then give you a number and direct you to a seating area.

My job was to occasionally stick my head out in the hall and make sure the masses were behaving. Also, I was encouraged to offer them forms to fill out. Once they got inside, I was to act disapproving and scold them if they spoke too loudly, because that annoyed the INS employees.

The INS employees. The singlest rudest group of fuckheads I ever encountered in government. I seriously questioned the morality of returning to my post after the first day, since I felt like I was participating in great wrongness.

OK. If you work at INS, you have to speak to the public. I'm familiar with the public, and they can be really really annoying, but if it's part of your job, you have to treat the public in a civil manner.

Also, if you work at INS, a lot of the public you have to speak with will not have the greatest command of the spoken english language. It's just the way it works. Actual immigrants (you know, adults?) frequently never gain mastery of the english language. Their children do, but it's asking a lot of a 40-year old guy from Senegal.

So the INS employees were rude. Very rude. And the part that rubbed me wrong was that they were gratuitously rude to people who didn't speak much english, and over whom they had much power.

Listen - that ain't right. If your life sucks, yell at your spouse or your dog. Or quit your job, change your name and open a bar on the beach in Mexico. Do not take out your frustrations on a defenseless group of people that it is your duty to serve.


Picture this. There's a man and a woman and she's carrying a baby and they have a 12-year old boy with them. They wait in line for five hours (I'm not shitting you) to get to the window, where some fat cow sighs in irritation (because, you know, she's like a GS-7 making 40 grand a year to sit on her ass and hand out paper numbers and it's just so damn hard) and shouts "what do you want?"

The man is holding a letter, and he holds it out and says "Buenos dias," then looks at the boy, who says "yes ma'am. My father got this letter and it's telling him his greencard is about to expire and he sent in the extension paperwork and the money and he has this proof and they haven't sent him a new one and-"

Then the cow grabs the paperwork and peers at it.

"He hasn't got the new one?"

"No. And he sent the money and-"

"Have you moved?"

The boy translates, the father speaks, the boy answers the cow.

"Yes, we moved last-"

"Well, that's why. They won't forward green cards."

The boy and the father and the mother confer, then look at the cow.

"We did not know. How does my father get his new card? He sent the money and-"

"It doesn't matter. If you moved then they destroyed it. You'll have to send another application."

"But the money-"

"That's too bad. Fill out this form and send it again."

Now, I understand that this entire system is fucked beyond belief. The employees who deal with the public are only a small part of the total problem. People send off these forms, which they fill out with great trouble and care, along with checks and money orders, and hear nothing. For months. Sometimes for years. And if they go to an "information office," they get treated like shit. For trying to do the right thing.

That ain't right. Listen - the vast majority of the rest of the world is all jacked up. You put an immigrant from some shithole like Somalia or El Salvador into a line with rude government functionaries, he's scared shitless. I mean, we're talking about people from places where just about any government flunky can disappear you. And I mean the BIG "disappear." They're not going to argue, they're not going to raise hell. They're going to go home with a duplicate form and get the best english speaker in their little community to help fill it out, then they'll either send a check or a money order representing an assload of money. And they'll do it again and again.

INS got away with this rudeness and incompetance precisely because they were bullying people who are used to being bullied. I know lots of rude government employees, but I've never seen one approach that level with any American.

And we all know why. Americans will only stand for so much of that shit, no matter how downtrodden we are. While working the same job, I occasionally filled in at Social Security Administration offices. I've seen poor people, hookers and 80-year-old codgers stand up and demand to talk to someone in charge. I've also escorted a few of the out of the building (usually gently) for exersizing their God-given right as Americans to not take any shit off of government flunkies.

Working with INS was one of the very, very few times I've ever felt ashamed to be working for the U.S. Government.

Oh yes...I did have a tiny sense of revenge, though. See, Mr. Abby is an immigrant citizen. And he lost his naturalization certificate. I dunno - it was there, then we moved, and it wasn't. So he had to get a new one.

So he changed into civilian attire and went down to the INS office. He stood in the line for several hours. Then he got up to the information cage. And the cow spoke rudely. And somewhere after the part when he slapped his ID card down in front of her, identified himself and began giving an impromptu class on common courtesy, and before the part where he went over the counter and tore her head off, a supervisor materialized and offered assistance.

Good for Mr. Abby. But not so good for everyone else.

We have a serious damn problem with immigration in this country. If we can't handle the routine paperwork for people who are doing things the right way, we don't have a prayer of coming up with a solution. And if we cannot treat those people who are here lawfully with common human decency, I doubt we have the bureaucratic dedication to really fix any of it.

Customer service is a simple thing, but it's a huge thing.

Training my Outlook

I recently kicked my Army email account to the curb, since we're working toward a point where both the Army and I can agree on the fact that I'm like...you know...OUT.

I have a Google (Gmail) account. So I set it up to work with Outlook, since I'm not afraid of Outlook and the interface beats the heck out of the internet mail crap. I also set up spell-check, because although I type very quickly, I also type like a total chimp.

I forgot how annoying "training" your Outlook is. The stupid dictionary keeps trying to fix my spelling.

It doesn't like "ain't." Had to add that to the dictionary. Also confusing are "Garand," and "Mauser." More dictionary additions. And there's no way I'm dealing with email that doesn't understand "fucktard," "shitweasel" or "goatfuckery."

It's a process.

Casey update III

Vet visit today. Although the doc declined to put a name to the issue, he implied it was likely allergies. She got a steroid shot, which already appears to be taking the edge off the itch. We've got a two-week course of antibiotics which, if it makes an impact, will be extended to four weeks.

They're both being hysterical right now. I suppose that's because I'm making them venison and rice, and since I have to give it time to cool, they're fairly sure they're starving to death.

Regular visitors

It makes me smile when I realize someone is reading here. Hammer has been dropping by recently. He runs a highly entertaining place, and I encourage you to go visit.

I shall now add him to the pathetically small blogroll.

Why? Because depicting male cattle as having udders seems to piss him off as much as it does me.

Radios, Jeeps, and Lileks

Lileks is amazing. I was fortunate enough to live in his territory recently, and I got to enjoy him in the paper as well as on the net. If you don't read him regularly, you should.

Anyway, today he's talking about satellite radio. Now, the Lileks family seems to be in a slightly different financial position than the Bad Dog family - that is, they can buy all sorts of cool shit. Good for them. Wiring my house for anything other than floorlamps is a little beyond us, but the satellite radio discussion got me thinking.

I bought my Jeep when I was overseas. Several vehicle manufacturers have some sort of contract with the Army and Air Forces Exchange Service (tool of Satan) to sell vehicles to deployed servicemembers. The prices are very good. You can select exactly what you want and have it waiting for you when you get back stateside. As an added bonus, you don't finance anything until you get back, but you can send money the whole time you're deployed.

I ordered mine while particating in a program that grants some servicemembers in Iraq a four-day pass to Qatar. Mr. Abby was in Qatar at the time, so that rocked. Also, my location was not the sort of place that had an AAFES vehicle sales representative.

So we sat down with the car guy and ordered the Jeep. Mr. Abby did the research to find out that this was, indeed, a fabulous deal, and talked me into getting the Rubicon model (it's the expensive one, and I was dithering about the few grand separating it from the others. Mr. Abby more or less, said, "just shut up and get the nice one. It'll hold resale value. And you deserve it." He rocks).

One of the options available was satellite radio. I was already appalled by the amount of money we were talking about, and I passed on it. I like local radio, I thought. Actually, I don't - I hate "radio personalities" - but I like the idea of local radio, particularly since I live in hurricane country. I dislike the idea of evacuating by road and instead of local updates on which roads are clogged, getting mass-produced patter from some yahoo in Oklahoma.

Fast-forward. I have (and adore) my Jeep. I keep a CD in the player at all times, since my local stations seem to descend frequently into fart-joke-and-sound-effect hell.

My satellite TV recently started feeding me Sirius satellite radio on a bunch of the channels. And I've started listening to it. Since I hate TV but like background noise, it's FABULOUS. There's an "old country music" channel. An "alternative country music" channel. And something called "Radio Margaritaville" that's very cool.

If I had it to do again, I think I'd get the satellite radio in the Jeep. In fact, if our next move is to the boondocks (and most of the working options really do involve the middle of nowhere), I might still pony up for it.

Good stuff, that magic radio from space. Worth looking into.

Oh, an aside about AAFES car sales. They don't manufacture the vehicle until shortly before you're planning to take delivery. So you can make changes in what you want. As we were getting ready to leave the sales place, I asked the guy a question. Things were getting a little rough where I was.

"Hey, not to be morbid or anything, but if I get blown to hell, can he cancel the order without penalty?"

"Oh yes! We'd never be difficult about something like that!"

"Cool. One more. I ordered a stick. If...umm...well, say I lose an arm or a leg. Can we change it to an automatic?"

God bless the salesman, he didn't even blink.

"Sure. They won't build the vehicle until spring."

Good to know.

28 January 2007

Weird-ass movie

I've been married for more than five years, but Mr. Abby and I have been together for about seven. Or ten thousand. Whatever, take your pick.

Like most married couples, there's absolutely nothing I enjoy that he doesn't hate, and likewise.

So a trip to the video store is always a little weird. I haven't been helpful lately, because since I came back from Iraq, I insist uon only watching happy movies. Romantic comedies are great. Action is fine as long as it isn't thoughtful. And him? The man likes war movies, movies with ninjas, and, very oddly, foreign films with subtitles based on famous works of literature, or which involve food (Like Water For Chocolate, Tortilla Soup, etc). And movies with lots of fart jokes. 'Cause he's a guy.

Anyway, we went to the video store the other day. And found something we agreed might be entertaining - Barnyard.

The plot? It was fine. Noble cattle hold the line and defend the farm against evil coyotes who want to eat the chickens. And the cattle beat the shit out of the coyotes. Which is cool, because in our household we have no problem with violence in support of the community. And it had Sam Elliott. Singing.

However...the male cows had udders. And walked upright. Now, this was one of those movies where all the animals walked upright (and since they were talking animals, we were prepared to be a little flexible).

But the bulls had "man voices" (see above reference to Sam Eliott). And obviously, gender roles were very important to whoever made this movie. So what the hell was up with the udders????

Now, I've spent a little time around livestock. I am aware that male bovine genitalia is not necessarily something one would want to feature prominently in an animated film.

But all the other animals, although they were obviously male or female, had no genitalia. Which, I think, is pretty standard for a kids' film. So why did the male cattle have udders? I don't get it, and it annoyed the shit out of both of us for the duration of the movie.

One further note - I don't really care for these movies that vilify predators. Madagascar was one of these, too. Meat eaters gotta eat, too. If I ever made an animated film, it would be one where the happy wolf family spends weeks selecting just which whiny deer to "cull from the herd."

This idiotic state

I've said it before. If you live in Florida, and if you have children, you're probably going to lose one or two of them. If they survive the alligators and crazed child murderers, and manage to dodge the random gunfire, they're probably going to be run over.

See, in Florida, apparently, children are not taught to look both ways before crossing the street. I've been out of the area for almost half the time we've lived here and I can still clearly recall seeing no fewer than ten news stories about children being run over in the Bay Area.

And we're not usually talking about little kids, either. I can think of at least four cases in which high school aged kids have been fatally run down in broad daylight.

Now, this is just generally a social failing. Of course parents should teach their children to look both ways. However, it's something I feel entirely comfortable saying that schools should also cover.

Jesus Christ - they taught me to look both ways before crossing the street and I grew up on dirt roads.

And if you never teach children to look both ways, those who aren't run down grow into adults who don't know they should look both ways. And you get news stories like this.

So, to recap. If you live in Florida and you have children, there's a pretty good chance something horrible will happen to at least one of them. So you should probably have three or four. It's socially unacceptable to give children handguns in today's litigous society, but Florida is absolutely crawling with violent child sex predators. So lessons in screaming for help, running away and testicle kicking are in order. Keep your children away from fresh water, and they probably won't fall victim to alligators. Stay away from shady areas and teach your kids to duck to minimize random gunfire's threat.

And above all - teach them to look both ways before stepping out in traffic. People here cannot drive. At all. Teach your children to trust nothing - not crosswalks, not crossing guards, not looking in just one direction on one-way streets.

It's a scary world out there. If you can't move your family to South Dakota (a very nice place), much education is in order.