Friday, June 29, 2007

My morning paper has the score ...

This story was also run in our local paper:

Little Effort Made to Find Deserters
By ESTES THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
7:02 PM PDT, June 28, 2007

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- There is no crack team of bounty hunters, no elite military unit whose job is to track them down and bring them in.

Despite a rise in desertions from the Army as the Iraq war drags on into a fifth year, the U.S. military does almost nothing to find those who flee and rarely prosecutes those it gets its hands on.

However, our paper illustrates the power of a headline. They ran the exact same story but with the following headline: Military desertions rising.

If you read the story, you see that it says no such thing. In fact, desertions in the military since 2001 have decreased from 9,264 in 2001 to 5,473 in 2006. What has happened is that the number of desertions in Army have risin. They account for 60 percent of all military desertions. That's the story; that, and the fact that few desertion cases are ever tried.

The reason that these cases aren't tried is simple -- it costs too much money to hunt deserters down and court martial them. It's easier to let them be caught through their own actions and simply chapter them out of the service, or, in many cases, allow them to come back into the service at a reduced rank.

What's particularly funny about our paper's story is not only the fact that the story and headline don't match, but that they ran a graph with the story that bluntly shows the lie of the headline.

Who watches the watchmen, eh?

No one is safe ... from their fate

I was raised by a devout Christian mother. My youth was spent in church and Christian schools and up until about 8th or 9th grade, it never really occurred to me to question the validity of what I had been taught for so long.

So of course I rebelled like someone was sticking me with a hot poker.

But over time, and more and more each year, I find myself being drawn back to the teachings of my youth. I believe it's because I sense the inherent rightness of it, but I'm willing to admit that it could be because it's a strong sense of the familiar. The point I'm getting to here is that one of the things I rebelled strongly against was the aspect of fate in Christianity. I never liked the idea that our lives were predestined.

Whether it be tied to religion or no, the theory that our lives are playing out in some predetermined path is kind of depressing, no? You think you could buck the system, but your bucking the system is already determined, accounted for, and written into the script. The thing that really threw me for a loop ... throws me for a loop still ... is that the Bible speaks of free will. Christianity makes a HUGE deal out of it because free will is what makes faith so strong. This is a readily observable phenomena -- take recent actions by extreme Muslims, the abortion clinic bombing Christians, or go back and look at Jonestown. When a person has committed their beliefs to something, that faith is a very strong thing.

However, how does one reconcile free will with predestiny? If you really have free will doesn't that imply that fate wouldn't necessarily know what your choices would be? Doesn't that mean that God has put you in control of your destiny?

This dichotomy is hard for me to wrap my head around. But one thing I'm willing to do now that I wasn't when I was younger is admit that there are things beyond my comprehension.

So, I accept that there is fate. And I pray that things work out according to the plan. And I hope that my choices don't hurt my family.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

If my time was all as is yours

Here's a vacation story that tickles my nerves like a cheese grater to the groin.

Many of you know that we bought a new Dodge Durango back in March. It has become my baby. I care more about this vehicle than any other I have ever owned. I had an ominous feeling, though, that something was going to happen over the vacation.

And it did, of course.

We were out driving around looking at homes. I had driven all through the area, in and out of driveways, but one proved to be beyond my skills, apparently. This one home we stopped at was the first four bedroom we were going to see. We were kind of excited, but the realtor was quick to point out that her contact had impressed on her that the home needed a lot of work.

And it did. We weren't interested in the slightest. Odd layout and TONS of problems.

So, we load back into the truck and I begin to back out and don't notice the pruned bush to my left rear. The bush was free of any foliage and was basically a bunch of branches sticking up out of the ground. And those branches put a nice scratch along the driver-side rear of my nice, new truck. Starting in the tail light (though not very noticeable there) and about 10 inches past. It looks like it only cut into the clear coat, not too deep, and it's only noticeable if you're right up on the car. But I know it's there.

And I know that I'm responsible for it.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cuz I'm a 21st century digital boy

I have been a faithful contributor to Faster Than The World since it was first stood up as an online 'zine, almost one year. Now I, like many others before me, am feeling the grind and am taking a sabbatical. However, I have my last article up today (I'll think of it as my last Georgia article). Longtime readers of my blog will recognize the post as it is a repost from this site, but it's one of my better ones.

Hopefully, it won't be too long before I can get back to writing. I'm optimistically thinking I'll be able to start back writing in September.


On yesterday's post: Our realtor faxed me a copy of the appraisal report and inspector's notes. There was really nothing in the report that we hadn't seen or been told about ourselves. Now yesterday's entry seems overly pessimistic.

The problem we're facing is that the homeowner doesn't have the money to front for the repairs. If she agrees to get the work done, they repairer will have to agree to get paid out of closing. The realtor seems to think this will fly -- she knows some guys who knows some guys -- but having never done this before, I am still hesitant to let my hopes get up or anything.

Also, have any of you ever put up a privacy fence yourselves? I am looking for any tips, tricks, lessons learned, etc., that you may have to pass on. One of the very first things we'll be doing is putting up a fence. Both of the neighbors there have fences and they're both right on the property line, so all I have to do is build the fence into their fences. Anyway, if you have advice, I'm willing to listen. Drop a note here or to my e-mail. Thanks again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Burning down the house ... my house

The house we're trying to buy was appraised last week and there's a laundry list of things that need to be fixed. Nothing major, but a lot of little things. Now we're worried that the house might not pass inspection for the loan company.

It's sad because they're all things that I can do and don't really mind doing. We'll just have to wait and see where things go from here.

We really don't have the time and resources to go up there, find another home and start this process again. So, I'm hoping to push forward with this.

But if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I feel so disconnected ...

Very difficult to put into words my feelings of the past couple of days. It's weird when you're in a job that you know you're leaving, but you still have a little while left before you move.

You still have a job to do, but you no longer feel attached to any of it. You no longer have a vested interest in any of it. On the one hand, it's hard to care as much as you used to. On the other, it's hard not to care because of the people involved.

When I was in Millington on vacation, I met with my new office. My soon-to-be supervisor told me that while she thought it was noble to stay in my office for so long, I had no obligation to do so. I told her that it wasn't just for my office, but I needed this time to get my family moved.

I'm glad I took the time from a moving perspective. I'm finding it difficult to deal with from an occupational point of view.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Yeah, I don't have to work on the weekend, but I have a bunch o' honeydo's lined up. We also have our neighbor's kid spending the night tonight and tomorrow night. I am not really looking forward to the weekend.

Considering how soon we'll be moving, I probably won't be looking forward to a weekend for some time.

Hope you all have a good one, though.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Back to work

After a vacation I usually look forward to getting back to work. I enjoy my time off, but I'm ready to get back to my schedule. It's not the case this time.

I don't know if it's because I know that I'm starting a new job and moving soon, but I'm not looking forward to heading back into work today.

I don't want to deal with all the balls dropped when I was out. I don't want to deal with the new balls floating around that'll have to be dealt with. I don't want to have to deal with the training issues that will now become "hot" because I'm leaving.

Hi-ho. Hi-Ho.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Freezer full of funk

Two of the biggest problems with going on an extended vacation are forgetting things and the unexpected things that go wrong while you're gone. We were pretty good about remembering our stuff this time, so, of course, something had to go wrong.

We got home late Monday evening to things pretty much as we left them. Our neighbor had been watching our house for us, so there was a pile of mail and our fish were still alive. Well, two out of three fish. One died and we don't know what happened to it. We think our algae eater ate it. Our neighbor didn't throw it away and that damn little algae eater is looking more and more like some Lovecraftian creature.

Outside, on our back porch was this odor we couldn't quite place. Not until we looked down at the freezer and noticed the power light wasn't on. Opening the freezer placed the odor. Everything inside had thawed and the juices were making some kind of unnatural muck at the bottom.

Our power went out two or three times while we were gone and during one of those power outages, the breaker for the freezer tripped. Simple fix. But, oh what a funk.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

So, we're back ... sort of

This is the house. It has four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. It needs some cosmetic work here and there, but it appears to be very sound. The inspection will tell, though.

We're waiting for the appraisal and the inspection and then we can get things moving. Hopefully we'll be able to close the end of July and move in Aug. 2 or 3.

Overall, it was a good trip. We were in Memphis/Millington for three days, but almost all of that time was spent house hunting. We then moved on to St. Louis to pick up family and got there early enough to hit the zoo. Had a great time there, but only got to see about a third of the place. It's free (though you have to pay for parking) so we didn't feel too bad about that.

Our destination for the trip was Nauvoo, Illinois. It was one of the first Mormon settlements and the place where they were building their first fully functioning temple. It is also where LDS founder Joseph Smith was arrested and down the road from where he was murdered. The Mormons were driven from Nauvoo, many killed, most of their homes and the temple were burned.

While not a Mormon myself, my wife is and we are raising our children that way because I believe in their values. While I didn't feel the spiritual connection many of my family did, I was moved by the trials they faced, shocked that as little as 160 years ago people in this country could be so persecuted for their beliefs, and had a great time visiting all the historic sites.

And now we're home again and I'm dreading going back to work, getting this place packed up, and all the other work ahead of us. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I gots me a house

Well folks, we were hoping to make it into Millington and rent a place for about a year or so and then buy. But once we got into the area, we realized that to get into an apartment we could afford, we'd be in the ghetto and to get into an apartment in a nice area, we'd be paying a lot more than a mortgage. So, we're buying a house.

Found one, got financing and got approved and contract gone through (almost) in just over two days. God bless the internet.

More info to come.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

On vacation

Updates minimal, if any, for two weeks. :)

Friday, June 08, 2007

I gots me a job

I have referenced my job searching a few times here, but today that search has ended. I received an official offer and am now locked in for the position.

The job will be working at Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington, TN, and I should be moving there at the end of July/beginning of August.

I am excited about the move for a few of reasons. First, it’s a promotion. More money is always a good thing, you know. Second, relocating to that area puts us closer to more family. Last, while we’re moving to a smaller urban area, we’re moving closer to a huge urban area. Millington is smaller than here, but Memphis is only 10 miles away from Millington.

Our vacation, which we start tomorrow, involves us stopping in Memphis to check out housing. Practical and fun.

So, I’ll keep y’all updated as the process evolves.

It’s exciting and scary.


In light of Emily's lax approach to her FFOT duties, I have been inspired to come up with my own weekly collection of reader wisdom.

So, I present to you the first-ever Friday Frase of the Web (bear with me).

Rather than vent, please share the funniest phrase you have read this week. Be it in a news story, a comment or post somewhere. Please post the phrase and a link. And I guess it really doesn't have to be the funniest ... maybe the one that stuck with you the most.

Here's mine:

"I'm in ur X, Y-ing ur Z."

Let's get it on.

FFOT temporarily moved

Emily at Pints refuses to host a FFOT today. Go Ducks or something like that.

Michele at A Big Victory has offered her meager space for FFOTing today. Go by and bitch.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dream Theater's Systematic Chaos review

Within the opening two minutes of Dream Theater's newest release, I had formed an opinion of the album. After listening to the CD a couple of times, that opinion has been born out.

That opinion is that this entry in the DT lexicon has more in common with its Liquid Tension Experiment cousins than it does with previous Dream Theater releases. The difference being that the LTE albums were instrumentals. This is not a bad thing ... Liquid Tension's music was more exploratory than DT and had a lighter touch, and while Systematic Chaos has plenty of bone crushing moments, the lighter touch predominates.

The next thing long-time Dream Theater fans will notice is how much the bass is mixed to the front. For the first time, for an entire DT album, you can hear John Myung's bass lines. This is a very good thing. Past albums have been fantastic but have commonly suffered from a downmix of the bottom end. Myung's bass shines through on every song and will, at time, remind metal fans of mid-80s Iron Maiden.

Speaking of the songs, they're pretty darn good. The strongest entries are "Constant Motion," "The Dark Enternal Night," and "Repentance" which are tracks 3, 4, and 5. There are some hokey lyrics here and there, but the real strength of this album is in the instruments, not the marrying of instrument and voice. That's always been one of Dream Theater's weaknesses, and while singer James LaBrie has improved much over the years, the band is just playing far beyond his ability. The two seem dischordant to one another. But this is a small gripe in an otherwise excellent release.

As for the holy trinity -- John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, and Jordan Rudess -- they deliver all the goods DT fans have come to expect from these master musicians. Guitar god Petrucci doesn't give as many machine-gun guitar solos this go around (though there are a few). His playing is far more nuanced. Rudess gives us plenty of the guitar-like keyboard solos and he revists a ragtimey theme that was a big hit in Scenes From a Memory. Portnoy doesn't disappoint either, smacking out the skins for all he's worth.

Bottom line: A solid entry that's well worth your time, but not one on par with Scenes From a Memory, Awake, or Images and Words.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Person risks Papal smackdown

A person attempted to jump the Pope in Vatican City.

He's really lucky that he didn't get close enough for the Pope to have to take care of things. Then we'd have to see his crazy ninjitsu style.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Some advice, please

My family and I will be leaving on vacation this weekend. We're going to be passing through Birmingham, up to Mephis for a couple of days. Then on to St. Louis for a day or so, and then on to our destination for a couple of days. We're heading straight home from the destination. We've got some time on the way to Memphis and while in Memphis, and then again in St. Louis.

We've come up with some ideas of how to spend some time, but I'm wondering if any of you, gentle readers, are familiar with these areas and have any suggestions?

There is criteria: I have three young kids, so the stops have to be kid friendly. They also have to be cheap. Free is my preference.

We're looking at hitting the zoo in St. Louis. I think we have Memphis under control, but we'd really like to make a stop on the way there (on Saturday), so if any of you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.


Monday, June 04, 2007

When the boss is away...

The employees will still do whatever they were supposed to because they fear losing their jobs.

So, the boss is out of the net today. And even though that doesn't in any way impact our workload, there's still something relaxing about the fact that he's not here. Like we can just take it easy though our day ... it's psychological.

I gotta get back to work. I hope you all had a great weekend and have a great week.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Photos from the wild

Since Ken was feeling creative today, I decided to open up my own photo album and show a little-seen picture of Ken with his banjo in the approved banjo position.

It does get interesting when he decides to bust out "Dueling Banjos."

For Rob B

So, JR at File It Under wonders what a headshot of of global warming would be ...

We know what El Nino looks like:

Perhaps global warming looks similar: