Thursday, November 29, 2007

Boat has Two Syllables

Unsurprisingly, this quiz has confirmed that I do in fact speak like a northerner, just like my sister. Unsettlingly to some, I've also picked up a few vocal habits typical of the South, particularly y'all, which I suppress pretty well at home, but tends to confuse southerners who hear me use it, since the rest of my speech is so thoroughly northern.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
North Central
The West
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Jumping the 250

The highlight of Tower Week, the second week of Airborne School, is jumping (well, being dropped) from the 250-foot parachute training tower, which I did today. You can see the historic towers in these pictures; they haven't changed much, though one of the four was blown down in a storm in 1988. I hadn't been particularly enthusiastic about the tower, since it struck me as kind of silly and just one more chance to get injured before Jump Week. I became less enthusiastic after seeing multiple malfunctions on the tower over the course of the day, though the safety precautions worked in all cases and there were no injuries. The tower isn't a requirement of the course, see, and often many soldiers don't get the chance to do it anyway, due to weather conditions or whatnot. But nonetheless my turn came up and I was hoisted aloft and dropped, and boy I wished I could have done it again. It was a lot more fun than I expected, and I was surprisingly at ease. I'm not really bothered by heights in any case, but I was expecting the hoisting and the long moments of waiting at the top to be rather nerve-wracking. Not the case, apparently, because I just sort of relaxed and enjoyed the view. And then I dropped, and I was more focused on manipulating my parachute for a soft(ish) landing. It takes less than 15 seconds to drop 250 feet, so it's really over before you know it. No lollygagging about in the sky like a civilian skydiver's parafoil, the Army's parachutes are designed to get you on the ground quickly, and for good reason. If you've seen Band of Brothers, you'll remember that in a real Airborne insertion, the sky isn't exactly a safe place to be. Not that any Normandy-style invasions are anywhere in my likely future, but that's the idea. Tomorrow we should have a short day with just a few classes, and then I'll be off for my one real weekend of Airborne school. I really have no idea what I'll do all weekend, since during the week I generally just hit the Internet for an hour and go to bed early. I'm sure I'll figure something out. And then next week is Jump Week! Five successful jumps (including two with combat gear and at least one at night), and I'll be fully Airborne qualified!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Hints List

As a favor to my dear mother and anyone else struggling with gift ideas, I've put together a list of hints in my sidebar. I'll try to add a few more things so it's not quite so specific; I really hate when Christmas lists are nothing more than "these are the things you will buy me".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Day is Nigh

I used to joke that I wouldn't join the military until I could do so as the pilot of a GFRS (Giant Fighting Robot Suit). Granted, I slipped up on that promise and joined a bit too early, but I've remained excited by the prospect. Me and my buddies in CA even used to jokingly muse about the future Mech Corps and even invented a branch insignia (a sprocket Or on field Sable with crossed lightning bolt Argent and laser beam Crimson, if you can imagine). In any case, as this video shows, it's exciting times in the US military. Who knows, if I stick around long enough, I might just get a chance to reclass to mech pilot after all.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Loving the Midwest

I've been home for just a couple days for Thanksgiving, and I've been greatly enjoying being back in the upper Midwest. I particularly appreciated this helpful sign posted on the door of the local Fleet Farm (sort of an agricultural Wal-Mart).

I'm almost happy I don't have any of my close buddies with me at Airborne, so at least this time I won't have to take the usual commentary on how much my accent has regressed northwards.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ground Week

Finished Ground Week of Jump School today. Well, yesterday, actually, since we didn't do any training today, just cleaned up and got released for the long Thanksgiving weekend. It was a lot of fun, overall. I'm certainly encouraged, since Ground Week is by all accounts the most difficult portion, and I didn't think it was particularly hard at all. Which isn't to say I'm not more sore than I have ever been in my life, because even though it's not exceptionally difficult, Airborne training is brutally punishing. This video gives a good idea what I've been up to, despite the rather frenetic editing:

Ground Week mainly consists of practicing proper exits on the 34-foot tower and proper PLFs (Parachute Landing Falls) on the LDA (Lateral Drift Apparatus). We spent one full day on the tower, and nearly two full days on the LDA, which you can see at work in the video when the narrator mentions practicing PLFs until you get them right. And it's kind of funny, PLFs are terrible and you dread each one you have to do. Until you start getting them right, that is, at which point you feel like could do them all day, because they don't hurt anymore. But then you're done, because you're doing them right. Boy, you really do pay for the ones you do wrong, though. Last night when I was laying in bed, I had to use my hands to lift my head off my pillow to get up, my neck muscles were so exhausted from PLFs. Having a long weekend for Thanksgiving after Ground Week was perfect timing, really.

I have a lot more thoughts about Jump School, particularly regarding the remarkable pedagogy at work, but I'll probably get to that later this weekend or perhaps after Tower Week.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

All The Way

I report for Jump School tomorrow. Needless to say, I'm really excited and a little bit nervous. I really oughtn't be, since I'm confident I'm ready for it physically, but it's still a bit intimidating. I guess my biggest fear is that I'd be injured and not be able to complete the training, in which case I wouldn't be able to go to my assignment at the 82nd and could end up who-knows-where. And there are few things I hate more than facing an uncertain future over which I have no control. In reality, though, there's little reason to suspect that three weeks from tonight I will be anywhere but in the belly of a C-130, waiting for that red light to turn green.

And while I certainly appreciate any thoughts and prayers, these concerns of my own definitely pale in comparison when I'm reminded that S and K, two of my closest Army buddies, are headed to Iraq on Saturday. That's where my thoughts and prayers will be this weekend.

Blog Quizzes

So, some of these things are fun, I'll grant that. Especially the more pointless the topic. But some of them are a little spooky, or in this case, leaning toward offensive. There's just something about the title, "How Happy Are You, Really?" that seems to snidely imply you're less happy than you think. And even if it comes up that you are happy, while I'm glad Internet confirmed it, I already knew that much. And happiness isn't one spectrum, because there are several things that are causing me varying levels of emotional distress, mostly the prospect of facing down a series of momentous life changes in my near future. But here it is, for what it's worth:

You Are Very Happy

Your life is totally together, and you enjoy every day.

And you don't need a quiz to tell you that!

You know how to find pleasure in the little things...

And even when life isn't so great, you have a good sense of perspective.

Sidenote: I'm pretty sure this quiz was designed for women. Just the impression I got.

The Blog Readability Test

Along with Uvalpie's Girl, I wouldn't have posted this if it had been anything less.

cash advance


Tip from Shane. Truly amazing.

1337: Part 3

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Just finished a full day of driving through the heart of the deep South. Yesterday I had the pleasure of traversing the greater part of Texas, spent the night in Shreveport, and today I made it as far as Montgomery, Alabama. I wish I had some interesting thoughts to share about my experience, but the thing is, though this is the fourth state in two days, I never really left Interstate-Land until this afternoon, when I got onto US80 to cross Alabama. One notable: there's a Waffle House at pretty much every exit I've passed through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. I also saw a Mister Waffle, which appeared to be a low(er)-grade knockoff, sporting a suspiciously similar sign of black capital letters on illuminated yellow blocks.

Other observations? I don't like driving at night. I prefer lonely two lane roads to the Interstate during the day, but absolutely hate them at night, when oncoming traffic means your eyes never adjust and you feel like you're driving nearly blind.

Also, I've started to notice signs of the drought that has affected this part of the country. Since I entered Alabama, I've been seeing more and more 'rivers' that look like little more than muddy ditches. I expect that will get more pronounced when I get to Georgia tomorrow.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

I've Been Memed!

Well, here it goes. According to the rules of this meme, I am to list a handful of courses I'd like to take, as well as one with the person who tagged me. So, first on my list would be Beginning Bookbinding with the Elephant's Child. I mean, I already go by the nickname "Books" among half of my Army buddies, so I might as well roll with it. Plus, there's something very fundamentally satisfying about anything involving paper, string, and paste.

Next on my schedule would be Calligraphy and Hand-Lettering. I have a soft spot for dying arts, I suppose.

From dying arts to dead languages; I would love a course in History and Principles of Orthography. I have, as must be clear by now, a deep reverence for the written word. The development and history of writing systems fascinates me to no end, and a course that covered the principles of how ancient writing systems are deciphered would make me indecently happy.

Now, on to broadening myself. I am in desperate need of a course in Sports Skills for Non-Athletes. Thanks to the Army, I'm now in the best shape of my life. I still lack, however, many of the rudimentary skills of coordination necessary for even casual participation in team sports. A primary focus of this course would be not throwing like a nine-year-old girl with a broken arm.

Fundamentals of Drawing would round out my schedule. Not everyone can be a great artist (and I have little inclination in that direction), but everyone can master the fundamentals of perspective and such that allow one to quickly produce clear, understandable sketches. I can handle myself with words, but there are so many times when you can save a great deal time and effort by simply drawing a picture, if you've got a decent grasp of the basics.

So, those are my courses. Who to tag, then? Let's start with Lutheran Lucciola, and since I'm working to expand my personal blogrealm beyond mutual acquaintances with Elephant's Child, let's see if I can get a response from Lens Lover, Shane at Ramblings, and Quantitative Metathesis.

Iraq, again

So apparently the Afghans aren't a heck of a lot better at PT than the Iraqis. Go figure.

I haven't put these clips up just to poke fun, incidentally. The bigger point is demonstrating exactly how hard it is to set up a functioning country from scratch. Even on something as fundamental as physical training, the average recruit to the Iraqi army is coming with almost no practical skills. As out-of-shape as many new American soldiers are, almost all are at least familiar with the concept of performing calisthenics in a group, in cadence. I guess we can thank public school gym classes for that. Iraqi recruits, however, come from a culture in which physical fitness for its own sake is a completely foreign concept. Iraq is really hot. One simply doesn't do hard physical work unless it is actually necessary. Additionally, it's the sort of place where fitness is identified with the peasantry, where being out-of-shape is a sign of luxury and wealth. I'm pretty sure soccer is the only reason any of them are in decent shape at all. The Iraqi people are continually amazed that American troops work and patrol during the heat of the day, because to them it's something you just don't do. There are all sorts of rumors that we have special pills that let us withstand the heat, or that our body armor is air-conditioned. Don't we wish.

In any case, the Iraqi Army is a microcosm of the sorts of issues that will continue to hold the country back for a while, because the doctors, teachers, judges, and civil engineers are hardly in better shape to do their jobs. We forget that though we destroyed the physical infrastructure of Iraq in the invasion, Saddam had been destroying Iraq's human infrastructure for 30 years. We forget that the knowledge and expertise of the population needs to be rebuilt along with the infrastructure, and these sorts of things just take time. I for one, along with most of the soldiers I know, have no problem with the idea of this taking another decade, though preferably not at current troop levels, obviously. There are a lot of things that are really looking up, but there's still a long road ahead. Patience, however, is not one of the great American public virtues.