Archive for June, 2009

Two New Features: Fantasy and Reviews!

June 27, 2009

First of all, I will be posting even more Berlin photos. Having received 3 comments in emails and Facebook messages about my Berlin photos means I broke a personal record of feedback on anything. The previous record was 0. Technically, or mathematically, 3 is infinitely more feedback than 0, so I will post more. Thanks for the encouragement!

Second. I have been reading some websites and magazines about writing. In the past week, the Staff Judge Advocate I work for has given me an award and a farewell speech, and both times he mentioned I was a writer. Well, the last time I wrote a whole short story was almost four years ago, and the last time I wrote a complete poem, and not just a stanza or two, was three months ago. The advice I’ve received from the different sources can be summed up as thus: the more you write, the more you want to write. This is the definition of a catch-22 phrase (which is also a book I need to read, apparently) so I will try to write more on this blog in two ways.

A new feature for this blog will be reviews. From now on, regardless of whether I read a book, play a game, see a movie, or consume any other kind of media that I don’t create on my own, I will write a review of it here on this blog. Reviews are incredibly subjective, and except for facts like play control in a game, number of pages in a book, who acted in a movie, and what the track list on a CD is, there is no single objective criteria to base how relatively worthy a piece of media is. Everyone will have their own personal bias that either engenders them or precludes them from liking some aspect of a media based experience. If you follow me on this blog, I assume you know me well enough to understand what kind of tendencies I have when it comes to entertainment and education, so you should apply that filter to anything I write. You should probably already be doing this, in fact.

When you see a review for a video game, and you don’t play video games, it will be marked such so you don’t have to waste your time. The same goes with music, movies, books, TV shows, etc. I do not plan on replacing any of the websites like Gamespot.com, et.com, imdb.com, or any of the other media review conglomerations, but if you save yourself $25 by not buying that hardcover book, movie, or video game I recommended against, then this site will be worth it. And, inversely, if you decide to try something you normally wouldn’t because I did recommend it, and enjoy it, then I letting me know that fact would make me more pleased that getting paid to do this ever would (depending on the amount).

The second feature, besides the occasional life updates and the aforementioned reviews I put up on this blog, will be my starting of another blog where I will write a book. The best, and most inspirational, idea I read was several authors who wrote a book through blog posts, committing themselves to a certain number of words per day or week. I think this will be the avenue to go. I will let you know what the blog is when I finish setting it up, but here is a short synopsis: the story will be about a group of adventurers living in a fantastical world out to save the world from an unknown threat that comes from the lands below the ground they walk on. Basically, I will be writing out one of my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns of old, and hoping to have more than 10 people read it when I’m finished. Another piece of advice I read was as follows, “Even if it’s bad, write continually. Eventually you will have enough material to choose a somewhat good story from amongst all the crap.” That one was not quite as inspirational, but it was truthful.

Bear with me if you’ll read this stuff, and wade through the crap if you can. Provide feedback, help me polish and give me ideas as long as you know you will only get a passing thanks in the dedication if this book ever gets published. It’s the thought that counts, right? So then that will be thanks enough, instead of us having to split the non-existent royalties check 100 different ways.

And, as always, let me know if you have any other ideas. Thanks.

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End of Term of Service Speech

June 23, 2009

Below is the speech I gave today when I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal as I leave the military.

Thank you for the kind introduction, Sir.

I quickly wanted to thank a few people who aren’t here. I do this so their accomplishments can be recognized the next time you see them, even if I am gone.

SFC Davis and SFC Cooper taught me a lot about being a soldier, an NCO, and how to take care of soldiers, and when that means rewarding or when that means being tough. Between those two NCOs, I learned no one has any excuse not to do well on PT, soldier skills, or office work. SFC Davis is still teaching me things 4 years later, and I am still running on the track, in marathons, and forward in life, thanks to SFC Cooper.

SGM Tyler is the epitome of what a paralegal and NCO should be, which is why he’ll shortly be the Regimental CSM. I don’t have to expand any further on that. Thank you SGM.

To the officers I’ve worked for, I want to thank you for all being such friendly professionals. When you show consideration of your subordinates opinion by going so far as to explain any improvements or changes necessary, that shows a lot of respect and care for soldiers, and it was deeply appreciated. You’d have every right to just tell me “Go and get this done because I told you to,” but you take the time to explain it to me. You will be successful with leadership like that.

The civilians in the JAG Corps are so different than the civilians you see working elsewhere. This is a good thing. From Mr. Parker’s efficient but excitable manner, to Christine Hauser and Beatta Korz’s kindness in helping me 100s of times. Thank you.

I am leaving the military after 4 years, and at times it has been a hard career. I can think back to Iraq, trying to bend my head around regulations that were not written to accommodate the Arabic custom of “inshallah;” all those court-martials full of witnesses who were not going to arrange for their own travel; hundreds of Article 15s and chapter packets, hundreds of clients who wanted to know if their Power of Attorney would really let their spouse do anything. And that was just the desk work, not the countless formations, vehicle maintenance, and flutter kicks, how I especially hate flutter kicks. Do I even need to mention the omnipresent sand in Iraq?

In spite of all that, I’d sign up for the last four years again in a heartbeat. The OSJA of 1st AD did some amazing things in garrison and in Iraq, and there is a large part of me that wants to go with yall again. No one will ever take that deployment away from us, and the amazing things we did there, with the support of the rear detachment and our families. Unfortunately, that part of me, my heart, is held on to by my family who are going through a troubled time, and need me to assist them back in Texas.

But I will be jealous every time I read the good news coming out of Baghdad in 2010, knowing this office is working behind the scenes to make the world a much better place. The first time a teenager says something too smart in my high school class, I’ll wish for the days of compulsory respect and the power to prescribe pushups. Every time I see Old Glory flying, I’m going to miss making that salute as I stroll by, because it will remind me of the 4 years I spent serving in America’s Tank Division.

Thank you all for helping me grow these important 4 years of my life, making it so memorable, and being my trusted allies, mentors, and friends.
May God bless you all.

Clearing Papers

June 20, 2009

Today I am proud to admit that I shammed a bit.  Of course, I only did so after I cleared it with my boss, but it felt good to not have to do everything the rest of the office is doing for a day.

I picked up my “clearing papers” yesterday, which means I am in the last 10 working days of my stay in the Army.  For the next two and a half weeks, I will be closing out old accounts at places, coming off duty rosters, wiping my name from systems, and handing out dozens of copies detailing that I am leaving the Army.

This might be exciting enough for just one post to my blog, but wait! There’s more!

Also, I posted most of the pictures I took from Berlin on my Flickr page, available here and over on the left side of my blog. Pay attention to the skies behind the buildings I was taking pictures of, they are simply amazing. I don’t know what I did to my camera, but it took some much better pictures than I am used to for the four days I was in Berlin. Perhaps Berlin knew I was coming, so they arranged for good meteorological conditions for me.

Possibly not. When I got there, I started taking pictures right out of the Hauptbahnhof, noting that there were dark skies coming. I started towards my hotel, about one and a half miles away, but got caught in the rain. I put on the hooded windbreaker I brought as the extent of my rain gear, and then ran all the way to the hotel. I was drenched, soaked, and sloshing when I turned the last corner to my hotel. Magically, the rain immediately stopped and I walked into the hotel looking like a drowned dufus. If I had just stood under an overhang for 15 minutes, the whole thing would have passed me by and I would have been much more dry.

It didn’t rain the rest of the time I was there, so if that’s what it took, then I’m ok with it. I dried off with the hair dryer attached to the wall in the room, and headed out to take some of those amazing pictures you’ll see in my Berlin album.

Terminal Leave Approved

June 5, 2009

This is not the plane back from Iraq, so I can discuss times that I will be travelling to come back to Texas.  If there is a terrorist out there dead set (suicide bomber pun?) on specifically coming after me, well, I feel more sorry for him having wasted all that effort since I am not that key of a player on the world stage… yet.  Perhaps this is like a Terminator thing, and Al-Qaeda is sending a bomber back in time to prevent my future self from bringing about world peace and an Utopian society.

I digress.  The important thing, today, is that July 7th, 2009 I will be taking my (hopefully) last government flight across the Atlantic ocean, and arrive in DFW International Airport to stay.  I won’t be visiting for just two weeks.  I will be staying to take up residence and work.

I know I sound excited, but the moment is somewhat bittersweet to me.  This means much more time spent with my son, which is, of course, the best thing; but I will be leaving a type of life where I excelled and agreed with me.  I can honestly say, if it wasn’t for familial concerns, I would have made a career out of the military, been successful, and, most importantly, enjoyed it.  Everyone is hesitant to leave a comfortable, rewarding life for the relatively unknown. 

Unfortunately, I do not have the time or resources to explore the vast realms of possibility, so I will take this good news and enjoy being able to stay in Texas for long enough to feel like a resident again.

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