Thursday, December 06, 2007
It was as good as everyone says; a bit corny at first, but that’s probably due to the fact that it’s very much like a comic book. In and of itself, it wasn’t exactly original and followed many of the formulas – the villain that had at one point been friendly with the good guys before turning to the dark side, a conspiracy theory with a sinister organization, etc. Like X-Men (I’m only familiar with the movies; actually I’m only familiar with the movie adaptations of any comic), the powers were a result of genetic mutations and the next step in evolution, and there’s a large slew of superheroes with different powers. When it comes down to it, it’s probably nearly impossible to be creative when it comes to superheroes and superpowers. After so many years and different creations, it’s not easy to come up with a new superpower, especially when series like X-Men or The 4400 have such a large variety of characters, and they all have to have slightly different abilities. The characters in Heroes had most of the usual powers: flight, telekinesis, ability to see the future, telepathy, super-strength, etc. Nothing too original, but it’s not like any of these ideas have been new recently. The Greeks had Icarus and Daedalus for flight (even if one of them failed), Hercules for extra human strength, and Teiresias, the seer, to tell the future as well as the Oracle. I can’t remember the Epic of Gilgamesh that well but I’m sure it, too, had some of those powers, and whatever stories and folklore preceded The Gilgamesh probably also contained those types of characters. I guess those ideas have always fascinated human kind, and the only new powers are a result and a reflection of changing cultures and new scientific discoveries (as an example, the kid in Heroes that can “talk” to machines and the man who was basically a walking nuclear bomb).
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
We had a 9-Mil competition about a week ago. Five of us went but only two of us participated in the actual competition. We all shot horribly on the familiarization so when the commander chose our team, the best shooters had hit the paper all of 3 or 4 times out of 30 (that’s pretty much how it went for all the companies). The only other time I’ve shot a 9-Mil, the targets were closer and larger. Plus, I could see where I was hitting and adjust based on that, while with this, we just shot 30 rounds and then checked where they went. The commander, for example, had forgotten that his 9-Mil shoots high and since he had no way to check where he was hitting while firing, he didn't remember until he got his paper off the target. I hit the paper once.
I also got promoted last week. I invited the Battalion Commander at the commander’s recommendation, and the Brigade Commander came as well. I had the XO and another platoon leader/workout partner pin me, though apparently I messed up a bit with that one – I should have included the commander in there somewhere but I just wasn’t thinking. At least he prevented me from making another breach in etiquette with the BC. Also, during my speech, I think I forgot to thank the commander. I guess that’s why Oscar winners always get to talk again at the press conferences for when they forget their spouses/parents/bosses. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a second shot to make up for that oversight.
Other than that, I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping. I used Amazon for most things, and of the things I ordered to have shipped to Iraq, there was only one thing that couldn’t be sent to an APO so I got lucky.* Apparently, a friend of mine is having some problems because everything he tries to order for me won’t ship to an APO (I guess one of the items was too big, but other than that, I have no clue what he’s been trying to buy).
*Or at least I thought I did until about ten minutes ago when I got an email from my mom asking me why she had received a package with certain items in it. At least it's all little stuff so it shouldn't be too big of an issue to find room for it in a package.
Monday, December 03, 2007
The first book that made me decide I could read two books at once was The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. It had been recommended to me from Barnes and Noble, and the story description was enough to pique my interest. The novel was well-written, and O'Farrell played around with the chronology very well, giving hints to an old secret that more or less motivated all the events thereafter while waiting to completely reveal it. Of course, I've read enough where I kind of knew where it was going, though I was slightly wrong about the order of some things. The characters were still pretty interesting, she didn't tie everything up nicely in the end, especially concerning Iris, one of the three main characters. One of the other characters has Alzheimer's so when things are written from her point of view, they are more fragmented than with the other two women. That part was slightly reminiscent of the beginning of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury for me since it, too, jumps around quite a bit. Vanishing Act is much less difficult, however, because while fragmented, it is still seen through a grown woman's eyes rather than a man whose mental abilities are equivalent to those of a young child. The actual plot itself wasn't anything incredibly new but the presentation worked well.
Still, I wasn't sure if I'd actually go run out and read another novel by O'Farrell but as it turned out, I had ordered one - I think when I ordered the first one, Amazon did the whole "other people who ordered that ordered this" thing, and when I clicked on the link, the other novel sounded like it had possibilities as well as good reviews. I don't think I even noticed it was the same author. Anyway, I started that one yesterday and finished it today (I don't know why I can't finish the other book!) After You'd Gone also went back and forth in time a lot like her other novel (and the book I can't finish, for that matter). I actually liked it much more than The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. It was very powerful. The novel begins with Alice's suicide attempt, and then retraces different parts of her life through her perspective, and her family's perspective. Some secrets are revealed in the process as it shows what could cause a strong, temperamental person to despair enough to step in front of traffic.
And now back to that other book. I will finish it eventually; even if A Moveable Feast is looking very tempting right now. Not to mention the 2nd and 3rd seasons of Six Feet Under. I guess that was another issue - I've also watched Heroes and the 1st season of Six Feet Under in the last few weeks instead of reading.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I also found out that one of my favorite professors (actually, one of the two professors that inspired me to want to be an English professor) was going to have an extensive surgery. It was scheduled for yesterday but I haven't heard anything yet. Somebody told me it was rather routine, but any surgery that could last more than five hours sounds pretty scary to me. Hopefully, I'll get some news soon but I'm sure my mom would have let me know something by now if it had been bad (no news is good news, right?) - her bosses are my professor's neighbors.
I had to read Black Like Me twice - once in high school, and once in college. In the four or five years in between reading it, I had done a lot with feminist theory and taken quite a few literature classes so I had a very different perspective on it. The book caused an uproar because it exposed racism in the South (the author just chose the South - he could have found it in the North as well), and he had good intentions. What it boils down to, though, is that it wasn't enough for blacks to say they were racially oppressed - a white person had to come in and confirm it for other whites to believe it.
After bell hooks. I read the novel Kindred by Octavia Butler (apparently she's one of the first and most important black sci-fi writers though this novel isn't sci-fi). In one of my English classes, I read Reconstructing Dixie to support some arguments in a paper. One of McPherson's examples was the novel Kindred. The plot and her description sounded fascinating, but I promptly forgot the author and the title of the novel after finishing Reconstructing Dixie, and whenever I remembered that I'd wanted to look for the author, I was nowhere near the book. Well, a few weeks ago, I was browsing the U of I catalog, and looking at the reading requirements for some of the classes (I needed some ideas), and one class happened to have a novel by Octavia Butler. I recognized the name, went to Amazon, and voila, Kindred. Once it got here, I finished it one day. The main character, Dana, is from 1976 Los Angeles, and at the onset of the novel, she discovers that whenever her white ancestor Rufus, a slave owner, is in mortal danger, he has the power to summon her to the past (ranging from around 1805 to 1825 - not exact dates), and she can only return to the present when she herself is in mortal danger. In the novel, Butler manages to take a look at slavery, how it affected people, the different ways people were complicit, and what exactly it took to keep people subordinated. Many of the characters eventually figure out that Dana is from the future so she doesn't exactly have to go around pretending to be anyone or anything else but she still has to adjust in her interactions with people, especially whites, to avoid more trouble. I loved the book; it was a neat idea, and since Butler doesn't go into explaining the time travel too much, it doesn't really distract from the characters or the plot. Of course, now, it's once again taking me a while to get into my new book, because I enjoyed this one so much.
Fortunately, I also just got My So-Called Life in the mail, so I might use that to transition. Claire Danes used to be my favorite actress because of that show (I saw it when I was about thirteen - it was also around the time of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) and I really wanted that hair color though I never had the guts to do it. They finally re-released the DVDs just in time for the holidays. I hope it's as good as I remember. The DVD includes an episode guide with a few essays from fans, including Joss Whedon, who is a creative genius. He created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, all of which I own (which is actually a sore topic right now, but that's for a later post, once my comics finally get here).
Friday, November 09, 2007
While they may have wanted to say that they were feeling homesick, some of the older soldiers also tend to express a sense of nostalgia for the old Army, back when privates still respected their sergeants, etc. I realize that the Army has recently dropped its standards to meet recruitment goals, and rushes people through training. I mean, I was worried about passing BOLC II because of all the physical aspects, but it’s not like they wanted to fail people (or did for that matter; all 300+ LTs that went at the same time I did passed, no matter how many times they had to go to the range or land nav course). Yet, I am skeptical about the idea of the good old days. I don’t believe that history is progressive by any means; (if anything I’d be much more likely to say that history is cyclic, and there are always actions and reactions or backlashes – a liberal time is followed by a more restrictive period which is followed by another liberal era etc, etc.) just because time advances doesn’t mean that things are going to get better or more tolerant. Despite that, I still dislike the idea of looking back on the past and wishing things to be like that again. Just look at the ‘50s, for example: some people like to look back on the ‘50s as a time of good values, strong family ties and good work ethics, and these ideas are helped along by the popular culture of the time, such as the sitcoms that are shown on Nick at Nite and other classic television channels (even some people who don’t want to return to the ‘50s have this idyllic view of the period). They forget about the other things: the need to fight for Civil Rights, McCarthyism, women’s roles, etc. Actually one of the things that really stood out in The Feminine Mystique was Friedan's comment that the teen pregnancy rate was the highest it had ever been, and these were stats based on the wholesome ‘50s. It seems like people make that argument every decade, but it's just particularly ironic that the decade everyone looks on as so strong in family values would have the same issues as now, when according to some, family values are under attack or deteriorating.
Anyway, my point is that it’s hard to look at something and say it is better or worse now than before. I remember my dad always used to say that if he had been in the ‘90s Army when he first joined, he probably wouldn’t have made it because he was a bit of a trouble maker – as far as he was concerned, the standards had increased. Maybe they have gotten lower since then but no matter when or what the profession, there’s always going to be someone that isn’t as respectful as expected, or disappoints their leaders/mentors/teachers after they’ve placed their hope in them. No sense in getting nostalgic about it.
I also read the novel Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirosky. It’s actually two novellas, or two sections of a larger novel that the author never got to finish. I’d read an article about it a while back, thought it sounded fascinating but never actually got around to ordering it or reading it (I was waiting on the paperback and forgot about it in the process) until Amazon put it on my recommendation list and reminded me of the piece. The author was a woman of Jewish descent living in France during the Nazi occupation. At the time of the occupation, she was already a famous author, and she continued to write (I’m actually curious if any of her other works are still in print). She was working on a novel about the war and the French when she was deported and killed in Auschwitz. The manuscript was discovered rather recently, and published. Naturally, the story behind the novel alone would account for an interest in the piece and a large readership, but it was also a very well written and good story. According to the preface of the French edition, she was a fan of Tolstoy, and her novel shows his influence with her great assortment of characters (not to say that she copied his style or anything but she interweaves and works with the stories of several characters of varying backgrounds). I read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl when I was only ten or eleven and honestly thought it was kind of boring. I don’t expect most adolescent diaries to be too entertaining even if the writer has the potential to be a great author later in life – at that age (and most ages), people are kind of self-involved (also, given my age when I read it, I may have been too self involved to appreciate it). Basically, while I felt the success of Anne Frank’s diary had a lot to do with what she represented and symbolized, I think Nemirosky’s work may benefit from that, but would also be worth reading without that the background story.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Hardcore by Linda Williams – Originally published in the late ‘80s, this book has since become a classic in pornography studies. Rather than taking a side of anti-censorship or anti-porn, Williams takes a look at the history of the genre and analyzes the changes that have been occurring and their reflection on society. (The anti-pornography position tends to oversimplify things and they often portray women as victims without any agency of their own – also, I find it impossible to agree with the idea that any type of heterosexual intercourse is rape as at least one leading anti-porn feminist has stated in the past – basically she believes that due to the act of penetration, there’s always a certain type of violence attached to sex. Laura Kipnis raised the point of semantics in The Female Thing – why is it always the penis penetrates rather than the vagina engulfs?) Overall it was pretty interesting, but I don’t know how dated it is since I don’t exactly have personal experience with the genre, and this isn’t the place to start a study of it – kind of illegal and all.
I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert – It reads exactly like an episode of the show with comments in the margins reminiscent of The Word. It refers to episodes and jokes from the show as well (I probably missed a few because I haven’t been watching it very regularly since leaving the States). It was pretty entertaining, and even contained his speech from the White House Press Corps Dinner.
What else is new? The Dining Facility is finally serving jalapeno poppers again (they’d been out for at least a month), so that’s pretty exciting. I was in the food court a few days ago, but there wasn’t really much to eat so I ended up munching in my room – Taco Bell was out of quesadillas, sour cream and cheese sauce, and Burger King was out of everything but chicken tenders and breakfast foods. On the other hand, Cinnabon finally got in a shipment of straws and frosting.
I also had my first mission as mission commander recently. It went pretty smoothly with only a few minor hiccups here and there. I got pretty lucky because there are a lot of things that can complicate things / cause headaches.
I should be getting promoted at the end of the month. My name wasn’t on the list that battalion received but my commander checked somewhere else, and my name was on that site. I’m looking forward to the pay raise, and at least this way, I will no longer look like I’m brand new to the Army (although, that might have been a good thing; now I won’t have the excuse of inexperience as much as before).
Friday, October 19, 2007
I wish I had taken a larger variety of classes in college than I did – by the time I took feminist theory, the remainder of my schedule was already set in stone because I was trying to finish up three majors. However, I thought the readings we did on global feminism and women in developing countries were fascinating, and wanted to learn more. Ahmed raised a concern that one article I’d read in college also addressed, though in that case it was about India. The problem is the way that colonialism, Westernization and nationalism mixed and conflicted with each other, and how they used and effected women for their causes. Due to the way “feminist” ideas were used by colonial powers to rationalize their position, feminism has been made “suspect in Arab eyes and vulnerable to the charge of being an ally of colonial interests” (167). For example, Ahmed references British general consul Cromer to illustrate this. While in Egypt, he and other Western men used women’s position in society to justify colonization, even though in Britain he was a member of an anti-suffragist club (obviously, he couldn’t have been too concerned about women’s equality). The West simply expressed their misogyny differently, but of course being the ones in power, the Westerners felt theirs was the more dignified culture. The veil was one example of a practice that the West found uncivilized and oppressive. In opposition to this view, later the veil would serve as a symbol of nationalism for some. As Ahmed notes, “it was in this discourse of colonial ‘feminism’ that the notion that an intrinsic connection existed between the issues of culture and the status of women . . . first made its appearance” (244). Instead of attempting to change their society from within as Western women had done, colonialism wanted Muslim women to reject their own culture in favor of the West.
The article about India discussed how this type of legacy was still affecting women today, and how feminists in India often were accused of rejecting their culture in favor of Westernization. There are other historical examples of how traditions that are judged and abhorred by the West become matters of nationalist movements as a direct result. When female genital circumcision was first outlawed in Kenya, another one time British colony, some girls grouped together and did it themselves because they felt they were being denied an important right of passage. As mentioned above, the Western judgment against this practice later made it more difficult for women within the culture to speak against it without being accused of becoming Western. Maybe I should see if I can find a copy of the book that article was in on Amazon. Speaking of which, anyone have any good recommendations for books? Novels, gender studies, post-colonialism, etc? Amazon only gives me so many recommendations, and since it tends to focus on my most recent purchases, I don’t always think its recommendations are necessarily that accurate.
I really wish I were back in college – I miss being able to discuss the books I’m reading with people. Here, I either end up just going on to the next book in my stack, or end up trying to discuss and explain them to people that don’t really care or don’t know what I’m talking about. I read Me Talk Pretty One Day recently, and a few of the passages were very funny – I was trying to tell someone about one or two of them, and he just looked at me like I was crazy/ asked stuff that really didn’t have anything to do with the humor. On the other hand, the person I talk to most out here tends to disagree with everything I say (because it’s fun), so at least I’m getting practice arguing and justifying my positions. That’s kind of good, I guess. Maybe. Also rather obnoxious.
Enough about books – probably should mention something about my life. I’m still in Iraq – only a year to go! It’s like I’m almost done with my practice deployment and about to start the real one. Obviously, I’ve had time to do some reading, but unfortunately, I haven’t watched too many new movies. There’s not really much of a movie theater here, and whenever I’m in my room, I currently prefer watching DVDs of TV shows (preferably with the play all option, which Buffy unfortunately doesn’t have on all its seasons). I finally got the last disc of the second season of The Office, and now I’m just waiting for someone to order the third season so I can borrow it. I also watched 30 Rock so I’m now caught up on Must See TV. That’s still what they call it, right? I remember after NBC lost Friends (of course, it should have ended about a season or two before it did), it seemed like Must See TV didn’t have much to offer. I guess that’s changed. There’s one show I have absolutely no desire to own on DVD – they’ve shown so many reruns of Friends that I would be perfectly happy never seeing another episode. So much for talking about Iraq.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I got a package from Amazon with the second seasons of Weeds and The 4400, so I put my reading on hold while I finished those up. I also watched most of the 2nd season of The Office (I borrowed it from someone but he hasn't given me the last disc yet). Now I'm waiting on Heroes to come out on DVD so I can check that out, and see if it's as good as everyone says.
We had our first officer's call this past week. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to enjoy karaoke again - it's one thing to go to a bar and do it voluntarily, and an entirely different thing to watch people be forced to sing. Also, at a karaoke bar, the people singing are really more background noise since you're hanging out with your friends, while at the officer's call, the performers were basically the center of attention. I guess alcohol usually helps as well, and non-alcoholic beer just doesn't have the same effect. I have also determined that I'm never going to go to salsa - they offer it once a week at the MWR, and every single time I've had a meeting or something else going on - this week I thought I'd actually be able to go, and that's the time we had the officer's call.
Speaking of alcohol, I got a letter from my grandfather today with some rather interesting and useful advice - avoid alcohol so it won't affect any decisions I might have to make while under pressure. Considering that alcohol is kind of, well, ILLEGAL, I shouldn't have too much of a problem doing that. I guess being German, he doesn't quite realize the rules the US military has, but it's still kind of funny. Also, since his letter started saying, "I hope you're doing well considering," I'm kind of surprised he'd think there'd be bars in the area.
Other than that, my bad luck/klutziness streak continues:
Remember my horrible door that I discussed earlier? Well, the saga continues. I lost my key while walking (I knew I didn't trust the PT short pockets!), and had to have the RNU guy break me into my room. He put in an emergency work order for me to get a new lock or door, which means they are supposed to come in two to four hours to fix it. They didn't. Of course, considering how badly the door was sticking, I'm pretty sure anyone unfamiliar with my door, just would have assumed it was locked if they'd tried to open it. I finally got a new lock yesterday, and I'm not sure if they did anything else, but it hasn't been sticking as badly lately.
I also lost my glasses. I had an extra set, but I really liked my other ones.
And yesterday, my computer screen basically went out. If I try really hard, I can see what's on it, but as one of the computer whizzes in the company explained, the lamp or something went out, so I need either a S-Video screen to hook it up to the TV, a monitor, a new screen or a new computer. As if I know where to get any of that stuff. He said something about tigerdirect, so maybe I'll look there - it's just online shopping really doesn't do it for me when I have the computer for half hour blocks, and the connection's slow.
Friday, September 14, 2007
We had our first OPD (officer professional development), and the topic was OPSEC, so naturally blogging came up. I guess my blog will now be reviewed quarterly to make sure I'm complying with all the rules and not giving away vital information. Of course, I think I already learned my lesson about that.
I finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife a few days ago. I'd seen in the bookstores but never really been interested until I saw it on a list of recommended books on Pajiba. I actually liked it even though at first, I had some misgivings. It was well-written and interesting from the beginning, don't get me wrong, but the idea that the woman had met her future husband when she was six and he was forty bugged me, especially since he repeatedly visited her in the past and taught her things. It seemed too much like he was shaping her to fit into his idea of the perfect woman and who she should be. I still liked the novel, though, but it got slow towards the end. I think this might just reflect on me, though: I still tend to prefer the protagonists when they are younger and starting their lives rather than once they have established families, grown older and so forth. It's just a matter of what I can relate to more at the moment.
Friday, September 07, 2007
For example, at the beginning of this week, it must have been Sunday night, I woke up in the middle of the night for no discernible reason (it happens on occasion), so I rolled over to go back to sleep. In the process, I rolled straight into the wall, and hit my lip on the electrical siding (or whatever it is). After a silent curse, I went back to sleep, and then woke the next morning with a busted lip and dried blood on my teeth. At least I didn’t fall off the bed. I got a package from my parents in the mail the next day with a big Illini pillow – I’m using it as padding to prevent this from happening again.
Last night, I was leaving my room when the door handle broke off in my hand. The door sticks, so I’ve had to pull and rattle quite a bit in the past, and apparently the door just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to call my platoon sergeant on the radio to let me out of my room so I could use the bathroom. Luckily, our RNU (no clue what that stands for, but he’s in charge of handling all the work orders and repairs for the company) had a few extra door handles in the connex – looks like maybe this has occurred before.
* The Bent Coin: My Battalion back in Germany had monthly (give or take a few weeks) Hail and Farewells. This is an opportunity to greet the new leadership coming to the battalion, say goodbye to the ones leaving, and generally socialize with each other (/make fun of/ put on the spot – before my first Hail and Farewell, I was told I had to memorize the Transportation Corps Creed as part of being hailed – it was my initiation). At the end of the evening, the Bent Coin would be awarded, and people would tell funny, ridiculous, partially true stories about their friends. After a vote, whoever had the best story and behaved the most foolishly, would receive the Bent Coin for safekeeping for the month. One of the LTs in my company won it when his car got stuck in the snow and the Company Commander and First Sergeant had to push him out, for example. Other units have similar traditions – a guy I knew in 2ID had to been awarded the Broken Tomahawk right before they deployed and had to pack it with all his other stuff.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
deal out here, I'm not really sure what is okay to talk about yet and
at what point. As soon as I have an individual internet connection in
my room, I'm going to look up some different military blogs to get an
idea from them about what it is kosher. The internet here is slow,
and since I only have the computer an hour at a time, I haven't had
much of a chance to do it yet. Anyway, I should be writing more
pretty soon about life out here, but I didn't forget about updating.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Basically, there were a few reasons I stopped updating. Mainly, I was distracted and lazy. There was also the issue that I actually have soldiers now so I was more hesitant to blog about day to day life (especially the way I like to critique everything). My chain of command actually found out about my blog from a source in Ft. Eustis, so my second or third week in the unit, I was already in the colonel’s office briefing him about Army policies on personal websites. While he said he had no problem if I continued with the blog, the timing just coincided with the other, already mentioned reasons.
The first few months were incredibly busy due to the preparation for the deployment. We had two field exercises soon after I arrived, both a week and half to two weeks long (I spent my birthday in the field). We were also dealing with soldier issues and sorting out who was actually deploying vs. who was staying on rear detachment due to medical issues. My life became a lot easier the day rear detachment became an actual platoon of its own. After we were certified for deployment during the field exercise, things started slowing down some, but there were still quite a few small details to take care off. It wasn’t until block leave that everything completely calmed down. I only took a week of the available four week time period because I didn’t have that much leave saved up, but the three weeks I wasn’t on leave were very nice. PT in the morning, browse the Internet in the morning (after taking care of any work of course), long lunches, and another hour or two at the gym to end the day.
As far as traveling is concerned, I haven’t done nearly as much as I was hoping I would have done by now. I went to Brussels in March, and used my week of leave to go to London. I absolutely loved London and would move there in a heartbeat if I ever had the chance. I also finally made it to Dresden, but other than that, I’ve mainly revisited German cities (although, I also made it to Salzburg - at least Austria is a different country) I used to like. A friend of mine is stationed in Bamberg so I’ve been up there quite a bit, and some of the other LTs in my battalion and I had just started going to Regensburg more right before my unit left.
Germany isn’t bad but Grafenwoehr is definitely not the place to be stationed. They are building it up, so in the next few years it should get a lot better but right now, it’s not so great. The new PX and commissary are scheduled to open in the fall, and several units in Germany are moving to Grafenwoehr so that should encourage more development in the German town as well. It’s actually kind of sad, but apparently the base we’re going to in Iraq is going to have a lot more facilities than the German base. They even have coffee shops and a pool out there. Yes, I realize that Starbucks does exist in Germany but once again, I’m at least an hour away from any city that has one in it. As far as bakeries and cafes are concerned, Germans and Americans have quite different definitions of mochas (in Germany, it’s much more like an espresso) so they don’t help me too much. Of course, that’s probably a good thing – I think I put on about five my senior of college after discovering that I actually liked mochas and lattes despite the fact that they had coffee in them.
Anyway, I hope to start updating again on a somewhat regular basis now since I'm expecting fewer distractions (though probably a busier work schedule - I'll find out soon).
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Der Bamberger Reiter - Bamberg Rider
One of Bamberg's most famous monuments - it's inside the Dom (cathedral)
View of Little Venice and the crane from the Old Rathaus
(you can see part of the facade on the right)
For the most part, the briefings were just boring but there were a few that also managed to piss me off - coincidentally, these all took place on Thursday. As part of the family advocacy brief, a couples' therapist spoke to the room and mentioned the difficulty men and women occasionally have communicating with each other. He discussed a scenario, and tried to explain it from the man and the woman's side, but somehow in both cases he managed to paraphrase the wife's comments as "blah, blah, blah." Gee, thanks. Apparently, the problem between men and women is a difference of testosterone and estrogen. Seriously, we're going to reduce this to something as simple hormones? What next, a comment as brilliant as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus because we are all inherently different. How about talking about the societal construction of gender, and how this affects the way people act? Oh, by the way, the situation: man comes home from work and doesn't put up his boots, woman nags about how she's worked all day to keep the house clean and he can't help out. Wait - so does this mean all Army wives (let's not even get started on the idea that there might be - gasp - Army husbands) are just naturally assumed to be stay at home moms? And even if they aren't, the house is their responsibility?
He also had great advice for us single folk - avoid those gold diggers. All women are just after one thing when it comes to Army guys -a pay check. Or to quote one fellow audience member, "if she can read an LES, stay away." Why is there such a negative view of women? The therapist also had some great tidbits for the women in the military, and went on about avoiding "playas" because they all just have mommy issues - they treat women like crap because their mothers either spoiled them too much or neglected them. I love how we can find a way to blame women no matter what. According to him, these men feel entitled, and might read passing out as consent to sex. The therapist actually made the comment that raping their mothers or sisters as revenge might get through to them - did you seriously just say that, even in jest to make a point?
Luckily, I have a pamphlet so if I ever feel the need for couple's therapy, I can contact this guy. My favorite quote: "Men in the first 10 years of marriage are particularly disrupted in their work productivity by marital conflicts and distress (emphasis as made in the pamphlet)." It's from an article called, "Associations Between Marital Distress and Work Loss in a National Sample" and while I have no clue as to the original article's intent or tone, I love how the pamphlet is completely focused on the men's productivity. Who cares if the wife gets stressed! They also offer a program for better parenting called Boys Town, and the pamphlet concludes with a drawing of the perfect family - a dad, a mom (in a dress of course), and two boys. We don't need girls or daughters in a military family - they'll just become gold diggers after all!
One speaker also shared some stories about her experiences as a family advocate. In one case, after her husband's deployment, a young mother of five (all of which were under 5) stopped taking care of the house - audience response: what nationality was this woman? Yes, obviously, she couldn't be an American because only foreigners are dirty. It was an American (hah!), but I was surprised there wasn't a follow-up question: well then, what ethnicity was she? She also told us about this guy who'd kept the fact that he got paid hidden from his wife for five years. She was foreign and spoke very little English so he told her that the Army provided housing but he didn't actually get paid. Who does that?
I also found out that even though I'm in Germany, I can still enjoy syndicated radio talk shows, specifically Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura on the American station. Great. Good thing I never listened to talk radio to begin with. I'm going to be ordering a lot of DVDs online in the future - I currently have a huge movies and TV show wishlist on Amazon so I can just click and order as I go.
I have to say that I enjoyed the community health nurse a lot, though. She was very open, and entertaining even while discussing STIs. She gave out flavored condoms to the audience for participating and answering questions (she gave me a chocolate one), and even explained how they could be cut open and used in ways that men, too, could taste them (as I said, very open). At one point she asked for a definition of sex, and one guy said, "intercourse between a man and a woman." She quickly put him in his place about sex being able to take place between two men or two women and not just between a man and a woman. She even made sure to point out that there are gays in the military because the policy is don't ask, don't tell, not don't join. Way to put those homophobes in their place.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The drive itself wasn't that bad - good weather, little traffic. It was the stopping that was the problem. I had bad luck getting a hotel - I'd wanted to stop around 8ish so when I started looking around, I really couldn't find anything in the first place and kept waiting for signs for good places to stay. I finally checked into a room at 9:20.
The next day, I stopped at a gas station with a drive-through car wash because I wanted my car to actually pass the joint inspection. After purchasing a car wash at the pump, entering the code and waiting for the gate to raise for a minute, I finally went into the actual place to find out that it wasn't working that day. I drove up and down the road to see if there were any other places to take the car (Car Detailing for $25!) before deciding to take my chances. The car passed - my issues with the car pertained to the fact that my orders had me going to the headquarters of my command (I'm assuming that's the same thing as a division since apparently group and brigade are - to quote one instructor, "there's the right way, there's the Army way, and there's the Germany way") but my specific company is actually located in a different area of Germany. It all worked out but I was a little nervous/ambivalent about leaving the country so I was slightly on edge and in a bad mood anyway.
I have also decided that I'm cursed when it comes to bathrooms and airports. Somehow I always pick the stall with the messed up sensor - which, hey, I know how to flush a toilet so that really wouldn't be an issue except that I get the sensors that flush the toilet as soon as you sit down. That happened to me twice on Monday (and once in Dallas on my way to Seattle back in the day so it really appears to be a theme). Honestly though, why do they need sensors on toilets? Were there that many people that couldn't flush? Is it hygiene? It can't be money because those things have to waste more water than a regular toilet with all the sensors misreading any type of movement (you walked by the toilet - must mean you used it).
The flight was overnight which actually has helped with the jet lag so far. It probably would have helped even more if I had slept during the in-flight entertainment but I finally had a chance to watch Volver! I've only mentioned it in, what, two other blog entries? I liked it. It's a good thing I watched it, too - I saw a schedule for the movie theater here, and it's rather depressing. The funny thing is that the crappy movies, like Norbit, The Cleaner and The Messengers are going to be showing this month while apparently people had to wait till now for a chance to see The Good Shepherd. Actually, I'm not sure how the rotation works because some of films had descriptions like premiere or 2nd screening (the movies switch out daily although some show repeatedly in a month ) but still, I have the impression that there's less of a delay for bad movies.
Well, time to go back to the finance office - my travel voucher is going to be so extensive that the clerk went on lunch in the middle of it. When we were filling out finance as a group, the representative came in and said, "8 months TDY enroute? Just sit tight and we'll take care of you later." I can't wait to see how much money I get!
Monday, February 12, 2007
Turns out that I'm really not cut out for recruiting - "Did you call them?" - "Yes, earlier. I left a message." - "Why don't you try again?" - "Because I feel like if I call anymore often I'll be bugging them." I went on one recruiting event which involved talking to a group of nurses about the Army. Honestly, as ambivalent as I may be about the military, as far as I can tell, being an Army nurse is a sweet deal - they work in a hospital like any normal nurse, but the Army seems to give them more benefits. If I had any leaning towards the math and sciences, nursing definitely would have been the way to go.
I had a chance to see everyone I wanted to while I was home, went to a lecture on campus and even sat in on one of my professor's classes. I also finally figured out what tattoo I wanted (with me leaving the country and actually embarking on my Army career rather than more TRADOC, it seemed like an appropriate time to get it). Unfortunately, I couldn't get an appointment until Friday so it still burns some. Maybe I'll post a picture of it sometime in the near future.
Other than that, I went to the movies but not quite as often as I wanted to (I never made it to Volver). I highly recommend Pan's Labyrinth. I never saw any previews for it, but I hear the trailers focus on the fantasy aspect and are quite misleading. It's a war movie, and the fairy tale aspects are a young girl's way of coping with the violence and upheaval in her life.
Only two more hours to go - I can't believe I'm actually moving to Germany. I don't think they have Starbucks there - there's an evil capitalist empire I'm going to miss.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
I hit the road on Friday morning, pulled something in my back while attempting to shove an overloaded suitcase on top of another overloaded suitcase in my trunk (it finally closed, though), and made it home after being on the road for thirteen hours. By the time I hit Indiana, my oil light started coming on and beeping at me whenever I got onto the ramps with very sharp turns. I was about 5,000 miles overdue for an oil change . . . (once again, I really have to wonder about how I ended up in the Transportation Corps).
I relaxed yesterday, and went to see The Last King of Scotland (I'm so excited to be back home - there are a ton of movies I've read reviews for in the past month that just weren't showing in Virginia, and they are all showing here - I'm not sure if this weekend just happened to be the wide release date for them all, or if Champaign just shows slightly more not so mainstream films than Newport News, being a college town and all - either way, I'm planning on seeing Volver, Little Children and Curse of the Golden Flower - I loved Gong Li in Raise the Red Lantern, and she's in this one). I can't believe I'm going to have to give up going to the movies once I get to Germany - they have a more limited selection and I'll have to wait longer. I guess I could always watch them on the economy but I don't like the idea of watching American films in German (it's like those Chinese/Japanese film and anime purist who refuse to actually watch dubbed films) - maybe I'll be able to find a theater with subtitles.
Today, we cleaned out my closet, so I would actually have room for all the clothes in my luggage. In the next week or two, I'm going to be doing a lot of sorting through my things to figure out what's staying, what's being shipped, and what I absolutely can't live without and therefore must go on the plane with me (take a guess which category my computer falls into).
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Surprisingly enough, I did very well on my evals and actually had the fifth highest grade in the class. In order to create more eval positions, they actually made two people plan the missions and two different people execute. Fortunately, I got planning, because if I'd had execution I probably would have had the worst grade (apparently, one of the guys was making fun of me to the other guys - granted, I was slightly clueless, but this guy is pretty out of it on a general basis).
I just hope somebody actually trains me on something before I ever get deployed - as far as this place is concerned, I definitely don't think they utilized their time very well. I honestly still don't really know the difference between most of the trucks or their capacities (of course this is coming from someone who didn't even know how to open the hood of a car she'd had for four years until six months ago - yeah, I belong in Transportation).
Sunday, January 07, 2007
This was our first week back from Exodus, and it really sucks being back to regular duty hours. Also, despite the fact that I was here over Exodus, I still feel like I have a lot to get done for out-processing, so I'm not happy that of the week and half remaining, I am going to be in the field for one week and unable to accomplish anything.
Thursday morning formation started with a long speech from the 1SG about our current lack of motivation and energy (apparently, the fact that we just got back from leave should make us energized rather than even more unhappy about being here). Once she was done with us, our TAC took over the formation and talked to us for at least ten minutes. Once again, he told us that we need to listen and support whoever is in charge (i.e., the Platoon Sergeant of the week - he gave a lot of those speeches when I was in PSG), and then talked about how even the prior service people don't know everything. Basically, one LT made him mad, so as a result we all got an earful instead of him just speaking to the one person.
We got done with the morning training pretty early, but our TAC wanted to talk to us, so we waited a little bit for him before we went to lunch. Not a big deal, except he was kind of a bitch about it: "On the schedule, training goes till 12 so if I want to talk till then, I can." Well, actually I would say that argument doesn't hold because that's the instructor's time, not his. He then went on to say how everyone needed to get a haircut while staring directly at me. After that more widely directed comment, he said that even the females needed to get haircuts as he stood right in front of me. Can't this guy ever address people individually instead of always making a huge thing out of it in front of the class? The standard for females is the edge of the collar - my hair is shorter than that. I tend to slouch but I do not need a haircut. I was pissed (and I had already started the day in a very bad mood for other reasons).
We also finished up the afternoon pretty early (3:30) but weren't allowed to leave because once again our TAC had something to say to us. After waiting for an hour, somebody decided to issue us knee and elbow pads, and then finally our TAC came in, asked whether everyone was there because "no one is allowed to leave without being released by him," and then told us what time formation was the next morning before finally releasing us at 5. We waited an hour and half to be told nothing. Also, one LT walked out on our TAC while he was talking - this was the same guy who had pissed him off earlier in the day, so basically, all of the bullshit on Thursday was just the TAC trying to assert his authority over us. How very immature. I love being in the middle of a power struggle.
Friday was more of the same. A detail of four had to show up early to draw weapons, but our TAC didn't show up, so our training was off to a great start. Additionally, we had a 7 am briefing scheduled but the guy didn't show up until 7:15. In theory, it's not a big deal, but if we pulled that same type of crap, we'd be in so much trouble.
They split us into groups for the morning training, but even that was completely inefficient. 1st and 2nd platoon were out preparing for the live fire while 3rd platoon waited in the class room. In theory we were supposed to get a GPS class, but no one ever showed up. Then we rotated, and had to wait in the class room. Once again, we spent about one to two hours sitting around waiting. Then at the end of the day, they started issuing us a bunch of stuff in a somewhat disorganized fashion. I think I filled out about two or three hand receipts because they'd issue us things, and then remember that there were more items which we needed. Instead of getting it all done at once, they dragged it out. Also, instead of getting this done when we were sitting around doing nothing, they waited till the end of the day, so once again we couldn't leave until after all the offices I needed to go to were already closed. Also, I have a handheld GPS now but no clue how to use it since they never gave us the class.
Tonight I have a meeting with my group about the next week, and then I need to finish up packing. Up until last week, I was ambivalent about leaving here: there's a lot of idiocy but I still have fun on occasion, and at least I have weekends off and regular hours. Now I can't wait to get the hell out of here. Anyway, I won't be posting for the next week since we'll be at AP Hill but then again, the no updating thing is kind of becoming a theme here so I guess that's not too much of a surprise.