Friday, January 30, 2004


I am trying to finish up The Demon-Haunted World, but I never seem to have time to read. But today is so uneventful, and I've already read everything on the internet, so I picked it back up. I just heard for the first time about the Ik tribe in Uganda, and I googled to find more information. I found a lot of bunk, some stuff about a book written by Colin Turnbull, and a fascinating posting on Political Crossfire. I wrote earlier this week about how you can find similarities between any two things if you try hard enough. Apparently DrD thinks American society is just as bad as the Ik's. Wow, talk about a mental leap of faith...


I love George Bush. There's something about him that draws me to him beyond politics. Maybe it's a mothering instinct, that I hate when everyone gangs up on one person. Maybe because I could see myself having lunch with him and knowing he would never be stuffy. Maybe it's his cowboy nature, his ability to not appear like an intellectual snob and instead just put foot to ass when necessary. I agree with a lot of his politics -- not all, but a lot -- and I favor him over anyone else in the running...in addition to having a wicked crush on him. And I've tried to defend him and disregard some really big bloopers he's had lately, like with illegal aliens and lots of government spending and (in my own opinion) the Marriage Amendment. I know that he's losing support from some hardcore Republicans over these issues, and I've tried to reassure myself that his stance on the War on Terror is the most important thing. I've held my ground for a long time.

But then I read this today, and I don't know what to think anymore.

Tell me this isn't true. What is he thinking? Fifteen to twenty million dollars for the arts? When we're running such a huge deficit? Oh man. I can't even begin to justify that one to myself. I'm just crushed.


Yes, I realize that though 20 million dollars seems like a lot to my bank account, it's not a lot for a government, but it's the principle of the matter. We're already spending too much money on too many things I think are bad ideas, and then we go and spend even more on something the government has no business funding. I agree with RWN: if people don't want to spend their own money to go see art, why should the government have to fork over the money to keep them in business? It's pure snobbery to think that a monochrome canvas has more inherent value than a John Woo film; why should the government have to keep art afloat? The government doesn't fund my knitting, so why should they fund Beret McCigarette's sculpture? I'm a damn good knitter too.


If you've never checked out Cavalier's Guardian Watchblog, by all means you should. I found him in the comments section on RWN a few months ago and I've been captivated ever since. He doesn't waste time with trivial linking or posts in Swedish; he provides lengthy posts replete with links on a variety of myths and misinterpretations. Go check him out today if you're interested in any of the following topics: The PATRIOT Act, a Democrats' perfect world, slavery reparations, or the "Party of Inclusion".


Another nail in the Bush-was-AWOL coffin.

And, wow, this is good stuff.


Via Amritas: When you look at an Iraqi blog in English, ask yourself: How many Anglophones could blog in a foreign language, particularly one they learned without much if any first-hand exposure?

Jag kAnner mig lite lOjlig men Amritas anropade mig. Jag har aldrig bloggat pA svenska, och det Ar synd att jag inte kan anvAnda de kula svenska vokalerna, men jag vet inte vad jag skulle sAja. Jag har redan sagt att Stephen Green Ar snygg, att livet Ar fOr kort, och att jag Ar feg nAr jag konfronteras av en Lefty. Jag tror verkligen inte att jag kunde blogga sA hAr varje dag; det Ar fOr mycket fOr hjArnan och jag kAnner mig lite fOrtrAngd. Men jag tycker om att prata svenska; kanske skulle det vara en bra trAning fOr mig. Usch, men fOrmodligen Ar det trAkigt fOr mina blogkompisar. Jag slutar hAr...


My lame post in Swedish took longer than it probably should have, but mostly because it was really just filler that didn't say much. I also can't use umlauts in Blogger (at least I haven't figured out how I can), so I had to use the generic capital letter instead. Actually my Swedish spelling has really denegrated because I only use it in email these days, and I don't bother with umlauts or even with capitals often, so I sometimes can't remember exactly how to pronounce or spell a word because I've given up on umlauts.

But that's my obligatory post in Swedish...

(Can you tell it's a slow day at work and my only co-worker is out sick today?)


Has anyone else noticed how hot Stephen Green is?


I watched Charles Johnson's video of the bus bomb in Jerusalem yesterday because sometimes I need a good dose of reality. And you know what hurts my heart the most? It's not the dead bodies or the severed feet, it's the remnants of their lives scattered on the road. Their briefcases, their cell phones, their math homework blowing in the wind. It's the thought that these people will never attend another business meeting, never call a loved one, and never turn in that homework that feels like a giant weight on my heart.


In my mind, this is the kind of conversation I have with idiotarians.
In reality, I bite my tongue and try to change the subject...


Last night we had a going-away party for my husband's Company. The soldiers organized it, which meant a cook-out with lots of meat and lots of beer. The rest was just details, even the snow. The food was good and the company better. If you had told me that while I was living in Germany I'd see a guy with a stars and bars shirt, cowboy hat, and no front teeth singing "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" on karaoke, I'd never have believed you. I also never thought I'd see a two year old grab the mic and sing her ABCs and have six soldiers cheer her on and shout the alphabet with her. I got to meet all my husband's soldiers; they told me stories about him and I let them in on a couple of my own. We argued over whose state was the best (naturally the guy from Texas started that one) and the whole company did imitations of the Captain that had him in stitches. It was a wonderful farewell party.

We have two more weeks to go.

Thursday, January 29, 2004


LGF points to an article by Claudia Rosett with a great message:
Screw WMDs, we've got worse things to think about.


Just a quick word on our soldiers and education. A bunch of our soldiers just returned to our post after a year in Iraq. They returned on a Friday and many of them came in first thing on Monday and registered for college classes. I was so pleasantly surprised that they valued education so much that they prioritized it right after Iraq. Six hours per week in class on top of a regular work schedule is hard (I know, I'm doing it too right now), and I'm heartened that these soldiers put out the effort right after a deployment.

In addition, I'm very excited about my German class. Having learned four languages in a classroom setting (French, Swedish, Japanese, and German) I can say that some classes have been strenuous and others quite lame. My first German class was really slow and much too easy, and the other students always appeared bored or incompetent. I was not sure how this current German class was going to go, but I can say that I've been very pleased. Our soldiers and family members in this class are extremely capable and motivated. They shout out answers, they participate in class, and they are actually really good at German. Some have German wives or girlfriends, so they come up with new things all the time ("my wife said I could say X, is that right?"), and overall I have loved being in the class with them.

I love soldiers.


I've felt the absence of women on my sidebar. I know I have many women readers; they email and we discuss. But I've felt alone in the sphere for a little while. Look at my Heroes...they're all men. There was a time when I first started blogging that I thought Kim du Toit was a female, and I was crushed when I found out he wasn't. It wasn't until later that I learned his wife blogged, and then she stopped. So I've been on the lookout for female bloggers; not that gender really matters, but I've noticed I'm a lonely little girl. And I've had my eye on two for a while, and they're now blogrolled. Check out Joanne Jacobs and Baldilocks sometime; they've both got interesting sites.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


I don't know why people keep dogging President Bush for being stupid. He sounds knowledgeable enough for me! (Thanks, Me Myself and I, for pointing this out.)

And Greyhawk has uncovered a gem of his own: Dean's campaign didn't pay their $1000 bill for lunch at an Iowa deli. The kicker: the deli owner had planned to vote for Dean, but changed his mind after he got shafted. Tsk tsk.

Greyhawk also provides some priceless advice for those of us who deal with idiotarians: "For fun sometime, if someone utters such a comment [such as Bush-was-AWOL or Bush-lied-about-WMD] in your hearing, ask if they are saying it because they are stupid or think you are. Leftspeakers think you are, and will reveal this in facial expressions of stunned surprise that you have guessed their motive. (Whilst vocally responding otherwise). Ignospeakers will be stunned then angry."

I'm going to try that someday. Will post the result!

Hopefully no one will attack me berserker-style a la Al Franken...

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


The LTC saw someone's head explode in Iraq last week.

I talked to the husband tonight about safety. He promised to stay safe in Iraq, and I promised in turn to stay safe here in Germany. Because the truth of the matter is that you never know. We have a running tally of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq, but I'd like to see that tally in contrast to other bodycounts. The typical soldier age range is about 18-40. Where are the tallies for this demographic for car wrecks, murders, or accidents since the President called for an end to major operations? We're glued to the news to hear word of deaths in Iraq; the words "one soldier killed in Baghdad" cause hundreds of military spouses' stomachs to drop. But the words "woman killed in car accident in St. Louis" would bring to mind many people I know and care about. If our media announced every car accident casualty in the USA, we'd be paranoid about cars instead of RPGs.

I graduated from high school nearly eight years ago. Of just the people I knew in high school, one drowned, one died in a gang fight, one got mistakenly shot by a hunter in the woods, one got randomly murdered for being in the wrong neighborhood late at night, one got hit by a car while he was jogging, one died in the WTC on September 11, one killed himself, and several have died in car accidents, including an old boyfriend. I know two people who have mysteriously disappeared without a trace. I know someone who has a brain tumor. And I know many soldiers who are in Iraq right now. We're all on death's doorstep, in one way or another.

I live in a country with no speed limits; I probably have just as good a chance of dying as my husband. I can't allow the media to constantly remind me next year of what I already know: that my husband will die someday and there's nothing I can do about it. Iraq or not, I can't live in fear of death. I have to live in hope that he and I will be as fortunate as most of the people we know, fortunate to live a long and happy life together.

So ball up, Sarah. It'll be a long year if you let yourself be plagued by worry.


Jim's right; this guy's good. And he's blogrolled now.


Tim points out a good story about the language barrier in Iraq: U.S. troops warned Iraqi guards they should leave the area because it was ''risky.'' The Iraqis thought the soldiers threatened them unless they brought ''whiskey.''

The husband is mad that he hasn't been able to spend more time studying Arabic. When he first started, I had no idea his intention was to be perfect; I just thought he wanted to learn some useful phrases and make the effort. His diligence has astounded me, and I'm so proud of him for giving it a shot. But I think he's disappointed himself by not being able to speak as much as he had hoped. I think his expectations were too high, but don't listen to me. Great thinkers always aim high.

Still, from an ESL teacher's perspective, I would know better than to use the word "risky" with non-native speakers. I personally think that the average English speaker is horrible at adjusting his speech for non-native speakers. I can't count the number of times when I've had to play English-English translator and re-say something someone has said in slang or colloquial English that went right over a non-native speaker's head. English's basic grammar is not that tough (no gender, simple verb conjugations, regular plurals) but it's our multi-layering of formal and colloquial phrases that kills our ESL students.

Here's a small sample of a list I made for my students, which we spent hours discussing:
make a decision
make up your mind
make change
make a call
make room
make a list
make fun of
make an excuse
make a face
make up
make a mistake
make the news
make out
make money
make a joke
make the best of
make a deal
make a promise
make a bet
make a wish
make a fool of
make do
make sure
make plans

My students did not know a single one of these expressions before we discussed them. How would we get by on a daily basis if we didn't know these expressions? How can our non-native speaker friends survive without recognizing the difference between "make fun of" and "have fun"? We easily forget how complex our multi-word verb system is.

So next time, don't use "risky", use "dangerous". Don't use hop, leap, skip, or bounce where jump will do. You'll make life much easier for English learners.


I've linked to a few parodies before about how Bush is indeed not Hitler, but Andrew Sullivan points out a journalist who argues that he is. Huh. I'm just not sure I see the parallel between burning the Reichstag and the felling of the WTC. I'm reminded of a time when I was in a literature class in France. Our teacher was so post-modern that we spent a whole term dissecting on 100-page book. She made symbolic leaps that made me cringe. A friend and I had a running gag when we managed to find several parallels between this Marguerite Duras novel and that old TV show Wings. We were on a pretty good roll with all those symbols. The moral of the story? You can find parallels between any two things if you look hard enough, but that doesn't make them truly similar.

Monday, January 26, 2004


Interesting discussion of anti-Americanism in Germany going on at Davids Medienkritik.


I heard this again this weekend, and I realized I had forgotten how well it sums up my thoughts recently. Thanks, Merle, for being an American.

I hear people talkin' bad,
About the way we have to live here in this country,
Harpin' on the wars we fight,
An' gripin' 'bout the way things oughta be.
An' I don't mind 'em switchin' sides,
An' standin' up for things they believe in.
When they're runnin' down my country, man,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

Yeah, walkin' on the fightin' side of me.
Runnin' down the way of life,
Our fightin' men have fought and died to keep.
If you don't love it, leave it:
Let this song I'm singin' be a warnin'.
If you're runnin' down my country, man,
You're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

I read about some squirrely guy,
Who claims, he just don't believe in fightin'.
An' I wonder just how long,
The rest of us can count on bein' free.
They love our milk an' honey,
But they preach about some other way of livin'.
When they're runnin' down my country, hoss,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

Sunday, January 25, 2004


If you haven't read this article that Instapundit pointed out, go read it. It might surprise you.
Lies, Myths and Downright Stupidity: Stossel's List of Popularly Reported Misconceptions

Friday, January 23, 2004


So once I get my own site going, I will be part of Munuviana, a group of blogs with the mu.nu at the end. I thought I would check out some random blogs since many Munuvians have been welcoming me with open arms. Random Blog #1, a college student who fisks his school paper. Exactly the kind of stuff I thought when I was at school. Random Blog #2, a girl who lives in Sweden and used to be a French major. Sounds familiar. Wacky coincidence? Random Blog #3's header is a Heinlein quote.

I think I'm gonna be real comfortable here.


Do you remember when Charlize Theron hosted Saturday Night Live and Tracy Morgan did the tongue-in-cheek monologue on how nice it was to have another African-American on the show? Tracy might've thought that was funny, but apparently other African-Americans don't. Bunker Mulligan has a connundrum for the "Distinguished African-American Student Award" at a school in Nebraska.


I just made my first post-deployment plans: to go see the Body Worlds exhibit in Frankfurt.
It sounds so awesome.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


I miss thinking, but there's no time for that this week. I started my German class last night, and he hammered us with homework: I worked on it for two hours this morning before I set it aside until after lunch. (Yes, I'm at work, but Thursdays are slow here.) So I provide mindless linking instead, with hat tips to the many readers who pointed these things out (no time for more linking; you know who you are and I appreciate you).

If you haven't seen this rock in Iowa, you should check it out.

Apparently Kofi Annan is getting awards from the Germans...

A bigger slice of humble pie for Sean Penn. Or is that bullcrap pie? It's a toss up.

And this is an interesting theory about the recent suicide bomber in Israel.

My brother needs to read this article after a discussion about rich and poor we had in the car over Christmas. The author provides a no-brainer plan to not being poor: Here's Williams' roadmap out of poverty: Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen. Among both black and white Americans so described, the poverty rate is in the single digits.

And I really want to comment on some French penpals Amritas pointed me to, but no time today for that. Soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


When stuff started hitting certain fans about a year ago, my worry was that the American military would get stuck in certain places. We'd been in Germany and Korea for so long that I thought we'd never be able to gracefully leave. But we're on our way out of Germany, and apparently we're out of Seoul for now. I think this is great news. Now if we can just get completely out of South Korea and concentrate our efforts where they're needed more...

Thanks to Tim for the pointer.


Word on the street is that my blog will be moving soon. It's true. Pixy Misa of Ambient Irony busted in like the Kool-Aid man and offered to fix all my problems. He set everything up for me and I'm in the process of figuring it all out for myself so that I can make the official move soon. I will stay here until I'm comfortable over there, and then I'll hop. Keep your eyes peeled.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


I've written before about how I have no problem disagreeing on the details with someone as long as our basic assumptions are similar. Maybe you don't think we should stay in Iraq for longer than necessary, or maybe you think heath care issues are just as important as national security, or maybe you think that WMDs are a big deal and shouldn't have been overemphasized in the context for war, but as long as we're on the same page that 1) Bush is not Hitler and 2) we are engaged in a world war against terrorism, then I feel perfectly happy hashing out the details with you. I need what Lileks calls common ground.

So today when a faithful reader indicated that he's not 100% sure about certain aspects of the Iraq war, I have no problem with that. We can disagree, we can talk about it or not talk about it, whatever. It doesn't matter to me because it's an intelligent opinion. I can respect him because I know he's read and thought and come to that on his own and not just read Michael Moore's trash and repeated it. I too don't always feel 100% certain about "imminent threats" and "WMDs" and other scary words that journalists put in quotes, but to be honest I sometimes don't even care.

Last night I felt so bad about myself because I heard the news that lots of people had died in a car bomb, and when I heard that they were mostly Iraqis, I hated myself for my gut reaction of relief at hearing they weren't Americans. But it's a nasty truth that many people wouldn't admit. My own opinion is that our country is so blessed to be made up of people who worked their asses off to get here, and thus I do instinctively value Americans over non-Americans. I'm sure that statement would gall many people I know, but it's true.

One of the reasons I gave up studying French for ESL was that I wanted to help people become American if that was what they wanted. I have such pride in my culture that I wanted to share it with others and help them appreciate it. For the most part, I think my efforts have been rewarding. I did a unit in my ESL grad writing class on "American values" that my students loved. We watched commercials and movie clips and read welcome-to-the-USA books and discussed anything that came to their minds. I let them criticize away, as long as they would let me try to give an explanation for some of our values and traits. Overwhelmingly the students appreciated it, and we had a good time talking about both the good and bad points about the USA. I found that when the students had some context to understand what they see in everyday life in the USA, they were more understanding and accepting. They started coming to me with examples, and even up to a year later I was still getting email from some of them (one of them pointing out that she had finally seen the movie Rudy and finally come to understand the concept of the underdog). That was rewarding to me, it was rewarding to see them explore the USA in that way.

And they didn't always change their minds about something being dumb or weird or silly. Often they still couldn't grasp a concept, but they were always willing to try, and I'd try my best to understand where they were coming from. Naturally it was easier for me to relate to a grateful Kuwaiti than a bitter Indigenous-Ecuadorian, but we all tried. We tried to have common ground, even if we weren't always going to see eye to eye.

At least we tried.


I found a website where you enter your own position on numerous political issues and it matches you up with candidates who'd agree with you. My result? 80% agreement with President Bush, 68% agreement with Generic Libertarian Candidate, and 46% agreement with Lieberman. Down at the bottom: 11% with Generic Green Party Candidate and 10% with Generic Socialist candidate. My surprise? That the result was so unsurprising. I thought maybe I'd see something I didn't expect in there, but really it was right as I'd have expected, even with the Democrat candidates in descending order of how much I hate them.


Chief Wiggles is OK, after a close call this weekend.


Where did the comments go again? This is getting old.

Today will be what the scholars call a doozy of a day: 11-hour shift at work for me, so I don't know what kind of blogging I'll be able to do. But read USS Clueless instead; he's better anyway. Den Beste lays out a tribute to our allies today.

Already read it, have you? Well, go see Gimli stand up to Hollywood lefties.

Wow, you've read everything today. Well, a while ago I wrote about the GOP being the party of inclusion. CavalierX just said the same, only much better than I did.

And once you've read that, check out Sean Penn eating a small slice of humble pie.

You've read that too? Touche. Well, here's a thought from the Farm Accident Digest: Martin Luther King Jr Day rallies should not be used for Bush-bashing. I personally agree. I can't remember where I read this before on someone's blog (I think it might have been Sullivan -- correction, Amritas is right; he's the one I heard it from. I get confused with all I read sometimes...), but it's not fair to cite the deceased in current events. To say that Dr. King would be against the war in Iraq is irresponsible, because no one knows what he would have thought. Maybe he would have been anti-war, because he was indeed a pacifist, but maybe he would have been pro-war because he believed everyone should be treated equal, and that certainly wasn't happening in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The fact is that we don't know what position Dr. King would have held, nor do we know what Gandhi, Jesus, or Lincoln would have done. We just can't say for sure, so it's not appropriate to guess.

Monday, January 19, 2004


The bellylaugh of the day comes via 21st Century Faust. If you're a fan of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you must click here. It might take a while to load, but the giggles will be worth it.


When I taught ESL, I always used Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech when we talked about public speaking. Every time I hear or read it, I feel a surge of excitement, hope, and awe. Where are the strong voices like his these days, instead of those of Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton? Why can't someone like Condoleeza Rice lead by example instead of being labeled an Uncle Tom? I have a dream that someday King's dream will come true.

Read his speech again today, feel it in your heart, and keep alive the hope that someday
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


We spent our weekend with two friends from another post in Germany; it was heavenly. He's from Atlanta and she's from Finland, and they grew up together in Zurich. He lives and breathes tanks, and she's one of those foreign-born Americans Den Beste was talking about. She just got her green card, and she can't wait to become an American. And since both of them grew up in Europe, they have no rose-colored glasses when it comes to where they'd rather be. But she does have a hard time explaining to her family why, at the end of this tour in Germany, she will move to the USA and try never to live in Europe again. Man, she's great; I wish they lived closer.

The four of us talked at length about many things this weekend, but one thing that stuck with me was their disgust at the new proposal for immigration. They've spent thousands of dollars to get her green card legally (apparently when the INS goofs and writes the wrong name on your paperwork, you are the one who has to pay all the money over again to get it corrected...) and are appalled that some people might just get a freebie when they've worked so hard to do everything by the book. Since the husband and I are both American, I've never had to think about these things, but it sure would tick me off too if I'd tried to play by the rules and then learned that others won't have to...

On a lighter note, we watched lots of Family Guy, ate fajitas, and I knitted her a pair of mittens in a record 24 hours. It was a great weekend.

Sunday, January 18, 2004


Man, Amritas is right. When I checked, there was an anti-Bush ad at the bottom of my comments section. Crap, I don't want that for sure. I'm torn, since it's a free service and I can't find any other free comment provider, but I certainly don't want to support those ads. Grrr. More incentive to hurry up and make my own site.


I got this in an email, and I'd love to believe it's true. I am very leery of email stories passed around as fact, but I don't even care on this one. I am going to assume it's true because it makes me feel good. Maybe that's wrong, but I don't care today.

I was sitting alone in one of those loud, casual steak houses that you find all over the country. You know the type--a bucket of peanuts on every table, shells littering the floor, and a bunch of perky college kids racing around with long neck beers and sizzling platters.
Taking a sip of my iced tea, I studied the crowd over the rim of my glass. My gaze lingered on a group enjoying their meal. They wore no uniform to identify their branch of service, but they were definitely "military": clean shaven, cropped haircut, and that "squared away" look that comes with pride. Smiling sadly, I glanced across my table to the empty seat where my husband usually sat. It had only been a few months since we sat in this very booth, talking about his upcoming deployment to the Middle East. That was when he made me promise to get a sitter for the kids, come back to this restaurant once a month and treat myself to a nice steak. In turn he would treasure the thought of me being here, thinking about him until he returned home to me.
I fingered the little flag pin I constantly wear and wondered where he was at this very moment. Was he safe and warm? Was his cold any better? Were my letters getting through to him? As I pondered these thoughts, high pitched female voices from the next booth broke into my thoughts. "I don't know what Bush is thinking about. Invading Iraq. You'd think that man would learn from his old man's mistakes. Good lord. What an idiot! I can't believe he is even in office. You do know, he stole the election."
I cut into my steak and tried to ignore them, as they began an endless tirade running down our President. I thought about thelast night I spent with my husband, as he prepared to deploy. He had justreturned from getting his smallpox and anthrax shots. The image of himstanding in our kitchen packing his gas mask still gives me chills.
Once again the women's voices invaded my thoughts."It is all about oil, you know. Our soldiers will go in and rape and steal all the oil they can in the name of 'freedom.' Humph! I wonder how many innocent people they'll kill without giving it a thought? It's pure greed, you know."
My chest tightened as I stared at my wedding ring. I could still see how handsome my husband looked in his "mess dress" the day he slipped it on my finger. I wondered what he was wearing now. Probably his desert uniform, affectionately dubbed "coffee stains" with a heavy bulletproof vest over it.
"You know, we should just leave Iraq alone. I don't think they are hiding any weapons. In fact, I bet it's all a big act just to increase the President's popularity. That's all it is, padding the military budget at the expense of our social security and education. And, you know what else? We're just asking for another 9-11. I can't say when it happens again that we didn't deserve it." Their words brought to mind the war protesters I had watched gathering outside our base. Did no one appreciate the sacrifice of brave men and women, who leave their homes and family to ensure our freedom? Do they even know what "freedom" is? I glanced at the table where the young men were sitting, and saw their courageous faces change. They had stopped eating and looked at each other dejectedly, listening to women talking.
"Well, I, for one, think it's just deplorable to invade Iraq, and I am certainly sick of our tax dollars going to train professional baby killers we call a military."
Professional baby killers? I thought about what a wonderful father my husband is, and of how long it would be before he would see our children again. That's it! Indignation rose up inside me. Normally reserved, pride in my husband gave me a brassy boldness I never realized I had. Tonight one voice will answer on behalf of our military, and let her pride in our troops be known.
Sliding out of my booth, I walked around to the adjoining booth, placed my hands flat on their table. Lowering myself to eye level with them, I smilingly said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. You see, I'm sitting here trying to enjoy my dinner alone. And, do you know why? Because my husband, whom I love with all my heart, is halfway around the world defending your right to say rotten things about him. Yes, you have the right to your opinion, and what you think is none of my business. However, what you say in public is something else, and I will not sit by and listen to you ridicule MY country, MY President, MY husband, and all the other fine American men and women who put their lives on the line, just so you can have the "freedom" to complain. Freedom is an expensive commodity, ladies. Don't let your actions cheapen it."
I must have been louder that I meant to be, becausethe manager came over to inquire if everything was all right. "Yes, thank you," I replied. Then turning back to the women, I said, "Enjoy the rest of your meal."
As I returned to my booth, applause broke out. I was embarrassed for making a scene, and went back to my half eaten steak. The women picked up their check and scurried away. After finishing my meal, and while waiting for my
check, the manager returned with a huge apple cobbler ala mode. "Compliments of those soldiers," he said. He also smiled and said the ladies tried to pay for my dinner, but that another couple had beaten them to it. When I asked who, the manager said they had already left, but that the gentleman was a veteran, and wanted to take care of the wife of "one of our boys."
With a lump in my throat, I gratefully turned to the soldiers and thanked them for the cobbler. Grinning from ear to ear, they came over and surrounded the booth. "We just wanted to thank you, ma'am. You know we can't get into confrontations with civilians, so we appreciate what you did."
As I drove home, for the first time since my husband's deployment, I didn't feel quite so alone. My heart was filled with the warmth of other diners who stopped by my table, to relate how they too, were proud of my husband, and would keep him in their prayers. I knew their flags would fly a little higher the next day. Perhaps they would look for more tangible ways to show their pride in our country, and the military who protect her. And maybe, just maybe, the two women who were railing against our country, would pause for a minute to appreciate all the freedom America offers, and the price it pays to maintain it's freedom.
As for me, I have learned that one voice CAN make a difference. Maybe the next time protesters gather outside the gates of the base where I live, I will proudly stand on the opposite side with a sign of my own. It will simply say, "Thank You!"

(Lori Kimble is a 31 year old teacher and proud military wife. A California native, Mrs. Kimble currently lives in Alabama.)


Comments are back up and running, thanks to Haloscan, who graciously took over all of Blogspeak's clientele. Comment away, readers!

Saturday, January 17, 2004

HE HE...

Got this as an email forward from my dad's cousin; he and his wife are retired from the Air Force.

Military Instructions

"Aim towards the enemy."
-- Instruction printed on U.S. Army rocket launcher

"When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend."
-- U.S. Army training notice

"Cluster bombing from B-52s is very, very accurate.
From 30,000 feet, every single bomb always hits the ground."
-- U.S. Air Force ammunition memo.

"If the enemy is in range, so are you."
-- Infantry Journal

"A slipping gear could let your M203 grenade launcher
fire when you least expect it. That would make you
quite unpopular in what's left of your unit."
-- Army preventive maintenance publication

"Try to look unimportant; they may be low on ammo."
--Infantry Journal

"Tracers work both ways."
-- U.S. Army Ordnance Corps memo
"Five-second fuses only last three seconds."
-- Infantry Journal

"Bravery is being the only one who knows you're afraid."
-- Col. David H. Hackworth

"If your attack is going too well, you're probably walking into an ambush."
-- Infantry Journal

"No combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection."
-- Joe Gay USMC

"Any ship can be a minesweeper -- once."
-- Anonymous

"Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do."
-- Unknown Army recruit

"Don't draw fire; it irritates the people around you."
-- Your buddies

"If you see a bomb disposal technician running, try to keep up with him."
-- U.S. Army ordnance manual

"It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just
-- U.S. Air Force flight training manual

Friday, January 16, 2004


I had a talk with some of my mom's friends when I was home in December that made me think about the "generation gap" we have. We were talking about what is considered shocking these days, and we had vastly different opinions.

These women were shocked at some love scenes in today's movies, and I said that most people my age wouldn't even notice them...unless they were at the movie with their parents! One woman was shocked that her daughter liked Love Actually (which I haven't seen but was told includes some porn star scenes or something) when she had seen it herself and was shocked by the graphic nature of a few shots. I told her that her daughter probably didn't even think about that scene when she mentioned she liked that movie.

When I was in high school I saw Pulp Fiction in the movie theater. I thought it was revolutionary; I had never seen a movie shot out of sequence before. I was astounded at the end and raced home to rave about the movie to my parents. So they went to see it and were appalled that I had enjoyed it. My mom couldn't get past the rape scene, and I couldn't understand why she was dwelling on it so much. "But the movie was ingenius," I said. "But that guy raped another guy," she replied. We would never see eye to eye. They say that my generation and those younger than I are immune to violence; I concur. I do indeed think that I've become immune to violence on tv and movies. Interestingly enough, it has no effect on me. In fact, I get more upset watching instant replays of sports plays where someone breaks an ankle or a football player lands backwards on his leg (ack, those make me naseous!) But dead bodies in movies do nothing for me.

I noticed it also with Eminem's music. The first time I heard a few of his songs (namely Kim and Stan), I was really shocked. My brothers een thought I was being silly for worrying so much about Stan; "it's just a song, don't worry about it." And after listening a few times, those songs didn't bother me anymore, even killing his wife or any of it. No reaction anymore; it rolls right off my back.

I also feel no reaction to swear words either. None of them. Maybe it's being around soldiers, maybe it's that year I spent living with a Scot, maybe it's my age group, but it sure doesn't matter to me. I know that John Kerry should think twice before saying such things in an unaccepting public, but I really could care less if he cusses or not. (And notice that he was speaking to Rolling Stone, which makes me think his target audience there was people my age, people who wouldn't be bothered by that word.) We have some old movies that we taped off TV when they aired, stuff from the 80s like Splash or Ferris Bueller, and it's funny to go back and see what got edited then. They couldn't even say balls or crap back then, and now look at what South Park gets away with!

No real point here to this post, I just think it's interesting to watch society change even over my lifetime. Sometimes I wonder what my kids are going to do/say/watch that will shock me. I can't think of anything now that would, but I'm sure my parents never imagined a future that included Eminem or Mrs. Choksondik.


He he. Apparently I'm not the only one who knows too much about Lileks.

I know I've been lame lately, and I apologize. I meant to write more about what it's like being back in Germany after two weeks in the Midwest, but all my thoughts have been eclipsed by the registration period at work. I'm working like, well, like an armor lieutenant, rivaling my husband for hours worked this week. In fact, he has the day off and is at home cleaning the house and making me lunch. What a great guy...

More blogging soon.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


John Hawkins braves the Democratic Underground crowd (courageous man) and finds that they advocate lying about Republican positions to try to switch people to their camp. That's low.


I have a healthy admiration for astronauts and the cosmos. I grew up right next door to NASA, for pete's sake. I was in the Young Astronauts Club and watched the Challenger explode and took an astronomy class and have a telescope and so on and so on et cetera et cetera et cetera, as the King of Siam says, but I sorely lack the awe and wonder that both Lileks and Whittle have for space. I read their writing with jealousy that their aims into space are so, well, so real. And childlike. And invigorating.

Lileks didn't write a response today to that ass who bashed him; he wrote about space exploration instead. My favorite quote? I believe that this nation should put a man on the moon by the end of this decade and keep him there. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard and expensive and boring and lethal and just might – might – give people something to watch that’s more important than Paris Hilton pitching a fit because she chipped a nail.


Through four degrees of separation (me --> Kim du Toit --> Tim Blair --> Darren Kaplan) I found a great two-parter article debunking the idea that the USA created Saddam Hussein. It's preaching to the choir for me, but sometimes these things just need to be spelled out for posterity.

My favorite part is on hypocricy: The problem is that for most normal people there are far graver sins of commission than "hypocrisy." Mass-murder and torture for instance strike most of us as being of far greater seriousness than hypocrisy. Moreover, when you get right down to it, avoiding a charge of hypocrisy is a pretty silly thing to focus on as your primary foreign policy goal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


I thought I'd hop over to Blogspeak to see what the problem is with my comments section. Appears it's bigger than I imagined. I guess it's just more incentive to get myself set up on my own.


Hey, did you see Kim du Toit show his respect for successful female hunters? Amazing. If they impress Kim, they must be hardcore.


Via Bunker Mulligan I found this article by Orson Scott Card about how we can't really trust anyone in the media these days. Card then lists some sources where you can find relatively unbiased reporting. He even includes Fox News in the options, noting that there's some crap on Fox, but for the most part, they try. He says:

Still, it's not for the famous primetime shows that I watch Fox. It's partly for their general news coverage. Their use of "we" in reporting on the actions of American armed forces was a relief -- after all, why shouldn't America have its war news reported by Americans who speak unashamedly of our military as ours, as us? When Americans are dying, I don't want some million-dollar-salaried newsman pretending to be neutral.

This is my anger with the media. When they try to act so "balanced" that they dissociate themselves from their own in-group and can't even admit that there are some eternal goods, I get angry. I wish I could remember which blogger noted when Saddam Hussein was caught that the instant the words came out of Bremer's mouth, the Iraqis started jumping and shouting while the American journalists sat there stone-faced. Something's wrong with that picture.

I know the CounterRevolutionary has been digging up post-WWII bias, but can you imagine radio coverage back then that provided the type of coverage we get today? Can you imagine a debate during WWII about seeing flag-draped coffins or court-martialing an LTC who threatened a Nazi? Please.


I did it again, where I randomly click on a blog on blogger and check it out. This one seems interesting; I'll have to visit again.

He links to a raving maniac in Indiana who wrote an essay called Why I Hate Personal Weblogs. If you can handle the bi-sentential f-bombs, it's a funny read. It got me thinking: I obviously don't hate weblogs, but personal blogs do kinda creep me out. Think of how many people out there know exactly what Lileks is doing every day. Doesn't that seem a little weird? If I bumped into Lileks, I'd be able to discuss his daughter, his dog, his annual 4th of July shirt, his dabbling in mixing his own songs, and many other things that are unnerving to know about a stranger. But he doesn't feel like a stranger anymore, to be honest; it's hard to explain. And I had a weird feeling I yesterday on this same line of thinking. I have an old friend who has a personal weblog, diary-like in nature. In my boredom at work, I visited her blog, then her friend's blog, then his friend's blog, then her friend's blog, and I ended up looking at photos of someone's new baby. I got this creepy feeling that I was spying.

I talk about my personal life sometimes, but I try to keep my blog a little at a distance. Of course, I've also given my phone number to a couple of bloggers that I consider "friends" now, so what else can I say...

By the way, does anyone know how I can get in touch with Lileks? I have some antique sewing envelopes I think he'd enjoy, but my email to him has been bouncing back to me for over a month. (See how much I know about this man I've never met; it's eerie!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


Lilek's provides a funny link today to Not Fooling Anybody, a website who's sole aim is to highlight restaurants and businesses that have moved into buildings where you know they used to be something else. Like when an insurance company is obviously in an old Taco Bell or something. I'm kicking myself right now that I don't have a photo to add: a strange fast food joint back in Radcliff, KY, simply marked "Soul Food" that was certainly once a Long John Silver's. I'd kill for a photo of that now!


Unemployed For Dean. Very interesting indeed.


As I was reading The Best this morning, I was reminded of two things I read yesterday on the "death toll" in Iraq. First, via Tim, comes this article: Attacks down 22% since Saddam capture, and via a commenter on the Mudville Gazette I found this article: Putting the Iraq war in perspective. Both argue that things are better now for soldiers than the media pretends.


Yep, I throw a question out there for Amritas, and then my comments section crashes and he has nowhere to go. He sent an email instead, per yesterday's post on Friends:


Your comments aren't working, so I have to resort to this.

I am REALLY busy now (classes just started and I ran into some unexpected hurdles - more later). So Hence I cannot post about this at the moment. In fact, I really shouldn't post anything for a week, but I'll try anyway.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

It sounds pretty bogus to me. Offhand I think the excessive use of 'so' predates FRIENDS, a show I don't understand either. I think I watched it five times or so (oops, used it again! - but not as an intensifier). These guys have found a *correlation* between the use of 'so' and the show's popularity, but that does not equate causation.

Their hypothesis can be tested (though I don't know if they've really tried to do so). I'll explain how in a couple of days.

BTW, if I'm not mistaken, this dubious idea is going to be hawked at the Linguistic Society of America conference (which hosts the American Dialect Society conference).

I'm interested in hearing how he'd test this hypothesis. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 12, 2004


I don't like the show Friends. I know there are people out there who love it -- there must be because it's so danged popular -- but I've never really groked it. Maybe it's because I never really watched tv until 2001, so I missed the "good" ones and tried to start watching it long after it jumped the shark. I just think it's pretty trite and contrived, to be honest, and that none of the characters are remotely realistic. I shut it off completely the day Monica thought that Chandler got turned on by a nature program about sharks. But I digress.

Language buff that I am, I decided to check out this article today on MSNBC:
TV’s 'Friends' are so very influential: Canadian study says show changed language use

I love watching slang infiltrate our language and grammar, so I eat this sort of thing up. But this article struck me as really odd. Summary: The days may be so numbered for Chandler, Monica and the rest of the gang on the final season of the hit U.S. sitcom, "Friends", but they may have left a lasting imprint on contemporary English, with their perpetual use of "so" -- as in "so cool." The article, which really says quite little about the Canadian study itself, goes on to say that "linguistics professor Sali Tagliamonte and co-author Chris Roberts focused on intensifiers -- words used to emphasize a point -- and found that the language used by the TV characters not only mirrored what goes on in the real world, but actually pushes it forward. ... The authors also found the show’s popularity peaked at the same time the characters said “so” the most, and as the use of the word declined, so did the show’s popularity.

Let me see if I understand. People use the intensifier "so", as in "that's so cool" because the characters on Friends say that? Do you buy that? I have a hard time believing this show has that much influence on our choice of intensifiers. It seems very chicken-and-egg to me: which came first, the dialogue on Friends or the real-world usage?

I'd guess I've seen maybe eight episodes ever. And I assume that I use the word "so" as much or little as the average person. I guess. It's hard to objectively describe your own speech like that. But I certainly haven't been influenced by those eight episodes of Friends I saw.

(Marc, do you have an opinion on this?)

Sunday, January 11, 2004


In dealing with personal crises over the past few years, I've learned to take my life and problems with a grain of salt. Whenever I start to think that life is too much for me to handle, I try to step back and look at the big picture. When I start to get sad about my husband leaving for a year, I remind myself that everyone's husband is leaving for a year in order to bring stability and future to the Middle East. One tiny year of my life is worth a democratic Iraq in the future.

I really started doing this on a large scale when I read Carl Sagan's Cosmos. When you read about galaxies and solar systems and how vast the universe really is, it starts to feel ludicrous to dwell on one human life's problems. I began to think of all the life before me (human as well as non-) and all the life that will come after me. In a universe that's billions of years old, it's hard to imagine that one 100-year-long lifespan is anything to get worked up about. I find it soothing to think that my life is but a fingersnap in the grand scheme of time; it helps me keep things in perspective.

Via Amritas today, I see that Mrs. du Toit has been thinking along the same lines. She even goes on to argue that this thinking is a stepping stone towards the idea that individual life is not precious. I must admit that I've never taken my thoughts on human life to that level, but it's certainly something I will try to grok this weekend. She discusses weighing one human life against the future, any she gives very interesting examples. She even comments on the soldier:

This is something that every volunteer soldier understands when he offers his life for the future POTENTIAL of happiness for others. He didn’t choose to die for your happiness. He didn’t choose to die for your freedom. He chose to risk his life for the possibility that future generations would have the POTENTIAL of finding it for themselves--of EARNING it for themselves.

Her post certainly put enough on my plate for the rest of the day...


Yesterday we went to the Lieutenant Colonel's New Year's gathering. We didn't stay long because the husband was feeling pretty bad, and dress blues are not comfortable clothes when you feel like puking. But I'm glad we made the effort to show our faces, because we got to see something that will stick with me.

It was news to me, but apparently my husband's unit has a sort of "sister city" in Germany. About 20 middle-aged Germans showed up to the party, including one retired German officer in uniform. The LTC gave a short speech wishing us a Happy New Year and then invited this retired German to speak. He pulled some notecards out of his breast pocket and began.

What followed was a real shocker to me. He talked of his 38 years of service in the German military and his love for the American military. He talked of American help in the Balkans and how important it was to Europe. And he talked of the current situation in Iraq. He expressed his disappointment and disgust in his government's stance on the Iraq war, expressing his wish that Germany had helped the USA in their most important goal of establishing democracy in the Middle East. He gave his regrets and paid respect to all of the soldiers there in that room.

He groked.

After the toasts were given, I cornered him at the refreshments table. I thanked him for his speech and we talked a little more. He said he was born six years after WWII and that were it not for the American military presence, he did not think that he or others his age would have lived to see adulthood. He said that times were so bad in Germany and infant mortality so high that the Americans saved his life. He said in his 38 years of service he worked with many American soldiers and visited many military posts in the USA and had so much respect for the American military. It was really a good experience talking to him; it reminded me that not all Germans agree with Schroeder.

Last night in bed I was thinking about him again. I thought about how hard it must be to truly deeply believe something that's the opposite of your government's goals. It must be hard for him, a military man, to watch his government oppose the USA and know in his heart that it's not right. But then I thought of the mirror image: it must be really hard for these American lefties to watch their government do something that they truly believe is bad. Mind you, I still think most of them are misguided and uninformed, but for a brief moment, in a weathered German's eyes, I saw that desperation and helplessness. I saw what it was like to believe in a principle and not be able to do anything about it. I felt sorry for him, and for a moment last night I felt sorry for the lefties.

Saturday, January 10, 2004


Apparently my husband is one of those people who has a bad reaction to smallpox vaccination. He got it yesterday, and he threw up seven times this morning. Keep your fingers crossed that he gets better instead of worse.

Friday, January 09, 2004


Tim's right; this IS the funniest thing you'll read all day.


I completely understand what Lileks means about people who fully recline in the airplane. I never recline my chair; I can't sleep on an airplane anyway, so what's the point? And I guess I've been fortunate in all of my travels that I've avoided reclining-inclined people, so I was shocked when we got on our overseas flight home and the back of the chair in front of me nearly jacked me in the face. And it was on one of those new planes where every passenger has his own tv screen on the chair in front of him, which I had never seen before and which made me feel like I was riding around in Eminem's SUV. We had our choice of movies, tv shows, games, and fun. Until -- wham -- the seat in front of me dipped down to a 70 degree angle and I couldn't even see my screen. I had to slouch down in my seat for the entire movie to catch a glimpse of my screen, which meant I couldn't wear my seatbelt and my butt fell asleep. My memories of Seabiscuit include numb feet and neck pain. Disappointing to say the least. The fully reclined position should be a maximum suggested limit, not a constitutional right.


My Christmas present: leaving blogspot.
I registered www.tryingtogrok.com and will start working on transferring stuff over there as soon as the husband leaves. However, everything I know about HTML I learned from bumbling through blogspot. If anyone else out there has any tips on where I can learn to create my own website, please pass them along. I have no idea where to begin; I was thinking of buying something like HTML for Dummies or something.
Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated...


The sphere's a-buzz with news of Zeyad's story. For those of you who haven't heard this yet, an Iraqi mother claims that American soldiers killed her son. Start at Instapundit for a good round-up. Everyone has an opinion on whether this story could be true or not. I really have very little of my own insight to add to the mountains of commentary made by other readers, other than to say that Zeyad might be trustworthy, but nice people have been duped before. I'd like to believe in the noble nature of all people, but unfortunately I know that there are many dirtbags out there, some of whom are Iraqis, some of whom are soldiers. I also know though that when your best friend's sister-in-law's baby cousin Traci tells you to put something on the internet, it's probably not true.


And I certainly can't say anything as well as Tim does.

Thursday, January 08, 2004


I haven't read the Admiral in a while, but according to him, Dean's in big trouble.

Last night while watching something crappy on AFN News after Planet of the Apes ended (note: I said that CNN's programming is crappier than the cheesy dialogue and action scenes from Planet of the Apes...ouch), the husband remarked, "God, I don't want Dean to win the nomination." "Why?" I asked. "Bring it on. If there's anyone who will lose to Pres. Bush, it's Howard Dean."


I don't know how often MSNBC changes their homepage, and I can't find a permalink, but as of right now they have a big goof on display:

A U.S. Black Hawk, similar to the one seen here, made an "emergency landing" near the volatile town of Fallujah. All eight people on board were killed, the U.S. military said Thursday.

This blurb is right next to a photo of an Apache, not a Black Hawk (you can tell by the shape of the "window" and the nose). Whoops. Even I know that. That's an unnecessary mistake that could be fixed by ten seconds of googling. Good lord, does our media not care at all about accuracy or truth these days? What if they wrote an article about BMW and then put a photo of a Mercedes Benz?

Just because they made a movie called Black Hawk Down doesn't mean that every helicopter is called a Black Hawk.


They've already fixed it. Someone must have figured it out; thank goodness much of the USA is still asleep.


Sgt Mom has some wise words for the New Year...

And apparently conservatives are being targeted at high school. Interesting.


Speaking of smarts, I just talked to one of my favorite Staff Sergeants about getting searched in the airport, he said that maybe the reason they searched us is because lots of people are bringing stuff back from Iraq that they're not supposed to have. Like fun stuff that Iraqis have that we can't have, like RPG launchers and other toys. It's an interesting theory of why we got searched, and I'll go with it. I love that Staff Sergeant.


The sphere grows every day. You write a post. Maybe someone notices it. Oh, look, a comment. And they've left a link to their own blog. And then you go there and realize that you now have yet another blog you'd like to read every day and you're running out of time in the day.

Shoot. That just happened to me.

Mike left a comment, so I went to his blog and found an amazing post on intelligence. There's so much there, but one tidbit is

To truly be "smart," you must have knowledge and experience. And those must both be broad—eclectic. Knowledge can come from books, but experience only comes from doing something other than reading and writing. Unfortunately, many people feel they can get by with one or the other. I've known some very intelligent people with loads of knowledge who cannot judge distance, hammer a nail, or relate an allegory to anything in their lives. I've known people with years of experience doing things who cannot understand theoretical concepts well enough to capitalize on that experience. The "intellectual elite" fall into the former category.

The husband and I were just talking about this last night when I was gloating that Den Beste had written (technically my husband got the first Den Beste email, two years ago, but we've agreed that I rule). I always did really well in school. School was my thing; it came easy for me, I enjoyed it, and I knew how to play the game really well. I had a 4.0 in high school, a 3.92 in college, and a 3.7 in grad school. But I don't consider myself that smart of a person. I'm learning, I'm trying to develop my skills by reading and blogging, but actually being smart is a very different thing from getting good grades in school. My husband is the opposite of me: he did decent in college, but he is much, much smarter than his GPA would indicate. When I first got interested in him, I remember telling a friend that he's the only person I know who can be half-way to drunk and still answer all the questions on Jeopardy correctly.

Mike goes on with an astute observation:

What it amounts to is logic. I took a Logic course in college as my Philosophy elective. (As an aside, isn’t it interesting that engineers have to take philosophy, sociology, and psychology courses, but none of those majors require a solid calculus-based physics course?) It intrigued me that business and arts majors had so much trouble with the course.

I had a very humbling experience this week. I got bored and decided to take our school's math placement test. I took calculus in high school and never had to take another math class in college. (I should have taken statistics, but I never did, and I plan to take it as soon as it's offered here on our post.) I took lots of physics in high school, so I took biology and astronomy in college, and they were weak on the math side. Long story short, I've forgotten some really simple math stuff over the past six years. I tried to take the pre-algebra placement test, and it was really hard for me. Same with the algebra test. I passed them both, but not without struggling. It was actually an embarrassing experience for me, knowing that I used to be able to do fairly well in calculus and now stretch my brain for simple algebraic factoring. I used to sort of look down my nose at soldiers who couldn't get a single math answer correct, but now I know how quickly we forget. We get people in here who have been out of school for ten years; I can't blame them for not remembering how to simplify algebraic fractions. I had trouble with it, and I used to do math for relativistic physics.

Like I said yesterday, I need to get smarter. Fast.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


Allow me to take a moment to swear, to let out a great big Holy Shit.

So, I go to check my email, right, and sitting there all nonchalantly is an email from someone named Steven C. Den Beste. Oh, really, who's that? Only the coolest blogger in the universe. So I open up said email, and he's all, "I noticed that you were reading about, and commenting about, the difference between science and pseudo-science."

He read my blog. On purpose. Without me sending him some nagging email whining that I'd written something that is only 85% crap and he might be interested in reading it if there was absolutely nothing better on the internet or no new Japanese DVDs or no paint to watch dry or anything better than checking out my janky blog.

So he's all, maybe you should read some Richard Feynman.
And I was all, yep (arms stretching out like I'm a big shot), I read him in high school.

Seriously though, he recommended reading some of Feynman's work for the following reason:

He was a real character; extraordinarily smart, very sensible, and extremely earthy. He won a Nobel prize in Physics, but he never lost his Brooklyn accent (nor, indeed, did he want to). He sounded like a truck driver when he talked, even when he was giving lectures at Caltech, where he was a professor of Physics.
One of the things that was amazing about Feynman was that he believed he could explain anything to anyone -- and he was right. His ability to present extremely complicated subjects in very straightforward terms was astounding.

And he noted that Feynman was also interested in the topic of what he called Cargo Cult Science, which is like Sagan's pseudoscience. He's right; I had forgotten about Feyman.

I read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! when I was in high school, and it was a great book. And just today when I read the Michael Crichton speech that Kal pointed out, I was reminded of Feynman, and I even checked online to buy some of his other books. Like ten minutes before I got the email from The Best. So I pointed out the irony of this when I nonchalantly emailed him back.

But then I panicked. Den Beste has read my blog. He might even do it again someday. At any moment. When I'm not looking. What if I say something dumb the day he visits? What if I blow my cover and he finds out that I'm just some 26-yr-old hack who pretends to grok?

Holy shit. I have to get smarter. Fast.
Den Beste is watching.


When you log in and out of Blogger, you can see the ten most recently published blogs. Once I managed to log in at the split second that Tim published, so I got to see CPT Patti up there, which was cool. And sometimes if the name of the blog sounds good, I'll have a look; it's the one thing I'll really miss when I try to move away from Blogspot. Anyway, I had a look at this blog today, and I found the link to this article: Friends foil Olympia Man's Home. Wow. I sure wish The Genius I Was were still around to see this.


Geez. Got an email from The Incognito Genius I Was. Everyone's watching me today...


Nelson Ascher wows me again today with l'esprit de l'escalier.

And Jim's friend is especially insightful today.

And David tells us that Germany is shelling out the cash to build a tunnel so that frogs don't get squashed crossing the road. At first when he wrote this, I thought it was some sort of tunnel for the French. Nope. It's for real frogs. Sheesh.

Frank J. writes a clever article called Why Bush Is Probably Not Hitler.

And Kal is right: Michael Crichton's lecture is really very interesting. That makes Crichton two for two in my book.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004


I have a confession to make: I just recently started reading Carl Sagan. I spent too many years in college reading required books for classes and not enough time reading stuff that really matters, but I'm working on catching up. In the past six months I've read Cosmos and Contact, and, at Amritas' suggestion, I picked up The Demon-Haunted World last night. I'm already hooked.

I thought about so many things over the past two weeks when I was blogless, and they all started to come together last night when I read the first chapter of this book. Sagan talks of the difference between science and pseudoscience (UFOs, psychics, etc):

These are all instances of pseudoscience. They purport to use the methods and findings of science, while in fact they are faithless to its nature -- often because they are based on insufficient evidence or because they ignore clues that point the other way. ... Psuedoscience is easier to contrive than science, because distracting confrontations with reality -- where we cannot control the outcome of the comparison -- are more readily avoided. The standards of argument, what passes for evidence, are much more relaxed.

I was thinking about how well this dichotomy applies to other things that have been going on in my world lately. How Lileks wrote this week that "we live in an era of non-contiguous information streams. I believe one thing; someone else believes another - and the bedrock assumptions are utterly contradictory." I often believe that when I'm confronted with someone who wildly disagrees with me, that this person has developed his opinion "based on insufficient evidence or because they ignore clues that point the other way." Carl Sagan's frustration with those who believe in pseudoscience is very similar to my frustration with those who believe the war is all about oil or that President Bush is a dimwit or that Europe is the greatest society on the planet. And yes, I sometimes tend to think those people are stupid, so it made me laugh today to find that nearly everyone in the blogosphere had linked to someone who apparently thinks I'm pretty stupid too.

You have to read that priceless article to believe it. According to Neal Starkman, self-proclaimed genius in the Seattle area, Bush is President because he won the vote of the Jerry-Springer-watching, solar-powered-flashlight-owning, cain't-figgur-out-this-here-ballot morons who make up the majority of Americans. He says that those who voted for Bush are the Americans who "cannot understand the phenomenon of cause and effect", yet I find his cause and effect rather tenuous (cause = people are dumb, effect = Bush is President). He then goes on to suggest "an intelligence test to earn the right to vote." Seriously. (I think they tried that once before. It was called Jim Crow...)

Where's his evidence? Where's his science? Show me statistics correlating IQ with voting tendencies. Show me graphs relating education level with political party affiliation. Show me something, anything, that is based on fact, Mr. Starkman. Do some research and then write your little column. As Lileks said in the same great bleat in response to a troll who was moaning about oil, "What I found fascinating was the assertion - stated as a common fact, known to all - that the US emptied Iraq's museums, and glugs Iraqi crude into Texaco tankers as we speak. As Mark Twain so memorably said: it's not what people know that gets them in trouble, it's what they pick up from the comments section of indymedia sites. It took me about 45 seconds of googling to come up with a long, boring press release from the IMF about the disposition of Iraqi oil revenues. They're audited by the international community in accord with a UN resolution." Do a little googling, Mr. Starkman, just to show us you're writing something of substance, instead of passing off your opinion as fact.

Den Beste did some fact-finding over the weekend. He has graphs and a little thing we like to call evidence to show that our media is manipulating their polls to skew evidence of support for the war on terror. That's real thinking. That's science. That's based on facts. Where are Starkman's facts? Where is anything but his pseudoscience?

I had a discussion with some people on my vacation who obviously don't read my blog. In fact, I'd say they don't know me or my husband very well at all. Our conversation:

Person 1 (to my husband): How much longer until you make Captain?
Husband: A few years.
Person 1: Ah, but maybe Sarah won't want to stick around that long. Maybe she won't want to be an Army wife forever.
Sarah: Actually, I wouldn't mind at all.
Person 2: Oh, but that's because you live in Germany now. Things might be different if you have to move to Podunk, Texas.
Sarah: Well, in fact, we live in Podunk, Germany, right now. There's not much difference.
Person 2: Yeah, but it's Euuuurope.

And, with smoke coming out of my ears, I changed the subject. To paraphrase Lileks, what I found fascinating was the assertion - stated as a common fact, known to all - that Europe automatically trumps any city in the USA, and that any military post in Texas must be podunk. Disregard the fact that Fort Hood is home to 71,580 and Fort Bliss is right outside El Paso, population 679,622. Not exactly podunk (effort = ten seconds of googling). Disregard the fact that I hate living in Europe; this person just automatically assumed that we shared worldviews and that I would naturally hate being an Army wife and hate living in the boring old USA.

It seems I'm confronted every day with more and more people who just assume all sorts of things. Assume I'm excited to be living "where all the culture comes from." Assume I'm interested in hearing their diatribes about President Bush. Assume that I'm someone I'm not, and not even bother to find out facts before running their mouths. Assume whatever they want "based on insufficient evidence or because they ignore clues that point the other way."

Frankly, I'm tired of it.

Monday, January 05, 2004


Work today was insanely busy.
I have so much stuff to unpack I could cry.
The husband has to turn in his footlocker for Iraq tomorrow.
I have a headache.
I'm jetlagged.
And as much as I'd love to blog, it just ain't happenin' tonight.

Sunday, January 04, 2004


These past two weeks have messed up my definition of home, but we're back in our house in Germany trying to last until 8 PM so we can work out the jetlag. More to come soon.

Thursday, January 01, 2004


Happy New Year, all. I have one resolution for 2004: to learn to be bemused. When some idiotarian says something that makes no sense at all, instead of wanting to rip his head off, my goal is to think, "aw, how cute, he's a moron." That's my resolution.

Celebrated with the parents and their friends. I love being a grown-up, spending New Year with the 50 year olds and being the first couple to poop out, at about 12:05. "We're going up to bed," the husband and I said, and everyone laughed and heckled. We blamed it on jetlag, on the Army, on anything. Really we're just happy to be getting old.

Lileks today: This would have seemed like HELL when I was 21. But what does any 21 year old really know about these things? I’m sorry, but there’s a certain comfort in knowing that whatever may happen in tonight, I will not be throwing up in a restaurant sink around 2 AM while waiting for pancakes. Been there, heaved that.

Happy New Year, friends.

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