Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July

Here are some photos of the 4th of July celebration on the 2nd of July and some beach photos.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bike Ride

Finally got a day off. To enjoy my day off, I slept in, followed that with a long bike ride, and finished up with studying :\

Here are a few photos I took with my phone. I hope to get some better photos than I did from Djibouti since I brought a better camera.

And here's a couple other random photos...

Katie, does this make you happy?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Long time, no blog...

So, it's been a long time since we've posted anything up here. I guess there's not much to talk about since we're living the normal life in a brick-and-mortar house. Ohhhhh, how I missed the trailer life. Well, I did enjoy making some furniture even though it was cheaply made stuff. And, I definitely enjoyed brewing some beer and consuming said beer with pals.

So, if you find yourself like myself, realizing that you cannot speak, read and definitely not hear/listen to spanish like you could after three years of classes that ended about 15 years ago...I find myself off on another adventure, apart from my family.

I have set off on another deployment. This time to the far away lands of Europe. So far, I must admit that it's quite a bit nicer than Djibouti. But, Djibouti definitely had it's perks and I would trade with some of my fellow shipmates that are stuck down there right now. I hope you guys can enjoy the best Djibouti has to offer, given the current conditions you are going through.

At any rate, I look forward to finishing this deployment and getting a chance to see some of what Spain has to offer. I promise to post at least one more blog entry and maybe even a picture, even though I'm pretty sure that there is no one out there listening to me. And, it's confirmed by the stagnant hits on the blogger statistics.

So...more to come, I'll try to let you know how the time away from family goes. Maybe, I can just get Katie to get into it and start posting a few entries too.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Do I Miss the Money?

I get quite a few questions about why I left the Submarine community and if I’m happy with my decision, especially based on the fact that I gave up lots of $$$ to switch. There are plenty of days dreaming of a nice boat (or boats), more construction/more land towards our retirement plans, dive vacations, better brewing equipment…the list could go on forever. And, I think of how much of those dreams could come true with that extra $$$. Then I quickly come down to Earth and enjoy time with Katie and the kids (though not right at the moment), and realize that it was worth every penny not earned!

Today, as the clock is ticking past a week deployed, I had one of those moments that reminded me of why I gave up those bonuses. No, it wasn’t because I’ve found a sexier mission, more job satisfaction (last tour absolutely, verdict is still out for this one), or a better way to serve my country; it was a simple microwaved meal.

Why a microwaved meal? Here’s a photo and I’ll explain…

One simple photo that leads to a plethora of reasons I’m glad I gave up a huge amount of salary (really, it’s would almost be like a 50% increase in salary!) One simple photo of an even simpler meal. A salad, frozen burrito, chips and salsa, and a beer.

If you look into the photo, you will see the food elegantly resting on paper plates. Plates and food that, though the burrito was frozen, were freshly purchased. Yes, a week into the deployment and the vegetables show no signs of disappearing in the near future. The lettuce is wilting as expected being about a week old, but the re-supply is stocked and plentiful.

The carrots and beer were purchased today from a store with plentiful fruits and vegetables. I see no signs of the salad bar turning into a pudding bar after a few weeks. No, I see regular walks to the store to refill on perishables that a Submariner dreams of after a month of being underway. And yes, that’s a beer that I am having on deployment. Zack said Rota wasn’t a deployment, well, more colorfully, but that’s the gist. Though I doubt many Airman know what a real deployment is ;-), I have to say I might agree this is not a typical Navy deployment thus far.

So, as I mentioned, lots of walks to the store in the future. Walks on the ground, breathing fresh air rather than recycled flatulence with overtones of lube oil. Walks and bicycle rides that go on for miles with ever changing scenery instead of wire and paint covered metal walls.

Back to the photo. You’ll notice the table is a picnic table. I am able to eat outside rather than in the same metallic tomb I have previously mentioned. Tonight there were birds chirping, stray cats were killing chirping birds, clouds were rolling, and sounds of basketball were heard in the distance. All things foreign to a Submariner.

You’ll see a window in the background. I can look out a window anytime and see the sky, the clouds, the trees, the ground and other people. Or, I can draw the curtains and enjoy some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, many here do not know how nice it is for this ‘deployment’ and have never experienced 9 people crammed into 60 square feet of living space. Thus, I hear complaints of how bad the conditions are because it takes a few days to get internet set up, TVs do not work and the gym hours suck...Gym...Ha! 

Internet. Even as I type this, I remain connected to the world through wires and radio waves. Internet was a rarity onboard the boat that was used for mission purposes and checking to see how you were screwed by the detailer when you finally got orders. Here, internet's expected to be everywhere on deployment and you can hardly turn a corner without finding a hotspot. Internet is even available in your room for a fee!

So. For those that ask why I would want to leave, take this one simple meal and expand it infinitely into each day, and I think you can get a taste of why I’m happy I have given up so much $$$. Submariner’s give up more than most can imagine, and for those still doing it…I drank a beer for you tonight before 2200…and I just might do the same tomorrow…and maybe the day after!

Now, I’m off to call Katie and the kids to tell them good night and I’ll sleep well knowing that in the morning, the sun will rise and I’ll be able to step outside and I will see if it peaks out from the clouds without bruising my eye on a scope. And, I'll just listen for the phone (which I hope doesn't ring) instead of waking to the messenger's repetitive whisper of my name. Tomorrow...I will worry about tan lines instead of a nuclear tan.

Cheers to all those who are serving, especially the Submariners...I miss you all, but I'm glad I'm not there.

Good night!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Freezing at Table Rock, SC

From back in Novemberish...this didn't publish for some reason, maybe it's not finished...

This past weekend was spent camping at Table Rock State Park, SC.

It's starting to get cold and the big Coleman 8-man tent is a little big for cold weather as well as the car. The solution was to get a 4 or 5 man tent. Unfortunately, Walmart failed to have the same tent that I used in college years. It was a great tent, a Coleman 4-man simple dome tent. Window in the back and small vents at the top.

I found one, but I couldn't get it shipped in time so the dilemma of what tent set in. I ended up picking out the Eureka! Apollo 9, 5-man tent. It is a '3-season' tent that should work great. When I put it up in the dark at 10 pm, it was not as easy as the Coleman. But, the quality of the tent material was great. It had great features. However, at 3 in the morning, it was FREEZING! Apparently, the giant vented walls turned into the best natural circulation freezer-tent ever. We had a heater and freezing cold air was pouring in the four corners where the tent poles pulled the rain fly away from the tent walls.

We found that it was much better if the poles for the rain fly were removed to allow it to drape over the open top vents. That works well, but wouldn't work if it were windy. We decided it will make a great summer tent and we'll keep it rather than send it back. We'll have to get a Coleman for the next winter trip though.

Aside from freezing, we spent a good amount of time hiking. We conducted a test run late Saturday and made it about 3/4 miles up the trail. Sunday, the goal was the full 7+ mile hike with a 4 and 6 year-old, a 75 and 100 lb dog, and two parents that were betting on not how long to finish, but how far we could make it before turning around.

We set off Sunday for our ascent. The first mile, everyone was happy. As the miles tracked by and elevation climbed, the kids seemed to have more to complain about. Surprisingly enough, they made the entire trip. The views were amazing and the kids were excited to claim victory. The descent wasn't too bad either. And of course, the kids still wanted to play at the playground at the bottom.

After playing at the playground and some stretching,we headed to camp. We managed to keep Steven awake long enough to get a few bites of food in him. Wanda immediately went into the tent. Everyone slept great that night even in the cold tent. We still will replace this tent and let it be the summer tent.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Random Thoughts on 'Now is the Time'

I read through 'Now is the Time' and was not surprised at the lack of content. In a time of crisis, something has to be done. That's what this piece is...something. It includes a bunch of rambling about things that are going to stop gun violence. From spending money on studies at the CDC on gun violence, to pushing for an assault weapons ban; it contains little that will actually stop the problem. What is the problem? Criminals break laws. is some rambling thoughts that I had while reading it...
I will say that adding 1,000 school resource officers, counselors, etc. is one item that could potentially stop something like this from happening. The interesting thing is how it would stop it. If a school had an armed resource officer, he could use his weapon to stop violent acts. Is this different than the schools that are starting to allow teachers to wield concealed weapons with proper training and licensing? No...I imagine either of these are effective. Though, only one is cost effective. We are required to have fire extinguishers in schools to stop fires from killing innocent children. How about we add 'break glass in case of crazed murder' to schools. I hope you make the connection and understand that I do not actually think that guns next to the fire extinguisher is the answer.
No excuse...So why didn't he do this 4 years ago? "Finally give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) a confirmed director: The ATF has not had a confirmed director for six years. There is no excuse for leaving the key agency enforcing gun laws in America without a leader. It is time for Congress to confirm an ATF director."
Assault weapons ban...Ahhhh. How I hate the word 'Assault Weapon'. The term has been thrown around, yet most who use it do not understand what they are saying. An assault rifle is a selective fire (selectable among either fully automatic, burst-capable, or, sometimes, semi-automatic modes of operation) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. I'm not sure what and assault rifle is aside from previous and existing federal and state laws that arbitrarily choose features to define an assault rifle. It seems to be any firearm that is scary to the person using the word assault weapon. Personally, I think an assault weapon would be any weapon used in an assault, but that's probably way to simple. 

I'd like to point out that the federal government promoted distributing 'assault weapons' to the public. The .30 caliber, M1 Carbine, certainly meets the definition of assault rifle and surplus M1 Carbines have been provided as donations to help fund the federally created Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). It accepts detachable magazines, has bayonet mounts, and may have a folding stock. A truly terrifying weapon of mass violence that has been allowed to help promote marksmanship for years. 

The CMP was created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 1903 War Department Appropriations Act. The original purpose was to provide civilians an opportunity to learn and practice marksmanship skills so they would be skilled marksmen if later called on to serve in the U.S. military. Over the years the emphasis of the program shifted to focus on youth development through marksmanship. From 1916 until 1996 the CMP was administered by the U.S. Army. 

Title XVI of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 (Public Law 104-106, 10 February 1996) created the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety (CPRPFS) to take over administration and promotion of the CMP. The CPRPFS is a tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that has been Federally chartered by the U.S. Congress, but is not an agency of the U.S. Government (Title 36, United States Code, Section 40701 et seq). 

Apart from a donation of surplus .22 and .30 caliber rifles in the Army's inventory to the CMP, the CMP receives no Federal funding.
Straw purchases...I guess a slap on the wrist means up to 10 years in federal prison and up to $250k fines. I'm not sure what the explicit law he is looking for. It is against the law to purchase a firearm for another person and lie about it on a Form 4473. No different than lying about mental health illness. 

From Obama on 'straw purchases' - "Today, criminals can easily buy guns from unlicensed dealers, or acquire them with the help of so-called “straw purchasers” who pass the required background check to buy guns from licensed dealers. But there is no explicit law against straw purchasing, so straw purchasers and others who traffic guns can often only be prosecuted for paperwork violations. We cannot allow those who help put guns into the hands of criminals to get away with just a slap on the wrist. Congress should close these loopholes with new gun trafficking laws that impose serious penalties for these crimes."

I find it interesting that one of the first items mentioned wouldn't have done anything for the unfortunate mass murder at Sandy Hook...

"Require criminal background checks for all gun sales: Right now, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to run background checks on those buying guns, but studies estimate that nearly 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from this requirement. A national survey of inmates found that only 12 percent of those who used a gun in a crime acquired it from a retail store or pawn shop, where a background check should have been run. Congress should pass legislation that goes beyond just closing the “gun show loophole” to require background checks for all firearm sales, with limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes."

So, what would work? I do not think there is any legislation that would stop gun violence, knife violence, or any other type of violence. I do wish that along with a study and weapons tracing in crimes that have guns associated with them, that we could track a little more data. How about tracking crime that occurs where the perpetrator is receiving state/federal aid? 

In the end, the root of the problem stems from two things. Failure of society to instill adequate values to future generations and poor mental health. The only steps that will work starts at the family and include taking an active role in raising the future generations of this country and teaching responsible decisions.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Poor People Murder

If you saw the title, you were probably either immediately interested in what I had to say or pissed off. Either way, it worked.

So...what do I mean that poor people murder? Am I saying that people who have more wealth do not commit murder? But, sort of. Yesterday I posted that firearms make you safer. It's the argument that both 2nd Amendment supporters and opponents like to pick and pluck data and prove their points. The problem? They only pick and pluck data that proves their points. They fail to acknowledge that mass quantities of data that contradicts their view and helps their opponents.

After each side picks the data to prove their points, they go to media outlets that leans towards their views and spray streams of numbers and poll data that makes everyone on both sides satisfied that they  are truly correct.

At any rate...Now to poor people murdering. The next step to make some sense of this madness was to find out if there is something that more closely follows homicide rates. Of course my next question was how wealth affects homicide rates. All the data is the same data looked at yesterday, with per capita GDP (from CIA fact book) added to the mix. Again, countries that I do not have gun availability and homicide rates were thrown out. So...there are countries missing from the GDP data. If you care, then you go find the missing information and prove my trends wrong with some amazing find that will change the average of 152 countries. I'm lazy!

Not surprising, the poorer the country, the higher the homicide rates. More surprising, for countries with a GDP over $30k, the average homicide rate was 2.2 per 100,000 residents. Twenty-six countries on my list had over $30k. The average was skewed by the Bahamas. With a homicide rate of 21.6, 16.2 homicides per 100k ahead of US at 5.4, the average drops to 1.5 per 100k when Bahamas is dropped from the $30k+ upper class. Contrast this to the 'poor' countries with per capita GDP under $30k which average a 12.2 homicide per 100k. 

Here is the per capita GDP vs. homicide rate per 100k residents. 

The only other item I care to look at today is the gun ownership and how it varies with wealth. I'll make some assumptions that I do not think are too extreme. I'll go out on a limb with the tree goats and make a connection that gun ownership is roughly proportional to guns per 100 people. I'll also reach out for that delicious leaf and assume that as per capita GDP goes up, so does the average wealth of the countries residents.

What I found, is that guns are a luxury item. At least in the sense that the wealthier the country, the more guns per 100 persons there are. Again, using my logic from above, wealthy people like guns. Granted, there is noise in the charts as always, but the trends are there. 

Here is per Capita GDP vs. gun availability.

I did find it interesting that the US was 2nd highest out of the $30k GDP group. Going along with the poor people murder theory, I'm going to speculate that this could be due to the large quantity of urban inner-city homicides. I looked at a lot of data in the past on urban homicide when we were stuck living in the suburbs of the 3rd most dangerous metropolitan area in the US. Memphis if you did not know. At any rate, it showed that urban areas suck and are typically less safe than suburbs or rural communities. Shocking I know. Maybe I'll dig up the stats again and make some mesmerizing charts.

Last thought. If you want to improve your chances of NOT getting murdered, here is my advice. Try working harder, make more money and buy more guns. Oh...and I'd stay away from Honduras, Jamaica and Venezuela if I were you.