Saturday, October 24, 2009

Todays Activities

Today was a dry run for my new life as a person with a normal day job. I'll be a data analyst for Bravo Health in Baltimore. The job leverages my large database/dataset experience, and I'm looking forward to it.

It means I can no longer go to the grocery store at 2.00 in the afternoon on a weekday to shop for supper, which has been a luxurious experience, and has become my habit.

So today was filled with errands and preparation for the upcoming work week. It was a dry run in awful rain, and the grocery store was awful and crowded.

Back to the working world, and I'm grateful to have a job that pays the bills.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Driving Around Baltimore, Fast

Pennsylvania Station at 40 miles per hour from my Miata, handheld as I drove by

These past few weeks I've been driving quickly around the city of Baltimore, delivering chemicals for a small company. I'm grateful for the work and I like my co-workers a whole lot, but I'm also glad that I might have a real job as a Data Analyst in my near-term future that will actually pay my bills. That, after applying for literally hundreds of jobs over the past years that I ought to be seen by employers as qualified to do, because I am. Yet no offers came, save this one. It's bad out there.

I don't mind the driving gig at all, lack of income aside. The weather has been gorgeous - cool, crisp fall mornings turning into shirtsleeve weather, top down days, perfect for the Miata. I get up early, drive to the shop, and wait for orders to come in. They do. I bang the addresses into my GPS, figure out where I'm going and take off.

If you are one of my Facebook friends, you've seen the various photos I've taken, usually from the car, of my travels around the city on this gig. They are not art, just me doing what I always do photographically - documenting the goings on in my life.

This photo epitomizes the job I'm doing. I shot it blind as I went by, and it is how the city looks to me as I blast around town from delivery to delivery. The Decisive Moment it ain't, but it documents a certain reality I'm experiencing, and I like this picture for that. It's how the job looks in my memory.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Latschar, History, Porn - What to Make of it

Recent news that John Latschar, Superintendent of Gettysberg National Military Park had pornographic images discovered on his work computer as part of an investigation by the Interior Department (DOI). The ostensive news in this is that DOI plans to do nothing about this, which is not news to me - I don't care.

I do care about the Gettysburg Battlefield. As a student of the battle, I have spent a lot of time walking pretty much every bit of the field, many areas more than several times, and it's a big battlefield. It's taken years. Why do that?

My military expertise when I started studying the battle was in littoral small boat naval tactics as practiced by the North Korean Navy. When I started reading about Gettysburg, it quickly became clear that terrain was really important to civil war commanders at every level, and they talked endlessly about terrain in their battle reports. I needed to walk the field and know the terrain if I was going to understand the battle and the decisions made during it. I needed to see the actual terrain to understand what a commander meant by words like 'swale', 'heights', 'commanding heights', 'valley'. You'd be amazed at what they considered a commanding height or a valley

I think it bears mentioning somewhere, even if it's just in my little blog, that Latschar oversaw important changes at the park. Under his watch, the park has been transformed under a program to restore it to it's appearance at the time of the battle.

This is a boon to people like me. Now, I can see the field as the commanders did at the time, and really understand things more easily. Like General Hancock's comment about Sickle's unauthorized and stupid redeployment of his third corps forward to the Emmitsburg Road plateau, which almost cost the battle on the second day when the third corps was crushed under Longstreets assault as a result of this misguided deployment - "They'll come tumbling back soon enough". Now with trees cleared, I can easily see the ground and understand how Hancock made that accurate prediction. And how he prepared himself to save the left of the Union army, which he did (barely) despite Sickle's screwup.

All this work, mostly clearing lots and lots of trees that weren't there in 1863, really enhances our ability to understand the battle, and Latschar oversaw and supported that work in the face of some significant resistance. The good he did for real historians, and even for amateurs like me, outweighs a personal shortcoming. I'm grateful to the man.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Small Talk

Before television, I expect that in any metropolitan area or small town most people read one of one or two papers to get their news. I'm pretty sure there was not a Fox newspaper and an MSNBC newspaper, although newspapers definately took editorial positions.

When you go to work on Monday, you'll reconnect with your co-workers after being away from them for the weekend. Maybe you'll talk with them about sports that happened over the weekend. Why sports? Because it's the only thing that you and they both saw, can agree on, and can therefore talk about. Not the nightly news, not the newspaper.

You watched Fox (or MSNBC) and they watched MSNBC (or FOX) for your news (or their news). So there's no common ground for you to discuss what's going on in this country. And there never will be. If you ever did try to have a discussion with your FOX or MSNBC watching co-worker about what's going on in this country, it would likely not work, because there would be no premises upon which you could agree, and no basis for a conversation.You'd likely have an argument, just like what we see on television.

Pretty grim, that.

But I go to the grocery store almost every day, and I'm almost always able to have a small conversation with a stranger in line with me. I don't know that person's politics, and they don't know mine. We converse about small things, politely, and it's almost always a pleasant conversation. Much like I imagine people conversed before there was a 24 hour news cycle and a newspaper was all there was for news.

I'm all for that grocery line conversation. It's uplifting. It's between two human beings who haven't had the chance to judge each other. It's between two strangers sharing a small moment for a short time.

If we can build on things like that, there may be hope for us yet.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Parts of Speech

When I listen to Republican politicians and talking heads refer to their colleagues across the aisle as the "Democrat" party instead of the "Democratic" party, I wince and smile at the same time. Aside from the problem with nouns versus adjectives (republican is an adjective as is democratic, democrat is a noun), we live in a democracy, and I'm sure the Republicans don't want to refer to the Democratic party as, well, democratic. It might lend credence to the idea that a Democratic administration actually has the right to govern the country, an idea that's anathema to the Republicans.

Since the bloody Republicans feel free to rename someone else's party, I'll exercise the same liberty. From now on, I shall refer to the Republican party as the Dogmacrats, or the Dogmacratic party. We can call the Democrats the Pragmacrats just to be fair, if you like.

Because it's true.

I feel as liberated as Rush Limbaugh.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Bloviating about Torture

The next talking head that says that waterboarding is not torture can kiss my ass. They haven't been waterboarded. I have. They are wrong.

If you want to voice an opinion in the national media on whether or not waterboarding is torture, get waterboarded. Or shut up. I went through SERE Level D. The least you can do is take the waterboarding like we did it in level D so you can know some damn thing about what you are talking about before you speak.

This bothers me. It should bother everyone.

If you are an ordinary decent citizen, then you are entitled to your opinion regardless of whether you've been tortured or not. But if you hold yourself up as an authority on the matter, you should actually be one. If you haven't experienced the hell that is being waterboarded, you are not an authority. And you should, therefore, shut up.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Tiny Right Wing Twits

The recent effort by President Obama to influence the IOC to award the Olympics to Chicago and his failure to do so (Chicago never had a chance) was cheered by the usual right wing cheerleaders (Limbaugh, et al) in their usual offensive ways. Paul Krugman writes a particularly cogent op-ed piece about the spitefulness of the right wing these days here. And someone makes the astute observation on this aricle about the right cheering the Chicago failure, wondering how loud the right's cheering will be if there is another successful terrorist attack on the United States on Obama's watch.

Let's remember that 9/11 happened on the Cheney/Bush watch. Remember Bush sitting speechless/action-less in front of the camera in that elementary school, while Cheney authorized shooting down civilian airliners? Your government in action/inaction. No cheering from the republicans that day.

But Krugman is right - the right will applaud anything that happens that might make the Obama administration fail, or appear to have a setback. It's tiny-minded, mean spiritedness from political extremists who have no solutions, only dogma.

A pox on them.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Nice Day in MIddle River

A nice warm early autumn day, so we went out to Middle River to walk on the beach at Hawk Cove. That's Poole Island and Hart Miller Island in the background. Even with just the very light breeze out of the east, a lot of folks were out sailing. For some reason here in the Chesapeake, almost all of the powerboaters give up using their boats after labor day except that one guy in the trawler. Annabelle found some nice sea glass.

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