Usually my best gripes and complaints come from the road. At the moment, that well is pretty dry. We spent most of today going over paper work and doing some preliminary reading for tomorrow. We have an early start tomorrow at 6:45, though, so that could be something getting lined up. TDY isn’t about getting up early, or rather it shouldn’t be. So yeah, tomorrow looks to be the marathon day of this trip. If we can wrap it up by having more answers that questions, I’ll consider the day a success. Then it’s back to Memphis for the next round and to start getting the heavy duty report put together. Should be fun.

100 and counting…

Well, friends, we’ve reached 100 posts here on Blogger. I’ve been struggling with what topic to hit on this evening. Usually I try to keep the focus on current events or just randomness that has caused aggravation or consternation during the day. At the moment, however, the news is full of things that are cause for annoyance… and I’m too tired of reading and hearing about most of it to throw my two cents into the ether. As for the general grievances, I’ve been airing most of them in status messages this week, so there’s no need to cover that ground twice.

Starting tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be headed back in the general direction of Memphis (with an overnight in Maryland). I always look forward to these trips back to the mid-Atlantic, but on the tail end of this one, I’m ready to get back into the routine. These people have been quite simply exhausting. I’ve managed to spend some quality time with the family and meet up with a few old friends while I was here. Hopefully I can count on a repeat and then some if my schedule holds and I’m back in October for a few weeks. Not sure if I’ll be posting between the time I leave and when I get back to West Tennessee, but when stupid happens, you’ll read it first here.

P.S. I’m watching “The First 48” (not in Memphis this week) and they are interrogating a suspect named “Royal Cola.” Can someone tell me WTF parents are thinking when they do that? I can only hope that his middle name isn’t “Crown,” but it seems more likely than not.


Forty years on, the Apollo Program is no less fantastic than it was on this date in 1969, perhaps it is made more so because it has never been replicated. We’ve spent the better part of the last 35 years frittering away the wonder and fire of those heady days of early space travel, when astronauts were hailed as American heroes rather than thought of as managers of an orbiting science fair.

There are those who, in the coming months and years, will say that the cost and dangers of human spaceflight are too high; that there are good works that need doing here on earth or that leading an effort to send man into space is a frivolous exercise with no practical outcomes. Those were the arguments too when Europeans set out to discover new trade routes to the Indies. The same arguments could have just as easily been made when the precursors of human life crawled out of the primordial ooze… It was warm, cozy, safe, and familiar. Staying put would have been the easy alternative. But that’s not what we did as a culture. History is the uninterrupted upward ark of human progress. We crawled out of the ooze, we crossed the ocean, and we went to the moon because those were the next logical steps in the evolution of civilization. And the step after that is to once again send the sons and daughters of the planet earth out into space to explore Mars and eventually beyond.

I hope above all else that my generation has the fortitude of our fathers and grandfathers to carry through the tragedies and triumphs and carry our flag back to the moon and to worlds beyond. Today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Apollo XI, turn our eyes skyward, and wonder.

And that’s the way it was…

America has lost a national treasure tonight. He retired when I was only four and the only time I ever had the opportunity to watch Walter Cronkite broadcast live was during the launch of the shuttle Discovery carrying John Glenn back to space in 1998. Even in his late 80s, it was obvious that this man was simply a force of nature, commanding attention even from those journalists working with him that afternoon. He defined the television news very nearly since its inception and what is means to be a class act and to deliver the news even-handedly and without bias. If you’ve never seen clips of him on the anchor desk, do yourself a big favor and watch the video of him broadcasting JFK’s assassination or the moon launch or from the bombed out streets of Viet Nam. Once upon a time, that’s the way it was and sadly will never be again.

In a world where the news cycle is brought to a grinding halt by the death of an aging pop star, I can only hope that we will pause to remember the man that literally defined what television news is all about.

Getting what you ask for…

The trouble with asking for all the training that you are technically supposed to have is that when the stars align just right, you’re actually approved for all of it. The issue there being that then you’re going to be expected to go sit through all of it.

So now it’s looking like I get to spend a week of quality time in Huntsville, Alabama in September and four weeks back here at beautiful Ft. Belvoir in October. I suppose that means my fall is pretty well planned out for me, with August being the only month in the foreseeable future that doesn’t have me wandering off across the eastern part of the country for one reason or another. It’s probably not a good sign when bars and restaurants in cities where you don’t live start knowing what you’re going to order. Or when you are able to pick favorite exits on the interstate because the gas station there has the best snack selection and coffee that you like.

So that’s your cautionary tale for the evening… Be careful what you ask for, kiddies.

Like in the movies…

In the movies, the Army is a well regulated organization, where people follow orders… Or maybe that’s just in the John Wayne movies that I grew up watching. Whatever the case, when I came to work for them, I anticipated that the headquarters would issue orders and the subordinates would carry them out. The reality is more like the headquarters making a suggestion and then frets, argues, and finally pleads for someone to do almost anything.

As hard as it is to believe, I’m not sitting around dreaming up ways to make people’s lives more difficult. I am, however, trying to come up with ideas that over the long term will make the organization more efficient and that will actually help people do their work smarter. There again is another assumption… That people have come to work to, you know, actually work. It’s possible that I’ve been misled there as well.

For the record, “because we’ve been doing it like that since 1974” isn’t a good enough reason to keep doing something. Seriously, it’s time for you ride off into the sunset and leave management to those who have had an original thought in the last quarter century.

A modest proposal… or A rant for a friend…

Based on my own unscientific observation, I am concerned that be running against those of us who can put together a coherent thought and express it in one or more complete sentences? It is my conclusion that one of the pitfalls of modernity is that we have prevented Darwin from exacting his pound of flesh from those who are ill equipped for life in a technologically advanced world. To remedy this problem, I modestly proposed the following:

Effective immediately all warning labels will be removed from household appliances, clothing, and any other item that is currently listed on the master stock record of Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Directions on proper usage of these items will continue to be included inside the box or printed on the packaging/tag as appropriate for the item. Hazard data sheets and warnings will be made available by request via the internet in downloadable/printable pdf format accessible either from home or at any public library in the United States for any and all who request them. Person or persons who are killed, maimed, wounded, or otherwise harmed by these products while using them in contravention of the accompanying directions will automatically forfeit their right to seek compensation from Wal-Mart, the government of the nation, state, county or local government of jurisdiction, the product manufacturer, or any other person or entity. Thereby, each consumer has the burden of educating themselves on the proper use and potential hazards of using any product in their possession. Warnings such as “do not operate heavy equipment” while taking particularly sleep-inducing drugs will continue to appear on labels as before. The objective is for the morons to show themselves and suffer the consequences, not have them start tying up the highways and byways of the country because no one told them not to start their breakfast off with a double shot of codeine and orange juice. If we’re lucky, many will try to get a jump on blow-drying their hair while in the tub, but if the majority are only maimed or disfigured, at least that would give the rest of us the opportunity to see them, establish a perimeter, and hold them at a minimum safe distance.

Cold? Possibly. Extreme? Probably. But essentially, my simple request is that we allow Mr. Darwin to get back to the business at hand and start thinning the herd. If we fail to act swiftly and decisively, I fear the tide will unyieldingly turn against us and the great sweep of human history will shortly begin its long march back towards the primordial ooze. And really, what better way to let humanity be served than to allow individuals to self-select their fate?

Guiding light…

The Declaration of Independence, unique in the holy trinity of the founding documents, is not a “how to” manual for governance. While the Constitution defines the scope of government and the Bill of Rights refines it, the Declaration is an altogether different thing. It is a statement of ideals written before the notion of liberty in America was a given and before there was a question of what that liberty would mean to those who lived in the outposts of empire.

One of the most frustrating aspects of teaching the Declaration, or of listening to pundits discuss its meaning on television, is that it is so often misinterpreted. If you study the Declaration, literally read the text, you discover that there are no guarantees made, no specially protected groups identified, or really any discussion of anything other than opportunity; the opportunity for the 13 united States to lay down their list of grievances and reasons for war against Crown and parliament and the opportunity of the people to better their lives and secure their liberty. The natural rights of the Declaration in no way guarantee that we will all live happily, but that we will have the opportunity to pursue happiness. The founders well understood that no state was perfectly free to pursue its own course any more than an individual is perfectly free to flail is arms wildly in a crowded room. Perfect freedom of the individual and the state is constrained at the point where the rights and freedoms of other individuals begin.

The Declaration reminds us all that neither government nor individuals is empowered to deliver us safely to the other shore. Each of us is free to set our own course, to pursue our own happiness where we find it. If you believe you deserve more from life, work for it… don’t blame others for preventing you from reaching your objective. We are responsible for our own destinies and when we fail to strive for what we want, or seek out the next opportunity, then shame on us, because we tarnish the idealism that is our birthright.

On this, 233rd anniversary of Independence, I remain an unabashed and unapologetic patriot. I believe the United States has been and continues to be the last, best hope of earth and that there is nothing more fine in this world or the next than simply being an American.