Imagine there's no Lennon

I often see people quoting John Lennon's song "Imagine," but I have often wondered - have any of these people really listened to the lyrics to that song? Because it probably represents a worldview that they do not agree with.

Let me explain...

VERSE 1 LYRICS:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

VERSE 1 MEANING:

When Lennon says, "Imagine there's no heaven," he is pushing for the abolition of religion because he was an outspoken atheist and HATED the church. He was infamous for pelting nuns in NYC with water balloons fashioned from condoms and preaching that he was more popular than Jesus.

When Lennon says, "No hell below us," he is dreaming of a life where he can do whatever he wants with no repercussions; e.g. there is no concept of "sin," which he reinforces by saying, "Imagine all the people living for today." This describes Lennon's life as a drug and alcohol addict who routinely cheated on his wife and ignored his children. The definition of hedonism is living for today, and Lennon lived in that mindset, regardless of who suffered for his selfishness.

VERSE 2 LYRICS:

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

VERSE 2 MEANING:

There are a few things to consider here:

First of all, it's easy for Lennon to imagine what life would be like if all of the borders suddenly ceased to exist because he lived in a life of luxury surrounded by opulent wealth for which he didn't really have to work. Don't get me wrong, the Beatles were amazing songwriters, but still - consult the lyrics to the song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits to see what I mean.

Jumping past that, Lennon reiterates his call for the abolition of religion, which I am sure most of the world would disagree with.

Last, Lennon advocates for peace, but it's probably not your definition of "peace." Throughout his life Lennon shared his views on peace, which isn't just the absence of war, but a continuation of his hedonistic mindset; he wants everyone do lay down their arms and then live for themselves, which is selfish and immature, but that is who Lennon was. (For more on Lennon's warped views of peace, see my "Peace Sells, But Who's Buying?" blog.)

VERSE 3 LYRICS:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

VERSE 3 MEANING:

Once again, this is one of those verses that sounds palatable, until you examine Lennon's personal life. As I said earlier, it's easy for someone surrounded by opulent wealth to wax poetic about what a glorious world it would be if everyone shared everything, because he can afford to buy whatever he wants. If Lennon had set an example of philanthropic endeavors during his lifetime for others to emulate, then perhaps I would give him a little credit here, but he didn't; Lennon was a boorish, womanizing, selfish, drug addict.

That being said, Lennon was a Marxist, and Communism has demonstrated time and again that a society cannot share everything; it just doesn't work, because people are greedy at heart. There is no way that everyone on the planet can share everything because sooner or later someone will want something that someone else has, and then they'll fight. That is inevitable, and Lennon practiced this type of covetousness all the time by sleeping with whomever he pleased - even if it was other people's wives. What's more, Lennon was awful to his own family members; he couldn't even share with them, much less the rest of the world.

CHORUS LYRICS:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

CHORUS MEANING:

So what is Lennon asking you to join? In no uncertain terms, Lennon is asking you to join a cult. His cult. In Lennon's cult of hedonism, everyone lives for themselves, religion is illegal, and he can continue to do whatever he wants and have whatever he wants while everyone else is forced to live by his standards and share everything that they worked hard to earn. While Lennon uses flowery words like "peace" and "brotherhood," make no mistake - Lennon's view of utopia is a heaven on earth for him that would be a living hell on earth for everyone else.

At the end of the day, John Lennon was a deeply flawed and selfish individual who should not be emulated. In his Magnum Opus, "Imagine," Lennon is not really advocating for "peace" or "brotherhood" or any of the other noble ideals that people so often ascribe to him. Instead, Lennon is advocating for everyone on the planet to be just like him; to fill their lives with self-indulgent excesses and to ignore any possible ramifications from their bad lifestyle choices. The people who have followed Lennon's example have helped proliferate decades of drug and alcohol abuse, leaving broken families with emotionally damaged children, and lead to the astronomical rise in STDs and AIDs. All of this is probably why "Imagine" is so popular with Hollywood elites who consistently follow Lennon's example of living for themselves. Nevertheless, neither Lennon nor "Imagine" should be admired; it is a terrible song from a terrible person about a terrible world that was crushed and rebuilt according to Lennon's terrible worldview. I cannot imagine anything worse.

Arnold's Opinions are Terminated

I have mentioned in multiple places that the people who physically attacked our nation's Capitol this week were traitors and they need to be prosecuted as such. However, I would like to say a few words with regard to Mr. Schwarzenegger's comments in the following video.

There is a modern concept called Godwin's Law, which is generally defined as: "the longer that an Internet discussion continues, the probability of a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis increases proportionately." As soon as this comparison happens in most discussions, the person who makes the comparison is usually regarded as having lost the debate. The primary reason why this is assumed by all participants in the discussion is: if you cannot defend your position without resorting to ridiculous and implausible comparisons, then you're a poor communicator, and everyone SHOULD consider you a loser.

With that in mind, I'd like to state that Mr. Schwarzenegger needs to restudy his history, because his comparison to Kristallnacht was grossly inaccurate and utterly preposterous. For those who are unaware, Kristallnacht was the far-reaching destruction of thousands of Jewish businesses across Germany, resulting in the kidnapping of tens of thousands of Jews who were deported to concentration camps. Whereas during this week's traitorous activities, no one was carted off to concentration camps. No one lost their families, their livelihoods, or their property.

Please don't misunderstand, the traitors who broke into our Capitol are the wicked scum of the earth, but the events of this week and the events of Kristallnacht are so far apart that their comparison is beyond ludicrous. The actions of this week's traitors were shameful, but so were Mr. Schwarzenegger's comparisons to the Nazis. Therefore, in keeping with Godwin's Law, Mr. Schwarzenegger loses this debate.

Mr. Schwarzenegger may be correct in his assessment of Trump as a "failed leader," but then again - I seem to recall that Schwarzenegger's tenure as governor ended with him as as a "failed leader." Perhaps it takes one to know one, but either way - I'll end with this: Go home, Arnold. Your relevance in public politics is over.

An Open Letter to President Trump

Starting from one month before the election, I had made a personal vow to abstain from weighing in on the election - regardless of the outcome. Oh sure, I took potshots and anti-maskers and COVID-deniers, but for the most part I tried to say nothing about the actual election. However, in light of the anarchy that took place today in Washington DC, I think it's time to break my silence. And with that in mind, here goes:

 

Dear President Trump,

It's time for you to go. There was an election - and you lost. You filed protests - and you lost. You were given your days in court - and you lost.

You were given every opportunity to present concrete evidence to back your claims that the election was a fraud - and you have failed to do so.

You have spent several weeks fanning the flames of conspiracy theories that have ALL been debunked by multiple sources from both sides of the aisle, and now your reckless hubris has embarrassed our nation and endangered the lives of thousands of its citizens.

And so, I say again - just go.

It's over. You lost.

Please pull your head out of wherever it's been buried these past few weeks and go. And go quickly, before anyone else gets hurt.

 

Sincerely,

An American Veteran who solemnly swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

 

 


NOTE: This post is largely based off of a message that I had posted on social media, to which I had attached the following image, which seemed apropos at the time.

chance_card_go_to_jail

Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

After months of sequestration due to the Wuhan/COVID19 Pandemic of 2020, my wife and I decided to catch a movie. Sadly, however, the feature that we chose to see was Wonder Woman 1984. I'll provide more details in a moment, but for now let me summarize my opinion of this motion picture: I would give it a C- for a grade, although on a scale of 1 to 10 I'd probably give this sorry cinematic offering a 3.

ww84-w-logo-rating

WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!! (You have been warned.)

As I just mentioned, there are several major spoilers in this post, so quit reading if you haven't seen it. With that being said, here is my list of gripes from this thoroughly pedestrian movie:

  • The film was easily 30 minutes too long. Part of the cause for that excessive running time are the numerous and boring fight scenes that drag on and on and on and on and on and on...
  • Bringing back Chris Pine's "Steve Trevor" character was a ridiculous plot point, and served no purpose other than getting Chris Pine back on the screen.
  • Seriously, Wonder Woman - it's been 70 years since Steve Trevor died and you come from a land where men are unnecessary; you really need to move on already. Pining over Chris Pine (pun intended) just makes you look weak.
  • Chris Pine's fashion show of 80s-era clothing had no point whatsoever and could easily have been cut to reduce screen length. And the fanny pack should have served a real purpose and/or saved the day at some point during the movie - that would have actually been funny, which is probably why DC missed that opportunity.
  • What happened to the hapless dolt when Steve Trevor took over his body? How did he come back? Does he know that someone else was using his body for several days while injuring it in fights and having sex while using it? Isn't this more than immoral and really kind of gross?
  • Wait - Wonder Woman can fly now? With no wings? And no invisible airplane? Who writes this crap?
  • There is NO WAY that a jet fighter can fly from the USA to Egypt on a single tank of gas - that plane would have gone down over the ocean and both Wonder Woman & Steve Trevor would have been dead and the movie would have been over.
  • Somehow DC hasn't figured out Marvel's way to make an action movie with superheroes that has actual humor, so every attempt at a joke falls flat and the trailer for the movie steals all the best scenes.
  • This movie was another offering from DC where the entire world is largely destroyed, and and yet no one is held responsible and everyone's lives are happy again in the very next scene.
  • 1984 had to have been chosen as the year when this movie takes place due to George Orwell's famous novel of the same name, but ultimately this film has nothing to do with Orwellian themes, and as a result its title and setting are nothing more than a cheap stunt at getting butts in seats with instant name familiarization and periodic 80s nostalgia.
  • Whatever happened to the "Dreamstone" after Pedro Pascal's "Max Lord" character renounced his wish? That was a MAJOR plot hole.
  • Wait - there's a broadcasting system that can simultaneously take over all of the communication systems across the entire planet?
  • Somehow Wonder Woman was able to convince the ENTIRE PLANET to renounce their wishes at the same time? And for some reason they all spoke English? I have three words for that: Deus Ex Machina.
  • A far more realistic ending would have been for the world to revert itself after Max Lord renounced his wish.

I could go on and on about all of the major issues that I found with this film, but I should end my thoughts about my experience seeing this movie by saying one thing positive: the Red Vines licorice that I consumed during the movie was great.

25 Years at Microsoft

Today marks my official 25-year anniversary with Microsoft. I've had a blast, and I've had the privilege to take part in some pretty amazing projects. I can honestly say that several of the products that I helped design are running on millions of systems around the globe, and I worked with some amazing people to bring those ideas to life.

These past years have been great, and I hope that I have many more to come.

Robert_25_years.edited


POSTSCRIPT:

If you'd like to see some of my personal history with the company, here are several videos that I recorded for Microsoft over the years.

Refusing to Wear a Mask is not Fighting for Freedom

The following image has been making the rounds on social media…

Anti-Mask-Self-Deception

This image has prompted me to ask the anti-maskers who are still promoting this anti-scientific drivel the following series of questions:

First of all - are you for real? Refusing to wear a mask is somehow fighting for freedom? I'm pretty sure that our forefathers and ancestors had an entirely different opinion of what constitutes "fighting for freedom."

Next, just whom are you fighting against? There's no oppressive regime here; there are no dictators, no despots. The CDC - which is an organization that is ACTUALLY fighting for something tangible (your health) - has recommended that people wear masks; but it's largely your peers who would like you to wear a mask, and wash your hands often, and keep your distance as much as possible. All of these simple actions will reduce the spread of disease during this pandemic.

Let's reexamine the original proposition for a moment; this image claims that you're "fighting for freedom," but for which freedoms are you fighting? You still have freedom of speech. You're still free to travel. You're still free to buy the things you need, to pursue the career of your choosing, to marry whom you want, to live where you choose, to own your own home, to start your own business; you have a host of freedoms at your disposal that the downtrodden masses in other areas of the world can't even dream of having. In fact, as I look at the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, I can't seem to find any freedoms that you're actually in danger of losing.

Let's step back a bit further - just how are you "fighting" for the freedom of others? By choosing to not to wear a mask? I'll grant you that abdicating your moral responsibilities in society and endangering the health of others might be a cheap form of protest where there's little chance that any harm will come to you, but I'd hardly count that as "fighting for freedom."

On the contrary, I come from a family with five generations of military service, and I personally served 8 years in the Army. At the end of my tours, I was able to return home, but some of my friends weren't so lucky. I have stood on enemy soil and made hard choices and did things that meant some bad guys didn't go home to their families, but because I did my job some of my comrades were able to make it home, too. In other words, I know exactly what "fighting for freedom" really means, and the fact that someone would somehow equate the genuine sacrifices of others with their illogical and irrational fears through the measly act of refusing to wear a mask is disgusting and insulting.

So let me make this clear to all the anti-maskers out there: you are not fighting - because there is no enemy that you are up against. You are not preserving freedom - because no freedoms are being suppressed. You are simply being asked to adopt a few simple practices in order to safeguard the health of your community. If you cannot manage to set aside your unwarranted paranoia and step up to your responsibilities as a productive member of society, then yes - I kinda think you're acting like a disease spreading, defiant, imbecile.

That being said, stop claiming that you're fighting for freedom - because you're not.

Anti-mask Absurdity Strikes Again

Over the past several months, I've posted a few blogs about the silliness of the anti-maskers who have remained steadfast in their ignorance of basic science. (See Just Shut Up and Wear the Darn Mask and Numbers Never Lie for two examples.) Thankfully, most of these intellectually-challenged, anti-mask simpletons went silent on the topic of mask wearing when the election came to town, because they needed to devote all of their time and efforts to promote one candidate or other. (Although, to be honest - it was generally just one of the candidates; but that's a different discussion for a different day.)

Anyway, the anti-maskers' silence had lulled me into a false sense of complacency, wherein I thought that all of their anti-mask foolishness had finally gone the way of the dodo bird. Alas, that was too much to hope for; and so it was with a sorrowful heart that I read the following article that one of the unwavering anti-maskers that I know posted to Social Media:

CDC Accidentally Admits Masks Won't Protect You From Coronavirus

Really? Are we still having this argument? Have all of the weak-minded anti-maskers learned nothing this year? Apparently not, I'm afraid. And with that in mind, let's examine this latest claim.

First of all, no - the CDC did not "accidentally admit" to anything. The CDC has said many, many times that:

"Masks offer some protection to you and are also meant to protect those around you, in case you are unknowingly infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. A mask is NOT a substitute for social distancing. Masks should still be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart."
(See https://bit.ly/3oeUdGf)

Masks are not 100% effective, and no one ever claimed that they were. Masks are just one of several deterrents that people should be using; e.g. masks, social distancing, washing hands, quarantining people who are infected, etc. In other words, if you're wearing a mask and you let someone with COVID19 lick your face, then you're probably going to catch their disease. However, if you happen to meet someone who was infected and you were wearing a mask, and they were wearing a mask, and you stayed six feet apart, and you washed your hands after you met them, then you probably aren't going to catch their disease. That's the same message that has been circulating for months: masks serve a purpose, but they are not a magic cure.

With that in mind, I have a public service announcement for all of the anti-maskers out there: please, please, please - for the love of God and all that is holy - please stop posting ridiculous anti-mask propaganda. The only thing that you achieve by promoting anti-scientific drivel is that you reduce everyone else's estimation of your grasp on common sense, and you help reinforce the Darwinian theory that pandemics are randomly introduced by nature to thin the herd of its weak-minded members.

The Downside of Kickstarter Part II

A little over two years ago I wrote a blog post titled The Downside of Kickstarter, wherein I described a Kickstarter campaign that was a deliberate ruse to scam investors. I won't go into all the details, because you can read that post in its entirety if you're curious, but here's the summary: it's pretty easy for a swindler to create a Kickstarter campaign for a startup company with no intention of providing any reward for his/her investors. (To this day I fail to realize why these hucksters are not guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, and/or conspiracy to commit fraud.) But there is one thing that I should repeat from my previous post about the way that Kickstarter works for investors:

"Participation on Kickstarter is simple: you pick a project you think looks appealing, and then you choose the level of your pledge to help bring that project to life. Depending on how much you give, you generally get something in return - which is typically the completed product before it is released to market."

Having said that, here are the details for another situation that took place recently. A few years ago I pledged to a campaign that was seeking to create a new type of mirror for bicyclists (see Sehen for the details). As an avid cyclist who has nearly been killed on several occasions by careless motorists, I was intrigued by this company's mirror design. In the interests of full disclosure - I received my "backer reward" a long time ago, and I must admit - the Sehen mirror was a much better design than other mirrors that I had tried. However, I received my reward so long ago that I thought the campaign had ended successfully, and I wasn't aware that I was one of the minority of investors who received a reward.

With that in mind, I was somewhat shocked when I saw the following video on YouTube from Arkady Borys, who founded the startup company that created the cycling mirror.

Despite the fact that Arkady's video was the most-detailed explanation that I have seen for any Kickstarter campaign of where the money went and what went wrong, several of his backers were still screaming for "refunds" and calling this a "scam." With that in mind, I wanted to offer some additional perspectives about what it means to back a Kickstarter campaign.

As I have explained elsewhere, Kickstarter is not a product catalog - it is a business investment. When you are pledging for a campaign, you are not buying a product - you are investing in a startup company that is attempting to bring a new product to market. Each startup offers several rewards to their backers/investors, with the understanding that each backer/investor will receive their rewards ONLY if the company succeeds. When backers submit pledges for a campaign, they agree in the terms and conditions that they might not receive a backer reward if the company fails, and if so - the manufacturer is only required to provide an explanation of what happened.

Think of it this way: let's say that you were walking by a new restaurant that was still being built, and you decided to stop by for a few minutes and give the new owners $50 to help them get started after they promised that they would try to serve you a free lunch some day in the future. However, their business folded before they could make good on their promise, and they sent you a text message to let you know why they wouldn't be able to honor their part of the deal. That sort of situation would essentially be the same thing as backing a Kickstarter campaign for a legitimate startup company that fails to bring their product to market despite their best efforts.

In the specific case of the Sehen campaign, backers weren't buying a product from Arkady; backers were helping Arkady launch a company. He tried, and he failed. Unfortunately, that happens every day with small startups.

For what it's worth, I have invested in several Kickstarter campaigns, and a few haven't come to fruition - that happens from time to time. In a few of those situations, the startup provided some sort of cheesy "We ran out of money" explanation, and that's all that the backers will ever see of their investment. On the contrary, the explanation that Arkady provided in his video was extremely detailed, and he takes full ownership for every bad decision that he made. In addition, he provides a great deal of behind the scenes information about the percentages of funds that were absorbed by Kickstarter and the other companies that were involved with launching in his campaign; that information was extremely useful for me to consider when I am deciding whether to back other campaigns in the future. Arkady's backers should be thankful that he took the time to provide them with as much information as he did, because it was far more information than he was required to give, and his video was a great deal more informative than other failed campaigns.

As I read the comments that were posted to Kickstarter after Arkady posted his video to YouTube, there were a few backers who were demanding that Arkady should refund any pledge funds that weren't used. Those people obviously didn't pay attention to the video; Arkady very clearly explained that 50% of the pledge funds were consumed by companies that were associated with launching the campaign (think of those as startup fees). After Kickstarter and the other campaign-related companies took their cuts, Arkady's company was given the remaining 50%, which was quickly spent on production costs for the product. Once Arkady's company ran out of money, they took a loan to keep going. Then another loan. Then another loan. In the end, there were was no money left to return to investors; all of the pledge money was spent a long time ago. With that in mind, my advice to backers who are still demanding that any unspent funds be returned to investors would be for them to spend 30 minutes of their time to watch Arkady's video and pay close attention to the details that he provides, because he explains everything.

In closing, I truly feel sorry for any backers/investors who did nor receive their rewards; and I don't mean to sound patronizing since I received mine. However, I think Arkady went above and beyond with regard to letting his backers/investors know exactly why they may never receive their rewards. It is unfortunate that this situation happened, but that is one of the risks that backers must be willing to take when investing in a startup business, and the losses that Arkady encountered are part of the risks that entrepreneurs must be willing to take when starting a new business.


POSTSCRIPT:

There is a sad epilogue to the story that that I told in my original Downside of Kickstarter post: after all of the public outcry that took place in the wake of that scam, it appears that the person who was behind the fraud, Brent Morgan, took his life. That news was extremely sad for me to hear. I will admit, I wanted "justice," but only in the sense that I wanted Mr. Morgan to face criminal charges in a court of law for defrauding his investors. However, it appears that his guilt was overwhelming for him, and I truly feel sorry for his family.

Flight Simulator 2020: First Impressions

I've been a fan of Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) since it was first introduced. (Or even earlier if you count SubLogic Flight Simulator that preceded it.) I have owned every version of MSFS, and I usually rushed out to buy each version when it hit the stores.

flight-simulator-box-shots-mosaic

I would have to say, though, that my favorite version had been Flight Simulator X (FSX), which was released in 2006 - the levels of detail and realism were amazing. Unfortunately, FSX was the final version of MSFS. Microsoft chose to unceremoniously kill off MSFS in 2009, and like every other MSFS fanboy, I was quite upset to see it fade into the sunset. There were a few failed attempts to breathe life into the franchise via Microsoft's Flight and Steam's rerelease of Flight Simulator for their gaming platform, but each offering fell far short of the goal.

fsx-box

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I heard the news that Microsoft was reviving the series with Flight Simulator 2020, which promised unbelievable video quality and unparalleled realism. As I had done with every previous version of MSFS, I bought FS2020 on the day of its release and installed it immediately. As soon as the installation was done, I launched the application to see - nothing. MSFS displayed a message to inform me that my GeForce 9800 GTX video card was not powerful enough to run FS2020.

This was disappointing, to say the least, but I wasn't too worried - because I had already purchased an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 video adapter for my computer. However, I had too many tasks competing for my limited time, so I had to delay the installation of my new video card. That being said - today was the day! I powered down my system, swapped out the old video card for the new card, and rebooted. As soon as the operating system was up and running, I launched FS2020 and was excited to see - nothing. Well, not exactly nothing; what I saw were two error messages:

msfs2020-connection-lost-please-ensure-you-have-an-internet-connection
Connection Lost - Please ensure you have an active internet
connection, and check the forums for additional information.

-and-

msfs2020-access-to-the-content-servers-is-unavailable
Access to the content servers is currently unavailable. Please
ensure you have an active internet connection, and try again later.
Please visit https://flightsimulator.zendesk.com/ for additional information.

Unfortunately, those error messages sent me into an endless loop that always resulted in my seeing these same messages again and again; and since there was no other way to exit the application, I had to hard kill FS2020 using the Windows Task Manager. I followed the advice from the error messages and I checked the forums, where I found the following two threads that described my exact situation:

I tried everything that was suggested in both of those threads (as well as suggestions from several other forum threads and blog posts), but so far - no luck. I still have yet to see anything from MSFS2020, but I'll keep looking.

Annoyed

With that in mind, here are my first impressions of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020:

  • Game Experience = I have no idea. I have yet to see the actual game.
  • Installation Experience = terrible. The minimum requirements are excessive, and when an end user can't get a game to run as soon as they're done installing it, that's a catastrophic failure for which the game designer is solely responsible.
  • Troubleshooting Experience = terrible. End users are pretty much on their own when something fails. Microsoft's single troubleshooting recommendation is for users to check the forums, which is way below par for a major software product from a major software company.

On a related side note, I installed MSFS2020 using the Microsoft Store application for Windows 10. That app is relatively easy to use, but it could be a lot better in my opinion; I often find myself highly annoyed at how difficult it is to find apps that I know have been released and install them.

More 511th History: Memories of Border Duty on a Cold Winter's Day

I have a lot of interesting memories from my days on border duty during the waning days of the Cold War. To be honest, it was a strange time to be stationed in Germany. The "Bad Guys" across the border were still poised to attack at any time, and the "Good Guys" on our side of the border were still prepared to repel them if the balloon ever went up. When I am asked to describe what it was like to serve along the East German border, I generally characterize my experiences as a giant game of "Cat and Mouse" or "Hide and Seek." We spent a lot of time trying to figure out where the bad guys were and what they were doing, and the bad guys spent a lot of time trying to figure out where we were and what we were doing.

I have also explained that my time was generally broken down as follows: 95% boring, 4% interesting, and 1% terror. I can't really talk about the 1% terror, except to say that it was the most-addictive part of the job. Although, come to think of it - I can't really talk about the 4% interesting, either. Suffice it to say that the 5% of my job that wasn't boring can't be discussed until sometime after I'm dead, so don't bother asking. Seriously.

That leaves the 95% of my time that was boring, which is mostly open for discussion.

Here's the way that we typically operated along the border: we'd get a call at zero-dark-thirty that the bad guys might be up to something, and about 30 minutes after I got the call, our vehicles would be rolling out of the gates of our post and headed toward the border to determine whether the bad guys were up to something that wasn't good. This meant that I kept all of my military gear fully loaded in the trunk of my car at all times, so when I got the call - all I had to do was throw on a uniform, jump in the car, and head off to post, where I would quickly dispatch my vehicle and pull it into place with the rest of the vehicles that were ready to deploy. It didn't matter how crappy the weather conditions were - it could be raining, snowing, or freezing - when we got the call, it was time to go. (Sometimes we would roll out to the border when the roads weren't safe enough for travel, which meant that we would have to remain on the border until the roads were safe to come home.)

East German Border in Winter

Depending on which border site we were deploying to, it might take a couple of hours to get to our location, where we would immediately set up all of the gear that was necessary to figure out what the bad guys were up to. As soon as everything was set up and configured, we'd start doing what we were trained to do, until such time as we were able to make a good/bad decision on what the bad guys were actually doing. If you weren't the soldier who was determining what the bad guys were doing, there were a host of other activities for you to do: pulling guard duty, setting up camouflage, encircling the operations area with concertina wire, or pulling radio watch. If you weren't doing any of those things… well, we had so few people in our platoon that you were pretty much guaranteed to be doing one of those assignments.

You'll notice that I didn't mention sleep, because for the first few days of any deployment there usually wasn't a lot of sleep happening. Most deployments started out with all hands on deck, because we were trying to determine the status of the bad guys. However, after a few days things would start to calm down, and then we'd allow people to rotate on and off for sleep. (I've mentioned it elsewhere that my personal record for lack of sleep was four days... at which point I began to hallucinate.)

However, at any time we could be ordered to "jump," which meant to pack up all our gear in a hurry and rapidly deploy somewhere else along the border. Our next location might be 30 minutes away, or it might be hours away - it depended on what needed to be done. The jump order could have been because the bad guys moved somewhere else and we needed to follow them, or it could have been because the location where we were situated wasn't yielding enough results to figure out what the bad guys were doing, or it could have been because some @#$% idiot in charge decided that it would be amusing to torture his troops, or for any number of other reasons.

I'll paraphrase Alfred Lord Tennyson to sum up how I felt about my situation:

Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew.
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.

We weren't always required to jump during a border deployment; on many occasions business was good enough to stay in one place for the entire time we were working. However, there were other occasions when we would jump more than once, and I recall one especially heinous winter deployment where it seemed that we were jumping every other day. (Or perhaps we jumped every day... that deployment is kind of a blur now that I look back at it.)

I mentioned earlier that sleep was often hard to come by, and for this deployment that was especially true. It seemed that just as soon as we would get set up in a new location and start monitoring what the bad guys were doing, we would get the order to jump, and away we went. I also mentioned earlier that we had far too few people in our platoon, which had another detrimental effect on all of our jumps: we didn't have enough people for there to be a driver and assistant driver in every vehicle, which meant that I was on my own every time I climbed behind the wheel of my truck.

Let me paint a mental picture of what that was like: I hadn't had sleep in days. I was cold. I was hungry. I was tired. I missed my wife and kids. I hurt in places that I didn't know existed after hours of sitting on a seat that was made by the lowest bidder as I drove through mile after mile of snow-laden roads under overcast skies. Night and day had a way of devolving into a constant, dismal blur due to the odd hours working inside gear that had no windows to the outside world, and there was no easy way to tell if it was morning or evening due to the oppressive nature of the unyielding blockade of gray clouds that blotted out the sun. As we made our way from location to location, we often took farmroads that meandered through scores of tiny German villages and fields that were buried by snow. We soon had no earthly idea which way was north or south... our sole point of reference was that we were following the map, and the map never lied.

Since I had no one else to keep me sharp as I drove on in solitude, I had to come up with a way to keep my brain engaged - and my solution was simple: screaming. I spend a lot of time alone in the cab of my truck screaming in order to force my anatomy to kick in some adrenalin that would keep me going for another few minutes, then I'd start screaming again to repeat the process.

If all this detail sounds miserable, let me assure you - it was.

At some point during this deployment we were on the road, and as often the case - we were somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The snow had reduced traffic down to a single lane, which didn't impact our travel at all since the Germans had the good sense to stay home where it was warm. In hindsight, I'll be willing to bet most of the bad guys were lying at home in their cozy, warm beds, too. I think it was probably only our platoon that was wandering the German countryside at that hour. Nevertheless, I was exhausted, and my throat hurt from screaming - but I had to go on, because that was my job. And if I didn't do my job to the best of my ability, good people could get hurt by bad people, and so I kept driving.

East German Border in Winter

My truck was following closely behind one of our M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, and the M113's tank commander was a great guy: SPC Heggie. As miserable as I was, Heggie had it much worse. I had the relative privilege of sitting in the cab of my truck as we drove, whereas Heggie had to sit in the commander's seat of his tracked vehicle for the duration of our journey, which meant that his entire upper torso was fully exposed to the cold, winter air. He was bundled up in all his extreme cold weather gear: jacket, scarf, goggles, helmet, gloves, etc., even a facemask that was designed to stave off frostbite in arctic conditions. But despite all that cold weather gear, Heggie still had to brave the icy winds of a German winter for hours at a time. My situation may have sucked, but Heggie's situation sucked even more.

We had been driving like that for an indeterminate amount of time, when I saw Heggie turn around and look at me for a moment. At the time, I thought that he was checking to see that I was still there, and I hadn't fallen asleep and driven off the road somewhere. That thought seemed to be confirmed when Heggie turned his back on me again, but I saw him press the microphone on his helmet to his mouth, which meant that he was trying to talk to the M113 driver about something. Of course, in those conditions - with the wind and the face mask and the incredibly loud volume of driving a tracked vehicle on a road - Heggie wasn't "talking" so much as "yelling" to the driver in order to compensate for the lousy conditions.

Then I saw the strangest thing - the M113 made a quick shift to the right, then it straightened out again. This meant that the right track of the vehicle was now riding squarely on the shoulder of the road, and running over all of the white, meter-sized markers that lined the edge of the avenue. Our nicknames for these road markers were "Machts Nichts" poles, because - according to prevailing opinion - the Germans would shrug their shoulders and say, "Machts Nichts (no big deal)" if they discovered that one or two of these road markers had been destroyed. However, this wasn't one or two machts nichts poles - it was dozens of them. As the M113 drove over them, I saw pieces of white plastic and crushed wood flying up into the air behind the tracked vehicle - and I began to laugh. I laughed long and hard, as though this was the funniest thing that I had ever seen in my life. Oh, I'm sure that the depth of my reaction was due to how punchy I was with exhaustion, but still - that was just so darn funny. Words cannot express how much I enjoyed that spectacle.

After ten or twenty seconds, I watched Heggie press the microphone on his helmet to his mouth again, and the driver of the M113 quickly adjusted his course back onto the roadway. Heggie turned around in his commander's seat to look at me again, then he pulled his facemask and scarf out of the way so I could see his ear to ear grin. I exploded into laughter once more, then Heggie replaced his facemask and scarf and turned forward to face the icy winds of winter once again.

More than thirty years have passed since this brief episode unfolded on a dismal day in the middle of nowhere, but I remember it like it happened yesterday. And Heggie - he holds a special place in my thoughts of days gone by like some sort of mythic Norse hero. He made my day - and he probably kept me from crashing my vehicle due to exhaustion or the inescapable reality of my miserable circumstances.

I really needed that laugh. And you can't buy experiences like that for any amount of money.