What I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Unless you've been deployed to a forgotten, backwoods, nowhere of a hell hole and one of these packages is your Thanksgiving meal, you may not realize how truly thankful you should be for the things that you have.

MRE-Turkey-Loaf-and-Diced-Turkey-With-Gravy

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all my comrades in arms (and their families) who are deployed far from home and their loved ones, and keeping the peace so that others might be able to spend time with their families.

My Halloween Zombie Story

Here's a story from my distant past for your Halloween amusement...

Back in our High School days, my good friend James and I loved horror movies – the scarier or the gorier the better. On weekends, we loved to host horror movie marathons at James' house in the Tucson foothills, where it was nice and dark after hours, and his parents were cool enough to let the two of us invite over a bunch of friends to participate in our fright fests.

On one such occasion, several people were on their way as dusk was beginning to fall, and one of the people we were expecting was Carrie, who was a friend of ours from Drama class. Since zombies had been the theme of choice on multiple occasions, we hatched an evil plan to play a prank in that genre on Carrie. James and I had a few gallons of stage blood lying around, as one does, and I suggested that we rip up the front of one of James' shirts so it looked like it was torn open by a zombie, then cover his chest with cold cut meats that matched his skin color as best as possible, then drown everything in stage blood while James was lying in the middle of the street. We quickly set everything up in front of his house, then we waited for Carrie's car to turn down his street.

After a few minutes a car was headed our way, and I sat in the street next to James as I began to slowly rip pieces of flesh off James' chest and eat them, with copious amounts of stage blood dripping down my face. The car came to a halt next to our macabre spectacle, and when the occupants rolled down the window, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t Carrie – it was the parents who lived next door to James. They looked at me with a genuine amount of fear and asked, "Is he okay?," to which I replied with the first thing that popped into my head, "He's delicious."

 Open-mouthed smile

James' neighbors quickly drove away, and by some miracle they didn't call the cops on us. Carrie arrived a few minutes later, and we repeated the whole scene for her benefit, with the expected results. I believe her words – or at least her thoughts – were along the lines of: "The two of you are not right in the head." (It's quite possible that she still holds that opinion of us.)

 

PS - I should mention that James' neighbors never asked him to babysit again.

The Unfortunate Demise of the Basic Training Shark Attack

Earlier today, one of my fellow veterans shared the following video from Business Insider about the United States Army Infantry School’s decision to no longer conduct the unofficial ritual known as the Shark Attack during basic training. By way of definition, the Shark Attack has traditionally been the first experience that new recruits have in Basic Training, when Drill Sergeants descend on raw recruits and scream at them until they begin to understand who’s in charge.

 

Despite CSM Fortenberry’s comments in that video, the Shark Attack totally has it's place in today's Army, and the idiots who don't think so are... well, IDIOTS. The purpose of the Shark Attack is to mentally separate recruits from civilian life, and nothing does that better than having a Drill Sergeant screaming in your face. The Shark Attack also instills a sense of fear at the outset of training, which is absolutely necessary for some new recruits to create a foundation for discipline where they'll listen to their Drill Sergeant’s orders for the rest of their training. If you take away the Shark Attack, you take away one of the best tools for teaching recruits that their lives – as they knew them – are over. (For the next few weeks, anyway.)

Personally, I hate, hate, HATE the "kindler, gentler Army" approach that today's military leaders are trying to create. Combat is neither "kind" nor "gentle," and taking away the rough edges from military training creates soldiers who are ill-equipped to deal with the mental pressures that soldiers will experience after they leave training. It doesn’t matter if new recruits are volunteers or draftees – soldiers need to be tough enough to endure the rigors of combat life, and the Army is doing their soldiers a great injustice if they fail to prepare recruits for their new lives.

Quite frankly, this entire discussion is just one of many ways where the people who are "in charge" of the Army simply do not "get it" with regard to how the actual day-to-day business of the military is conducted.

I'm so glad I got out before this toxic cancer of stupidity infected the Army.

I’m a Russian Language n00b

After graduating the Defense Language Institute (DLIFLC), then three years working a live mission, and then graduating the Foreign Language Training Center Europe (FLTCE), I was asked to provide real-time translations from English into Russian for church services for political refugees in West Germany who had defected from the East.

I thought that I was pretty darn good with the live mission vocabulary, but my self-confidence in the language completely evaporated when I realized that I knew absolutely zero of church-related vocabulary in Russian. For instance, I didn't know basic verbs like "pray" or "baptize," or basic nouns like "angel," "salvation," "altar," etc. I didn’t even know the name of books in the Bible like "Римлянам," "Второзаконие," "Деяния," etc.

Yup - I quickly realized that when it came to church vocabulary, I was a totally worthless n00b.

The Day I was a Sports Legend

Back in my early days as a Technical Support Engineer at Microsoft, my boss had a dartboard outside her office, and several of our fellow team members would play darts on their breaks. I suck at darts, so I never joined them.

One day I happened to be walking by, and one of the guys asked, "Why don't you ever play with us?" I replied, "You wanna see why?," then I grabbed one of the darts and threw it with barely a look in the direction of the dartboard.

I fully expected to miss the board by several feet, and thereby demonstrate to everyone my complete lack of skills. However, by some miracle the dart landed dead center in the bull's-eye. Rather than show everyone my expression of dumbfounded surprise, I quickly collected myself, then I turned to the people gathered around and asked with a feigned air of superiority, "Do you REALLY want a piece of me?"

Then I walked off, leaving my stunned coworkers in awe while I basked in the glow of a victory that I could never have achieved if I had tried, and like any great athlete - I left the sport at the top of my game.

bullseye

A Fool and His Money

PT Barnum is famously quoted as having coined the phrase, "There's a sucker born every minute." While the attribution may not be verifiable, it is nevertheless a true statement, and never more so than in the world of "Modern Art."

While I understand that "art is in the eye of the beholder," I have made the assertion several times over the years that much of what passes for "art" these days is nothing more than a clever con job by fast-talking hucksters of today's Imperial New Clothes.

Never more has than been true than in the following article, wherein an "artist" convinced some hapless dolt to part with $18,300 for... absolutely nothing:

An Italian Artist Auctioned Off an 'Invisible Sculpture' for $18,300. It's Made Literally of Nothing

Proverbs 21:20 tells us that "A fool and his money are soon parted," and the above article is a perfect example of that simple statement's self-evident truth.

I am clearly in the wrong line of work.

Transcribing Girlfriend in a Coma by The Smiths

It's been a while since I posted a transcription, so I though that I'd share something that I transcribed a while ago but never got around to posting on my website. With that in mind, today's offering is one of my favorites from back in the 1980s: "Girlfriend in a Coma" by The Smiths. I'll admit, the topic sounds a little creepy, but it's a catchy song that I've loved ever since I first heard it. To be honest, The Smiths released a lot of music in a genre that a friend of mine collectively labeled as "Depression Pop." If you listened to enough of The Smiths' albums, you'd swear that nothing ever goes right for their singer, Morrissey. (Seriously. It's like listening to Eeyore sing.)

One of my favorite guitarists is Johnny Marr, who was the driving force behind The Smiths' unique sound. Marr has a great way of creating layered textures with his guitar sound that is very reminiscent of another favorite guitarist, Matt Slocum. (I might say more about Matt in a post at some other time, but today is all about Marr.)

Without further ado, here's my transcription of "Girlfriend in a Coma."

Here are my notes about this transcription:

  • Probably the biggest omission from my transcription are some really cool volume swells that Marr added as layers to the piece. Those would have been easy to add to the transcription, but I just didn't feel like it.
  • I didn't spend a lot of time trying to dial in the synth sound on the choruses; I'm pretty sure the notes are fairly accurate, but as always - I spent far more time trying to get the guitar parts to sound correct.

As always, this is a free transcription. So if you're upset that I left something out, then it sucks to be you.

NOTE: See https://youtu.be/3GhoWZ5qTwI for the official video for this song.

Foreign Responses to the United States’ Withdrawal from Afghanistan

It is interesting to see what our allies across the Atlantic think of the United States' recent handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The following quotes are from the article British Parliament Unloads On Biden: Biden May Have Condemned The World To Chinese Domination In Future; although, to be clear, these quotes are from the British House of Lords, so one should take the source of these quotes into account when considering their worth.

Lord Dannatt: "First, notwithstanding his attempted explanation on Monday, the manner and timing of the Afghan collapse is the direct result of President Biden's decision to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. At a stroke, he has undermined the patient and painstaking work of the last five, 10, 15 years to build up governance in Afghanistan, develop its economy, transform its civil society and build up its security forces. The people had a glimpse of a better life, but that has been torn away. With US forces withdrawing, other NATO allies, including ourselves, had no option but to leave too, denying the Afghan national army the technical and training support that it needed and the moral support of friends who encouraged them to take the fight to the Taliban. Until a few weeks ago, the Taliban was being contained and may even have been persuaded over time that a military victory was impossible and a negotiated settlement was the better course. Those possibilities are now a closed chapter of history, an opportunity lost, and the world's western superpower is looking enfeebled. The only glimmer of hope today is that the Taliban of 2021 is not the Taliban of 2001."

Lord Howard of Lympne: "The responsibility for the decision to withdraw rests with President Biden. Up to now, many of us have been rather impressed with the president's performance in his first few months in office, although that may in large part be due to the relief at the absence of his unlamented predecessor. But I am afraid that President Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan is, and will be seen by history as, a catastrophic mistake which may well prove to be the defining legacy of his presidency."

Lord Robathan: "...we should not underestimate the disaster and humiliation that this has been. It is on a par with the first Afghan campaign, which humiliated the East India Company and then the British Empire when Dr Brydon returned alone from Elphinstone's army. This is a humiliation of the West, of NATO, of us, of course, but especially of the US - which, apparently, leads the free world, or so we are told. President Biden said that 'America is back'. Robert Gates, Defense Secretary to the Administrations of both George W Bush and Barack Obama, said in his memoirs that Biden had been on the wrong side of every national security issue of the past 20 years. I agree very much with what my noble friend Lord Hammond - who I worked under as Minister for the Armed Forces - said on this point. The humiliation and disaster of the West is appalling. The West is seen as an unreliable ally."

Lord Ricketts: Confidence in NATO has been damaged. China is the main beneficiary of President Biden's decision. 'America is back' now sounds rather hollow - 'America is backing down' fits the case better. The British priority must be to address the damage done to NATO, to rebuild effective political consultations within NATO, and to focus on European security and the risk of Islamic terrorism in Europe. Rather than tilting to the Indo-Pacific, that is where the UK needs to put its national security energies."

Lord Stirrup: " President Biden has suggested that the Afghans are not prepared to fight for their own country. But this ignores two facts. The first is the very large number of Afghan security forces personnel who have been killed on operations over the past two decades, and the second is that Afghan society has always placed much greater importance on loyalty to family, village and clan than to a central Government. In such a society, a military force modelled on the US army could never, in the short term, endure without the logistical, technical and moral support of the US armed forces. ... President Biden purportedly wishes to withdraw from Afghanistan in order to concentrate on China. Yet his actions have immediately benefited China on several fronts. China is increasingly engaged commercially in Afghanistan and has been negotiating with the Taliban. Taken together with Pakistan's increasing reliance on China, this creates a disturbing nexus of power in the region. Even more important is the perception of other countries. If the western powers are to resist China's assault on the current rules - based international order, they will require strong political, economic and technological allies in the Indo-Pacific region. Who now, though, will be prepared to throw in their lot with a US-led effort, when that country's leadership has proved such a fickle friend to Afghanistan? Perhaps the Minister can say what the implications are for the UK's own tilt to the Indo-Pacific, which was such a prominent feature of the recent integrated review."

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: "It is very hard to overestimate the scale of the catastrophe following the Biden Administration's disastrous implementation of the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. ... It was utterly disingenuous for President Biden to present the Afghans as unwilling to fight for their country, after having withdrawn vital US support services without an agreed ceasefire, precipitating the collapse of the Afghan state."

Lord Blencathra: "My Lords, all my life I have been pro-American and favourably disposed to the United States, but not any more at this moment. What Biden has done in Afghanistan will go down in ignominy as one of the most shameful and despicable acts of betrayal by any American President. Tens of thousands of men will be slaughtered, thousands of young girls forced to marry these Taliban brutes and 14 million women driven back into slavery. Afghanistan was emerging into the light with freedoms for women and children, who will now be ruled with 500 year-old barbaric religious laws. That is Biden's legacy. He cannot blame it on Trump; Biden boasted that in his first 100 days he issued a record 24 executive orders, all of which were direct reversals of Trump policies. He should have listened to his generals and changed this policy also. This is not like Saigon; it is far worse. First, the retaliation against the population by Islamist fanatics is likely to be far greater than what the North Vietnamese did to the beaten south. Secondly, the appalling humanitarian crisis described in this House today will centre on Afghanistan but the terrorist consequences of this US sell-out will affect us all. The Viet Cong had no agenda outside Vietnam but Afghanistan is now under the control of Islamist fanatics who want to wage war on every western democracy. ... Biden has put America back, all right - back into the bunker. The lesson for China is this: play a long game and America will not have the stomach to stick it out. China is a threat to world peace, but how can we now trust the US to lead the long battle against it? Biden may have condemned the world to Chinese domination in future and the end of western liberal democracy."

Lord Anderson of Swansea: "What is the Government's best analysis of the reasons for the rapid defeat? What are the geopolitical consequences of that defeat? President Biden, alas, will be diminished, certainly abroad. Do the Government see any danger of the US retreating into a new isolationism, abandoning the aspirations of nation building, spreading democracy and human rights, and a corresponding loss of trust in the US?"

Lord Dodds of Duncairn: "President Biden's speech the other day, blaming everyone and everything except his Administration's precipitative pull-out, was truly awful. ... I fear that the US decision to pull out in the way that it has will have dire consequences. It sends a message to the terrorists and rogue states that the West can be defeated. It sends a message to our friends that, at the end of the day, they can be abandoned. It sends a message to those who want to live in freedom and with human rights guaranteed, especially the women and girls of Afghanistan, that we cannot be relied upon."

Lord Touhig: "By withdrawing US troops, not only has President Biden destroyed the hopes of people in a fledgling democracy but he has made the world less safe. If ever there was a country that knows how dangerous a less safe world can be, it is the United States. That is even more so now, as we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Here in Britain, we too know how a less safe world takes the lives of men and women on our streets, of children and young people at a Manchester concert and of a brave police officer guarding this Parliament. Britain fell into line behind President Biden. In doing so, our Government have increased the risk of terrorism globally."

Lord McColl of Dulwich: "Although President Biden has tried to shift the blame on to President Trump, that simply does not work. President Biden had the power to stop the withdrawal of the troops but failed to do so. To be fair, this situation may not be easy for President Biden to deal with because he does not seem to me to be in good health. There are many examples of the disease of a national leader having a disastrous effect on a country, a continent or even the world."

Lord Bruce of Bennachie: "For President Biden to say that the collapse of the Government and the defence capability was the Afghans' fault is truly sickening. With limited allied troops and strategic air cover, the country was functioning, if imperfectly. The rapid withdrawal demoralised the domestic forces, who were often deployed far from home with no protection or support for their families against the Taliban, so it is hardly surprising that they chose not to fight. Now the cost of failure could outweigh by many times the cost of maintaining a minimal presence."

Lord Godson: "The role of the United States has been central to this and the Biden Administration have been rightly criticised, I think unanimously - as least, I have not heard any speaker defend their decision here today. It is a uniquely personal decision of this President ... However, the Biden Administration are not the totality of America. Through much of my political life, having been born an American citizen, I have noted many pessimistic predictions for the US after previous debacles, although perhaps none quite as serious as this, which rolls in many of the features of past debacles into one fell swoop. ... But because the Biden Administration are not the totality of the United States and its polity, America has an enormous resilience and ability to bounce back, to reappraise, regather and regroup."

Memories of Better Days Gone By

Facebook just reminded me that two years ago - before the pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe and killed 4.5 million people, before the domestic rioting and burning of our cities, before the collective meltdown of all mainstream news outlets into the primary sources of worthless and biased drivel, before the woke apologists began their Orwellian campaign of rewriting history and manipulating the English language in order to foster division between the classes, and before the second humiliating defeat of our armed forces at the hands of career politicians who have no idea how to fight/win a war - I was standing on a mountain in the Alps, looking across the glaciers and valleys at the Matterhorn. There are some days when I need to be reminded that there is beauty in this world that is worth seeing, and activities that bring you joy that are worth doing.

matterhorn-memory