Wearing a Mask Could Be a Lot Worse

I posted the following image to a veteran's forum with the following caption: "Whenever I hear people whining and moaning about having to wear a mask, I remember days like this, and realize why I have zero F's to give them."

Army-in-MOPP4

Believe me, there's nothing like putting on a full chemical protective suit over your regular uniform, complete with gas mask, rubber booties and gloves, and then working outside in the deserts of Fort Huachuca (in southern Arizona) to make you realize that the human body wasn't designed to work in 100+ temperatures while wearing multiple layers of non-breathable clothing.

At-Least-Youre-Not-in-MOPP4

With that in mind, I would like to reiterate to all of the people who still complain about having to wear a simple mask for 15 minutes or so while they're shopping in a supermarket: "Just Shut Up and Wear the Darn Mask." In other words, get over yourself. Think about someone else for a change. Wearing a mask is a small price to pay for keeping the people around you healthy, and things could be a lot worse.


UPDATE: As I mentioned earlier, I had originally posted the opening joke to a veteran's forum, because I thought my fellow veterans would appreciate the humor. However, shortly after I posted this information, it was removed by one of the forum's admins with no explanation. As you can see, there was nothing even remotely political in this post, so all I can assume was that one of the admins is an "anti-masker" who took offense to the suggestion that wearing a mask during a pandemic isn't that bad. Oh, well... there's nothing that I can do about that. I guess some people failed to pay attention in their grade school science classes.

More 511th History: That Time I Was a Russian Major

At some point during my tenure with the 511th MI Company, I was requested by some high-ranking US military officials to help review the readiness of 11th ACR troops. The time was in the late 1980s, and a delegation could show up at any time for a surprise inspection during the drawdown of nuclear armaments in Germany. This was important work, and our senior leadership needed to know that our troops would do the right thing when the time came. On the other hand, they also needed to know that our troops would prevent bad things from happening, too.

With that mind, I was dressed in a Soviet Major's Uniform (from the Tank Corps), assigned a Russian "translator," and I was asked to pretend to be a particularly "difficult" guest during a faux inspection.

Soviet Army Armored Corps Officer Uniform

To be more specific, these high-ranking officials asked me to try getting into all sorts of mischief in order to evaluate how the unsuspecting 11th ACR troops would react. I'm the kind of guy that you don't have to ask twice - I could get into lots of trouble rather quickly, and my victims probably would have been seriously ticked off if they ever suspected that I wasn't who my official escorts said I was.

My translator was SPC Meyers, who was a good friend of mine from the 511th. We were both passably fluent in Russian, which was more than was necessary to fool our unsuspecting victims. All of our personal conversations in Russian were about what was going on, how much fun we were having, where to go for lunch after we were done, what we should do to mess with people, etc. However, whenever I would say something in Russian, my friend would "translate" something entirely different (and often exasperating) to our hosts.

Here's an example:

Me [Saying something innocuous in Russian to my translator.]
Translator "The major would like to see inside an Abrams tank."
11th ACR dude "No, that's off limits."
Translator [Saying something innocuous in Russian to me.]
Me [Saying something innocuous in Russian, but louder and angrier.]
Translator "The major is very upset; he says that's part of his inspection duties."
11th ACR dude "I'm really sorry, and uh - can someone help me? What do I do now?"
Translator [Apologetically in Russian to me: "He'd kick our butts if he knew we were so full of crap."]
Me [Angrily in Russian: "Yeah, but this is so much fun. Still, we'd better not show our faces around here for a few weeks."]

Ah, good times.

Green Eggs and Spam

I can't speak for the Navy, Air Force, or the Marines, but the Army was cursed with some truly awful food. As you can see in the image below, I have eaten actual green eggs on more than one occasion. (And unlike the photo below, they were usually served floating in a tepid pool of disgusting water...) With that in mind, when someone posted this photo, I thought that it deserved an appropriate ode in the style of Dr. Seuss...

I used to work for Uncle Sam
But never liked Green Eggs and Spam

Not in a tank, nor in a boat
Nor in a Jeep or Gama Goat

Not on the border in Germany
Nor in the rain or snow or sea

I did not like them in Korea
They only caused bad diarrhea

They were crap in Iraq and Afghanistan
So I still don't like Green Eggs and Spam

Green-Eggs-and-Spam

Happy Treason Day 2020!

In honor of today's date - July 4th, 2020 - I posted the following meme to social media.

Happy-Treason-Day-Ungrateful-Colonials

Most people appreciated the humor as it was intended. However, to understand the funniest part about that meme, you have to study American History. And by doing so, you learn that the early American colonists REALLY WERE a bunch of ungrateful colonials.

The "Taxation Without Representation" that the American Colonists were so quick to condemn was really England asking the colonists to pick up the financial burden for their recent freedom from French rule. The King of England had recently pushed the French out of the American colonies, but the average British citizen was sick of having to foot the bill for bailing out those pesky American colonials. So the King of England shifted the financial burden of freeing the American colonies back onto the American colonists, who resented the thought of having to pay for their own freedom, so they kicked the British out of America. The King of France, still licking his wounds from France's loss to England, gave the American colonists the money to do so. However, the average French citizen resented having to foot the bill for bailing out those pesky American colonials, so they overthrew their monarchy and killed the king.

And all of this was because the American colonists were a bunch of selfish jerks.

With that in mind, I say once again: "Happy Treason Day - You Ungrateful Colonials!"

Open-mouthed smile

An Ode to SOS

I belong to a few different Veteran's forums, and recently someone mentioned that they had completed their tour of service without ever having tried the military's infamous SOS, which is an "affectionate" name for creamed ground beef over biscuits. The name is an acronym for (ahem) "Stuff on a Shingle," (although in Army parlance it's a different four-letter word instead of "stuff.")

SOS

Nevertheless, I thought that it might be fun to write a few words as an homage to one of the most-hated and yet most-loved dishes in the military cookbook. SOS may have tasted awful, but it was better than starving, and it taught me to be truly thankful for what I had.

I do not mean to sound so rude
By poking fun at Army food
But I have had their SOS
And can attest it's not the best
I've also had green eggs and ham
And a dozen types of mangled spam
I did not think those things existed
Until such time as I enlisted

My stomach now is ironclad
And can withstand when food is bad
If I sit back and reminisce
Those tasteless morsels I dismiss
Time, it seems, has helped to heal
My memories of horrid meals
Of MREs and old C-RATs
Which tasted more like stale, dried cat

The Army cooks, they tried their best
To create something we could digest
Suffice to say, we still survived
The food was bad, but we're alive
To bring my story to a close
I'd like to say before I go
That SOS may taste like crap
But it's better than a long, dirt nap

Smile

The Shrimp of my Father

Spanish is more or less the fourth language that I've learned, and recent experience has reminded me that I'm a little out of practice.

I was trying to tell my middlest daughter about Linda Ronstadt's "Canciones de mi Padre" album, but what I said was "Camarones de mi Padre."

Caramones-de-mi-Padre

While that may be amusing, it just isn't the same...

Open-mouthed smile

Happy Pi Day 2020!!!

A couple years ago I created a piece of music for "Pi Day" from the first 256 digits of Pi. I won't bother to go into the details for that experiment, save to say that I simply took the numbers from Pi and added those to a root note of a major scale and let the notes fall where they may. This was a pretty simple exercise, and I'd been kicking around an idea for a much better exercise ever since.

With that in mind, given the proximity to St. Patrick's day, I decided to create a new piece with an Irish feel.

Here's what I did for this experiment:

I chose to use a 5-note pentatonic scale instead of a 7-note major scale, and I did so because there are 10 numbers in our base 10 numbering system, and 2 x 5 = 10. With that in mind, in my first draft of this experiment, all of the notes in the piece were derived by using a pentatonic scale with a 2-octave range, and mapping the numbers 0 to 9 from the first 252 places of Pi to the 10 notes of the 2-octave scale. (I'll explain why I used 252 places of Pi later.) This first draft placed the piece within the range of an Irish Tin Whistle, and I chose the key of D Major since that's the predominant key for that instrument.

However, while I was entering the notes and listening to the playback, many of the notes were often too far apart from their surrounding notes, with very strange octave jumps, which made the whole piece sound random. With that in mind, I decided to use modulus division to cut the range in half, thereby forcing all of the notes into a 1-octave pentatonic scale. In other words, if a number from Pi was over 5, then I subtracted 5.

This change for my second draft of this experiment resulted in a much smaller scale of "D E F# A B" to work with, and the 1-octave scale fell within range of the bagpipes, so I added drones for "D A D" beneath the melody to add to the illusion of a piper playing. However, during playback with a bagpipe sample, something sounded weird: every time there were two notes of the same pitch next to each other, it sounded odd. I quickly realized that was because an Irish musician won't hold a note for two beats - they'll use ornamentation to separate the identical pitches so it doesn't sound like one continuous note.

My good friends Randy Clepper (www.randyclepper.com) and Mark Wade (www.markalanwade.com) have taught a lot of classes about Irish ornamentation. I leveraged some of the things that I learned from them, and I added "cuts" to each of the sections where there were two notes that needed to be separated. By way of explanation, a "cut" is when you play a quick grace note above the note that is in the melody line. So if you have a A followed by an A in the melody, you would play the first A of the melody, then jump up quickly and play a B before returning to the second A of the melody, making sure to land the second A of the melody on the beat where it belongs. (Depending on the instrument that you are playing, you would play a cut by playing the first A of the melody, then hit a grace note A before jumping to the grace note B, and returning to the second A of the melody. It's like a really fast triplet.) Once I added the Irish ornamentation throughout the piece, it contributed significantly to the Celtic feel.

The drum beat was another exercise in self-indulgence that was fun to do. Because this entire experiment is about math, I chose to create a "Slip Jig," because they're in a 9/8 time signature. Hardly anyone uses that time signature, but it added a lot of possibilities. The accents that I chose were based on the steps that Irish dancers would use for a Slip Jig, which are beats 1 3 4 6 7, which creates a | X - X X - X X - - | beat. Since I play bodhran, I added rolls where I might use them if I were playing in a session.

Lest I forget, the 9/8 time signature is the reason for using the first 252 places of Pi. In my previous Pi Day experiment, I used the first 256 places of Pi, because 256 is one of those golden geek numbers. Since I already had those numbers lying around, I divided 256 by the 9 from the time signature, which resulted in 28.4. I rounded that down to 28, which gave me the number of measures that I would create. So 28 measures of 9 notes each meant that I only needed 252 places for this experiment. (See? It's all so simple, isn't it?)

And last but not least, the 157 bpm tempo that I chose to use was derived from taking 314 (e.g. "3.14") and dividing by 2. ('Cause, you know - more math.)

Squirrels are Better than Birds

True story - when I lived in Seattle, I had a bird feeder hanging from a tree branch just outside my office window. But birds seldom used it, because squirrels kept raiding it. After a while, I decided that the squirrels were far more interesting than the birds, but I had to make it a challenge for them (and fun for me).

First I added one of the plastic semi-circular baffles to the feeder, which prevented the squirrels from climbing down from above. The squirrels learned to jump up from below the feeder using objects in my yard, so I moved the bird feeder a little higher, and then I watched with great amusement as the squirrels would continue to jump from the ground, but miss by a good distance. Then they would climb back up on the objects in my yard, and just stare at the feeder - as if to say, "Huh. That worked yesterday."

Then they learned that they could jump from the trunk of the tree and grab on with just one claw before crashing to the ground, but that was enough, and they resumed their raids. So I moved the feeder a little further out on the branch, and watched with great amusement as the squirrels would now fall far too short and hit the wall of my house with a dull thud. People would come in the office to talk to me and hear, "Clunk. ... Clunk. ... Clunk." They'd look at me quizzically, and I'd say, "Meh. It's just my squirrels."

After a while the squirrels learned that it wasn't going to work, so they'd climb the tree and just stare at the feeder, and I could tell that they were weighing every option available to them. Mind you, I kept refilling the feeder with store-bought squirrel food this entire time. Even though I was making life difficult for them, I was still trying to keep them well fed.

squirrel-stare-down

Eventually I noticed that the birds had returned, but by then I could not have cared less about them. Seeing birds on my feeder meant that my squirrels had been defeated, and my heart went out to them. After all, the squirrels had worked so hard for so long.

I decided to cut the squirrels a break, and I moved my feeder so that it was back in long distance jumping range for them. I never saw the birds again, but that didn't bother me at all - because almost every day from then on I saw a squirrel hanging on the feeder upside down by one claw. We'd make eye contact for a moment, and I knew they were grateful. Or annoyed. One can never be too sure with a squirrel.

General Snetkov versus Ralph Kramden

I've shared on here before about how I had been COL Abrams' translator on the DDR border when GEN Snetkov (the CDR of GSFG in the late 80s) came through. (See https://bit.ly/2PIjcD9 about that.) But something that I don't think I shared here before was how much I thought that GEN Snetkov looked like Ralph Kramden.

GEN-Snetkov-vs-Ralph-Kramden