Fantastic Myth

It has been said that King George’s diary for July 4, 1776 states, “Nothing important happened today.” If this were true, it doesn’t actually say anything about the king’s view of a few people from the colonies declaring their independence from the kingdom. We, as Americans, want this myth to be true. It would be a blow to the English while inflating our own egos. Sadly though, it is just a myth. King George never kept a diary.

That being sad, let’s pretend that it is true; let’s pretend that the king kept a diary. Would his quote really say anything about how he felt about the colonies declaring their independence? With today’s technology, an age of instant communication, writing, “nothing happened” would be an important statement. But in the year 1776, we didn’t have the ability to communicate instantly. In order for the King to be told about the declaration, the message would have to be carried by hand, on a boat, across the Atlantic Ocean. And that is something that wouldn’t happen in a day. So, if we wanted to know what the king thought about the colony’s independence, we would have to look a few weeks later into the King’s “diary.”

What this myth really states is how far we have come in two hundred plus years. Today we have the ability to pick up a phone, even one that we have on our body, and make a call anywhere in the world. Today we have the ability to type a letter and send it to anyone and know that they will have it in a few moments (unless you work for CECOM). Today we have the ability to actually see whomever we are talking to, wherever they are in the world.

So, even though the King’s diary is a myth, maybe we should continue to look at what it says. Not so much for what it says about the Kings thoughts, but for what it says about today’s ability to communicate.

Three Thing Friday

1. 4th of July – It is nice to have today off, and today’s plans are just to game with some friends, eat some food, and laugh at the cats as they hide from the loud bangs of the fireworks that my neighbors set off.

I remember when I was younger; I would be able to watch the Seaside Heights fireworks from my bedroom window. Each and every year, every Wednesday night I believe, I would be able to watch fireworks. Maybe that is why fireworks don’t excite me anymore; to me they are no big deal.  A few oohs and aahs and then it is time to move on.

I also never really got into the whole BBQ scene. I really do enjoy hanging out with my friends and eating good food, but it wasn’t something I would host. Let someone else do the cooking and cleaning, I am going to enjoy my 4th. Plus, being a vegetarian, I don’t really get to enjoy burgers and hotdogs, and I know, that’s my choice.

2. Infested – This past week, every morning when I walked into work, I have to avoid a ton of insects. I have no idea where they are coming from, but the Army’s plan is to put sticky bug-trap boxes and hope for the best. It’s actually pretty disgusting to see these sticky trap full of bug bodies, and still see bugs crawling all over the place.

I would be all for hiring a squad of bearded dragons to take care of these bugs. Bearded dragons, snakes, and even a co-workers turtle would be sufficient. Too bad iguanas are vegetarians, or I would get myself another one of those.

I have a mild case of Entomophobia, or as I prefer to call if, insectophobia. In fact, anything with more then 4 legs (excluding Octopi, Squid, and most other sea creatures) weirds me out. Because of this, I almost had a panic attack at work because of these bugs. And while I may be exaggerating a little bit, they were freaking everywhere! I would even be all for burning the place down, at least that would solve my problem.

3.  Arthur – Apparently a lot of people are amazed that a hurricane formed in the Atlantic during hurricane season. I admit, I was surprised at where it formed (off he coast of Florida), but not that one formed. I mean, it is in the name, Hurricane Season. It is almost as bad as people who live in “Tornado Alley” being surprised when a tornado strikes their area. Or people who live in the Bible belt, which happens to coincide with the exact location of tornado alley.

So, hurricane Arthur is slowly moving up the east coast, bringing rain, wind, and some wicked currents. And the next hurricane will be named Bertha.

You know that’s going to be a big hurricane.

So to everyone, enjoy your 4th.

Crossing the Border

While the World Cup has been getting the top news stories the last few weeks, a major news story has been only getting minor coverage. Over the last few weeks, our southern border has been overrun with immigrants from Central America. It has actually become a national emergency (maybe even an international emergency), but it didn’t even make breaking news. No matter which side of the political line you are on, this situation should be a concern. The problem I have is that I don’t know exactly how I feel about these immigrants.

I understand that the infrastructure in the southern states cannot handle the influx of people. These people are going to flood the hospitals, the schools, and the food banks.  And I understand, these people should have entered the country legally. We have procedures for letting people move into this country. Immigrants from Central America are processed, and released with the expectation that they will return to immigration, which of course they never do. These individuals from Central America become members of the undocumented millions already in this country. If they were Mexicans, we would deport them immediately.

However, what I don’t understand, and what most people in this country probably do not understand, is what these people go through just to get to this country. Large portions of these immigrants are underage children with no parental supervision. Not being a parent, I cannot understand what it would take to send my child away hoping that they will survive, hoping that they will get a better life. I cannot even imagine sending my cats to a different state, and these parents are sending their children away. These parents feel that their children have a better chance of survival if they are sent away, which should show you how bad it is in central America. And the problems in Central America are probably partially the fault of the “successful” war on drugs that we are determined to wage.

Again, I realize that these people should enter the country legally, but what ever happened to that saying, “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Maybe we should climb the Statue of Liberty and scratch it off. And would the bible thumping die-hard republicans please stop using Jesus as a crutch when you won’t even do the Christian thing and help the poor?

I also ask that the news companies get their priorities straight and report actual news. Though, that may be asking too much, since the news is going to report what gets the viewers, and apparently, we want World Cup news, even if it is a loss by the states.

Big Mac

I realize that very few people will get the reference in the title of this blog, but it is the title of an episode of M*A*S*H. In the episode, General MacArthur honors the 4077th by paying them a visit. The episode consists of the entire camp preparing for Big Mac’s visit, cleaning the camp, painting the rocks, and ending with Klinger dressed as the Statue of Liberty (not planned by the colonel).

Now, why would I blog about this? Well, in a few days the office will have the new Commanding General of CECOM paying us a visit. Now, the new CG will be paying everyone directorate a visit, so it’s not all that much of a special occasion, but it is a big deal. This will probably be the only time that the General walks through the office, and excluding random town halls, it will probably be the only time I see the general. But the office is all a flutter. People are cleaning their desks, tables, and everything else that they can get their hands on. Maybe, just maybe the office will hire someone to kill all of the bugs that have infested out locale.

Apparently the new General is very big on clean desks. (I wonder how he would react to the bugs). And since I work for the Army, I am sure that clean desks are actually a top priority. It probably shouldn’t be, but I can see commanders being worried about how clean a workers desk is. And my desk is not all that clean. It is cleaner than it has been in a long while, but it is still pretty messy. It is covered in paperwork that I am currently working on. And no, I don’t plan on spending any extra time cleaning it. I am going to continue to work as I always do. I am going to do my job to the best of my ability, and if the General does not like my somewhat messy desk, he won’t have to look at it again. Like I said, based on past experience, he will not pay another visit to my office.

I also think it would be very entertaining to show up to work on visit day, or V-day, in a Statue of Liberty costume. And as most of my friends know, I would wear it as well, I am that crazy. The problem is, very few people would get the joke. I know one or two who might, to include the director. However, I also know that unlike most of my friends, he wouldn’t laugh. The director would be pissed! Which almost makes it worthwhile.

Predictors

Throughout human history, man has tried to predict the future, and most of the predictors were frauds. The majority of the time, it is proven that when making predictions, mankind usually greatly underestimates the future. Just one example of this would be when computers were first invented, some people predicted that only the richest nations would be able to afford them, and that they would be massive machines. But I sit in my living room typing on my own personal computer. Some cell phones have more power than the computers that NASA used to send men into space. However, there are a few people who have gotten their predictions right, or at least close. When one wants to see what the future may look like, one just needs to read some science fiction. Science fiction (not science fantasy) seems to have a nasty habit of coming true. Maybe it’s because science fiction writers actually do some research, unlike FOX news reporters.

Jules Verne, for example, was actually pretty good at predicting the future in his novels. Obviously, I don’t mean 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but a few of his other stories were pretty accurate. In From the Earth to the Moon, Verne told the story of a three-man trip to the moon. Now remember, this novel was written in 1865, 100 years before the U.S. actually accomplished sending a three man team to the moon. Verne also nearly predicted where the missions would launch. He was within miles of where Apollo 11 launched in Florida. And Jules Verne even nearly got the landing site correct. Now, I cannot say that From the Earth to the Moon was 100% correct in predicting the future. Jules Verne thought that gunpowder would have been used, as he didn’t understand rocket fuel (since it didn’t exist). And in Verne’s Paris in the Twentieth Century, he predicted everyone would have TV’s, Air Conditioning, Glass Skyscrapers, and high speed trains. Not bad for a book written in 1860.

Sometimes, science fiction writes get it right; they are just off by a few years, in some cases, many years. Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek is a good example. Just look at all of our cell phones, in the 60’s they didn’t exist, but in Star Trek, everyone had their own personal communication devices. Tricorders and universal translators are being perfected now.

This history of “predicting” the future give me hope. Maybe one day we will see Arthur C. Clarke’s vision of an elevator to space (which some people in California are working on now) or his moon rail gun (which could cheaply fire supplies to outposts on the outer planets and moons). Maybe we will see Roddenberry’s transporter beams and warp engines. Maybe we will see the day when androids are among us, and have the same rights as we do.

The flip side of science fiction writers’ predictions of the future is the negative predictions. Will we end up with Clarke’s killer computers? Will we end up going to war with Alien races? Will the human race become extinct? Will androids run our lives because we cannot do it ourselves?

Not so Amusing

At some point today, a threatening note was found or reported that said a bomb would go off in the England section of Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. What have we come to that people would threaten an amusement park? Granted, even I have to admit that an amusement park would be a great target for a terrorist bombing. A large group of innocent civilians gathered together in one place that is easily accessible.

Now, no bomb was found today, which means that there is a distinct possibility that the threat was just a prank.

When the threat was reported, people were not allowed to enter or leave the park. And really, there could be worse places to be locked into. Roller coasters, junk food, and rides all over the place. I would almost consider it a good thing to be locked in the park. I mean, who could really complain? O.K., some people may have had to miss important plans, but at least today was a great day when if comes to the weather.

It is a shame that someone would place this false threat, and they may have done it just to get more time in the park. Or maybe they made the threat to get out of the park, not knowing they would be held in it. Or maybe it was a couple of teenagers thinking they were being funny. My guess would be the last one, it was probably a not very amusing prank.

Either way, it is a sad state of affairs when amusement parks are no longer safe for family entertainment. It’s the prices that are supposed to be killing us, not bombs.

Memories

Early yesterday morning, I had to rearrange some of my warhammer models that were sitting in the garage. In order to get to the ones I needed, I had to move one tray of 38 plastic bugs, and I placed them on top of my car. Once I got what I needed, I went back into my house. About an hour later I left to go out to BJ’s and PetSmart to get some much needed shopping done. As you probably noticed, which I didn’t until I got back home an hour later, I never removed tray. When I finally got back home, there were 38 models all over the road, and the foam tray that they were in.

I cannot tell you how many cars ran over the models, but I can guarantee that at least one MINI Cooper ran them over. It does make me chuckle a little thinking about a plastic bug stuck in the Cooper’s tires. At least I can say that the now flattened models were not my completely finished models.

And this incident concerns me. My memory was never the greatest. I used to even joke that I have the memory of a goldfish. Once I get to one side of the tank, I forgot why I swam there. I know everyone has experienced the moment when you walk into a room and forgot why you walked there. And looking at some of my family history, I know I should be concerned. My father has forgotten some very important things. And do NOT ask my mom how long it took me to remember what her birthday is.

I know these memory issues are not due to the alcoholic beverages I consume, because I had these issues long before I was legally drinking, even before I was illegally drinking. Well, at least I don’t think they are. I will admit that some memories were lost thanks to some heavy nights of drinking with friends.

So, yesterday’s memory lapse cost me $100. And, it may just be that I forgot that I placed the tray on top of the car. It may mean nothing. But, with the family history I have, this is something I have to keep an eye on.

In fact, my memory is so bad, I may have even blogged this before. But I can’t remember.

Three Thing Friday

1. World Cup – So, the American team managed to advance with a loss. And you know what? I could not possibly care any less. The fact that the U.S. managed to advance should not be headline news. Four major court decisions were handed down by the Supreme Court, one that has a direct impact on the right to one’s right to privacy. There is a major Ebola outbreak in Africa, one that is so bad that even the World Health Organization has stepped up and taken notice. The IRS is being investigated over their excessive use of power. And what is the breaking news? A sports team made it to the next round, with a loss!

Now, granted I don’t agree with that crazy Ann Coulter when she said that American’s interest in the world cup is the sign of our morale decay (even if she was joking, which I doubt, she just said it to get more attention). The World Cup shouldn’t be breaking news on anything other than sports channels.

2. Rough Week – It was a rough week for my family. As I have stated before, they are currently living in my rental property in Beachwood until their Seaside Park house is re built. Well, apparently my mailbox decided to jump out in front of my mom and she hit it with the car. Next, a local skunk decided to use the A.C. unit in my parent’s bedroom for target practice. I can’t imagine the smell that leaked through the vents. And then, to top it all off, one of the neighbors backed into my mom’s car. The only good news that they got was that their house in seaside is finally being framed.

With the house finally being framed, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. These houseguests may finally be able to go home, and my house can finally go back onto the market.

3.  Taking the time to enjoy life – There is a gentleman I work with, who would be surprised that anyone would call him a gentleman. But this individual drives into work every day, like the rest of us daily grinders, but when this person sees a helpless turtle trying to cross the road, he will take the time to pull over and escort the hard-shelled friend to its expected goal. How many of us would stop to save a turtle? So far this year he is has saved five turtles. And knowing him, even if he was running late, speeding to work, he would take the time to save a turtle.

I have to say, I respect that. Someone who can take that time to help a defenseless and slow creature deserves respect. He won’t swerve for a squirrel; those damn things are fast enough to get out of the way of an oncoming vehicle themselves. A turtle, however, just doesn’t have the legs for it.

The High Court

It is not common for a case to go in front of the Supreme Court and have a unanimous decision come out of the court system. However, that happened today. The court handed down an interesting decision today; the Supreme Court ruled that police do not have the right to view your cell phone history after stopping you. Officers on a stop need to obtain a warrant in order to search your cell phone.

To quote the ruling:

“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” the ruling said. “Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”

I really do agree with this ruling, and it’s not like there was any descent among the judges (I am still amazed by that). I do know of a few people who do not support or agree with the ruling, they think that if you have nothing to hide, a search of your cell phone history will not reveal anything that can convict you.

However, the constitution protects you from illegal searches and seizures. This is the constitutional right of every American, not just certain law abiding Americans.  Yes, some criminals will benefit from this, but the ruling protects everyone from an overpowered government.

I am very interested to see how this affects NJ’s law. NJ passed a law (or is passing a law) stating that police officer can search cell phones during a stop. They passed it so officers can prove if a driver was on the cell phone or texting while driving. Now, with this ruling, I believe that the new law is unconstitutional.

I can’t wait for the first lawsuit to stem from this new law and ruling. And I know my father and I will disagree on this ruling, in fact, we’ll probably argue about it. And I know that the argument will become heated.

That’s what you get when you argue with an ex-cop.

Center of Excellence

When I started this job, almost eleven years ago, CECOM took pride in the fact that it was the center of excellence. Everyone took pride in the work being done, including management. With two wars going on, spending in the DoD was accordingly high.

However, now that the wars have ended (well, mostly), funding has been significantly cut. Management is now forced to manage to the dollar, not to the quality of the programs. I understand that management has limitations, and they have to work within those limitations. They don’t have the leeway that they used to when it comes to funding programs. Sure, there were always unfunded programs, but now there are a lot more of them. I get that, I really do. But the sad part is that now we are sacrificing quality for lower costs. Now, this is not uncommon, the government has a history of going to the lowest bidders (just one look at the buildings I work in shows you the “benefits” of lowest bidder), so I know I shouldn’t be all that surprised.

But with the budget cuts, we have moved into a situation of working as a Center of Good Enough. As long as the system is good enough, it doesn’t need to be excellent. It’s good enough for government work. Management doesn’t even seem to try. The dollar is the most important thing.

I guess there is nothing to do but work within the limitations. If a system that you use does 99% of what you need it to do, but there is a system that does 10% of what you need, for 20% of the cost, you may have to settle for the 10% and hope that it is enough.

So, the Center of Excellence is becoming the Center of Good Enough… or, as one coworker called it, the Center of Meh.