Monday, December 31, 2007

Last post, 2007

Well, 2007 certainly hasn't been a great year for blogging here at A Healthy Alternative to Work. But it's been a pretty eventful one for me, personally.

Here's a partial list of Big Things that have happened this year:

- Turned 27, was reminded of creeping mortality
- Won first place for commentary in the Army's Keith L. Ware journalism competition
- Finished my enlistment in the Army, joined New York National Guard
- Moved home to Cortland, New York, after five years of sojourning the wilds of South Korea and Kentucky
- Hung around doing pretty much nothing for a few months
- Was hired at the local newspaper as police beat reporter

Later today, I'm going to be driving down to D.C. to attend Scythian's New Year's Eve bash, "A Mad, Mad Masquerade." They're throwing it in the historic Carnegie Library, and everyone will be dressed to the nines and wearing masks. I need to find one of those, come to think of it. Anyone know where to find a Zorro mask on December 31?

Anyway, I'd promise to do a write up of the party later for this blog, but every time I do something like that, I never follow through. So maybe there'll be something -- but there probably won't. Check back here in three weeks or something.

In the meantime, enjoy your New Year's plans.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Mike Huckabee loves the baby Jesus

Mike Huckabee says that the reason we have so much government is because there's too much sin in our country. And that's because as a country, we've turned away from The Savior.

It doesn't bother me when someone proclaims things like this on the nightly "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" variety show called "The 700 Club." But Huckabee is vying for the Republican presidential nomination, and is already a state governor.

Just like the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are wont to do, Huckabee has used tragedy (his being the recent mass shootings) as a springboard to advance his ignorance of the first amendment and the establishment clause:

"Government knows it does not have the answer, but it's arrogant and acts as though it does," Huckabee said. "Church does have the answer but will cowardly deny that it does and wonder when the world will be changed."
Again, I don't have a problem with Huckabee's personal beliefs. He's free to believe (at least for the time being) whatever he wants. He probably nodded assent when Robertson and Falwell blamed Sept. 11 on feminists and lesbians. But what's scary is that he's proudly trumpeting these beliefs while on the campaign trail, which seems to indicate that he's got an audience eager to hear him -- an audience of people who really don't think there should be any separation of Church and State. These are people who have no idea what religious freedom means.

But they'll vote. And this is how they'll vote: "I believe in Jesus. Mike Huckabee believes in Jesus. I'm voting for Mike Huckabee!"

This is not a mentality that's worked well, historically.


Friday, December 07, 2007

My problems with religion

Growing up, Catholicism was a very important part of my life, and I think I'm right in thinking that faith had a very influential hand in my development into who I am now.

However, over the last couple years, I've done a lot of thinking about it, and I've fallen away from belief. This hasn't been borne out of a convenience or distaste for attending Mass -- it's more based on some very deep and important questions that I believe are left unanswered by Catholicism in particular and religion in general.

These questions might be better termed catastrophic philosophical errors -- because in a few cases, they are mutually exclusive postulations that are both required to be true in order for religion (particularly Christianity) to have any merit whatsoever. So here we go with two I feel are most important and foundational:

I: The Concept of Original Sin and Salvation through the self-sacrifice of Christ

Christianity holds that all of man is cursed with "Original sin" due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Creation story. Since humanity is all presumably the offspring of that first couple, it is held that everyone must be sacramentally baptized in order to be cleansed of that stain and thereby gain eligibility for eternal reward.

Additionally, it is due to Jesus Christ's sacrifice of himself that my temporal sins can be forgiven.

The problem with the first idea should be readily apparent. While the ancient Jewish tribes did not believe in any real afterlife, they did believe in a sort of trans-generational karma, whereby the good or bad deeds of a man (women rarely figured into such ethical calculus) would positively or negatively affect the livelihoods of his offspring.

This belief has been discarded by Christians -- except in the case of so-called "original sin." In order to believe in original sin, one must accept the idea that one person's actions, good or bad, have a spiritual impact on his or her progeny.

By any objective ethical standard, this is ludicrous. If my father were to deliberately disobey the rules of the Church in some way, I would not be punished for his "sin." And if I were, it would not absolve him of his own culpability for it.

Similarly, it is ethically ridiculous to believe that it would require the self-sacrifice of another person (albeit the son of God in human form) to absolve me of any sins I should commit 2,000 years after the fact. Were God really inclined to A) innumerate the sins of humanity and hold them guilty for them, and B) offer absolution from the same, it would not require him to send a son to die on a cross in a middle eastern backwater in order to do so. He could simply do it.

Christianity wants to have it both ways, but can't: Either I am accountable for my actions and my actions alone, or I am not.

II: Divine Providence versus Free Will

Another perennial problem for Christianity are the mutually-exlusive postulations that 1) God is all-knowing and is aware of the past, present, and future all at once and therefore knows the outcome of all of time and that 2) man possesses free will.

This is problematic, because if someone -- including God -- knows for a fact and has seen that I am going to pick a red shirt to wear tomorrow, then when I ultimately choose that shirt, I have only made what feels like a choice to me. If the outcome has already been seen, then any choice I have in the matter is illusory.

So, either the future can be known, or I can have free will. It cannot be both.

Over and over, I've heard Christian apologists try to address this very quandary (Augustine wrestled with it in Confessions) by way of various analogies. Tonight, I heard a priest use the concept of a film strip -- as temporal beings, we can only be aware of what is happening around us immediately, in the frame of film we are currently in. God, however, can see the entire film at once, and is aware of how things will eventually unfold.

This metaphor actually serves better to underline the serious philosophical problem rather than solve it. I've seen The Godfather Part II many times, and every time, Fredo Corleone gets shot in a rowboat toward the end. Never once have I seen Michael's weak brother do a thing to change the way his fate unfolds and avoid his pathetic death on Lake Tahoe.

The point is that characters in a film reel have no choices, and if they did, it would require breaks and branches in the film. And if there were breaks and branches in a film reel, then no one could know which ending was going to result in any particular viewing -- it would depend on the choices the characters made at each branch.

So, if time is truly like a film reel, then it is true -- human beings do not possess real free will and any choices we make are illusory. If this is the case, then striving to be good is futile, since our fates are already known by an Almighty who is allegedly willing to damn us to an eternity of torture for simply following the path he so wisely set out for us. This would also make intercessory prayer ridiculous, because changing the future would be impossible if it is already known.

If this is not the case, then God does not know the future and we can't really be sure of any prophecies we've ever been provided with, since God would apparently be giving us his best guess at an outcome that even he could not yet see, since it does not yet exist.

Personally, I think the second case is more likely, but since so many people are so attached to the Bible, I doubt it'll ever gain much mass appeal.

I'm not trying to be blasphemous or to denigrate anyone for their own faith. I am well aware that people much more intelligent than I am have had very strong faiths... but I cannot be so dishonest with myself as to pretend to believe something when these seemingly deal-breaking problems exist in the faith that's been set out before me to believe.


Monday, December 03, 2007

I'm a crummy writer when I don't have deadlines

Not really a crummy writer -- just an incurable procrastinator. Without a strict deadline, I don't seem to ever get around to writing anything. Even despite my excitement over the prospect of the music piece I'm working on, it's been incredibly hard to actually sit down and write it. In fact, in stead of simply bearing down and cranking it out, I went out and bought a bunch of needless upgrades for my computer and workstation -- a new chair, more RAM, a flatscreen monitor, wireless keyboard and mouse... apparently anything in order to put off the task of actually writing.

I don't know why that is. I do know that the piece is daunting, but that's never stalled me to the point of paralysis before. I suppose part of it is the fear that whatever I come up with is going to disappoint me -- and, by extension, anyone who reads it.

There's just so many things I want to address and capture. I've taken a writing course or two in the past, and one of the first things they'll inevitably tell you (after they get the tired old saw "Good writing is re-writing" out of the way) is that you need to limit the scope of whatever you're writing to something manageable. This is very good advice when you're putting a term paper together, but I have serious doubts as to whether that was on Jack Kerouac's mind when he wrote "On The Road."

Organizing my thoughts, here are what I need to cover in the story, in no particular order other than the one they occur to me in as I write this list:

- The history of the band
- Character studies of each member and the tenant characters
- The sound of the band
- The narrative of the week I spent with them
- My own reflections on what it's like to see an old friend making it in the music business
- Various rantings about how roots music is better, and is unjustly relegated to a corner of a music business that has been hijacked by hucksters and charlatans.

Now that I look at it, that's a tidy little list (other than the prevailing vagueness that characterizes the last half). Can that be done in 15,000 or 20,000 words, and then sold to a major-market magazine?

Maybe, maybe not. It can certainly be written, and in that case, at the very least I'll have come up with something that recalls an amazing time of my own life and provides a snapshot of sorts of life as a traveling Celtic-gypsy musician.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New layout, plus Diggable posts!

"A Healthy Alternative to Work" was getting a bit clunky, and, let's face it -- outdated.

So, a healthy two years behind the power curve, I've redesigned (read: used Blogger 2.0's new, fancy software to start over) my site. I've also added a Digg button, which should appear at the top right corner of every post -- each of these buttons will submit the associated entry to, and hopefully gain fame and fortune for me on the Innernets. It should be noted here that I did not come up with the code for this button, either -- I just followed the directions of bloggers more tech-savvy than me.

In other news, check out Enough of this Palaver, a discussion blog for Adam and myself to hammer out ideas in. We're trying to figure out who the best American rock band is right now.

I'm also working on a fairly sizable freelance project at the moment -- an in-depth piece on Scythian, who I followed around for a week not long ago. I've got hours of recorded interviews and a boatload of scribbled notes, so I'm hoping to get 12,000-20,000 words out of this one. It's a turned out to be a bit of a beast in terms of organization, but I'm hoping the end result is informative, funny, deeply stirring, and poignant. And three out of four ain't bad.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Two ACLU lawyers have written a book called Administration of Torture, which purportedly draws on more than 100,000 pages of recently-released government documents (obtained by the authors after several years' worth of Freedom of Information Act requests) to paint a rather damning picture of the Bush Administration's attitude toward the use of "torture" techniques in the so-called War on Terror.

Meanwhile, American law enforcement and espionage agencies have been exercising their USA PATRIOT ACT-expanded powers to conduct what would have been anathema in ages past: spying on U.S. citizens through warrantless wiretapping and Internet monitoring -- all in the name of preventing terrorism.

These are two examples of ongoing arguments that no one will ever win.

Here's the problem: both sides on both arguments are utterly convinced of the validity of their own understanding of the issue. And neither side in either argument understands either issue in the same terms as their opponents.

I'll try to explain that a little better by using the first example. I haven't read Administration of Torture yet, but Americans have been discussing the issue of our use of "high-stress interrogation techniques" since the first photos from Abu Ghraib hit the press. Officially, the U.S. has repeatedly stated that it does not engage in torture -- but was very careful later when actually defining what constituted as torture.

Those who wish to take "a hard line" on terrorism usually are perfectly happy to allow the government to use whatever means necessary to extract information from a prisoner in the interest of preventing a terrorist attack. Few will admit to endorsing "torture," per se, but will dismiss specific techniques (such as "waterboarding" and "stress positions") as not amounting to actual torture. Furthermore, if we need to torture a few Afghans or Iraqis in order to save thousands of American lives, well, isn't that worth it?

But then there are those who (like me) believe that any kind of torture violates the very principle that supposedly gives the United States the moral high ground (or what's left of it) in fighting terrorism -- that America, as a nation, should act in a way that demonstrates a respect for human rights (that's human rights, not American citizens' rights, by the way). Torturing prisoners for any reason is morally abhorrent -- the ends do not justify the means.

On the second issue, I had an argument with my dad this evening over PATRIOT ACT wiretapping, and I discovered that we will never find a common ground on the issue, because we understand the rights of the individual versus the authority of government in fundamentally different ways. Dad thinks that citizens who live law-abiding lives have nothing to worry about, and that the trouble of securing warrants for domestic wiretapping allows critical communications between potential terrorists to go unheard.

On the other hand, I believe that it's more important for our Fourth Amendment rights (which guarantees freedom from unwarranted search and seizure) to be protected than to unleash our law enforcement agencies on the general public in order to chase down leads on terrorism unimpeded by silly "checks" and "balances." I think this is particularly important in a country that bills itself as "Home of the Free" while "exporting democracy" to other nations.

In other words, Dad is more comfortable trusting the government than I am (except, notably, in the case of health care), and I am more attached to my Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms than he is to his.

These concepts are absolute data for every argument that anyone's ever had regarding the war in Iraq and terrorism -- and you will never reach any kind of resolution to any discussion you have with someone who doesn't already agree with you on absolute data.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Twelve From The Graveyard

My buddy Adam is a newly-minted and unemployed lawyer and a lover of obscure music. He's re-entered the blogging world over at Twelve From The Graveyard, and I'm sure he's got a smug look on his face over the fact that only he knows what the title means. Go check him out.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Salemonz lives

It seems my old friend-turned-supervisor Salemonz has returned to blogging, now that he's settled into a more civilized life in the D.C. area. Check him out -- he's got a wealth of experience under his belt, including a tour in Iraq and lots of 46-Quebecking.


Republican Marketing Tactics

Since General David Petraeus returned from Iraq with his report on the progress made there by President George Bush's troop "surge," it's been remarkable to watch the language of Republican campaigns change to reflect the president's new goals -- which include a somewhat vague notion of reducing U.S. troop numbers in Iraq to pre-surge levels.

What's remarkable is that the G.O.P. has stolidly denounced any Democrat-led notion of reducing troop levels there as being tantamount to "admitting defeat," and that bringing the troops home "precipitously" would be conceding to "the enemy" we're supposedly fighting in Iraq. More polemical members of the legislature, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have either implied or stated explicitly that this would lead to us having to fight this ghostly enemy (one can safely assume he means al Qaeda) here at home. Vice President Dick Cheney referred to al Qaeda as "the enemy we may face" in a speech Friday in Grand Rapids, Mich.

I heard McConnell speak to a host on NPR's All Things Considered. He said that he doesn't think it's a coincidence that we haven't witnessed another terrorist attack in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001.

Gen. Petraeus, has been a combatant commander in Iraq more than once, including a tour (as a major general) as the commander of the 101st Airborne Division. In testimony, he warned against the kind of rapid pull-out favored by vocal Democrats, but he in turn has been accused of "cooking the books" on Iraq progress in order to support the delayed timetable that the White House seems to have begrudgingly accepted as policy.

By the White House's own report card, the Iraq government is making what would be considered a failing grade at any educational institution. Out of 18 benchmarks set by the administration in July, satisfactory progress is being made in eight of them. In eight others, progress is "unsatisfactory," and the remaining two can't be evaluated yet.

While this evaluation is still less than 90 days old, it's in keeping with the Iraq government's history thus far of being incapable of governing anything. Even with the increased troop levels (now up to around 160,000 U.S. soldiers), violence remains a definitive part of life in sectarian Iraq.

It's been accepted as read that total U.S. withdrawl from the country would result in catastrophe, but now that Republicans have decided that withdrawl is indeed necessary, we're going to be treated to some amazing lingual gymnastics from the party -- the G.O.P.'s strategy for troop pull-out will be a "carefully-considered plan for reduction in troop levels, in keeping with Gen. Petraeus' recommendations, where we still support the troops and their mission," while the Democrats' desire to pull troops back will be painted as a spineless call for unconditional surrender.

Never mind that both strategies amount to the same thing -- bringing troops back from the front lines of a "war" that the American public has lost any interest or faith in.

It's clear that the Iraq government is willing to take advantage of every dollar and uniformed body the U.S. is willing to send its way -- and demonstrating independence from that aid is a good way to have it removed. It's like in any business or bureaucracy: you have to use your entire annual budget each year (or overspend), or your budget will get cut. And no one wants their budget cut, least of all a fledgling government surrounded by bloodthirsty sectarians.

But the U.S. can't afford to continue funneling money into the country without some demonstration that the treasure and lives we're spending there is actually accomplishing something. It's time to wean Iraq from the American tit.

Nothing gets a creature moving on its own like the threat of starvation. Baby tigers figure out quickly how to catch their own dinner once their mother's milk has been taken away.

Of course, there are American companies who have it in their best interest to see hostilities continue in Iraq and Afghanistan. These include former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR), which has demonstrated a level of greed and disregard for ethics I wouldn't have believed possible.

We'll see what happens, won't we?


UPDATE: I meant to mention, in regards to Gen. Petraeus, that the top of his chain of command is the president -- the Defense Department falls under the Executive Branch, and therefore Petraeus, regardless of his long and admirable record of service, is hardly an unbiased source of information. This should be considered when weighing the content of his report against accusations of pandering to the White House's goals and objectives.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Humidity is soaring here now... I don't know what the actual figure is, and I don't know how it could be more than 100 percent, but it has to be. It's not even that hot, but sitting in my room for any length of time results in my body pouring sweat. The air feels thick to breathe, and there's an oppressive closeness in the atmosphere that is impossible to escape.

So far, I've accomplished precious little since I've been home, and this god-awful humidity isn't helping at all.

Lately, my hopes of regular employment have been dashed. That's courtesy of the National Guard.

I reported to my unit, the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based on Hancock Field in Syracuse, last week. They were surprised to see me, and couldn't find hide nor hair of me in "The System" when they examined whatever strength roster that informs them of when new soldiers are due to arrive. But I produced my contract, discharge papers, and a whole sheaf of other identifying documents, and the strength NCO promised to look into the matter and contact me with further instructions.

In the meantime: "Go home, sit tight," he said.

Before I left the 27th's headquarters (which are squirreled away down a labyrinthine system of hallways and double doors, deep within the New York Guard's headquarters building), the headquarters company first sergeant got on the phone to tell me that he didn't want me at this weekend's drill, but that he did want me to show up next month -- for the annual two-week training period, to be held up north at Fort Drum.

Additionally, he said I could (and would) show up a couple days early for that, to earn the two-days' worth of active duty pay that I'll be missing this month. My job, the sergeants there in the personnel office conjectured, would probably be something like guarding weapons in the unit arms room, or helping load boxes to prepare for the brigade's impending deployment, scheduled for early next year.

It's not glamorous, but it's a small price to pay to keep the Golden Ticket I had written into my contract -- a 24-month stabilization guarantee, which means that when the 27th ships out, I'll be staying in New York and waving to the planes full of Real Soldiers as they take off for combat duty.

I'm sure I've mentioned my acute sense of cognitive dissonance at being called a "soldier" for the past several years. I've worn the uniform, qualified on rifle and PT, and carried out whatever orders I've been given by superiors. I've stood at attention and parade rest when necessary, saluted officers, and even carried unit flags or guidons when I've been required to. But the idea that "I am (or have been) a soldier" wasn't something I ever really actualized in my brain. Soldiers are people who go to war and shoot other soldiers. That was never something I was interested in, and it was never something I even came close to doing.

So when the rest of my guard unit leaves for The Sandbox (or the Theater, or the Quagmire, or whatever else you might call this current venture), I'm not going to feel as though I've shirked any responsibility or anything. I'm just a guy with a notepad and a camera who looks a little silly wearing camouflage.

What I meant to get at, before I launched off on that tangent, was that given the requirement for me to be at Fort Drum for the first few weeks of October, landing a job prior to that is basically impossible. I'm going to check in to doing some stringer work for the local paper, and maybe talk to a publisher I know up in Syracuse to see if he'd be interested in picking up another series of my columns. Having something specific to do would be a big help. As great as it sounds to have every day be Saturday, after a while you sort of lose any energy or motivation you had going in.

Also on the agenda, however, is to get enrolled in grad school. I'm planning on visiting my top choice on Monday, so we'll see how that pans out.

I've been losing weight, but very slowly, and it's not out of any effort taken on my part. That's another thing I've decided to change -- a workout regimen is a must, so I've decided to take up running again. Also, once I get back to town on Monday, I'm signing up for a kickboxing class... or something. Maybe some mixed-martial arts thing. I've never been a fighter, but I don't concentrate well during workouts, and I think having a training routine and concrete goals would help with that, too.

So yes, there are things I'm planning on getting done... things on the slate... I just have to start knocking them out.


Monday, September 03, 2007

End of a chapter

I'm home.

I've been here for about a month and as much time as I've spent on the computer (emailing, playing Texas Hold 'Em on Facebook), I haven't gotten around to finishing a post.

There's one in the queue about my departure from Fort Knox and the active Army, but it's a long, drawn-out narrative of my last couple days there and I ran out of steam. I guess I just didn't want to re-hash anything.

Besides, I've been readjusting to life as a civilian -- and, perhaps more importantly, to living back at my parents' home in central New York.

Over the past month it's been hard not to slip into the feeling that I'm back at square one -- that the past five years have served little but to age me and wear me down, and that after all that, I'm back at the same place I once departed from in the hopes of finding fame and fortune... or at least, weird adventures.

And I suppose the weird adventures part came true, but looking back over what I've written off-the-job since I was in Korea, they seem to fall flat. They weren't the kinds of adventures old men tell their grandchildren about by the fireside. And the three years spent at Fort Knox, well, they're filled more with regrets than with accomplishments.

At least that's how it seems sometimes. I've been clipping my articles out of the old Turrets I had kept in a cardboard box, scanning them into Acrobat files, and printing out copies I can send in to someone looking to hire a disaffected writer. Unfortunately, some of the ones I really liked are missing -- no doubt culled during a Keith L. Ware search at some point or another.

Or maybe I just neglected to save copies for myself. I've found that I have a hard time planning for the future, and I think it's because I have a hard time conceptualizing the idea of there being a future somewhere other than wherever I am. While I was working at the Turret, the idea of someday coming home was a fuzzy, vague notion that might as well have been a half-forgotten dream.

But here I am, and the Turret is behind me, as well as active duty military life, Kentucky, and a disastrous relationship that I can't seem to shake myself of completely. On that last count, it's not for lack of trying -- but evidently both parties involved need to agree to move on, and so far that hasn't happened. I'll leave it at that for now.

I've been filling my days with sporadic lawn care, comedy radio, and wandering the property -- looking out at the river or at how the sun lights up the leaf cover provided by the large maple and oak trees here. I've made a half-hearted attempt at a resume and caught up with the few friends who still are living in the area.

Yesterday I read through some of the blogs I wrote years ago while I was partying hard in Korea. It's striking how different a person I am now -- quieter, calmer, less prone to all-night drinking binges and screaming, and completely reversed on my political ideas about conservativism and America's newly-rediscovered Manifest Destiny mentality.

Maybe I've just gotten older, but maybe there's something else involved -- something about the loss of hope or idealism or joie de vivre or some-such abstract bullshit. When I find a diagnosis that seems to fit, I'll let you know.

For now, though, I'm content to relax and enjoy the balmy upstate weather as the summer ebbs away. There's a coolness to the air now, and even though the leaves have yet to turn, you can tell that fall is on the way. I have four months until the spring semester, and my plan is to be enrolled in a master's degree program in political science by then. I'm not quite sure where yet, but I need to get cracking on applying, since the deadlines seem to be somewhere around October 1.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Getting out

After an unnecessarily irritating final Tuesday at the paper here (the next two will be devoted to clearing and leaving active duty), I had an interesting exchange with a shoppette clerk as I was buying a six pack and a box of Camels.

She asked for my ID, which I produced.

"About time for a new one of these," she said, looking at the date -- August 27 of this year.

"About time for me to get out of the Army," I said, taking my card back.

"Oh, you're getting out?"

"Yeah --" I corrected myself. "-- Well, going to the National Guard."

"Wasn't the life you wanted, huh?" She asked, as she bagged my beer.

"It was what it needed to be, for as long as it needed to be," I said. "Now it's time for... well, whatever the 'next phase' is, I guess."


Monday, July 02, 2007


"Don't think you're going to get out of this."

There was a hush over the group of privates sitting in the bleachers.

"This is one of the funnest things you'll do in basic training," the sergeant barked. He spoke in a tone that commanded respect, but it was clear that he was trying to win the privates over.

I was standing in a gravel pit next to Fort Knox's confidence tower, and Staff Sgt. Daniel, a rappel master, was explaining to the incoming company what was expected of them.

When I had approached the scene, the first group from a basic training company had arrived to make sure everything was in order. I saw the first sergeant, and decided to ask if I was welcome.

"Hi, First Sergeant," I said. "I'm with the Turret."

I showed him the large camera bag I take wherever I go.

"I wanted to know if it was okay to shoot your guys going through the course," I said.

"It's okay with me," the grizzled NCO said. "Just don't shoot my guys. You can take pictures of them, though," he said.

"Fair enough," I said, pretending to laugh along with him.

"Who here is afraid of heights?" Daniel demanded of the group of around 200 trainees who had gathered in the bleachers.. About 100 arms shot up -- along with Daniel's.

He regarded the group of new recruits. They were young -- mostly -- and they stank. Word had it that the company had come to Thunderbolt Tower after two whole days in the field.... which translated to two days without a bath. The company was ripe.

But there was an Ohio Valley storm brewing. As the recruits sat in the bleachers listening to Daniel, I stood about 50 meters off, snapping photos and watching the storm front. There were black clouds approaching, and it wasn't a rainstorm. It was the kind of cloud formation that blotted out the day... the kind that made you think, "I better get inside."

Daniel had moved from the bleachers to a stand that rose about five feet above the ground. Aware of my camera, I'd ducked inside the shed that cowered under the 50-foot tower that formed the core of the "Thunderbold Confidence Tower." The trainees had all lined up and been issued lengths of rope that would become the "Swiss seat" each would use to descent the 42-foot tower that loomed over us.

You learn a lot in basic training, even though the curriculum is suitable for an easy night course. What you really learn isn't technical information -- the basic facts about being a soldier are very simple. What you learn, and what's actually valuable, is that you're capable of doing things you had once thought were impossible. That's why everyone goes through the Confidence Course.

The storm grew stronger. Light left the day, even though it was around three in the afternoon. I scrambled inside the gear shed, where a sergeant was handing out the rope equipment each recruit would need to tie a "Swiss seat;" a rappelling term for the knot formation used to keep a climber safe during a descent.

Eventually, the rain and lightening grew too heavy. We had to call the training off.

More to come.


Friday, May 25, 2007

What's up? Nothing

My military career is winding to a sputtering closure, and it seems like my life has just settled into a very predictable routine of waiting for what's next.

There are ETS briefings to attend, appointments with Reserve Component career counselors, and gathering together the things I need to give back to the Army -- a canteen, some raingear, a couple laundry bags, Kevlar helmet, load-bearing equipment... nothing I'll miss.

The things I've worn on a daily basis -- the uniforms I've gone to work in, sweated in, basically everything I've gotten sweat on -- I'll get to keep, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them. I'm a bit of a pack rat, so they'll probably go into boxes until such a time as someone else decides to throw them away.

It's a funny time to be leaving the military. Fort Knox has been under a hiring freeze since the War Supplemental bill got hung up in a pissing match between Congress and the White House, and now it seems that Our Dear Leader has finally gotten his way -- buying off the Democratic war opposition by "compromising" and allowing certain pork-barrel projects to be tacked on to the revised bill, which now excludes any language demanding a troop pullout by any specific date.

It goes to show how craven the supposed opposition is -- the ones who ran on platforms of "End the War" and "Bring Home the Troops" during the mid-term election last year. So much for reform.

What else? At the moment, I can't think of a thing. The end.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Columns, kudos, and neurosis

I waited and waited, but the Army decided never to see fit to actually publish my award-winning commentary on its Keith L. Ware Web site. So, for all you who didn't read it -- and most of you didn't -- here's the link.

Advocacy is not good sports copy

That's what got me the first-place nod.

Here's the "Honorable Mention" story I did for sports:

Lakers clobber Eagles 62-27


For two Department of the Army-level awards, I was given two Certificates of Appreciation from the garrison. For those of you not in the Army-awards-know, that's the equivalent of, "Thanks for showing up for work, keep it up."

As frustrated as I am with my job situation right now, I am happy that I got to interview the Wall Street Journal's Greg Jaffe, who has covered the Pentagon for the Grey Lady for the past seven years. I taped our interview, which was held at Fort Knox's golf course, and came up with this story:

Reporter discusses media-military relationship

During one of his regular visits to Iraq as the Wall Street Journal’s military correspondent last year, Greg Jaffe was interviewing a squadron commander with the 1st Cavalry Division.

As he took notes, a sergeant major from another division noticed him and approached.

“Are you a journalist?” the sergeant major asked.

“Yes,” Jaffe replied.

The sergeant major looked at the soft-spoken Virginia native, eyeing his notepad and pen.

“You people all look the same,” he said.

“You guys all look the same, too,” Jaffe said to the ACU-clad sergeant major.

Jaffe visited Fort Knox yesterday to speak to participants in the annual Armor Warfighting Conference about the military’s relationship with the media.

He talked with the Turret Tuesday afternoon.

He’s something of an expert, having covered national defense for the Journal for the past seven years.

In 2000, he was a member of a team of Journal reporters who earned the Pulitzer Prize for their work on national defense issues.

Based in Washington, D.C., where he covers the Pentagon, Jaffe makes two month-long trips to Iraq each year, a schedule he’s kept up since 2003. As a reporter, he said he — and most other journalists — look at the war with a different perspective than members of the military.

“I think we tend to look at problems differently than they do, and it’s probably helpful for them to understand how we see the world,” he said.

Jaffe said he understands the frustration expressed by members of the military about a perceived lack of coverage of their victories and successes, but Jaffe explained that coverage needs to be driven by the overall strategic situation.

“At the strategic level, it’s hard to look at the last four years as anything but a real disappointment,” he said.

“I think the most important metric in any counterinsurgency operation is the security of the people, and if the people are less secure, then you’re losing.”

He said that during his visit to Baghdad in March he noticed that people in various neighborhoods had barricaded their roads with the heaviest objects they could find to prevent suicide car bombers from entering.

“There was a real bunker mentality there,” he said. “There was a lot of fear. And people talked about it.”

With that in mind, Jaffe said the challenge reporters face is accurately representing the strategic situation while at the same time recognizing the very real sacrifices made on the ground by individual Soldiers and units.

“The hard part is that at the tactical level, there has been a lot of heroism, and people are making an incredible sacrifice for the Iraqi people,” he said.

“It’s a huge sacrifice to ask people to be away from home for 12 months or 18 months. They’re sacrificing for the Iraqi people, they’re sacrificing for us, and the challenge is to celebrate that while also acknowledging the overall strategic picture, which is pretty bleak.”

That balance between the strategic and the tactical isn’t easy to strike.

“I think we could do a better job celebrating some of the tactical successes and the sacrifices that are being made,” he said. “But on the other hand, it’s that strategic-level picture that has to drive the coverage, to give people in this country the information they need to know to be able to make informed decisions.”

But to do that, Jaffe said he has to approach the war one battalion or one neighborhood at a time. Expecting a single news story to explain all the complexity of the war is asking too much.

“You’re writing with the hope that people who have better things to do will read it,” he said. “I try to pick a battalion or a neighborhood that illustrates some sort of broader truth about the war.”

Jaffe’s work in Iraq has been done exclusively as a media “embed,” which he said is a system that has benefits for all parties involved.

“I think it’s good for the media, and I think it’s good for the Army,” he said.

As a result of the embedding program, “We in the media understand the military a lot better.”

He said he hoped to be able to shed light on the media’s different perspective of the war during his speech at the Armor Conference.

“If you’re going to deal with the media, it’s worth understanding what the media thinks of the story, and how they think about events,” he said.

Commanders have a responsibility to account for themselves to the American people, he said, and that means talking to media representatives becomes essential.

“The biggest thing you can do is to be open and accessible,” he said. “It’s your job (as a battalion commander) to explain what’s going on in your sector. You are the expert on your sector…

“A key center of gravity in this war is the American people, and you better explain what’s going on in your area to them. If you haven’t done that, you’ve probably failed in a key component of your job.”


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Paintballing with the Cav

There's a new batch of photos up on my Flickr page for all to see and revel in.

Fort Knox's 16th Cavalry Regiment was holding a Spur Ride this morning, and my assignment was to go take pictures of whatever it was they were doing. I had a training schedule, a camera, and a notebook, plus the name of the range the troopers were training on.

A call to the Regiment's S-3 shop got me directions to the range. It was out beyond Knox's infamous old marching hills, Misery and Agony, which in days past were used to put basic training privates through ruckmarch hell.

When I got to the range, a staff sergeant in a Cavalry Stetson approached me.

"What's up?"

"I'm with the Turret," I said.

"Ah, okay... you'll need a helmet and a mask."

A Spur Ride is a Cavalry tradition in which new troopers (Cavalry-ese for "soldier") endure two days of gruelling training in order to earn the right to wear spurs. While Cav soldiers these days don't normally ride horses in the line of duty, they're still attached to some of the accoutrements of the Custer-era Cavalry -- the black Stetson and shiny spurs.
Today, the Spur Riders had to make their way through several training events, including an advance up a simulated alley to search for a weapons cache (which everyone in the Army insists on pronouncing "Cashay"). The range lane was nicknamed "Hogan's Alley" -- a narrow roadway between two rows of building fronts. The alley was littered with empty barrels, wooden pallets, and a blown-out pickup truck.

Range cadre had also set up a series of pop-up targets and traps along the course. Pyrotechnic IEDs would explode, covering anyone nearby with a layer of red chalk, for example.

As a captain showed me the way up to a perch at the far end of the alley, we found another trap -- a paintball gun set up in a narrow alleyway and rigged to a motion sensor. We had to cross in front of the sensor to get to the stairs I needed to climb to reach my second-story photographer's perch, which happened to be next to a very loud .50 caliber machine gun simulator.

"Don't worry, everything's off," the captain said.

Not quite confident, I held back as he crossed in front of the sensor. As soon as he was across, the paintball cannon whirred to life and spat about 10 rounds across the alley at about knee level. The paintballs splattered on the opposite doorway, covering it with red goop.

The captain looked back at me.
"Well, I thought they were off," he said.

I looked at him but didn't say anything, then moved through the motion sensor's path as quickly as I could. After he showed me where to set up, he assured me he'd brief the squad coming onto the range not to fire on my particular window. I said I'd definitely appreciate that.

Once I was in position, I realized I was basically at the far end of a shooting range, and that I'd look a lot like a sniper peering out of the left side window with my 200-mm lens. This thought was reinforced as the first squad turned the corner into the alley and the pointman's paintball rifle immediately zeroed on my face.

"DO NOT SHOOT THAT PHOTOGRAPHER!" boomed one of the cadre.

"Thanks," I said to no one in particular.

Still, the troopers couldn't help but aim at me when they saw me moving, and I couldn't help but duck a bit when they did.

Another captain yelled at me from behind the buildings.

"Hey, photographer," he said.
"Yes, sir?"
"Try not to look like a target, okay? Don't duck in and out of the window."
"I'll try not to, sir," I said.

He also advised me to keep my camera in front of my face. Given the choice between taking a blue paintball to the grill and having to explain how an $1,100 camera lens got covered in goo, I wasn't exactly sure what my preference was.

After clearing two buildings on one side of the street, the advancing team ran into an unforseen problem. The truck in the middle of the street was rigged with a simulated IED, and they didn't notice it until it blew up.




The cadre assessed a few casualties.

The .50 cal next to me would periodically let loose with a volley of very loud reports, and the squad below would return fire in its (and my) direction. I didn't get hit, but I did feel the splatter of exploding blue paintballs hit my hands and camera every so often.

Eventually, the team made it through the lane and found the weapons cache, behind the door that had previously been splattered with automatic red paintball goop.


Anyway, that's it for now. Check out the photos and leave some love if you feel like it. It's nice getting out of the office and seeing some real Army stuff going on now and again. With just four months left on my contract, I'm going to try to get as much of this in as possible.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Love letter to a pig

Henry Rollins -- formerly of Black Flag and the Rollins Band -- is now a political activist with his own TV show. Apparently, the guy with the biggest traps in punk rock feels like he should encourage Ann Coulter to make a major career move. He seems to have more hope for Coulter than I do, so he wrote her this love letter.



Sunday, April 01, 2007

Quick notes on the current goings-on

Tommy, can you hear me?

Probably not... the few people who used to drop by this space have most likely long-since abandoned it due to my own lack of interest in it. I'm not sure what the real reason is for my dropping blogging as a regular hobby, but whatever it is, I've been out of the habit.

At any rate, things have continued to happen, both in my life and in the world at large.

I got this email the other day from the organizer of a "pro-troop/pro-war" group:

A great read on the Senate's despicable vote to undercut our troops in Iraq.

From Melanie Morgan at

P.S. For those of you who don't know, Melanie Morgan is Chairman of Move America Forward, the nation's largest grass-roots, pro-troop organization. Learn more about Move America Forward at:
The link is to Ms. Morgan's article on the recent Senate approval of a war budget that would require U.S. troops to be pulled out of Iraq in a little more than a year. It was a mass-email, but I wrote back anyway after reading Morgan's boilerplate, toe-the-line article:

This isn't a good read, and I think it's pretty intellectually dishonest. It's certainly not unique in that dishonesty, but it serves as a pretty good example of the overwhelming sentiment among the few Americans who remain "pro-war."

Melanie Morgan's argument -- that Senate Democrats ("and two despicable Republicans") have "blood on their hands" for "knifing" our troops in the back by adding language to the war budget that would require a timetable for withdrawl -- depends on some serious assumptions:

1) That the military's mission in Iraq is worthwhile because we are fighting terrorists there who would otherwise be attacking American targets elsewhere in the world;

2) that the U.S. military can work toward some kind of "winning" status in Iraq, provided sufficient time and money; and

3) that the President of the United States (who she constantly refers to as "the commander-in-chief") should have unchecked power to prosecute war as he sees fit.

At the same time, she ignores several important issues that should be taken into consideration before arguing for the war, for unrestrained presidential power, or against a reasonable timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

First, it is the president who has threatened to veto any measure passed by Congress or the Senate that involves a timetable. That kind of bullying is not only undemocratic, it also necessarily involves pushing the military's budget back for at least a matter of weeks, if not months. It is the president who has obstinately insisted on keeping U.S. troops in harm's way, and it is because of this war that the number of Americans killed on Sept. 11, 2001, has more than doubled (more than 3,200 U.S. service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan). If there is going to be talk of "blood" being on someone's hands, the president deserves at least an equal share of the blame.

Second, it was the White House and the Republican party that so thoroughly screwed up the first six years of Bush's presidency that Americans voted to put Democrats into the majority in both the House and Senate. No one could have made any mistake about what the DNC wanted to accomplish if given control -- an end to this war, which has now gone on longer than America's involvement in World War II, was high among their list of priorities. Should Republicans (and the White House) have acted with more credibility while they had the opportunity, then perhaps voters would have kept them around.

Third, the United States is built on a system of checks and balances, which is designed to preserve the very freedoms we're supposedly "exporting" to the very country we're currently engaged in. Despite American citizens' seeming disinterest in civil liberties, it is those freedoms that have made the U.S. the free country we're so proud of. Suggesting that citizens and politicians who don't toe the Administration line are "treasonous," "anti-American," or "supporters of terror" is not only stupid, but also, by definition, "anti-American."

These checks and balances serve also to keep each branch of government accountable. A recent study of the Defense Department's budget by the Government Accountability Office found that not even top DoD officials could properly account for their budgets. After the scandal that erupted last month at Walter Reed, it seems clear that the Pentagon is not exactly a sound steward of the tax money awarded to the military.

Before I get written off as some "liberal whack-o," I'd like to point out that I am an enlisted, active-duty soldier who's served this country for almost five years. I didn't sign up for college money; I already had a bachelor's degree when I joined. I did it because I believe strongly in American principles -- the ones spelled out in America's foundational documents, including The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, the works of John Locke, the Federalist Papers, and the Constitution.

In the Army, I've worked as a "public affairs specialist," which basically has meant I've written for various Army newspapers. It's been an opportunity to speak with some of the people who've been directly involved in America's role in Iraq.

A couple weeks ago, I spoke with a lieutenant colonel who was in charge of an advisory team from First Army's 4th Cavalry Brigade who were assigned to help Iraq's 2nd National Police Division become self-sufficient. He had just returned from a year deployment. The colonel made what I think is an important distinction.

"Our job isn't to make Iraq a safe place," he told me. "Our job is to give the Iraqi government the opportunity to make Iraq a safe place."

He said that he felt he and his men had indeed accomplished that mission, but whether Iraq will take advantage of their efforts remains to be seen.

Bush's commitment to denying the "terrorists" (mostly rival Sunni and Shiite militias, who are simply vying for control of the region, which remains a "country" in name only) is also allowing the Iraq government to avoid taking responsibility or control of their own land. Nursing infants must eventually be weaned from the breast, and so too must the Iraqi government. It is futile to indicate to this new government that America's support is unconditional, because they will continue to rely on it for as long as they possibly can.

The talk here at home seems to center around name-calling and patriotism competitions. It's puerile and unseemly, I think, for people who supposedly love their country so much to take for granted the system whereby they've been granted a heretofore unimagined level of freedom.

Support the troops by giving them some kind of light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. Iraq is beyond the point of "winning" or "losing;" it's a country struggling to redefine itself and get off the ground. Even the United States needed a Civil War to forge it into what it is today.

In the meantime, the blood of American troops is on the hands of those who refuse to give them an end to look forward to.

Very respectfully,

Spc. Ian Boudreau
U.S. Army
Fort Knox, KY
So, that's that.

The other day, I was listening to AM talk radio, which is a great place to go to find out what people who love war are talking about.

In this instance, Mr. Mike Gallagher was talking with a caller about the Marine Corps' tattoo policy. The two decided that since Marines and soldiers are working "in a dictatorship serving a democracy," that the freedom of expression granted to normal citizens didn't apply. Therefore, it was important that the military be able to maintain standards on tattoos. You don't get freedom of expression in the military, and that's the way it's supposed to work, they said.

The caller then went on to say that the "dad-gum" Democrats in the Senate weren't following the lead of the "commander-in-chief" (I hear this term more often than "president" these days), and that it was a gosh-durn good thing that we weren't running our war that way, because we'd be in some serious trouble.

The implication, of course, was that Democrats are pretty much the same as soldiers who disobey orders or go AWOL.

I wanted to call in and tell the two idiots to pick up a civics textbook, but it wouldn't have done any good anyway. It seems like everyone's forgotten that in our Democracy, it's important to have things called "checks" and "balances," and that no one person, office, or department has complete control of anything.

But accountability has been seriously undermined in the past six years, and conservatives have in general fallen into step behind the GOP, questioning the validity of commissions set up to examine serious failures of the government (notably, the 9/11 Commission, which Bush and Cheney did everything in their power to stall and hog-tie [to use a Texas colloquialism]).

Enough political ranting for now, though.

In good news, I won first place in the Department of the Army for commentary (military) in the 2006 Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Army journalism competition. They've got a link to the story up there, so check it out if you have a couple minutes.

Tomorrow I'll be back in the courtroom for a spousal rape court-martial. It'll be a nice change from some of the dreck I've been covering lately. I find covering courts-martial exciting, so I'll try to get back in here to talk about how things develop.

That's all for now -- mahalo.


Friday, February 23, 2007

No news is good news

In media companies' never-ending pursuit of more viewers, readers, listeners, and/or browsers, the idea of "news" has been denigrated to the point of pandering.

Here are's "top stories" this morning:

Played up is a feature called "Behind the Sunni-Shiite Divide." Fair enough... that's sort of news, but it's really more of a feature piece than anything "breaking."

On to the list of top stories:
- Smith's body gets mom's body -- who gets baby?
- Weepy judge, woozy lawyer create court drama
- Analysis: Clinton-Obama tussle reveals issues
- U.S. soldier gets 100 years for rape, killings in Iraq
- Iran complains of nuclear bullying
- Concrete balls used to plug mud volcano
- Five-year-old rider trampled to death at rodeo
- Has hip-hop gone too far in degrading women?
- Thongs, fishnets called harmful to young girls
- Toned-down Oscars opt for 'gay woman in a suit'
- Fortune: Crazy behavior of the very wealthy

See if you can spot the two stories in there that might actually be useful. I'll wait.

It's definitely not one of the top two. The dead formerly-bloated skank has been monopolizing headlines since she quit stealing oxygen a couple weeks ago, and the story is lingering like the stench of a week-old, over-privileged corpse.

Did Anna Nicole Smith ever accomplish anything, aside from nabbing a few Playboy accolades and an advertising gig for TrimSpa?

The next presidential election should certainly be in the news. It's a tad early, but we should definitely be examining the hopefuls who've tossed their hats into the next race.

Too bad the story, which is written by CNN's "Senior Political Analyst," is about 20 inches worth of Captain Obvious remarks.

Then there's the soldier conviction story, followed by "Iran complains of nuclear bullying."

So, five stories in, we finally make it to something that has global impact -- no pun intended.

I guess the reason things are ordered this way is because CNN (which is only one among a throng of offenders) is trying to pander to the public's questionable mores by placing "popular" stories near the top of their page.

But here's the thing -- as a news organization, you're not supposed to just give people what they want. You're supposed to be giving them what they need to know, which includes, but is not limited to, information on the war everyone's tired of hearing about. Anna Nicole Smith warranted maybe one tongue-in-cheek obituary, not two solid weeks of total coverage.

Everyone knows that the stupid broad is dead, and that Britney Spears shaved her head, but has any significant demographic of people been informed on any late-breaking developments in Iraq?


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Don't panic

I deleted a couple recent posts because I hated them. Just so you all know.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Silver Platter

I'm starting to think that American politics are becoming intentionally difficult to pay attention to.

It's a field I'm meaning to get into -- at least as an observer -- so I feel a certain obligation to try to pay attention to what's going on. But the realities of day-to-day political headlines are so stunningly stupid that it's hard not to just throw in the towel and go look for stories about Apple's new iPhone.

Take, for example, the Democratic Party's front runners for the 2008 presidential campaign: Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. One is a woman, and the other is black.

Trust me. I'd love to believe that the United States of America, as a people who are supposedly so devoted to freedom and equality and human rights, are thoroughly prepared to elect a female or black president. We've beaten sexism and racism, haven't we? We certainly showed those damn communists what the score was.

But let's be honest. Does anyone think that the enormous expanse of backwardness that exists between America's two coasts is really going to vote for someone who doesn't look like JFK or FDR? Are we really at a point where the ethnic demographic a candidate falls into isn't going to matter?

Christ, has anyone seen an episode of COPS lately?

I think I can say without exaggeration that the GOP has done everything in its power to hand the next presidency to the DNC on a silver-gilded platter. Democrats, in response, have simply slapped that platter out of the garcon's hands and send it clattering to the floor. No, they're saying. We don't want to win. We'd rather show that we have inclusive principles.

Sorry, guys. The same red-state rubes who re-elected George W. Bush are going to be returning to the polls next November, and they're not about to have some colored gentleman running their blessed country. And God forbid they give the job to a woman... Hell, we'd be bombing some damn country every month or so.

The plans and agendas that Clinton and Obama bring to the campaign debate table will never matter, believe you me. And the DNC ought to know that by now... but they don't, and I'm wondering if they'll ever figure it out.

And the repercussions of electing a Republican president after eight years of this current maniac are too horrible to imagine.

A new GOP president with a referendum? It chills my blood.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Return of the PA Specialist

As quickly as it began, my leave ended. There were the tearful goodbyes, the pledges to keep in touch, and expressions of hope for the future -- when my tenure in the Army will be over and I'll return to New York state.

Time at home is always followed by a surreal plane trip back to Kentucky. I fly out of Syracuse and make the connection to Louisville at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, where I usually find time to stop at the Fox Sports Bar for a drink and a couple smokes.

This time, I found myself sitting next to a guy around my age who introduced himself as Bill. He was dressed in standard gear for a twenty-something -- a baseball cap covered unkempt hair, and his baggy jeans fell over a pair of well-worn sneakers. He told me he was heading to Washington, D.C. for "meetings." The way he spoke reminded me of Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which didn't exactly seem to befit someone heading to "meetings" in the capital.

But since I was feeling talkative due to two large glasses of Sam Adams, I asked him what he did.

Turns out, Bill works as an independent humanitarian aid consultant. He said he was working out of Ecuador, building homes and schools for street children.

I could hardly believe it.

"So, sort of Peace Corps-type work?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "But I work pretty much on my own."

He told me of the high-power connections he'd made during the year he lived in D.C., and how when he needed money for some kind of humanitarian project, all he had to do was make a phone call. He talked about meeting ambassadors and high-level dignitaries at house parties, and how a guy he worked with had once met the Dalai Lama.

I lit another cigarette. I wasn't sure what to make of his story, because it sounded fantastic to the point of seeming fictitious. But despite the surfer/pothead drawl to his speech, his story held together and I couldn't help but think he was telling the truth.

He told me he had no immediate intentions of settling down, and that he liked the element of world travel and the freedom his job afforded.

Eventually, I had to head to the C Concourse to catch my flight to Louisville. I wished Bill good luck and left the bar, shaking my head at the thought of how for some people, life just shakes out being remarkable.

Now I'm back at work on Fort Knox. I suppose a good New Year's resolution would be to make as much of a mark here as I can -- before the Next Phase starts in August.