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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Why Aren’t You Reading Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein?

This is a GOOD book. Below is a BAD movie.

Starship Troopers…. oh god. Look, I recently picked up the original book written by Heinlein, which wikipedia describes,

“… first-person narrative is about a young soldier from the Philippines named Juan “Johnnie” Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military service branch equipped with powered armor. Rico’s military career progresses from recruit tonon-commissioned officer and finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an arachnoid species known as “the Bugs“. Rico and the other characters discuss moral and philosophical aspects of suffragecivic virtue,juvenile delinquency, capital punishment, and war”

The war was just a background. The book was about these philosophical themes listed above. What it means to be a responsible citizen, to be  a military enlisted man and eventually an officer. Its steeped deep in themes of tradition and honor. It is so revered by the Department of Defense that it is on the officers reading list.

And so I made a horrible decision tonight. I watched the 1997 movie.

Now I’m not going to sit here and compare and contrast the movie with the book. I can’t bear to do it. I feel horrible after just watching the whole thing and others have done it better. Read the review. The Nostalgia Critic knows his stuff.

Yes. That is Gary Busey’s son. Playing a neon green violin.

What I am going to do it try to make amends to Heinlein for what the 90’s did to his book.

Click this link. Buy the Book. If you don’t absolutely love it. Send me a the receipt and I’ll PayPal you the cost + shipping. I’m not kidding. Hell, send me a picture of you with the book and a thumbs up for my blog and I’ll do the same. I just want to do my part for a book that did what all great fiction should do: it changed how I think and see the world around me. Good night all.

Dreaming of Neon Violins. Todd.

Sol -15 : Comprehending Afghanistan

I actually have a painting of this photograph, I purchased in Thailand.

We lose a number of soldiers and sailors in Afghanistan to violence from Afghan Army and Police trainees. While a few of these have been attributed to Taliban infiltration, I have been informed that a majority come from cultural clashes. Clashes born out of the differences between kids from American cities, raised on TV and internet, free speech and access to anything the human mind can imagine, in contrast with a people mentally wreaked by years of war, the sights of bodies and violence a regular occurrence, and a regime so oppressive that even the simple act of learning to read or to dance is outlawed.

Is it any wonder that in a nation where it can be justifiably said that every man, woman and child has PTSD, there are conflicts related to culture? I am striving to understand these factors in text and then in person. Here is what I am learning today.

Let’s learn a little about Afghanistan:

“Afghanistan is often referred to as the crossroads of Central Asia. Its strategically important geographical location has made it an ideal trade and invasion route for centuries. As a result, its history has been marked by turbulence. Conquerors from the West passed through this region to reach the Indian subcontinent, and Hindu empires extended their territories from the East through the same routes. The armies of King Darius, Alexander the Great, Kushan King Kanishka, Genghis Khan, the Shahi rulers of India, Muslim rulers, and the British all marched through the area to reach their goals of colonizing these lands and those beyond.”

What does this do to a people’s genetic heritage? It is said by some genetic researchers that Americans are ambitious and desire the discovery of new frontiers because the people who traveled to the New World had those gene markers in their DNA. They passed them to their children and it is what drove us west across a continent and upward into space to plant a starry flag upon the moon. So, what genetic markers survive in a people such as those who live in the mountains of Afghanistan? Resistance? Hardiness? Defiance? I wonder about this.

The Afghans also have a tribal code that dictates thier morals. These are passed down through the generations and include:

“Badal refers to the right to retaliate if insulted.
Badragha is the safe escort of a fugitive or a visitor to his destination.
Balandra is the act of providing help to someone who is unable to complete his own work, such as a harvest. Repayment is usually a lavish dinner.
Baramta is the holding of hostages until claimed property is returned; service industry workers (tailors, barbers, etc.) are excluded from being taken hostage.
Bota is the seizing of property to ensure repayment of debt.
Ghundi is an alliance created against a common enemy.
Hamsaya refers to a man who has given his valuables to someone (usually an elder of another village) who can protect him from insult or injury.
Itbar is the trust in one’s word or promise as a legally binding contract.
Lashkar is a large group of armed men who enforce the ruling of a jirga (council of elders), much like a police and military force would.
Lokhay Warkawal is the acceptance of an alliance in order to gain protection from enemies.
Meerata is the murder of one male member of a family by another in order to ensure inheritance. This is a criminal act and the Jirga responds by punishing the culprit.
Melmastia is generous hospitality, and Pashtuns consider it one of their finest virtues.
Mla Tarr is the provision of armed protection to help a family member or a close friend.
Nanewatei is the act of forgiveness or the grant of asylum, even to enemies. It is not accepted where the honor of a woman is involved.
Saz is “blood money” or other compensation (such as a daughter in marriage) given to appease a family after a murder.
Tarr is an agreement that gives protection to the involved parties.
Teega means literally “putting down the stone” and stands for ending the fighting between two feuding parties.
Tor is disgrace through extramarital or premarital sex (or rape) and is punishable by death.”

It’s almost like having a time machine back to ancient hunter gather society. Very tribal and warlike, with themes of honor and insults, protection and hostages. From a sociological perspective these people are fascinating, but to our modern sensibilities they read like a Conan fantasy novel. All blood and honor, it comes off as barbaric and in many senses of the word it is. It is also a way of life that has evolved to protect an often conquered people. I feel both sympathy and disgust, but mostly comprehension and understanding, even where I see action I strongly disagree with.

I was going to talk about Afghan food, but that seems inappropriate now. Let me give you a sound to clear your thoughts.

Introspectively Yours. Todd.

P.S. If you like this, give me a like on FB to encourage me, or a share.

She is descending from the Mountain

She is descending from the Mountain.

The island-born is descending from the Mountain.

Weena is descending from the Mountain.

She descends on a boat traveling along a tiny ribbon.

From the world of stars the boat travels along a tiny ribbon.

To the world or rock the boat travels along a tiny ribbon.

She comes seeking the house of her fathers.

The island-born yearns for the familiar ground of her mothers.

Weena has come home.

The air here is the same, but different: dirtier but vibrant, dusky but warm.

The land calls to her feet with an urgency so perfect.

It calls out, “You are home! Run through my grass! Swim through my waters! Eat from my trees!”

But she sees no grass to run through.

The island-born hears no ocean to dip her feet into.

Weena smells no sweet fragrances of fruit ripening upon the tree.

She looks back to the sky, beyond her tiny ribbon.

She cannot see the Mountain.

She cannot see the Wandering Ones.

She cannot see the Multitude, Shining in the Sky.

She cannot see the Great River of Light.

She cried out. The island-born cried out. Weena cried out.

“How can the people of the world not see the wonder of the Mountain?

How can they not see the mystery of the Wandering Ones?

How can they not see the majesty of the Multitude, Shining in the sky?

How can they not see the awe of the Great River of Light?”

Suddenly, she missed her life among her islands in the sky.

The island-born wished to see her islands in the sky.

Weena would show them her islands in the sky.

Surrounding her were the cities of her fathers.

Around her were the people of her mothers.

Their cities were full of false light.

There was no night in the cities of her fathers.

There was no sky for the people of her mothers.

She would bring back the night in the cities.

The island-born would return the sky to the people.

Weena would break their lights.

I really enjoy reading the Inana’s desent to the underworld, an ancient Sumerian text thousands of years old. The versions that I have come across are very rythmic and chant like. In the above text I tried to replicate that in a short poem that I had on my mind today on the way into work. I would have to say that it comes from a few different peices of source material, an article on light pollution in cities from the Planetary Socitey’s newsletter, Kim Stanley Robinson’s book 2312, and of course the Sumerian texts on Inana. Just wanted to make some art today. It was fun getting to play with structure and ideas, and it really got my brain going this morning.

It’s a good thing I got my brain going early, the rest of the day sure did it’s best to blast away any motivation and drive. Today I almost exclusively worked on my M16/M4 online course. I had to bash my head against memorizing all the parts of, and how to clean a weapon I haven’t touched in over 4 years, and never took apart. Even the Air force guys were surprised when I told them that on board ship all the weapons used for watch standing were maintained and cleaned exclusively by the Gunners Mates. I checked a gun out, stood around for four hours then unloaded and handed it back. Sure I fired it at regular training, but I never disassembled it. The first time I cleaned a gun was a .38 for Arizona department of safety licence.  I made it through though, with a score of 91.2% after taking extensive notes. I’m just not a gun nut, or an engineer, but in my defense the diagrams on the screen were pretty shitty.

So I took a break and looked for something else to spend my afternoon drill on. Medical sent me over to the hospital to get vaccinated. Anthrax, Meningitis, and Typhoid. The lady with the needles seemed to think this was not enough so she also gave me a Tetanus booster and Hep B. Thanks. oh and a flu spray up the nose. I appreciate it. oh and they drew blood to find out if I need a Chicken pox booster. I am done with needles this week, I swear.

Tonight’s links include a sound file you need to pump into 720p. Also here is a translation of the Inana Text. You’ll never regret reading some of the oldest text the human race has ever written.

Feverish. Todd.

Sol -17 : Only Half a Martian Year

I think we all wish we could be as cool as the Mars rover, Curiosity.  Who wouldn’t want to be trailblazing in a new and strange land, ‘doing a science’, or forging ahead against the unknown. Afghanistan is surely an unknown, strange land; a land where as you may know, I will be spending the next year. I feel some kinship with the Mars Science Lab. Unlike MSL, though, I will get to come back home from my desert wasteland. With all the things Curiosity and I will be learning this year I have decided to blog the whole experience. In keeping with my new perspective, and because counting days makes me feel like i’m making chalk marks on a a prison wall, I am going to chart my journey by counting Sols. I want to remember what I love about humanity, as I have come to understand that I may be encountering the worst of humanity on my trip.

We’re on Sol negative 17, or seventeen days from when I sign my orders and commit to my deployment. Today I worked on my list of online mini-courses the navy has ordered I take in preparation. I got my hearing tested and I’m learning some Dari.  I’m learning everything I may need to know about an M4 Rifle, which is the weirdest thing to stick in an online course, and that says a lot after what I’ve found available online from ASU.  The rest of the week I’ll be learning about the M9 pistol, Army core values and a bunch of other mind numbing but potentially life saving topics. That is Sol -17 through -14.

Also the computer is in the shop, so I’m posting this from my family’s HP. The repair guy thinks its a hardware malfunction, and we can fix it before I leave. The error is most likely in the RAM, but the processor and the hard drives are not being ruled out. It doesn’t make sense this would be a software issue because it happened before and after the whole system wipe.

Here’s a few links I want to throw at you, first is a collection the best photos from MSL posted on the WSJ.  Secondly, here is video experience out of 1969 of Armstrong’s landing on the moon from Space(dot)com. Lastly,  here is the track for the night: Cthulhu Sleeps by Deadmau5

Its only half a Martian year. Todd.