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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sol 16 : Vehicles, Counter Insurgency, Arduino

My training continues again this week, in preparation for Afghanistan. I should have my boots on the ground in another fortnight of sols(Check out this blog entry for an explanation of Sols). We had training on the big vehicles a few days ago, including the newer models designed to disperse IED blasts coming from below. Pretty brilliant equipment, with lots of goodies specially designed during the last 11 years of operations in Afghanistan.

Quick jump, I say operations in Afghanistan not war, because as I am learning, the conflict in Afghanistan is really not a war in most ways an average american thinks of war. Counter Insurgency Operations is as much about diplomacy with locals as it is about sending in helicopters to light up a target. There are no trenches with enemies on the other sides shooting back. There are bands of rebels in the mountains and allied villages causing trouble throughout a land ( I hesitate to call it a nation as the tribal structure of the Afghan way of life really doesn’t lend itself to the nation-state model well) and inciting distrust in a central government that seems more like a city-state in the Grecian sense trying to build some sort of modern country out of a confederation of tribes. Westerners just cant understand the tribal way of thought. We are too far removed, I think from those times.

On a separate note, I’m really getting into the Arduino/Maker culture, when it comes to learning computer science and electronics engineering. Horay, for self teaching another advanced topic! Who needs teachers when you have rabid desire for the absorption of knowledge. Self Actualization is awesome.

also this

Song of the day is “Fn Pig” by Deadmau5

Sol 11 : Happy Birthday, April

Her name is AFP, ask me why and i’ll send you a video.

First things first, HAPPY BIRTHDAY April!!!!

David Brin and others have pointed out to me, today, fantastical, awesome, brilliant SCIENCE is going on. If you are not following the blog over at Contrary Brin, you are truly missing out peaking inside the mind of a man very much in sync with where the world is going, and with that an in-depth understanding of who we are and how we work. He also featured a site in his blog called, a kickstarter type site for the crowdsourcing of funds for SCIENCE. btw in case you haven’t figured out that is the correct way to spell SCIENCE. all caps, and spoken with authority!

If you want to learn about a parrot that was shown to have the intelligence of a five year old and the emotional capacity of a human 2 year old, read about Alex, the Avian Language EXperiment.

How is Sailder training going today in the Narmy? Well, today was gun issue, and I received my very own M4, brand new, shiny and ready to be shot and dragged through the sand. She will be mine for the next year, and I have taken her apart and put her together several times today and will be pumping hundreds of round through her the next few weeks, and hopefully NONE after that other than on ranges.

I also got a loaner M9 for use in training here at Camp McGrady, and I’ll learn more about it tomorrow. Pics to follow. I’m trying to close this up because it’s April’s birthday today and I need to get on Skype quickly.

Oh and there is a new Deadmau5 album today and that is where our featured song comes from.

Sol 9 : Reaction Times

I was re-reading the quote I added to my post way back on Sol -13, the one from KSR’s book, Antarctica. I really love the sentiment expressed in the end of the passage, which I hold as a explanation for why we do the dangerous things we do. We walk in no ones footsteps. A pronouncement to the universe that you are a singular entity transversing your own path, like those who have gone before you but individual and meaningful.

So I had a cognitive test today that poetically, perfectly…me. Let me explain.  The doc told me I was going to take a test on a computer to measure my cognitive speed and memory so that if I ever injured my head in the future they could use these results as a baseline. I was so excited to take this test and show off my awesome brainpower that I skipped through some of the instructions and ended up having to take part of the program twice. That one event more than anything was a perfect test of my mind. Here is a test of how your brain works, and I go ADHD all over it and trip. Great reaction times though…

I found the people in my training program who are in the same order set as me. Its a small group, but one of us has been in contact with who she’s taking over for. I got a confirmed location now, and its Camp Phoenix, just 8 miles east of the capital. Its comparable to Denver, weather wise. There is a Wikipedia article on it here.

“Now let me see your BLOG FACE!”

“How to shoot” for reading while you poot


Like bigfoot, the drill instructor patrols the forest waiting for you to show weakness

song of the day

Sol 8 : Narmy Strong

My week at San Diego Naval station is sadly over with gear issue Friday morning and drinks with my girlfriend, the notorious Dr. Ian O’Neil of Discovery Space fame and his better half. A seven day trek through medical clearance, administrative paperwork, and a whole lot of down time with my head in a pulpy Star Trek novel.

Today I got on a flight to South Carolina to start my three weeks of Army combat training, and I had such little sleep the night before the whole day was a painful experience, but now I’m unpacked in my open bay barracks ready to start training tomorrow. I’m going to keep this post short because I’ve lost 3 hours to timezones and Its now midnight, with morning quickly threatening to approach just hours away over the horizon. I’ll try to detail each day’s training in text as I wont be able to carry my cell around to take any pictures during training hours.

Time-poor. Todd

All the uniforms I was issued will fill my first of several seabags

My dogtags with my social blocked out. I went with Agnostic, because meh.

My strange Army hat with my Navy rank on it.

Sol 4 : A bit of creative writing to take the edge off

Oh Horton plaza, how have the mighty fallen. Back in 2008, when I out-processed from my active duty career, the outdoor mall nestled against the NBC building was vibrant and classy, with a great food court, a nice book store and a number of interesting shops featuring in their displays a truly interesting plethora of items, now contrasting with the run down canyon of empty food stalls, pop clothing, abandoned movie theater opposite of the obligatory and parasitic Hot Topic and Gamestop featuring the same generic products you could just order online from Amazon and ThinkGeek. Uck. Bookstores are truly dead when they sell VHS on spinner racks next to the stack of well worn used sci-fi novels across from displays of plastic Cosplay gear that seems to pop up in the weirdest places in San Diego. A random assortment of “for Dummies” books covering topics such as ‘geting rid of Spam’ and “Internet Explorer 7′  finally convinces me that there isn’t anything I want in a this collection of establishments. Soon a skate park will be installed here when the Nordstrom relents and moves uptown.

I contemplate with serious but detached analysis that I am becoming more detached and analytical, building shields around my mind, getting my heart ready for leaving everyone I care about and to make friends no one can guarantee me I will even know the following week. It’s in the training, there’s a pamphlet on it, the chaplain briefs it; on the way your mind will naturally adapt to new and stressful environments by distancing you from the ones you love. You realize you will just have to hope your family will understand. You can tell them what your thinking, but they will get it or not and there is not a damn thing you can do about it but preserver and open your tri-folder looking for your next appointment in the morning.

There will be more waiting. A brief. You’ll eat another club sandwich at the base bowling alley. A smiling Corpsman will take your blood and you will make small talk. Its not a bad day, but the way it deceptively feels like just another normal day, while you know normal days are numbered and growing few gnaws on your complacent-ness and you feel the hyper-awareness of an animal knowing it will soon be in a life and death situation boot up and begin to assert itself. Its all normal. Its all planned, see right there on the check out sheet. Check. Check. Check. Ding.

Done. Ready. Todd

Sol 3 : ECRC check-in

I checked into ECRC this morning and the first thing handed to me was a Malaria protection kit with a pop tent, DEET lotion and chemicals to treat my uniforms with an anti-mosquito liquid. They seemed to kinda be sending mixed messages about it later that day though, when they told us that only the AFRICACOM people needed to do the malaria online training. Oh well, it’s a cool tent and maybe I can keep it.

Talking about online courses, it seems that all those Joint Knowledge Online courses I was lead to believe were mandatory, and even came in on my last Saturday to complete, are in fact not even on the requirement list here in SD. Maybe it will pop up down the line in SC, not sure. Speaking of South Carolina, there was a great video I wish I could get my hands on and show you about the three week training I’ll be getting there. Lots of shooting and unfolding myself from simulated rolled over Humvee’s appears to be in my future. They say they extended the training from 2 to 3 weeks to get us more familiar with our weapons, a fact I am happy to hear as I need time with the M16 and M9 I never got on active duty.

Also for you JUNEAU people out there, LT Cabana our old DisbO is in my group, but I think he’s headed somewhere else. Nice to talk about Guam and boonie dogs and old times with the ”dolphin killer’.

The strangest thing that happened today was when I was issued a free audio book of my choice from a list. I though the one called AFGHANISTAN would be the most useful though I regret passing up The Art of War.

The next 2 days are medical, then a day we called gas mask day, followed by Friday where we will try on all the gear we were fitted for today.  Something interesting about that, I found out that I suck at picking out shoes until today. At least with boots, I fit in a 8 1/2 wide like a perfect glove compared to my normal 9 1/2 regular. I guess I may have smaller but wider feet then I thought and its kinda got me worried about the expensive running shoes I bought.

I have in my notes a number for Red Cross, and I’d like to mention that you should never send bad news to me or other people down range over e-mail, because our commands cant do anything about it unless they have confirmed it. By using Red Cross, the sailor or soldier gets the message faster, and their command knows about it and can provide immediate support. Red Cross’ number is 877-772-7377.

Ok, I need to go to bed, as I’m fasting till my blood draw in the morning, and if i stay up much longer i’ll get hungery.

Fasting. Todd.

Sol 2 : Made it to San Diego

Yeah! I survived my party, and I really have to thank you all who came out for making it such a brilliant bash. I have had half a brain, though, the rest of today, and I needed all of it to finish packing, get the last of my data loaded from my tower hard drive to my laptop, and successfully navigate the air travel system. Now I’m on the ground in SD and in my navy barracks room I share with a room mate. It was not without casualties, as for several hours I had lost my cellphone. The USO shuttle people found it and I’m back with all my gear in stock and ready to write and photograph. The pelican case is doing a great job of protecting my gear, but the TSA decided they wanted to take a look inside and mess around a bit. My cables were out of place, but all there, and of the two TSA-approved locks, she only made it back with one of them. Easy day, though, easy day.

I already know where I have to be in the morning at 0700, and I’d love to share it with you after I knock it out. I am understanding that a lot of what I write about is fine, as long as it has already occurred. The trouble comes when I talk about future events, as that can allow malicious agents to predict where people will be. Its a fine line but a good one to distinguish now while my writing is harmless. In theater, it can effect operations, and so I want to establish a good routine and ethic for my writing.

For now though, I really need some sleep.

Red-eyed. Todd.