Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thoughts and Ideas...

I had a chance to do a lot of reading while I was at Air Assault. I picked up the book The Best of Slate which had all sorts of interesting articles that made me think of all sorts of life altering things. In fact, if I'd been president while at Air Assault School, I'm pretty sure I could have solved all the worlds issues. Anyway, some of the things I thought about, in Alex's patented bullet form, are:
  • Abortion--How can we approach it from a personal, legal and moral stance, in order to provide comfort and understanding to those who need to get one while doing all we can to eliminate the need.
  • The end of the world--Will life forms change, and, if so, could that be "heaven"?
  • Environmental Justice--So many thoughts about this one, I don't even know where to begin...other than to maybe tell you to go talk to Alex because she's a one woman library and able to tell me more about that issue than I could about everything I know combined.

I put them in bullet form because I'm hoping, in my infinate free time this summer, to post about each of those topics in depth once I get my thoughts all sorted out.

For now, however, I would like to get everyone to visit this website. It's from a conference in Monterey (yeah! Monterey!!) called TED:Technology, Entertainment, Design. I know, it sounds kind of like overly self-important nonsense doesn't it? But alas, they actually have really good speakers who talk about some amazing ideas. This last round had Al Gore, Hans Rosling, and a woman named Majora Carter.

Gore gave a follow up to his movie/powerpoint presentation about what we can do to help. I like when he says (and I believe it's in the movie too) that too often, "we go from disbelief to dejection." Which is something I am guilty of myself. Hans Rosling talks about Africa, and particularly how our misconceptions about Africa keep us from being able to tackle the vast issues facing many of the nations of Africa. There are some amazing demographics he shares and information presented in a way that makes population charts exciting! (no joke)

Lasly, Majora Carter. What an amazing speech. It's too long for YouTube, and I can't host it elsewhere, so I highly reccomend (ask?) everyone to watch it. The link above will take you to it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Coolest Guy Ever...

So, the second richest man in the world gave almost all of his money to charitable organizations benefiting libraries, schools, aids, malaria and malnutrition. That's awesome. What's even better is what he said about why.

Buffett said there had never really been a question of whether he would give his money away, saying, "I'm not an enthusiast for dynastic wealth, especially when the alternative is six billion people much poorer (than we are) having a chance to benefit from the money."

When asked how his children feel about his decision to give away most of his wealth, Buffett said his children "have more money than most people would dream.

Somehow, TR and FDR would be proud. I need to read the book Alex and I heard about online, Old Money; The Mythology of Inherited Wealth in America


I was able to participate in R-Day again this year to recieve the class of 2010. It's always an amazing experience (and yes, that even goes for when I was a new cadet). There is this painting of two new cadets reporting to the cadet in the red sash and behind them are the ghosts of Old Grads wearing all the old army uniforms. I like that one a lot...I would never buy it cause it's kind of tacky sentimental crap that I wouldn't dare hang in my apartment, but I like the idea of it. In fact, that whole idea is one of the main reasons I came here-to be a part of something that was older and greater than even my own ideas about what this place means.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cadet humor...even two years later...

This is completely ripped off my friend Adam's myspace blog. I thought it was hilarious...mainly because of the mix of cadet/military humor involved and how when Adam writes about Iraq it's so utterly different from when my friend Pat writes from Kuwait (Pat graduated from Annapolis, kind of like Britney Spear's Nanny...)

Anyway, here is a blog he wrote, a comment by a friend of his, and Adam's response:

Did you know the street underneath the archways of the famous giant crossing sabers in Baghdad is lined with Iranian helmets captured during the Iran-Iraq War? The street between the two arches is the parade line, passing in front of the reviewing stand made famous by the "Saddam waving a shotgun in victory" pictures plastered on the news no so long ago. All participants in a review parade would start off by walking on Iranian heads.

Did you know that the International Zone (aka IZ; Green Zone) houses two liquor stores? If you are a State Department employee, you can have yourself a good 'ole time!!!

Did you know the U.S. is building a five-hundred million dollar embassy in Baghdad? It will include housing, dining facilities, and some shops for all Americans assigned to the embassy, including the Marine battalion (500 soldiers) that will be garrisoned there.

Comment by his friend
Yes, my fine feathered friend, I knew about the helmet thing. And I gotta say, ruthless dictator or not, you gotta admire the guy. I mean, starting a parade by stomping on your fallen enemies' nuggets? That's my kinda show. I think I wouldn't have hated drill practice so much at West Point if we got to march on top of German helmets or Brit skulls. What the hell happened to the warrior spirit? Where are all of those rough men so everyone else can sleep peaceably at night?Right here, baby. Right here.

Adam's Response:

One of my squad leaders sleeps with a piece of bone from a person he shot under his pillow. It's just a small piece. A whole human head is really hard to fall asleep on.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Air Assault

So, I'm back from Air Assault School...that's really all there is to say about that. I'm convinced the entire school is a waste of army time, energy, personel and money, but hey...I get a new shiney thing to wear on my chest. I will write more another time because I have to sleep right now.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I Just Read...

I just read two really interesting articles on a couple of my favorite blogs. The first is from BLDGBLOG and the second isn't a blog at all, but a newsletter that I found a link to about land use. I think what I found so interesting about the two articles was that they echoed ideas that Alex and I have talked about quiet often. When you realize that everything you do is built upon something else, it's really difficult to fathom. The second part that I liked about the article was the connection to the Guggenheim Mueseum in NYC. I don't know if Wright had intended the connection, but as soon as I read that the Guggenheim family had financed the big hole, and read about the corkscrew, I made the same connection. Intentional or not, it is interesting. Below are the quotes I was talking about and a couple of pictures:
The nails that hold the place together come from the Mesabi Range. His downspouts are covered with zinc that was probably taken out of the ground in Canada. The tungsten in his light bulbs may have been mined in Bishop, California. The chrome on his refrigerator door probably came from Rhodesia or Turkey. His television set almost certainly contains cobalt from the Congo. He uses aluminum from Jamaica, maybe Surinam; silver from Mexico or Peru; tin – it's still in tin cans – from Bolivia, Malaya, Nigeria. People seldom stop to think that all these things – planes in the air, cars on the road, Sierra Club cups – once, somewhere, were rock. Our whole economy – our way of doing things. Oh, gad! I haven't even mentioned minerals like manganese and sulphur. You won't make steel without them. You can't make paper without sulphur..."Rearranging planets into TVs. Producing objects from geology.
(apparently, this quote is actually a quote of a quote from this book.)

The Bingham pit may or may not be “the biggest hole on earth” (a copper mine in Chile may have surpassed it), but it really doesn’t matter. It is 2.5 miles wide and 3/4 mile deep. Looking into it is like looking into space. It is the ultimate man made landscape void. When the pit first began operation, in 1907, it was the first large scale open pit operation in the US. Moving enough material to process this much low grade ore had never been done. The bold plan that was implemented used a railway with movable tracks to transport the tremendous amounts of rock out of the pit. The train spiraled into the mountain on tracks built on the ledges of the sides. The effect was like a giant screw drill. Funding for the project came from the Guggenheim family, who later built a museum bearing their name in New York City with the profits made from investments in industry across the country, like the Bingham Pit. The museum is a kind of cultural ingot extracted and refined from the raw material of the earth. And the museum, curiously, has a multi-story open space in the middle, surrounded by a long spiral ramp.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I See Scalia's Point?

Scalia gave a talk here a while ago where he railed (shock) against the idea of "evolving standards of decency". He argued that if it were up to courts to decide what "evolving standards" were, they were no longer arbitrators of law, but they were simply expressing their own views at worst, or the views they perceived as the majority at best...neither of which is really the point of the SCOTUS.

Anyway, I stumbled upon this article about the European idea of "margin of appreciation" which sounds much like what he argued against. In fact, the problems outlined in the article I linked to are basically the same ones that 1. have been seen today (finding a more liberal state--or district in our case--to hear your case in order to set precedent) and 2. having the court say one thing today and a completely opposite ruling just ten years later.

I hate to agree with Scalia, and I don't completely, but I thought the parallels were interesting.


Have you ever been disgusted by yourself for any reason? Today, I had one of those moments. I realize that I'm being really over the top and that I can't fix the world, but something about the sequence of events tonight really hurt me in the heart (or, I'm having a heart attack...but having never had one, I don't know what it feels like, so I'll just say it hurts).

I went to the mall with Mike Ballmann and some other friends. We wanted to eat dinner and maybe see a movie. I grabbed my phone, my broken iPod (I'd hoped to take it to be fixed) and my wallet and off to the Palisades Mall for a little New Jersey style friday night fun and dinner at some pseudo-asian place. I'm not feeling so hot, so after the appetizers (lettuce wraps and a plate of other asian goodies) I wasn't able to get through most of my meal (Pad Thai). I gave it to Mike and nursed my beer.

After that, we split up for a bit...I was determined to find a pair of black jeans, which is the newest thing I've decided I "need"...a pair of black jeans. I don't know why, but it was in my head "must find black jeans". The Apple people weren't able to help as the "genius bar" was crowded so I left. I thought, just for a moment, about buying a new iPod and just throwing the one I have out, but thought the better of it.

We went to the theatre and didn't see anything we wanted so we went to Barnes and Noble from there. I had seen an episode of Six Feet Under while I was home and thought it was amazing. I saw the box set for season one was a hundred bucks and thought well, why not? When I went to the counter, Mike, me and the girl behind the counter came to the realization that, because of the "2 for 1" deal going on, along with DVD's all being 10% off and opening a BN account, I could get all five seasons and a boxed set of Asian movies for Mike for the price of two seasons. I don't know why, but I bought them...all five seasons of Six Feet Under.

I still wasn't feeling well so I came straight back to my room and found an email from a friend with this video on it (please watch the whole thing...not at work though, if you have a heart, you might not be able to work for a while):

(If the video doesn't work, here is a link.)
Hence, my disgust. iPods, cell phones, a whole dinner thrown away, hundreds of dollars on beer and wine almost every month, black jeans, cameras...sometimes, when it hits me how much I have and how little I need compared to how little others have and how much they need, it makes me feel sick.
I know I can't feed them all, I can't save the world...but when I think about the ratio of what I could do compared with what I do do, I can't help but feel ashamed and disgusted.
Here's a question for everyone. If I had the opportunity to help others, to do something big that would help more people than I can right now in a tangible way, but it would put at risk everything I have now, would it be worth it? I know that's a vague question, and I know it's one that doesn't have an answer anyone can provide me but myself...but how much are you willing to give up to help others? A little? A lot? Everything? Would you give up your dreams so someone else could have his?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bush's Speech...

After a night spent driving my mother around drunk and walking through the back roads of Fallbrook calling her cell phone in the hopes of finding it along the sycamore lined streets at one in the morning (which we did eventually find), I completely forgot to watch the speech by Bush today. I watched it later and was about to write a response, but then I read a response in one of the blogs I like to read that had a more personal response that I thought was far better than what I might have said. It's from this guy's blog. Here is what he wrote:

What exactly will happen to marriage if you let two men or two women through the doors of its glorious institution? Will the divorce rate increase? Will people refuse to get married in disgust of what marriage has become? Will women cheat on their husbands, or will men leave their wives for prostitutes and prescription drugs dependencies (which is what we call addictions when white people have them)?

We've rolled this debate up in the metaphor that marriage is somehow an "institution." That sounds like it has doors and windows and established rules and a stable history and tradition for as long as man can remember. But, it doesn't. Marriage comes off looking like some kind of enormous country club, and they'll be damned if they let the niggers in. The place would go right to hell.

And that's their prerogative and their position, and I respect that, because I agree with them--letting men marry men and women marry women will change the idea of marriage, and that's very scary to someone for whom change is very scary. Not because it destroys marriage, which has gone through a lot of changes over the centuries without breaking into pieces--but because it legitimizes same-sex relationships, which have also gone through a lot of changes over the last 20 years, but are still fragile and new.

I think it's the country club effect keeping same-sex marriage opponents on the defensive. Why don't you want niggers in your club? Because what the hell are the neighbors going to think. And why do you imagine they'll think that way? Because you would. And why would you? Because, deep inside, for true reasons you have never put words to, you really don't like black people.

Whatever you imagine gay people to be, I'm sorry if you don't like them. A lot of us really aren't that bad. And I apologize that we've spent decades shining lights on your boogeyman, but we've worked hard for even this much legitimacy and dignity, and we have more to lose than you have to gain by your kicking us to the floor yet again.

I thought that was great. And, I wish I could write as well as this guy. His writing reminds me of what my english teacher at the prep school said, "Good writing is good thinking" and this guy, apparently, is a killer thinker. I also like how he speaks personally instead of legally, even though he's a law school student...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Party Pics...

So I bought this tiny camera that was really cheap because it had been bought and returned. It's so amazingly cheaply made it's great...barely weighs anything cause it's made out of cheap Chinese plastic parts...but I took some pictures of the party the other night. There are better pictures, but I don't remember whose camera they are on.

Most of the pictures are of food, because once we started drinking wine, we couldn't focus the camera or get people to open their eyes for pictures...but this is the first bottle we started wasn't very good. Later, Mr. Battaglia brought good wine, as always, and we drank it down right quick. The mushrooms Alex and I invented, they're awesome. Crab, cheese, garlic, cream, they were great. The balls Alex made, they were made out of goat cheese...and there was more food, but I ran out of memory and was more focused on drinking.

After the party, we moved to Heath's house for some good ol' hot tubbing fun. I vaguely remember driving to her house and then, what I remember in small blocks of memory are as follows:
  1. Yelling at all the girls in the car and Pat, who was driving, to "stop bein Bitches!" cause they wouldn't let me yell out the window.
  2. Falling asleep in the jacuzzi
  3. looking for a bed
  4. being surrounded by people who were trying to make me throw up
  5. waking up in the morning naked.

And then there are the things I don't remember in no particular order:

  • grabbing Claire on the ass
  • trying to pass off a hipster haiku as my own
  • the kids trying to get me to go home
  • taking off my clothes
  • getting drunk

And, I believe the money quote from the whole event was the next morning, as I woke up in the buff and asking James, "have you seen my clothes" to which he replied, "Well...last time I woke up naked at Heaths..." (apparently, people often wake up at Heath's naked. We attribute it to the hot tub and you take off your bathing suit, sit down in a towel and wake up hours later thinking, "what the hell happened?")


Someone left a response to my breif mention of federalism and whatnot in my last post. It sounds far more educated than I am, so I figured I'd post it here, in case anyone was interested:
The Defense of Marriage Act forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in addition to allowing states to "opt out" of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.

According to the federal government, not a single same-sex relationship is legally recognized in the United States. Thus, marriage in the military wouldn't exist. Thus, no benefits.

When stationed in gay-friendly states with civil unions/marriage, they would be treated as married off base within the borders of those states only but never on federal documents.

If the spouse is a civilian and the military member was overseas, the civilian would not have any moving costs covered by the government. If the servicemember was required to live in on-base housing, their spouse would probably not be able to reside with them. If they were stationed in Europe, their marriage would be recognized off base only.

Dual-military couples would not be eligible for co-location and could end up thousands of miles away from each other.

Britian lifted the ban and immediately established co-location privileges and housing for gay couples -- even before gay partnerships were recognized in the UK.

Should the ban be lifted, gay soldiers will be perpetually "single". Life-long relationships would be reduced to at most, the status of "boyfriend-boyfriend"

Friday, June 02, 2006

Home, Conversations...Other Stuff...

So I've been home since last Saturday and for some reason my compute refuses to let me log onto blogger. But don't fear my faithful readers (well, the other two since Alex is on her way here right now), I am dauntless in my efforts and managed to log on. All I have to do now is figure out how to get in a weeks worth of thoughts without doing some of my better ones injustice or forgetting some.

I guess I'll start with the most important. I'm going on a date tomorrow. A real date, dinner, IMAX movie and the Wild Animal Park (it's so rare, me going on dates, that I figured I'd fit in all the date stuff at once). I've turned into a 13 yr old girl really, and just washed all my clothes in case I do the whole "what should I wear thing" tomorrow (you never know). It should be fun...too bad we're split by a continent. I mean, even if it goes well, I'll be back at West Point by Wednesday.

I've been downloading music like mad for Kristie's wedding and spent a couple of days with her and her fiance. He's a nice guy and I'm happy for them. Their relationship revolves around food and they make me laugh (hell, they make each other often it's kind of sick...and they kiss a lot too). I give it a year before my mom is "grandma"...wierd.

When I got home, my family was in the middle of painting the house. Painting our house is no small task as it's on three levels (no more than two stories at any one point, but three different levels) and we had two ladders. I had gone out the night before and gotten about six hours of sleep, which was more than I was averaging at West Point so I felt good when I got home. I began painting and got a nasty farmers tan before I realized I could take off my shirt. Man, sometimes I'm really not bright. Anyway, here is the house. The white color on the first one is the original color. The green overhangs, I built over summer with a neighbor. They're pretty shoddy...don't think too highly of my carpentry skills. But it looks good doesn't it? Eh Lucia? (by the way, there's also a new concrete pad where we used to have dirt. Overall, Mom's done a pretty sweet job and even Kristie began to say how nice Fallbrook is.)

Alex and I decided to have a wine and sushi picnic the other day that went amazingly. She and Pat bought a bunch of Sushi and we invited Claire, the Atkinsons and us three. We had wine and set up a pretty sweet table in her backyard where we ate. It looked like the cover of a Southwest magazine and we ate and drank for a few hours before having coffee and listening to records...great time.

At the Sushi party, we all decided it would be a good idea to have a wine and hors d'ouvers night on Friday since 1. we were all here 2. we like to cook and 3. any excuse to drink wine is a good one. Al and I again planned and this time, the parental unit got in on the fun. So now, the guest list, which we had planned on being about six, is as follows:
  1. Alex and Pat
  2. Claire and James
  3. Heath and her new boyfriend
  4. Janelle (sans Timmy)
  5. The Atkinsons
  6. The Battaglias (we hope)
  7. Walk and Dominique Chavez (since I can't pluralize Chavez easily)
  8. Me
  9. Mom and Robert
  10. Janice and Gilbert

It should be a good time and I cooked enough food to feed a small nation last night. Most of it has cheese and mushrooms.

Most of this was easy to organize since I now have a cell phone! Yes, that's right kids, I've jumped into the early nineties head first and got my first cell. I am programing it to play "express yourself" (not madonna, the one from the sixties) when it rings, unless it's James Carlson, then it reads, "BATTLE!" and plays "Thunderstruck" which I got from him (but I might change it to the theme song from Golden Girls because that would just be funny.

I also got to go to a Padre's game in the new stadium where I drank beer and rid myself of the farmers tan. The new stadium is great (other than the name...I mean, PETCO? Were they serious?) and we had a great time, then I saw the godchildren.

Now, for what we've talked about. I think the most interesting discussion I had was with Alex about Federalism and how there might be a really interesting debate arising sooner rather than later. Basically, I came to the conclussion that there is a slight chance Don't Ask/Don't Tell could be lifted completely, or at least repealed by congress (and then vetoed by the President) after the November elections. That's not the federalism spot though...what I thought was this; if gays are allowed in the military, and each state has different laws about marriage, how would the military deal with that? For example, say two men are married in massachussets and one is military. The military would have to provide them benefits, housing etc. But, people from other states, say, Michigan, wouldn't be elligable for the same benefits. It seems that there is a slight possability that if the military repeals DA/DT before the country decides the gay marriage issue, the gay marriage issue could be decided (or, at least, pushed forward) by the military. What an interesting development that would be eh? Anyway, I have to run. I'll catch you cats later, and wish me luck at Air Assault School. Something tells me I should have run a bit more before I get there...but, too late now.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

And Why I Love So-Cal...

Because of this. (sorry for the light blogging...not much free time at home)