Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Back in Virginia

I am safely home with my family in Northern Virginia. As far as I know I have no further obligation to the Army for the next 6 months, and after that I'll be eligible to resign my commission. Sultan Jeff is home as well, but Chris is still over in Afghanistan. He was the last of my group to arrive, and he'll be the last to come home.

Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes (and clicks and eyeballs and links) over the last 16 months.

The blog is not going to go away. We still have VPs to settle on, and the IRR story is something that will continue to develop as we see what direction the wars take under a new president.

Thanks again, and I'll talk to everyone soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

IRR Statistics...sorta

The other day I received an article on the Army's utilization of the IRR, generously forwarded by Vice Presidential Candidate Sultan Jeff.

The article is interesting, and it marks the first time--literally--that I have ever seen an Army official discuss statistics regarding how many people have been drafted out of the IRR.

The problem, then? COL Good claims that only 4% of IRR call-ups have failed to report. This number is so wildly different than all the anecdotal evidence would suggest--everyone seems to agree that there is about a 50% report rate--that it calls into question the rest of the information presented in the article.

Furthermore, if the Army were serious about "debunking myths about the IRR", they should release far more descriptive statistics than the ones listed in this article. Namely, break things down by officer and enlisted, by different military occupational specialties (infantry, artillery, etc). Break the numbers down by year, and let us know the stats on delay and exemption requests.

Until the Army does that, the IRR process will continue to be looked at with fear and loathing by the men and women who make up its ranks.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Maverick Choices You Can Believe In: Checking In

Welcome back, everyone.

I wanted to check in and let you all know that I don't have internet in my room anymore. As such, I have to use the public computer lab, and that might mean less frequent updates in the Army 2.0s continuing series: Vice Presidential Race 2008--There's Still Time.

Though we don't have any new candidates tonight, the race to replace the current running mates remains as important as ever. With Troopergate continuing to blow up in Sarah Palin's face, and with Joe Biden still being from Delaware, both major parties stand to gain from an eleventh hour switcheroo.

So stay tuned, and keep your eyes open for our next installment--the Judge Advocates.

Until then!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Maverick Choices You Can Believe In: The Adorable Ones

Greetings, loyal followers of the 2.0, and welcome to the 4th installment of our continuing series: Vice Presidential Race 2008--There's Still Time.

When last we left you, the 2.0 had broken down 4 potential replacement-running mates ready and willing to step in for Biden and/or Palin.

After starting our list with 4 straight male candidates, it's time to reveal the first of our female potentials. And if you thought Sultan Jeff or Patrick had a compelling case to be made, wait until you see what the Adorable Ones have to offer.

First up is everyone's favorite sign wielding newborn, baby Abigail. Now, we feel compelled to mention that the adorable infant is constitutionally banned from the office of Vice President for another 34 years and 8 months. Putting that aside, though, one must admit that baby Abigail combines all of the adorableness of the Palin family with the same basic level of readiness in a single, more efficiently sized package.

Both candidates are said to covet the little baby’s unquestioned cuteness and quickly developing gross motor skill. Should McCain tap Abigail it would be mark the first time a national ticket ran two candidates with less-than-total bladder control.

Pro: Has no experience, has never been to Washington, has never said anything incriminating or embarrassing (or at all), has never met or associated with any politically controversial figures, isn’t old, isn’t a fake-Muslim, isn’t from Delaware.

Con: Easily distracted by shiny colors, pleasant noises.

Pet Issue: Legislation ensuring that she isn’t forced to receive sex education for at least another 21 years.

Favorite Parent: The nicer smelling one with the long hair and milk

As cute as little Abigail is, there is one potential running mate that scores as high (or higher) on all the relevant adorability indexes--our very own guest blogger, Bailey the cat. The 10 pound feline is a delightful mix of orange fur and pink paws, and she sports highly valued working class roots from her youthful days on the mean streets of Saint Louis. Bailey would also mark the first vice president in recent memory able to hide from tiresome, visiting heads of state by jumping on top of a bookshelf and laying perfectly motionless for hours on end.

Republican strategists believe that a blogging cat might be just the solution the GOP has been looking for to assuage voter fears regarding McCain’s lack of tech-savvy. The Obama campaign thinks that this already historic election could be made even more important by pairing the first ever black candidate for national office with the first ever orange one.

Pro: Daily routine of sleeping, eating, bird watching is basically equivalent to a typical day-in-the-life of a sitting Vice President.

Con: Tendency to knock pencils, important documents off the president's desk creates tension between adorable orange cat, president.

Pet Issue: Mandatory sentencing for mommies who don’t feed kitties prior to 7 AM each morning.

Favorite Beatles Album: Rubber Soul

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Maverick Choices You Can Believe In: The Comment Leavers

Hello again, loyal 2.0 readers, and welcome to our next installment in the Army 2.0s continuing series: Vice Presidential Race 2008--There's Still Time. While last time we looked at a couple of Dark Horse candidates--guest bloggers Sultan Jeff and Laser Rocket Arm--today it's time we expand our search to include two of the Army 2.0s most frequent comment leavers--Patrick and KyleC.

Strong candidates both, I think that this race just got a little more interesting (as if that was even possible). With all of that said, let's get to the candidates!

Patrick—no fancy nicknames here, he’s just Patrick—is a loving husband and father. He also might be an honest-to-God scientist pretty soon, but who are we kidding—we’ve been hearing that rumor since he started grad school like 10 years ago.

McCain hopes that by tapping a young, up-and-coming biologist like Patrick—who isn’t really that interested in policy or politics—the Vice President could eschew all typical VP duties to devote the majority of his attention to finding a cure for being really, really old.

Obama, while also intrigued by the valuable insight a biologist-as-VP could bring to many of the great ethical and scientific issues of our day, is mostly interested in Patrick for his body.

Pro: Torture survivor had to wait an entire summer to find out if Jack Bauer would escape from China after Season 5 of 24—brutal!

Con: Seriously, if the candidates don’t leave him alone to finish grad school this fall it’s probably never gonna happen…

Pet Issue: Mandatory display of the 10 Commandments in University biology labs

Favorite Vowel: U…but sometimes Y

KyleC, a cat owning San Franciscan family man, is quite possibly the 2.0s most reliable comment leaver. McCain might look to tab Kyle with hopes of increasing his share of the Bay Area vote from infinitesimal to barely-above-zero—a huge moral victory that could help a McCain/KyleC ticket in other key states.

Obama, who gave up a career with a huge Wall Street firm after Law School to pursue political activism, is said to be attracted to the fact that Kyle gave up a career with a huge Wall Street firm after Business School to pursue a career in software-as-a-service…which is like political activism, but with more small-and-medium enterprises and fewer members of the Weather Underground.

Pro: On the McCain ticket, the former child star could benefit from the “Republican Actors from California” bump.

: Billboard modeling work generally considered less Presidential than playing Notre Dame football star, poorly-dubbed Greek hero let loose in New York City.

Pet Issue: California Independence Party’s proposed vote for Northern California secession from Southern California.

Favorite Type of Plane From Which to Shoot a Wolf: Cessna 172

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Army 10 Miler--Bagram Airfield Shadow Run

This morning I ran the Army 10 Miler here at Bagram Airfield. While the flagship race is held each October in VA/DC, the Army holds satellite or "shadow" runs around the world to coincide with the main event.

At the start of this deployment my hope was to be home to run this race in DC in front of my wife and family, but alas, twas not to be...

Still, I've been training for this run for the last 6 or 8 weeks, and I'm very pleased with how the race turned out. The particulars are as follows:

Time: 1:15:34
Avg / Mile: 7:33
Elevation: ~5000 feet
Place: 36th (out of ~500 here at Bagram)

This is me (on the left) with Patrick, and we ran the first 6 miles of the race together. We helped each other stay loose and find our pace, and I probably would have run 2 or 3 minutes slower without a strong partner to help push me through.

The event was very well put together by Task Force Warrior, the unit that took over the mission that I was working on for my first 7 months in country. Above you see the band that played at the start/finish line. They drew liberally from the Rocky soundtrack, and really, who doesn't run faster when they've just finished listening to Gonna Fly Now?

This is my training partner Nigel, an officer from New Zealand who I worked with for several months. Nigel is the guy that forced me out of bed early in the morning to go on long training runs--thanks a lot, Nigel. (No really, thanks a lot!)

You can also see in this shot what a beautiful morning it was here in Central Asia. It still gets pretty hot during the day, but the mornings lately have been wonderful.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Maverick Choices You Can Believe In: The Dark Horses

If you can feel the excitement in the air, it's probably because it's time to reveal the first set of potential VP candidates in the Army 2.0s continuing series: Vice Presidential Race 2008--There's Still Time. As we discussed yesterday, the Army 2.0 will spend the next several days weighing the relative merits of a number of potential VP choices either party can use to replace their current dead weight and lift their presidential candidate to a sure-fire victory in November!

Now, for those of you expecting to see nothing but politicians and public figures on this list, you're in for a disappointment. In case the title of this series didn't tip you off, the 2.0 is a change-loving maverick with no interest in cow-towing to the inside-the-beltway elites. We're not much interested in the outside-the-beltway anti-elites, either. In fact, no one you'll see on our list has legislative OR executive experience--because really, look at all the good that crap has done for Biden and Palin.

Enough of my time wasting! Without further ado, the Army 2.0 proudly presents the Dark Horse Candidates:

Here at the 2.0, Sultan Jeff is a part time contributor and a full time good guy. A former Division I basketball player, Jeff could team up with President Obama to form the second greatest backcourt pairing in Presidential history (slightly behind the often overlooked Nixon/Agnew combo). On the other hand, a McCain/McFarland ticket would lead to so many more hilariously clever Mc-fill-in-the-blank jokes that voters couldn’t help but put the pair in the Mc-White House--see how easy but completely annoying that is? McAwesome!

Pro: Up and coming family man boasts beautiful wife, loyal dog.

Con: Nation uncomfortable with Jeff's familiarity with Islam, Julie Andrews' show tunes.

Pet Issue: Drilling for oil in the protected Cinci-tucky region at conjunction of Kentucky, Ohio.

Favorite Skittles Flavor: Grape

Our second Dark Horse Candidate is Mr. Laser Rocket Arm himself, guest-blogger Chris. Chris is an MBA with an ear for foreign policy, and he’s currently reading Dr. Kissinger’s magnum opus: Diplomacy. I think most pundits will agree that both candidates could use a guy like Chris shoring up their foreign policy team. And the next time McCain and Obama debate what Kissinger did or didn’t say about—I dunno, the spread of the neo-global islamo-fasciast jihad—wouldn’t they like to have a guy like Chris on their side?

Pro: Passing resemblance to current Vice President. Like Cheney, derives powers from his male pattern baldness.

Con: Only written two guest posts—Cheney would have found a way to secretly take over the blog by now.

Pet Issue: Public funding to construct new football stadium in Indianapolis, giant Peyton Manning Theme Park in Chris’s parent’s backyard.

Favorite member of N’Sync: Chris Kirkpatrick

That's it for this installment of Vice Presidential Race 2008--There's Still Time. Check back tomorrow when we bring you the second round of exciting party-irrespective VEEP choices--the Comment Leavers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Vice Presidential Race 2008--There's Still Time

Hey everyone.

I don't know if you have paid much attention to the VP candidates this time around, but if you're like me you are less than thrilled with what the Dems and the GOP have offered up for the electorate's approval.

What's my beef, you ask? Unfortunately, as an Army officer on active duty I'm not allowed to share my opinion of the common criticisms you hear about Biden and Palin...but let's jsut that I'm not overly impressed with either candidate--and I'm guessing many of my loyal readers feel the same way.

All of this leads me to wonder--does it really have to be that way? Do we really have to settle for less than the very best, year in year out, election after election?

Call me naive, but I think that we can expect more from our political system. And because I'm generous, I'm gonna do both parties a solid.

No, I'm not going to endorse anyone--the legality of doing that is questionable, even if the ability of the IRR-blogging crowd to tip this thing one way or another is not. And no, my back-of-the-napkin plan for saving the banking system still isn't ready for me to share with the world, much less the 2.0, so hold tight on that one as well.

Instead of all of that, the Army 2.0 is going to provide a still more valuable service to the presidential candidates, and to you, the American people. I'm going to take a few days away from my normal tales of sports and Russian literature to provide both Senator Obama and Senator McCain with a list of perfectly viable replacement VP candidates that--irrespective of party--are almost sure to guarantee victory for their running mate this Fall.

I appreciate that this might set the election cycle back weeks, and it's really not that fair to anyone who cast an early ballot without the benefit of knowing any potential running mate changes. But all the responsibility is to give all the involved parties the information they need to make the most informed, enlightened decision possible.

Check back later today for the first round of candidates: The Dark Horses

Update 1: The Dark Horses
Update 2: The Comment Leavers
Update 3: The Adorable Ones

War and Peace Blogging #3: Almost There...

I hate to say it folks, but just inches from the finish line I've hit something of a wall. I haven't picked up War and Peace in 2 or 3 days, after speeding through to the final section of the Epilogue. Why the slowdown? Well, the story itself actually wraps up at the conclusion of Volume 4. The Epilogue consists entirely of 50+ pages of Tolstoy expounding on his theories of the nature of history. He wrote quite a bit about that subject throughout the book, but again, this is 50 straight pages of straight up theorizing. It's interesting stuff--among other things, Tolstoy contends that the importance of "great men" in shaping events is greatly over emphasized--but it's tough reading all the same.

Date: 3 October
Complete at last update: 1038
Pages complete: 1325
Read since last update: 287
Pages per day: 287 / 9 ~ 32
Pages remaining: 33

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Remember when all we talked about was Iraq?

It seems like a long time ago, does it not? Nowadays I feel like Afghanistan gets the lion share of the media coverage, which is by no means a bad thing.

These three recent columns on the state of affairs in Afghanistan--two from the Post and one from Slate--paint an interesting overall picture of the country.
"But in the meantime...we haven't exactly "neglected" Afghanistan, as Barack Obama and others often say. It's just that we haven't yet faced up to what we have undertaken to do here. Afghanistan is bigger than Iraq, more rugged, more impoverished and vastly more complicated, with more languages, more ethnic groups, more tribes and more-lethal neighbors. It has only begun to test our stamina."

Fred Kaplan lays out the differences between Iraq and Afghanistan in the context of a potential Afghanistan "surge". He's right to point out some key differences, but Kaplan's dismissal of significant tribal conflicts within Afghanistan betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the situation there. Applebaum alludes to this reality in the pull quote above.

Finally, David Ignatius bemoans the Taliban's continued ability to successfully come out on top of the Information battle. This one has particular interest to me, as public affairs and strategic messaging were part of my responsibility for the provinces I worked in. I think my team and I did good work, but as Ignatius suggests, Information operations are a part of the fight that we (the coalition) are still getting the hang of.

War and Peace Blogging #2

As you can see from the highlighted numbers below, I have fallen a little behind my goal of reading 50 pages a day, but not by much. At this rate, I should be done before the month is out!

Date: 23 September
Complete at last update: 541
Pages complete: 1038
Read since last update: 497
Pages per day: 497 / 11 ~ 45
Pages remaining:

One of the main characters, Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, had this to say in one of his more cynical moments. It should be noted that the Prince is talking about the high level commanders, not the line commanders making decisions in the moment.

"A good military commander has no need of genius or any outstanding qualities; quite the reverse, he needs to be devoid of the finest and noblest of human attributes--love, poetry, affection, a philosophical spirit of inquiry and skepticism. He needs to be narrow minded, totally convinced that what he is doing is very important (otherwise he would never have enough staying-power), and only then will he become a valiant military commander."

Did George Will just endorse Obama?

I think that he sorta did (emphasis added).

"It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Laser, Rocket Arm #2: Diplomacy Blogging #1

So there has been a bit of a drought since my last post**. Why, you ask? I blame it on the Taliban – that's my story and I am sticking to it.

But a recent post of Andrew's stirred me with such emotion, that I felt the need to come out of blogging retirement. As many of you know, Andrew is reading the novel, War and Peace, before he leaves Afghanistan. That is 1358 pages of goodness. It occurred to me that Andrew might be able to use a little support in his undertaking.

As Andrew knows, I started reading Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy back at Ft. Bragg in our room at the Faith Barracks. I never made much progress in this task, partially because I was trying to read three other books at the time and partially because it's Kissinger's Diplomacy. In the last couple of weeks, a fire was lit within me and I picked the book back up. I am now up to page 332 out of 836. While not quite the behemoth of War and Peace it certainly has some meat behind it.

Andrew – I want to offer my moral support:

Date: 16 September

Pages complete: 332

Pages remaining: 504

**By "little drought", guest blogger Chris means 8 months!!!!1! Also, for a refresher on guest blogging, check out this classic post.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Crusaders and the Conservatives

Check out this fascinating article on two competing factions that exist in today's Army.

On the one hand you have what the author dubs the "Crusaders"--guys and gals who see the Army as a nation building force that must be organized around the principles of fighting a counter insurgency fight. General Petraeus is clearly a member of this school of thought.

On the other hand we see the "Conservatives"--Army officers who believe a narrow focus on counter insurgency undercuts our readiness to fight any conventional wars we happen upon in the coming years.

I'll leave it to y'all to figure out which group you think makes more sense...

But the key point that the author draws out--one that is so often ignored in such discussions--is this: sure we need to organize the Army to fight the counter insurgency fight if nation building is to be Army's primary purpose...but who ultimately decides what the Army's purpose should be? And is terror-fighting interventionism so damned imperative to begin with?

Again...these are interesting (and monumentally important) questions for everyone to ponder and answer on their own. In the mean time, I'm gonna go get some lunch.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cal Bears Football, Past and Present...

Before week 2 kicks off in earnest, I thought I should give a quick shout out to Cal "alums" who took care of business during week 1.

Aaron Rodgers made an impressive debut as the Packers starting QB, throwing for a TD and running for another against a strong Vikings defense.

In Philly, DeSean Jackson was strong in his first regular season game for the Eagles. DeSean didn't have any TDs, but he added several solid kick returns to more than 100 yards receiving on the day. Well, done Mr. Jackson.

And last but not least, Marshawn Lynch had what can only be described as another Lynchian day for the Bills. I don't know if Marshawn will ever average more than 4 yards per carry (though I suspect the Bills line has something to do with that) but Lynch almost always finds a way to make it into the endzone. Last Sunday was no different--keep it up, Marshawn. Make the Bears proud.

It should also be said that while several running backs rushed for more yards last week than Marshawn did, I find it hard to believe that any of those backs are half as handsome as he. Just saying...

Alright, everyone--happy footballing this weekend and I'll talk to you soon.

Go Bears, beat the Twerps! Go Duke, beat Navy! Hail to the Redskins!

Friday, September 12, 2008

War and Peace Blogging #1

I've taken it on myself to read War and Peace before I leave Afghanistan, and to keep myself honest, I'll be posting progress updates here on the 2.0 from time to time over the next several weeks.

Date: 12 September
Pages complete: 541
Pages remaining: 817

Also, I'll leave you with a quote from a passage that I read this morning and particularly enjoyed (emphasis added):

"According to biblical tradition the absence of work--idleness--was a condition of the first man's state of blessedness before the Fall. The love of idleness has been preserved in fallen man, but now a heavy curse lies upon him, not only because we have to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow, but also because our sense of morality will not allow us to be both idle and at ease. Whenever we are idle a secret voice keeps telling us to feel guilty. If man could discover a state in which he could be idle and sitll feel useful and on the path of duty, he would have regained one aspect of that primitive state of blessedness. And there is one such state of enforced and irreproachable idleness enjoyed by an entire class of men--the military class. It is this state of enforced and irreproachable idleness that forms the chief attraction of military service, and it always will."

Hey, Count Tolstoy said it, not me...

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Go ahead...throw your vote away!

Dr. Paul issued a very interesting statement on his blog the other day declaring that when it comes to Obama and McCain, any distinction drawn between the two candidates is a "charade of great proportion." Strong words, Dr. Paul.

Ron believes that we all bear a moral responsibility to "[r]eject the two candidates who demand perpetuation of the status quo and pick one of the alternatives that you have the greatest affinity to, based on the other issues."

Interesting though. But as far as voting third party...I think this issue was pretty much closed by Kang and Kodos years ago (towards the end of the video, but the whole thing is worth watching).

On This Day...

...Two years ago--September, 11 2006--I received a half-sized manila envelope in the mail.

I was living in Berkelely, CA, and I was just kicking off my second year of business school at the University of California. The night before I had gone to a Silver Jews concert in the city, and I slept in a little the morning of the 11th. I don't think I actually left my apartment that day until 3PM when I had to start heading to a class. I stopped to check the mail on my way out the door, and the manila envelope was inside my box.

The envelope had been forwarded from my summer address in Seattle (I worked at Amazon that year as a Product Manager intern) and the return label was from the Army's Human Resources Command.

This was not the first piece of mail HRC had sent me, but each previous mailing had been a regular letter in a regular envelope. Though I hadn't been expecting to receive anything from the Army, the second I saw that return label from HRC I knew what was inside--and strangely, I wasn't at all surprised to be receiving it.

I never did make it to class that day. Inside the envelope was a set of orders that required me to report for duty on the 3rd of October--about three weeks later. The envelope also contained instructions for how to request an exemption from the call up, or a delayed reporting date, so rather than go to class I called my wife (an Army lawyer) and my dad (a retired Army lawyer) to start figuring out my options.

As much as September 11, 2001 changed our lives and our world in the macro sense, receiving those orders on September, 11 2006 changed my life and Lauren's life even more. We are on a fundamentally different course than the one we had been on, and though I know that we would have married and shared our life together regardless, it's impossible to say how different our lives might have been if this burden had been handed off to others.

The Silver Jews, incidentally, played a show in my native Washington, DC on Wednesday evening--the 10th of September, 2008--proving for the umpteenth time that God is not without a sense of humor. I had hoped to be home in time for that show, but alas, I'm still here in Afghanistan for a while longer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Notes From the Homefront, Bailey the Cat #5: On The Move. Again.

For reasons that are beyond my kitty understanding, my mommy (and I guess my daddy) decided we should move again. I've moved a lot in my life, so I should not be surprised that we are moving again.

My mommy is having a tough time because my daddy had to go away again and she hates moving. Those two things combined to mean that she needed my help getting ready to go to the new place and Dad told me its my job to help mommy. As you can see here, I was quite the help. First, I helped mommy get her clothes together. As you can see here, I am making sure Mommy's new suit doesn't go anywhere.

After that I was tired and had to take a nap.

Then I helped to pull out the suitcase for Mommy to pack.

As expected, I had to take a nap after that as well.

After we got everything packed, we moved to the new place. Mommy says we are "house sitting" for a few weeks until we can be in our new home. I like the place we are living because it has lots of windows and trees and birdies. The only down side is the dog who lives here too.

His name is Elvis and he likes to sleep in the bed with Mommy and me. He is ok for a dog, but I don't think dogs should sleep in the bed. Mom says its only for a few weeks and then I won't have to share the bed with a dog anymore. Until then, I'm happy to be helping my Mommy and watching new birdies.

While I wasn't blogging...

Mrs. Exnicios did her part to keep things going over at Really Nothing Special. Among my favorites:

Army wife musings, including this NYTs piece (which I didn't like as much as Lauren--it's called a post, Army wife, not a "base").

A recap of our adventures during leave (my mid-tour, Lauren's ETS) with exciting pictures, including the shot of me and Abigail shown here.

Spot-on deconstruction of one of the least socially responsible McDonald's commercials I've ever seen. Not that McDonald's hasn't been positioning itself as a childhood ego and self-esteem booster for years, but still.

I think my Haas colleagues at the Center for Responsible Business have some more work to do.

In Honor of Megan's post in honor of Bernie Mac...

Bernie Mac slapping people is funny.

As is Head of State, generally. RIP, Mr. Mac.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Greetings from another branch of the Bardill Family

Mrs. Bardill (grandmother of little Abigail and the third from the right) took a moment out of her birthday celebration to say hi to the 2.0. Hope all is well out your way, Mrs. Bardill!

Shameless hyperbole from the Times?

I guess I won't presume to call this Times editorial shameless, but is it hyperbolic? You bet your ass it is.

Money quote:

"These investments [in Afghanistan] will take time to pay off. But seven years have already been wasted, and unless such efforts begin now there will be no safe exit from Afghanistan for the foreseeable future." (emphasis added)

Sheesh, New York Times, tell us how you really feel.

That said, I think everyone agrees that, even with the step up in troop levels, Afghanistan will require the attention of the international community for years to come.

Greetings from Berkeley

The Full-Time MBA Office at Haas, my MBA alma mater dear, recently checked in to say hi. Amy, Julia, Kate and Dan, I hope you're all doing great, and thanks for the awesome picture!

Farewell redux

More than 3 months ago we said goodnight and good luck to IRR blogging stalwart Jason.

Well, much to my delight Jason made a cameo over at his old blog the other day to let us all know how he's doing, and to officially announce that the blogging has come to an end. Thanks for the good times, Jason.

It's really weird to think that Jason and Kevin (who chose to take down his blog, which lives on in our hearts all the same) have been home for 3 or 4 months already. And Jeff, Chris and I are still here in Afghanistan--a country whose security situation has set the Newspaper of record to running around screaming with its hair on fire--fighting the fight.

Only a few--hell, a couple--months left to go, though.

It's interesting to look forward to the type of readjustment challenges that Jason mentions. Lauren--I think that a trip touring Europe for three weeks might help us adjust, too!

And for the record, this marks the fifth post in the last 9 months where I've used the word "redux" in the title. It's true, I have a problem...

Not Enough Majors? Say it ain't so!!

The headline for this WaPo article focuses on the deployment cycle has led to a decline in Majors in the Army. Fair enough.

When you read the article, though, the point is raised that many majors are choosing to retire right at the 20 year mark (presumably to avoid further deployments), and this is presented as one of the most significant reasons for the current dearth. To that I say--maybe.***

Remember a couple years ago (and this year, even) when all sorts of fuss was being made about the lack of CAPTAINS in the Army? Well, what happens when you take a Captain, add water, and wait 4-6 years? You get a Major, that's what.

So even if the reduction in Captains hasn't propagated through to the Major ranks yet, it will soon. The Class of 2000 at West Point famously fled the Army in 2005. Assuming we take those folks as representative of Army officers, that particular "year group" will, even with soaring promotion rates to Major, have trouble filling all the spots that need filling. Those officers got their first look at Major this year (which, scarily enough, means I get my first look NEXT YEAR!!1!)

What about the Majors retiring at 20? Well, the only Majors who can do that are those that served in the enlisted ranks prior to being commissioned as officers. When the group of Majors starting to retire went through OCS 10-15 years back, OCS represented a relatively small portion of officers commissioned in a given year. The Army has, of course, stepped up efforts in recent years to commission sergeants into officers (to boost it's sagging number of Captains, of course) but again, this is a recent phenomenon.

Wow, lots of wonky ranting to suck down in this post...sorry 'bout that. The point of all of this is that I don't completely buy the anecdotal evidence being presented in this article. I'd really love to see the numbers the Army's Human Resource Command (no stranger to the 2.0) is looking at as they attempt to manage officer strength.

***Another key reason cited in the article is that the Army is growing itself in absolute terms, which of course means they need more officers to man the force. This fact indisputably affects the shortfall.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Totally Didn't Post While Home...

As anyone who has stopped by in the last few weeks noticed, it turns out that I didn't take the time to post at all while home on my mid-tour leave. It was a great leave, though, and I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see my beautiful wife for a couple of weeks (or how hard it was to say goodbye again).

My tour, as I've mentioned, is winding down, and if the last two weeks are any indication, I have yet to convince myself that I'll continue to blog once I'm home. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but...

I began my blogging adventure with certain goals in mind, and I've been trying to assess whether I've achieved what I set out to do.

First and foremost, I wanted this forum to serve as a road map to anyone coming through the IRR pipeline who is as in the dark as I was in June 2007. By any measure, I've achieved that goal. After an initial dump of information last June/July/August I've cut back on details and toned down the sarcasm, but there still aren't a lot of places on the web that will give future "Civil Affairs Operators" more info about what they're getting themselves into. Google terms related to this blog, and you'll find I show up pretty high in most of the search results.

Going forward, I'll post a bit about the leave process, and what demobilization is like, and call it a day.

My second stated goal was to use this forum as a way to keep up with family and friends. I know some folks who check in every day, and many who stop by once in a while, and the 2.0 is always here for anyone who wants to see how things are going. There have been a few blogging gaps (including this one), and I wish that I'd updated the monthly summaries more often. But otherwise I think I've kept the content decently well organized. I hope everyone out there has and will continue to enjoy a look at a world that most of us don't get the opportunity to see very often.

My final goal, which I don't think I've ever stated outright, was to use the blog to brainstorm ways that my current experience in Afghanistan is applicable to my once and future career path as a business person. I haven't really addressed this issue explicitly to date, but I hope to make this the focus of my blog for the next several weeks (with all due respect to sports and pop culture) as I prepare to go home for good.

The early returns, incidentally, are pretty good. In particular, a working knowledge of negotiation theory, pricing, micro-econ, marketing and strategy have put me at a big advantage. With everyone's help I'm ready to start flushing out these stories, seeing which ones resonate, as I take stock of what I've learned and how I've grown as a business leader through my second go-round in the Army.

Monday, July 21, 2008

While I'm travelling...

...Everyone should take the opportunity to catch up with Mrs. Exnicios over at Really Nothing Special.

The wife has been churning out the content of late, in part because she has found herself with some extra free time of late. Lauren, you see, started her "terminal leave" from the Army a few days back. So, as of this writing, Lauren is no longer an active member of the United States Armed Forces. We're all very happy for her, and eagerly await her next move after nearly four years of service in the Army.

So, check here for a detailed breakdown of a bust first few days of Redskins training camp, check here for another potential Exnicios puppy (this one named Berkelely, no less), and check here for the latest goings on on Army Wives.

A Conversation of sorts...

Me: In the next couple of days I'll start the long journey home. As a reservist spending more than 270 days in Afghanistan, I'm eligible to take 15 days of "midtour" leave, and I'm taking advantage of that program to go spend some much needed time relaxing with my wife Lauren.

Faithful Readers: Midtour you, say? Aren't you almost DONE done at this point??

Me: It's true--as of today I've been playing at war for 212 days, leaving me somewhere around 70-90 days to go. If you figure that my leave will take about three weeks total (the travel time on either end of the leave doesn't count against my time) I will return to Afghanistan with +/- 2 months left of defending everyone's freedom. Pretty good stuff, no?

Faithful Readers: I guess...but when you head home, who will take up the cause of keeping America safe from the scourge of neo-global jihadism???

Me: That's a great question, but one that someone else will have to answer. Both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates seem pretty intent on increasing the flow of resources to the fight in Afghanistan, so that's a good thing. Well, good in that this conflict deserves the attention. It's bad in that the candidates seem to be falling over each other to show how "unendurably shit-tastic" things are out here. As I've pointed out innumerable times, there are a lot of undeniable successes here to offset the obvious upticks in violence. That doesn't take away from the violence or its impact. But still, let's not go crazy like this guy did and imply that the US isn't building any schools--I can't even begin to tell you how many schools I've had the pleasure of working on.

Faithful Readers: Hmm? Are you still blabbing on? Why don't you go on leave already????

Me: Excellent suggestion, faithful readers. Have a nice few days, and I'll see you once I hit the ground in the States. I plan on posting an update or three while home, so no mid-June style lengthy absences are in the 2.0's future.

Talk to everyone soon!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Congrats to my Hollywood Friends

It turns out that more congratulations are in order, this time to my great friends Megan and Wade.

Pictured here in Venice, Italy holding up traffic to take one of the coolest non-baby pictures featured on the 2.0 in recent months, both Megan and Wade spent last year working on TV shows that received Emmy nominations earlier today. Granted, we're talking about the same Emmy's that bestowed two trophies last year on So You Think You Can Dance, but still--an award's an award, right?

Megan, incidentally, was the writers assistant for the criminally short lived Creature Comforts USA, which is up for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour).

Wade was and is the script coordinator for Saving Grace, the star of which, Holly Hunter, received a nod for best actress in a drama. I'm pretty sure that Holly gets nominated by default because she's really famous and she talks with that crazy mouth thing, but it's still an honor for the show.

Congrats again, guys, and thanks so much for the fantastic picture and only European shot in the gallery!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another List...

Not to be outdone by those stupid lists that pop up on the MSN home page, CNN has published its own list of "Best places to live". Waitta get in on the fun, CNN.

It turns out that a neighborhood where a couple of my good friends grew up made the cut--Hunter Mill, just outside of Vienna, VA, comes in at a cool 19th place.

And as another one of my friends points out, "there's no better place to live to see an R&B group 20 years past its prime with only one original member left play live music." (Hunter Mill is home to Wolf Trap, a local concert venue that specializes in Steve Miller and Earth Wind & Fire concerts).

Living in Hunter Mill will also gain you admission to the Longfellow Intermediate mafia, so it's got that going for it too.

Espn's TitleTown USA, or How I Allowed Another Stupid List to Annoy Me into Action

July isn't a good American sports month. Granted, the Tour de France is in full flight for those inclined toward cycling. And for you rugby fans out there, the Tri Nations action is sure to captivate every weekend.

But for the rest of us, all we have is baseball. Baseball is nice and all, but it doesn't suffice to fill the three hours a day of Sportscenter that ESPN has to pump out.

To fill that space, ESPN gives us TitleTown USA--a contest between 20 towns and cities in the US to see which is the most Title-tastic of them all.

Among the cities who didn't make the list of 20 finalists: Washington, DC (my home town) Durham, NC (where I did undergrad) and Berkelely, CA (where I did grad school).

It's not that I'm accusing the nice people at ESPN at purposefully conspiring to eliminate every city with which I have a meaningful sports connection...but the fact that Palo Alto and Chapel Hill both made the list of 20 isn't exactly putting those particular suspicions to rest.

Also, let's look at the logic used to justify which cities made the cut--San Francisco, in its justification essay, lists World Series won by the Giants in '05, '21, '22, '33 and '54. One problem, there, ESPN--the Giants were still in New York for each of those titles!

Let's compare SF, then, to DC. The Redskins have 5 world titles (two in the pre-Super Bowl days) which matches the 49ers 5 championships. Washington is also home to the 1978 NBA champs, the 1924 World Series champs, and (lest we forget) the 1998 NHL Eastern Conference Champion Washington Capitals. You can also throw in every title that Georgetown ever won (here's looking at you, 1984 NCAA men's bball champs). And really, as much as I don't like to, you should include the University of Maryland into the title mix as they're right outside of the city. I guess you can counter the effect of the 2002 men's and 2006 women's bball championships with the Bill Russell led USF title winners in the 1950s, but still, I maintain that Washington has far more of a claim to this list than SF.

Now, if SF were allowed to count adjacent Berkeley's 24 (count 'em, 24!) NCAA titles in men's rugby, then maybe they'd have a case. Cal's 17 (count 'em, 17!) crew national titles wouldn't hurt either. Neither would Cal's 14 men's water polo championships...I think you get the drift.

I'll refrain from complaining about Palo Alto (Stanford's various titles warrant a place on the list, no two ways about it).

Chapel Hill, on the other hand...Texas, Arkansas, LSU and OK State all have more national titles to their credit (rugby isn't included in this list...if it was, Cal would crack the top 8). Granted, none of these programs can point to as high profile a program as the UNC men's basketball team. But still...UNC? ESPN, I'm convinced, just wanted to add insult to injury for the Exnicios camp.

Last but not least, I should say that Durham's exclusion was probably justified. Duke's 9 NCAA titles can't compare to the big state schools (or Stanford). Ultimately, Duke has been hamstrung by an inability to win the big one, particularly in snooty, east coast team sports like lacrosse and field hockey. Making the final four consistently, Duke never quite turns the corner to take home the hardware.

Oh well...I think my rant is over now. Time for me to get back to work.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Congratulations to the Bardill and Bernstein Families!

My great friends (and frequent 2.0 commenters) recently welcomed into the world Abigail. Lauren and I couldn't be more thrilled for the happy family, and we're excited to say that we'll meet baby Abigail in a couple of weeks!

It should be noted that Abigail has made an appearance on the 2.0 previously--she's quite the sign holder, as you can tell.

Congrats again, guys, and thanks for the wonderful picture (which I'll post to the main signs gallery shortly). Love to you all, and we'll see you in a few weeks.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Me and Governor Sarabi

I don't know if I'll have another chance to meet with my friends from Bamyan, so I took advantage of the opportunity the other day to take a picture with Governor Habiba Sarabi.

I've mentioned the Governor and Bamyan a number of times here at the 2.0, and I wish continued success upon the province and the dynamic Dr. Sarabi. And why not, here's (yet another) link to me on a mountaintop in Bamyan. As you read all about the violence in other parts of the country, it's important to remember that a lot of Afghanistan is doing pretty darn well.

Here's a shot, by the way, of the Governor with Laura Bush last month.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Notes From the Homefront, Bailey the Cat #4: Through the Years...

I recently turned 7 years old. It was a nice birthday, though it would have been better if my Dad could have been here. I had salmon with my Mom. Mom says we can have more salmon when Dad comes home. I like salmon. Its pink, like my paws.

Birthdays are a good time to reflect on the past and I found myself doing that this birthday. When my Mommy rescued me, we lived in St. Louis. We lived in a small apartment on the first floor. It had a lot of windows and I could watch people and the birds in the trees outside. Sometimes people who walked by would say hello to me. It wasn't very big, but it had fun cabinets to climb. Sometimes I go to Connecticut to visit my grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa's house has stairs and a lot of windows. It also has other cats and dogs. I like Kelley, she is a fun dog to lay down and chill with. Copper is not as much fun, he barks and scampers everywhere. Minnie is my Grandpa's cat. She sometimes like to run and play and sometimes she gets mad when I try to look at birds in her window. Mom and I lived in Savannah, Georgia for a while. There was only one window there, but there was a tree outside the window and there were lizards who lived in that tree. I like the lizards, Mom did not. There were also cockroaches in Georgia. Again, those were things I liked to play with that Mommy did not like. In her defense, they were very big.

I think my favorite place we lived was Colorado. It was a big place with lots of stairs to run up and down. I had my own bedroom and there were lots of windows. I got to watch squirrels and birds. Sometimes there were kids and dogs in the courtyard. Mom would dogsit Sage who lived with Uncle Ryan. Sage was a good dog, she let me sleep in her dog bed, though she tried to cuddle with me too much. Kitties only like to cuddle on their terms.

Now we live in Virginia. Its good, birds visit our balcony and I get to watch them. I can watch cars and they drive down below. We live up high on the ninth floor. I've never lived that high before. There are no stairs, but there is hardwood floors that I sometimes slip on. Mommy thinks its funny. Mom says we are moving to a new place soon, with more windows and cherry trees outside our windows. I am tired of moving, but she says Dad will live with us at this new place and that's exciting. I miss my Dad, even if he thinks he can use my pillow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Exnicios Redux

For those of you who haven't stumbled across this, the US Census bureau has published data on the most common surnames in America. Every name that appears at least 100 times in the 2000 census is included, some 100,000+ entires--and Exnicios didn't make the cut.

Exnicios, it would seem, is less common than Twehues, Sprofera, Wegscheider and Thongsavanh.

And honestly, I can see being beaten out by the Twehues clan...but those jerks from the Wegsheider family? Unbelievable! I don't know where those guys get off...

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Alma Mater Dear

Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, VA made an appearance in the headlines today with the WaPo's seemingly annual examination of the magnet school's affirmative action policies (or lack thereof).

It turns out that the newly admitted class has an Asian plurality--45% of the class is Asian, 42% is white. As the article points out, Fairfax County (where Jefferson is located) is approximately 16% Asian. The discrepancy bugs some folks, particularly in light of the lack of black and Hispanic members of the class.

Which reminds me, actually--there was a really well done piece on Affirmative Action and racial justice in the Sunday Times. Definitely worth a read.

Anyways, forget about the Asian about the Longfellow Intermediate plurality??? Seriously, like everyone I knew from high school went to that place.

One last (and unrelated) note to any WaPo editors who might be reading this--I strongly prefer "Jefferson" to "TJ". Jefferson sounds so much less nerdy than TJ, doesn't it? And honestly, we TJ Jefferson folk do a pretty darn good job at being nerdy on our own--we don't need the extra marketing push, thank you very much.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Theme Songs Redux

Over at Really Nothing Special my wife posted an interesting bit the other day on the power of personal theme songs--y'all should give it a read. And if you are wondering, yes, I choose not to judge her for her choice of "The Hills" theme music--I'm big like that.

Lauren puts forward Gavin DeGraws "I Don't Wanna Be" as my theme, and I have to admit, it's hard to argue with that. When I'm in the mood for irony tinged triumphantness (which happens pretty frequently) there's nothing better than the joyful absurdity of Mr. DeGraw's One Tree Hill theme song.

I would, however, offer two more contenders. The first song is for those earnestly triumphant moments (which happen fairly regularly as well)--"Echoes Myron" by Guided By Voices. The second song has long been my Friday afternoon "going home from my army job for the weekend" theme--"Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying" by Belle & Sebastian.


I'm Back!

As evidence for said claim I offer this picture of me and some contractor dudes celebrating the 4th of July with a BBQ and some NA beers. Awesomeness.

Happy belated Independence Day to all of my American friends out there. To the rest of the world, especially those fighting here alongside the Afghans, a happy day to you as well.

I realize that it's not very considerate of me to drop off the map whilst in a war zone, and I apologize for anyone who might have been worried that they hadn't heard from me in a while. I'm doing well, staying safe, and I'll leave for home (for R&R, not for good) in a few weeks.

Thanks for bearing with me in my absence, and I'll talk to everyone soon. A special thanks to my wife, Lauren, who fields the majority of the "Where is Andrew?" emails and calls. Thanks, babe.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nothing much going on...

An interesting article about a different part of Afghanistan...

I imagine some of you are wondering why I haven't posted about the First Lady yet? It's true, she totally visited Bamyan, one of the 4 provinces I work in and have had the chance to visit fairly extensively. And it's true that that's pretty awesome.

I guess I just don't know what else there is to say about Mrs. Bush's visit. Bamyan is mostly peaceful and boasts Habiba Sorabi as its governor. Not only is Dr. Sorabi the only female governor in Afghanistan, but she's arguably one of the strongest governors in all of Afghanistan.

And yes, when you visit Bamyan with someone important in tow, the Kiwis there do their war dance for you--which is pretty cool.

Anywho, happy weekend everyone. I continue to maintain a low profile here at the 2.0, just trying to hold my breath for another several weeks until it's time to come home for R&R.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Big Time

I would just like to point out that my wife is now getting comments on her blog from Chris Cooley's little brother.

Pretty cool stuff.

Honestly, between Chris Cooley and Gilbert Arenas, I doubt any other city can challenge DC for athlete-blogging supremacy.

And Lauren--if you'd like me to take topless photos of you to post on the 2.0, like Chris did with his wife, you just let me know...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pictures without me in them...

The Boston Globe (which is confusingly found at the url ran an interesting slide show of Afghanistan pictures yesterday.

I've actually been to the palace shown here. It's a pretty breathtaking site to behold--the picture doesn't do it justice. The area its located in Kabul is pretty cool as well. Other palaces are within view, there are some parks/gardens, and the National Museum (which I've never been to) is across the street, to the rear of the photographer in this shot.

On a related note, I wish I did a better job capturing pictures of the places I've had the chance to see. I end up as the photographer, more often than not, taking pictures of other people with other cameras--which comes with the territory when you're CA. It doesn't leave much time for taking tourist shots of myself.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Quarterly California Report

Notable vehicle enthusiast Marshawn Lynch took things a tad too far the other day--no one likes it when you hit someone and then keep driving, Marshawn.

Who would have thought the guy could get into more trouble in Buffalo than he ever did back in Oak-town?

In other news, a Berkeley institution is shutting down--how will the community survive without the UHaul to rail against?

I actually used this UHaul twice--once to move stuff into storage, and once to move it out. As the article suggests, parking in that neighborhood is a bear.

That's all the California stuff I have to share tonight--hat tip to Tom for sending me the UHaul link.

The roundup, btw, is still in the works...check back tomorrow morning and it should be online and ready to go.

Sadly Predictable

Wario strikes again, this time to spite Lord Stanley and his Cup.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Checking back in...

Hey everyone.

After a record setting month of May--44 posts blew out my previous monthly high of 31--I've taken the last couple of days to collect myself.

I stepped out of my office around midday here in Afghanistan, thinking that I'd have something interesting to say...but I'm drawing a blank. So, in the spirit of throwing something out there anyways, let me run down the numbers for you.

For those of you counting at home, I've now been here in Afghanistan for 166 days--Christmas Eve until now. I can't tell you exactly what percentage of the total deployment that is, but suffice to say my 5.5 months here puts me well over 50% complete.

I've been back in the Army now since June 24, 2007, so 349 days overall. In just a few weeks I'll pass the one year mark, which is pretty darn exciting. Also, I'll head home on leave sometime next month, so it's fun to be able to tell my wife--"See you next month!"

Army 2.0 veterans are probably wondering why they haven't seen a holiday countdown in a while, and you're right, I owe you that. I still haven't scrounged up decorations for Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo or Memorial Day. With the Solstice coming up in two weeks, I've really got to get my act together.

The good news, though, is that we're 75% through the countdown--only Solstice, Independence Day, Ramadan and Labor Day to go--and that's pretty awesome too.

That's it for now, I think. Enjoy the NBA Finals this weekend, and I'll see everyone again soon.

Look for a Monthly Roundup this weekend covering both April and May--should be epic.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Radiohead vs. Prince

There are some interesting copyright issues afoot!

Not that I particularly want to watch/listen to Prince sing Creep, but still...Radiohead want to see the clip, Prince. Ease up, little guy.

More on Puppies Behind Bars

Lauren fills in some more details on PBB over at Really Nothing Special.

Read this post--you don't want the terrorists to win.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thrice Monthly Dinosaurs of Indie Rock Update

This is really kind of depressing. Built to Spill has scheduled a series of US dates throughout the US in September. At said dates BTS will perform their classic 1997 album Perfect From Now On. Like, in its entirety. Awesome, right?

Except that I'll be overseas for the entirety of that tour. Which is not cool...not even a little. (See the comments section for more on Built to Spill).

In far less depressing music news, the epicly titled Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality compilation will feature a new song from Army 2.0 fave the Wrens. The Wrens haven't released a new track since 2003's Meadowlands (lazy bastards) so this is (we can hope) an exciting step toward a new album for the Jerseyites.

Ah, net neutrality...I totally used to know what that is. It has something to do with the giant tubes that connect together all our computers, right?

Monday Morning News Brief

And really, every single Civil Affairs team that the Army might have sent to Africa is one more CA Team worth of dudes they would have to call off of the IRR to backfill less glamorous missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Africa mission, all told, is an interesting and important one. It remains to be seen, however, exactly what role the US military will play.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

In Honor of Graduation Season...

And in keeping with my tradition of shamelessly mining the humor of others to supplement my own original content, here is my favorite ever commencement address***--Conan O'Brien Class Day speech to Harvard's graduating class of 2000.

This was back when Conan--a Harvard man himself, of course--was at the very height of his comedic powers. The remarks start with a bang:

"I'd like to thank the Class Marshals for inviting me here today. The last time I was invited to Harvard it cost me $110,000, so you'll forgive me if I'm a bit suspicious. I'd like to announce up front that I have one goal this afternoon: to be half as funny as tomorrow's Commencement Speaker, Moral Philosopher and Economist, Amartya Sen. Must get more laughs than seminal wage/price theoretician."

Happy Sunday, everyone.

***Yes, I indeed recognize that normal people don't have "favorite ever commencement addresses." I've long since come to terms with that. Still...enjoy the speech.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The New Sheriff in Town

Duke just hired away Notre Dame's Athletic Director. Which sounds good, right? I don't know anything about the guy, but ND runs a big time athletics program, and (despite recent struggles) they run a big time football program under similar restrictions to those in place at Duke.

Of course, just because he HAS run a big football program doesn't mean he's run it well--this is the response I got from a ND friend when I sent him the news about Duke's hire:

"Haha THANK GOD!!!!!!!!!!!! ND will be back!!

Duke basketball better wave good bye!!"

Ah well...nice thing about Duke--we have low expectations for success in football, and bball takes care of itself, so I think Mr. White will do fine.

Only beef with the guy--his picture looks like the yearbook photo of a high school principle from 1978. Weird.

Puppies Behind Bars hit the big time!

If this doesn't absolutely melt your heart I don't know what to tell you.

Puppies Behind Bars is a charity my wife and I give to. The idea is they place lab and golden retriever puppies in prison where the charity trains the inmates to train the pups to be helper puppies to folks with disabilities. The linked slide show is probably the cutest (non-Bailey) thing I've seen in my entire life.

Here is my wife's post on the same article.

Really folks, it doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Weekend, everyone

Yet another article, this one from the Durham HS and linked to at ArmyTimes, confirms that the IRR recall is still very much in effect. When will it all end? Time will tell...

Of note, Chris (from the linked article) was called back on 400 day orders. My call-up (and that of my peers) was for 545 days, or 18 months. The difference is probably that this guy will do the same job he did the first time around, whereas all of my IRR classmates and I were summoned to re-class to Civil Affairs.

I tell you what, though...even with the re-class to CA, if the Army was more efficient about the whole process--9 weeks of CA training, 2 weeks of pre-deployment stuff, ship you off to Iraq--you could get CA guys through in 400 days and change. But just ain't gonna happen.

Have a great, IRR free weekend everybody. And Chris, if you happen by this post--hang in there, buddy. The whole process goes by faster than you think. Good luck and God speed.

N-B-A-spiracy: Lakers advance to NBA Finals

There wasn't really a conspiracy, of course, but you'd be lying if you said that Lakers didn't take a lot of help from the ref's to get to the finals this season.

Game 1) Near the end of a close game, the ball goes off of Duncan and out of bounds. Duncan appears to be fouled. No call is made. At the end of the game, score tied and the Lakers with the ball, Kobe blatantly shoulders a Spur out of his way, elevates, hits the go ahead jumper. No foul is called. The Lakers win.

Game 4) Spurs down 2 with 3 seconds to play. Derek Fisher mugs the Spurs Brent Barry. No foul is called. Barry loses the ball, and the game ends. The NBA admits the next day that a 2 shot foul should have been called. Barry is an 85% free throw shooter. But alas. Lakers win. Barry says of the NBA's apology:

"That's awesome. Because Doc Brown is waiting for me outside, and we're going to get in the DeLorean and fire up the flux capacitor and we're going to go back and shoot a couple of free throws."

And that pretty much wrapped up the series. At the same time...I'm happy that LA won, as to me they're a more fun team to watch than the Spurs. And there's no denying that Kobe is the single best end-0f-game player the NBA has had in the last 10 years. Even on those Shaq/Kobe teams, it wasn't like the Lakers would give it to the big guy down the stretch. They'd give it to Kobe.

So dubious refereeing aside, well done Lakers. Next up: the Celtics or the Pistons. How very 1988...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Other Side of the Coin

Tonight I wrote an email to a military wife who reached out to me through the blog, worried about her husband who might soon deploy and not really sure who might understand what she was going through.

And tonight, my wife linked to an absolutely devastating story of the ordinary, unexceptional misery felt by thousands of military families every day.

Link directly to the story here.

It's not said often enough--the deployed have it easy compared to those left behind to worry after our safety and well being. I'll never know how hard this deployment has been for my family.

Rachel Ray, terror supporter and jihado-apologist!?!

Say it isn't so, Rachel!

It would appear that some folks back in the states are taking to task everyone's favorite throaty voiced, indie music loving, cheap meal buying Dunkin Donut spokesperson.

For what, you ask? For wearing a scarf in a commercial. Which makes us lose the war on exactly?

Wow. Just wow.

Note: The attached picture is of Rachel at SXSW, no doubt spewing her vile, anti-American hate for all the lefty music fans there to watch Vampire Weekend and discuss why they think that Freedom, contrary to popular opinion, is indeed Free.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

He Stared Lovingly Into Her Eyes and Said "Neigh"

Big Brown gallops nine furlongs in preparation for the Belmont this weekend.

I also hear he weighed in at a healthy 250 stone and stands at an impressive 15 hands.

Seriously, who uses units like that? If the Horse crowd can find a way to work in leagues, fortnights and/or fathoms they'll be just about ready to write a fantasy novel.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reggie & Obama, making it happen

Great article from the front page of the Times about all around good guy Reggie Love. The Duke alum is Obama's body man--basically Charlie to Obama's Josiah Bartlet. Money quote:

"Mr. Obama said he regarded "my guy, Reggie," as the kid brother he never had. "But maybe I'm saying that just because he technically could be my son," the Illinois senator said. "I don't want to admit my age."

I never had a kid brother either, but it's nice to know that I get an awesome ex-Duke basketball player to fill that role for me if and when I mount my run for the White House.

Incidentally, this is the first article I've read about Reggie that's alluded to his--ahem--unfortunate beverage related photography accident in Chapel Hell some years back.

Thanks to my father in law and Rhonda for sending out this link.

Peter King Redux

A few months back I posted this pic of me and Peter King discussing the finer points of Hall of Famer Art Monk's receiving statistics relative to the era in which he played (a topic that Peter King found as boring as you guys probably do).

A friend of mine from college just forwarded me this (somewhat raunchy) link, where a football blog has totally doctored my picture to meet their own nefarious purposes--scroll down a bit and you'll see it.

And in fact, if you google "Peter King" and look for images, my Peter King picture shows up on the second page of results. Pretty good stuff. It's nice to know that anyone hoping to doctor a photo so it looks like Peter King is holding a sign that says something or other will likely turn to my picture first.

Monday, May 26, 2008

New Islands: Arm's Way

Decidedly mixed reviews so far for the new Islands album.

Which is disappointing, as I've got really high hopes for this one. You see, the one and only time I saw Islands live was in San Francisco with my friend Anna. Islands played most of the tracks off of what would eventually become Arm's Way, and I loved every minute of it...but that might just have been the beer talking. Here's hoping my impression then was right and that the critics now are wrong.

Anyone out there given it a listen yet?

28 May Edit: I take your resounding silence as a no :)

Only in Afghanistan...

One of the side effects of working too hard is a weakened immune system. I've been fighting off a variety of ailments for the last few weeks, and today the doctor prescribed me--I kid you not--Magic Mouthwash.

That's not just a euphemism actually says "Magic Mouthwash" on the bottle. The interweb tells me that MM is a concoction of medicines that will help my throat get better, and I really hope that's the case. But I'm pretty sure MM is something that doctors give to make you feel ridiculous to the point that you will yourself to stop being sick. And hey, I'll take that too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day

"He was born in February 1901, seven months before President William McKinley was assassinated. If Buckles had been born 14 months earlier, he would have lived in three centuries. He has lived through 46 percent of the nation's life, a percentage that rises each morning when he does."

Amazing stuff. One of my maternal great grandfathers was a WWI vet, as I imagine many of our great grandfathers were. It's hard to believe that some folks from their generation are still out there making it happen.

Happy Memorial Day, everybody. I hope that life slows down enough so that each of us has time today to reflect on the sacrifices (final or otherwise) made by those that have gone before us.