21 November 2009
I also think that I was programmed somewhat by my early reading. Louis L'Amour often had characters who were Men. Not simply male gendered, but Men. They were well read. They knew how to shoot and when it was appropriate. They knew how to ride and farm and lead. They were good fathers and husbands. They were adventurers both the physical world and the internal mind.
In short, I have always wanted to be one of those men. This post (which I will update as necessary) is a clearinghouse for what such a man should be. What traits he should have. What he should know how to do.
After typing this far, I realize that this should actually be on a website rather than on a blog post. I will be moving this to my personal website at travellis.uuuq.com/WhataManShouldBe.php. I will put this page up later this weekend.
09 September 2009
When I started writing again I opined that I really missed it – and I do. My friend John pointed out that many of us miss it and that it is making the time that is the challenge. Amen, brother, amen.
Today I’m jumping from my time in the military to my time as a missionary. The subject of today’s post: J Breedlove Wilson. Subtitled – how to annoy someone with whom you have to spend 24 hours a day in one easy dinner appointment.
Background: Jaren and I had similar (if bizarrely different) experience in that we both served a good chunk of our missions in Eastern Europe and we both ended up in
Our common background was beneficial in that we were working in the Polish community in
One of those adjustments revolves around the food. First of all, let me clarify: I love Polish food. I wish that I had access to a Polish restaurant. I’d be there at least once a week, if not more. Alternately, I wish I had the time to spend preparing the food myself. There are, however, certain dishes that more seasoned missionaries used to scare their newer brethren. There were two that concerned me heading to
Then I went to
Galaretka, however, is a different story. For my American friends, galaretka is jello. Meat jello. The preparation by the family who served it to us consisted of taking everything that was left over after a chicken dinner, putting it in a pot, and boiling it until the bones released the substance that causes gelatin to gel. They put it in a pan and the pan was sent to the refrigerator. My understanding is that this is a delicacy. I also understand that most people skim the fat of the top of the gelling product. Not this family.
Before I go on, I need to point out that A) this family was struggling to make ends meet and that feeding the missionaries was a great sacrifice for them and B) We totally understood this and were grateful for their sacrifice. I point this out because the (what I hope to be) humor to come should not be construed to be at their expense. At Jaren’s, absolutely, but not that sweet family’s.
When we arrived, the table was set for just the two of us. There were two small glasses of flavored water, a plate with two pieces of wonderful Polish bread - cut in half, plates, silverware, and salt and pepper. After seating us, the wife proceeded to bring out the galaretka. I should also point out that, while Jaren served in Eastern Europe, he didn’t serve in
As the meal was being served I received a 3.5” x 3.5” cube of galaretka. Then Jaren got his cube . . . and an additional ½ cube just for good measure. Our approach to eating was obviously different. I cut up my cube into bite sized pieces and spread them around my plate. Jaren slowly cut off individual pieces and ate them as he cut them.
My approach offered another benefit. The family had a 2 year old son who quickly saw his opportunity and started stealing pieces off my plate. The parents scolded him for his actions but I (very selflessly, of course) said that it wasn’t a problem. I was a missionary and it was part of our calling to share with others. I gladly shared with the young-un.
At this point I have to say (and apologies to my Polish friends) galaretka – or at least that which I at that evening – is easily one of the foulest things I have ever eaten. My approach was to take a bite then take a bite of the bread or a sip of the flavored water. As I was about half way done I had finished the 2 half slices of bread and consumed most of my flavored water. Jaren hadn’t touched his. I assumed that, with his experience in
So I started eating another piece of bread. That got me through another quarter of my food. Jaren still hadn’t touched his bread. So I took the last piece. I was sure that Jaren was enjoying his dinner because he hadn’t spread it around his plate like every novice missionary learns to do when he doesn’t like the food that has been offered. This meant that the son was only stealing food from my plate.
In the end, I ended up eating maybe 2/3 of the food I had originally been offered, all the bread, and all the flavored water in my glass. Jaren had more than one and a half times the amount of galaretka, no bread, and only drank his water when he was done. He made me proud to be his companion.
We left a spiritual message and left for home. Almost immediately upon reaching the street, Jaren assaulted me verbally. How in (expletive deleted) could I eat all the bread? Oooo, was he mad. Apparently he had been waiting until the end of the meal to use the bread and water to cleanse his palate. And thanks to me, there was no palate cleanser. I don’t know that he’s forgiven me to this very day. It was either that, or stealing his girlfriend. I’m not sure which.
17 August 2009
DLI is supposed to be the marriage capital of the US Army, and possibly of all the combined armed forces. I don't know whether that is true or not, but it sure seemed that way. It felt like everyone was getting married. It makes sense when you realize that A) this was the first time away from home for almost all the student population, and loneliness ran rampant; and B) unless you were married, you had to live in the barracks and with the restrictions that came with those accommodations.
The loneliness would be quickly abated, thanks to the newbie sharks. These were soldiers (both male and female) who knew when their unit would be receiving incoming soldiers from basic training. They would circle the company area and offer to help the newbies find their rooms, carry their bags, and generally just be friendly. The ulterior motive was that, when the "lonelies" hit the newbie, they would remember and return the kindness they recieved.
For most soldiers in initial training, the barracks issue wasn't that big a deal. Most trainees went from basic training - which ran 8 - 13 weeks, depending on which branch of service - to their advanced training post - which typically ran a few months more. Not so for those of us that were blessed by our creator with the potential ability to learn a foreign language. Right smack dab in the middle of our initial training we got to spend between six months and a year and a half (depending on language) in a strange limbo status. We had finished our basic training but weren't considered "safe" yet. Obviously we had to be watched closely until we had completed the full cycle of training. The only way not to be chained to the barracks was to live off post and the only way to live off post as a solider in initial training was to be married.
Now, I don't know if Valance was the shark or if he got sharked, but he found himself a . . . female. I don't remember her name but I definitely remember her. The infatuation between the two lovebirds was sickening. (I won't mention my own plummet into the morass of love at DLI now . . . maybe later)
One of the other issues with being in the barracks is that members of the opposite sex weren't allowed in each others living quarters without the door fully open for all the world to see what was going on. Oh, and PDA (public displays of affection) is strictly forbidden. These restrictions were in place to keep impressionable young Americans from acting on the aforementioned infatuation and limit instances of the bed-sheet boogie from happening.
This didn't stop Valance and his . . . female. They were all over each other. The problem was that she was all over anyone else who showed an interest. As a side note, the subject of her chest size (or lack thereof) came up one day and she just had to show everyone what God had given her. Just plain classy. Knowwhaddahmean?
So, Valance and his . . . female got married and moved off post. Frankly I was more than pleased. Valance had been the bane of my own romantic aspirations more than once. My other roommate and I had a non-monetary wager on how long the marriage would last. Neither of us collected because of what happened next.
The lovebirds had been off post for about a month when she disappeared. The official term is AWOL - absent without leave. She found a new guy - another soldier in the unit - and decided that she was done playing army (and house, for that matter) and took off for San Francisco.
Valance was shattered. His already fragile psyche traversed all of Dante's descripted hells. Since he was technically still married, he was allowed to remain in his off post quarters with the hopes that his fair maiden would return.
She did, with the help of the friendly neighborhood MPs. (another side note, I freaking loath MPs. Biggest bunch of thieves and ne'r-do-wells I have ever met) In their brilliance, rather than bringing her back to the company HQ to face discipline, they took her to her home of record - where Valance was waiting and stewing. I guess it was just too damned far to go that extra mile and a half.
Valance went nuts. To his credit, he waited until the MPs left to beat her. He was nuts, not stupid. If this seems an anti-climactic ending, it would be. . . if it were the end. Shortly after leaving, one of the MPs Ssense started tingling - or perhaps he realized how stupid it was for them to leave the runaway bride with the guy who had the "crazy eye". They showed up in time to keep Valance from doing any real harm.
At this point, the company commander brought both of them back onto post to live while they sorted everything out. Things mellowed out for about a week - and then it happened.
It was Monday morning formation. We had been up for a few hours, having done our daily exercises and eaten breakfast. School was due to start in about 45 minutes. We had been in formation for about 10 minutes before the commotion started. Because of my assigned place at the far front side of the formation, I missed the beginning. What I did see is everyone dropping to the ground and then heard someone yelling "He's got a weapon."
As the bodies fell to the ground (voluntarily, not in Columbine fashion) the fear was so thick you could almost touch it. . . for everyone but me. What I saw had me doubled over in laughter.
Valance was standing there getting the crap beat out of him by a couple of other soldiers. He was dressed in a black button up shirt, black ski pants bloused into his Cocoran Jump Boots, and a black beret. He had black sports paint under one eye. He had what looked like an M16 and three bandoliers of ammunition. It was a sight that I will never forget.
The story gets even better. Valance made the absolutely worst choice of where to appear for his "attack". He popped up right between an old Infantry sergeant who had just failied Polish and was feeling pretty bitter about the world and a Special Forces soldier who had just finished his "Q" course and was keyed for action. Valance never had a chance. It turned out that Valance's weapon was a modified AR-15. Modified to shoot only .22 calibre rounds. Now, I'm not saying that being hit with a .22 round wouldn't hurt, but it likely wouldn't be deadly. On top of this he only had a 5 round magazine. So, even though he had over 210 rounds of ammunition, he really only had 5 shots before someone would have got him. There is no way to quickly load a magazine for an AR15.
The final sad note about Valance is that he has the dubious distinction of being the first person of whom I had knowledge who tried to commit suicide by cop. When the MPs showed up (yep, the same idiots who dropped off his wife) he was doing everything he could do to get them to shoot him. They just subdued him and put him in the squad car.
Last I heard, he was serving life in Leavanworth for attempted murder.
I still wonder if that Lysol laced cigarette was at the root of his insanity.
16 August 2009
Image by United States Army Garrison - Presidio of Monterey via FlickrWhile there are several time periods in my life that I would consider influential, there are two that stand as anchor points. Interestingly enough, both of them lasted roughly two years.
The first was my time on active duty in the US Army and the second came around three years later when I served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They both helped shape me into the person I am today - for better AND worse.
For a year and a half of my military service I had the pleasure of being stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, California at DLI. Like many acronyms in the military, DLI can (and does) stand for a number of things. The official name is the Defense Language Institute and it is one of the two best language training facilities in the world. One of the unofficial names of the installation is the Drunken Lust Institute (alternately the Drunk and Lust Institute - your choice).
To further entrench this concept there is the myth of the eagle. On the lower edge of the base, overlooking Monterey Bay, there is a monument to John Drake Sloat. John Sloat is the man credited for claiming California the US. The monument is of a stylized eagle. The myth says that on the day a virgin graduates from DLI, the eagle will take flight. The eagle is still there today. There are those who proclaim that they knew of someone - or that they personally, who met the criteria and disproved the myth, but I remain skeptical.
While there, I served with a number of characters who were just plain bizarre. There were those who wanted to leave the military so badly that they allowed themselves to be "caught" in homosexual relationships. There was the "Ether Bunny" episode at the Navy barracks. Closer to me personally, I lived on a floor with two soldiers who ended up being convicted of attempted murder and one who went just plain nuts.
The guy who went nuts was my roommate. I hasten to point out that I believe he was a few bricks short of a load before he ever met me.
His name was Valance. His military designation Valance, NFI NMI. (No First Initial, No Middle Initial) He had legally changed his name prior to enlisting to that of a fictional character from novels he had read as a kid. He tried to explain who the character was but I never really quite understood.
Valance was a screwy kid. He smoked a carton of cigarettes a day. Not a week. A day. I was grateful that A) the military had instituted the ban on smoking in the barracks unless everyone agreed and B) that my other roommate was as much of an anti-smoking nazi as I was. No smoking in our room. Even though I hate cigarette smoke, I do believe that everyone has the right to screw up their life however they want, as long as it doesn't impact me. I would never mess with anyone's cigarettes. Except Valance's. I guess he was the exception that proved the rule.
Two instances that come to mind. The first was the time that I told him I could balance a cigarette across the top of the pack, hit the filtered end and it would flip three times and I would catch it with the filter in my mouth. He was stunned. He had no idea how that could be done. So I showed him. I balanced a cigarette on top of the pack, lifted my hand . . . and crushed the pack.
The second was the day that I was just bored. Bored, bored bored. There is nothing worse than a nineteen year old solider who is bored. Things . . . happen. Valance had left his pack of cigarettes out. And I was bored. I believe we had been cleaning for an inspection so I had a can of Lysol handy. Did I mention I was bored? And that it was a new can of Lysol? I spent the rest of the afternoon spraying that can of Lysol into one cigarette. It took all afternoon because it would saturate and I would have to let it dry before I could spray some more.
Once the can was empty I placed the doctored cigarette on Valance's bookshelf in plain view. While the thought was tempting, I was not trying to poison him, just tick him off. The tampering was evident and, when he asked what had happened, I quickly (and joyfully) let him know what I had done in agonizing detail. I enjoyed the ensuing hissy fit immensely. Not as much, however as I enjoyed the following Sunday.
I mentioned that Valance smoked a carton of cigarettes a day. He could afford this because he bought them at the PX, which, at that time, still offered better pricing than the local economy. Valance would take great pains to ensure that he bought his weekly ration Sunday morning so that he would be set for the week. That Sunday something happened that kept him from reaching the PX before it closed. And he was having a nicotine fit. He just knew he wouldn't make it into town and back before curfew and he had to have a smoke.
And then he remembered. There was one sitting on his bookcase. Now, before you come to the conclusion that I was a complete bastard. I did try and talk him out of smoking it. The attempt wasn't even half-hearted. Mostly. To be honest, I didn't want to catch the crap that would be flung my way if he collapsed and it came out that I had been responsible for the doctored cigarette. The Army has strange concepts about personal responsibility. If he got sick, it would be his fault for smoking what was obviously doctored. If he died, I would be responsible for having put it in his path. Reminds me of the class on how to end one's life in Basic Training. But that's a story for another time.
So, yeah, he smoked it. Fortunately(?) he didn't die. The question about how fortunate it was comes in part two. But you needed to know the background to know why I feel that I played a small, if insignificant, role in the future events in the life of NFI NMI Valance.
Image by churl via FlickrI have been itching to write for some time. And more than just blog entries (though I'm sorry I have neglected those as well). I have ideas running through my brain that would be great foundations for short stories, novellas, or even (dare I suggest it) a novel or two.
I also realize that my writing is more than rusty. I think I can rip out a fairly decent blog post, but I know I'm no longer at the level where I would even consider submitting my work for publication.
So, I'm going to take a page from one of my favorite blog authors - Daniel Howell. I started reading Daniel's work when we both played World of Warcraft. I found his page as a great resource for the game. He also ended up posting stories from his life. I ended up enjoying those even more than the game related posts.
Unfortunately, as anyone who plays WoW knows, for many players there comes a time where they must choose between the game and real life. That happened for me about the same time as it did for Daniel.
While he chose to sever his connection to the game permanently, I am grateful he continues to write at his new blog "Brain Needed Space".
Taking a page from his playbook, I will be writing stories from my life that I find (or found) amusing, touching, or in some other way worthwhile. I will pull from my time spent in the US Army, serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with friends that have become as close (or closer in some cases) as family.
I hope you enjoy the writing. I encourage critiques on style and structure. Please feel free to comment on subject matter as well. If you have issues with anything I have done or with groups with whom I have (or am currently) affiliated, you can post, but don't expect me to respond. I won't engage in a battle of wits with the unarmed and I don't participate in flame wars.
That being said, I hope you enjoy my writing and look forward to your input. Look for the first post shortly following this one.
06 August 2009
Image via WikipediaI wish I could bust rhymes like eminem. Not what this post is about, though.
I am back in the saddle (for the umpteenth time). Life is heading back in the direction it should. I got a J.O.B. that looks like it will stick this time. It doesn't cover what I need, but it's steady income and, for once, I like both the job AND the people with whom I'm working.
Outside of that, I am currently working on two projects. I am helping develop a social networking site focused on the cruise industry. It's actually pretty exciting. I am also taking my sales/construction experience and developing an in-home sales training program that primarily targets home improvement companies but secondarily to anybody that sells in-home.
Not that any of that is even remotely interesting to anyone reading this, but that is where I am at.
I will also follow through with my commitment to start my weekly posts on the Constitution. I'm back to reading in those areas and am excited about sharing what I learn.
Also, I will probably post again later today because we had an experience this week that just SCREAMS to have its story told.
so . . . until later . . . .
11 May 2009
Image via WikipediaSo, I had my first real job interview in six months. By real I mean a job where the company isn't hiring as many warm bodies as possible knowing that they need volume to make up for their revolving door.
And the interview was humbling. I haven't done any hard core web development since 2004 and it showed. I've been doing little side jobs and thanks to them I didn't look like an idiot, just like I was really out of my depth.
So, the plan now is to continue.
Continue looking for work. Continue building my skill set.
I also met with a guy who is doing some consulting and I may head that direction. Based on our conversation, he seems to think I have skills that small businesses need. So I'm looking into that as an option.
I will also get back to using this blog to aggregate information on how to get a job. To add to this I will also be updating my website to include a job search how to section. This serves two purposes. First, it allows me to work on my web dev skill set. Second, my hope is that it will help others find jobs.
Anyway, I now have much to do.
Keep checking back to see where we head.
09 May 2009
I may post just to maintain my sanity but don't expect anything amazing.
07 May 2009
What I mean by that is when you get the rejection call, allow yourself to be depressed for a couple of hours, or even the rest of the day, but then get over it and start looking again.
I allowed myself to have self-pity for the last couple of days. It is now time to FIDO - forget it and drive on.
06 May 2009
Image via WikipediaSo, the new concept for applying for jobs is a lot different. The new way of doing things is to customize your resume and cover letter for every job. Now, I used to do this before but it was always minor tweaks to a basic resume.
Resume filtering has become automated and somewhat sneaky. Companies are getting so many resumes for each job posting that there is now software to filter out those who don't meet their requirements. This is even more insidious than it sounds. In the past I would look at the job requirements and what the listing said they wanted and then change my resume or cover letter to match. The problem is that I would reword it . . . hey, isn't that the way we all got through school? Otherwise it's just plagiarism, isn't it? Not with the modern job search. Nope, if you don't take what they want verbatim off their posting and find a way to put it in your resume and/or cover letter (oxymoron alert) creatively verbatim. Yep, if you don't do a data dump of what is on the job posting don't plan on getting the call back.
And that has been the pain this job search. No call-backs. The only bites that have come have been places that have a revolving door process. They hire as many people as they can get and some will eventually stick. I guess I'd do that if there were no other options. I just believe that there have to be more/better jobs out there.
So, today I spent the day following this new process. Dang, it's a pain. I'm sure it's like everything. The start is slow and painful but it gets better and faster as you go along. It took me hours just to get out three applications/resumes.
I created a web page to post all the information as I come up with it so I can copy/paste chunks for new job postings. Feel free to check it out at travellis.uuuq.com/mondores.php
We'll see how it goes.
04 May 2009
Image via WikipediaFor the first of my daily posts on searching for a job I think an overview of topics I'm going to cover is in order. I doubt that this list will be comprehensive as things will pop up that I will want to cover but this will give me a pool of topics from which I can draw.
I will be attaching this post to the sidebar as a reference. As I write on a topic, I'll put a link on this page to the individual post and as I add topics, I'll add them to this list. I will also be creating a section on my personal website with links to the topic posts. I look forward to your input.
Discovering what you want to do when you grow up.
You in 30 seconds.
Making a plan to reach your goals.
How to identify sources of employment
How to contact people effectively
How to interview effectively
The functional resume
Being a memorable contact
The daily job search.
30 April 2009
Image by Olivier Charavel via FlickrSince I haven't had a full-time paying gig since the end of November of last year, one would think that I would have been serious about finding something.
The reality is that I have been actively searching for a gig but I have recently learned that most of what I have been doing no longer meets what the conventional wisdom says I should be doing.
One of the thinks that job seekers do on a daily basis is to blog it out. Start writing about the job search and about what you have learned that has helped you and that may help others in the future.
So, here I am, blogging it out. Starting tomorrow (later today, really), I'll be covering what I have learned and what I have put into use from what I have learned.
I finish this brief post by providing information that will help anyone reading this to help me.
Because it's all about me, right?
Please feel free to check out my linked in page and my personal bio page. My personal page is (very) rough right now but will improve over then next couple of days.
LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/travellis
Personal Site: http://travellis.uuuq.com
22 February 2009
Image by stevec77 via FlickrSo, a number of happenstances occurred the past few days to bring me to writing this post. I think that the combination of them will lead to a renewed writing of this blog.
As the title suggests, this post comes from some cathartic moments. The first cathartic moment I remember was in 1989. I was newly off active duty and had one of my army buddies visiting. That evening, as we fell asleep we discussed family issues and both of us described the dysfunctional families we grew up in. In retrospect, I really feel for Jim - he got to hear a bucket-load of crap. But then I got to hear about his father went around finding women, getting them pregnant, waited for the baby to be born, insisted they be named James Dean Harper, then disappearing.
So, now I'm here and am in somewhat of a crisis of identity. I have been listening to Glenn Beck talk about his "You Are Not Alone" project and one of the core ideas is that you have to know who you really are and what you really believe. I'm realizing that I don't really know. Thanks to years of reading and association with people who I believe want me to continually improve I have some ideas but I'm really starting to question whether they are my ideas . . . really whether the values I proclaim are really what I value. If so, I have been living a life far from what I value. If not, I've been lying to myself and others.
On top of this my wife rented "Back to the Future" for my kids so that they could have an appreciation for the contrast it showed. I have to say that I unabashedly enjoy the BttF series of movies. They're corny, but there is some good humor and cute lessons throughout. Or so I thought until today. Today I watched the story from a different point of view. Watching Marty McFly's interraction with his "back in the day" father had me comparing myself with my father.
Now this isn't as bad for me as it was for Marty, but it did have me looking at many of the choices I've made in the past as well as how I respond to situations. I am definitely my father's son. After my last visit to his place, I realized how similar we are. We both have well defined values that we profess. What I found out is that we both struggle to live those values.
So, I return to my earlier conundrum: are they my values and I just don't live them, are they values that have been foisted on me, or are they values that resonate with me but I just haven't fully accepted them?
Considering what Glenn Beck has been discussing over the last month or so, it seems that I am late in discovering who I am and what I believe. Please check out his 9 principles and 12 values. It seems as good a place as any to start my self-contemplation so I'll be starting there. If you want, please feel free to follow along on my journey.
05 January 2009
That being said, I am really looking forward to the future. I thing that part of what prompted me to move on is that I became more aware that I was not doing what I was/am designed to do. Many years ago I went through one of those processes to help individuals determine why they were put here on this big blue marble. Among the insights I had was that I am here to help millions of people put their lives in order both temporally and spiritually.
On the face of it, that is a funny statement as I definitely don't feel that I have My life in order - temporally or spiritually. In my musings of the last couple of weeks I determined that this would be the first step. Before I can help others, I need to have at least started helping myself.
I have an idea for what my process will be - both for myself and for others later on. Look forward to more information as I move along.