Monday, January 21, 2008


If I Were President, Episode #3

The newspapers are filled with news about how hard it is for the Army to find foot soldiers for duty in Iraq. It's ironic that the USA has over 2 million people serving in active duty roles in all branches of the military, but we have great difficulty fielding more that 130,000 fighting men in Iraq. This fact of military organization is metaphorically known as "the point of the spear". The idea being that it takes an even larger pool of cooks, logistics officers, car pool mechanics, administrative assistants, and others in total to field a large group of fighters. I can't remember the exact ratio, but the number is something like 2 or 3 support people are required for each fighter man on patrol.

Because we have such a tough time finding decent people, I think we should make a few changes. First, the military requires recruits to be permanent US residents and high-school graduates who pass the ASFAB test. There are two ends of this equation that we can tinker with to better fill the ranks. Here's the equation, (permanent US resident or citizen) + (HS Diploma + ASFAB) = potential recruit.

Part 1. Internal Recruiting

Ironically, the Army and Marines have a tough time recruiting within the USA in the areas of highest unemployment because all those guys loafing on the street corner are high school drop outs. This goes for the inner city, the barrio, the trailer park, and the reservation. It seems simple to me that the Army and Marines (but not the Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard) should be empowered to set up a remedial education command (REMEDCOM perhaps?) to train guys who aren't stupid, but also aren't graduates. The Army and Marines are already looking at increasing their recruiting bonuses and GI Bill benefits in the 10's of thousands. Why not spend ten or twenty thousand to give a new demographic of recruits the remedial training to get them to a point where they're usable by the Service?

Part 2. External Recruiting

On the other side of the equation, we have the limitation to recruit only among citizens or permanent residents or residents of territories or very closely allied countries like the Marshall Islands (total population: ~60,000).

I believe this limitation should be lifted and that the Army & Marines should be allowed to build a Latin Corps (a corps is a unit consisting of two or more divisions, usually containing at least 20,000 but possibly many more). The Latin Corp would (and I know that this will turn the stomach of those who place socially conservative ideology above pragmatism) be an all-Spanish unit (sorry, Brazil, no Portugese) and would be strictly limited to infantry operations. The Corp would also require that anyone promoted beyond E-3 (that's a private first class) would have to speak English. The currently level of pay and cash benefits could be reevaluated for the Latin Corp, since most of the soldiers would likely return to their home countries after service. In that case, a $40,000 GI Bill award for college might be overkill. Still, the USA could provide very handsomely for a serviceman from Guatemala, El Salvadore, or rural Mexico compared to their current level of opportunity. It also might impact illegal immigration levels, especially if the government wanted to give the Latin Corp any other benefits, such as a fast-track to a green card upon an honorable discharge.

Some people might be alarmed that a foreigner would be able to act as a spy or a double-agent. First of all, these soldiers won't be coming from every country on the planet. Second, the USA has actually had a limited version of this policy in place for a long time. To date, foreigners serving for the US armed forces (and there are thousands of them) haven't misbehaved any more than citizens have. In addition, these soldiers won't be engaged in extremely high-value soldiering. They won't be in a position to sell state secrets about missile technologies or anything like that.

A follow-on idea to the Latin Corp would be to allow recruiting of non-citizens in countries of the West Indies where English is spoken, such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and even Belize. Recruits from these countries could be integrated directly into standing armed forces.

Crazy thoughts, I know. But I think that one of the great failings of our current political climate is "business as usual". The more our politicians try to solve the same issues in the same old ways, the more stale and entrenched the problems become. Of course, "out of the box" solutions like the ones I propose almost certainly entail all new problems that we've never encountered before, but at least we'll be making forward progress.

So what's your take on it?

Best regards,




Rethinking Sears

I gave up on Sears back in the late 80's when the stopped taking Visa, Mastercard, and American Express in order to shill the Discover Card. Although I liked their product lines, especially Craftsman tools with their unlimited lifetime warranty, I decided I didn't want to buy from any company that didn't want to take my money on my terms. (And why is it that big, successful American companies, think GM and others, always seem to get so arrogant like that?)

Anyway, I received a possible chain letter from a friend, shown below:

I know I needed this reminder since Sears isn't always my first choice. Amazing when you think of how long the war has lasted and they haven't withdrawn from their commitment. Could we each buy at least one thing at Sears this year?

How does Sears treat its employees who are called up for military duty? By law, they are required to hold their jobs open and available, but nothing more. Usually, people take a big pay cut and lose benefits as a result of being called up.

Sears is voluntarily paying the difference in salaries and maintaining all benefits, including medical insurance and bonus programs, for all called up reservist employees for up to two years.

I submit that Sears is an exemplary corporate citizen and should be recognized for its contribution. I suggest we all shop at Sears, and be sure to find a manager to tell them why we are there so the company gets the positive reinforcement it well deserves.

Pass it on.

Well, I checked out the deal on Snopes, my go-to resource Internet spam and other associated crap and was surprised to see that it's a true story:

Now I feel obliged to give Sears at least one more shot at winning back my business. OTOH, there aren't any of their stores nearby. But I think I owe them that much. What's more, the Snopes article points out that Sears isn't the only company being a good community citizen. You can find out many other businesses that help in the same way at - Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. I was surprised, for example, to learn that several area banks, grocery stores, and local business are just as good. Way to go, team!

I encourage you to check out and give them your business.

Best regards,



Monday, January 07, 2008


Vasovagal Syncope

Ok, it happened again.

Twice now in the past two Februaries, I've had a situation where I had a terrible fainting problem that caused my heart to stop beating. It's known as vasovagal syncope (that's pronounced "sin-cope-ee") and it's actually rather common. About 1 in 200 people have it, but for 90% of them, it simply causes dizziness when they stand up quickly. For a few of them, it will cause outright fainting. And for a very few, it causes our hearts to stop.

On the previous two occurrences, I was very sick with stomach flu and quite dehydrated. This is one of the triggers of vasovagal syncope. So, in a way, it made sense that I had the problem when I did and it seemed like it'd be easy to predict and even prevent. Just don't get dehydrated like that again. However, the most recent occurrence happened just a couple weeks ago and was completely unexpected. I was feeling pretty good, I'd eaten breakfast, and was nearly finished with a fairly tough workout at the YMCA.

I was still sitting in the "preacher curl machine" when I felt the tell-tale tunnel vision, nausea, cold sweats, and lightheadedness that always accompany an attack. I briefly wondered if I could make it over to lay down at the open bench press before I realized that I had lost consciousness and was being revived by Larry from the front desk. Thank God for Larry! He's a full-time EMT and played a hunch that I was having a blood surgar episode. He took it in stride, forced some apple juice down me, and had the ambulance there no time. However, I couldn't keep conscious for more than a minute or two and, despite the juice, he knew something else must be at work.

I spent the next couple hours mostly unconscious and didn't revive at all until Kelly magically appeared. She worked hard to keep me engaged and, after a few other times were I dropped out, managed to keep me conscious. Unfortunately, the episode knocked me for a loop and left me feeling stupid and dizzy. I didn't feel comfortable driving for nearly a week. Thank goodness Dylan was available to get me back and forth for the next few days.

So now I am very concerned about my situation. Normally, syncope does not cause you to pass out when you're otherwise in pretty good condition (though I did hit two of the main triggers that morning). The main triggers are eating a big meal, exercise, and dehydration. This has me worried about driving home after eating at a restaurant or maybe running between gates at the airport. Am I going to lose consciousness at any provocation?

The other thing that has me really worried is that syncope normally has very brief effects. Most people who get if are right back on their feet when they pass out and feel 100%. I, otoh, lose consciousness for hours. And even when I recover consciousness, I'm in nardly any condition to get out of bed, let alone to operate heavy machinery. This worries me - a lot.

Well, enough griping for now. I have an appointment in two days with a neurologist to see what we can do about the situation. There are a couple drugs that help. There is, on the extreme side, a pacemaker. And then there are some homeopathic remedies like increasing the amount of blood/fluid in your system by increasing the amount of salt in your diet.

So I'll post again on the issue after I've talked with my doctor.

Wish me luck,




A Great New Book for the Family to Read Together

Rachel bought me a most wonderful book as a Christmas present. If you have enjoyed books like Harry Potter or other family reading, then have I got a recommendation for you. Note, though, that this story is basically a period mystery set in late 19th century Paris. It doesn't have any supernatural elements to it, except for a sense of wonder and a charming story line.

I've never encountered another book like this one. It's part story, part graphic novel - yet this book manages to use its multitude of beautiful black & white pictures to dramatically and tenderly advance the story.

I've been reading it to the girls before bed time and we've lingered long over each of the pictures that, in their own unique way, advance and elevate the story telling.

I encourage you to pick up a copy and enjoy it.


Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Happy Holidays

This Christmas was really good this year. As is our tradition, the kids and I put up and trimmed the Christmas tree a few weeks before Christmas (12/10/07 to be exact). We had fun rediscovering all of the ornaments we'd stored away last year. And we listened to and sang Christmas songs while we hung them up.

Picking out the stockings was a bit of mini-adventure too, since Katie had some preferences that made it kind'a funny and silly to accommodate.

I had a huge amount of fun selecting the gifts for each of the kids and imagining how much fun they'd have with each of their presents. I've also gotten to the point where I don't much like shopping. So I went the on-line route and had, overall, a good experience. I have one exchange to make still, so I'll reserve judgement on whether it was a great shopping experience in total. Shipping, evidently, is pretty tight for Amazon though. Check out this package...

Everybody got a "big" present for the season. Dylan's favorite was pretty obvious since he asked for and got pretty much just one big present - a new Les Paul Custom. And just cause he needed it so much, I also got him a Line-6 POD multi-effects device so that he can now make just about every sound imaginable with his guitar.

Emily's big present was a beautiful boxed set of every Calvin & Hobbes cartoon ever done. She's read it voraciously since then. But I wonder if she didn't enjoy the little clay set I'd gotten her. Years ago, she demonstrated a real talent for making figurines and this gift was right up her artistic alley. I think this little dinosaur with tophat, mustache, and monicle illustrates her talent pretty well.

For a long time, I'd searched for an affordable kiln for her. I was surprised by how expensive and complex they were. So I was delighted when I found that one of my favorite toy companies, Klutz, has this stuff called Polymer Clay that you can simply back in the oven. Oh Joy!

Anna's favorite gift was the Cranium Mega Fort. She'd been disassembling my family room furniture for years and dragging in blankets for years to make them into forts. Now she's got all sorts of cool equipment to make her own forts. And I'm super happy because I don't have to spend an hour putting the house back together after she gets on one of her jags.

Katie's favorite gift was either her Moon Sand or their punching bag with gloves. Now, Moon Sand is the bane of any sane parent. It's very messy and requires constant clean-up or total apathy to having the sandy stuff all over your floors, walls, etc. The punching bag, on the other hand, has been a blast. Katie is the most kinetic and active of all the kids and so anything that is both fun and tiring for her is great for us. The punching bag also had some hilarious Engrish on the box labels.
I hope your Holidays were great too!

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?