Monday, February 21, 2005

Unexpected parallels

Reading about Marines doing what they do best, i.e. blowing stuff up and killing bad guys, is a good way to make yourself feel as useless as a soggy chocolate eclair by comparison. I've never blown anything up -- on purpose, that is -- and my kills are confined to two robins (BB gun) and one rabbit (car) which doesn't make me feel like a mighty hunter either (I don't know if the rabbit was an Evil Killer Rabbit but the robins were stealing our blueberries. They count.) Then I read this blog, and it mentioned being on patrol, in danger, for over 30 hours with only quick naps between firefights. In the tank.

And I thought to myself, I've done that.

It was back in the day when I was actively involved in scientific research. Nobody was shooting at me at the time, but I was working with dangerous stuff that could maim or kill me if I didn't follow procedures exactly. Class IV lasers (there is no Class V, which tells you something), large amounts of liquid nitrogen (if it stops being liquid in a closed container, you can have the civilian equivalent of a shrapnel grenade), heavy machinery, high voltage, and so on. Working for more than 30 hours straight through. Not my idea of fun. The job demanded it, and there I was. Alternating, as the saying goes, between mindless boredom and sheer terror. Did I remember to open the transfer vent? Did I remember all the viewport covers? Is that smell burning electrical insulation, or Fred toasting a bagel in the break room?

Anyway, it got me thinking about other similarities. (You can tell another list is in the offing, can't you.) The differences between scientists and Marines are pretty obvious, I agree. Marines all have the same haircut, scientists sometimes remember to get their hair cut at least once a year. Marines wear uniforms, scientists think they are doing well to match socks. But consider the following!
Marines and Scientists:
  1. are chronically underfunded, understaffed, and must perform miracles with equipment that is out of date and/or sourced to the lowest bidder.
  2. get to play with really neat stuff. (Fewer night-vision goggles in the labs, and if scientists blow something up people get upset. Hmm. Maybe that's a similarity. OK, how about scientists aren't supposed to blow things up?)
  3. go to exotic locales to do their work (CERN, Iraq, etc.)
  4. work really obnoxious hours in dangerous environments. And love it.
  5. have built-in "free food" sensors that can detect up to a 1 mile radius. (beer detected up to 5 miles)
  6. Use a specialized lingo nobody else understands. ("Tango Uniform", "Entropy rich")
  7. go through a lot of pain and annoyance to earn the right to their respective titles. (Yeah, yeah, Parris Island. Did you train there for 6 years?)
  8. try not to mention what they do to outsiders, because there is a considerable risk said outsiders will edge away nervously and remember urgent dentist appointments they have to go to. (This can be useful sometimes, like when you need to get rid of a bore at a party.)
  9. A little thing like changing careers doesn't change what you really are. Once a Marine/scientist, always a Marine/scientist. It's in the bone.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Meritorious Compilation of Lists

Sei Shonagon had some issues with lack of compassion, but she got one thing right. Lists are a good thing. You feel as if you have done your bit in the good fight against Entropy just by writing them down.

The Ways in which I am a Square Peg in a World of Round Holes
  1. Agnostic. I'll be Atheist as soon as I get a proof of the non-existence of God. I've got plenty of morals, too. Nothing against those who find value in religion, as long as they understand that. I'm somewhat concerned about the people who claim the threat of hellfire and lightning are the only reasons they don't go on killing sprees.
  2. Reader of Science Fiction. If you think it is still finned rocket ships and ray guns, you need to get out more. Definitely you need to broaden your reading horizons. How can you be so sure it is bad/juvenile/poorly plotted/et cetera, ad nauseum, if you have never read any of it? The legal term of art here is prejudice. Prejudice bad.
  3. Conservative. For the most part. Voted for Bushes pere and fils, think we are doing a dandy job in Iraq (5000% decrease in the number of people shredded alive!), and really, really want to know why we would listen to the UN on any topic not related to sex trafficking and corruption (where they do seem to have expertise). Stealing the money that is supposed to help the suffering, and then personally making their suffering worse, and the UN has the moral high ground over the US? Not in this universe.
  4. Not rabidly conservative. Doesn't bother me if gays and lesbians want to get married, maybe they can set a good example for the straights that think marriage is some kind of game. It would be nice if we went to a no-double-standards kind of world. You know, where you set the standards for a job, and if a woman/man/genetically modified meerkat can meet the standards, they don't get told they can't do it because they are a woman/man/genetically modified meerkat. And I believe I mentioned already that I'm not religious, so there goes that meme.
  5. Non-watcher of TV. You have no idea how many games of Trivial Pursuit I have lost because of this. Lost badly. It's all the fault of my parents. We didn't have a TV in the house until I was in high school, so I never really got in the habit. We did wild, radical things like READ BOOKS! For pleasure! But I'm kinda on the outside of a lot of popular culture because of it. I'll live. On the plus side, I can cut off my well-meaning liberal friends who dismiss my views with a "Oh, you just say that because Fox told you so" by informing them I never watch it. (c.f. "Beautiful Theory destroyed by Ugly Truth"). (Nope, no talk radio either. Thanks for playing!)
  6. Player of RPG and computer games. Yet another way to make sure you stand out in a crowd -- be a female gamer. And I game because I like it, not to, er, Look for Richard. So to speak.
  7. Tea-drinker. Don't like coffee. Here on the Soggy Coast, that's almost as shocking as voting Republican. Almost. I save boatloads of money this way too. How do they get away with charging multiple dollars for flavored caffeine water?
  8. Like liver. (Not raw, not human. Sheesh!) But fresh, thin, cooked juuuust right .... mm. Delicious.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Snark Level: Burble

It's nice to be only in a mildly snappish mood for a change. It could change at any time. I'm predicting early tomorrow, when I have some Mandatory Fun at work. It will probably involve audience participation, self-criticism, and if I'm really unlucky, trust-building exercises. Feh.

The weather conspires to save all the sunshine for weekdays (so I don't get to enjoy it). This being the Temperate Rainforest, however, we have a rain quota to keep up so the weekend will be soggy. Of course. This is the price we pay for having the right environment for the fearsome Giant Banana Slug, the largest, ugliest blob of self-propelled glop in the hemisphere. I hear it can eat small dogs. Fortunately I am a native of the Pacific Northwest, so I have the gills, webbed feet, and porous skin that make light of the rain. We tend to view that bright object in the sky with a trace of suspicion. It could be a UFO. Why take chances?

Current Event QuickSnarks:
  • CNN, Eason Jordan, and other Distinguished Media types
If you feel threatened by people asking what the truth is, maybe, just maybe, you picked the wrong profession. How about you find out what happened and I'll decide what I think about it.

  • Breeding Habits of Presumptive Constitutional Monarchs

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we go to a lot of bother around the late 1700's precisely so we DON'T have to pay attention to this nonsense? As if the Hapsburgs weren't enough of a horrible example of why breeding humans in public is a Bad Idea.

  • What not to name submarines

Oh, the killer rabbit jokes. The Nerf torpedo jokes. (Let us hope no Three Mile Island jokes ...) I mean, Jimmy Carter? On the plus side, some military types have opined that the pressure to prove the jokes wrong will produce one of the best crews in the Navy.

  • Social Security, sez you

Private accounts. Great. Fine. I still get to pay for all you geezers out there, one way or another. Yes, you were promised. But don't kid yourself. What you get is taken from me, and I'm never going to get it back. Social Security won't be around when I get there. So please, let me at least save some money where the Gummit can't get it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Take that! And that!

I have opinions. No, really. Lots of opinions. And one of these opinions is the world would be better off if more people knew about them. (Actually that is a lie. It would be like all known world conflicts rolled into one.) Anyway, I am aware that there are unenlightened folk who don't care what I think. Close the browser and clear your cache, I'll never know. This is just a nice way of collecting all my snarkish thoughts on the web so when someone (foolishly) expresses an interest in my world view, I can wave a languid hand in the manner of a bejeweled society matron summoning her chauffeur, and say "read my blog." Bwahahah. I believe, after the giddy rush of new-blog-smell has died down, I will list some of my more, shall we say, contentious views for easy reference.