Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Improv Everywhere

I just found out about Improv Everywhere, and I love them! They are really original and fun. I wish that this would happen around me! Check them out on youtube, or at their website.

Jesus has a brother named God.

My daughter (4) goes three times a week to a christian preschool/daycare. There really isn't good childcare around here unless it's affiliated with religion or really expensive. I don't know why that is, it could be for a number of reasons, maybe the church (and by extension it's members) help offset the cost of the childcare, maybe it falls under a non-profit organization and saves money that way, or maybe it's just that it's more comforting to drop your kids off at a religious daycare and so you have to be affiliated with religion to be successful. Maybe it's a little of all three. I like to think that it's the church offsetting the cost. It really gives a sense of community, even if it's not quite my community. Anyways, christmas is coming up soon, and according to the school calendar on the curriculum for today was Jesus Christ part 1. I was actually looking forward to it because my daughter and I always have such interesting conversations after some one talks religion with her. I think she really enjoys that not everyone agrees on religion. Everything else I either don't know, or (I think) I do, but god and Jesus are a maybe. So, here is as close as I can remember the conversation that we had after I picked her up today.

Me - How was school today?

Lily - Good. (long pause) Papa, what do you pray for?

Me - I don't pray for anything. I don't believe that Jesus and God are real and so I don't pray. What do you pray for?

Lily - I pray for Jesus. It's good for him. He wants everything to be safe. He wants the trees, and all the leaves that are falling, and the fence and my hair and my hands... (Lily lists off everything that she sees for about a minute) be safe.

Me - Oh, that' really nice of him.

Lily - Yeah. Did you know that Jesus has a brother? (really excited)

Me - (smiling big) No? Who is his brother?

Lily - God, but he's better than him.

Me - He is?

Lily - (the following was said very excitedly and quickly)Yes. He's a king and Jesus is a king too. He's a really good king. He wants everyone to pray for him and everything to be safe, but he died. (spoken in a hushed voice) but don't tell Grandma cause I don't think she knows. But you don't believe in his family and Mama doesn't either, but Grandma believes in his family. And Brother and me we're to0 little to know, so we'll decide later (YES! That's my girl!).

Me- That's right, papa (for some reason I talk in third person with my kids sometimes) doesn't think there is any reason to believe in Jesus' family, but Grandma does. Grandma believes that Jesus died, and after three days he came back to life.

Lily - yeah, and when he came back he was different. He changed his name or something.

Me - What did he change his name to?

Lily - Jesus

Me - What was it before he died?

Lily - Jesus too, but it was different.

We pull up in the drive way and I start getting them out. She is telling me again all of the things that she sees and that Jesus wants them to be safe. When I get her out she has a postcard sized piece of paper that I now see has a picture of a girl praying on it, as well as a bunch of food, a happy looking family, a church, and a bible.

Me - What's this girl doing?

Lily - Praying for Jesus.

Me - What's this right here? (pointing at the Bible)

Lily - Um, I know! It's the bible!

Me - Like Grandma reads?

Lily - Yeah! but this ones not a making bible.

Me - A making bible?

Lily - Yeah, this one's not for making stuff, but some bibles are. Grandma's shows you how to make like food and stuff, but this one doesn't.

Me - Oh, I think you are talking about Grandma's cook book, but she also has a bible like this one.

Lily - No, this one is different. Some bibles show you how to make things and some don't.

Me - Oh, I see.

We get inside and her brother throws a tantrum because it's nap time and he is super tired and by the time he stops fussing Lily is all tucked into her bed to take a nap, so we didn't get to talk about Jesus and his brother anymore. I'm sure that more will come soon. She is so impressionable at this age. It's not surprising that so many people can't question their faith. If you were raised that Jesus is an absolute fact, for all of your childhood, then it would be just as much of a fact to you as anything else. I wouldn't be bothered if my kids grew up to believe in Jesus and god, or any of the other countless gods out there, but I would be bothered if they only believed it because someone (including me) told them to.

Edit : I couldn't remember how Lily worded the bible for making stuff. After she woke up and explained to me, she said it the same way and so I changed it. Apparently there are two types of bibles, making-bibles and regular ones. Not sure what she is confused about, but she knows the difference between cook books and bibles, and insists that her teachers said that grandma's was a making-bible.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Not used to being in this state of mind.....version 2.0

This post is an exact 180 of the last state of mind post. I was so annoyed/bored/angry for the last year in Afghanistan, that now I'm not used to being so happy! My cheeks hurt from smiling and it's really great to be back home. I'm really appreciative of my beautiful wife, Jess. She is such a sweet person, so understanding and so caring. If she could, she would hold everyone in the world in her arms and tell them that everything is going to be okay, truly the epitome of what a mother should be. I'm having such a blast with my darling daughter Lily. She has grown up so much while I was gone. She now has the patience and attention to sit and play board games, which is one of my most favorite things to do. She is so intelligent, beautiful, and engaging, and of course she takes after her mother, as a total sweetheart. Last, and certainly not least, I'm amazed by the courage of my handsome son Jack. There isn't a playground (or anything really) that he can't conquer. He climbs, slides, bangs, smashes, and everything else boys are known for, but still has his sensitive side as he carries his pet kitty everywhere he goes. It reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes. The absolute best part? They all love giving hugs! My truly favorite. Goodbye army!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not used to being in this state of mind...

I'm generally such a happy person. I'm pretty easy going. I usually make the best of things. I've been making the best of things for so long now. I'm just tired of it. I wish Afghanistan was a person, I would punch him/her (that's right, even if Afghanistan was a girl) right in the face. So, to help cheer me up, I'm going to list all the good things about being here. Ha, there I go trying to make the best of things again. Sneaky optimism, very sneaky.

I've met a lot of really cool people. Some of them have become good friends that I imagine will be that way for a long time to come.

I've been a help to a many people; Lots of people a little bit of help, and a few people lots of help. I enjoy being useful, so that's good.

I've realized that my life in the states is pretty close to heaven on earth. I will cherish everything so much more than I did before. I'll also worry a lot less about all the shit that doesn't matter.

I have also managed to save a lot more money than usual. Actually, my darling wife has been doing the saving. It was probably a lot easier for her to do without me constantly buying gadgets and gizmos.

I'm in better shape than I was before I came here. I haven't lost all the weight that I wanted to, but I've still got more time. I've already lost about 25lbs. I want to lose another 10 more or so. Even though I haven't lost as much weight as I want, part of that is because I've bulked up a little bit. So while I've been losing bad weight, I've been gaining good weight, and I feel much more healthy. I go on leave in less than a month, and I think that my wife will like what I've been doing in the gym.

That's about as positive as I can be. It already helped a little bit just to think about it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cup of Joe for a Joe

Do you have one of those yellow ribbons on your car that says "I support our troops?" If you have one (or even if you don't), and you wanted to do a little bit more than pay your taxes and sport a car magnet there is a cool program offered through Green Beans Coffee that you may be interested in. You go on to the website at the bottom and give a few dollars and a few words of encouragement or thanks and then Green Bean will give a soldier credit to buy a coffee. If you aren't familiar with Green Beans, it's a lot like a Starbucks, but for deployed soldiers. So instead of waiting in Starbucks for hours on end hoping that a soldier will randomly walk in so you can buy him/her a coffee, just buy them one from the comfort of your computer. Who knows, you might even buy me one!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I'm still here...

I haven't posted in a little while. I really hate being away from my family. It's such a drain being here that I have a hard time being motivated to post anything. It's hard to feel proud about being here when I don't want to be here. If I could leave right now I would. It feels like a prison sentence, like I'm being punished. None of this is worth it for me, but there is nothing I can do except wait for my time to be up. Sorry for being negative, but I thought that maybe it would feel better to put it down in words. On a positive note, when I am finished here, I'm finished for good. My obligation to the military is entirely complete. I'll never have to be away from everyone I love for so long ever again.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

There are no atheists in foxholes B-huts...

I come across the saying that there are no atheists in foxholes rather often. It's a pretty common cliche, and I'm sure most people have seen it. It's a rather ridiculous claim saying that Atheists are all hypocrites. Although I am an atheist and I have been in foxholes, I've never been in one besides during training. I think the whole point of the quote is that when an atheist is in trouble that they turn towards god for help, especially in the case of mortal danger.

During my recent deployment to Afghanistan I was relatively safe, especially compared to some of my fellow soldiers. I believe the death rate at our base was actually safer than most cities, and highways, but I still think there were some cases where I can personally attest to whether or not there are atheists in foxholes B-huts. The best example would probably be in the early morning of Father's Day 2009 when we were awakened to a large explosion. We were close enough to the blast from an incoming rocket that debris rained down on our B-hut. There could have been more incoming rockets, and I was standing in my room trying to decide what to do. B-huts in case you aren't aware, are little buildings made of plywood and tin that soldiers in Afghanistan regularly sleep in if they are "lucky". An incoming rocket would have no problem destroying the building and seriously injuring or killing any inhabitants. So as an atheist in a life threatening situation did I suddenly fall to my knees and start praying? No. In fact, it wasn't even an idea that crossed my mind. You see, the key point to atheism is that I don't think there is a god. Why would I pray to something that I don't think exists? It's silly and I wouldn't. If there is a god, which I'm not saying there is or isn't, just that I seriously doubt there is, why would he value my wishes(prayers) over the wishes of all the other millions of starving and/or dying people in the world every day? All I wondered about was whether or not anyone was hurt, if more attacks were coming, and whether we should gear up and get in the bunkers or not.

If you are one of those people that like to use the fox hole cliche, maybe you should reconsider. It's silly, and untrue. Here is a link on the attack Unfortunately we lost two American soldiers that morning. My heart goes out to their friends and family members.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Should I buy a kindle?

I've been seriously debating whether to get a Kindle 2 or not. I thought it might help to list the pros and cons. I also thought that I would throw it on the blog to get some outside input. So, here is my pros/cons list and please put forth any thoughts you may have on the subject.

  • Have you seen electronic ink screens? They are freakin' awesome!
  • Lots of books, low weight. I travel a lot (when I'm back in the real world) and often a significant portion of my travel weight is books. I also don't take as many books as I want with me when I travel to limit weight.
  • Built in dictionary. I love new words. I look up lots of words. Carrying a dictionary is another book that I don't want to carry, and you don't always have access to the internet.
  • Being able to take notes without messing up the book is nifty. I'm not sure if I don't take lots of notes because I don't like writing in books, or if I'm just not the note taking type. I do usually have a small notepad with me, but that's mostly just to write down words I want to look up. I wouldn't have to write down words to look up anymore, but I might be more inclined to take notes if it were built in to the book.
  • Not having to deal with bookmarks and losing your place. Enough said.
  • I'm a gadget whore and a Kindle 2 would really give me geek cred, whatever that means.
  • Free Wikipedia just about anywhere. I find Wiki to be almost as useful as Google. In terms of time, I actually spend more time on Wiki than I do on Google, but that's not a fair comparison because Google is a gateway and Wiki is a destination. Wikipedia is a truly valuable tool and it would be a real boon to have it in your pocket (Hey, I have big pockets!).
  • Music. In some situations it would fill a dual role as mp3 player and book reader. Although with how small mp3 players are and how long the batteries last, I wouldn't use this all to often. Could be nice to listen to music and read while on an elliptical or exercise bike though.
  • The price.
  • THE PRICE! Seriously, even with the fact that you would be saving money on the cheaper electronic books, it would still take awhile to recoup the initial $360 investment. If you saved $10 a book (which you won't), it would still take you 36 books to break even. That would probably take me more than a year and maybe as long as two. Saving money on books can't be my motivation if the warranty is already expired before I recoup my money.
  • Graphic novels probably don't transfer well to Kindle. Not that I read all that many, but who wants to be excluded?
  • Black and white screen. Tied in with the above, but also with a lot of science magazines and blogs that I follow there are a lot of really cool color pictures that wouldn't transfer over.
  • You have to subscribe(read pay) to blogs. I'm all for bloggers making money, hell, I wish I made money blogging, but I don't know if I would pay for them directly.
  • No videos/movies.
  • When I'm at work, we have some down time that can be (and has been) spent on reading. This is in the cons because I'm typically in facilities that don't allow electronic devices inside. This is only a little con because only a small amount of my time is spent reading at work.
  • No expansion/memory card slot. If I'm going to use this for music and books, it would be nice to stick an 8gb micro SD card in there for extra storage
  • After reading a book I enjoy, I can't just hand it to my friend to read, unless I want to give up my Kindle until he/she is done.
That's all the pros and cons I can think of right now. If I think of more later I'll throw them on at the bottom as an edit. As it stands, all the pros are either things that make my life a little easier, or things that make me look cool. I obviously don't concern myself all that much with looking cool, so the only thing I gain is convenience. You know what's not convenient? Work, and work is what I would be doing to pay for the $360 price tag. That basically sums up the cons. It's really a lot of money just for a little bit of convenience. I think it's the future of books, and that eventually all books will be predominantly electronic, if not exclusively, but being a part of the future right now is always expensive. Even if I was a millionaire (which I'm definitely not) I would still think this was a silly way to spend money. Of course the whole point of being a millionaire is being able to spend your money in silly ways.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The ants go marching...

Bunch of ants all marching from one hole to another hole about 10 feet away. I've never seen such a mass migration of ants before. They were almost all going in the same direction. They weren't carrying anything. They all looked like the same kind of ants, and didn't seem to be fighting. I've walked this way dozens of times and never seen it before or since. My buddy and I watched this go on for more than five minutes, a steady stream of ants. Anyone know what they were doing? Maybe running from the Egyptians and about to wander the desert for 40 years?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Afghanistan ornithology - The Common Myna AKA the Indian Myna

I'm stuck on base all the time, which is good because it's safe, but sucks because it's boring. I've taken to following birds around to pass the time. There is one interesting bird that I've never seen before that I've been documenting. A quick Google search of Afghan birds and I found out it's probably an Indian Myna, aka a Common Myna. It's a pretty cool bird. Looks like a mix between a crow and a puffin. The very first thing I noticed about Afghanistan was the Mynas. I didn't know what it was at the time, but right after getting off the plane we walked under a tree that had about a thousand of these birds all chirping at each other. It was late at night and at first I thought it was bats. After being here a few nights I realized it was actually these birds. Every evening and morning they are in the pine trees fighting/mating/partying? They would also hang out on top of a few buildings and an antenna tower.

Here is a video of the birds going crazy in a tree.Here is a picture of the tower covered with birds.

I've actually been following these birds around for quite some time. I've got hundreds of pictures that are just too far away to be any good. They are very skittish. They seem to know when you are looking at them, and take it as an act of aggression. They really don't like you to get closer than about twenty feet, and with my camera it isn't close enough for a good picture. Lately they haven't been chirping in the trees, I assume because they are nesting. For how many hundreds (thousands?) of birds there are around I've only been able to find one of their nests. There is a couple that is ever vigilant about watching you when around this one stack of shipping containers, so I spent some time looking and finally managed to find the nest. It's in a hole made by the joining of two shipping containers stacked on top of each other. I can just barely see a bunch of grass that is probably the nest. I didn't take any pictures of it because I would have to stick my camera in the hole to get a good shot and I don't want to disturb the nest. I have since sat and watched from a picnic table just in sight of the nest and have watched them visit the nest confirming that it's theirs.

I finally got an up close picture of one. This myna was harassing a group of sparrows (I think they are sparrows anyhow) that nest here. Probably the only reason he (she? I assumed since it was aggressive that it was a male.) let me get close enough to him. I haven't been able to tell the difference, if any, from males and females.

I also had to avoid making eye contact with him. I intentionally wouldn't look at him except through my camera so as not to spook him. After I'd snapped a few photos, I looked right at him, and sure enough he took off.

One of the shipping containers near this ones nest. By wearing my hat tilted down over my eyes and looking through my camera, this one let me get kind of close to it. They seem to be slightly more tolerant of me being around since I've been hanging around them a little. The tree in the background is a mulberry tree with a ton of fruit on it right now. I haven't actually seen them eating the berries, but they come to this tree a lot, so I assume they are.

Although they are indigenous to Afghanistan, apparently they are quite a nuisance as an introduced pest species through out the world. Anyways, I thought that I would share what I've been doing with everyone. If you want to know more about them here is a link to their Wikipedia page.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Maytag repairman and the Chaplain's letter.

So I've been the exact opposite of busy lately. I've fixed just about everything that I can fix, and not just the electronics I'm responsible for but literally anything I can get my hands on. After running out of things to fix, I got a little bored and thought I would stir things up a little. Every weekday our chaplain sends out an email entitled "The Hope Channel". It's what you would imagine a typical religious daily email to be. It's full of random excerpts from the bible, words of encouragement, usually some kind of prayer and "thoughts of the day". I don't particularly mind getting them, sometimes they are actually funny. Sometimes they are funny because they have a joke that is supposed to be funny, other times they are funny just because how silly they are. So, like a kid with a stick, I poked it into the ant hill to see what would happen. Here is the email that I sent the chaplain just to see what he would say.

Thought maybe you would like my "thought of the day"

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"

This line of thinking is the premise for why I don't believe in a
personal god.
His response was rather cliche, and really kind of disheartening. I've made the chaplain's writing blue, and I've put some of my thoughts mixed in. Any typos on the blue writing, are all the chaplains as I've only cut and paste. I have not responded to this letter from the chaplain. I thought I would see what everyone else thought, whether they think I should reply, and what I should say if I do.

SPC Jones, Thank you for your honesty and your comments.I believe everyone has choices and looks like You have made yours. It’s less of a choice, and more of just who I am. I’ve tried to believe, and I can’t. In my life, I had a real Living encounter with Jesus Christ. I’d be interested to hear of your encounter, but I would be surprised if it was a real living encounter with Christ, but instead an encounter with his followers.

To quote a Greek philosopher as Epicurus, Who believes that what is good is what is pleasurable, and what is bad is what is'll find that all you will seek in life is what this world offers. After that you die, and there is nothing else. Epicurus believes that pleasure and pain are the basis for the moral distinction between good and bad.

Epicurus actually gets it pretty right. All of our morals can be (and probably were) derived from the simple rule of pain is bad pleasure is good. The only thing that I would add into the mix is empathy. Empathy allows us to realize that other people have feelings as well. If you count emotional and physical pain and factor in empathy then you can easily justify all morals. You can even look at the so called morals in the bible and show that they are actually immoral.

I find that if I am wrong about Jesus Christ, at least I lived a life that is moral and honest and true. Unfortunately believing in Jesus doesn’t mean that you are moral, honest, and true. There are many aspects of the bible that are immoral. If you look at any major human rights argument you will find someone on each side of the argument claiming to be the religious right. The easiest moral arguments to think of are slavery, and women’s rights. Do you support slavery? Do you think that women are not the equals of men? I can easily find passages in the bible claiming both, and I’m not even a man of the bible like you are.

Currently there is a huge controversy about the morality of homosexuals. If it isn’t immoral (which I don't think it is), then the good book could actually be leading you away from morality by calling it an abomination. I see no reason to think it’s immoral, for just the same reason that I don’t think it’s immoral to like blonds over brunets. I also don’t think it’s immoral for the main reason I’m not a homosexual. It just doesn’t do it for me. It wasn’t a choice I made; I just don’t find men sexually appealing. If I did find men sexually appealing, I would be no more to blame than I am now for finding chocolate tasty. I never chose to like chocolate; I just tried it and liked it. I also didn’t choose to be heterosexual; I just looked at men, and didn’t find it appealing, then looked at women, and did find it appealing (some of them at least). If I was gay, and I suppressed it and hid from it my whole life because of the bible, it would have been detrimental to living a good life here in this world. If there is no god, then I would have suffered for no reason. Gay marriage is illegal (mostly), and many happy loving couples aren’t allowed to be married because of the bible. Does anyone really have the right to deny people, whom aren’t hurting anyone, happiness?

If I die and there is nothing - well, I lived a happy life. If I am right about Jesus Christ, and there is an after Life with those who believe in Him...well, then I will be With Him for all eternity. This argument is known as Pascal’s wager. The biggest flaw of the argument is that it assumes which god is real, and also that we know what that god wants. If you are wrong about Jesus Christ, and Mohammed was the true last prophet, then you will burn in hell for “betting” on the wrong religion.

If you don't believe there is eternal life after this one, you will live this one up in parties, alcohol, women, and all kinds of other entertainments that this world offers. That is kind of a crazy assumption to make, that just because I don’t follow your religious dogma, that I will be a drunken man-slut. I currently only enjoy entertainment that this world offers, as what other world is there to enjoy from? Even if there is a heaven, you can’t enjoy it now. Even if there is a loving god that cares for what you do, he may still make/allow you to suffer to make you stronger while here in this world. Currently the thing I enjoy in this world the most is the company of my friends and family. I love to play with my children. I love loving my wife. I love talking and laughing with my friends (of which I also consider my wife). I drink only occasionally, and in moderation. Even with the “simple” pain based morality you can reach the conclusion that if you drink too much it is painful and detrimental to your life. After you die, nothing, no judgement, no accountability with The One who created you. If there is a god to judge me, and he is the one who made me the way I am in spite of being omniscient and knowing that I was going to do everything I’m going to do, then the judgment isn’t really on me, but on the creator who is ultimately responsible for everything I’ve done.

But what if you are wrong. What if there is a God who is trying to get your attention and trying to have a living encounter with you...and you continue to not pay attention to His Calling you. Are you saying that an all knowing, all powerful, loving god is having problems communicating with me?
What if there is eternal life where God has prepared a future for you. This life offers 100 years but eternal life, How long is that? Is condemning me for eternity based on 100 years of ignorance moral?

Do you lie? Everyone has or does lie, although I can’t remember the last time that I did. There is hardly ever a time when it’s necessary, but sometimes lying is actually the moral thing to do. Do you steal? Not since I was a child, and even then it was rare and minor. Are you in a sexual relationship prior to marriage? I was in a sexual relationship prior to marriage, but now I’m married and faithful to my wife. Do you drink till you blackout? Not in a long time, and probably never again. I have done it before though. All pleasures that this world offers to keep you away From the Truth. Funny, but I don’t see lying, stealing, and blacking out as pleasurable. They are character flaws that some people have. I enjoyed sex before marriage, as I enjoy sex while married, but how is that keeping me away from the truth? If I knew your “truth”, wouldn’t that make me more justified in doing those things? Isn’t the whole reason that Jesus was a human sacrifice was to forgive us of our sins? If I didn’t sin, then that would be slapping Jesus in the face saying he died for no reason.
Jesus said: "I Am the Way." Did Jesus really say that, or did a book say that he did?

You'll never know what He offers you until you recognize that He is the One who: *gives us air to breathe *gives us food to eat *allowed us to see another day...
If he is the one who gives us all those things, then when we are without them, is he not also to blame?

All good things come from above. Above what?
We are created by God for God. Evolution?

I hope you find the Truth...before it is too late. I hope you find the truth before it is too late, Allah is a jealous god. I prefer to not live by such absolutes, especially when so many “truths” are contradictory and can’t all be right. Sounds to me like God wants to have an encounter with you. He is welcome to talk to me at any time, what is he waiting for? I just want you to know one can't hide for [sic] Him. I am challenged this day to pray for you. Is it so challenging to pray for someone that doesn’t agree with you? I wish everyone well, regardless of their beliefs, I just don’t believe that my wishing alone can make it happen.
Let me know how things turn out.

Blessings on your Journey.
Blessings until I die, and then curses for all eternity.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blog theme changed.

I changed the blog a little bit. Not much, but a little bit. It's a different color theme and the picture at the top is different. It's a panoramic from outside the window of the shower building here in Bagram. The rows and rows of buildings that you can see are the B-huts that we live in. For most ranks, there are 8 people per building.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I added a poll!

I added a poll to the side of my blog. Mostly because I think it's really funny that PZ Meyers sends the horde of highly evolved monkeys poll crashing. I really enjoy when they get upset that their poll was crashed. That's like getting mad that someone shook your magic 8 ball too many times and you got an answer you didn't like. So, feel free to vote as many times as you want. You can pick yes, you can pick no, you can even pick both at the same time! Either way it's just a silly poll that means nothing. Have Fun!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't pick the flowers!!!

I thought this view was a little ironic; beautiful flowers, deadly mines. I guess spring is here in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WD Caviar Green VS. Caviar Black (updated)

Today is Earth day. In honor of today I’d like to use my virtual soapbox coupled with my electronics expertise (sort of) to talk about my new hard drive. It’s the perfect hard drive for a discussion today because it’s green. That’s not just a fashion statement either; it’s actually eco-friendly.

Over two years ago I built a desktop computer for basic household needs that was also a decent gaming computer. I didn’t want to spend an exorbitant amount on it, but I also didn’t want it to be out-dated before it had even been shipped to my house. The best way to do that is to buy the absolute top of the line motherboard with plenty of expansion slots and all the other parts just get what you need staying middle of the road.So now that two years have passed, it’s time for a little bit of an upgrade. I’m going to be doubling the ram, replacing the video card, striping the two hard drives I’ve already got for improved speed, and then on to the point of this post, expanding the storage capacity by adding another hard drive. Since most of the parts I’m buying are the very best of slightly older technology, and the economic slide has lowered prices even further, it will cost me almost nothing to upgrade. Shopping at Newegg it will all only cost me about $200 and I should see a significant improvement that should make the computer last for at least a few more years.

Whenever I purchase hard drives, I tend to stick with Western Digital unless there is just a phenomenal deal on something else. Western Digital may not always be the fastest (although always very close), is definitely not always the cheapest, and doesn’t even always have the longest warranty, but I’ve never had one fail. Part of that is luck, and part of it is just good craftsmanship, but that’s the brand I stick to. So first thing on Newegg (another brand that time and time again hasn’t failed me) I did was narrow the search down to internal hard drives, 3.5 inch form factor (desktop size), SATA 3.0 Gb/s (the connection for my motherboard) , and Western Digital. I was looking to have a lot more storage space, and trying not to spend more than $150. If you narrow the search down further to 10,000 rpm drives only, you get a faster drive, but not much storage space and it’s a little pricey. If you narrow it down to 7,200 rpm, you get a much better compromise of speed, storage and price. Looking at all the different drives I decided that a 1Tb drive would be plenty of storage space for a long time to come, and on sale at $109 it was well within my price range. Now some of you may remember that I’m not in the States right now, and some of you also know that my wife isn’t very technical, so you may be wondering why and how I’m upgrading the desktop computer that’s on the other side of the earth. Well, I also need an external hard drive right now, but probably won’t need one when I get back, so I’m going to use a USB to any type of hard drive adaptor that I’ve already got to use the internal hard drive as an external while I’m here. All of the other upgrades will wait until I’m back at home, probably at an even better price.

Whenever I buy something, I like to think about it awhile before I actually make the purchase. It helps get rid of the impulse buy if I wait a few days, and it also gives me a chance to think about it a little more. There’s nothing like ordering a new “whatever” and not getting the right one, or forgetting to get “X” accessory with it that makes it work. So, I waited a few days and good thing! I forgot to order the SATA cable which I will eventually need once it goes into my desktop. I also narrowed down my search in a different order, and discovered a drive that will actually do better for my uses, and thus the point of this whole post. The original drive I was going to order was a WD Caviar Black, but when I didn’t narrow down my search results by speed, but instead by size, I discovered another WD drive, the Caviar Green. I compared the two drives, and they are virtually identical except for the Green drive being ten bucks cheaper and not saying what the drive speed was. I did a quick Google search of the two drives and found a nice review on Tech Report of the Caviar Green that went into great depth on the drive and compared it with dozens of different tests with the Caviar Black, and a bunch of other similar drives. Basically, the Green is an eco-friendly drive because of its lower power consumption. It’s not made from recycled parts or anything like that, it’s just designed to be more energy efficient and also happens to be quieter too. It is a slower drive than you can get, but in most cases the difference was negligible, and for the applications I need it for, storage and redundancy, it’s the perfect drive. It’s huge at 1Tb, and significantly more energy efficient. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but if you are interested Google or the Tech Report review aren’t far. If you are looking for a new hard drive, especially for storage, then check out Western Digital’s Caviar Green 1Tb hard drive, and help save the world at the same time (or at least save a little energy and change).

Update : 23 Feb, 2010 - I bought this hard drive and received it a few days after this post. I used it as an external for a few months, and then when I came back to the states on mid tour I installed it in my home desktop. Other than not connecting the power plug all the way in (my fault), this drive has given me no issues at all. The actual usable space on the drive is 931Gb. I have a bunch of movies on it right now and I don't get any lag on it when playing them across a G router to my PS3 in the living room. I don't however have any HD videos, they are all standard DVD quality, so I can't say if it is fast enough for HD, but wouldn't be surprised if it is. All in all, I'm extremely satisfied with this drive. Hope that helps!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I finally got a copy of Religulous. I was a little worried that I had hyped it up in my head to be better than it could be, but I wasn't disappointed. I should have known better. I already like Bill Maher, and my favorite topic is religion, so how could I not like it? It was a very well done movie. It was funny and it had a good message. I recommend everyone with an open mind to watch it. It's probably not what you think. I would say that if you are a non-believer, then it is kind of preaching to the choir, but might encourage more timid non-believers to be a little more open. It is rather funny even if you aren't changed in any way by it. If you are a staunch believer, you probably won't watch it, and if you do, you probably won't have a change of heart. The people that are on the fence, might actually be influenced to think about it a little more. Captain Phantasmic, after watching it, said, "wow, I think I believe in god much less than before".

Captain Phantasmic you see, is only recently an atheist. I guess you could consider him my first convert, but I wasn't trying to convert him and he was basically an atheist already, he just didn't call himself one. Just listening to me BS with fellow friends, watching religulous, and thinking about all the things he's seen in the world he realized that he was basically an atheist, or maybe at most a deist. He definitely things that if there is a god, he doesn't give a shit about us, or is an asshole. I don't want to speak for him and his beliefs, so if I got it wrong, or if he wants to clarify, I sent him a link to this post and maybe he'll post a response.

So to sum it up, a really funny movie, with a serious undertone, that just may make you think.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My favorite place on the internet!

Here is my favorite place on the internet right now.
I know I'm a bit partial, as it's my family, and I can't be with them right now, but I thought that maybe some of you would get a kick out of seeing the people that matter the most to me. It's our family blog. I started it shortly after this blog, but my wife does a much better job of keeping it going. She's very good at getting pictures up and a short story right after any kind of trip or outing.

The subtitle of the blog says "An atheist's family's adventure in the bible belt." If you read the blog, you'll realize that the blog has nothing to do with atheism beyond that. It's just a blog about a normal everyday family. That's really the point actually. There isn't anything different from any other family. We love being around each other. We love playing and running around and tickling. We love splashing in water and learning how everything works. If I put my apostrophes in the right spots then what that sentence actually means is that I'm an atheist, and I have a family, and they/we have adventures. It doesn't mean my children are atheists (as that would be silly), just that I am. Hope you enjoy it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

How sad

A few weeks ago our unit (Texas National Guard) celebrated Texas' independence day with a BBQ her in Afghanistan. All of the functions held in our unit always have a prayer by the chaplain (more on the chaplain later) at one point or another. I just stand there and try not to laugh. I look around at everybody, and see their serious "I'm talking to god" face, and occasionally I see other non-religious people looking around. After the prayer and a few words said and a toast, we all got food and sat down. I was sitting at a picnic table with some friends, and a few other acquaintances, when one of my buddies started talking about trying to find me during the prayer. He said that he was looking for me to see what I was doing. He knows I'm an atheist and was curious how I was handling the prayer. One of our supply sergeants asked why he was looking for me. I told her that I was an atheist and the first thing that came out of her mouth was, "oh how sad!".

It really is sad how ignorant people are. I'm a very happy person. I really enjoy life, because it's probably the only one I'll have. I was really quite shocked and didn't even say anything in response. I doubt that anything I could have said would have mattered, but I still wish I had said something at least.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Captain Phantasmic AKA the BEARD!

Here is a picture of my buddy Eric standing at my door being a goon. We try not to take things too seriously here, as sanity is always lurking around the corner. Although, by looking at him, you may think that sanity is much closer than just around the corner. And yes, that is a bubble pipe, quite sophisticated.

Friday, March 13, 2009


This beat poem is my favorite right now. It really feels as if the poem is talking about me. The only thing that doesn't fit is that I'd rather have a 7&7 or a jack and coke than wine. This is my favorite part...
"Twice as long to live this live of mine, twice as long to love this wife of mine" and I would have to add in twice as long to love these kids of mine. I hope that you like it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two big milestones in one week

So I can no longer be nominated for best new blog. Last week was my first year anniversary of my first blog post. It doesn't seem like it's been a year, but it has. I also passed a thousand hits sometime last week as well. It's not entirely accurate because I did have a different hit counter for a couple of months that stopped working, and I also didn't even put one on my page for awhile, but I have now definitely had at least a thousand. I didn't really know how to celebrate such a monumental occasion, but I think I've figured it out.

Here are two pictures that should hopefully get a laugh out of a few. The first one is a shot of the toilets we use here. Notice anything strange about the toilet? First, the toilet is backwards compared to most toilets, and second there is only water right in the hole, and no where else. It's the perfect reason why you should challenge your ideas every once in awhile. The guy who designed this toilet thought that he had a grand idea. He thought his toilet was better than every other toilet out there. He thought his toilet was so good that he convinced enough people to actually make them, and they convinced enough people to actually sell a ton of them (at least all the toilets on base, whether they were the only ones we could buy, or the cheapest I don't know). All it would have taken, somewhere in the process, was for someone to take a shit on one. Had they done that it would have been very evident that this was not a good idea. Without being too graphic, lets just say two things. There isn't much distance between the top of the bowl and the bottom of your arse. There is also a problem when it comes to flushing and friction. Let's just say that I only got a clean picture of the toilet because they had just cleaned it. One of my fellow soldiers described it as "taking a shit on a plate". Oops, so much for the graphic part. Sorry ladies.

The second one is of the stalls that we get to use for our bathroom business. They went to all the trouble of making these stalls out of sheet metal. They don't look prefabricated, so it actually took a little bit of extra effort to do. The walls are just barely too close, which would make sense to maximize space, but what you can't see is that on the end of the stalls there is plenty of extra space to spread these out a little. Then the toilet paper is awkwardly behind you. See the white thing in the front on the left? That's the shower curtain door. There is one great thing about these though. They do flush (mostly) and they are cleaned daily by a very diligent cleaning crew. I've also never seen one out of toilet paper, which is a real plus when you consider that we are a couple hundred yards away from our B huts.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Vegetarian for (almost) a week

This post is one that I started writing, and for whatever reason never got around to posting it. It's rather old, but since I haven't been posting lately I figured I should post it.

One of the great things about being an atheist and not believing in absolutes, is that I can explore other peoples morals, as long as they don't hurt anyone. This past summer I was TDY to Austin for a few weeks. I decided that I would try to be a vegetarian. I eat meat on a daily basis and think nothing of it. To some people in the world, it's considered evil to kill animals to eat. It's also evil because it takes a lot of grain to make a steak. You could feed many more people if you ate the grain instead of feeding it to cows.

I figured that if I was going to make this work, that Austin would have the easy access to vegetarian foods that would make it possible for a vegetarian ignoramus like myself. On the first day there I went to Whole Foods Market to fill my fridge with wholesome healthy vegetarian food. There was a very helpful lady at a small bar/restaurant inside the store. She explained to me that there are all kinds of vegetarians. Ones that eat eggs and milk, ones that eat shellfish, and vegans that eat only things that grow from plants. There are even people that don't believe in cooking food! I had no idea. I decided that since I wasn't really doing this because of my morals, but instead only to gain some perspective that I would try out different types of vegetarianism at some meals, and that I wouldn't eat meat (chicken, beef, cow, goat, fish, crustaceans, etc) for the entire week. Products from animals that didn't involve any killing would be okay, like dairy products and eggs.

It was about lunch time, so I asked the lady if she could recommend a good vegetarian meal for lunch. I got a taco salad that was entirely vegan. Nothing was cooked, not even the shell, which was made of pressed flax seed. There were a ton of fresh vegetables, salsa, avocados, rice, beans, and some kind of substitute sour cream that tasted just like the real thing. I was very impressed and really enjoyed it. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the flax seed shell, and only because some parts of it were a little too hard. So, first meal down, and I actually enjoyed it. I stuffed myself and didn't feel bad at all because I still ate significantly less calories than a Big Mac and I was much more full.

The lady at the counter (I wish I could remember her name) suggested that I get lots of fruit, try out the meat substitutes, and to get healthy dips to make eating vegetables more enjoyable. She also pointed out that a lot of carbs that I usually eat only have eggs in them, so if I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian then many of the foods I love would still be on the menu. Unfortunately it also meant that most of the unhealthy desserts I love, as well as sodas, would be on the menu. Looks like being a vegetarian isn't healthy by default. So I got a little bit of everything, and decided that sodas and ice cream could be my rewards for eating better, but only sometimes.

For my first night we all went out to eat at The Armadillo and guess what? The special for the night was vegetarian lasagna! How appropriate, I could eat veg, and I could save money. Again, it was delicious. I wasn't even aware that I was eating vegetarian except for my coworkers giving me shit about it. Apparently it's unmanly and un-Texas like for me to not eat meat. I was nice and full, and didn't feel bad about it.

Breakfasts were no different then normal, just cereal. Snacks were much healthier, I was eating fruit or these really good Cascadian Farm granola bars. I really like them a lot, and still eat them now that I'm back to being an omnivore. Lunch was were I started to have problems. We were too far away form our hotel to come back at lunch, and we didn't have a fridge to keep things cool at work. We ended up eating out almost every lunch while we were there. I quickly found out that most restaurants don't cater to vegetarians, even in Austin. The most they would do is have a veggie burger. Also, if they happened to have a veggie meal, they would only have one veggie meal. If you were in the mood for it great, but otherwise you had no other choices. Fast food was essentially off the list. I made it four days eating many veggie burgers, many salads, and many PB&J's. A personal favorite, but not something I want to eat all the time.

On the fourth night, I was taste testing a whole bunch of easy to make meals that were vegetarian. There were some boxed meals that you just add water kind of like hamburger helper without the hamburger. I also had a few random meat substitutes, and a few frozen meals. I'm not sure if I just don't know how to pick vegetarian meals, or if maybe vegetarian food doesn't fit the microwave/pre-made meals category well. I could tolerate some of the things if I had to, but wouldn't want to eat any of them. After maybe my fifth or sixth thing I tried and didn't like I figured I had tried being a vegetarian long enough, and went across the street for a nice big Whataburger.

The most important thing I learned is that unless you are used to it, you will definitely miss eating meat. There just isn't anything like it. If I were going to be a vegetarian full time I would just have to forget about eating meat, the substitutes were horrible. I also learned that not nearly as much of my meals that I eat consist of meat, and that many of the meals that do have meat don't necessarily have too. I also realized that I like good fruit, especially strawberries, significantly more than a candy bar. The reason I don't eat as much fruit as I should is mostly because I hate for it to spoil if I'm not in the mood for it, and that I dislike mediocre fruit significantly more than a candy bar.

So, how's the weather?

I got an email from my cousin Lew asking me how the weather was here. I realized that I hadn't been posting, and that other people would probably be interested too. I was intending to post, but before I got a chance to I messed up my partition table on my laptop and ended up having to reinstall windows. Note to self: if I decide to install linux, don't overwrite the EISA protected file. It took me awhile to get everything configured and installed the way I like since I have been real busy with work, and also trying to get a little bit of sleep.

When we first got here, it was a lot colder than it is now, but it was still bearable. We got a lot of snow two different times. Generally during the day it would get warmer than freezing, and then at night it would get below freezing. I don't really now how cold, but I was okay outside for wearing a jacket and gloves. Right now it's actually pretty nice. During the day it's maybe 70 degrees, getting a little colder at night, but not that bad. During the summer it's supposed to get pretty hot, but hasn't gotten hot yet.These are the little buildings we live in. They are called "B" huts, not sure why. There are 8 rooms in each building. That was one days worth of snow. It got a little thicker than that.

Someones bike covered in snow.

Someone made a snow couple. I think they painted it, but it might be some kind of powdered drink poured on the snow. They were around for about a week, looking more pitiful every day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fallen soldier ceremony

Today I woke up to a cold rain and a cold dose of reality. Where I'm stationed, and what I'm doing keeps me out of harms way, but it doesn't mean I'm not in a war zone. Anytime a soldier dies here in Afghanistan, their body comes to Bagram to be taken where ever it is going. When it gets to Bagram all the soldiers here line the main street on both sides. This morning a french soldier arrived, and I went out for my first fallen soldier ceremony.

We lined both sides of the main street, two or three rows deep in some parts. We stood silent and somber for roughly twenty minutes at parade rest. An escorted Humvee drove by with a casket that was draped with an American flag. There were six soldiers, that looked like they were french (I haven't gotten used to all the foreign uniforms yet) riding in the back with the casket. As it passed we all came to attention and then saluted. I've never seen so many soldiers make so little sound.

For some reason all I could think about was unchecked emails. All the jokes that wouldn't be laughed at, all the spam mail that wouldn't be bothering anyone, the caring letters unanswered, and the photos that would never be seen. I wondered if there were any emails in his inbox that someone regretted sending, and if there were any that weren't there that someone regretted not sending.

I hope that his life wasn't given in vain.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


So I'm here in Afghanistan. I've been counting down days from one place to another over and over again. Sometimes it was better that the days went slowly, then others I would prefer it to be much faster. Now that I'm here I'm counting the days for the last time until I'm able to go back home. I hope these days go the fastest because there are so many more than any of the other countdowns. For anyone that is worrying about me, I'm extremely safe. I'm an electronic technician and I'm on the largest base in Afghanistan. I won't leave the base the whole time I'm here, and rocket/mortar/artillery doesn't hit our base very often. I've heard that it's only been attempted two times in the last year, and neither attempts even reached the base. I've also heard about a military system called C-RAM (Counter - rocket artillery mortar). I'm not sure that Bagram has one of those systems, and even if I could confirm it, I wouldn't be allowed to say so, but I know if I was in charge of the army every major base would have one. Realistically I'm probably safer here than back in the states. Statistically the biggest killer of soldiers is automobile accidents, and every where I go is within walking distance. There are cars, but the max speed limit on base is 25 mph, and there are sidewalks or walking paths everywhere. I only cross one road to go eat, and don't cross any roads to get to where I work. So please don't worry, the worst part of being here is being away from my family.

Here is a video of C-RAM if you've never seen one. Pretty cool. I haven't heard one firing, but that could be because no rounds are coming in, or we don't have one. Not sure.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

40+ hours on a plane

I'm in Afghanistan now, more on that later, but first I have a story about the flight over. We flew from McChord Air force base in Washington (the state) to some small air base in Germany. I'd tell the name, but I don't remember and it's not important to the story in any way. I was lucky enough that I got to sit in first class on a 747. It was very impressive, with a video screen for each seat. You could play whatever movie you wanted. The chair turned into a bed. There was ample space for my feet, and all the random junk I was carrying. It was a really enjoyable flight. We left in the late evening, so I just watched a movie and then slept. When I woke up we were in Germany to refuel and change crews. We were only supposed to be on the ground for about an hour and a half, but of course everything up till that point had gone right, so it was inevitable that the plan would have to change.

As we were taxiing to the runway to take off the pilot came over the intercom to announce that our flight was going to be delayed at least 18 hours due to weather. Our next stop on our journey to Afghanistan was Manas, Kyrkistan, and Manas was at zero visibility and not expecting a change. In a more developed country zero visibility isn't as much of a hindrance, but in a third world country it most definitely is. Eighteen hours on a plane is a little long, especially after a ten hour flight from the states, so our chain of command did the sensible thing and got us rooms at a hotel. Here is were the catch came in. The only hotel that could take nearly 300 people on short notice was roughly 2 hours away in Frankfurt. We had a plane full of soldiers, and each soldier was carrying weapons. Customs frowns on taking weapons into the country, even if it is soldiers. We can't just leave the weapons on the plane, there are going to be crews coming on the plane to change out the food that will be expired 18 hours from now, etc. Germany won't let us through customs with our weapons, and staying on the plane with that many people is out of the question, so we had to send everyone to the hotel, leave the weapons on the plane, and leave guards. Since I was in first class, I volunteered to stay on the plane with three other soldiers from first class.

Everyone left, including all of the crew. The only people that stayed on board with us were a few of the maintenance guys. One of the Germans from the airport brought us over a case of beer and the maintenance guys gave us full privileges on the plane. I basically did everything on the plane that you always want to do, but never actually do when on a plane. Every switch, every button, every little cabinet, I flipped it, pushed it, or opened it. I also got an in depth tour of the cockpit. All the food on the plane was going to be thrown away, so we could eat whatever we wanted. I ate the crew meals because their food was much better than the first class meals even. I actually had a blast. When we finally got cleared for take off I had spent over 25 extra hours on the plane. When we landed in Manas it was about 41 hours after taking off in the states. It was quite the adventure.

Here is the beer. Bitburger is what it was called. I'm not much of a beer drinker, I prefer mixed drinks, but this beer was pretty good. I figured that since I was in Germany, and alcohol won't be accessible for awhile that I may as well have a few. Thanks to whom ever it was from the airport that "accidently" left them on the plane.

Heres two of the other guys enjoying the food and movies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Radio silence...

Well we're almost ready to go to Afghanistan. We'll be in the field with out internet for about a week, and then shortly afterward I'll be catching a long airplane ride. I may post before then, but I don't expect too. Don't worry though, I'll be plenty bored once I'm over with lots of crazy people talks to write about. Until then, enjoy yourself with a video from CDK007.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Raised that way...

People tend do a lot of things because thats how they were raised. They never specifically made a decision to do it a particular way, that's just how their parents did it. I speak English, eat Americanized food, and I use the American Standard for all of my measuring. I think its a confusing system, I still have problems with it, and yet I still use it. At one point I had no choice, but now that I do it's so ingrained that I drag my feet. I was looking for a good way to fully use the metric system exclusively when XKCD posted the above comic, Converting to Metric. It seems like a good way to start converting, and it's got Firefly references. I wonder if I can find metric measuring spoons to make my yummy cookies with my daughter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cuttlefish VS AIG

Apparently Digital Cuttlefish and AIG are having a battle of epic proportions. Err, well, not really a battle, DC is just negotiating a realignment of the celestial Google ratings, but with the way creationists blow things out of proportion, (like the "war on christmas"), this will probably be seen as an act of war. So, if you like Digital Cuttlefish, then maybe throw up a link to him(?) on your blog to help spread the word. If you've never heard of the Digital Cuttlefish, then go over and check it out. You'll enjoy it. There are lots of cuttlefish over there.