Going to a Bible College is expensive. On top of that, finding a scholarship can be really difficult. That's why I was so excited to find the Bible College Scholarship website today. Not only are they giving away a $1,000.00 scholarship and a digital theological library, all I had to do to apply was watch a short video and answer a few questions! It took less than 15 minutes. What is best of all is that if you're in Bible College and apply for the Bible College Scholarship, and put my name as the person who referred you, if you win the scholarship, so do I! We could both get a $1,000.00 scholarship and digital theological library. So, do us both a favor and go apply for the Bible College Scholarship today.
I have been thinking about the following things, off and on, for quite some time. Now, I suppose, is the perfect time to commit them to this blog:
1. I really enjoy meeting "old-timers", men and women who have given their lives, however temporarily, to the service of this country by being in the military.
2. I really hate it if (mostly when) they ask me if I've been to the Middle East. It's not that I'm ashamed of having spent some time in Iraq. Quite the contrary, actually. I just don't like the pained look on the faces of those who didn't go to Vietnam or Korea. You can tell that some of them are haunted by the memories of their friends who went and came back changed (or, unfortunately, didn't come back). Their apologetic looks are very heart breaking.
3. I am a human, so I do like to be complimented or thanked. So, I appreciate it when strangers see me in uniform and thank me for my service. You are welcome.
4. I don't like it when someone thanks me then explains to me that they never served in the military. You know, bad back, flat feet, etc. It seems to me that they are apologizing to me for their "lack of service". I'm not certain when being a military person became the gold standard for serving our nation. Have you paid your taxes? Have you given more to our country than you've taken? Do you volunteer your time to charitable organizations? Do you donate to worthy causes? If so, don't apologize to me. Or to anyone else, for that matter. You've done your part. Serving your country doesn't always mean donning a uniform and dodging enemy bullets, bombs, and rockets.
5. I hate it when our vets are ignored, mistreated, or forgotten. They did something that few others in our country have done. They have suffered, by and large, more than any other segment of our population. They come from every part of our society: black, white, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, rich, middle-class, poor, rural, urban and suburban. We owe it to them to never forget them.
We should, on that last note, do something great for them. Here is what I propose:
1. If you come across someone who served during WWII: salute them (with feeling and respect). Thank them from the bottom of your heart.
2. If you come across someone who served during the Korean War: shake their hand while grasping their forearm. Let them know that you appreciate the sacrifices they made.
3. If you come across someone who served during the Vietnam War: hug them, close and deeply. Shed a tear for all the heart-break they've felt. For all the dreams they left shattered in the sweltering jungles and deltas of Vietnam. They deserve nothing less.
4. If you come across someone who served during Desert Shield/Storm or Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom: say thank you. Buy them a cup of coffee. Let them know that you are proud of what they are trying to accomplish.
5. Send emails, letters, and phone calls to your senators and congressmen. Let them know that the VA needs to be overhauled. Let them know that you will not stand for even one more veteran falling through the cracks because the promised medical services aren't being delivered.
To those who would protest at a fallen soldier's funeral. While I support and defend your right to protest, I do not believe that anyone should ruin the funeral of a fellow defender of our nation. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that any and all funerals should be solemn, peaceful occasions. I strongly believe that the family who has to bury someone who has given the ultimate sacrifice for his/her country should be honored with a quiet funeral. There are many people in this country who feel the same and would proudly serve twenty to life to prevent you from desecrating a soldier's funeral. I believe that to be non-negotiable.
Lastly, a quick note to my black brothers and sisters: my hair is naturally blond. I cut it short because no other hair style really looks good on me (and, it's an occupational hazard). I also don't smile a lot...not because I'm angry but because I don't smile much. I do love to laugh, though. Having said all of that...please stop crossing to the other side of the street when I'm walking toward you. I mean you no harm...honest. I realize that I may look like an angry skinhead from a distance. I apologize for that and I am trying to work on that. Sorry. Also, ladies, you don't have to clutch your purses closer to your body when you see me. I don't steal purses. Honestly.
You know, it constantly amazes me at how two different events can be so telling about our nation and where it is heading. You see, I logged into my Yahoo Mail account and was greeted by the Home page which typically includes the latest headlines. Two of those headlines left me feeling like our country was definitely on the wrong track. In so many ways, these two headlines focused and magnified the map that shows us our destination. So, with commentary, here is what I saw.
As everyone knows by now, we are in the midst of a recession. Many lives have been affected by this "economic downturn", even my friend, Peter. Businesses have been closed down, people have lost their homes, and everyone is worried about the future. The only people who haven't been affected too much seem to be those who have enough money to pay off our government and get their "government checks". Totally awesome! If you have enough money to live for the next three or four decades without receiving another dime from any other source of income, you too can take a small wad of your cash and stuff it into the hungry maws of the elected public officials that handle our collective treasure. So that you can make far more money than you've dealt out. Man, what an awesome gig that must be.
So, after a major insurance company had to be "bailed out" by our own US Government, we see the following headline: Chorus of outrage over millions in AIG bonuses (AP). Thankfully, such assaults on our economy by those barracudas is being met with a rising voice of dissent. Hopefully, charges will be made against them.
Right below that headline, we find this one: Bomb kills 4 US soldiers in Afghanistan's east (AP). I am quite certain that those four soldiers didn't wake up in the morning with the thought that, "hey, today I'm going to die for some scumbag's right to milk our country of $165 million!" Honestly, folks, why would we send the greatest treasure we own into harms way so that someone could rip the American people off? The young soldiers were sons, husbands, uncles, fathers, and fellow Americans (or, possibly, daughters, wives, aunts, mothers, and fellow Americans). One death has an impact not just on the dreams and aspirations of one person, but on families, friends, and unit members. Tens of dozens of people are touched in a negative way. Now, multiply it by four. Or, if you will, by nearly 5,000. Or, if you are truly bold, multiply the impact of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by at least 100,000. So many lives that have been shattered by war. So many futures that have been crushed by the realities of war. So many fewer people around who might have been able to cure cancer, find a way to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, or a way to economically clean up our environment. Yippee skippy.
Either headline alone should piss you off. It certainly pisses me off. Yet, when you find them together, one right below the other, you should become so livid that you would fire up your computers and send angry emails to your Senators and Congressmen. Tell them that you are sick and tired of having your national treasure wasted on parasitic scumbags and your nation's brightest shining stars snuffed out in their prime. Honestly, this is a moral issue. If the insurance mavens want to make such huge bonuses, let them fly to Afghanistan in the belly of a noisy, greasy C-130. Let them live out of tents and tiny metal buildings. Let them live out of vehicles for weeks on end, with no A/C and no hot showers. Let them eat MREs whose taste quickly gets old. Let them contend with blowing sand in the summer and the thickest, nastiest mud in the winter. And, let them bleed for their country. Oh, yeah, that's right. They have enough money to avoid such trivial pursuits. Theirs is the American dream. What about ours?
I have been watching the news reports about AIG's 73 $1m+ bonus winners. I've seen the outrage and listened to people try to both justify and vilify AIG's actions. Obviously, I'm no fan. So, being a rational individual, I thought that there had to be some kind of way to put everything into perspective.
I thought about how to present the information so that it, in mathematical terms, was brought to the "lowest common denominator". What would that be? Well, I thought that one of the most easily understood units of measure, in financial terms, was the hourly wage. So here are my observations (and please, if you find a discrepancy in either my logic or the math, let me know):
At least one of the AIG bonuses was for $6,400,000. That is a lot of money, right? Huge number, not so easily grasped by the "normal" folks (proletariat in Marx speak). Well, let's divide that number by 365 (the number of days in a year - a lot of executives work nearly every day of the week so I thought I'd give AIG the benefit of the doubt). We (actually, they) get $17,534.25 (the number was rounded to the nearest hundredth of a cent). Hmmm...over $17k a day. But what is that per hour? Well, I'm going to give you two different number of hours worked per a day, 8 and 16. I chose those because they allowed for the not-so-likely 40 hour week and the much more likely 80 hour week scenario (executives don't tend to get very far if they put in the minimum acceptable work hours a day...it's like wearing the minimum amount of flair! Most normal workers don't work much more than the required 8 hours a day if they are on salary...no incentive, right?). For the 8 hour a day scenario, we find that our executive-in-question (EiQ) received compensation totaling $2,191.78 for each hour of work. Wow. If we take into account the more likely scenario of a 16 hour work day, then the compensation drops to a miserably low $1,095.89 per hour of work. And that is just his/her bonus. We're not even considering the salary that was paid. Stunning, right?
While using the highest compensation level is probably not overly fair to AIG, I decided to use the lowest one (you know, to show fairness...just like they...didn't do). Same scenario. Here is the daily, the 8 hr, and the 16 hr compensations: $2,739.73, $342.47, and $171.23. Again, stunning.
Since the Tale of Two Headlines juxtaposed the AIG issue with the deaths of four US servicemen, I figured that I would present to the dear reader the pay, per hour, for the highest compensated member of the military (which would be an O-10 - general or admiral) and the lowest compensated member of the military (which would be an E-1 - airman basic, seaman, private). Now, we are going to run into a little problem here, since many factors will influence the actual compensation that is received (where you live, if you're married, if you're married to another military member, male or female, do you fly, are you a submariner, are you a special ops guy, etc). Far too many variables to use. So, in order to simplify things, I figured I'd use the following parameters: the money would include base pay, that they are married to an non-military member, that they live in non-base housing, that they are deployed to a location that includes both hostile fire pay and imminent danger pay, and that they continue to receive basic allowance for subsistence. I also put the people in the deployed location from 01 Jan 09 through 31 Dec 09. It makes things neater, which isn't likely. Also, the E-1 should get promoted after six months of service. I'm going to say that, through some weird pay glitch, they remain an E-1 throughout the tour. I also don't take into consideration clothing allowances, flight pays, or any other pays. I do, on the other hand, include the rather hefty fee of $3,400 a year for health insurance. According to the National Coalition on Health Care (http://www.nchc.org/facts/cost.shtml), the average employee contribution to health care is $3,400 a year. The government considers that a part of our normal compensation when figuring out how much we would need to make in pay and benefits from a civilian job in order to live at the level that we enjoy at our current compensation rate.
I also took into account the number of hours a military member works while deployed. Few people only work 8 hours a day. From top to bottom, most people work 12 or more hours a day with 16 hours a day being quite common. Also, there really isn't that much to do in the desert. So, even if you have a day off, you go to work and do something...paperwork, emails, phone calls, etc. So, you will typically find that most people work nearly every single day that they are deployed. So it isn't too far fetched to divide the amount of pay by 365 days and then by 8 and 16 hours. It also allows us to have the type of common ground that we need when trying to compare the two different groups of people.
The average O-10 receives $250,672.48 a year (again, using the above paragraph's pay parameters). That equals $686.77 per a day, $85.85 an hour for 8 hours of work, and $42.92 an hour for 16 hours of work.
The average E-1 receives $38,834.44 a year. That equals $106.40 per a day, $13.30 an hour for 8 hours of work, and $6.65 an hour for 16 hours of work.
Now, let's remember a couple of things. One, this presumes that they are in a combat zone for a whole calendar year...which is not likely for the majority of those who are in the military. So the compensation will be lower. Two, I wanted to demonstrate a best-case scenario for pay at the highest and lowest pay grades (excluding different types of pay that aren't usually received by the majority of military members such as flight pay, dive pay, etc). So, there are quite a few holes in my military pay comparison. Either way, it still demonstrates, with glaring clarity, the huge difference between the bonus paid to the AIG executives and to our military members.
To recap, the highest paid AIG bonus equates to $1,095.89 an hour. The highest paid military member receives approximately $42.92 an hour. The lowest paid AIG bonus equates to $171.23 an hour. The lowest paid military member receives approximately $6.65 an hour! The highest paid military member would make four times less pay an hour than the lowest paid AIG executive bonus in the current AIG scandal.
Now for the commentary: I'm still proclaiming that the bonuses are crap. We still need to make our voices heard high and low. Given the current economic crisis, one wonders what went through the minds of the AIG board of directors and executive officers. Why would you give out the money, knowing full well that the underpaid accountant in payroll will be cutting the checks (or, authorizing disbursement) and that s/he will probably say something to someone? They had to know that it wouldn't go unnoticed. If you are on welfare and you buy a brand new Mercedes-Benz...you know you're going to get investigated. Honestly, are they that dumb? And, why would you accept the money? You may not have authorized it, but you sure did take it...didn't you? Jerk!
I do have a reasonable suggestion to make to the American people. One that will make everything better. First, they must give back the bonus money. Also, let's line up the authorizers and the 73 bonus takers. Let's then line up 100 men (or women) from each of the major military trauma hospitals. Injured men. Men who've given a piece of their bodies, their souls, and their minds for this war. Service members who've received Purple Hearts and prosthesis'. Now, let's make the AIG pukes walk past each and every single service member and stop in front of each of them for at least 30 seconds. Now,let each and every single one of the service members junk punch each of the AIG fools. I think that is fair. Don't you? No? Well, then, please line up next to that little AIG dude whose tears are falling onto his $2000 Armani suit. I don't have time for you and your ilk.
If only we could do that. Thankfully, we can not do so (even though I suggested it and would love to see it happen). Why am I thankful? Because as citizens we have rights. We have a right to have our side of the story heard in a court of law, to have a jury of our peers decide our fate (Peter...illuminate us, please). That is what the four servicemen who died in Afghanistan were defending. They were defending our beautiful, chaotic heritage that our forefathers entrusted to us so many years ago. They died for that and for their buddies, their families, and for all of the grateful and ungrateful people who call themselves Americans. Truly, they are heroes. Selfless, courageous heroes. Men of honor and integrity.
If only AIG had a culture that fostered such ideals as selflessness, courage, honor, and integrity. If they did, they wouldn't be examples of decadence and greed. But that wasn't them and their culture won't likely change, now that they got caught. Hopefully they'll have a real "come-to-Jesus" moment and repent before God and man. If not, they can just rot in jail or burn in hell. Makes no difference to me. I just pray that justice is done.
Rest in peace, my brothers. We won't let your sacrifice be trampled upon by those scumbags.
I don't understand relationships. Why is it that I can have a perfectly sane relationship with a lot of my friends but have such a difficult time with my wife and kids? I typically spend more time with my coworkers than I do my family, so I don't think it is the whole over-familiarity thing. In fact, I've spent 2/5 of my time away from my family in the last five years. Include my forty plus hours a week and I might have spent 2/5 of the time with my family! Maybe that is the problem...I spend too much time away from them. I hardly know them, I guess.
I am a Christian. Nothing fancy. Just a man who struggles to be a Christian. I am, in many ways, just an every man.
As of recently, I have been struggling greatly. My marriage has been on the verge of failure for quite some time. We would fight often and much. When not fighting, we would exist silently, avoiding conversation, eye contact, and each other.
I've been reading a lot about marriage. It's not easy. Well, reading is easy, it's the implementation of the ideas and suggestions that isn't easy. As such, I've also enlisted the aid of several of my friends, brothers-in-Christ, to pray for my marriage.
Well, I got bored (as I often do) and needed to go the "library". So, I picked up a copy of Too Busy Not To Pray by Bill Hybels. While reading the first chapter I had a radical thought...I need to pray!
The crux of the problem is that I have not felt particularly loved by God these last several months. I haven't felt much of a need for conversing with Him. While I understand the importance of prayer, it feels like work when you feel abandoned by God. It feels much like it does when you get up at 0430 and go to the gym in order to torture yourself with squats. You don't want to do it and would much rather slap the crap out of the alarm clock than to get up. But, I digress.
So, the thought that came to me was that I wasn't praying for my wife. Oh, heck, let's face it kind reader, I wasn't really praying at all. For anything. So, I have decided that regardless of how I feel (or don't feel) I am going to pray. I'm going to start by praying for my wife and kids. It won't be easy (well, praying isn't hard, being disciplined will be). But I don't see any way around it, actually. I truly need to pray for her or I see things continuing down the slippery slope that it has been for months (years, actually).
So, tomorrow I will be starting on this journey. I will keep you posted as to whether or not it has been successful or not.
Alright, I guess it's time to update this here blog of mine. For all four of you who read it...I apologize.
Anyway, I got my vision corrected a little over a month ago. PRK, which is supposed to be very painful, wasn't painful at all. Oh, sure, there was one day that was sooooo dang light sensitive that I thought I'd have to take up mining for a living. But that was all, one day of discomfort. The biggest lesson learned...don't rub your eyes the day after the surgery. Oh, man, talk about putting tears in your eyes! That about did it but good.
I was doing the Love Dare. But I stopped. Don't start a forty day endeavor when you are going to be away from the person who you are supposed to be working with. Makes no sense. Which is probably why I tried to do it. I'm silly like that.
Guns N Roses...the Chinese Democracy album is actually pretty good. Not classic GNR sounding, but it works nonetheless. Especially if you don't try comparing it to its siblings. I say it will stand on its own merits.
Tried Kettlebell exercises. Hahahahahahahahahahahah...OH MY LORD! IT STILL HURTS! You want to talk about an anaerobic exercise that propels your heart rate at the same time! Yowsa! It's killa, my nilla wafa luvas!!
Rediscovered Christopher Titus. If you aren't familiar, then may I suggest buying/borrowing his 5th Annual End of the World Tour. I saw him in Iraq. Which reminds me of an observation:
1. Carrie Underwood came to our base. She wasn't really, shall we say, happy to be there. She had little to no interaction with her fans (hi, Yvette). She only smiled when the camera came up. And, she gave a forty-five minute set (roughly).
2. Christopher Titus came through with Kathy Griffin. She was his opening act. Her set was thirty minutes long. His set, holy crow, was one hour and thirty minutes long! Nearly everything that is on the CD was in his set. Admittedly, he couldn't really do some of his stuff, as it wouldn't have flown very far (Bush bashing is frowned on by our leadership...who happens to include Bush...hmmm).
3. My only disappointment...I wish he had video taped the concert. It was very hilarious for many reasons beyond what you get from his CD. Too bad.
Anyway, I've got to get going. Peace out, homey's.
I've got to conduct dare four...just calling up the wife and seeing what she needs me to do. Not that hard, I suppose.
Unfortunately, I decided to do the "right" thing and go get some milk from the store. I left, got some milk, some cheese, some bread, and some butter. Normally, I just let her do the shopping. So, I put my big boy pants on and took off. Little did I know that she would be pissed off at me for doing so. I didn't mind her getting mad, per se. What I didn't like was her tone. You would have thought that they had started rationing visits to the store and we wouldn't be able to go back for another month! I admitted that I was wrong for not communicating to her. Unfortunately, she kept at me and I really lost my temper. I suppose that I should go find the jacket I threw to the ground, pick it up, and put it where it belongs. To say the least, not a good day. Better luck tomorrow.
So, today is day three. Yesterday wasn't too bad. I did put away my desire to just relax so that I could help with the laundry. I didn't get as much done as I had hoped. I'll just have to keep working at it, I suppose. Of course, my dirty little secret is that I did manage a short nap after I came home...albeit in a location that I wouldn't normally nap in.
So, today's challenge is to buy my wife something to show my appreciation. That will take a bit of thought. Of course, I must also refrain from "going negative".