January 31, 2008

One More Time for Score!

It's PFT time! It's my last one as an active duty Marine, unless I change my mind about reenlisting. I'll put up my results when I'm done.

UPDATE: It's been raining all week, which is good for runs but terrible for pull-ups (the bar gets slick and wet.) Today it was clear and dry, surprising us all.

Since it was only our shop running, there were only five of us going out for score, plus our Gunny to adjudicate. We'd agreed last night to do the pull-ups indoors where it would be nice and dry. But we met at the Semper Fit Gym, the "new gym". We normally go to the McCutchenson Gym to work out. McCutchenson has some nice indoor pull-up bars, but the (only) bar in Semper Fit was terrible. It was way too close to the wall, so I kept banging into the wall while doing my pulls. That cost me at least one and maybe two pulls... and I needed those pulls, as you'll see below. Gunny offered to let me try again outside, which is kind of stretching the rules on a PFT, but I didn't try again as I knew it'd be pointless. I'm old and have a recovery time on max-effort stuff like PFT pull-ups; it'll be at least four hours until my arms are strong enough again to get ten pulls. And we had to get to work.

My Results/Best Possible/(points):

  • Pull-ups: 8/20/(40 points)
  • Crunches: 100/100 points)
  • Three-mile run: 26:16/18:00/(50 points)

That's a total score of 190. A first-class score for my age group is 200. I really wanted that first-class, it'd be the first time since MOS school. Two more pull-ups would have got me those ten points.

Ah well, no use crying. One of our guys missed the PFT today, so he'll have to do his on the boat, which sucks bad. If I can I'll do another PFT with him, partly to support him, partly to see if I can better my score. Even tying it would count as a triumph though, as PFTs on the boat suck. Lap after lap after lap on the pitching flight deck...

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Negotiable Tender

I was doing some cleaning up and sorting of my stuff, and I discovered that I've got cash from six nations in my wall locker. So many colorful bills, so many cryptic coins with denominations I can't read.

I also keep two different currency systems in my wallet while "home" in Japan. In Australia I bought a tourist wallet to make it easier-- it has a divider in the bills compartment. That wallet's also made of tanned marsupial hide, which is a bonus.

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January 28, 2008

Halting State by Charles Stross

Halting State is the new novel by Charles ("Charlie") Stross, one of the leading lights on the 21st century British Invasion of SF authors. He writes personal SF- no giant space fleets thundering across the immense vast inky blackness of space and whatnot; or rather, when he does write about that, it's from the perspective of a minor diplomat and and hard-working engineer. He's not interested in the people that make Grand Policy Decisions, he's interested in the people that work for a living and are just trying to not get crushed by the wheel of change.

He also loves to switch between characters, and Halting State carries along with that. It's told from three perspectives: a Scottish beat cop, a forensic accountant, and a game programmer. The three of them are brought together by a bank robbery. What gives the cop headaches is that the bank isn't real, and neither is anything that was stolen- the crime took place in a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, when a squad or orcs backed up by a dragon broke into a game's main bank and proceeded to loot the place down to the furniture.

The heist gets interesting as soon as everyone realizes that committing the theft required breaking a number of ciphers that should be unbreakable- so why is someone robbing an online game's bank, when they could be taking real money from real banks?

The writing itself is interesting, and I'm embarrassed to admit it took me about ten chapters to realize why it seemed strange. The whole thing is written in the second person, a very unusual choice for a novel.

Now, this book was written for me. Specifically. The primary target to understand all of the jokes and allusions would have knowledge of:

  • Tabletop Role-Playing Games
  • Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games
  • Macroeconomics
  • Fencing
  • Scotland and England
  • The DnD monsters that the author created in the 1970s
  • Distributed Network Computing
  • Cryptography

So really, if I was English or a Scot, it's be perfect.

In summary: highly recommended to anyone with knowledge of any two items in the above list.

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January 27, 2008

Maybe We Need to Back Off a Little

Three weeks ago, it was Cpl Ose's turn to lead PT. He led us on a medicine ball run. That's a variant of an indian run, where you all run in a single file, and the last guy in line has to run up to the front, then the new last guy sprints to the front, etc. For the variant, we had a fifteen pound medicine ball, and you had to sprint to the front carrying the ball. At the front, you passed it to the guy behind you, he passed it behind him, and so on, until the ball is in the back and that guy runs to the front with it.

At first I thought it wouldn't be bad, because all the time passing the ball means you do less sprinting. But that ball is heavy. And passing it back means you can't relax while you're in the middle of the pack. All in all, it was a brutal three-mile pain train, in the cold rain.

Our poor gunny put out like a champ, keeping up with the younger guys. [N.B. I am not a younger guy.] He put out so much he came down with pneumonia that morning, and has been on antibiotics for three weeks now. Sucks to be him.

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January 26, 2008

1962 to today

From this website, a truly facinating presentation at some thinkers's conference, presented by a Swedish economist. The correlation between per capita income and and childhood mortality struck me particularly, but the whole thing is full of good bits. Like when we compares his fellow professors to chimpanzees... favorably, at least. (His students did far worse than the chimpanzees.)

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January 25, 2008

We Love Donuts

We came in to work today (Saturday), very unhappily. The aircraft are looking all right, so the only reason we were here was to make it possible to fly a few more training missions before the boat. Those missions are likely to break some aircraft though. We think the whole thing is a bad idea.

So the morning maintenance meeting was grim. The atmosphere was like a wake without any booze. The best mood present was "gloomy", while the spectrum ran down to "near-suicidal".

Then the officers all started coming in with donuts, and Stockholm Syndrom kicked in, and I got productive. We still didn't need to be there, but at least I got a big pile of paperwork done.

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Ugh

Our departure date got pushed up, so now we're scrambling to be ready for the boat. Working all weekend is going to annoy me very very much. And all these long days have left me too tired to do much. Last night I got up the energy to go out and get some sushi. I bought a bunch for dinner and a bunch more for today's lunch. Then I ate the whole enormous pile last night. One of the lessons of college: Food can replace sleep, if there's enough of it.

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January 22, 2008

Sleep is for the Weak!

As a responsible NCO, I try to keep fit and rested. But some things you just can't let pass. Last night some of the guys took two gigantic TVs into the lounge, hooked up their XBox 360's, and got a four-on-four Halo 3 game going.

It was the last night of our 96 72 hour liberty, and I should have gone to bed at a reasonable hour. But one of the organizers came knocking on my door and innocently said "So, I hear you play first-person shooters?" I looked up from my game of Team Fortress 2 and acknowledged that I did, on occasion, indulge in some simulated tactical situations.

He threw down the gauntlet, and like many a knight of yore, I knew good reasons to avoid the combat, but honor demanded. So I played Halo 3 until in was no longer late, but was becoming early.

I've played a certain amount of Halo 2, but never 3. The different button layout and different weapons available caused me some confusion. Once I worked those out, I became moderately deadly, although I finished only third overall. Win and Place went to the owners of the XBoxen, who have undoubtedly sunk many hours into Halo.

I still think a PC is the right way to do FPS. Mouse and keyboard provide input that is flexible, precise, and fast. With a game controller, I cannot turn as fast as I can think- and when playing a FPS, I think very quickly indeed. Especially bad is when someone gets behind you; with a mouse, it's trivial to spin in place, but with a controller, you're generally killed during the time it takes to slowly swivel in place.

And that's enough gaming stories for now.

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January 19, 2008

Dining Out

Last night we had a squadron mess night, a formal dinner affair. It was technically a "Dining Out" because we had spouses and girlfriends present, while a typical "Dining In" has members of the mess only.

All the guests meant things were kept a bit more civil than normal, with no pranks, hijinks, or fines. We had a delicious meal cooked by the O Club catering staff, and drank many toasts. I had little wine with the meal, and only sipped the toasts, but many of my compatriots got seriously hammered.

It was unfortunate that all of the UDP Marines (that came from the US west coast units to reenforce us) only brought along their service charlies, which as formal uniforms go is rather informal. The ladies wore ball gowns and formal kiminos, while we were in short-sleeve kakhi shirts. I wish we could have worn our blues, but the UDP guys didn't bring theirs, and the unity of the mess demands that we wear the same uniform.

The guest of honor was a Brigadier General that I've never heard of; he was invited because our squadron Sergeant Major is moving on to a new posting next week, working for that BGen. He gave a speech that was decently presented but unmemorable.

All the alcohol and hooting and hollering and cigar smoke gave me a headache, so I cut out early during the cocktails following dinner.

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January 18, 2008

Beautiful Day

It's an absolutely perfect day outside. And I'm stuck making my uniform perfect for a pointless bit of mando-fun this evening. Hurray for the life of a Marine.

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