April 28, 2008

More of a Gray Beach, Really

We flew onto the Essex yesterday. Most of the shop was on the very first wave, while I was on the very last. That didn't work out too well. Being last is kind of a mark of honor, because the last one out has to make sure all gear gets to the ship somehow. But not having anyone else meant I was running up and down the flightline on a hot and humid day, becoming brutally overheated and dehydrated. We made it somehow.

After we all landed, the ship pulled into it's Okinawa port, White Beach. Okinawa doesn't have any really good deep water ports, so the ship ties up to a pier that sticks far out to sea. We in the air wing have some free time now, while the ground element and cargo get loaded. So I'm sitting in Mean Gene's restraunt at the E-club here on White Beach. The other guys took a cab all the way back to Futenma, but I was so exhausted that I slept for 15 hours and missed the trip. So I'm sucking up free wireless internet in the E-Club instead.

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April 26, 2008

Sense of Time, Slipping

I got done with laundry and packing quite quickly. I wasn't sure what I'd do with the rest of the evening.

Then I noticed it was 1 AM. Whoops, guess the caffeine was getting to me. Plus the reduction in stress: I've been going nuts getting ready for this float, because we found out on Wednesday that we were not going to be getting some support during this excercise that we should have received. So there was a nasty crunch of trying to get six weeks of scheduled maintenance on inflatable gear done in three days. The people at the paraloft are very unhappy, because they were actually working hours like what we squadron guys do all the time. (Theirs is normally a cushy job.) Their corporal in Production Control called me some terrible things. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, at the cruel aspersions cast upon my character and ancestry.

But we're set, now. Whatever is done is done; what is undone, will not get done. (And there is certainly some undoneness. But that's a story for another time.)

Time for a four-hour nap!

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Pack, Shmack

I leave for war (well, fake war) in less than twelve hours. Some people would think that T-12 means it's time to pack.

Me, I think it's time to do laundry. I'm not the only one thinking that.

Caffeine is going to be my friend. Tomorrow, it'll be caffeine + ibuprofin. Tomorrow night, I expect to rest very well, even if I am stuck in a tiny rack. I'm angling to get a top rack this time, if I get one I'll be able to sit up and use my computer in my bunk. (Downside, less privacy, which is no small concern.)

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April 24, 2008

End of the Road

My car needs it's biannual inspection done by May 15th. I had a mechanic look it over, and he gave me as estimite of $800-$1000 to get it to pass. New tires, brakes, replaces a couple of lights, replace the back bumper(!). After all that's done, I'll be about to leave the island, and I might be able to get $500 for the car.

So, Saturday it's going to get decommisioned, and sent to the parts lot behind the auto hobby shop.

I feel bad about it, because it runs fine (even if the motor oil looks like bunker fuel). In fact, I feel guilty. Which is strange, because I've always been a "cars are transport" kind of guy, not a "cars are sexy and reveal something about myself" kind of guy. So I don't know why I feel so bad about retiring a vehicle made in 1992.

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April 21, 2008

Squee

Today Gunny gave me a day off, to make up for all the weekends I've been coming in. That was nice of him.

At about 0830 he called. First, he had to apologize, because he needed me to come in for an hour to certify some aircraft that were scheduled to fly.

Second, to let me know that next month's promotion list is out. And my name is found thereupon.

So on the first of May, I'll stand tall in front of the Man and get promoted to Sergeant. Go me!

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Let's Get Right to the Point

I like a sharp pencil as much as the next guy. Except for the next guy that programed this computer-controlled lathe.

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April 19, 2008

I'm a Hard Guy to Shop For

Last Tuesday the OIC was in the shop as we all sat around waiting for the afternoon maintenance meeting to get done. He tuned the conversation to everyone's favorite alcohol. This is a rich mine of conversational material in the Corps, I promise you. Marines will debate the virtues of vodka versus gin for hours, and then debate the different brands of vodka for more hours.

He seemed to get a little frustrated when he realized that I didn't drink. To be fair, it's not that I never drink, I just do it very very rarely. In my barracks in Georgia, I had a nice bottle of apple brandy. After a year, it was still 95% full.

I found out the reason for his frustration Friday. Our OIC went out and bought everyone a bottle of their favorite booze as a "thank you" for the hard work we've been putting in. For me? He got an equivalent value worth of junk food, which I have a known softness for.

Forty dollars will get you a single bottle of Gray Goose vodka of Bombay Sapphire gin. It will also get a huge pile of miscellanious cookies. Like three bags worth. I expect I'll take some of them with me on the ship. (Which we're going to be boarding in less than a week. Yikes!)

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April 18, 2008

Ten Fingers... Check

We had a wee little explosives mishap in the shop today. Everybody's fine, no injuries. Still, mucho paperwork, and a mandatory investigation. So I don't think I can go into details yet.

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April 16, 2008

Plain Wrappings

Yesterday at mail call, I received a magazine wrapped entirely in opaque plastic. The return address was some bland post office box. A magazine in a plain wrapper- that can only mean one thing!

A whirlwind of speculation broke out. I'm known for being (a) straight-laced, and (b) older than the very stones, so there was wonderment at what sort of filthy pictures might have attracted my interest. What strange and unusual perversion could be enough to crack that flinty facade?

I opened it up in front of everybody, revealing: the annual report and proxy letter from a company whose stock I hold. There was vast disappointment, along with a certain number of "We should have expected that!" comments.

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April 15, 2008

My Dues for a Civil Society

I paid my taxes last night. I regret the delay. Because I'm getting a refund, I was, in effect, extending the US Government an interest-free loan since January 1st. I blame the slow mail service out here; I never did get some of the 1099 forms I needed. I think I calculated the missing numbers successfully from my bank statements.

Years ago, I was filling a 1040EZ in about ten minutes. Then I moved to the 1040A two years ago, and it was taking me a half hour. This year for the first time I was on the full 1040 with no friendly letters after that nasty number, and it took me almost two hours, even using a friendly web site to do the heavy lifting for me. But hey, I got back a couple of extra bucks in credit for foreign taxes paid last year!

Interestingly, although I earned about 10% more money this year than last, I owed noticeably less money, because I substantially increased my contribution to the TSP ("Thrift Savings Plan"), the equivalent of a 401k for us government employees. Marine living is cheap: free housing, free food, and I drive a car that I bought for $50. So I've got 40% of my paycheck going into the TSP, plus I put a chunk into a bank Roth IRA. (Why a Roth? I expect to be in a higher tax bracket at age 60 than I am now. The free food, housing, etc means my cash compensation is only about $24k this year.)

The annoying thing about the TSP is that, like a 401k, your employer can match contributions to encourage retirement savings. Most federal departments match some portion. But the Department of Defense has chosen not too, even though Congress has specifically permitted it. I wish Congress would mandate it, not just authorize it, as given the option, the generals would rather buy shiny new useless F-22's.

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