May 20, 2012

First Salute

At university, I have tried not to make a big point of my military career. I didn't keep it secret by any means, but I didn't want to be "that guy". One of my fellow MA students was in ROTC, and she didn't make a big point of her ongoing military training either. We had many classes in common, as the two of us were developing similar specialties. (Not military history, interestingly enough.) We also had the same adviser, again because we were working on somewhat similar projects. I'll call this fellow student "M".

The half-dozen of us working with that professor, who I will now call "Dr. S", were hanging out waiting for our final meetings, near the end of the semester. The chatter turned to how busy we all were, what with the impending end of the semester, due dates, graduation, et cetera. M mentioned that a week after graduation, she would be getting commissioned. I asked who was giving her her first salute, and she paused a moment then asked if I would! I was a bit surprised, but I immediately accepted.

That meant I needed to get my uniform back together. For a very formal military event like that, dress blue bravos seemed like the appropriate uniform. They're just about the coolest looking, the most iconically Marine, and also somewhat forgiving of the fact that I've not quite as shipshape as I was when I got out.

With only a week to go before the ceremony, I pulled together all my uniform components. But I couldn't find my ribbon rack! Somehow between moving from Okinawa back to my father's house, and then to my university apartment, my built-up ribbon rack disappeared. I had a handful of random individual ribbons, but not all the ones I needed.

The internet to the rescue! There are now lots of places that can produce fully-equiped ribbon racks and mail them to the customer. It took some doing (and some money) to find one that could do the job fast enough, but in the end I got myself squared away just in time.

Sadly, my GF was working the day of the commissioning, but she made sure to get a photo of me before I left that morning, all kitted out. It was a thirty-minute drive through the city to get to the site, but other drivers were unusually good about yielding to me, as soon as they noticed what I was wearing. "The clothes make the man", eh?

The ceremony itself was in an old church that has been converted to a "cultural center", full of gorgeous hand tilework. I met my friend and then her family, who I sat with during the speeches by the various VIPs invited. The family included a teenager who grilled the heck out of me, as he was considering a military career too and was still pondering which branch to select.

After all the speeches were over, the candidates all swore the commissioning oath together. Technically, that was it; they were now second lieutenants in the Army. However, that's like pointing out that a college graduate becomes graduated when the chancellor says so; people march across the stage for a reason! So, too, was the case at the commissioning. Each new officer got to march on to the stage individually, and have the shoulder tabs that signify their new rank clipped on, usually by family members. Then the walked to the edge of the stage and received a first salute from an enlisted person that they particularly respected. After the salute, the officer and the enlisted shake hands, during which a silver dollar is slipped from one hand to the other. About a third of the candidates received salutes from the senior SNCO of the training cadre, presumably because they didn't know any other enlisted well.

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May 12, 2012

Things Got a Little Out of Hand

Yesterday sure got out of hand.

It was graduation day for graduate students. Thus, at 2 PM I was officially recognized as a Master of Arts. I look forward to opening my own shop and taking on apprentices and journeymen. At least, that's how I think these things go.

I decided not to attend the ceremony itself. It takes a long time, I'd have to buy another robe that I only get to use once, and the speaker wasn't someone I was all that interested in hearing.

I was it was time for me to get my graduation gift to myself, which was being assembled at my local bike store. I was sitting at home reading a book, waiting for the phone to ring.

Ring it did, but it wasn't the bike store. It was my girlfriend, telling me she was coming right over. She'd been working at a place less than five minutes away, and had hit her head really hard. She hadn't lost consciousness, but she was dizzy and felt "unwell". Excellent signs of a possible concussion!

After a telephone conversation with the company nurse, I drove her to a local urgent care clinic that was part of the company medical plan. We had to hurry a bit, as they closed at 4 PM on Fridays. We made it, and I got to sit in the waiting room and read the Economist while Hil was poked, prodded, and had her vital fluids inspected.

She was adjudged to be in no immediate danger, but in need of monitoring. There were a number of restrictions placed upon her, the most salient to the current tale being that she couldn't drive.

Meanwhile, her father had called and asked if I was available to do some heavy lifting at his place. So once we were released from the medical facility, I drove the two of us to Hil's parents' place, where we enthroned her in a very comfy chair, while Hil's father, a neighboring teenager, and myself installed a bed cover on Hil's father's rather large pickup truck.

Hil was resting comfortably, so I took the opportunity to finally collect my new bicycle. It looks quite nice, but I still haven't had the opportunity to ride it around anywhere. That's because after I picked it up, I went to Hil's house to monitor her. In the meantime, her parents had driven to my apartment, where they picked up her car and delivered it to her house.

Her mother had done the driving, and was unfamiliar with Hil's car, as well as being understandably upset about her daughter's medical condition. So when she parked Hil's car in the garage, she left the headlights on.

I noticed that shortly after arriving, and we investigated. Her car's starter was willing to make a sad little noise, but that was it. So we pulled my car into the garage next to it, and I dug some jumper cables out of my trunk, which was itself a pain, as my new bike was still on my trunk-mounted bike rack.

Some complex maneuvering was required to get the two batteries close enough to make the connection. I ended up having to pull my car so far forward, the nose was planted in a stack of bags of gardening soil. That was sufficient to get the cable to reach, and we connected everything up.

After a few minutes of charging, we got her car started. Hooray! I shut my car down, and was about to close my hood when I noticed that the radiator fan was blowing. It was only about 60° in the garage (with the garage door open for ventilation) so I wasn't sure why my car was needing to cool down. I powered the car back on to check the instruments, only to discover it was substantially overheated! It had failed to occur to me that placing the nose of my car in the stack of bags of soil had cut off the airflow into the grille. I shifted to neutral, released the parking brake, and pushed the car back about 18 inches, whereupon the temperature gauge dropped with gratifying rapidity. I am told that our efforts were not in vain, and her car started this morning without incident.

The good news is, Hil feels largely intact today, and is off at work right now. But what a way to start a weekend!

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May 08, 2012

Customs and Courtesies

My adviser returned my MA project today, with comments and a grade. I'll be getting a shiny new sheepskin in the mail in a couple of weeks. Yay me!

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May 05, 2012

Videophones Are Here!

I got with the 21st Century and installed a webcam and Skype on my desktop computer. So if anyone wants to call me via Skype, my username is firstname.lastname (e.g. john.doe).

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May 01, 2012

And Now I Bite My Nails

Today I submitted my MA project for approval. My adviser has until May 11th to sign off on it. I don't have any reason to expect I will get denied, but still, I'm kind of on tenterhooks about it.

On the plus side, it's like an amazing weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I feel so relaxed and free!

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