Apathy is not an option

“If there’s a candidate this year you feel really passionate about, consider professional help.” – Stephen Green


True enough.  The above quote was flying around the Twitters last week, and I have to agree with it.  There is no candidate worth my time, attention, or vote at this point.  Republicans, Democrats, Green Party (because I’m sure Ralph Nader will announce his candidacy yet again); none of them impress me.  In fact, here’s each candidate’s platform distilled to its bare essence (for me):

Mitt Romney: “At least I’m not Obama.”

Newt Gingrich: “Romney is John Kerry with an R next to his name.  Also, at least I’m not Obama.  Obama’s a wuss.”

Rick Santorum: “We need to get back to our values, and we will as soon as Doc Brown builds that time machine.  In the meantime, I’m against abortion, women holding authoritative positions, and couples sharing the same bed.  Hey Doc, can we go back to 1955 yet?”

Ron Paul:  “Buy gold.  Build a wall.  Bring the troops home.  I’ll do all of these by force of Executive power, even though I say we need less government in our lives.”

President Obama:  “With competition like this, do I even have to campaign?  Besides, I hate moving.”

Are any of you impressed by this?  I know I’m sure as hell not.  We’re up Shit Creek without a paddle here, folks.  The economy is broken, we still face terrorist threats, our military is just plain worn out from repeated deployment cycles, national debt has spiraled out of control….you know what?  Just turn on the news.  It’s pretty scary out there.


Just kidding.  I’m not that arrogant.  I can recognize that we’re SOL and JWF here, but I’m not the guy to fix it.  My point is, neither are the candidates or the current Congress.  We, as a Nation, have been failed by our elected officials.  Through guile, cunning, bullying, flat out lies, and just morally reprehensible actions, we have been bent over and loaded up like a shotgun by the very people we sent to Washington to work for us.  Do you all get that?  They work for us.  Think about it.  If you had any professional treating you like this, would you continue to do business with them?  Hell no!  Folks, we get pissed off and complain when some minimum-wage-earning teenager screws up our order at McDonald’s!  You don’t take it from some snot-nosed, acne-covered, fry-slinging little punk.  Why the hell would you take it from someone who is earning $174,658.76 (average of Congressional and Presidential salaries) a year?

So what’s a Nation to do?

Get pissed off, that’s what.  Get educated.  And most importantly,  fight the bastards.  Don’t believe a word they say and always realize that they are all spitting on you.  Anyone who chooses politics as a career is using your vote to ensure they maintain their paycheck and power.  A “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, spoken of by President Abraham Lincoln and dreamed of by our Founding Fathers, is NOT what we have today.  Today we have a ruling class and everyone else.  You enjoy that?  I sure as hell don’t.  So fight back.  Take the time and effort to get educated on the candidates and their positions.  Read the views from both the left and right.  Recognize that the media is lying to you.  Most importantly, learn to positively identify bullshit.

The Occupy movement claims that corporations are to blame for the mess we’re in.  The Tea Party claims that we have too much government and that’s the reason we’re in this mess.  The hell of it is, both movements have more common ground than the politicians and media would have you believe.  Between the two, they’ve identified the problem.  Will you ever see that reported on the news?  Not a chance in hell.  Why?  Because “radical gun-nuts” and “lazy hippies with a sense of entitlement” make for better ratings.  The loudest, most outrageous ones are great for sound bites, plain and simple.  Remember folks, the media outlets are not interested in reporting the truth.  They are interested in higher ratings and more money.  Don’t believe me?  Think this through:  a corporation is interested in making money.  The big three media outlets are owned by corporations.  C’mon, make the mental jump here with me.  “But, Steve, politicians aren’t owned by corporations.”  Really?  Do you honestly believe that the candidates are pulling in millions of dollars in campaign donations when folks are unemployed and doing what they can to make ends meet?  If so, I have some MySpace stock to sell you.

Bottom line, we’re being fed a shit sandwich (MRE Meal #25) and have been for a long time.  I know there are a lot of folks who have eaten said sandwich so long that they’ve started to enjoy the taste, but not me.  I can’t believe I’m the only one either.  People need to step up.  To serve one’s Nation is a calling and an honor.  The players in Washington have forgotten that.  They’ve shown that they are there to serve themselves.  We need honorable men and women to replace them.  I’d do it, but let’s be honest, no one would vote for me.  Admittedly, the debates would be quality entertainment, but do you really want to vote for the guy who tells his opponent that they are full of shit as his opening statement?  I wouldn’t vote for me, if that tells you anything.

I demand more out of my elected officials and you should to.  This time around, let’s direct our voices to Washington DC and say, “Enough is enough.  I have had it with these motherf***ing snakes in this motherf***ing city!”  Apathy is not an option.  We have to demand better or we’re going the way of Mexico.

I’m off my soapbox, I encourage you all to get on yours.  Hopefully I’ll see you at the ballot box.

Posted in General, Soapbox | Leave a comment

My hovercraft is full of eels

Out of the 103 comments this blog has received, I’ve only approved 13 of them.  The rest have been spam.  This one was the most recent, and by far the weirdest use of English I’ve seen:

I am a good darling of the web site. Continue inside in the angelic perform.

Now, I live with a 6 year old.  I’ve been deployed to the Middle East.  I can speak Kid and translate broken English fairly well.  Due to my time in the Army, Indiana public schools, college, living in a number of states, and consuming my share of adult beverages, I have borne witness to (and committed) some of the most obscene manglings of the English language.   This one takes the cake.

Maybe it’s from the updated version of the Hungarian Phrasebook.

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National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011

A little background before we start:  I have enjoyed shooting and firearms since about the age of 5.  I am an Eagle Scout and a native of the state of Indiana, which is a fairly politically conservative place.  I am also a 7 years-and-change US Army Veteran with minimal combat experience.  I never fired my weapon in anger nor took direct fire while deployed to Iraq as an active-duty augmentee to the 42nd Infantry Division.  I also held an Indiana License To Carry Handgun (LTCH) for 4 years while I was still a resident and never fired a shot in anger nor took direct fire while state-side.  Never been in a gunfight, have no wish to be.  However, if the time comes that I find myself in one, I’d like to have more in my hand than….well, you get the idea. 

Considering the various names involved: Concealed Handgun License (CHL), Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP), Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon Permit (CDWP/CWP), Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon License (CDWL/CWL), Concealed Carry Permit (CCP), Concealed Carry License (CCL), License To Carry (LTC), License To Carry Firearm (LTCF), License To Carry Handgun (LTCH), Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapon license (CCDW), Concealed Pistol License (CPL), etc., we’re going to go with “permit” for simplicity’s sake.

For those who are not aware, H.R. 822, the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 will soon be up for debate and discussion in the House of Representatives.  In a nutshell, this bill would allow a Carry Concealed Weapon permit holder to carry in any state that allows concealed carry.  Why can’t a permit holder already do so?  Because there is no federal agency issuing permits to citizens.  It is up to the individual states to issue permits, and each state has it’s own requirements for issuance, although some are common across the board.  Examples:  Indiana will issue a permit so long as you are not a felon and can legally own a handgun.  Florida will issue a permit so long as you are not a felon, can legally own a handgun, and have attended some form of training (military service counts, as it does for many states).  Missouri has the same requirements as Florida, but you must attend a specific state-approved training course, your military service does not count.  These states are known as “Shall Issue” states, as in “provided you meet the requirements, the state shall issue you a permit”.  Then you have “May Issue” states, as in “even if you meet the requirement, the state may or may not issue you a permit depending on the whims of the issuing agency”.  Then there’s Illinois, the lone “No Issue” state, which is fairly self-explanatory.  So since different states have different requirements, they tend to have reciprocal agreements with each other.  “Hey, you recognize our permit and we’ll recognize yours.”  Some states recognize all permits (Indiana), some recognize only those that recognize theirs (Pennsylvania), and some don’t recognize any permit but their own (Maryland).

Confused yet?  Yeah, you and millions of permit holders.  Especially when state legislators decide to change the laws…which happens with the frequency of a cheap ham radio.  Fortunately, there are a number of good resources out there to help.  Google “carry laws by state” and your first three hits will be Handgunlaw.us, the NRA’s Institute for Legal Action, and USACarry.com.  All three are excellent resources that are frequently updated to reflect the current laws.  To prevent further confusion, I’ll leave out “open carry”, “Constitutional carry”, and varying definitions of “concealed carry”.  The aforementioned sites are better organized than my brain is.

Some may say, “If you know you can’t carry in a particular state, don’t carry,” and that’s a valid point.  If I’m flying to…say Maryland, I’m not packing a firearm.  Besides the obvious concern of someone stealing my firearm (not that the fine folks at the airport would do such a thing), there isn’t much point in taking it with me, impromptu range trips aside.  However, if I’m driving from Maryland (where I was stationed for most of my Army career) to visit my folks in Indiana (where I held a permit), it became a pain.  I left my apartment in Maryland with my firearm unloaded and locked in a case in accordance with the Firearm Owners Protection Act.  Once I crossed into Pennsylvania, I pulled over at the first rest stop to load and holster.  At the last rest stop in PA, I had to pull over to unload and re-lock as Ohio does not recognize Indiana’s permit.  Once in Indiana, repeat the load and holster process.  It gets old pretty fast and serves as a healthy reminder that you’re not as free as you think.  Why carry then?  Well, I prefer to drive rather than fly.  The convenience of having my own vehicle, avoiding the irritants associated with flying (that’s a whole ‘nother post), and just the plain enjoyment of taking a road trip.  However, my time in the Army made me one of those “drive straight through” folks.  Go to sleep after work, wake up around midnight, load up, and GO.  Personal time is limited, make the most of it.  Driving by myself late at night, I prefer to have a little friend with me.  Ever had to stop for gas in the middle of nowhere at 2am?  I don’t care if you’re Chuck Norris, that little friend can be comforting.  Especially when you are somewhere off the West Virginia Turnpike because you didn’t stop for gas in Charleston and you’re not sure you can make it Beckley (Pro tip: you will not have cell phone coverage there so 911 is out of the question).  So for folks like me, this bill could be a godsend, right?  No more of these un-holster and lock shenanigans (with the exception of the Democratic People’s Republic of Illinois).  No more being unable to defend my family and myself in a may-issue state (strangely enough, those are the states where I feel the LEAST safe even though there are less legally-carried firearms).

Not so fast.

This bill is good and bad in my opinion.  Good because it’s rare to see a pro-2A bill actually get debated in Congress.  Bad because I do not trust the federal government to leave this at “If you have an Indiana permit, Maryland must recognize it and allow you to carry”.  The federal government, in it’s dubious wisdom, will set forth their own requirements for issuance of a permit.  It’s not a question of “if”, it’s a question of “when”.  While municipal, county, and state law enforcement agencies are normally the issuing agencies for permits, I fear that the FBI won’t be the issuing agency for a national permit.  Instead, it would the BATFE, and “Operation Fast and Furious” has demonstrated how well they handle firearms issues lately.  Even if the FBI is the issuing agency, national permits would still fall under the jurisdiction of Attorney General Eric Holder.  Now, while I’m sure AG Holder is a fine husband and father who wishes to protect his family to the best of his ability, he has demonstrated a willingness to deprive me of the same ability (Holder Revives Talk Of An Assault Weapons Ban).  Considering that I spent 7+ years of my life achieving and maintaining proficiency with the use of an M-16A2 assault rifle, that is the particular platform (AR-15 for those playing the home game) I am most comfortable with when it comes to defending my family and home (No, I’m not saying I want to carry an AR-15 on the street.  Well, I do, but I’d also mount a Browning M2 on my Jeep if I could get away with it).  Consequently, I find any talk of a ban on “these evil black rifles” to be a direct action against my ability to do so.  But, hey, that’s probably just a conspiracy dreamed up by a bitter white Veteran.  I’m sure if I mentioned that limiting ownership and carry of firearms was once a tactic used to repress blacks in the South prior to the Civil Rights Act, someone would claim I’m race-baiting.  But I digress…

Side note: Yes, I am well aware that I’m going to end up like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino when I get older. 

I’m unsurprisingly comfortable with this.

The point is that I don’t believe AG Holder would have my best interests at heart.  Instead I worry that an attempt to nationalize “shall-issue” would end up as a nation-wide “may-issue” law (remember the explanation above).

Additionally, while I’d love to receive my Missouri CCW and not have to unholster on a cross-country trip (again, excepting the DPRI), this bill seems unconstitutional from the start as it infringes upon states’ rights.  While we have a seemingly pro-2A majority in the SCOTUS (see the District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald_v._Chicago decisions), the Court is one vote away from reversing its position.  Also, while this bill is pro-2A, I don’t see Justice Scalia allowing it as he’s an originalist when it comes to the Constitution.  Assuming Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor vote as one would expect, you would have a 5-4 majority against this bill.

Short answer, I’m conflicted but ultimately against it.

Feel free to comment with your opinions.

Posted in Shooting, Soapbox | Leave a comment

Wake Me When September Ends

Yes, I completely stole the title of a Green Day song.  Don’t judge me.  I love the month of October.  The days are still pleasant, the nights are great for sleeping with the windows open, and hockey season is upon us yet again.  What’s that?  I didn’t sound excited?  Oh, okay, lemme fix that…


Better?  Okay…moving on.

Some folks get all spun up for the Daytona 500, some for Opening Day of baseball season, others for the first Monday Night Football game.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand their excitement and I admit I get a little excited for those days as well.  But not like I do for hockey.  Go figure.  I never played the game on ice growing up, I’m not Canadian, but as soon as the season starts, I become rabid.  You know those guys who spray spit across the room, screaming at the top of their lungs at the TV, wild-eyed-foaming-at-the-mouth-fanatics?  Yeah, I’m one of them.  Especially during the playoffs.  From October to April, I’ll cheer, grumble, curse, but generally watch the game quietly.  Once the playoffs start, I become that playoff-beard-wearing fool.

My wife is reading this and thinking of cost-effective ways to sound-proof my man cave before April.

Now, I can watch most games without screaming at the TV and just simply enjoy it.  Notice I said most.  As long as my team isn’t affected by the game, I can sit there, admiring and analyzing the play.  Heck, I may not even watch the game, just have it on as background noise and occasionally checking the score.  That usually happens since I live in St. Louis.  I wasn’t born and raised here, I really don’t have an emotional tie to the Blues.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch a game, but it’s not a priority.  Another team, however….

Yes, I grew up watching the Chicago Blackhawks.  From October to April, I bleed red, white, and black.  Despite my time in the military, I have an uncontrollable urge to cheer through the National Anthem whenever I’m at the United Center.  I don’t like the St. Louis Blues, which makes things interesting in our household as my wife is STL born and raised. Got nothing but contempt for the Vancouver Cannots Canucks, and while I respect them, I despise the Detroit Red Wings (F***ing Scum!) with every ounce of my being.

Chris Chelios, Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour, Jeremy Roenick, Denis Savard, Steve Larmer, Tony Amonte – those were the guys I remember watching when I was younger.  I mourned the end of The Madhouse on Madison, cursed Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz as he did his best to financially strangle the team, and damn near cried the night of June 1st, 1992 (this will come into play later).

The “dark days” of the past decade coincided with my time in the Army, so while I kept an eye on the ‘Hawks, I knew I wasn’t missing much.  It sucked, but I’m a Chicago sports fan.  I’m used to not seeing the post-season.  Not nearly as bad as Cubs fans (those sadly optimistic demented fools) , but the McCaskeys (owners of the Bears) and Jerry Reinsdorf (owner of the White Sox) have been toying with my emotions for years.

September 2007, the news broke that Bill Wirtz had died and his son Rocky had succeeded him as owner.  I didn’t expect much, after all, it was “Dollar” Bill’s kid taking over.  But things started to change.  Roster changes were made, the franchise became more fan-friendly, and (the most telling sign of all) two familiar faces from the team that won the Stanley Cup in 1961.  “The Golden Jet” Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who had not been on good terms with Dollar Bill, had come back to the organization as “hockey ambassadors”.  For the first time since Cheli had left for Detroit, I dared to hope.  2009 saw the ‘Hawks lose the Western Conference Finals to the Scum.  Disappointing, but farther than they’d been in years.  Could we dare to think about it next season?  Would this team be able to pull it off?  June 9th, 2010, they pulled it off and the Blackhawks faithful lost their minds.

Remember how I told you I damn near cried the night of June 1st, 1992?  That was the last time the ‘Hawks had been to the Stanley Cup Finals and the only time in my lifetime.

18 years since the Blackhawks had been to the SCF, and 49 years since a Blackhawk captain had last hoisted the Cup over his head.   I didn’t cry in 1992, but I had a big damn smile on my face in 2010.  The floodgates opened when JR told his story.

“It’s the Chicago Blackhawks, man.” A year later, I sometimes catch a tear leaking when I hear “Chelsea Dagger”.

So here we be, the eve of the 2011-12 season.  The ‘Hawks squeaked into the playoffs last season when the Dallas Stars lost their final game.  They managed to take Vancouver to the limit, but they ultimately lost the first round.  Chalk it up to Stanley Cup hangover.  It’s a new season, some roster moves have been made, and everyone is rested.  They brought the Cup back home to Chicago a year ago, but that’s not enough.  We want a dynasty.  Let’s start the ride.

“Chelsea, Chelsea, I believe….”

EDIT:  As I mentioned above, my wife is a Blues fan, STL born and raised.  Our daughter, who is also STL born and raised, made an important life decision a few weeks ago.

Newest Blackhawks Fan

I am a proud Daddy. 😉

Posted in Blackhawks, General, Hockey | Leave a comment

Horn Etiquette

This grew from a discussion with my better half that came up over the weekend.  We had just dropped the kiddo off with my mother-in-law and were on our way home.  We’re sitting at a light with a few other cars and someone in the far right lane starts leaning on their horn at the car ahead of them.  I guess that 5-second pause to check for oncoming traffic before turning was far too long.  Which lead to me dragging out my trusty soapbox and pontificating about the appropriate use of one’s horn.  My wife, who is truly a saint for putting up with my ranting, told me this would make great blog fodder.  So here we are.

It’s my opinion that we need some written rules for using the horn.  I always figured they were just understood, but as I go along in life, I’m beginning to think that’s not the case.  Since your local DMV hasn’t published anything, allow me to post the rules.

1) Laying on the horn is obnoxious.  There it is.  You can almost guarantee you’ll look like a jackwagon any time you do it.  Especially because the guy ahead of you isn’t moving fast enough for your liking.  It IS acceptable to lay on the horn when someone cuts you off, starts moving into your lane, etc.  Lean on that sucker for a solid three count to announce your displeasure.  But that’s it.  You mouthed off, so to speak, get back to driving.  If you must continue to comment on what a moron that guy/girl is, mutter to yourself.

2) Toot the horn for all other occasions.  See someone you know?  A friendly double tap of the horn is perfectly fine.  The guy ahead of you at the light isn’t paying attention when it turns green?  Give him 5 seconds and tap the horn once.  He’ll get moving.  We’re all guilty of it, no reason to be a jerk yourself.

3) Failure to follow these simple guidelines may result in a less-than-pleasant encounter.  Don’t believe me?  Go ahead and lay on that horn every chance you get.  These are trying times for all of us.  Unemployment is high and chances are good you’ll honk at the guy who just got his pink slip.  He won’t be in the mood for your childish BS and may just get out of his car to tell you that.  With his fist.  Repeatedly.  Until the police come.

Now, you may say, “But Steve, people are rude and I’m in a hurry.”  Tough.  Doesn’t mean you have to be rude as well.  Oh, and that whole “I’m in a hurry” thing?  No one cares.  We’re all in a hurry nowadays.  Life is short and we all have far too much to get done.  Besides, if you were truly in a hurry, you would’ve left the house sooner.  Poor planning is no excuse to be a tool.

Last thought:  If you have modified your horn, these rules may be modified as well.  Notice I say “may“.  If your horn plays Dixie or La Cucaracha, you probably shouldn’t be driving.  Ever.  But that’s another complaint for another time.  However, if you’ve hooked up a PA system in place of your horn and get your kicks from the strange looks you get, then have fun.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but hearing a Honda Civic moo will always make me chuckle.

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Ten years later…

This one took some effort to write.  So much I want to say and just don’t have the words.  If you haven’t lived it, you will never truly understand it.

You can’t escape it.  It’s in the news everywhere you turn.  Now, that alone should be enough to keep people from reading this.  With all the major news outlets milking a ten year old travesty for all it’s worth, I wouldn’t blame anyone for seeing this and skipping over it.  Fair enough, my feelings won’t be hurt.  This is more for myself than anyone else.

Fair warning to those who read this:  There’s a good chance some part of this article will offend you.  At the very least, you may think “did he really just say that?”.  Yes, he did.  And yes, he means every bit of it.  While I am a husband and a daddy, I’m also an unapologetic veteran of a war that started on October 23rd, 1983.  I am loving and gentle with my wife and daughter, I am hateful and merciless to those who seek to oppress and destroy my Nation.  Call me callous if you will, but not all human lives are equally valuable in my eyes.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 -Do you remember where you were?  Do you remember the fear, the helplessness that you felt?  Did you hate feeling like that?  I remember wanting revenge so I enlisted in the Army.  Seemed like everyone in the country wanted retribution in the following weeks.  At least until the Christmas commercials started airing.  The American public has the attention span of a fruit fly and it has never been more evident than it was in November 2001.  Sure, you hear about it every year, but one day a year doesn’t cut it.  1% of the population is actively defending this Nation.  Think about it.

Have you been to Ground Zero?  Have you stared down in that gaping hole and cried while total strangers comforted you?  Or did you go numb and cold, then feel anger rising?  Did you let the rage build while you silently vowed that you would never let such an act happen again on your watch?  Speaking from personal experience, that anger will sustain you for approximately one year.  Twelve days after I stared at that open grave I deployed to Iraq with a Division made up of many of the first-responders that day. Men and women who showed up that day wearing the uniforms of NYARNG, FDNY, and NYPD. Young men and women who were attending NYC high schools that day. Men and women for whom the fight is personal deployed with a simple motto: Never Forget.

For the past ten years, I’ve been in the game in one way or another.  I’ve mourned the death of my brothers and sisters in uniform and celebrated the deaths of those who would harm to us.  Yes, celebrated.  The day after Saddam Hussein was hanged, I drank a toast with my teammates and wished him a swift journey to Hell.  The minute we heard that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had met his fate as two 500lb bombs came crashing down, we performed the same ritual.  Years later, when President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been found and dispatched by United States Navy SEALs, it happened again.  All three of them celebrated the deaths of 2,819 people in New York, Arlington County, and Shanksville.  They deserved no better.

Understand that the men and women who have fought and died in the last ten years have done so willingly.  Despite what you may believe, we are not martyrs nor victims.  Though politicians, activists, and the media may portray us that way, we have never been victims.  We chose this.  We knew the risks and accepted them.  We are the spiritual descendants of the Spartans, the Centurions, the Minutemen.  Our grandfathers fought in World War II and Korea.  Our fathers fought in Vietnam.  We are free men and women who refuse to live in slavery.  We will not bow to tyranny and we defend those who cannot defend themselves.  We are not sheep.  We are sheepdogs, and we will destroy the wolves.

Much of the Nation has no skin in this game. They risk nothing. The men, women, and children who died that Tuesday morning lost it all. The passengers of Flight 93 risked it all. Remember that when you look down into that crater in Lower Manhattan, when you see the new Indiana limestone on the Pentagon, when you stand in that silent field in Pennsylvania.  Remember the 2,819 people who died.  You will be filled with sorrow and/or a terrible resolve.

May those who perpetrated that execrable act upon our Nation have death and destruction brought to them and their bloodlines erased from this earth.

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Rules for Dads of Daughters

50 Rules for Dads of Daughters

My friend Jim posted this link to Facebook and tagged me in it. Like me, he’s the daddy of a “pig-tailed tornado”, as he describes his little girl. Unlike me, he’s been doing this since his daughter was born whereas I’m new to the game. These rules are some good common sense advice for any dad, but especially those of us whose lives are less GI Joe and more Barbie.

Now…anyone who knows me knows that I can’t leave well enough alone.  I have to chime in on damn near everything.  Call it a curse.  Anyway, I noticed a few rules that could be expanded on, or they were just missing.  Call them “Steve’s Rules for Dads”.  Keep in mind I’m coming from the perspective of life with a ninja princess (yes, ninja.  I haven’t taught her about the pirates vs. ninjas meme yet), but they can apply universally to ninja princesses and junior Captain Black Jack Sparrows.  Substitute “him” for “her” where applicable.  Oh, and realize that I’m a very protective daddy.  I’m sure that I’ll get grief from Lexi when she’s a teenager.  In the end, if she ends up with a young man who treats her like the princess she is, she’ll thank me for it.

1.  Rough house.  Pick that kid up and swing her around.  Tickle her, toss her on the couch, throw a snowball at her, etc.  Do it while they’re little and enjoy it…and your back can take it.  Any parent can tell you, kids can be frustrating at times.  This can be a useful way to get them to knock off whatever they’re doing that’s driving you nuts.  They will giggle and suddenly you’ll forget why the hell you were frustrated with them in the first place.  For the record, I emphasize this is not beating your kid up.  No swats on the butt, no brain-dusters, no grabbing them up by their arm, none of it.  That is a no-go.  You’re playing with them and making both of you laugh, not taking your frustrations out on them.  In accordance with being a protective daddy, rough housing is a good start to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and you’re gonna want her to know how to throw a triangle choke on some teenage boy later in life.

2.  Cartoon time.  One of my fondest memories of growing up was Saturday morning cartoons with my dad.  Specifically Looney Tunes.  For my mom, it was Nicktoons on Sunday mornings.  With Lexi, I got to introduce her to one of my favorites, Animaniacs.  Why did I introduce her to Animaniacs?  Because I’m finding that I think the current cartoons/children’s shows suck.  I have found that I hate Spongebob, I would like to see Dora deported so she can explore Mexico, and Yo-Gabba-Gabba is just plain WEIRD.  Hey, if you’re gonna spend some couch time with the kiddo, might as well be something that you can enjoy as well.

3.  Survival basics.  Every dad should teach his child to fish, camp, and shoot.  At least take them to do each once.  They can decide if they enjoy it or not.  At best, you’ve taught them useful skills.  At worst, you’ve spent time with your child.  Either way, kids know there’s a big world out there waiting to be explored and you’re facilitating that exploration.

4. Car basics.  Teach them how to change a tire, jump a battery, check the oil, and pump gas.  If you don’t do that, you fail.  End of discussion.  Your daughter is going to learn to drive and you won’t always be there to save the day.  Failing to give her knowledge on how to handle basic vehicle maintenance is akin to throwing her to the wolves.  Yes, I’m being harsh on this, deal with it.  If she wants to learn how to change the oil, replace the battery, rebuild the engine, etc., great!  Get out in the garage and teach her!  But the four essentials are exactly that.  They are non-negotiable.

5. Leave your dignity at the door.  Face it, Daddy, you are going to end up doing something absurd for your kiddo that will become a night-time ritual.  Every night, before Lexi goes to bed, I become King Julian from Madagascar.

Laugh all you want. My little girl thinks I’m the shit.

6.  There is no rule 6.

As with the link that inspired this post, these are all common sense.  But we all need a reminder from time to time.  When it comes to daughters, their daddies are the standard that all young men must meet.  It keeps you from having to apply Rule 7.

7.  SSS – Shoot, Shovel, Shut Up.  Be proficient with your weapon.  Aim center mass.  Keep your e-tool ready and 50lbs of lime in the garage.  A tarp comes in handy, as does a bed cover for your truck.

Now I really don’t advocate bringing death upon your daughter’s suitors, but you’d be a fool to let those suitors know that.  In my daughter’s case, all they will know is that Lexi’s dad is a combat veteran who loves his daughter and woe be to the little jerk who hurts her.

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Well, You See, What Had Happened Was…

Disclaimer: this post includes military acronyms.  I’ll do my best to spell them out as I go along.  If I manage to forget one, ask in the comments. There’s also some profanity and some salty descriptions.  I’m a veteran talking about my time in service, it happens.

The title is one of my favorite lines from the military.  Those of you who have served know it and what it represents.  For those of you who have not served but have children, it’s the equivalent of “I don’t know” when you catch your child doing something and ask them what they think they’re doing.  Bill Cosby explains it well with his “Brain Damage” routine.

No matter how smart, how high-speed, how hardcore a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman may seem, they will utter this phrase at least once in their career.  No matter how old they are, it’ll happen.  I guess it’s because military folks don’t seem to lose that sense of invincibility we all have between the ages of 18 and 21.  This occasionally produces hilarious results for everyone BUT the person involved….and often their chain of command.  In my case, I was two and a half years into my career and 24 years old when the infamous phrase escaped my lips.

Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a military story?  Fairy tales start with “once upon a time”, military stories start with “no shit, there I was”.

So…no shit, there I was enjoying the good life at Fort Meade, MD.  It really wasn’t a bad deal for a 24 year old kid from the Midwest with no degree.  Got training that would be useful in the outside world, working out every day, blowing off rounds with the M-16 rifle and M-9 pistol a couple times a year, getting muddy and filthy in the woods and getting paid for it.  Stationed in between Baltimore and DC and basically had a 250-mile bubble to play in when I wasn’t on duty.  Figure as far north as New Haven, CT, as far south as Raleigh, NC, and as far west as Morgantown, WV.  Plenty of big cities and college towns to find some fun in.  Oh, and did I mention that I quickly learned that women love a man in uniform?  So life was definitely good at the time.

Now, I’d been in long enough at that point to know that the Department of the Army (DA) exists for the sole purpose of pissing Soldiers off.  I’ve long suspected that some evil hateful bastard at DA closely tracks the happiness of Soldiers.  When a Soldier’s happiness reaches a magical metric on some obscure scale in DA Headquarters, a set of orders guaranteed to ruin your day are issued.  This is done to see how well the Soldier in question adapts to change…you may remember your parents doing similar shit when you were a kid and telling you “it builds character”.  In the event that the Soldier in question is actually bored at work and enjoys conflict, the orders are cut so that an insane number of hoops must be jumped through.  Short suspense times, far-flung or less-than-desirable locations, units that no one has ever heard of, anything except logic goes into cutting these orders.  It’s usually termed as “needs of the Army”.  To accurately explain “needs of the Army”, imagine a full-size latex spiked fist painted olive drab and you’re on the receiving end of it.  With that image in mind…

I came down on orders.  Report to Fort Drum, NY, you’re on assignment to 42nd Infantry Division (Mechanized) who is deploying to Iraq within the next four months.  Oh, and you have three weeks to get there.  Let me break this down Barney-style for ya:  I was being sent on short notice to a location that is 20 miles from Canada in October.  A remote location where there was damned few coeds to chase, no strip clubs, and 450 miles away from the extended family I had made in the past two years.  On top of that, I was deploying to Iraq with a National Guard unit…a unit known as The Rainbow Division.  This was definitely not happy-making.  So what’s a Soldier to do?  Well, whatever he does, it’s probably going to involve alcohol.

My friends decided to throw a going-away party for me, so yes, it did involve alcohol.  The idea was some drinks and laughs….and it was the weekend.  We were going to be drinking and laughing anyway.  But now we had a reason to do so, therefore we had to buy and consume MORE alcohol.  So we went to the Class Six (convenience store, breakdown of military supply classes here), loaded up on adult beverages and set up shop in the pavilion next to our barracks.  As soon as I arrived, a bandolier of Heinekens was hung around my neck.  I was informed that it was not to be empty at any time during the night.  Like a good Soldier, I rogered and moved out.  All the cats I hung out with (and keep in touch with to this day) were there.  My extended Fort Meade family turned out in force to wish me well.  The beer was flowing, the music was playing, jokes and insults flying…..and then the Jagermeister showed up.

An aside about Jagermeister (Jager). Those who have experienced it or seen it’s effects, you know what it does. For those that haven’t, here’s what you need to know. It’s a thick brown liqueur that tastes like the original “green death” NyQuil. Yes, people actually seek out this foul stuff. Not only does it taste foul, it also seems to completely shut down the higher brain functions. Anyone who consumes it is usually left with their lower reptilian brain functions of survival, namely combat and procreation. A person who consumes more than one fluid ounce of Jager can be expected to have an intimate knowledge of handcuffs by the end of the night…take that how you will. It also removes all concept of vulnerability. Jager has been known to cause a person to start a mosh pit in a small house, or attempt to take on an entire fraternity with a baseball bat (allegedly). Mixed with tequila (I may have known some people who once thought this was a good idea) which causes a person to remove all their clothing, Jager has been known to have devastating effects. One can expect to have the reincarnation of Caligula on their hands, trying to fight or hump anything in their way.

Three shots of Jager later….

About this time, I realized my trusty Zippo was out of juice.  No worries, I knew I had a bottle of lighter fluid in my truck.  So I bopped over to the truck and filled my Zippo.  Some lighter fluid splashed onto my hand….and I had one of my “really good” ideas.  I thought back to my high school days where we used to splash some lighter fluid on our hands and light it.  Presto!  Flaming hand!  Wave your hand once and the flames go out, always good for a quick trick.  Why not do it again?  Stuck my hand out and SOAKED it in lighter fluid.  Mind you, I had a few drinks in me,  so my concept of “splash” was a bit hazy.  Put the bottle back in the truck, sparked my trusty Zippo and with a “hey guys, check this shit out”, lit my hand on fire.

I distinctly remember the looks I received.  It was a veritable rainbow of “What the hell is he doing?”  No worries, I’m a professional (Soldier, not a professional human torch).  Wave my hand once, still on fire.  Wave my hand again, still on fire.  Vigorously wave my hand several times, still on fire and HOLYGODITHURTS!!  Bellowing in pain, I drop to my knee, shove my flaming hand in the crook of my knee and drag it through my jeans in an effort to snuff the flames (See, Mom!  I did pay attention to “Stop, Drop, and Roll”!).

For those who have never been on fire, let me tell you, it will sober your ass up quick.  It will also cause you to realize “yes, I am a idiot”.  My friends rushed over to make sure I was okay, and promptly informed me of my stupidity once they were sure I was relatively fine.  I was then instructed to go inside and run cool water over my hand.  I nodded dumbly and did exactly that for about 20 minutes before they found me again.  While I was running water over my hand, alternating between “Jesus, you’re a moron” and “Suck it up, pain is weakness leaving the body”, two of them had been busy looking for something to cool the burn.  They found me in my room and pulled me back outside to perform first aid of sorts.  An empty two liter bottle was found, the top cut off (with my knife…I offered to do it, but they figured I’d done enough damage to myself that night), and a full bottle of aloe vera lotion poured into it.  I was told to sit down, my burnt hand dunked in the bottle, a beer shoved in my other hand (pain management), and my lighter confiscated.  I stayed in that chair for the rest of the evening, my bandolier being refilled and my cigarettes lit by my friends.  Make no mistake, it wasn’t because they wanted to serve me, rather they were protecting me from my own dumb ass.

Fast forward to Monday morning – I show up for PT, blisters from my second degree burns fading but still visible.  My platoon sergeant and first sergeant saw my hand and in stereo asked, “What the hell did you do to yourself?”

“Well, you see, what had happened was….”

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The World’s Largest Kindergarten Class

Disclaimer: This post has a fair amount of profanity in it.  If that kind of thing offends you, you might want to skip this one.
I originally wrote this back in April when the federal government shutdown was looming.  With the debt ceiling due to be reached in 9 days, I felt it was appropriate to repost with a couple of additions.

At the time of this writing, Congress has less than 24 hours to hug it out and agree on the budget for FY2011…you know, the fiscal year we’re seven months into.  If they don’t, the federal government shuts down..apparently because when you’re up to Cthulhu‘s ass in debt, there’s no more check floating for you.  Only up to your ass, still perfectly fine, but not when your debt is a Great Old One all by itself and the sight of it drives mere mortals to insanity.


Obama has said he won’t accept another continuing resolution and for once, I agree with him.  That’s right, kiddies, you heard it here first:  ski season is officially open in Hell.  Now, I’ll ignore the fact that this budget should have been figured out about 9 months ago.  I know there’s the argument of “Blame the last Congress!”  It’s a bullshit argument and it’s the equivalent of “blame Bush for everything!”  To quote Philip Hansen Anselmo, “yesterday don’t mean shit.”  Pissing and moaning, finger-pointing and whining, it accomplishes nothing and it’s for kindergartners.  I don’t care how we got into this mess, I’m only concerned in how we’re going to get out of it.  Fortunately for everyone, I have a plan (go ahead, roll your eyes at the pure ego in that statement).


I can’t claim that I came up with all of this.  This was hammered out between three individuals who are known for being stubborn uncompromising bastards.  We managed a record four compromises, which is at least an order of magnitude beyond any Congressional actions in the last half of my life.  Some of these suggestions may seem irrational to you folks, but let’s be honest, we’re beyond rational solutions at this point.  Some of these suggestions may…hell, who am I kidding, WILL piss off at least a solid 10% of the world’s population.  Tough.  They don’t have 5,000+ nuclear warheads, we do.


First off, we furlough Congress for a year.  That’s right, they don’t work for a year.  I know, I know, you’re already saying, “but Steve, they DON’T work!”  Stick with me here.  They fall under the same rules that are about to be implemented.  They don’t come to work, they don’t GET PAID, and they may not volunteer to work for free.  That’s illegal for a federal employee, by the way.  It’s true, furloughed federal employees are forbidden to work by law.  It’s a criminal offense.  So Congress will be furloughed for a year…that should be a decent chunk of change…let’s crunch the numbers.  In 2006 (best numbers I had to work with…yeah, I didn’t spend much time on research.  Sue me.), Congress-critters made $169,458 a year on average.  Multiply that by the Gang of 535…adds up to (drum roll) $88,520,400 for the Congressional salary budget.  Sounds like a good start.  Next, when we allow them to return to work, we’re gutting their staffing budgets.  They get enough to pay three people competitive wages for the DC area.  They want more?  Comes out of their own pockets.  “Fact-finding missions” will no longer be supported unless there is already a military cargo flight headed that direction.  They want comfort, they pay for a commercial ticket out of their own pockets. Otherwise they can strap their asses into a C-17 or C-130 like everyone else.  Trust me, they’ll be punching and kicking each other for the last seat on the C-17s.  Anyone who has flown mil air on a Herky-bird knows what I’m talking about.  Which explains why paratroopers are willing to jump out of them.  They’re THAT uncomfortable.


Next, sell the UN Plaza to the highest bidder.  Real estate in Manhattan is outrageously expensive, let’s make some money off of it before Bloomberg figures out a way to.  I figure with as many times US military personnel have been involved in UN “peace-keeping” missions, they owe us money.  We’ll just take the real estate, thank you.  Which leads me to the next one.


Submit a bill for services rendered to the following countries and organizations:  Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, NATO, the United Nations ten times over.  If you have requested and received armed support in the past 50 years (and are still a sovereign nation), we’re calling your debts.  Give us thumbs up all you want, gratitude don’t pay the bills.


Shut down the following government departments/agencies completely:

– Department of Homeland Security:  face it, Homeland Security has done exactly jack and shit to “secure the homeland”.  Dissolve the Department, any agencies that existed prior to 2002 and absorbed by DHS revert back to wherever they came from.  Any new agencies that were formed as part of DHS are eliminated as well.

– Federal Communications Commission:  Sorry, but I don’t know of any US citizen that needs to be protected from Janet Jackson’s teat, the Seven Dirty Words, South Park, or Howard Stern.  You don’t like it?  Don’t listen to it.  Don’t want your kids to hear it?  Change the station.  My tax dollars are not there to protect your children, that’s why they’re YOUR children.

– Environmental Protection Agency:  We’re not funding tree huggers.  They’re hippies.  End of story.

– Peace Corps:  Your country, your problem.  Not ours.  I’m sure there are plenty of folks willing to help you with construction projects to better your country.  We usually find ours outside of Home Depot.  They’re willing to work cheap, but first come, first served.  Oh, and brush up on your Spanish, because English is definitely their second language…maybe third.

– Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives:  Oh yeah, big time.  Eliminate the agency.  If that Project Gunrunner shit on the Mexican border is any indication of how these assholes operate, they’re fucking up like alley cats.  Need another shining example of how they conduct business?  Waco, Texas 18 years ago.  Stellar track record there.  Shut the place down and waterboard the management.

– Food and Drug Administration:  I originally wanted to eliminate them altogether, however, one of my worthy compatriots had a better suggestion.  FDA gets to continue to operate, but has no power to enforce the limits they propose.  Anyone who looks to circumvent those limits (Monster, Red Bull, 4 Loko, I’m looking at you) gets to produce whatever the hell they want.  However, it’ll cost them 10% of their profits as a penalty.  Waivers will be issued for particularly clever ways of circumventing FDA’s limits.

I’m all for severely trimming all federal agencies, but those are the ones that piss me off the most.  Therefore, they’re getting cut first.


Flat tax across the board, no deductions, no exceptions.  This time of year, we’re all intimately familiar with the US Tax Code and how convoluted it is.  Simplify it, everyone fills out a 1040EZ, and we can reduce the size of the IRS by half as a result.


No more charity.  That’s not to say individuals can’t contribute to the Red Cross when another tsunami inundates Japan, Indonesia, etc.  But we will NOT spend federal funds helping others.  Sorry, we got enough problems of our own.  You don’t donate your entire paycheck to United Way.  You pay your bills first, then you donate what you can afford.  Hospital ships will be allowed to go, however, we will be billing afterwards.  Interest compounded quarterly.  “We won’t pay you Yankee gangsters!”  Okay.  Don’t come crying to us next time then.  “Our country is ruined and we have nothing to pay you with.”  Got natural resources?  We’ll take ’em.  “But this is our soil!”  Fuck you, pay me.


There’s what we have as a start.  I can hear it now, “Cut Medicare!  Cut Social Security!  Think of the people you’ll be putting out of work!  We have to be part of a global community!  Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”  Two words:  Shut up.  That kind of emotional bullshit got us to this point in the first place.  It is not the federal government’s job to care for you.  That’s YOUR job.  Everyone needs a hand now and then, I can dig that.  But I’m not here to support you.  I already have my own family to support.


We’re at T-minus 21 hours 15 minutes.  If Congress doesn’t pull their heads out of their asses and do their jobs today, I would dearly love to see all of them out of a job at the end of their respective terms.  Forever.  Actually, I’d dearly love to see them commit mass self-immolation on the Capitol steps.  If only to see Barbara Mikulski running around on fire and punching herself in the head to put out the flames.  Burning midgets are funny.

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Adventures In Yardwork

I was hoping to have a decent introductory post, something along the lines of “Hi, I’m Steve, yadda yadda yadda..”  Yeah, so much for that.  Writer’s block hit HARD, like Georges St-Pierre just kicked you in the face hard.  Then I started scratching my side and inspiration hit.  Yup, I know how weird that sounds, so I’ll say it again.  I started scratching my side and inspiration hit.

Well what had happened was (btw, this is a phrase that will show up often, I’m a veteran and that’s one of the ways we say “once upon a time”), I was cutting the grass about two weeks ago.  It was about 95 degrees outside, not a cloud in the sky, typical Missouri humidity.  I’m sweating like a pig and happy as one in feces.  Ya see, I had just bought the lawnmower and weedwhacker that weekend.  Before that we were calling around to get someone to come cut our grass to the tune of $20-$30 a pop for sub par job.  MUCH more economical to purchase the lawnmower, not to mention I enjoy cutting the grass.  No, really, I do.  It’s mindless work and gives me the chance to veg out while getting something accomplished.  A man’s two favorite things, being productive and thinking about absolutely nothing.  Well, actually, a man’s two favorite things are….never mind, I’m digressing.

So I’ve finished cutting the grass and I get out the weedwhacker.  I’m not a huge fan of electric weedwhackers, but the price was right and it gets the job done.  Weedwhacked around the house and front yard, now I have to go do the wood line.  Our house backs up to a wooded area which is beautiful to look at, but will reduce our already-small back yard if I don’t bludgeon it into submission with my electric Smiter-Of-Unwanted-Vegetation.  Little did I know I was walking into an ambush.

A side note:  I tend to come up with grandiose ways of telling mundane stories.  It’s a military thing.  I also like to show off my vocabulary.  Hey, if I had to endure Catholic school for 9 years, I might as well get some use out of those years besides the ability to recite the Latin Mass.  Anyway, back to the story…

So I take my vorpal weedwhacker and I start going to town.  Bits of vegetation are flying everywhere and I’m going for the thickest weeds and grasses I see in an attempt to break the weedwhacker.  Yes, I said “attempt to break”.  Just because some guy on the Internet gave it a good review doesn’t mean it’s good.  I believe in pushing equipment right out of the box to find exactly where its limits are.  It sometimes results in broken stuff, but again, it’s a military thing (It’s been said that the perfect piece of military equipment is the chemlight because you have to break it to make it work).  Knocking down weeds, vegetation flying, tried taking out a tree, didn’t work (now I know the limits!), more weeds and I’m done.  And I didn’t even have to pay anyone to do it badly!  Time to sit on the porch and enjoy my afternoon.

About a day later, I start noticing blisters on my stomach, waist, and legs.  I show Jenn who diagnoses them as chigger bites, slap some Neosporin on them, and go back to the daily grind.  The next day, more blisters show up and it’s obvious that I got jumped by a full on TRIBE of chiggers.  Stomach, waist, legs, back, rear end, those little bastages just went to town on me.  And they itch like CRAZY.  Crap.  Neosporin, Caladryl, hydrogen peroxide, ANYTHING to dry these damn things out and stop itching.  If you had told me that lighting myself on fire like a Buddhist monk would cure that itch, I would’ve been in the driveway emptying a gas can over my head.  The next day I’m at work, and there is a serious pain in my hip.  It hurts to walk, it hurts to sit, it just plain HURTS.  There’s a lump right over the socket that is just radiating pain.  I look at this thing funny and it twinges me in response.  I do believe we have an infection working its way into my system, folks!  Okay, this is gonna require more than the 800mg ibuprofen and water that I got used to in the Army.  I’m cranky as a result, and I have it in my mind to go to get checked out as time permits (read: I’ll get checked out by the EMTs after I collapse).  Fortunately for me, Jenn, being the wise woman she is, tricked my surly ass into going to see the doc.  She suggested we hit Culver’s on the way home that night and “oh look!  Urgent Care is right across the street, how convenient!”  So I go in with my possibly infected hip, feeling like a wimp because I’ve been taken down by a bunch of microscopic parasites.  Doc checks it out, agrees that I have a possible infection, writes me a prescription for antibiotics, and sends me on my way.  Go get the script filled, realize my health plan, while not free like the military’s, is still pretty damn good, and go home to start dosing.

A few days later, the blisters have gone away, lump is gone, life is good….EXCEPT everywhere I was bitten looks like it’s breaking out in a rash.  And they itch WORSE than they did before.  What the frack!?  Screw it, it feels like a minor bee sting, I’ll treat it like one with antihistamine.  Still doesn’t explain my hip feeling like I popped it out of the socket, though.  Time to consult the internet before I give serious thought to self-immolation again.  Turns out that among the side effects of these pills are skin rash, itching and joint pain.  AND they fall under the heading of “stop taking pills immediately and consult your doctor”.  Great.  Well, I could just go back to Urgent Care and get a new prescription…..screw it.  Pop the antihistamine and Ranger candy and remember that when the doc asks if I’m allergic to anything, tell them “sulfa“(Jenn is going to turn around and smack me for being a typical dumbass male/veteran right after she reads this).

Here it is, two weeks later and the lawn needs attention again.  I think I’ll forgo the weedwhacker on the woodline and just napalm it.  Oh, sure, the neighbors might complain, but there is no way in hell I’m going through this crap again.

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