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Postcards from Tradocia

Category: general (page 3 of 11)

Trans-oceanic radar and flag burning

A local radio show was talking about the crash of Air France flight 477 this morning, and one host expressed amazement that aircraft over the ocean aren’t tracked on shore-based radar. He then said, “can’t they track every plane with satellites or something?” I guess the first point betrays the common idea that radar is some kind of magical all-seeing energy beam (amazing considering the technology has been with us for barely 70 years or so), when in fact it’s (somewhat obviously, if one just stops to think) limited by line of sight and thus, the curvature of the earth. As to the second point – somebody’s watched too many action movies. Think the airlines – barely able to stay solvent just shuttling people around and burning jet fuel – can afford to launch their own network of omniscient airplane-tracking satellites? Who’s gonna haul those birds into orbit? Virgin Galactic?


This month’s American Legion magazine has a couple of articles about the perennial topic of a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning. Predictably, the Legion comes out strongly in favor of such an amendment, citing nearly “80%” support of Americans as well. I don’t think it’s such a great idea, though, for a number of reasons. First, something as narrowly focused as desecration of the flag seems to be a misapplication of the amendment process. I’m no constitutional lawyer, but putting forth an issue like this would seem to open the door to all manner of other amendments, leading towards some sort of scatter-brained direct democracy system, as seen in California with their referendum system. Would we want a constitutional amendment allowing (or preventing) gay marriage? Abortion? The teaching of evolution in schools (or the prevention thereof)? No on all counts.

The United States Code already has provisions for rules regarding the national colors: see 4USC, chapter 1. If one wants to prohibit flag burning, it would seem that this would be the place to do it. Interestingly, until 1968 there was a provision that desecrating the flag within Washington D.C. was a misdemeanor, punishable by a $100 fine – so obviously the possibility exists to handle the issue in this manner.

Secondly, however, I’m not sure that desecration of the flag isn’t a free speech issue. The flag is a symbol, and can be used to express ideas, for good or for ill, but it is also an object. We live in a free republic, not a religious dictatorship, which means that we shouldn’t have “sacred icons” whose misuse draws the ire of the state.

Finally, I think there are many more important things to focus our efforts on than criminalizing flag burning. I find the practice personally abhorrent, and those who would practice it to be vile and usually the worst kind of hypocrites, but I would not have the government step in. Wielding the law in that way can have unintended consequences, and could easily be turned against you some day.


Mrs. Melobi and I watched Bullitt last night. What a mistake! Apparently, it’s some sort of classic “cop thriller,” but it’s all cop and no thrill. Steve McQueen spends the majority of the movie trying to look contemplative moody, but mostly looks sheepish and bewildered. He’s supposed to be the “original no-rules cop” and the “epitome of cool” and the bearer of other, equally hyperbolic titles, but I don’t see how anyone – even someone of the era – could have thought so. He doesn’t come up with a single good plan or even a good line in the whole film. The much-ballyhooed car chase scene is mildly entertaining, but plays out more like an afternoon road rage incident than spicy police car chase. Additionally, there’s no sense of place; the movie is set in 1968 San Francisco, but there’s no feeling of being anywhere, or in any time. There’s no Vietnam War references, no hippies, no protesters, no racial tension – it’s all very disconnected. As one IMDB commenter wrote, if it weren’t for the hills, it could’ve been shot in 1974 in Omaha.

Dirty Harry (just three years later) is a much better “bad cop” movie, and later movies like Heat show much more powerfully the tensions that a working police officer undergoes. Bullitt is a dog and should be avoided at all costs.

Mancation: Serious business

Mancation: serious business

Mancation: serious business

Hootkoop gets serious at Mancation 2.0 at JoKur’s cabin, just after Christmas. Three days of drinking and video games – including the Endless Setlist 2 in Rock Band 2, which really didn’t seem too endless since we took about a million breaks to drink, smoke, piss, play Mario Kart, screw with the radio controlled car, etc.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2009

Hey, a little late, but whatever.

The humans and cats, 2008

The humans and cats, 2008

Rock Band song manager

Almost every Friday night since February 1st of this year, an assortment of people have been playing Rock Band in my basement. It went from “ha ha, have you heard about that stupid Rock Band game where you play drums and shit?” to “OMG MUST PLAY ROCK BAND FOR 8 HOURS UNTIL EYES ARE GLUED OPEN.”

We’re on the sequel now, and I discovered a handy website to manage your songs in the game. Check out my collection!

Veteran’s Day, 2008

…Once Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of World War I – the “war to end all wars.”

Lt.Col. John McCrae’s famous poem In Flanders Fields speaks to this day and the sacrifices that we remember:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Big Red One…coming soon to a thong near you?

See here:

OK, maybe not thongs. But 1st ID-themed fashion? Hmm…seems odd, to say the least.

I always thought a Red Bull hockey jersey would be cool, though…

The Great American West

Mrs. Melobi and I just returned from a 10-day road trip to Yellowstone – a relaxing tour of the vastness of the Great Plains and the mountains of Wyoming. I have a trip synopsis yet to write, but for now, I have some images (now using a new Flash gallery from Adobe Lightroom).

This makes two great National Parks I’ve seen this year.

Click to see pictures!

Two weeks a year

I had hoped to complete my first term of enlistment without completing a single two-week annual training period, but alas, it was not to be. Despite a tour in Iraq (and the pre-deployment jaunt around the nation’s military facilities), I had never spent two weeks at the fabled Camp Ripley. This year, however, I could not escape my destiny – on my sixth year in the Guard, my first AT.

Of course, in order to be eligible for my little vacation to Sacramento this spring, I had to extend my enlistment – but I only did so for a year, betting (probably correctly) that I will be deployed again before it comes time to sign on the dotted line once more. This is, of course, a shrewd play to get a fat tax-free bonus while in the “sandbox;” if I’m going to go anyway, I might as well work the system to my advantage.

It has been the best weather of the summer here at Ripley; usually (judging from my limited experience up here) it’s either raining or hotter than hell or both. Instead, it’s been in the 70’s and low 80’s, with sunny skies, white puffy clouds floating overhead, gentle breezes, and beautiful sunsets. Naturally, this is the AT where we do nothing in the field; this is strictly a garrison training period, concentrating on administrative tasks and the brigade’s command post exercise (or CPX). I don’t necessarily want to go live in a tent and poop in a hole in the ground, but if I had to, this would be the week to do it.

Cliff swallows are plentiful here; their dried-mud nests crowd under the eaves of most of the buildings, at least where metal spikes haven’t been installed to discourage their construction. There aren’t any Barn Swallows, which seems odd, since they are so numerous elsewhere in the state; maybe there are some sort of competitive pressures at work that made Cliff Swallows more successful? At any rate, they’re not as entertaining as Barn Swallows – they don’t fly as low, their calls are more squawking and less liquid, and they don’t seem to be as good at scooping up bugs (judging by the rash of mosquito bites on my legs).

Some sort of no-fun mentality seems to be permeating the Army these days – the latest example is our command’s directive that there will be no drinking and no civilian clothes will be worn during this AT period, not even off duty or even in your own bed! The no-drinking rule is an obvious one, and not entirely ludicrous – the boozing of soldiers is legendary and the Guard is no different – but clothing? Not even a pair of gym shorts while lounging in the bay before lights-out? Give me a break. As Mrs. Melobi said when I told her about these rules: “But you’re in the National Guard!” Even she gets it!

Sign up, get shot…

Some jerks vandalized the armory sign the other day. “Sign up, get shot, sounds shitty.” I guess it’s not really anti-military so much as it’s anti-war. Still, maybe I should spraypaint the same thing on a sign going into north Minneapolis! Har har!

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