Friday, December 31, 2004

Accomplishments - 2004 Edition

Originally uploaded by currtdawg.
1. Sprained my ankle, causing me to miss four whole weekends of snowboarding.
2. Saw Belle & Sebastian in Tokyo, and Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Missy Elliott in Atlanta.
3. Went to the Sapporo Ice Festival which was, like, so cool.
4. Put up with more than my fair share of military bullshit.
5. Spent three months in Iraq involuntarily supporting a stupid war, but still managing not to kill anyone or be killed.
6. Committed yet another four years of my life to the US Air Force.
7. Bought two new trucks.
8. Turned 30.
9. Climbed Mt. Fuji for the third time.
10. Ran a total of about 1200 miles.
11. Taught Paul to dance.
12. Became thoroughly addicted to Interpol's new album "Antics."
13. Got another tattoo.
14. Started "Tripping Lucid," my dream blog.
15. Voted in the Presidential Election, but apparently it didn't do much good.
16. Got the courage to reveal myself to more and more people.
17. Went to my first Japanese strip club.
18. Went 11 whole days without masturbating, which is longer than any living male on the face of the planet has ever gone. Ever.
19. Got the most intoxicated I've been since January 2001.
20. Deepened my friendships with Paul & Trish, Caleb, Jimmy, and M-Dogg.

Yeah, it's been a good year.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

You want a sticker, kid?

Since I've been living in Japan for the past four and a half years, there's something I've had the luxury of avoiding - Wal-Mart. And, well, since I'm moving back to the States in a month, I've decided to continue to avoid this massive, corporate evil. Back when I was in college, I always joked that Wal-Mart was my worst enemy. I had to park 3 miles away from the entrance, and I couldn't leave without spending $80. Now, it's an enemy for different reasons. Here are a few:

* The average Wal-Mart associate works 32 hours a week at $8.00 an hour--a monthly gross of barely $1000. Union members in retail occupations (which Wal-Mart does not allow) earn about 32% more on average. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

* Former Wal-Mart cashier Dana Mailloux, 33, worked for eight years at a store in Fort Myers, FL, moving up to $9.15 an hour. In the Fall of 2002, her manager called her and more than a dozen other longtime employees into his office and told them he had to lay them off because of lack of work. That same day, Ms. Mailloux says, she passed a room with six new hires, red vests in hand, filling out paperwork. Returning to the store that weekend, she says, she saw newly advertised positions listed on a bulletin board. (Wall Street Journal)

* A July 2000 internal audit of 128 Wal-Mart stores found 127 were "not in compliance" with company policies concerning workers not taking breaks. In a class-action suit in Texas, on behalf of more than 200,000 current and former Wal-Mart workers, statisticians estimate that the company underpaid its Texas workers by $150 million over four years by not paying them for the many times they worked during their daily 15-minute breaks. (New York Times)

* Most Wal-Mart employees cannot afford to pay the expensive premiums and deductibles required for health care coverage. The average worker would have to pay one fifth of his paycheck for health care coverage at Wal-Mart. On a wage of about $8 an hour and 29-32 hours of work a week, many workers must rely on state programs or family members or simply live without health insurance. Wal-Mart increased the premium cost for workers by over 200% since 1993. Medical care inflation only went up 50% in the same period. (United Food and Commercial Workers)

* Women make up 65% of the company's hourly employees, yet men hold 90% of top store manager positions. Women working at Wal-Mart make on average 4.5-5.6% less than men for the same work. (Institute for Women's Policy Research)

* 10% of all Chinese imports are imported by Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart were a separate nation, it would rank fifth in the world in importing Chinese goods. (LA Times)

* Wal-Mart has more than 1,107 international operations. Bangladesh workers earn as little as nine cents an hour making shirts for Wal-Mart. (USA Today)

* In 2002, 1,436 child labor law infractions were discovered at 20 Wal-Mart stores in Maine. (Maine Department of Labor)

And if that isn't enough for you, I'll give you one more reason. In 1981, a Wal-Mart was built in Morganfield, Kentucky - my town of 3,500. Within a few years time, Clements Drug Store and Fritts Drug Store (both locally-owned), a locally-owned hardware store, and a locally-owned auto-parts store went out of business. Then, in 1998, Wal-Mart abandoned the old building to build a brand new building where a Super Wal-Mart now exists. Since then, French's Food Mart (locally-owned) and Sureway (a western Kentucky business) have both gone out of business. A town of 3,500 has no need for a Super Wal-Mart. My hometown has lost its soul.
True, it could have been K-Mart or Target or any of the giant retailers. But it was Wal-Mart. For these reasons, I will never purchase anything at Wal-Mart ever again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Artificial Sweetener

Paul's comment (paraphrased): "When I ask if you want to do something and you answer, 'Okay,' it makes me think you're going along with it just to appease me."
Good point, Paul.
Do I go along with people's suggestions and ideas just to placate them? Maybe sometimes. But, is that so bad? Isn't making sacrifices a big part of friendship? Who wouldn't want to make his friends happy? However, I wouldn't want to begrudgingly drag any of my friends along to something they didn't want to do. Not only would that bring them down, it would probably bring me down, as well.
So here's my solution: anytime any of you ask me any kind of question, and you think I'm giving you an answer just because I think it's the answer you want to hear, challenge me. Is that what I really want to do? Is that what I really think? In return, I promise to be completely honest. Furthermore, I'm going to challenge each of you to be equally honest with me. I figure it's the least I can do for my friends.
And don't bullshit me. I can totally tell.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Post-Yule Sentiments

When I was younger, every year after Christmas, I always went through a little depression. All the build up, decorating, anticipation, wonder, and excitement was over. Now, I'm just grateful I lived through another year, thankful I have such a loving family and great friends. True, it's still kinda sad to see everything end so abruptly, but now I'm more concerned with the results of Christmas than the preoccupation with the add-ons.

Friday, December 24, 2004

39 1/2 Foot Pole

Yesterday, I got off work at 1:30, so I went home and showered, then Jimmy and I did some last minute Christmas shopping at the BX. What a madhouse! People everywhere. Long lines. Screaming children. After we finally got out of there, I just wanted to go home and lay on my couch, but I had to go over to alterations to get my measurements to send to Brad so he can order my tuxedo for his wedding. While I was in alterations, my cell phone rang, and it was Paul. He and Trish were next door in the furniture store and saw my car parked outside. So after I left alterations, I went into the furniture store to say "hi." I know I've explained before how much I love Paul and Trish, but it's rare for someone to have such power over me to be able to turn my mood completely around, especially with just a quick chat.
In a somewhat related story, today is Christmas Eve, and this morning I, along with the rest of the Praise Team, was invited to Chaplain Sackett's house for brunch. It was one of those things where you're asked to do something, and you don't really think about it. You just say, "yes," but you really don't want to go. You just kinda want to blow it off. Well, I figured that I should go anyway, even though I don't really know Chaplain Sackett or his family or, except for Jimmy and Caleb, even any of the other people on the Praise Team. I'm friendly with them, but they're barely more than acquaintences. Jimmy went with me, and we were the first ones to show up, which was a little unnerving. But as soon as we walked into the house, and were greeted with such big smiles, I was glad I showed up. The Sacketts have five children and another on the way. They live in base housing, but you can tell it's a house filled with love. The others showed up soon after we did, and as we were all hugging and wishing each other a Merry Christmas, I had a nice warm feeling inside.
I know most people will say when we celebrate Christmas, we're celebrating the birth of Christ, and that's all very true. But to me, Christmas is just about being together. Love. Relationships. Family. And when I say "family," I mean everyone I love, not just blood relatives. One of the reasons Jesus came to Earth was to really be with us. Giving gifts and singing carols is great and all, but just being with all the people I love is the best part of Christmas for me. Tonight, we're going to have our annual Hospitality House Christmas Eve All-Nighter, and I'm going to do my best to hug everyone as much as possible. I've spent too many Christmases in the desert, and I'll never take for granted any of the time I get to spend with my family. I love those people.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Let me talk a little bit about my Dad. I have an amazing amount of respect for my Father.
He loves the Lord.
He teaches by example.
He stresses honesty and education above everything else.
The man can fix anything.
We didn't always get along; but now, when I look back, I see how he was trying to point me down the right path.
For such a considerate, kind, wise, cheerful, loving Father, I'll forever be grateful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Delerium Tremors

Sometimes, I think I'm overdosing on friends. Or rather, my friends are overdosing on me. I have this paranoia they're getting sick of me. Of course, they would deny it if I asked. But if they denied it, would it be because it isn't true, or they just don't want me to feel bad? Everytime I ask them to hang out or go to lunch, they look at me wide-eyed, and their minds frantically try to think of an excuse of why they can't go. They're probably thinking, "Well, we only have to put up with him until he PCSs next month, so we'll just suffer through it." Yes, friends. Endure me. Withstand my cheery, fake, annoying personality. I think I'd just rather be tolerated for the next month and not leave here with a bad taste in my mouth.
This sounds rather cynical, and I'm not really sure I feel this way. I really do love my friends, and I hope they feel the same. Sometimes, you venture so far in your relationships, and there's just nowhere else to go. No more you can give. Maybe the depth of my friendship has its limits.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

That pear tree TOTALLY has a partridge in it!

It's been a rather exciting past few days. Thursday night was my squadron Christmas Party. I guess I had really high expectations or something, because it was fun, but not THAT fun. Jimmy and Amy went with me, and they both said they had a good time, so that makes me happy. The big thing about Christmas Parties is the prizes. I won a little gift set of body scrub and lotion, so I gave it to Amy. I also won the centerpiece, which was a nice little poinsettia.
Last night was the NSGA Christmas Party, and Paul and Trish bought me a ticket. Jimmy went with Amy, so we had a nice showing from the Hospitality House crowd. Well, I started off early with mixed drinks. And I continued with mixed drinks. In fact, I got pretty liquored up.
Let me take a brief moment to talk about our prizes. First off, Jimmy won a bookshelf stereo. Then Amy won a mini-disc/mp3 player (but traded some guy for a portable DVD player), then I won a palm pilot, then Paul won a treadmill. We totally had the winningest table in the ballroom. I was proud of us. Let me rephrase that. I was drunkenly proud of us.
So, like I was saying, I had a lot to drink. Have you ever been out, and you start drinking, and then you totally lose track of how many drinks you've had, but you're moving around and feeling good, and you just don't care because you're having so much fun? Yeah, that was me last night. I'm not sure what time we left the club, but it was obvious I wasn't going to be driving anywhere. So I hopped in with Paul and Trish and they hauled me to their pad. We sat down and chatted for a while, and Paul gave me some pajama bottoms and t-shirt, and I went to sleep in their guest room. Let me rephrase that. I attempted to go to sleep in their guest room, but as soon as I lay down, that whole really annoying spinning thing started happening. I hate that. And you know and I know there's only one way to cure it. So I staggered to the bathroom and Mr. Finger met Mr. Gag-Reflex, and I rid myself of the spinning, so to speak. After that, I slept like a little drunken baby. The next morning, Paul cooked pancakes for us. I felt really horrible, because even though I rid myself of the spinning, I didn't really rid myself of the nausea. I managed to shove down two extremely small pancakes (we're talking nickel-size pancakes, here), and I felt bad that I couldn't eat more. But there was just no way. Then we sat around for a few more hours, watched a movie, and eventually made it to the BX to return our new prizes for what we really wanted - MONEY! Actually, I totally would have kept my palm pilot if it was compatible with Mac OS (Come on, people! We Mac users represent 5% of the home-computing world! Live in the now!). And Paul's treadmill wasn't big enough for him on which to run. I'm not sure what the grand total was for everything, but I ended up making $135. I gave the Dinki have the value of the palm pilot, since it was they who bought my ticket.
And so, let me just reiterate how much I love Paul and Trish. They bought me a ticket to their Christmas Party, totally took care of my drunken self, let me crash at their pad, and even made me pancakes the next morning. Yeah, definitely going to miss those two.
One more thing: I have some great pictures from the parties, but I've just about reached my upload limit on flickr, so I won't be able to post them until next month. But definitely check back, especially if you want to see me dressed up like a ROCK STAR (with eyeliner and all)!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Again From the Top

Well, it looks like we can start the count back at zero.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

By definition, a crush must hurt, and they do.

My friend Jay separated from the military about nine months ago, but we've been e-mailing each other a lot lately. I think he's in the same funk I am, though I think he's in a little deeper. In his last e-mail, he wrote, "It's incredible how deceitful we humans can be." I couldn't agree more. Why can't people be just upfront with their feelings? Why say one thing and act completely different? If someone says, "Yeah, I'd like to hang out," but then avoids contact, should I believe this person's words or this person's actions? I think it's a lot easier to just say, "You know, I'd rather not." I'd rather be dealt with honestly than have false hopes. I get so sick of developing these stupid crushes on people. And it's always someone who's unattainable. You'd think after years and years of this, I'd be able to control it by now. Nope. And this is all territory I covered about a year ago. I can learn math, english, history, music theory, etc., but I can't learn emotional restraint.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

(Rein)Deer in Headlights

Kerry's Antlers
Originally uploaded by currtdawg.
Kerry's twin sister, Simone, is visiting for a while, so last night, Paul, Trish, and I met them at Shimoda for some social shopping. At the 100 Yen Store, Kerry found a delightful little teaching aid, and here she is modeling it.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Going Bananas

It has been seven days since my last...
I wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Cat, Chicken, Turtle, Dove

So, last night, Jimmy and I went to Hachinohe for the purpose of finding a place called "the DX." The DX is basically a strip club. I'm not really a big fan of strip clubs, but, for some reason, we felt compelled to explore this one. I guess it was just the curiosity of a strip club in Japan. I'm not going to go into all the details, but I will tell you one thing: Jimmy likes his women a little more "mature." After we left, I was thinking, "Well, checked that one off my list," and that I'll never go again. However, now our friend Caleb is curious as well, so maybe we'll take him, too.
In other super-great news, my weeks and weeks of hounding MPF have paid off, but in a much better way than I'd expected. I was actually on the receiving end of a call from MPF today (I damn near fell over), and the young man on the other end told me he was sorry things got so out of whack with my folder. And here's the best part: since there's absolutely no way I can finish my out-processing in 18 days, he's going to send up a request to have my DEROS pushed back to January, which means I'll get to stick around Misawa for another month. This is good on so many levels. Not only do I get to hang with everyone here longer, but I'll actually get to enjoy Christmas. I'll have another month to save up some funds. I'll have enought time to pack out all my stuff. Yeah, I'm definitely happy about this.
I've had major slack time at work, lately. Today, I took a three hour lunch, and nobody even noticed I was gone. I think they just assume I'm outprocessing or doing stuff for the Christmas Party. I grabbed a pizza and went over to Paul and Trish's house. Paul was off today, so even after Trish went back to work, I stuck around and we had some good conversation. Then, after work, Paul and I went to the onsen, where we had more good conversation. I so appreciate that guy.
At PQ2 earlier tonight, we decorated the Christmas tree, which always puts me in the Christmas Spirit. This is gonna be such a wonderful Christmas. It will be my last one in Misawa, and I'm going to take it all in as much as I can. My friends here are so great.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I'm feeling really overwhelmed this week. Not because of how much I'm doing, but because of how much I'm getting ready to be doing. I still don't have my orders, which means I can't do any out-processing. But I know when I finally do get them in my hot little hand, all hell is going to break loose. Visiting pretty much every office on base, even ones that have nothing to do with me. Turning in bags and mobility equipment. Packing out household goods. Packing out unaccompanied baggage. Turning in FMO furniture. Cleaning my house. Painting my walls. Selling my truck. Ugh.
I'm already dreading saying my good-byes. I think about how great it would be to stay here longer, but then I think about how I felt the same way when I was leaving Vegas. I still miss Vegas sometimes, but I'd never trade anything for the experiences I've had and the friends I've made in Japan. I'm sure that's how I'll feel about Utah in a few months.
It's so hard to have faith sometimes. Faith that all this crap I have to do will get done. Faith that God will take care of me financially once I get to Utah. Faith that I'll meet lots of new and exciting people when I'll get there.
Pressing on. Running the race. Claiming the prize.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Walnut! Hey! Come on!

Making Mochi
Originally uploaded by currtdawg.
This morning, Jeni-Bomb, Caleb, and I went with Kerry to a festival at her elementary school in the village of Shingo. There were about 40 kids, and lots of adults. When we first got there, we socialized with the kids, and they recited to us the greeting they'd learned:

"Hello. My name is *****. How are you?"
"Fine, thank you. And you?"
"Fine, thank you."
"Let's shake hands and be friends."

After that, we watched them perform a little skit about the Japanese legend of Momotaro. Then we all made mochi, which was amusing, to say the least. To make mochi, you take cooked rice and beat the living crap out of it with a big wooden mallet until it forms a pasty dough. By itself, mochi has no taste at all; but if you prepare it with bean paste or soy or in soup, it tastes much better. After that, we played around with the kids for a while. This involved marbles, cards, walking on stilts, origami, etc. A little girl named Kasumi kept grabbing my hand and taking me to all the different games. She was much better at walking on the stilts than I was. After that, we ate the mochi, and left to come back to Misawa. Overall, it was a really fun morning, so cheers to Kerry for inviting us along.

Kasumi and Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Three Ring Circus

Things got a little crazy tonight at PQ2. It all started innocently enough with hand stands. And it can't be just one person doing a hand stand. Everyone has to get in on the action. But the one thing of which I can be sure after witnessing these hand stands is this: Jeff has the hairiest belly of all participants (which probably comes as a relief to Amy).

Jimmy's Hand Stand
Originally uploaded by currtdawg.

Jeff's Hand Stand
Originally uploaded by currtdawg.

Amy's Hand Stand
Originally uploaded by currtdawg.

After the hand stands, we decided to take the acrobatics a little further and make a little human pyramid. Being the lightest, Kerry got to be the princess and get on top and wave to everyone down below.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg.

And, since everyone was so hyper, the inevitable wrestling was sure to follow. Now, I understand it really looks like I'm humping Jimmy and making my 'O' face (and look how much he's enjoying it!), but I assure you, it takes a lot more than writhing around with Jimmy and Mike to get the job done. Well, most of the time, anyway. Normally, I wouldn't post a less-than-flattering picture of myself, but this one just makes me laugh. I'm so NOT photogenic.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg.

So, yeah, it was another fun night at PQ2. Some nights are mellow. Others are more spirited. I honestly don't know what sets us off. Maybe we should lay off the sugary snacks. Anyway, it's getting late and I have PT tomorrow. Take care. No worries. God Bless.