Thursday, March 31, 2011

I have abandoned my normal format today because I have no Idea how to structure it for this entry.

The ribbon above represents the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest civilian award given by the DoD. OK, OK, stand down. It's not mine, and it's not in my future, but there is a story here.

When I arrived at work on Monday, there was an email in my inbox from the Region office reccomending that I be nominated for the award. The email was also endorsed by my boss.

While I was extremely flattered, I declined.


Simple. I just don't fit the criteria. I'm not being modest. I understand the criteria perfectly, and I am not qualified for this award. It's not worth the pain of filling out the referral.

Especially since I would have to write it myself.

I have projects to finish. Projects that may help a sailor or a Marine have a better day. In the cosmic scheme of things, that's more important than plodding through three pages of government-speak on a standard government form according to a standard government instruction.

The thought was appreciated, however.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

There's always . . .
. . . an angle

In Italy, DoD employees purchase gasoline coupons which are redeemed at Agip stations, and no cash exchanges hands. The coupons exempt us from the very heavy Italian tax. With the coupon, gasoline costs me about $3.75/gallon. Italians pay about $8.30/gallon.

I won't argue whether this is fair or not, only that the cost of living is much higher here, and DoD employees who volunteer for overseas work are allowed some compensation for doing so.

So, some of the service station attendants have figured out a way to make a quick profit. Here's the conversation from my gas purchase today, after I handed him coupons for 40 liters.

Him: (Seeing another full coupon book in my hand,) Change?

Me: Non capisco. (I don't understand.) I thought he was asking for a tip.

Him: Do euro, dai cedole. (I give Euro, you give coupon.)

Me: No grazie.

Him: (Writing €250 on the back of the coupon book,) Offerta. (Offer.)

Me: (Doing quick math and realizing that he is offering more than $350 for coupons that cost me $200,) Ho detto no! (I said no!)

Him: Perche? (Why?)

Me: Perche non è legale e perderò il mio lavoro. (Because it is illegal, and I will lose my job.)

Him: Shrugs, smiles and walks away. He thought it was worth a try.

Why would I decline a quick profit?

First, it's not ethical.

Second, it's a waste of taxpayer money. Our government shells out money for gasoline that was never purchased.

Finaly, it's a serious crime. I could be fired, prosecuted under U.S. law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Italian law - and probably the code of Hammurabi, sharia, and Newton's third law of motion.

This choice was simple for me, but I worry about some low ranking sailor being tempted and losing his career for a few dollars.


By the way, did you pick out the use of first person, proximate past and first person, simple future tenses? Not bad for un straniero (a foreigner), eh?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rules of the road . . .
. . . as interpreted by Italians

The highways are built for MY convenience. You are obviously here only to annoy me and slow me down.

I don’t use my direction indicators because it is up to you to determine MY intentions.

MY job is to go as fast as I want. Your job is to get out of the way.

MY need for your lane overrides your right to use it.

My failure to notice that MY lane ends requires you to move over.

MY need to park in the street in order to chat with mi amico is superior to your need to use it as a traffic lane.

My headlights are on high beam because I can see better that way. You can squint.

I am going 40 kph under the speed limit becaue I need to make a phone call. Go around when you can.

I have the right-of-way when I am on your right . . . or on your left.

Handicap parking spaces are for ME - if I get there first.
Stupid is . . .
. . . as stupid does

- Forrest Gump, 1994

Barry O and his minions want to spend $556 billion over the next six years on transportation, but don’t have the money. Comes now Sen. Kent Conrad (a Democrat, of course) suggesting the “practical option” of taxing drivers based on the miles they drive.

Once considered infeasible, we now have electronic metering and billing on electricity, natural gas, mobile phone usage – and about anything else that can be attached to a transponder.

The Congressional Budget Office says that it is now possible to install equipment, either original equipment or retrofit, that can track mileage and report it to fixed infrastructure.

Then, presumably to the tax man.

Kenny Conrad is giddy with excitement.

Sayeth Kenny, "Do we move to some kind of an assessment that is based on how many miles vehicles go, so that we capture revenue from those who are going to be using the roads who aren't going to be paying any gas tax, or very little, with hybrids and electric cars?"

If this prelude hasn’t painted a picture of stupidity in action, then either my words are lacking or you aren’t paying attention.

Consider the duplicity of a government that invokes standards to require vehicles to have improved gas mileage, and then increases your taxes because those same standards reduced its revenue.

And what of the gasoline tax?

If vehicle performance is measured in miles per gallon, and the gasoline tax is measured in cents per gallon, then third grade math undeniably demonstrates that said tax is calculated as cents per mile.

So, we now have a mileage tax, and Kenny wants ANOTHER mileage tax that is simply calculated using different technology?

Beyond that, we have transponders in our cars that report how far we drive, where we drive, and conceivably, where we are at any given time.

Torches and pitchforks have been brought forth for less.

Thankfully, Barry O has disavowed this strategy. He may be incompetent, but he is not stupid.

Except that he has not yet embraced the concept that we need to cut spending rather than increase taxes.

2012 is closer each day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Views like this . . .

. . . make me glad that winter is over.

And make me forget what an absolute disaster the city has made of trash collection.

This seems to happen every couple of years because Campania has run out of landfill space, the single incinerator does not function very well, and neighboring cities will not allow landfills nearby.

Because of the difficulties, Napolitani have taken to dumping their trash just about anywhere that seems handy. Prime dumping spots seem to be the emergency pull-offs along the autostrade.

Or the street corner.

Or the roadside ditches.

Or parking lots.

Or sidewalks.

Or . . . .

Random synapse firings . . .. . . Some political. Some not.

Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command is in charge of the Libya military operation. Ham's headquarters are in Stuttgart, Germany. George Patton just rolled over in his grave.

I am sick of "reality" television. Most of the programs consist of patently unlikeable people plotting against other unlikeable people while watched over by equally unlikeable hosts or unlikeable groups of judges. I would not mourn the demise of The Bachelor, The Real Housewives of (fill in the blank), Survivor, Big Brother, The Real World, Jersey Shore, The Apprentice (especially the celebrity version), Fear Factor, America's Next Top Model, Project Runway, Road Rules, ad nauseum. What ever happened to stories and plots and people we could actually like?

With the attack on Libya, Barry just set a record for number of horses changed in the middle of the stream.

Billy Ray Cyrus sang the National Anthem at the Bristol NASCAR race today. Except for a country attempt at urban yodeling near the end, he did OK.

Do you find it odd the Europe is pissed when we intervene somewhere, and is equally pissed when we don't?

The United States Air Force took the time, effort and expense to fly a KC-135 tanker over the Bristol race track at the conclusion of the National Anthem. Fox Sports gave it a full five seconds of air time.

In 1986, France denied overflight of American aircraft bound for Libya. Last week, they were all aflutter because we weren't dropping bombs.

Pane Pugliese may be the finest bread made on this planet.

MARCH 19, 2003
BUSH: 'American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger'...

MARCH 19, 2011
OBAMA: 'Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world'...

Barry needs a new speech writer - or at least one with original ideas.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Grammar . . .
. . . fail, part 2!

From our guidance on developing project planning documents:

Please remember: spelling, grammar and style does matter.

Yes, they does.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Grammar . . .

. . . fail!

From The Daily Mail:

Gaddafi has had billions of pounds worth of his assets frozen along with his daughter and four sons.

Perhaps Gaddafi's assets should be frozen. Perhaps one of his sons deserves it also.

But his daughter?

That seems exceedingly cold . . .

From Reuters:

Late Tuesday, a California judge issued a stay-away order barring Sheen from coming closer than 100 years to Mueller and their sons.

He should live so long.

I'll be here all week, folks.