Image from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/democracychronicles/15933907480

I’m ecstatic to see that North Korea is not only talking about denuclearization, but is also willing to conduct direct negotiations with the U.S. and end the Korean War. In the past, it seemed all we ever got from North Korea was more demands with little promise of anything in return. Sure, it could all be a ruse, but I’m guessing that there is at least a little bit of genuine desire for peace.

Most people in the U.S. are probably thinking of a peace treaty and eventual reunified Korea, with the accompanying butterflies and rainbows. However, there are two darker aspects we should probably consider:
Continue reading “Some undesirable end states for Korea”

Last night President Trump announced strikes into Syria in response to Syrian use of chemical weapons. Less broadcast was that both the UK and France participated in the strikes. Even less broadcast was that we were in this situation not that long ago, with a “red line” set by President Obama that was subsequently crossed, with no subsequent action taken.

From: https://www.aim.org/newswire/obama-waffling-on-red-line-after-syria-uses-chemical-weapons/attachment/obama-red-line-cartoon/

Having to stand up to aggressive regimes around the world sucks. I can’t imagine the frustration of any American that has to politically negotiate with Syria, North Korea or Iran. Given their normal antics and the occasional grand standing, I would be infuriated on a regular basis.

Continue reading “Stand for something or fall for anything”

From http://www.thinkhero.com/2010/02/26/star-wars-propaganda-artwork-pics/

One of my side jobs is helping nearby Navy commands understand Operational Security (OPSEC), a term used to describe protecting unclassified information from the enemy, which they might use to get some sort of military advantage.  Given the speed and connected nature of today’s world, it is significantly harder for the military, and especially military spouses, to keep information protected.

A few nights ago, I was asked to talk to a command’s family readiness group.  This command’s schedule had been leaked from at least a few spouses and Sailors, and the captain was having a tough time getting people to understand the seriousness of these leaks.  So I gave my normal presentation, walking through how OPSEC issues had killed ISIS members, destroyed Army helicopters, and are increasingly used to target service members.  It gets a bit scary, because it’s not hard to show how Facebook, Twitter and other apps sell data to anyone, making it increasingly hard to argue that they aren’t evil in some way.

Even Hakim agrees with me

I took questions at the end, and for once, I was surprised.

Continue reading “You’re worth a story”

I joined my local student parish my freshman year of college, and I spent most of the next four years volunteering as an usher. I wasn’t a particularly hard-core Catholic, but my belief system had served me well enough that I didn’t see a reason to change it. Luckily for me, I fell in with a decent crowd and managed to make it to Mass every Sunday, and while I had plenty of philosophical debates on a liberal campus, it only served to make my faith stronger.

I now get asked if I’m saving every last penny for my kids to go to college, and when I reply “No,” people sometimes act like I’m clinically insane. But truth be told, I don’t see how a $200K degree helps in most cases.

Continue reading “Should you send a Catholic kid to college?”

Yesterday was my first time volunteering for Junior Achievement, a school program designed to teach kids about setting themselves up for economic success. My coordinator was more than happy to give me the more difficult crowd of 24 7th graders. Luckily, we were at a Catholic school, so the kids were pretty well behaved.

As a cryptologist, I often get asked to talk about social media and technology, so it was no surprise that the topics came up. I didn’t know what to expect 12 year olds to know, and quite a few things surprised me.
Continue reading “Talk to your middle schooler”

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, from Wikimedia

My wife got me started watching the PBS series about Queen Victoria. Being a history nut, it was fun to look up the historical facts after and see what was true and what was “made for TV.” In season one, the series was actually pretty decent, capturing a lot of the challenges the young queen faced for her country.

But later seasons weren’t so good, and my biggest problem was the insertion of unhistorical gay characters. Lord Drummond and Lord Alfred are shown, multiple times throughout the series, as having a behind the scenes homosexual relationship. Doing some research, it’s highly unlikely that any of this happened, given that British society didn’t condone it, and that Lord Alfred married and had 14 children later in life.

Continue reading “Unhistorical sexual relationships”

The Haikou during RIMPAC 2014. U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery, from Wikipedia

It wasn’t too long ago that the US invited China to participate in the RIMPAC Naval Exercise. It was pretty amazing to see Chinese warships, including the Type 052 destroyer Haikou, at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station. Access to the Naval Station included allowing foreign Sailors to purchase items from the Naval Exchange. The exchange had a massive boom in sales, such that they even chartered a bus to move Sailors back and forth.

When I walked into the NEX I saw the normal purchases of alcohol, cigars, Hawaiian food and the like. I was really surprised to see Chinese Sailors purchasing baby formula. I was absolutely baffled, so I walked over and asked one of them why. He explained that he planned to sell it at home, because nobody trusted Chinese-made baby formula.

Continue reading “You can keep your Chinese steel”

My last duty station was Hawaii, and now I’m in the north east. In both cases, the local government treated me like a criminal for owning a weapon. For example, I had to pay 16 dollars and 50 cents (in exact change!) in Hawaii to have them do a background check. Despite the check being essentially instant, it took the Hawaii PD an hour. While I sat there, the guy said “You know it’s fairly intensive,” to which I replied “The government gave me a clearance, I’m really not too worried about my background.” Low and behold, I cleared.

It was almost impossible to find a range on the island and shoot regularly without paying an arm and a leg. So I didn’t. And for many service members, that’s what happens too. We get into an intensive job and in our time off try to spend time with a young family, and before long it has been years since we hit the range for anything but a mandatory once a year pistol shoot to stand the quarterdeck watch.

So if you’re slightly older and remember the days when kids had shotguns in the car so they could bird hunt after school, then you have some responsibilities.

Continue reading “You need to take your friends shooting, hunting and to Mass”

Over 10 years ago, I was the electrical officer aboard a submarine. One of my Sailors was a massive slacker. Every time he was on duty, I would catch him gaffing off his maintenance responsibilities. Every collateral duty I assigned him was done poorly, and almost always required another Sailor to ensure completion. Luckily for me, he indicated he didn’t intend to re-enlist, so I was happy when he finally received his separation orders.

And then…my Engineer asked me to write him up for an award. I protested. “The guy sucks. He hasn’t done anything worthwhile.” Still, my engineer persisted. Fortunately for me, he was too busy to follow up, so I simply didn’t do it, and this Sailor separated without a Navy Achievement Medal.

The achievement medal, quickly becoming a default “I worked here” award. Image from Wikipedia.

Continue reading “The unused tools in the military”

We need to talk about school shootings.

Somehow in the past, we didn’t have this problem. Somehow, kids brought guns to school all the darn time without deciding that it was a good idea to gun down their fellow students. I was guilty of leaving a bunch of shotgun shells in my book bag in 4th grade, because I had gone hunting with my dad the previous weekend. While we had the occasional lunatic, school shootings were pretty rare. Most violent crime happened outside school, and thankfully our crime rate overall has continued to decline over the last twenty years, so we’ve actually gotten safer over time.

So what’s different?

Continue reading “Save our kids by giving teachers guns and banning Facebook”