Friday, August 11, 2006

War Isn't Hell, It's Insanity

War isn't hell, it's insanity.

I just got done watching We Were Soldiers again, with Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott again. (I love those actors!) What a show. Once again I marveled at how absolutely insane people must be to actually go to war, especially a war that from all appearances was little other than a series of experimentations.

"Let's see how well it works, our landing people into battle fields on helicopters. Oh, gosh. They're completely overrun and surrounded. Exactly as darn it, they got themselves into this mess, let them get themselves out of it!"

Or course, we all know all the rest of the tragedy that came of the idiocy and insanity that followed that experiment.

In any case, as I watched this time I actually allowed my mind to not get so sucked into the movie that I imagined myself in that situation (as I do with just about everything I view or read). I could watch with at least a semblance of a critical mind, thinking about how I'd do things very differently on a tactical scale; thinking about how likely I would be to hunt down every politician that played games with the lives of me and my men.... Okay, okay, so there were times I was sucked in. Even so, I ended up thinking about how anyone not forced into a war through an actual need to defend one's self (country), or through a need to eliminate an imminent threat through a pre-emptive attack is absolutely, unequivocally insane--let alone those who perpetrated the actions that required a war-like response.

Don't misunderstand me. I've done what my time and finances have allowed to train in ways of death and destruction, and at the same time I learn how important it is that we treat everyone with reason, kindness and selflessness (until we're taught by that "everyone's" actions that they are no longer worthy of such treatment). The simple reason is this: your selfish actions, your intent to harm and/or get gain without the intent of helping as many parties as possible must be neutralized. You know this. And yet you persist in these actions. This is insane.

What would anyone do to a social animal that has suddenly begun treating its fellow creatures as nothing but a source of sustenance, a source of emotional satisfaction through unprovoked violence? You would have no other choice but to neutralize it. The insanity of the sick social animal must be neutralized. And damn it for perpetuating its insanity through requiring others to do unto it as it has done unto others to bring balance back into the environment.

So, in the movie, Lt. Colonel Hal Moore has this wonderful idea of how to take back control of the situation. He charges up the hill through the enemy's attempt at throwing "everything they had" at the Americans. The idea works. The enemy is wholly surprised. The Americans reach the enemy HQ where there are lots and lots of guns and reinforcements. It doesn't look good for the Americans. Just before the enemy can open fire, a helicopter with some seriously cool guns mounted on it opens up and cuts the enemy to ribbons.

I was stunned at my reaction. I was part exultant, part disgusted. I could not have been happier that "the good guys" won, and I was made almost nauseated by the death and destruction--the insanity--visited on the enemy. That that had to happen in order to save some more lives--on both sides--is insane.

To have to kill thousands upon thousands of people in order to save millions upon millions of people might seem logical, but it isn't. It's insane. Saving people by killing people? It's not logical. It may be accurate, but it's not logical. It's insane. It may be necessary because it's accurate, but it's really insane. Destroying near-countless lives in a couple of flashes in order to end World War II, while necessary and effective, was simply crazy.

Understand that I am all for war. I am all for visiting such horrible, complete, unutterable death and destruction upon an enemy such that neither they nor any future would-be enemies would consider doing anything like what caused such horrendous visitations never, ever again on anyone. And damn them for requiring me to enter a state of insanity and inflict such wounds on the fabric of existence.

I say again, we are social creatures. Social creatures that do well in the wild typically will do something to aid others in their social circles. In a not-too-difficult-to-see perspective we are all in the same social circle. If you are unkind or in any other way responsible for actions that in any way harm another human being (undeservedly), you are a sick, insane animal and need to be put down. And when you are put down, don't be surprised. Expect it. It's going to happen. It needs to happen. And when such retribution is perpetrated by someone who enjoys doing it, or who thinks it an intellectual exercise, damn them and their insanity.

Let me sum up. Be nice. Don't be crazy. If for no other reason than you really don't know how crazy your would-be victim can get....

Rather reminds me of an instance at the gym. I'm working out, life is good. I get to a point in the workout that I need a particular piece of equipment. Of course, someone's on it. I wait for them. They get up, eventually, and walk toward the drinking fountain. I ask, "Are you done there?"

He puffs up and squares his rather impressive shoulders at me and growls, "Yeah!" with an unspoken disprespect and all-but-direct challenge.

My first reaction was amazement that he would behave so aggressively to me due to my not having done anything offensive that I knew of. This was quickly replaced by complete irritation. I've trained in various martial arts for more than 1/2 my life. There was no question in my mind that I could have taken this muscle-bound mental patient apart in less time than he could've puffed up his chest again. And yet he treated me unkindly. Of course, the logic missing there was that he could not have possibly known what I was capable of, so why would he have treated me with respect and/or kindness? Well, for the simple fact that he had no idea of what I was capable.

Lesson: be nice. You never know when the guy you just pissed off is carrying a nuke. If you can't be nice, consider yourself insane and get checked out at the nearest asylum. If you can't admit you have an insanity problem, do not be startled or surprised when someone visits such insanity on you as you've never conceived of. And be glad it happened; the herd is now a bit safer, a bit more balanced, a bit more able to get along and play nicely.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Adventures In Home Improvement (8/3/2006)

Screwing a Chair
My home office chair just decided to up and nearly deposit me on the floor backward last week. I thought it was just the reclining lever that popped out without my permission again. But instead of nearly depositing me on the floor directly backward, this was a bit different. I nearly fell over my left shoulder. Closer inspection revealed that one of the screws in the arm of the chair--which coincidentally was about 1/4 of the support of the chair's back--had been shorn. It was broken. Screwed, as it were.

I figured I had put it off too long today, and went to the hardware store, broken screw in-hand. Rather, the part of the broken screw that wasn't still screwed into the...well, screw hole.

I found a nut that went onto the screw nicely and figured I'd found the correct threading for the screw, and using the nut chose out two nice shiny new bolts of differing lengths (I wasn't sure if the original had been 1" or 3/4") and of course the nut, just in case.

Back in the office I drilled out the bolt that remained in the chair. I did what I could to make the hole a bit oblong so I could get a flat-head screwdriver into it and remove it without chancing drilling out the screw-hole's threading.

Aside: I know "screw-hole's" not the right word, but 1) I don't know what that right word is, and 2) I'm amused by the word "screw-hole". It accurately describes where the screw belongs, and can have many other amusing connotations.

Anyway I successfully removed the 3/16" piece of screw left in the chair with a screwdriver stuck rather awkwardly in the hole I'd just drilled. Woohoo! Something I thought of worked!

Feeling rather smug and a bit excited that this might be the one home improvement (can this really be called "home improvement"?) task I did right start to finish. Apparently I'm either very non-observant of my past experiences, or I'm just really quite optimistic. You see, the bolt I'd gotten to replace the screw was not threaded correctly.

Now who would have thought that two bolts that can take the same nut wouldn't be the same thread? So, a bit puzzled, I put the nut back on the original, broken screw. This time I put it down all the way. Well, I attempted to put it down all the way. It siezed up not even 1/4 of the way down the screw. Apparently if you're going to use a nut to guage threading equivalencies between bolts, you must put the nut all the way to the head of the bolt in order to really guage it. But really...if you must do that...don't.

Of course I was a bit...annoyed, though the state of the house and the behavior of all its residents kept me with a nice cool head (and incidentally, the only cool head in the house). (I have this need to be opposite everyone else I'm with. You're mad? Well, look at how cool I am. You're scared? Well, see how brave I'm being? You're being brave? Oh my gosh--we're all gonna DIE!) A few moments' thought and I had the solution.

See, the original screw had apparent sheared off only 1/8" down its length. It's a 3/4" screw. And the distance between the piece of the arm rest that is used to fasten down the arm rest is perhaps 1/16"...I thought I could most likely just use the broken screw, since I was still working with a screw that's see...carry the 4...5/8" long, giving me 9/16" to work with.

Short solution: I took a long screw out of a part of the arm-rest that was okay and replaced it with the short screw, considering that part of the arm rest doesn't have to deal with my not unimpressive bulk flouncing back to the back rest. I took the longer screw and put it into the hole wherein the broken screw was once a hair ball in the drain of...the...thing. (I'm not so good with similes.)

I tightened everything and voila! (or whatever the French word is for voila!) we have a chair that is once again functional.

By the way, if ever you buy an office chair from RCWilley for a nice, discounted sure to check the screw tightness often. For your safety.

The useless bolts and nut I bought are living in a nice, snug bucket of homeless screws, bolts, nuts and other fascinating hardware...mostly presumably fasteners of some sort.