20051209

20051207

Damage may be undone

Update on the situation:

Belkin's USB 802.11g adapter was available at a good price. It installed and fired up instantly.

Then I downloaded a new WiFi driver for from Averatec, installed it, and removed the Belkin. Now my on-board WiFi works again and I have a second spare adapter.

Pain in the ass but we're operational again.

Update: A bud bought the Belkin adapter. I'm back to just one spare. Shall I travel with it from now on?

20051204

What's missing??

OK, normally I blog about gun gear or CCW or training (I think that sums up my entire blogging career, actually) but today I'm gonna' get a bit more personal. I'm starting to feel as if there are things --significant things -- missing from TCM's life. Two things in particular have been nagging at me: combat and women. (And, yes, I believe there's a distinction...)

I've never been in combat. In fact, I haven't been in a fight since the sixth grade. When it comes to violence and hostility, I'm a master at avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation. But part of me thinks that I'm overdue for a break in that trend. As I'm sure many of you do, I keep up to date as to the goings-on in the Middle East. All politics of the situation aside, I see what is obviously a grueling fight between our Boys in Camo and those who would like to kill them. To the grunt on the street, I have to believe it's that simple: him or me. And in a way, I'm envious. I spent 15 years in the Air National Guard and the closest I came to combat was being on-call for three months during the lead-up to Desert Storm. Yawn...

It is said that prostitution is the oldest profession. Perhaps, but what about soldiering? (What gets more ink: the history of prostitution or the history of war?) I'm sure that soldiering has changed little in the thousands of years its been practiced. And yet I feel as though that aspect of being a man, being a soldier in combat, has passed me by. Does combat change a man? For the better? For the worse? What does it feel like to fight another man to the death? How did the Spartans accept the notion that their defeat at Thermopylae was imminent? What went thru the minds of the soldiers that fought to a bloody stalemate at Antietam? How sweet was the victory for the Russians as the last desperate pockets of Nazi resistance in Berlin were finally crushed? Millions upon millions of men in history have known the answers to these questions. I do not.

Let me just say that I have no bloodlust and no romantic illusions about war. I have no doubt that combat is just as ugly and gritty and horrifying as many of those who have been thru it say it is. But I'd like to know that for myself, to experience that primal behavior firsthand, to understand it in terms that my mind has formulated based on personal experience. I'm especially curious as to how I'd act. How well would I perform under fire? Would I freeze? Would I crack? Is my situational awareness as good as I think it is? Would I remember and, more importantly, employ the training I've received? In short, would I "walk the walk"?

I've posed such ponderings to close friends and once they've realized that I'm serious, their answers have been remarkably similar: get in the fight somehow. Unfortunately, it's probably unrealistic to even consider such things. Sure, I've had training but nothing even remotely approaching AIT or even Marine boot camp. (Air Force, remember...) At 40-something, rejoining the ranks is mostly out of the question. Even in the unlikely event that I landed a mercenary personal security gig, could I really perform my job?? Getting yourself killed because you're ill-prepared is unfortunate. Getting your charge killed is unprofessional. Getting your buddies killed is unforgivable.

So what's a "wondering warrior" to do? How do these questions get answered?

One confidante suggested getting involved in anti-piracy activities. That might work if I wasn't terrified of large bodies of water. But the idea still has merit. Unlike the tenuous "keeping the world safe for democracy" mandate that drives our current involvement in the faraway deserts of Afghaniraniraqistan, anti-piracy is apolitical, malum en se kinda' work. No moral dilemmas to keep one awake at night. The pirates are most likely to be un- or poorly-trained. Their tactics would necessarily be limited and predictable since any extreme measures -- ie, sinking the target ship -- defeat the entire purpose of their enterprise. Unless the pirates adopt paratrooper tactics and/or submarines, any fighting would essentially occur in only two dimensions. Overwhelming numbers would be their only advantage, an advantage that could easily be negated thru superior firepower. Seems simple enough.

But then again, I've never been in combat so how the hell would I know?...


Then there's the second missing thing: a woman. As much as I hate to admit it, TCM has been without a woman for almost two years. Being alone isn't always a problem, being the busy, independent, and occasionally self-centered guy that I can be. But, again, I feel like I'm missing out on something. Something that the rest of the world takes part in every day. Something the rest of the world seems to take for granted.

Historically, relationships have presented yours truly with numerous difficulties. I've gotten better at them, though, since I've learned how to step "outside" of any conflicts and look at things impartially. (Not easy, by any stretch, but do-able...) I was unprepared for marriage when I tied the knot at 24 with an equally unprepared woman. We stayed married for twelve years. Our disfunctions remained dormant as we fought side-by-side thru countless non-marriage-related battles. We were a hell of team as long as we had a common enemy. However, once we were both out of college, working well-paying jobs, and focusing on the future, things got easy. Too easy. Without those common enemies, our marriage got stale and fell apart. As did the few relationships I was involved in after the divorce.

Except the last one.

The Little Chinese Girl (aka, LCG) was the one that got away. The relationship found me when I wasn't looking for it. I won't say it was a match made in heaven but it was good match, nonetheless, and we got along pretty durned well. (And, damn, she was cute!!) We had our differences, of course, but we also had enough in common to at least have good pillow talk and even better dinner conversation. We had complimentary talent sets, too. She was the idea person; I was the problem solver. We used the opportunity to improve our partnership skills: how to conduct a fair fight, how to negotiate and compromise, how to support one another, and how to listen and make sure we were being heard. We parted amicably once we both realized there were some serious gaps in what we each wanted for our futures. I had it good with LCG -- I knew it then and I know it now. I did almost everything right with her and we're both better for what we had.

And I miss that.

I miss having the interaction of another person in my life. I know how to deal with myself and my quirks. (Well, most of them...) Being with another is what's missing. I miss the companionship and the conflict and the commiserating and the sharing of Sunday morning breakfast. Life -- just like a relationship -- brings about a swirling river of difficult sacrifices, unexpected complications, and competing demands. At least in a relationship, there's a woman on the other bank of that river!! I've long ago thrown off the notion of blissful abandon, where nobody says the wrong thing, where nobody gets their feelings hurt, where nothing goes awry. That's the stuff of Hollywood and the (pulp) literary world. I'm much more pragmatic about love and relationships at my semi-advanced age. A healthy relationship should be equal parts romance, individuality, and mutually-beneficial business arrangement. To make it all work requires effort, optimism, patience, and occasional mumbling to oneself in the basement. And I won't truck a woman who's not willing or able to reciprocate. (Speaking of trucks, ...)

That's not to say I'm a perfect catch myself. Like I said, I have my quirks. I've been known to focus -- nay, obsess -- on a problem well beyond the point where it stops being funny. (I'm an engineer and, like a cop, I'm not paid to lose...) That said, I have Short Attention Span Moments that are the stuff of legends. When I'm in that mode, a 10-year-old with ADHD could beat me in a staring contest. I have a gun collection that's awfully difficult to explain. I prefer two wheels to any other form of transportation. I occasionally allot copious amounts of "alone time" for myself. This is especially true when work gets stressful. I'm an early bird.

But it's not all bad. I have my good points, too. I try to take care of myself -- emotionally and physically -- and avoid bad influences. Most of my friends are of sound character and won't elicit the dreaded "I never want to see him in my house again" conversation. I'm always where I say I'll be and I come home every night that it's logistically sound to do so. As much as I use them, I hate computers and I'm rarely found fiddling with one "just for the heck of it". I kinda' know how stuff works and can usually fix it if it's broke. I have all my hair.

So, with all these endearing qualities, you're probably asking yourself, "Why doesn't this guy have a date for next Friday??" Well, I've been asking myself this same question for a while. I know the answer. It can be stated -- but not explained -- in one word: exposure. I'm just not around any women. I don't get any exposure.

Take my job (please...) I write software, in a basement, surrounded by Y-chromosome-types just like me. My pastimes are heavily male-populated: shooting, four-wheeling, bicycling, and motorcycling. (I once joined a bicycle racing team with the goal of meeting women, only to discover that there were just two types of women on the team: married or lesbian. I kid you not...) Even my "solo projects" -- woodworking, reloading, electronics tinkering -- don't lend themselves to female involvement. I've considered taking up a hobby that would have women in the same room but there are always repercussions to that. "TCM, why don't we go ballroom dancing anymore??" Sorry, but I'm not gonna' feign interest in tennis or cajun cooking just to get a date. That's all the world needs: another phony. Fuz once recommended the ubiquitous internet coffee shop as a place to meet women. A reasonable suggestion which I admit I have yet to pursue.

I've tried on-line dating with little success. A few years back (before LCG) I met a woman on-line but she turned out to be a poor fit. It took longer than either of us expected to discover the mismatch and it was a difficult break. I recently tried the on-line thing again but it proved futile. Put simply, the women wouldn't respond to my e-mails, which is quite demoralizing. I spoke to a woman who was trying out on-line dating and she said the whole experience is very different for women. They are typically inundated with e-mails and their challenge is to weed out all the man-chaff. She admits that she's probably tossed more than a few good candidates into the recycle bin simply because she didn't have the time to scrutinize the sheer volume of e-mail. I can only hope that this was what happened to me. It's either that or my e-mails weren't as interesting / clever / charming / attention-grabbing as I thought they were.

Just in case "third time's the charm" is for real, I'm getting ready to try on-line dating again. I need to get a new photo and re-work some of the profile text. I'm in no rush at the moment since work is gonna' be pretty crazy for the next three months. I went to a new doctor a few months back and the last question on the three-page background questionnaire was, "What is your current form of birth control?" I wrote-in my answer: "Working 80-hour weeks." She read that and enjoyed a good belly laugh. If I can make a 45-year-old married mother of three laugh like that, I guess there's still hope.

Ciao!!

TCM

Stop the raid on Social Security

Sign the petition.

HT Jonathan G at ChicagoBoyz.