I’ll take a pass on that thank you very much

As I pursue my quest for gainful employment I continue to overcome the hurdles and obstacles placed in my path so as to be found an acceptable worker bee by my Uncle Sam and his minions.

Today I was tested.  Everyone who comes to Korea to work for USFK is required to complete a course in “Theater Specific Training” prior to their arrival on the peninsula.  The course is intended to make you familiar with certain USFK policies and procedures, familiarize yourself with Korean law and requirements for SOFA personnel, and provide you with a general understanding of the expectations that will ensure you are a worthy ambassador for the USA.  I had actually done the training before back in the day, but it is amazing just how much you forget.

Anyway, just getting to the training was a bit of an adventure.  I was sent a link to the training website but for some inexplicable reason my laptop would not open any .mil webpage.  I was more than a little concerned about this, and in desperation I fired up my old desktop computer.  It worked like a charm.  I’m surmising that my laptop must be infected by some malware that the government website blocks.  I’ll have to see about getting that fixed I reckon.

Once I had accessed the USFK page and followed the link to the Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) training site I was faced with a classic Catch-22.  I couldn’t access the training system without a CAC card, but I can’t get a CAC card until I am in Korea.  And I can’t come to Korea until I have completed the training.  Fortunately, on page 14 of the training instructions I found a work-around.  This required completion of a form which I emailed to a compliance officer in Korea who then vouched for my authenticity to the folks at JKO who then provided me a temporary log-in good for 24 hours.  So this morning I got busy.

I wound up taking the test twice.  There were four “Theater Specific” training options.  Two for PCS (permanent change of station) and two for TDY (temporary duty).  Well, I’m going for PCS but I wasn’t sure which one of those  to take.  I did the first and decided it was more military oriented, so I did the second which was indeed more civilian centric.  I will say that my test taking skills are a tad rusty as I missed a couple of questions by not carefully reading the multiple choice options.  I was also a little perturbed that the training permitted me to skip the module on Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) since I have no dependent children.  But both tests had questions pertaining to DoDDs on the final exam, and those I got wrong.  Well, I passed so mission accomplished and all that.

So as things now stand I’ve signed the counseling memo for my ration control violations, my Military Police check came back clean, my security clearance is in the system, albeit “archived” and I am assuming it can be resurrected.  I think all that is left is a determination of my status as an “ordinary resident” of the USA.  Hell, I consider myself extraordinary but it’s not my call.

Feeling cautiously optimistic at this point, but keeping my fingers crossed regardless.

trainingcert

 

 

That was quick

Last week I wrote about a letter I received from the Catholic Diocese in Charleston asking some questions regarding the circumstances of my first marriage (39 years ago).  Today’s mail brought the news that since we “did not follow the required form of marriage (canon 1108)” I am not bound to that marriage and I am “now free to contract a marriage in the Catholic Church”.   Ain’t that sweet?  Although I do wonder how my current Buddhist wife would feel about me marrying a Catholic.  Of course, I’m not sure the Diocese intended to grant dispensation for my other previous marriages (to a Baptist and a Maronite version of Catholic).

Speaking of wives, I was speaking to my present absent wife tonight.  It was our first contact in 12 days and our conversation was pleasantly reassuring.  As I suspected when my rational mind was in control (which isn’t often of late) she had been in the countryside with her mother without access to the internet.  And then she had to participate in the annual kimchee making rituals.  And now she is sick.  I gave her a verbal back rub and we promised to do a better job of staying in touch until I can physically touch her again.  Which I hope won’t be too much longer in coming.

Anyway, I’ll rest easier tonight.  Carrying the burden of having married in contravention canon 1108 must have been weighing heavier on my soul than I imagined.

Pursuing plan “A”

I’ve got another iron in the fire in my quest to secure employment in the ROK.  Submitted an application and a boat load of other documentation for a gig as an Admin Test Monitor.  Trust me, it’s not as exciting as it sounds.  As I understand it, my duties would essentially consist of logging people in and out of the examination room.  I don’t have a clear understanding about what the tests actually are for exactly, I’m assuming it’s related to military personnel qualifying for promotion.

This particular job is part time, three eight hour days per week.  The pay is pretty embarrassing, $15. or less per hour.  There are no benefits, I even have to provide my own transportation to Korea.  On the plus side, it does afford Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) status, so I could access the commissary, PX and other on post amenities.

I’d be working for a guy I’ve known for years.  He also intends to promote me to a full-time Test Administrator position he expects will become available in January.  I don’t think it pays much better though.  Anyway, he wants to hire me (I did a pseudo-interview via Skype the other night) but there are three hoops to be jumped through prior to that happening.

The first of those was running a ration control check which has now been completed.  I was a little surprised and embarrassed to learn I had four violations on record.  While I was working as an Army civilian I was entitled to spend up to $550. per month in the commissary.  There were three instances where I exceeded that amount by less than $100.  To the best of my recollection those occurred on occasions when I did team building events for my staff.  As a GS-15 I probably had authority to do that, although I never did the supporting paperwork required for approval.  The last violation was about $400 over the limit.  No excuse for that.  It was my last month in Korea before retiring and it was Christmas, so I went a little wild with a steak-filled parties for friends and co-workers.  Anyway, my future boss doesn’t think it will be a problem.  He sent me a counseling memo reminding me of my obligation to abide by purchasing limits and I expressed my remorse for past transgressions and assured him there would be no future incidents of this nature.

I also have to have a record check through the Provost Marshal’s office.  There should be no issues there as my only “crimes” during my six years of working in Korea were a speeding ticket and a parking violation, both paid in full prior to my departure.

Oh, the boss also needs to check to see if my “secret” clearance is still active.  That’s not a deal breaker, it would just mean doing a bunch of paperwork and having to wait for an approval prior to actually starting to work.  Keeping my fingers crossed on that because it is a royal pain in the ass to complete that process.

The one hurdle (or should I say hoop to avoid mixing metaphors) he’s concerned about is whether I’ll be considered an “ordinary resident” of the USA, a requirement for SOFA status and employment with his company.  The issue is the six months I spent in Korea as a tourist earlier this year.  I’ve submitted utility bills, tax records, mortgage records and the like to hopefully satisfy the SOFA compliance officer that my permanent residence has been and remains in South Carolina.

Anyway, I expect to learn my fate sometime next week.  I’m obviously hoping for a favorable resolution because for the life of me, I can’t seem to come up with a Plan “B”.  Well, I guess what I would have to do is return to Korea again as a tourist.  I’m frankly worried about my wife.  Or more precisely, whether I still have one.  It’s been nine days now since I last heard from her.  No calls, no texts, not even a friggin”‘ “like” on my Facebook posts.  The good angel on my shoulder keeps telling me she is in the “countryside” caring for her mother without internet access.  What the devil on my other shoulder is saying keeps me awake into the wee hours of the morning.  Regardless, I’m feeling abandoned and I’m depressed.

So, one way or the other I need to go back to Korea.  “Did you know that loneliness will kill you deader than a .357 Magnum?”

 

 

 

Ins and Outs

We have a new guy in our singles dart league who has been tearing everyone a new asshole.  He won his first two matches by scores of 15-1 and 14-2.  Last night was my turn in the lion’s den.  I fully expected to be dominated as well (yeah, he is that good) but I surprised myself by hanging with him most of the night, eventually losing 10-6.

He beat me 4-1 in the 501 set.  I actually had a shot at the out in three of those losses, but failed to execute on my first attempt.  He’d hit his out shot on the first try which is what successful darters do.

I came back to beat him 4-1 in cricket, but I had to throw some amazing darts to do so, coming from behind to win most of those legs.

He finished the night by waxing me 4-1 in 301, a game that requires a double in and a double out.  His superiority in doing both gave him the match.

Still, it was a great match.  He may have been a little off his game and I probably threw a little better than usual which kept it interesting.  I’ve always said I don’t mind losing to a better player as long as I don’t throw like a chump. It’s good to have someone like this in the league to push you, even if he is a carpetbagger from New York.

My first loss of the season, but I didn't go down without a fight.

My first loss of the season, but I didn’t go down without a fight.

Slow cookin’

slow cookin'

I broke out the crock pot for the first time since I’ve been back in the USA and slow cooked some tasty pulled pork barbeque and served it up with the traditional sides.  Not pictured is the banana pudding dessert.  I don’t make the effort when I’m cooking for one, but I had a visitor last night so I went *ahem* whole hog.

What is and never was

Thirty-nine years ago this month I married my first wife.  Six years and two children later that union ended in divorce.  There is no animosity between us and we occasionally interact at family gatherings.  Still, I was somewhat taken aback when I received a letter from the Catholic Diocese in Charleston in yesterday’s mail.  That correspondence informs that the ex “has petitioned to this Tribunal declaring that her marriage to you should not be recognized by the Catholic Church…”  In other words, she wants an annulment.

The letter includes a two-page questionnaire that I have been requested to complete.  The questions are all pretty straightforward, basically seeking confirmation that I am not a Catholic and that we were not married in the Catholic church.  The last question asks me to explain in my own words why the marriage failed.  I’m tempted to channel Hillary Clinton and respond “at this point, what difference does it make?” but what’s the fun in that?

My ex was 17 when I knocked her up.  I was 19.  I’m not sure now why we didn’t go the abortion route.  It was either her Catholicism or maybe she was too far along in the pregnancy when she realized she was with child.  Anyway, we mutually decided to have the baby and give it up for adoption.  So we moved in together and made the best of those few months, despite being dirt poor.  The county adoption bureau paid for the medical care and the government provided food stamps, and we otherwise got by on my meager minimum wage salary.

On September 7, 1975 my daughter was born.  On the day the adoption was to take place I was working thirty miles away in Pasadena, CA.  And that morning something happened inside of me that I cannot explain, but I somehow knew letting go of my little girl was the wrong thing to do.  So, I left work and barreled down the freeway arriving in the hospital room at the exact moment the adoption person was handing the ex the papers to sign giving away our child.  I shouted “stop, wait, I want to talk to her about this”.  And so I proposed that we get married and keep the baby.  She agreed.

It was not a popular decision with her parents (the father threatened to have me arrested for statutory rape).  We certainly were not prepared to raise a child (Renee’s first night at home she slept in a dresser drawer as we had no crib).  But it was absolutely the right decision.  I cannot fathom what my life would have been like if I had abandoned my sweet baby girl.

Two years later my son was born and shortly thereafter we moved to Prescott, AZ to raise our family in a more child friendly environment.  I was working as a letter carrier for the Postal Service and the ex was a waitress at a one of Prescott’s finest dining establishments.  We bought a small house.  We had our struggles, but I recall those years as mostly happy.

So, what happened?  I’m sure the ex might have a different perspective, but in looking back I see it as it all just being too much for a young mother to bear.  The ex started running with the restaurant crowd and coming home after work at 3 or 4 in the morning.  And I think at some point she decided that life in the fast lane was more fun than being stuck at home with the kids.  And to be fair, I was feeling neglected and wound up having an affair. So we divorced and she gave me custody of the kids.  I subsequently took a job in Arkansas and my mother helped me raise the children.  And that’s pretty much where our story ended.

So, if the Catholic church wants to pretend the marriage never happened, I’m okay with that.  History is what it is, and I have two fantastic kids (and three wonderful grandchildren) to show from our non-sanctioned union.  That is something that can never be annulled.

A yellow fever outbreak

Apparently American white guys are going crazy about Asian women.  Can’t say that I blame them.  Still, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about trying to make your fantasies come true.  This video is a hilarious take on how it would be if Asian women hit on white guys in a similar fashion:

But my all time favorite in the stereotype genre is this one:

Today I exercised!

My right to vote that is.  Of course, almost everyone on the ballot is a scoundrel so I was resigned to selecting the lesser of two weevils.  In some cases that required me to resort to a write-in candidate.  I picked myself.  I reckon I couldn’t muck things up any worse than they already are.

In other news, I spent the morning engaging in some domestic bliss.  Mopped the floors, vacuumed, cleaned toilets, did the laundry.  My motivation for this activity is an impending visit from a former co-worker.  Tomorrow I’ll actually cook.  Pulled pork BBQ, cole slaw, corn-on-the-cob, and a banana pudding for dessert.

Nice chat with Jee Yeun this morning helped improve my mood.  She’s got enough on her plate without listening to my whinging so I’ve resolved to keep the conversations on a more positive note.  It was a little sad to box up some clothes to mail her, but she’s my jagiya so I’m going to tend to her needs as best as I can from a distance.

Th-th-th-that’s all folks!

Missed it by 30 years

I always thought the scariest aspect of George Orwell’s 1984 were those televisions that watched you.  And now that nightmare has apparently become a reality:

It also has a built-in camera — with facial recognition. The purpose is to provide “gesture control” for the TV and enable you to log in to a personalized account using your face. On the upside, the images are saved on the TV instead of uploaded to a corporate server. On the downside, the Internet connection makes the whole TV vulnerable to hackers who have demonstrated the ability to take complete control of the machine.

More troubling is the microphone. The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV.

You may not be watching, but the telescreen is listening.

Yikes!

.

A very unique argument

So in the latest salvo in the grammar wars, Steven Pinker is taken to task by Nathan Heller in The New Yorker.  I read the whole thing and it made my head swim.  Here’s a taste:

This tendency to add complexity, ambiguity, and doubt is a troubling feature of Pinker’s rules. He fights pedantry with more pedantry. He doesn’t want to concede that the phrase “very unique” makes no sense (things are either unique or not), so he mounts an odd defense. Look at two snowflakes from far away, he says, and they no longer seem unique: “The concept ‘unique’ is meaningful only after you specify which qualities are of interest to you and which degree of resolution or grain size you’re applying.” If we did all that, we wouldn’t need the word.

You can read the rest at the link above if you dare (or care).  I’m just an old dog with no motivation to learn new grammar tricks.  So you can count on me firmly maintaining my position in the “descriptivism” school of grammar. I love the fact that there even is such a school.  Warms the cockles of my libertarian heart.

Hat Tip to Althouse.

On the beach

Spent the weekend in Myrtle Beach, SC participating in the annual Ghost on the Coast dart tournament.  I was pretty disappointed with the way I played.  Several times I’d be sailing along with the game seemingly in hand, and then I’d inexplicably implode, throw a few bad darts, and snatch defeat from arms of victory.  At these big tourneys I don’t expect to beat the big shots, but it is exceedingly frustrating to lose to guys I know I could beat with just a little more consistency.  Ah well, that’s how it goes sometimes.

Me and my partner for the weekend.  Joel threw well so I can't help but feel like my sloppy play let him down.

Me and my partner for the weekend. Joel threw well so I can’t help but feel like my sloppy play let him down.

Over 400 darters in attendance made for a crowded dart hall and LONG waits between matches...

Over 400 darters in attendance made for a crowded dart hall and LONG waits between matches…

Reconnecting with my old pal Duke was one of the few highlights of the weekend.  Duke is the guy who first introduced me to the sport of darts in Korea back in 2005.

Reconnecting with my old pal Duke was one of the few highlights of the weekend. Duke is the guy who first introduced me to the sport of darts in Korea back in 2005.

Checked into my tenth floor room Friday afternoon and enjoyed this view of the East Sea from my balcony.

Checked into my tenth floor room Friday afternoon and enjoyed this view of the East Sea from my balcony.

Saturday turned cold and wet and without my yobo around to remind me to bring a jacket it was a chilling experience.

Saturday turned cold and wet and without my yobo around to remind me to bring a jacket it was a chilling experience.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

My sour mood followed me to the coast.  Last year Jee Yeun was with me and I keenly felt her absence all weekend.  I had several darters come up and ask me about her.  Truth is, she is much more popular than I am.  Certainly friendlier.  We talked Thursday night at length, and the bottom line is it looks like she won’t be coming to the States anytime soon.  Her mom is not feeling any better, her father’s Alzheimer’s has gotten worse, and the apartment hasn’t sold.  She said her mother is stressing out so she wants to move to the countryside to take care of her.  Selfish bastard that I am, I told her I needed her to be with me.  It became quite apparent that if I forced her to choose between mom and me I was going to lose her.

After a sleepless night I called her again and she assured me that her love for me was undiminished, but she was the only one in the family available and capable of caring for her mother.  So that’s her priority.  I do understand that.  But I don’t have to like it.  What I can do I suppose is return to Korea.  I’d prefer to go back with a job offer in hand, but I’m not sure how long I can hold out waiting for that to happen.  I did a little networking with my buddy Duke and he promised to send my resume to one of the contractors his company manages in Korea.  The job we discussed doesn’t pay much, but it does provide SOFA status and would put me back on Yongsan.  So if an offer comes through I’d be inclined to take it.

The hotel I stayed in allegedly had WiFi, but damned if I could get it to work.  That was a pain in the ass.  So I missed the email from the folks who manage my Chase credit card advising me of possible fraudulent use of my account.  I did get a cryptic text message from Chase asking me if I had ordered $543. worth of men’s clothing online.  These days I wear blue jeans and sneakers pretty much exclusively, so obviously I had made no such purchase.  I got on the phone with the fraud department and learned that there had also been charges for over $700. in computer equipment.  Fortunately, I won’t be responsible for the unauthorized purchases.  There is still a pain in the ass factor in that my account has to be closed and a new card issued.  I didn’t want to leave Jee Yeun hanging in Korea with no resources so they agreed to allow small transactions there until I can mail her the new card.  I asked how someone could have gotten access to my account and they didn’t really want to answer directly, instead alluding to the possibility that some merchant I had used had been hacked.  Damn these first world problems anyway.

And that’s where things pretty much stand in my so called life.  The world is turning.  I hope it don’t turn away…

A close shave

 

Before...

Before…

...after

…after

Shaving off the beard proved to be a royal pain in the ass.  Took about six razors because they kept getting jammed with hair.  I had tried to buy one of those old fashioned razors with the double edged blade.  Found the blades but no razor to put them in.  So I bought a cheap-ass set of disposables and hacked away.  The ‘stache ain’t right yet, but I lost interest.  Now it’s off to get a haircut…

 

Justifying Justified

Commenter Kevin asks if I would recommend the television series Justified and if so, why?  The first part is easy: I highly recommend the show.  As to the why, I really suck at writing reviews so I’ll just offer up my general impressions and the things I liked enough to keep me watching (26 episodes in 48 hours).  Of course I don’t have a life, but still.

You can get a pretty good synopsis of the show’s premise at the link above.  Basically, it’s the story of the exploits of a quick-on-the-draw U.S. Marshal based in rural Kentucky.  Think of Matt Dillon in the 21st century.  Timothy Olyphant (you probably remember him from Deadwood) is outstanding in the lead role as Raylan Givens.  In the category of things I like, consistently excellent acting from almost all the featured characters is pretty high on my list.

I have a pretty low tolerance for stupid so I find it difficult to find shows on TV that hold my interest.  The writing on Justified is witty and gritty.  There’s plenty of action to keep you entertained, but the writers also develop complex and believable characters that you can care about.  Even the bad guys.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a television series set in the South that didn’t rely on the tired old stupid redneck stereotypes.  Don’t get me wrong, the show is chock full of hillbillies, but lots of them are quite intelligent despite the way they talk.  Just like in real life.  I particularly like Boyd Crowder, Deputy Marshal Givens’ main antagonist.  The “uneducated” son of a coal miner and Harlan County’s crime boss sounds stupid until you listen to what he says–who’d expect a dumb hick to be quoting Walt Whitman?  I especially liked how the carpetbaggers from Detroit “misunderestimated” their adversary.  Wish YouTube had some decent clips I could share of some of those interactions.  Anyway, it’s just refreshing to see Southerners portrayed as other than caricatures.

Each season has it’s own story arc, which helps keep things fresh what with characters being killed off and new ones introduced.  I’ve found it all consistently entertaining and I think you will to.  Enjoy