Friday, February 22, 2013

The Freak Out

I can’t remember the parts of the freaking compass.

The test for my FMF pin (see below) will be on Wednesday with two naval officer and a Marine officer.  I’ve never met these people, and I’m not going to lie.  I’m freaking out.

When I was a rosh edah at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, I had a group of teenage girls who kept singing this song that drove me nuts.
As a group they would call out one individual: “Hey [choose a name]”.
The individual would respond: “Hey What?”
Again: “Hey [same person]”
Again: “Hey What?”
“Do. The. Freak. Out.”
“The What?”
“The. Freak. Out”
(if the individual was super annoying, they would respond, “The What” again)
“Oh!!!!  The Freak Out:  I am freaking out!  I am freaking out!”
To which the group would respond: “We are freaking out! We are freaking out!”

I’m not sure if I fully appreciated the deeper meaning of the song.  The correct movements to accompany this chanting was clearly anticipating the popularity of the Harlem Shake, and maybe there was something in that.

Between Shabbat’s imminent arrival, Purim tomorrow, the FMF Test on Wednesday, and a trip to Guam, I’m freaking out.  I have a wife in the states, and a dog that tried to push me out of bed last night.  My RP is having a tough time with some stuff, and I'm hardly there for people who come to me for counseling this week.
And then.
The phone call.
From the base chapel’s office.
4:30 pm on a Friday afternoon.
Can't make this up.
“Rabbi, Can you give us your full schedule for Passover?”

Cue the My Cousin Vinny clip:

Maybe it was a bad time to bring it up.  Maybe.

Friday, February 15, 2013

perpetrating a fraud

After a long hiatus, Yoni and I recently started a new West Wing cycle. (For those of you unfamiliar with this practice, it basically involves watching all the episodes, in order, from beginning to end.) A couple of weeks ago we reached the beginning of the third season, wherein President Bartlet is simultaneously launching his new campaign and dealing with the fallout of concealing his Multiple Sclerosis. As he’s struggling to regain the trust of the American electorate, he is repeatedly accused of “perpetrating a fraud” against the public. For some reason, that phrase has been stuck in my head for the past few weeks – maybe because I was busy perpetrating one of my own.

Sometime in November or December, I went to an on-base class to learn how to use the Space Available Travel system. Flying Space A makes it possible for active-duty military members and their dependents to utilize extra passenger seats on military transports that would otherwise go to waste. It’s a complicated and not particularly user-friendly system, but it is a way to finagle a free flight, which is nothing to sniff at. When I told my mom that I had finally taken the class, she said “Great! When are you coming home?” And so the plotting began.

Without any trips on the immediate horizon, my mom had the idea right away that I should try to come in and surprise my dad for his birthday. After all, it’s a big one, and what could be a better present than a surprise trip home? Because of the way the Space A system works (no advance schedules, no regular routes), we both understood that there would be no guarantees; I might make it home, and I might not. But my father was scheduled to go to Paris and Israel for a week and a half with the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, so I had a decent window to try and get home before his birthday celebration.

And, miraculously, I made it! Almost immediately after my dad left for Paris, I was able to get on a flight to Hawaii that would ultimately get me to northern California, where my free ride would end.  The trip was long, and not particularly comfortable, and funny (I got to sleep on the floor of a C-17 next to a jeep that was also catching a ride), and cold, and noisy – but I made it.

Of course, I was still worried that someone would find out I was in New York and – wittingly or unwittingly – tip off my father. For the past week and a half, I have started every conversation with “I am in NY but I'm keeping a low profile so please don’t tell people or post anything on Facebook.” My mom and I also spent a long time figuring out how I could call my dad in Paris and/or Israel without tipping him off to the fact that I was in the states, (Skype dialing worked well), and discussing the best ways to execute a surprise. Perpetrating a fraud is hard work!

But it was worth it. My dad finally made it home this morning, and boy was he SURPRISED. Don’t worry – there’s a video:

All in all, I’d say this mission was a success. Big thanks to everyone who helped me pull it off – even if it was just by keeping your mouth shut! Shabbat Shalom from Forest Hills…

Friday, February 8, 2013

Test Me!!!

At this point my life has become a fearsome study session.  I have completed all the qualifications to receive my Fleet Marine Force chaplain swag, but now I need to take the oral boards.  For the first time since prepping for oral boards in Midrash, I’m cramming.  Before Shabbat starts, I want to let you all in on my flashcards, and my pain.

A study session for the Fleet Marine Force Qualified Officer Exam:

Category:    History, Customs & Courtesies 
Q:        What is the USMC birthdate? Where did this occur? How?
A:       10 November, 1775 in Philadelphia at Tun Tavern, by a resolution of the Continental Congress, which “raised two battalions of Marines.”

Category:    History, Customs & Courtesies
Q:        Who is the Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps?
A:       Gen. Archibald Henderson, 5th Commandant of the Marine Corps (1820-1859) for 30 YEARS.  He introduced higher standards of personal appearance, training, and discipline

Category:    History, Customs & Courtesies: 
Q:        What did Lt. Gen Lewis B “Chesty” Puller, USMC (Ret.) do when he needed a toothpick?
A:       He used a freakin guidon.  Damn, Chesty Puller is all that is Marine.

Which is the real Chesty?  The similarities are uncanny!

Category:    Mission & Organization: 
Q:        What is the concept of task organization with the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF)?
A:       (1) MAGTFs are balanced, combined-arms forces with organic ground, aviation, and sustainment elements;  (2) They are flexible, task-organized forces that can respond rapidly to a contingency anywhere in the world and are able to conduct a variety of missions.

Category:    Administrative
Q:        What is the roll of the command Sgt Maj?
A:       Directly responsible to the CG.  He/She acts as the principal enlisted advisor to the Commanding General on all matters pertaining to Marine enlisted personnel.   He/she acts as a member of the Commanding General's party on visits and readiness evaluations/inspection trips when enlisted personnel are involved.  He/She keeps apprised of all policies of the Commanding General and disseminates such information to enlisted personnel

Category:    Air Combat Element
Q:        What are the 6 functions of Marine Corps Aviation?
A:       Anti-Air Warfare; Assault Support; Air Reconnaissance; Control of Aircraft and Missiles; Electronic Warfare; Offensive Air Support

Category:    Ground Combat Element
Q:        What is the primary mission of the infantry regiment?
A:       Locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel his assault by fire and close combat. The infantry regiment is the major element of close combat power of the Marine division. The regiment, with appropriate attachments, is capable of independent, sustained operations

Category:    Logistics Combat Element
Q:        What does HMMWV stand for?
A:       High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle;   Baseline is the M998 series:   The M998 is an open aluminum body, canvas top, general purpose tactical truck designed for use over all types of roads and in all weather conditions.

Category:    General Combat
Q:        What are the rights and obligations of Enemy Prisoners of War?
A:       Receive sanitary, protective housing and clothing; Receive sufficient amount of food to sustain good health; Receive adequate medical care; Receive necessary facilities for proper hygiene; Practice religious faith; Keep possessions and personal property except weapons, military equipment, and documents; Send and receive mail; Receive humane treatment

Category:    Communications
Q:        What is the operating frequency range for HF?
A:       2-29.9
Q:        What is the operating frequency range for VHF?
A:       30-88MHz and 116-150MHZ
Q:        What is the operating frequency range for UHF?
A:       225-400MHz

Category:    Weapons
Q:        Give the characteristics of the M16.
A:       Lightweight * Air-cooled * Gas-operated * Magazine-fed * Shoulder or hip fired * Fully adjustable rear sight * Automatic fire (3 round bursts) * Semi-automatic fire (single shot) *  Length: 39.63 inches * Weight, with 30 round magazine: 8.79 pounds * Bore diameter: 5.56mm

Category:    Land Navigation
Q:        Name and identify the 12 parts of a compass.
A:       Luminous Sighting Dots * Sighting Wire  * Luminous Magnetic Arrow * Short Luminous Line * Fixed Index Line * Graduated Straight Edge * Sighting Slot * Lens * Thumb Loop  * Floating Dial * Bezel Ring * Lens or Rear Sight     

Learning is fun! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

these are the people in my neighborhood

This past Sunday, Yoni and I attended our second Nago Cherry Blossom Festival (the さくらまつり, if you want to get technical). 

Having experienced the festival in its totality last year, this time I felt at home enough to pay attention to more that just the parade and the flowers. Before the start of the festivities, and even during, I found myself totally captivated by the Okinawan families in attendance. People-watching is always interesting, but when the people belong to a culture that is so different from yours, the ante is somehow upped. Since I thought to bring along my papparazzo zoom lens, I'm happy to be able to share my people-watching adventures with you. 

the Orion beer factory was around the corner. of course, every small child needs a beer jacket.

i always wear my stilettos for a day of parade-watching and mountain-climbing, don't you?
there was a shocking amount of chalking happening - seemingly unsupervised - in the middle of the street.

this guy was cheerfully and loudly selling his tempura creations right behind us.
old ladies sit on the curb, too!
Of course I have to share a few pictures of the cherry blossoms themselves. They hadn't bloomed completely, but, if you made it up the mountain, there were plenty of beautiful flowers to see. 

Finally, for those of you who were particularly attached to last year's video (that's you, Abba), here's a small clip of adorable dancing children. How could I resist?