Sunday, December 10, 2006


So, one of my friends is very interested in making money. He jumps at the chance and has a tendency to get involved in get-rich-quick schemes. You know how you can sometimes get a deal at the grocery store, like $6 off admission to a theme park? Well, he recently noticed a deal, and has been selling the free gift on eBay, and getting about a 1/3rd profit on his investment... plus, he now has hundreds of cans of Coke sitting around. So, I'll say that these deals can sometimes be good for people who have a little extra time. One day we're having lunch, and I ask him about his plans after college. "I'm gonna work a few years, then I'm gonna retire." Retire? After just a few years? I could not resist asking... turns out, he's in on this pyramid's a little different from the old fahioned ones. In this one, the cashflow supposedly comes from the money that would be used for marketing for products the group members buy. Sounds simple enough, he even convinced me to give it a try. However, I'm afraid of being brainwashed into a cult: 2 other people had told me about this, and they used remarkably similar language: "Oh, we sell products every household needs: soap, energy drinks..." I can't remember the last time I needed an energy drink. Other than being brainwashed, my only concern is that the products can be found cheaper at Walmart or something. My friend tells me that they're at a substantial discount, so I'd just have to see. However, I am cautious of even getting near this organization, as it has all the warning signs of a pyramid scheme (and a cult): you pay into the system, you do all the advertising work by getting "referrals", they make you feel emotionally tied into it, by saying that "you own the business", they memorized a certain speel (the same language that I'd heard from 2 of the guys, the only two I actually talked to), and, last but not least, they convince you that every household needs energy drinks. One irresitible claim, however, is that the guy above my friend makes $300,000 a year in passive income, which is crazy. If I actually see some proof of this, I think I will give it a try. I won't spend any money unless it's the lowest price for the product and I actually need it. I'm not gonna let myself get too absorbed or spend too much time, either, and I won't risk screwing over my friends with this unless it's real!

Oh, and in case you're wondering: Ponzi had a pyramd scheme in 1920. He claimed to be able to double people's money in 90 days. People could not resist giving him some money, and he was able to pay back the initial crowd. As word-of-mouth spread about the validity of his claim, he got more and more customers, and he was able to pay people back with the ever increasing money paid into his system. However, the government had their eye on him, and soon enough, they audited him and found he was bankrupt. He managed to pay enough people back to have fans till the day he was deported, with several criminal charges from that and similar schemes, 7 years later.


Ambiguity is certainly the worst feeling to have as a New Cadet. The cadre’s “motivation” presses up against the fence. It is up to us to us to figure out that we need to climb this fence, rather than move from side to side, as the cadre are everywhere and the pressure is never far behind. Would it not be easier to show us how to climb this fence? That is my question. There is supposed to be a benefit to our active minds by putting us in these situations. Little room for creativity in a New Cadet’s schedule, they want us to use our minds to derive their way, the way of the Cadet. However, this path is shrouded by our ideas: is it the stone path, the dirt path, the asphalt, the stream, or the open door? Looking back, this may be a lesson in decisiveness, the kind that is necessary to stay alive in volatile situations like combat: there are multiple apparent routes to take but you don’t know which is fastest or where they lead. Producing some result is better than nothing, and hopefully, commonsense will prevail. If not, in these mini games of jeopardy they put us in, we ask our buds. Buds, however, become less useful as our paths separate in the course of the school year. I think if the cadre showed us ideal methods, not just that the C/SSG could change from BDUs to White Shirt back to BDUs in 3 minutes, but how, we would know what to do when we needed to get things done fast. Implementing it would be up to us, and I think that is a fair expectation when the goal is much greater than putting on clothes, or else things like clothes will take importance over greater goals in our minds.


There have been many examples of leadership I have encountered which were… unmotivational. One of my cadre for example, has punished me for not turning in my weekly accountability card on by 2200 Sunday night, when the bus I returned on arrived around 2240. Another incident, due to the fact that POTW’s were not available until Monday mornings for us early in the semester, I wrote in my accountability that I would miss Freshmen Eats, which occurs every Tuesday from around 1730 to 1830. Little did I know, another activity was planned for that time slot. I found out Tuesday about this activity, and let my immediate supervisor know. He tells the next higher up that I will be missing it, and soon both pounce on me angrily. I to this day do not know why they were mad about me not giving exact information when it was unavailable, nor why they were mad when I obviously would not be able to make the other event at the same time. These examples of punishment when reasonable effort (and yes, the Corps of Cadets has raised my standards of “reasonable effort”) and fairly unpreventable lapses in the system occur, are not helpful to anyone and can only result in less willingness to take action (I would not have been punished had I not reported to the supervisor the second time?) and some loss of faith in the system to which we give so much.

part 3

In the course of this semester, though we are locked into our class socially 99% of the time, there have been a few brief instances where we are allowed to interact with upperclassmen to benefit from their experience. Recently I talked to a senior who has been critical of my company’s procedures. My ears burned to hear dissension, but looking at it objectively opens doors to new ideas regarding leadership. He said that he is a firm believer in the saying, “Praise in public, punish in private”. One incident he cited was early in Red Phase, when a sophomore had forgotten to put his grommet on his cover when he came out to formation. The platoon leader quickly noticed and took action, sending him to the back of formation to simmer in the anticipation of punishment. However, higher members of the chain of command took notice, and proceeded to chew him out. The problem? “It is a horrible shame to be broken down in front of your peers,” he said. “At this point in the semester, Freshmen think of Upperclassmen as perfect cadets.” Breaking this quiet awe, he said, would make us lose respect for upperclassmen when we are supposed to show it the most. This poignant example, parable if you will, is useful in leadership studies, and I wish there were more in our courses.

Leadership, part 2

I’ve found that inspiration and enthusiasm for my groups mission has come foremost from situations where we were broken down together and forced to work together, like on freshmen Pride Nights. The emphasis is on the word together. I think we lost the group feelings of togetherness from New Cadet Week. Actually, we didn’t really know each other then, so it was kind of shallow, I suppose. We grated a lot over the course of Red Phase however. Maybe these were the growing pains, as we were forced to combine the “individuals” beyond the level of marching in step, this mismatched jigsaw puzzle squeezed into the form of a TC. I think this is also a difficulty of maintaining a training environment within a university like ours. When we are busy, we work without thinking too much. No time to contemplate all the drama which has ensued within our TC. Group spirit, I think, is harder to create the deeper it must run. Certainly we all feel the rush of thousands of people in sync at our home football games, but how deep is this bond? We yell with these people, and then we go home. Here, we are restrained to our dorms more than other college students. When others are having lunch with that person they met in class, we are returning to the dorm to sign ROs. When civilians have late night gatherings to unwind from the stresses of academia, we are restricted to our dorms with our TC, or asleep. Forget Big Brother and reality television where different peoples are forced to live under one roof; take a look at a day in TC 1-1.

Reflections on Leadership, part 1

I have observed in some situations, once the head disciplinarian in a certain company decides he does not like a new cadet, their lifespan as a cadet was on a countdown. Once he made a judgment on the person, it was set in stone; henceforth any bad they did would be punished in twisted ways, with the intention of convincing everyone else that this person needed to leave. Any good they did would be belittled as a rare instance/appearance of competence or at best, ignored. Before long, they would be cut off socially from their buds; as the spiral continued, the person in question would gradually cease to exist among their peers, and as punishments for the entire group based on one’s actions, or worse, of all except that person, that nothingness would turn to hate. Any mistake of theirs would spread like wildfire through the company grapevine; the more vicious of the freshmen class would publicly insult them, usually through email, as few other media afforded the freedom to speak during that red phase of training. I think this is a poor example of leadership; there are many effective ways of motivating people to do as they are supposed to. In psychology, I’ve learned that immediate punishment, in the form of push-ups, would be effective by the theory of classical conditioning. However, since these leaders were raised in such an environment, and were not allowed to use that this year, I can understand how they might be in a crucible of sorts, unable to act on their frustration until they burst out of the only outlets they find effective.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Poopy Politics

I read an analysis of Clinton's goodbye address yesterday, it included a rebuke of some of Bush's planned policies, including a military "laissez-faire" policy, ie, not acting as an international peace keeping force. And, I guess you can say that we haven’t in that we ignored crises like Durfar, and we are instigating the wars, not stopping them, but more specifically, Bush was against “nation-building”, which is the most noble explanation of this war so far. Also, his Social Security plan was a joke… “individualized investment accounts” were insecure and anti-social. Of course it can be difficult for a senior with out savings (or even with some savings) to live on their own, but at least social security makes it possible. I suppose any attempt to solve this impending problem is good, but with all the resources available to Bush in terms of analysts and such, they could have made a more realistic substitute for Social Security. That said, I am disappointed at how much politics there is in government. The only thing I can think of that would reduce the damage Washington can do is decentralizing power. Funny, I’m pretty sure that is a pillar of the Republican party, which somehow never comes to fruition. Maybe because they are greedy for their own power? I won’t speculate to that end…but my point is, the whole system is too complicated for every last voter to get a good picture of what is going on. Politicians do whatever the hell they want… there is no accountability…. Mid term elections, you say? I looked at a graph of Bush’s popularity polls. They are around 50% in 2001, then they start steadily declining until September 11th, when they get a large boost. As the hunt for Bin Laden goes awry and people realize what a bullshitter President Bush is again, they start to fall again. And what do you know, the polls start to rise right before his reelection, no doubt a result of pumping millions upon millions of dollars into campaign funding and his scare tactics. I hereby dare politicians to be honest. I will give props to Senator-elect Jim Webb for snubbing Bush at a new-senator event. Anyone who has led us into war for the wrong reasons, or without studying the entire problem effectively, using the great body of academia available in the US, does not deserve our respect. With so many people dying and distraught, it should be for their country, not for Bush.
I'm not a particularly organized guy, and I have been called lazy, and not just a few times. I do have to keep my office clean, however, so I've contemplated organization: keeping things in a certain place, AND putting them back there when I'm done using them. And so far, I have a system that kind of works, as long as the areas for different objects are not too specific, are contained separately, and the most frequently used objects are most accessible. In other words, I have developed a practical system based on 2 contrasting needs, accessibility and the appearance of cleanliness. Now, the real subject of this post is Bush. I think the best word to sum up his presidency is messy. He has pursued many policies, wihout a clear purpose, and they seem to be more based in his will than in any real need or utility. For one of his first moves, he gave a tax break to the rich with the planned surplus. Two things: a surplus is not a bad thing to keep, in case there is an emergency, like war, maybe... also, to give any significant relief to the rich, it takes a lot of money, and since they only have one vote each, it's not a good investment (yes, I am being naive. they probably automatically get 10% of the tax breaks donated to their campaigns, which provides a definite advantage.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

free-k 2

That last post reminded me of something from high school... You ever notice how some people will cut in line? I noticed...especially if they see someone they know ahead of them, that's a free pass to cut to the front. It really pissed me off, so I decided I wouldn't let people cut.

One day I'm in line, and I'm facing forward and I hear this guy, he sounds like he's a New York-er from an old black-and-white movie, he says, "excuse me, coming through" and I hear him getting closer to me... "watch out" he says, he's right behind me now. Now, I wasn't a very bold guy socially, so I mentally took a deep breath, said "NO" and tensed up. He goes, "oh, a wise-guy, eh?" and my friend who's right behind me in line says my name in a voice, a pleading voice that dies down towards the end...I turn to get my first glimpse of the perpetrator: he's escorting his handicapped sister through the lunch line. So much for me being a hero; it could not have ended worse................

The real offenders of societal rules are always so slick and opportunistic, you're unlikely to catch them..why is the world like this, why is there no inherent order? Where is the line between manners and actually bothering someone? I can see now where all the rules and conflicts over these rules may have emerged over the years.
So, I was guarding a parking lot on saturday. Banqueteers, check, everyone else, no. So I blocked the exit, and stood in the entrance, as I was instructed to do... One person would come by, I would tell them to go away, and then another person would come from nowhere and speed into the lot! So that happened a couple times...the higher-ups told me not to let ANYONE in, even if they said they were dropping someone off, because people who claimed that were parking their cars inside. So the person who snuck in was a friend of mine, when I shook my hand at him he thought I was waving... then, the people on the inside send him out, so I have to open up the exit, when another car sneaks in! So yeah, they tell me to block the entrance, and let the banqueteers come in through the exit... I'm standing out there by the road, it's freezing and windy as anything. Someone's parents come and they want to drop their daughter off, close to her building. "Nope." I said, "No one's allowed in." So then their daughter has to walk like half a mile in this shitty weather. What a piece of shit I am.... I hate frickin society, we can't have freedom because people are bad. And for what, so some old faggots could have their valet parking? And, later on, some delivery guy sneaks in...I mean, he has a legitimate reason to be there too, he's not parking, but it's the people who are breaking the rules get the advantages of the situation...
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