Monday, January 31, 2011

Spring Semester 2011, Part II

I decided to go with the paper on the Arctic issue. I think it brings up a more interesting question. The base of the OPC question is really just a resource allocation question...if we had enough money to do this, should we? Yes. We don't, so what are our spending priorities?

The Arctic question has the resource allocation aspect, but also has a lot of other dimensions to it. So it might be a harder paper to write, but I'll likely learn more from it.

And, and, AND!!! In my Info Policy and Technology class, I've got the **coolest** assignment! One of the discussions today was about "technology determinism" v. "enactment." The basic premise is that many times technology is used to determine an outcome...changing the technology will change the behavior of the people/institution. Enactment, though, indicates that most organizations have a certain way of doing things, and injection of technology will not substantively change those methods.

So, this sounded to me just like trying to implement ALMIS -> LIMS in surface forces, and the desired shift in attitudes about surface force maintenance decisions as we deal with aging assets. I brought it up in class, and then talked some more with the professor about it during break. (Side note: Chris' take on the Coast Guard, made to the class as a whole after I got done with my little revelation:  "the Coast Guard has a disproportionate number of people who 'get it.'" How cool is *that*?! I love it when people outside the organization recognize my shipmates as being particularly smart, hardworking and dedicated, good at what they do and well-deserving of all the good things said about them.)

I mentioned that I wanted to clarify, for myself mostly, but also so I can explain it to other people, what the cultural obstacles are to the desired outcome from the implementation of new technology. As I tried to explain it, the aviation community kinda grew up with an ALMIS-type system, though I'm sure it wasn't called that from the start...but they've always had thorough pre-flight checklists. If anything on those checklists isn't a positive indication for flight, the flight isn't done with that airframe. The surface community is still operating under 200 years plus of maritime tradition of we have to go out, but we don't have to come back. And I know, I KNOW, that does not paint the whole picture and is changing, thank goodness. But it was the easiest (fastest, simplest to understand) way to encapsulate the attitude differences for a non-Coastie crowd. I think the surface culture issue is actually more about the scope of the Commanding Officer's responsibility than the dominance of the mission at least for cutters. And I think small boats have another, different set of complexities, which only makes it more complicated. But I didn't really have time to get into all of that in class.

Chris suggested that I make this my individual project for the class!! That's what I'm so excited about. Sure, sure, there's the whole great thing about getting class credit for doing something that I wanted to do anyway, but I'm more excited about the anticipated feedback, interaction and jeez, general help from him and the class as a whole for making my end product better. If I can explain the jumbled mess in my head about the different cultures for a group of people that don't know much about the Coast Guard, it may help to quiet the background noise and really distill the issue.

So I'll be starting with the CORE PRIME, and making an initial presentation to the class in two or three weeks. Yay!! I like this semester *so much* better than last semester!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spring Semester 2011

This was a recent text conversation between me and my sister. She texted me to vent (something about chickens??), and me, not having anything very useful to say, texted back, "Oof, sorry. This might make you laugh, tho...I'm reading the assignment for my federal budgeting class-& enjoying it! How crazy is that!?"

Her response, "You are not well."

I acknowledge the fact that what I am studying this semester is usually viewed as dreadfully boring, complex, unsolvable and generally yucky. BUT, one week into classes, I'm diggin it. I think it's because I feel like it's going to be useful to me. Like, actually useful. Like I may actually use it. Or at least use it to help me understand more of what's going on around me.

I'm taking four classes this semester (no more five class-crap...that was a rough go, especially when it was a) my first semester back in school after 13 years, and b) two of those classes were statistics and microeconomics...blech!).  1) Federal Budgeting and 2) Finance or Public Financial Management (it's listed as both in the course listings) seem like they will overlap fairly significantly. But as much as that annoyed me last semester, I think it will be good in this case. The classes will be approaching the subject from slightly different perspectives, and both the professors bring significant real-world and academic experience to the class. And I guess the reason that I'm enjoying these two classes is that I have a very rudimentary understanding of the subject and I think, I hope, I'll get to use what I learn in them during my HQ tour.

3) Public Policy and Private Enterprise in National Security is taught by Dr. Jacques Gansler, former Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and explores the role of private enterprise (contractors and other private sector entities) in public policy discussions, particular in this case to national security. I'm going to do my best to go into this class with an open mind, fully cognizant of the fact that my limited experience with contractors has all been bad. Not just bad, but HORRID BAD!! Hopefully the class will help be gain some perspective that not all contractors are robber barons and scoundrels. There are a bunch of military guys in this class from the Air Force, Navy and Marines. I'm the only Coastie. Hope I can hold my own and re*present*. We have three policy memos to write; we get to pick the first topic. So, dutifully, I pondered what I could write about, and sent off this happy little email to my professor this morning:

I have a few ideas for topics for the first memo, and would like some feedback on which you think might be most appropriate.

--Arctic maritime domain issues: as Arctic routes become more feasible for commercial shipping traffic during summer months, the US needs to determine what our security interests are in the region, and how we anticipate addressing those issues.

--The recent RAND Corporation study assertion that alternative fuels are not feasible for military applications: could be similar to the discussion around HD systems from our first case study, in that military R&D could have huge impacts on civilian use of the technology.

--OMB's threat to cut funding for the Coast Guard's Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC): the CG is in the very preliminary stages of OPC acquisition, but the organization does not have a strong record of acquisition proficiency as demonstrated by delays and cost overruns on the National Security Cutter and Fast Response Cutter programs.
(Harsh, I know, but I'm just paraphrasing from a Congressional Research Service report from October 2010 on Deepwater Acquisition Programs)

Any direction you can provide on relevancy to your expectations or need for narrowing the topics would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Gansler's response:
I wish I could cut them down, but all three are very good and relevant. So I would like you to pick the one you want.
Sorry I was not much help.
Good luck! 

Well, at least I know I'm on the right track. But I really don't know which one to write about. I'll probably go with the OPC one, just because I have a strong, sturdy, really, *really* big soapbox ready to go for that one.

My last class, 4) is Information Policy and Technology. It should be very interesting, if very scary, talking about all the ways that technology is fast out-stripping the policy. The professor is Chris McGoff, DC-based consultant and author of a new book, The Primes. What I've read of it so far is spot on with what I know about change and organizational transformation (which could be put on the head of a pin, but what he says makes sense from a leadership perspective anyway).

One thing I've noticed about this set of classes is that the professors seem inclined to provide more than just the knowledge and skills. They want us to have some of the background theory. Like Chris (yes, that's what he told us to call him) using his book about organizational change for an information policy class; and reading two classic works, Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Elting Morrison's Men, Machines and Modern Times, for the private enterprise/national security class. It took me a little bit to see the logic behind this, especially with the Kuhn and Morrison books. But I think in that case it has to do with impressing upon us the importance of an outside, capitalist perspective that entrepreneurs can bring to stodgy old bureaucracies. But I kinda hope the professors address a little more thoroughly why they're having us read seemingly random stuff for their classes.

Oh, one last thing about this semester. I only have classes two days a week, Mondays and Tuesdays. Mondays are a little long, starting at 9 am (though I am going to try making the 7 am yoga class a regular thing), and ending at 9:30 pm (with a four-hour break in the middle for lunch and a nap). But it was a little odd getting out of class at 4 pm on Tuesday, knowing I was done for the week.

Off to read a couple of chapters from Federal Budgeting Systems.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review of Books

Classes start tomorrow. I think I'm ready for it. I've had plenny time off...especially now that I'm back on the frigid east coast. I need something to take my mind off how freaking cold it is outside.

But one of the best things about having time off like I've just had is that I got to read...lots of books of my own choosing. Nothing for school, no required reading, and no pressure. Here's a review of the books:

--Love My Rifle More Than You, by Kayla Williams: Ms Williams was an Army Specialist and spent a deployment in Iraq. She writes very candidly about her experiences spending so much time with a bunch of guys under some pretty stressful circumstances. I found a lot of common ground with what she had to say, mostly with her reactions to being one of very few women surrounded by men and the camaraderie that develops in operational units. The tedium of standing the watch. What it feels like to walk into a D-FAC. I don't think it's the end-all, be-all statement of women in the military, but it is a good, honest portrayal of one woman's experiences.

--Deadliest Sea: The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Coast Guard History, by Kalee Thompson: This is the story of the rescue of 42 of the 47 people onboard F/V ALASKA RANGER in the Bering Sea in March, 2008. The vessel lost a rudder and sank within a few hours, about 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor. The Coast Guard units involved in the rescue include USCGC MUNRO, D17 Command Center, and multiple aircraft from Air Station Kodiak. It was a well-written book, full of accounts from the crew of the fishing vessel as well as responders. And it's always fun to recognize people in books...LT Jimmy Terrell and CAPT Lloyd from MUNRO and Liam Larue from NTSB.

--A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS and Dangerous Days at Sea, by Richard Phillips: I was in Bahrain when the MAERSK ALABAMA was attacked, which I think is the same time zone as Somalia. We were all abuzz about it when it happened, so it was really cool to read the back story. And it was interesting to hear about the life of merchant marines. I've boarded a ton of commercial vessels, but never really took the time to ask about how the ship runs on a daily basis. I also think that piracy is an area that we, the CG, are uniquely positioned to combat...ya know...WPBs, which are a great platform for chasing pirates, that are looking for work in that area of the globe. Anyway, I enjoyed this book for a number of reasons: Mr Phillips talking about the duties of being a Captain, the mental preparations he made for underway trips, and the insights into how the merchant ships run. The casual brutality of the pirates, as well as the deaths, were not part of what I enjoyed, but were definitely integral to the story.

--Third World America,  by Arianna Huffington: The first few chapters of this book are ungodly depressing, mostly about how America is falling apart as a country. How the poor are getting poorer while the rich sit in their ivory towers eating gold-plated caviar, how our education and health care systems are in crisis, how our infrastructure is crumbling and desperately needs investment. But Ms Huffington does offer a few niblets of encouragement, practical suggestions that everyday people can take to help shore up the American dream. Mostly bleeding heart liberal spin on the current state of affairs, but not all gloom and doom.

--Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewelry Box, by Madeleine Albright: I heard Madame Albright speak at the end of last semester. She was on campus for the Sadat Lecture for Peace and spoke about the potential for peace in the Middle East. She was a brilliant speaker, engaging, cogent and well, funny. I enjoyed this book also, with its beautiful pictures of so many different pins. But I really want to read Madame Secretary: A Memoir.

--Uncommon Valor: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned It in Afghanistan and Iraq, by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and John D. Gresham: What a powerful book. It tells about six servicemen who earned the Medal of Honor, all awarded posthumously. I think it came out before Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was recognized in November, 2010 with his Medal of Honor. The book also gives a nice history of the medal and its recipients. The most frustrating story was about Joe Foss, a WWII Medal of Honor recipient who traveled with his medal in January, 2002. He was stopped by airport security for "suspicious objects" in his jacket. He missed his flight after being detained and questioned as a possible terrorist suspect for carrying something that looked like a Japanese throwing star. The airport security screeners didn't recognize was his Medal of Honor. The stories about the more recent recipients were powerful stories of men who recognized their duty and unhesitatingly made decisions that were devastating to themselves, but saved the lives of those soldiers and sailors around them.

--The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz: There is controversy about whether this is a true story. Records prove that Slavomir Rawicz was not one of the group that escaped from the Siberian prison camp in 1941. Regardless, it's still a good read about the power of perseverance.

And even though classes start tomorrow, I'm in the middle of two books right now: The Trumpet of Conscience, by Martin Luther King, Jr and Fannie's Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook, by Chris Kimball. Hopefully I'll get to finish them both before things get too crazy with school work.

Just so you don't think that all I read is hard-core non-fiction, I'll come clean and admit I also read some fiction including Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith and The Sleeping Beauty, by Mercedes Lackey.

And of course, there's a few books that I still want to read:
--Mark Twain's Autobiography...He wouldn't let it be published until 100 years after his death...should be good.
--Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand...recommended by a friend.
--Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, by Michael Korda...I heard about it on NPR and it sounds interesting.

Anybody got any other recommendations?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I (Heart) Waialua

All three (woohoo...I still have three readers!!) respondents said they'd like to see the I <3 Waialua photoessay. Don't know why I couldn't get the <3 in the title, but there ya go.

And really, this is more than just Waialua, 'cause some of the photos are from Haleiwa, too. But they're right next door to each other, easy biking distance, and when I think of Waialua, I can't really separate out Haleiwa in my mind.

I've lived in Waialua on and off since 2002, when I was stationed on USCGC WASHINGTON (WPB 1331) when she was still homeported in Honolulu. I bought my first house there and then sold my first house there. But I bought another one at the same time, and have owned it since 2005. I haven't lived there very much. I got my orders to USCGC HAMILTON (WHEC 715) five months after moving onto Ka'amo'oloa Rd. Which is a damn shame, because it's a really sweet little house, in a wonderful neighborhood. My mom lives there now, so I'm lucky enough to get to visit. Which is what I did for the last month.

This is the road into Waialua, Kaukonahua Rd, also known as Mountain Rd or Snake Rd, because, well, it comes down the mountain, and it's really windy. But I really love that first view you get of the town from the hill, with the ocean in the background. You can usually see from pretty far away what the ocean conditions are like, if it's flat calm or the waves are big or if it's windy white-cap crap.

This is Mt Ka'ala, which is the highest peak on Oahu, and part of the Waianae mountain range dividing the North Shore from the West side. Mt Ka'ala has many moods, sometimes with low-hanging clouds skirting her foothills, and other times crispy clear, like this one.

 And this is in the old cane fields right close to my house. The sugar cane mill shut down in 1989, I think (or was it 1986?), and now small scale, local farmers lease the land and grow diversified vegetables and fruits, mostly for sale to Chinatown. I don't know what the structure is in the picture, some sort of old chimney or something.

One day, riding my back from yoga class through the cane haul roads that weave through the area, I came across this sculpture. I have no *idea* who made it or why it's just sitting there behind the ruins of some cane equipment, but I love that it's there, guarded by stalwart Norfolk pines. It's kinda a good reminder to appreciate beauty wherever you see it, not just where you expect to find it.

Sticking with the current scenic theme, this is the view from the road up to Peacock Flats. Which, I guess technically is in Mokuleia, but heck, Waialua, Haleiwa, Mokuleia all blend together for me. Anyway, this is just past mile marker 2.5 I think. The first mile of the trail is pretty flat, and then the rest of the 3.5 mile trail is straight up the foothills of Mt Kaala. The views are beautiful; you can look west towards Kaena Point, or east (like this one) back towards Waialua and Haleiwa.

And then when you get to the top, there's a lovely clearing with picnic tables, and some camping spots. I've never camped up here, but people do. It must be so peaceful and quiet. The clearing is ringed by eucalyptus trees and Norfolk pines, and a conservation group is trying to reestablish some native species as well.
Once the hike up the mountain is done, though, it's time for the beach. This is at Aweoweo Park, or Cement City, and was one of my favorite places to run this last month. I could run the 3.25 miles there, do some push ups, pull ups and sit ups on the jungle gym, take a dip, rinse off, and then run home. And the water in the water fountain is really good. Except when I turned it on full blast and it shot straight up my nose. Phthwwaa.

But Aweoweo is not necessarily the nicest beach around. That would probably by Kaiaka Beach, which technically is in Haleiwa, if anyone's being picky.This is looking west towards Kaena Point. Just around the sandy point in the photo is where the Waialua River meets the ocean. When it rains lots and lots, the river dumps plenny chocolate water into the ocean.
Kaiaka is such a nice spot because, unlike lots of other beaches in the area, it has a nice sandy bottom, instead of coral or rock. The big waves break pretty far out on the outside reef, and usually just send in little ankle-slappers to shore. One main reason I <3 Waialua...this photo below was taken on New Year's Eve day. I love that any day can be a beach day!

And then there's the folks you share the beach with. Mom and I had gone to Kaiaka, just the two of us. So I had to ask the very handsome, in shape gentleman who was hanging out a couple of yards away to take our picture. Darn.

Back at the homestead, Mom found this little, itty-bitty gecko in her room. He's no more than an inch long, and about as thick as a dime. So very cute!

And can you see the two lizards in this photo? There's one each on the center and right-hand rock. There's a native shrub, pohinahina planted by the front steps, that I swear the lizards use as a condo, there's so many of them living in it. But they are very territorial, and I think these two were about to brawl.

And one more, where's the lizard? This one's a pretty good sized one, maybe 5 inches from tip to tail. You can see the yellow/white stripe running all the way down his back. Oh, and that's the pohinahina I just mentioned.
So where are all the people? I save the best for last! Our 'hood is fantabulous. Such wonderfully great people (not even gonna *mention* the exception), in such a beautiful location. This was New Year's Eve. Mom hosted a potluck down at her end of the street, under the driveway tarp. The Adams' brought down a bunch of fireworks and we had a go at them in the street. Our little branch of Ka'amo'oloa Rd is bordered on one side by the Pa'alakai neighborhood and on the other by larger, more homestead-like lots. Who all LOVE fireworks!! We could see full aerials going up in three different directions. So super cool! The noise and light show lasted until about 1 am.

 These last two photos are of the same place, different days. The first one is when Molly (center), Marissa (right) and I took a biking booze cruze through Haleiwa. Molly and I picked up Marissa at her house, then pedaled on the bike path to Haleiwa Joe's. We enjoyed some fruity umbrella drinks and some pupus there, then got on our bicycles and trundled off to Luibueno's. Molly had to bail on us to go pick up her husband at the airport, home from Iraq for R&R, but Marissa's friend Michelle joined up with us. Some drinks, chips and salsa at Luibueno's and then we were off to Cholo's. Enroute Cholo's, we passed Bonsai Sushi, and heard live music, so once we were done being treated like tourists at Cholo's, we ended the evening with sake and sushi at Bonzai. So yummy and fun. I learned how to check in to places on Facebook that evening :)

And then the evening I left, we stopped at Haleiwa Joe's again for pupus. In the photo are: my mom, Karen (sorry about the picture, Mom...I don't know if I caught you with your mouth full or what); my cousin Karen (Elizabeth) and her beau, George visiting from West Virginia; Uncle Terry and Auntie Jane; and Travis (who doesn't usually look that much like a vampire) and Marissa (who always takes a great photo!). Along with being my last night there, it was Uncle Terry's birthday. I heard some crazy number over 66 being thrown out there for his age, but I don't believe he's a day older than 55!
One last thing I <3 about Waialua, besides the scenery, the beach, the neighborhood and the people...I <3 the sunlight. It doesn't show up very well in this picture, but it's as close as I could come. I love the way the light falls through the foliage, the sharp edges of the palm fronds' shadows on the grass, and how the golden light accentuates the green leaves and the bright blue sky. It's so crisp and clear. It gives me hope and helps me to breathe.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mish Mash

Dear Blog,

I'm so sorry I've neglected you these last few weeks. I could try to use the excuse of holiday chaos, but it's been pretty low key here in Waialua. Or it was once I got that last take-home exam turned in on day two of being here. The only thing I can attribute my lack of attention to you is plain old laziness.You are still very important to me, and I think about you lots and lots, but I just don't know what to write about right now. Grad school, especially between semesters at grad school, does not offer the rich fare of stories and ponderances that shipboard life supports.

I have a few ideas for posts:
--an exploration of solitude versus loneliness. It may turn out to be an exercise in semantics, but I think there really might be something there, even if it is pretty intensely personal.
--why the phrase "structural integrity" is so important to me. I found myself using it in a totally new context just yesterday, and kinda surprised myself with the general applicability for my worldview.
--an "I <3 Waialua" photoessay. Need to take more pictures if I'm gonna do this one.
--the Lazy Girl's post: excerpts from a paper I wrote for my Moral Dimensions class last semester on the ethics of women in combat. Totally cliched, but there were some good points for exploration, especially within the context of how the CG approaches job-related gender concerns.
--Book reviews: I've read a bunch of good books lately (now that I have time to read *and* digest them, instead of just plowing through a reading assignment on to move quickly onto the next one...note to self: five classes with heavy reading loads was too much; totally different mentality from 15 hours a day on the bridge).

So, readers, what do you think? I'll try to get my next post up within a week or ten days. What should I write about?

--Just a Girl