Brian R

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About Brian R

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  1. Thanks, that's helpful. I don't have a need for any setting beyond coarse for the french press.
  2. Been awhile since I've seen an episode from that series! It was on YouTube. --- [The one on YouTube has an awful background - see it on Hulu! DR]
  3. You ask the hard questions... My opinion only, and tons of caveats: the plural of anecdote is not data; service members and veterans are, like the rest of the country, are not a monolithic group and are highly diverse in thoughts, feelings, and experiences; etc. Also, I'll point out that I have never spent any time in combat, watching the first Gulf War on CNN (but getting other briefings in the build up. Aside: The Army estimated that 2,500 servicemen would die each day of combat. My flight school group was told that if the combat continued for a couple of months or more, we would be shipped over as pilot replacements without being trained on flying via instruments.) The folks deployed are fighting for you, on behalf of an elected government that has decided military action is the most effective policy. Our wars are our responsibility. The decisions to go to war are too easy, because very few people have "skin the game." In any given action, would you be willing to send your son/daughter/brother/sister? It would have to be for a really good reason, right? Yet we seem to have little problem sending someone else's. Partly this is because we've been very successful (tactically). We win the short battles/campaigns. Partly because of the success of the all-volunteer force. Partly because we have stopped being strategic to use other tools at our disposal, and if your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. I would argue that individual actions like tying a yellow ribbon, the constant "thank you for your service", and other actions, are not objectionable in and of themselves. However, they can collectively add up as a societal reaction that substitutes sincere respect for the hard thinking (and work) of why we are sending these folks overseas over and over, and how we take care of them and their families. I can't find the cite, but society pays roughly 4-5 times the cost of an actual war/deployment over decades after it's over. You can Google "please don't thank me for my service" and get a plethora of responses. To quote from one New York Times article: As they say, read the whole thing.
  4. Well, no one planned for Afghanistan and Irag to last ten years. The plan was a quick mobilization, then out. We had "Mission Accomplished", and when that did not work, it was followed by numerous surges and repeats of "the next six months are crucial." With less than three percent of Americans serving, most of the public is removed from the question of war. I would argue we've gone a little too overboard with the admiration (adoration?) of the military, as that has become a substitute for asking the hard questions. And let's face it, we have fewer casualties than with Vietnam, never mind Korea or WWII. So out of sight, out of mind is a factor. My concern is the long term. We are the best military in the world at tactics. We lacked (and still lack) any coherent strategy. "Hope is not a plan." Many vets have raised concerns, and have entered government and elected offices of both parties. The trend traditionally was for military personnel to be neutral. Some of the older officers I knew did not even vote, as that would be partisan. I don't believe that's the case now. Anyway, there's certainly lots to consider going forward....
  5. Throwing this out to the experts, as I truly have no idea: What is the quality of the grind on manual grinders? Several advertise that they have burr grinders, and are adjustable. They tend to be cheaper than the $200+ electric grinders. They have that old-timey, nostalgic aesthetic, if you are into that. So what are the drawbacks, other than manual work? Is it marketing, and they're actually not as good? Inconsistent grind compared to the quality electrics? For comparative purposes, the type of manual grinder I'm asking about would be similar to the ones from this company, not the grinders that look like traditional pepper mills.
  6. One of the major differences between then and now is the All-Volunteer Force. After Vietnam, General Creighton Adams purposely designed the National Guard and Reserve components to house critical support (and combat) units. This was so if the country ever went to war with the volunteer force, the hometown reservists would also have to be called up making the decision to go to war a harder commitment. Needless to say, we've figured out ways around that. Enlistments can still last 2-4 years, depending, and people still get out. Commissioned active duty officers typically have a four-year commitment, with aviation (because of a year of flight school/officer's course) at six. Two combat tours for career soldiers and officers was normal then. Today, I have several friends who stayed in who were deployed 6-7 times for a year each over 20 years. The strain on the force is immense.
  7. Third the recommendation. I've been coming here for ten years. Great family owned place, consistently good pho. I'd still put Pho 75 as slightly better, but this has been my go to place for ages here. My daughters have been enthusiastic ambassadors with their high school friends and would use this place as a late night (or pre-social night) meet up. My oldest even used the mom and the restaurant in one of her college essays, precisely because she always felt at home there. Standard go-to for takeout when the youngest daughter is sick.
  8. I, too, have been on a quest for good European-style reds, with little success. Online, some have said that Maison Cubi Syrah Carignan is pretty good. I have not tried it, nor have I seen it here locally. I second the La Petite Frog, which has been perfect for when grandmothers visit the house and want a single glass of white. It's also a great go-to wine for cooking/deglazing if I don't have sherry. Not sure if I read it here or elsewhere, but at one point I thought Le Petite Frog was the house wine at the Inn at Little Washington (although I'm not sure that's still the case.) Although not my preferred style, I've found that Big House Red perfectly serviceable for occasions like graduation parties where I have a lot of people who don't care about wine that much, and but will happily go through a box or two.
  9. Aw, man. That was the Star Wars substitute for us kids living in Germany with families that refused to pay $5 for the English language version in the German theaters (versus 25 cents for movies on base). I used to play that theme on the trumpet as a kid.
  10. Front Royal, Stopped at Blue Wing Frog for a Sunday brunch. This was also mentioned upthread. Interesting place to come to visit. They try to make homemade as much as possible, including ketchup, peanut butter, bread, etc.. Beef for the burgers is local grass fed, etc. Coffee is freshly ground and a pour over, which was really good on a rainy morning. They have an eclectic set of local Virginia and California wines, plus some local ciders, beers, and even a collection of mead (meads?). Most bottles of wine go for $22-24, with the most expensive being $28. I had the the "Death by Pork" sandwich, which was a thick slice of butterflied pork loin stuffed with sausage, sage, and sautéed sweet onions, all wrapped in bacon with a fried egg on top. Interesting concept, and not bad, but not as much sausage/sage flavor that I would have expected. I made the assumption that the "Crispy Garlic Taters" were a form of homemade tater tot, but think more along the lines of large home fries. I would try it out again, and it might be worth grabbing stuff for a picnic. Do NOT expect the preparation to be quick. They are very up front about it, and we did not mind. However, as they advertise themselves as a "Picnic Market and Brew", do not expect to come and and do a quick carryout unless you are ordering pasta salads and bottled beverages.
  11. Dos Maderas 5+5 PX rum on the rocks. Because the cheap wine I had earlier was not enough for the week.
  12. To your first sentence, "I've always assumed that the "correct" stance about torture is, "Make it illegal under all circumstances, and if you do it, be prepared to pay the price if you're caught." I would tend to agree. An essay against torture in all cases can be found here. This also examines the assumptions behind a ticking time bomb scenario. Another interesting article locally about the interrogation of German POW's at Fort Hunt can be found here. Many of the old timers did not approve of today's "enhanced interrogation techniques." To your first question: "So, is Dershowitz right, or not?" I would tend to say no, because he starts with the assumption that since this is wrong, but someone will do it anyway, we need to find a legal means to do it. Society can choose to make anything legal. The Constitution once allowed legal slavery. That did not make it moral. See also, Germany, Third Reich. Everything there was completely legal under German law. To make such an exceptional choice, the action must be effective. The Hersch said it best upthread: Torture is designed to give the torturer what the torturer wants. In that way, it's similar to the corrosive relationship between slave and master, in that this act affects the torturer as well as the tortured. From Thomas Jefferson: Sometimes the morals and principles are not just to protect the victims, but to protect the would-be perpetrators and society at large.
  13. Just wanted to give a shout out to Southern Skies Coffee Roasters. Two employees, including Beto, who is a member of the community here. Ordered a couple of pounds of Costa Rica Tarrazu that I have French-pressed for a few days now and have really enjoyed it. City roast, not overly done. Seems to be the only coffee available right now.
  14. As I just spent a few days in the area, I thought I would give an update. Artisan Grill is closed, and I did not visit the Mimslyn Inn. Gathering Grounds was the most interesting in the area, and they are trying to casually upscale the offerings. They offer sandwiches and homemade baked goods. On Fridays and Saturdays, they are open until 8:00 PM, and offer 3-4 dinner entrees. This weekend was a grilled flank steak, stir fried shrimp with vegetables, and a sautéed chicken breast with gravy. My wife and I both ended up ordering a Turkey Cobb sandwich. The turkey breast was roasted and thickly sliced, and the bread was warm. The sandwiches did not have avocado, which for some reason I expected in a sandwich called "Cobb", but my wife and I both enjoyed ours. Besides a limited number of wines, they also offered Old Hill Cider on tap, which I had never had before. We each split a slice of chocolate chess pie and a German chocolate brownie, both of which were too rich for us to finish in one go. I would not call this a destination place to come to Luray for, but if you are there, it's a decent place to try that's a step or three above Uncle Buck's. I'd go back and try their coffee and breakfast. We had to leave before they opened on Sunday. We did eat at Uncle Buck's for a pre-hike breakfast, and I had the Chicken Fried Steak, which was passable, and had the advantage of being beef, which I did not have the night before. Which is the segue to avoid Hawksbill Diner outside of Stanley, which is just south of Luray. It was close to our rental on a Friday night where we were tired of driving. Tons of cars out front offered the promise of a good meal, but it was not to be. The most positive things about the diner was that it is cheap, and the staff and customers were all super friendly. The Chicken Fried Steak was a small round fried chicken patty you would put on a sandwich. My wife had the fried chicken, and the fried batter/breading was so salty, I could only have a couple of bites. Maybe breakfast is better, but we never went back. There will be a new restaurant opening soonish in Luray on Main Street, called Moonshadows. The website describes the cooking as, "a rustic blend of international cuisines using unique ingredients sourced locally when possible." It may be another restaurant worth trying eventually. So Luray remains an "OK" place, but nothing really outstanding or containing any restaurant I'd go out of my way for. Both Front Royal and Staunton are both about an hour away, so there's not a lot of alternatives if you are staying in the area.
  15. OK, I can speak to the differences between officer and enlisted, as I was both. I enlisted in the Virginia National Guard after my freshman year in college, so I was 19 when I left for 13 weeks of training that summer as a combat engineer, or as we called ourselves, "infantry with brains." Build and blow up bridges, lay and blow up mine fields, etc. Almost everyone in my training company were the same age, and had been through one year of college -- we were all reservists or Guard, not active duty. Everyone was still from all over -- Puerto Rico, Mississippi, Kentucky, etc. All that made a real difference in terms of discipline issues and maturity, because you had already been away from home - it was not the first time. You had had to operate on your own, make good and bad decisions on your own, etc. Not that you were an experienced "man about town" or exceptionally mature, but it made a clear difference. Sister training companies in our battalion were made up of mostly 18 year old high school graduates who were going on to active duty, and there were far more discipline problems with individuals in those companies. Training was also very different. Basic training pounds into you repetitive actions that you can do without thinking. The idea is that when you are bone tired, in strange place, everyone around you gone, you can still do your job. To this day I can still strip down and put together an M-16 rifle blindfolded. I still know to pinch a big toe for blood circulation after putting on a leg splint for a broken leg. After returning to Virginia and my home unit, I quickly learned that officers were just as dirty and wet, but were paid more. I did not originally consider active duty, because in my mind I was going to be a PhD in Marine Biology, thanks to the Jacques Cousteau specials I watched. My GPA took a big hit for the long time it took me to accept reality. In the meantime, I joined ROTC, but not on a scholarship. Officer training is different. You are trained in how to lead people, psychology, military history, military law, etc. It's also competitive. You are evaluated and ranked, and that makes a big difference if you are assigned to active duty versus guard or reserve. It also makes a difference in what branch of the Army you will be an officer. ROTC training culminated in a summer camp where 10% of the cadets were forced ranked as top, another 20% in the second tier, then everyone else. ROTC at the time of the Vietnam was somewhat similar, according to my dad who did two tours and stayed in for 20 years. So jokes about lieutenants saying, "I've been thinking...." have been around since, well lieutenants. Good ones do rely on their senior NCO's to help and guide them. But they are in charge, and they are responsible. There were, and are, good ones out there. I'm not sure what the alternative is, as war is inherently a young person's game. As to the Nazis: You were officially a Nazi if you were a member of the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Which many were, as that was a stepping stone to the right schools, government and military positions, and business contracts. Some estimates were that about 10 percent of Germans were official members. So of course many more were not. Obviously, Nazi was used by the Allies as shorthand for all Germans, but it's not like there were significant competing viewpoints in the government or industry there. Allied forces also differentiated between Waffen SS forces and regular Wehrmacht forces. The SS were the "true believers." Propaganda, fear, a Depression, and national pride all combined to create a populace that elected them to office (after intimidating and then later eliminating the opposition), and acquiesced to a national expansion. Hitler was beloved by many Germans, especially in the middle class, and was nicknamed "the people's Chancellor." And he was hated by a small minority, many of whom were eliminated with efficiency. There's a reason the Allies divided Germany, and Germany itself undertook a very long term, serious, painful, and honestly, unique evaluation of its collective responsibility during the war. And again, there's nothing inherently German about how this came about. Any group of human beings are potentially capable of the same thing. See the Bosnian War or Rwanda for recent examples how quickly neighbors that had lived with each other for generations quickly turned on each other. Or even the Stanford Prison Experiment where regular, perfectly nice people like you and me happily became sadistic prison guards. And of course Abu Ghraib. That's the scary part -- as humans, we are all capable of doing the same thing. As to MRE's: 2,600 calories of wholesome goodness per meal, with the side effect equivalent of taking Imodium for days. It was a happy day when MRE's began coming with their own mini-bottles of Tabasco Sauce to improve the flavor. Hunger also improves the taste of almost anything.