Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh, it's that thing again...

by 13 Stoploss

Not that we stand a chance, but that contest thingy is going on again... check it out.

My suggestion?

Vote for Alex.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Break

by 13 Stoploss

Couple weeks ago, I was feeling pretty worn out. That happens often, but Spring Break came at the right time. I'm not exactly itching to go back to school, but I feel like it should be a better quarter than the last. With time off this week, I was finally able to accomplish a few tasks I had been too busy to get to. And that reminds me of the blog. It's pretty aimless, just twisting and turning in spontaneous thought. It don't think it needs direction--it's just a collection of happenings. One of those happenings is something I keep coming back to: I don't like being in one place too long, and I don't go anywhere without a camera. That's what I want to focus on. This is my FOB. I want to leave the wire, experience something new, and bring back what I can to share.

Here's Joshua Tree National Park:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Dream

by 13 Stoploss

The dream is turning into a nightmare. It’s not the worst, but I guess I should have had more realistic expectations for the journey. It was foolish and naïve to think that it could be so awesome for so long. I’m not being the victim here—it sounds like I’m whining, but it’s just that I’ve finally noticed the pattern.

Childhood – Play-Doh and sandboxes and finger painting. Fucking ice cream was the reward of a lifetime! But you have to grow up…

Baseball – It was fun being better than everyone. It was natural for me—show me how to do something, and I’ll do it. Then I’ll do it better than everyone else. Simple, right? Yeah, until everyone got big from the juice. Then, skill didn’t matter—size did.

Disneyland – It is the happiest place on earth. I fucking love it there. I met my wife there! It was a great company to work for, and I was paid well and got promoted, but I couldn’t keep up with the slutty girls schmoozing with the managers. So, I lost my hours and couldn’t pay rent.

Army – Could have been an awesome career for a High School dropout, except that it was the fucking Army…

College – Was awesome! I was finally exposed to intelligent people with thought-provoking ideas! I was excited to learn! And when I thought I finally had made it—by transferring to very reputable university—it all went to shit. It’s a game just like everything else, and I got played. It’s neither what I expected nor what I wanted. Now, I’m exposed to cool stuff by lousy people with unrealistic expectations. Fuck them.

Career – Sounds dreamy in high school and the first part of college. It’s what is supposed to be the goal, right? A meaningful one? One to pay the bills? Something you’re good at? But it’s a grind. Always working for something, which is cool, because you can’t get something for nothing. But the landscape ain’t looking too good right now, right?

Life – So what’s the point? Where am I going with this thing? I have this fucked up journey that I’ve been through, and I’ve not forgotten where I’ve been, nor my aspirations—but is it all going to turn to piss? What do I have to offer the short-timers looking to do what I’ve done? I’m living their dream, and it turns to suck. What’s the answer? Is there one?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Military

by The Usual Suspect

Here is a nice sizzling plate of sweet bacon-ey information brought to us by Chelsea Travers:

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is becoming a common wound of modern warfare. It has even been coined the “signature wound” of the War on Terror. While TBI is becoming more prevalent in wartime activity, many service men and women continue to go undiagnosed. Institutions, like the US Department of Veterans Affairs, are working to make quick and accurate diagnoses in order to prescribe appropriate and effective treatment.

TBI is caused by forced trauma to the head, either by being shaken or hit. The severity of a TBI varies from case to case, but symptoms range from mild concussions to a debilitating state. The majority of TBI’s acquired by military personnel are classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI). Initial symptoms of MTBI consist of loss of consciousness, disorientation, loss of memory, headache, and temporary loss of hearing and vision. They are often partnered with anxiety, irritability, difficulties processing information, limited concentration amongst other problems experienced down the road. While MTBI is most common amongst the men and women of the armed forces, more severe cases of TBI are happening much more frequently and often require the victim to attended specialty rehabilitative nursing centers, like CareMeridian.

The most common cause of a TBI in the military is due to blasts. There are three degrees of blast injuries where a TBI is common; Primary (due to blast itself), Secondary (due to objects being propelled by a blast) and Tertiary (due to a collision with a third party object). According to the Veterans Health Initiative, active male members of the military from the ages 18-24 are hospitalized with a TBI at a rate of 231 per 100,000 and females 150 per 100,000. Based on military force projections this would mean that 4,141 military personnel are hospitalized on average each year with a TBI, and these numbers often rise during wartimes.

The best prevention for veterans to avert the long-term effects of a brain injury is to recognize the symptoms of a TBI. Once the symptoms are identified an individual should take basic precautionary measures in order to begin the healing and recovery process until a more specific diagnosis can be made.

Service men and women give so much to protect this country and they deserve to come home to a happy and healthy life. Creating awareness about TBI will help ensure their long term health. By helping our veterans, their friends and their families recognize the early warning signs of a TBI, treatment can be sought as early as possible.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Week That Was

by 13 Stoploss

I’m not really in a writing mood, but I’ve had a busy and somewhat successful week. So, in light of the mood I have been in lately regarding my major, or writing in general, it’s kind of interesting that my current good mood is entirely photo related.

On Wednesday, the UC Irvine Black Student Union held a silent rally. I heard about it the night before, and like every other day, I packed up my gear the night before in preparation (PCC/PCI). And I kicked ass.

After class, I walked to the Student Center and took some pictures with the Rollei and the D700. They turned out fantastic. My Flickr statistics jumped from more than 150-200 views a day to 1000-1500 views. The OC Weekly, a regional publication, began using one of my photos, as did another popular college website with heavy traffic.

The next day was the big statewide education walkout protest. Of course, I followed every waking moment of the young radicals. They walked out of their classrooms! They yelled into their bullhorns! They disrupted the library! They really rebelled, man!

Anyway, my photos continued to gain some press across the county (3+ million), and on Friday, the OC Weekly purchased some of my photos. My Flickr has had 1000+ views for the last 3 days and the streak isn’t slowing. A writer at the OC Weekly alerted me to available internships, for both writing and photo, at his rag. And, on Friday night, I covered the UCI baseball game for the school paper and got to schmuck it up with the OC Register (numero uno en el county) writer and photographer in the press box.

Not only that, but I’m being wooed to apply for editorial positions at the school paper. The two good photographers on staff are graduating and I’m scared of what will happen with someone else at the helm…

In the meantime, I have two big papers to write this week while my mind wanders off to photographic possibilities…

UC Irvine Black Student Union Silent Rally

UC Irvine Walkout - March 4, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Silent Rally

by 13 Stoploss

A week or two ago, Israeli Ambassador Oren spoke at my school, UC Irvine. He was interrupted 17 times by various members of the UCI Muslim Student Union. The 17 were arrested for violating free speech, and although 6 were actually from UC Riverside, the remaining "UCI 11" are pending discipline.

I have my thoughts, but that is unimportant for the moment. Not long after the arrests, a controversy at UC San Diego broke out concerning the annual "Compton Cookout." Shortly thereafter, a "minority student" hung a noose at the campus. Then, this opinion piece, in the UCI New University, came out, questioning the need for a black history month. Then there were some protests at UCI where rally'ers stormed the administration building and refused to leave the top floor. They were arrested. Just this week, another incident, involving a KKK-like pillowcase with eyeholes, was found at UCSD. Apparently, there were issues at UC Berkley and UC Santa Cruz as well.

Today, on behalf of the "Irvine 11," the Black Student Union and others (mostly members of the Muslim Student Union) staged a silent rally, a part of the UC BSU's "UC us now?" campaign, in the middle of the student center on Ring Road.

I was there for the action...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wide Angle to Telephoto

by 13 Stoploss

Nine years ago, I set foot on a new path in life that promised as much difficulty as it did hope and adventure. That path had its share of smooth paved roads but there were plenty of muddy ruts and potholes as well. I think I’m past that now, but it provides an interesting context to what I’m experiencing today.

When I first started down the Army path, I was naïve and hopeful. I wanted to make a better me. The Army was never my destination. Neither from the beginning, nor any other point in my career did I think it was something I wanted to do with my life. It was a contract, and nothing more than the vessel to get me where I wanted to go. But from the beginning, I found that the more I learned and the longer I was in, the more I hated what I had become and what I was being asked to do. And that’s funny, because as a private, the goal is to not be a private. More respect, more money, and more sham. As a squared-away specialist, you entertain thoughts of becoming an NCO. More respect (from the top), more money, and a different kind of sham. As a sergeant, you pretty much have it as best as it can get, for, once you’re a staff sergeant, you might as well give up. By that point, you’re stuck and the fun is over. By that point, you realize your best days are done and you’ll never quite relive the thrill of the job as you had at specialist and sergeant. So, to take a camera term, you start out with the wide-angle view of service. As you narrow your pay and focal length up the ladder, there is a point where everything seems to converge for greatness. But once passed that point, it’s all downhill.

When I went back to school, everyday was fresh and exciting. I took a philosophy class, photography class, and a human sexuality class. How does it get better than that? Although I had some shit to deal with (online Algebra), I aced my first semester and made the Dean’s list with a 4.0 GPA. My next semester was almost as good and I still had a great time. I wanted to be in class everyday—I simply couldn’t get enough. Then, in my third semester, I was both enlightened and horrified by my experiences. I had the most amazing class and some of the shittiest, as well as the burden of applying to transfer to a renowned university. After a sham filled summer, I was promoted to university. The responsibility was great. The pay was great, too, but it was difficult work. I did mostly well, but had room for improvement. The second quarter at university was full of suck. I became the staff sergeant—stuck. I’ve realized the further I go, wherever I am, the further away I am from doing what I want to be doing—even though I’m fulfilling the requirements. And now, just like the career staff sergeant, I’m following the dirtbag motions just to get through it all. The passion is gone. Work sucks and I’m left wondering what the hell happened to it all?

I like my major. I love the genre but I can’t stand my school. The university experience plain sucks. I could make more of it, but then again, I’m not nineteen or twenty years old. I have other responsibilities. But, for as much as I like what I am doing, I wonder about what I could be doing. And lately, my passion is with the camera more than the pen. I’m in a freaking journalism major and I haven’t done any writing! Examine: my JOURNALISM major requires 3 literary courses, 2 upper division history courses, and 3 related electives. The JOURNALISM courses are 2 intro classes in the first quarter, a history and ethics class on the genre in the second quarter, and then 3 workshops. Unfortunately, you can only take one workshop a quarter, and Seniors are the only ones guaranteed to get one! So, if you’re lucky, you don’t do any writing for this JOURNALISM major until the third quarter (assuming you’re a junior transfer, like me). So, that’s 5 literary and history courses, 3 intro courses, 3 writing workshops, and 3 electives that can be used for either literary or writing courses.

After all that, is there any doubt why I would rather tell a story with my camera instead of the pen? Just like in the Army, the longer I am in, the more my joy turns to gloom. No longer am I the fun-loving specialist. I’m now the staff sergeant, stuck with an irreversible plan that makes more sense to wait out than start over.

I don’t want to feel this way. I want to be a specialist again and enjoy my classes. I want to look forward to school everyday like I did then, and for once, I want to DO what I thought I was going to DO.