It seems like as soon as I sit down and finally get started…

I get interrupted.

Had an interesting day yesterday. One of the highlights of the day was the award ceremony for one of my friends, CPT Riffe. Congressman Richard L. Hudson appeared for the presentation of the Soldier’s Medal to CPT Riffe for saving the lives of an elderly couple from a burning vehicle.

I get back to my desk, and as soon as I finally get started on wrapping up this investigation I got tasked with… I get interrupted. For important or significant events, I’m all in, like the ceremony.

But to fucking click slides? Man, fuck that! I spent two hours on that bullshit. Talk about wasted time. The task did not need a Captain to do it. It didn’t even need a Private to do it. Why the fuck couldn’t it have been someone already in the fucking meeting!

To interview for command or not

I’m at an interesting point in my life, and in my career. As of now, I still have about three years until retirement. Yes, I’ve done 18, but I have a year break in service, which means three instead of two years left.

Given the rules of my job, I need to successfully complete company command to advance from Captain (O-3E) to Major (O-4). Thing is, I don’t give a shit about promoting, awards, special assignments or special schools.

An Officer who gets passed over twice for promotion may ride out his career if and only if by the second failure to promote, he stands within two years of retirement eligibility. Otherwise, the U.S. Military will have let him go.

I don’t get looked at for promotion to Major until next year, maybe after summer. Presuming I don’t get selected, and fail again the following year… who cares. I’ll just retire. I’ll retire as a Captain and not a Major, but the difference is small.

I calculated the present value of the perpetuity (the pension) a couple years ago, not including in kind benefits such as medical. If I did my math right, the difference comes to about $250K. Is it worth it? No. Not for me. Not given what I’d have to trade off to get there.

What would I trade off? Writing these blogs. Pursuing my side hustle. Quiet time away from work.

There’s an opportunity within the next week for me to interview for command. It wouldn’t be a guarantee that I’d get selected for command, but inon-selection would be guaranteed if I didn’t.

Why am I even considering it if I really don’t give a shit? Because I’m being asked to. Other Soldiers actually want to work alongside me. I don’t give a shit about promoting for me.

I’m tempted to say that no one ever looked out for coming up through the ranks – that’s for from true, because I realize I’ve had plenty of help.

The amount of friction, looking back, overwhelms the amount of support I received. By far.

I never got a duty station I wanted. I mean never. My first duty station was Hawaii (2001–2005). I picked it and actually went because I scored the highest in GPA at my first MOS school. I didn’t realize it was an option until the list of choices were presented and I somehow got first pick. This girl wanted to trade me for it, for $400. I said yes. But just an hour later, it was too late. No take-backs.

After that? 29 Palms. Pittsburgh. Fort Polk. Camp Arifjan. Fort Bliss. Fort Bragg. All of these assignment, I either simply did not want or wanted not to go to. Minus Pittsburgh (I served on active duty at a reserve center), the other stations are generally considered undesirable within the U.S. Military.

I made attempts within my career to advance in particular directions. As a Marine, I remember wanting to pursue contracting and acquisitions. Rejected. Becoming a Warrant Officer (W-1). Rejected. Becoming a Second Lieutenant (O-1E). Rejected. Staff Sergeant (E-6)? Fuck it. I rejected it – yes I turned down promotion to Staff Sergeant – on the way out the door.

My Army career followed the same path. And now? Fuck it.

I’ve worked so fucking hard. And for what? What did I get in exchange for it? Did I get what I want? Never. Not one duty station or special assignment. In fact, the harder I worked, the more I simply got more work, other people’s work. While I got punished for productivity, they got rewarded for mediocrity.

So, fuck it.

I am grateful. I mean it. I am thankful for everything I have. For every lesson I’ve learned. But for these occurrences, I wouldn’t now have the family I do or be the man I’ve become.

If I interview for command and actually receive a command, it wouldn’t be because I give a shit about climbing this fucking ladder. It’s the wrong ladder, on the wrong ground, against the wrong wall.

I wouldn’t be doing it for me, because fuck this shit.

As of the moment, I’m being asked to. I’m actually wanted. And there’s a world of difference between wanting to work with someone versus having to.

I’d have an opportunity to make work fulfilling for the next persons. I’d have an opportunity to directly and so broadly set the conditions for success for quite a few other people.

Reading, re-reading, confusion, and mental weights

There’s this PBS documentary series available on Amazon Prime Video called “The Brain With David Eagleman” (2015). Episode 6, titled, “Who Will We Be?” illustrates an interesting property of the brain, citing cochlear implants.

The implants help people hear by translating sound into electric signals. At first, the electric signals appear as noise to the brain, but without any additional effort from the person, the brain automatically begins looking for patterns, making sense, and finding meaning in the signals.

And, the interesting part is, it doesn’t matter the signal or source. So long as there does exist some pattern to be found, the brain will find it.

That’s how I feel with reading about something I want to learn and with reading a book in a fairly new topic to me for the first time. It’s confusion at first. And that’s a good thing. Confusion is to mental weights what fatigue is to physical weights.

The brain doesn’t expand like a muscle given its limited room in the skull, so instead it rewires, reconnects or reorganizes. The act of reorganizing, I’m guessing, is the feeling of confusion.

Military comms in the field vs. smartphones

The first smartphone as we know it today arrived in 2007 with the iPhone, 12 years ago. At the time, I was Sergeant Delrosario, U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at 29 Palms, California with the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School (MCCES).

Some of the Marines training at the school had come from Microsoft, Google, and other big names in tech. I’m tempted to say that had I come from such a background, I wouldn’t be joining the Marine Corps, but then came 2008 and the Global Financial Crisis.


The schoolhouse probably cranked out some of the longest basic military occupational specialty (MOS) schools in the military. These were junior enlistees (almost all either E-1 or E-2) going to school for six months or more, learning crazy complicated commo-electronic whiz-bang things.

Despite that, the overall reliability, user-friendliness, intuitiveness, and demand for smartphones to do military work outweighed that of our demand for military comms to do routine military work – coordinate people to go here, do this, do that, at this date-time, with this equipment.

I worked in the supply warehouse helping manage the inventory of communication-electronics needed for the initial entry Marines to train on. The price tags on some of these items were just mind-boggling.

I remember once holding a circuit board priced at over $1,000,000. I joked with one of the civilians there, a retired Marine Master Sergeant, “Damn… $1,000,000 for this? Where’s the spot where I park my car? This thing can’t be worth that much.”

Symptom of yet another [government]-industrial complex? Probably. But not my point here.


I just concluded a short field exercise with my unit. And like many of my other previous field exercises, we got more done with smartphones than with our military comms. In fact, with my unit, most of our military comms didn’t work, most of the time.

We got work done despite it all.

I got work done despite it all.

It reminds me of Up the Organization (1970) by Robert Townsend. In the book, Robert Townsend illustrates how work tends to get done despite the leadership, not because of it. In my field experiences, the same seems to hold true with our communication systems.

Because I care about your education, not your entertainment

That’s why I don’t care about repairing or replacing the USB cables my kids replace.

I just got back from the field this morning. It was only five days. It felt like longer.

Looking back on my previous post, that’s why I don’t care about my kids’ USB cables. It’s a way to starve out their screen addiction.

If they were doing other things other than playing Roblox or watching YouTube, then maybe. So long as those other things involved them producing vs. consuming, education vs. entertainment, giving vs. taking, leading vs. following.

Other than that, I’m not persuaded in moving up their USB cables in priority.

Awareness, kids breaking USB cables, and errors of omission

My kids routinely break the USB cables they use to charge their tablets. On nights that don’t precede a school day, my wife and I don’t set a bedtime for them and they tend to fall asleep with their tablets plugged into the wall.


As our kids unconsciously flail about while sleeping, they end up stretching the cables too far, rolling over them or somehow breaking them. Even when they’re awake they do this as they move to get comfortable.

It doesn’t matter the length of the USB cable either. They’ll pinch off part of it then end up straining the cable at the points of connection.


They don’t deliberately break them, I hope. It’s not an error of commission. When I tell my son that the reason his tablet isn’t charging probably comes from him breaking the USB cable, he insists that he didn’t do anything deliberately to break it. I believe him.

He simply didn’t do as he should have – put away his tablet prior to sleep. It was an error of omission.

But how’s he supposed to realize what to do before his mind and body automatically drift into sleep?


I’m 30 years older than him, but am I really that much more sophisticated than him? What if I’ve been doing the past 30 years wrong?

Lately, I’ve been making an effort throughout my workday to practice a working meditation. I simply remind myself to become aware of my awareness, to wake myself up out of autopilot, out of whatever trance my thoughts wander into.

There’s a comfort in letting my common senses take over, in ruminating in pessimism, in letting my mind and body go autopilot into survival mode or go tunnel vision onto some perceived threat.

By becoming aware of my awareness, I find myself looking around at everything I’ve seen millions of times already with a curious, “Hmmm… I never noticed that before. Why not?” It makes my workday slightly more interesting.


I think a lot of what I used to label as a bad memory might actually come from not paying attention in the first place. Can’t retrieve information that I didn’t store, unless I’m more interested in making shit up.


When I re-awake myself throughout the workday, I shoot for a soft, broad focus. A bigger picture type of focus, and not so much the laser focus needed to grind away at some deep, specific task.

I find this type of focus and thinking more suited to me. Or at least more suited to my role within where I work. Philosopher Martin Heidegger said that we cannot talk about a human being, only a human being in the world.

My particular workplace and role within my family sets the context for my being. And my present context requires more of a broad, big-picture focus.


How do I get him to notice that he’s inadvertently breaking the USB cable by giving into his common senses and slipping into unconsciousness?

I’m not sure yet. For now, I’ve decided not to replace the USB cables, to let them break, to let the kids either learn from experience or to adopt a habit other than staring at a screen.

Well, I may have decided this. My wife? Doesn’t want to hear the whining. Maybe my first step is to get us on the same page with parenting.

Reports are never 100% accurate, and the reporter is probably just the messenger, not the manager

Okay almost never and if they are 100%, then they probably won’t stay that way for long; especially when we’re talking about a current happening, or a report on a large number of people or equipment moving.


The Yellow Pages became outdated the moment they got printed. Why? Because life moves.

I recently got tasked with assembling the vehicle manifest for an exercise. It wasn’t even for my organizational level, but for one above me. I only assembled it. I took input from different parts of our large unit to make one consolidated list, or report.

I compiled several reports into one. I didn’t play a role in analyzing each subordinate unit’s smaller mission requirements or how its capabilities could best meet the requirements. I only compiled.

Given the large number of people and vehicles, we can expect some margin of error. Like a game of telephone or like entropy in thermodynamics, error accumulates.

Given the time between reporting and execution, not only does the cumulative error increase, it compounds.

Furthermore, even if not an error, people change their minds, vehicles break, Murphy happens, and changes need to get made.

By the time H-hour arrives, the initial report might have gone from 90% reliable to 51% reliable or worse.

Naturally, in just a short amount of time, my report became notably inaccurate, if it was ever accurate (i.e., 90% or better).


Some years ago, I served on the active duty staff of a Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center. I was a Sergeant (E-5) in the Marine Corps. The reservist drilled one weekend a month, two weeks a year, just like the commercials say.

To make sure they got paid accordingly, I needed to create a report of who all showed up to drill. It needed to be accurate.

For some reason, it needed to be 100% accurate a few days ahead of drill. At least, that’s how that unit operated. This wasn’t possible.

Why? Because there was always a difference between whom we expected to show up and who actually did show up. Life happens. Some Marines couldn’t make it; car accident, family emergency, orders elsewhere, drill already performed for the month, service obligation completed, you name it.

It made more sense to assemble the report after taking roll. Even then, errors occurred. People have the same name. Roll sometimes gets conveyed via handwriting to the admin office, and handwriting can get difficult to read; we don’t all know each other, and best-guesses still remain guesses. You name it. So long as we corrected all the errors prior to entering the report into the payment system, we were good.

I worked for this Staff Sergeant (E-6) who demanded perfection, which proves admirable in other pursuits, like physical performance. Our reports, however, seemed to need plenty of iterations before saying we’re done.


When a report comes from higher, it can sometimes be confusing as to whether the report represents a description of the present situation or a prescription (an order) for lower to follow.

I serve as a Captain (O-3E) at the battalion level. Typically, at the battalion level, a Captain serves as the officer-in-charge of his particular staff section. Except for my section, the Support Operations (SPO) section; a Major (O-4) leads it.

Nonetheless, after I published my report, I immediately got emails and phone calls requesting permission to move around vehicles and people.

My response was, quite broadly, “Brother… This is not a SPO [external logistics] function. It’s an S3 [training and operations] function. I don’t have the authority to decide that.”

My task was simply to take a snapshot of what everyone was reporting; to help out because being short, nerdy, and Asian somehow implies skill at computers and therefore skill at gathering and reporting information; and furthermore, because skill at gathering and reporting information somehow implies skill at managing the thing being reported on.


I’d also get emails and phone calls saying that this and that was incorrect – not typos, but substantial errors. Errors involving the assignments of persons and vehicles. Errors clear to whoever drafted the report, but not to me assembling it; like a computer, garbage in, garbage out.

My response, “Roger. Good copy.”

Then I did nothing about it. I was busy. Wasn’t my job. In many of the cases, I wasn’t sure whose job it was for that particular section’s manifest.

It’s amazing how many conversations I can end by simply saying something like, “Okay.”

Only individual brains learn: collective reflection, experienced people, their limits, and the myth of organizations learning

In the military, we do something called an AAR (or after-action review, after-action report) after completing a task or mission. Well-intended. But results matter more than intention.

It doesn’t happen. Not often enough or in ways that result in making work easier for the next generation. A bit pessimistic, I realize. In practice, I never hear of anyone reading the last iteration’s AAR notes. I look for it, but I almost never find it.

The intent? Experience. To learn from our mistakes. To do better next time.

The result? Can’t find the notes, if they even exist. No one remembers to look for them. The people who were here last time learned the lesson. Maybe they did. Then they left. And now we’re re-creating the wheel.

What about those who still happen to be here? They don’t remember anything useful. They’re not volunteering themselves. They weren’t paying attention to other people’s jobs, just their own. They believe that since they had to figure it out, the next iteration should to. And even if they do mean well, they can’t remember everything.

The work products left behind? If they can be found, they make very little sense. They’re mis-labeled. The labels don’t match the content. They’re scattered. Incomplete. Unsure if the final product or one of the initial versions. Not sure what sequence they go in. A challenge, for sure; I sort through it, but it takes quite a bit of time making sense of the mess.

I read somewhere that organizations like Walmart started out as mom-and-pop, then mom and pop got their shit together and became huge.

And just how did mom and pop get their shit together? Through systems. Not just any systems, but systems that actually resulted in making work easier.

How should we define system? Anything that lets us do more with comparatively less. Technology. Advancement. Measurable improvement.

The real system, in my opinion is a combination of the culture of the people there, the equipment, and the interaction of people and equipment, the interface between man and machine.

Applying systems means getting leverage on work, it means automating and delegating, to further free up human capital towards even greater value work effort. Resources should flow to greater value. Human capital is the greatest of resources.

If you work, then your effort is the human capital. Is it being wasted?

Fuckin’ probably so.

Especially when that means re-learning lessons somehow already learned! I hear these talks all the time about a unit learning to do XYZ task.

We all understand that such a statement comes with an expiration date, and it’s a pretty short one as people forget, move around or get slammed with fuckery.

Organizations don’t learn. An individual learns.

An organization develops a culture.

If I had to 80/20 my efforts on improving any system, it would be that: the culture.

Alongside that, the written systems. Because people forget. We didn’t evolve to remember lists of things to do. Our brains evolved to experience stories – journeys to places over time, where to find food, water, shelter, safety, places to avoid.

Therefore, if we do create written systems, we must view them from the point of view of the next person arriving unaware, uninformed, and tasked with untangling the same confusion we initially encountered when we stood in his place earlier.

We should ask, is it posted where he would need it?

Does it make sense on first impression?

Is it intuitive?

Can he trust it? Date, location, point of contact…

How does he build on it for the next person?

Is it short… Because depending on what the reader has going on, it’ll feel overwhelming without another human being there to guide him through the first few steps. Overwhelming just means it won’t get read.

Ask your own questions.

So good that I get to do other people's job for them

There’s this term in the military coined as mission creep, which describes the ever-expanding mission of stopping bad guys at one particular place and time, to stopping all bad guys everywhere forever. Noble. Admirable. Well-intended. Cost? Achievability through military means alone?

It refers to our recent involvement in parts of the world to stop present bad guys, to helping the locals train and equip to stop their bad guys on their own, to rebuilding (whatever that means) their nation for them, to stabilizing that region of the planet to… a never-ending dependence on their part or an intrusion on our part or both, and at the expense of the citizens shouldered with the tax burden.


Well, on the smaller-scale, at work, my job typically goes from doing my job to doing other people’s jobs for them. At this smaller level, I hear it called, being the victim of one’s own success; this seems to hold especially true in government or large top-down/centralized bureaucracies.

Get paid more for working harder or for making a better mousetrap? Perhaps as an entrepreneur living passionately at the cutting edge of development, of the marketplace, of competition.

For the rest of us? No. We don’t get paid more for working harder. Even when work starts out as a calling that we want to do more than anything, it tends to diminish into a career, and then into just a job that we have to do but don’t really want to anymore… and then sometimes diminishes even further into suicide-inducing drudgery.

No, it doesn’t have to be that way. Note for the moment that it does happen.

Once work become just a job, just a means of survival, incentives limit to the tangible benefits of pay and time off. Furthermore, because in such an organization, one doesn’t get paid more for working harder or smarter, incentives encourage mediocrity.


The one guy who can’t live with himself for just being normal, average, mediocre… that one man whose personal standards at the very least disallow allow himself from turning to shit… well, he gets rewarded with more bullshit since he’s so good at it.

And the rest? They get punished with comparatively more time off. They still get paid the same but now do less work since they’re not as good at transmuting bullshit into gold. Hence, the incentive towards mediocrity. They don’t feel safe. They’re in survival mode. They have scarce resources and see only a loss in stepping outside their comfort zone.


I overheard this conversation the other day between my boss and one of the Chief Warrant Officers (CWOs) in the section. The CWO said that his job and role as a CWO specifically limited to XYZ sets of tasks.

He argued that it did not involve running a particular meeting and leading the participants (mostly Lieutenants). It did not involve taking the extra step to reach out to them to make sure that they knew the details of the given tasks, understood why, how, what, when, and possessed the necessary tools for success.

He further saw his role as limited to reaction, to answer only when asked, and only about the specific things for which the military sent him to school to do. The few times I asked him about something seemingly within his scope but not really, his response remained, “I don’t know. Not my job.” Nothing further.

I don’t disagree entirely. W-grade Officers are to specialization what O-grade Officers are to generalization.

In his dispute with our boss, and after some escalation, our boss finally responded to one of his “My job is [XYZ]” with “Yes it is, as well as to assist as the commander and executive officer with what we reasonably deem as necessary to mission accomplishment” (paraphrased a little). Great response. Yes, and [BAM!].

In other words, “Your job is whatever the fuck we say it is. Shut your goddamn mouth.” Okay, maybe not that extreme, but roughly.

The CWO replied with, “And that’s why I’m retiring.”

He didn’t start out with this attitude. I don’t think anybody does. But sometimes, you got to Shamurai it out… although, a real Shamurai would have avoided that whole mess to begin with.

A real Shamurai would’ve either avoided being found in the first place, avoided that whole conversation or would’ve made sure to have put up a good enough appearance of busyness beforehand as to be left alone presently.


I’ve only been at my current position for a couple months. I don’t want to brag, but I’m starting to get good. One of the symptoms is, just as the title of this article, I’m starting to do other people’s jobs. A lot of other people’s jobs.

Even so far as going to meetings and answering on their behalf. And, from sections outside my own!

Need to apply my Shamurai skills.

I’ve been wrestling with a value lately that I’m attempting to cultivate within myself – becoming a good receiver. Good receiving and high standards almost seem to conflict with my Shamurai-ness. I need to rethink my definition of Shamurai.

Shamurai. Not a motard but definitely not a shit bag. Some reasonable measure in between, who does enough, who does not interfere with others, and who climbs his own ladder rather than the ladder prescribed by the job.

It feels good to give, and I’ve realized that in helping others at work, people have been trying to give me thanks. I’ve been downplaying it; in a way, rejecting them.

I don’t want credit for anything because I don’t want more work. I’d rather they simply see me as unreliable or incompetent. Still, I can’t let myself turn to shit.

This is costing me time away from my family, from sleep, and time to myself.

What to do… what do… I’ll think on this some more.

This happens regularly enough that I should have a solution by now. After all, it’s been 18 years.

Thinking… How do I do my job well enough to be left alone to do what I find meaningful, which is largely outside of my job? What’s a better question to ask?

Making kids clean up after each other vs. themselves

Resentment. Ah… the joy in watching them resent each other, in watching their resentment over having to clean up after someone else. I clean up their shit every day. You hear me complaining?

I clean up other people’s shit every fucking day. That’s my job. My shit-cleaning has recently been spilling over into my weekends.

They seem just a little more accepting when they know it’s their own mess and I catch them. Like adults, they know the right thing to do, yet choose wrong in hopes of not getting caught.

But in cleaning up after someone else? In paying the cost for someone else?

“But, Dad!!! I didn’t do that!!!”

And I say, “I didn’t ask. I’m telling you to clean it up or else [I deny something I know they’re addicted to, like their screens, whether TV or a tablet]. Your choice. You’ll survive without [whatever addiction of theirs I’m denying].”

The look of injustice on their faces. Priceless.

Hearing them whine and complain, huff and puff as they comply anyway. Satisfying.

One of the best ways to trigger high stress and resentment in them is to find something wrong, then say, “One of you better clean this up. You have 10 seconds to decide or I’m [punishing all of you]. 10. 9. 8. 7…”

Just hang back and watch them fight each other.

The best.

I make work easier and more fulfilling for the next person

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