Archive | 5:02 pm

Welcome Home – A Soldier’s Homecoming

23 Apr

I saw this today and I immediately thought of all my friends who have served. While most seem to have fared pretty well it’s sometimes very easy to forget what they have been through. Some saw worse than others, some had to do worse than others, some hide it better than others, but everyone who has served comes home with something. Memories, keepsakes, friends, brothers… and sometimes PTSD.

The story below is about a photo essay. It was put together by Craig Walker and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. It’s a stark reminder of what some members of the armed forces come home with, and I think everyone should read this article and definitely look through the 50 pictures that make up the award winning essay.

I often feel that I should have served in the military… at least once a week it crosses my mind. I think back to my grandpa, a sergeant in WWII who saw action in Italy and Germany, or two uncles, one who was a RIO in F-4 Phantoms or the other who was a Green Beret in Vietnam. I think about friends (Marines, Army, Navy, etc) that have served recently. I feel that I somehow missed out on a huge opportunity not only to see the world but to make a difference and really find out what I am made of. I’ve even told my wife that I won’t be dropping my current life and leaving her to chase a strange dream, but if it ever came to it and I had to go serve my country I would step up and volunteer for a combat medic MOS… but then I read stories like Scott’s and it makes me wonder. I don’t wonder if I could do the job, but I wonder if I could handle the aftermath. I hope everyone coming back stateside gets everything they need to really feel at home again, and I hope everyone else does anything and everything they can to facilitate that.

Gallery –>  Welcome Home, The Story of Scott Ostrom

Posted at 07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012 TheWashingtonPost

Pulitzer Prize winning subject Scott Ostrom reflects on the pain that led to prize

By May-Ying Lam

The recruitment ad that started it all is still on YouTube if you just search for “marine lava monster.” In the commercial, a man strides out of a white beam of light in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The man dives through the blades of a turbine to attain a sword (as a fireball shoots to the sky). Then, while balancing on a tightrope of blue light, he slashes a lava monster, and the inferno of its demise sweeps up the man turning him into a Marine.

Rewatching the video that persuaded him to enlist in the Marine Corps, Scott Ostrom has a long laugh at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. “…And then he puts on his dress blues and looks so good…I want that,” he said over the phone.

Ostrom cups his hand over his mouth as he tries to calm a panic attack at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) Ostrom, 27, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, found his experiences to be far different from the recruitment spot. The painful long road after his deployment was documented by Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker and the subsequent photo essay won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography on April 16.

Ten days after joining boot camp, on May 20, 2003, Ostrom’s drill instructor came into the barracks. “I hope you didn’t plan on getting a free ride to college ‘cause we’re going to war with Iraq,” Ostrom remembered him saying. “I didn’t even know where Iraq was on a map.”

Walker’s project, titled “Welcome Home,” chronicles Ostrom’s return home from Iraq — and the resulting nightmares, hypervigilance and rage. It required full commitment by both Walker and Ostrom. “I told him he’d have to let me be there for everything, good days and bad,” Walker said.

The poetic photos expose the viewer to a tumultuous range of emotions. In one frame, light outlines the bright thread of a suicide attempt that holds together two halves of a skull tattoo. There are also heartbreaking emotional moments, including one where Ostrom weeps after having his apartment application rejected because of an assault charge.

Brian Scott Ostrom looks over his military service records and weeps after being told his apartment application had been turned down. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) One of the most powerful visual metaphors is a frame where Ostrom faces into a blinding block of light. Here, he waits for his girlfriend to pick up her belongings after a breakup. Ostrom seems to be not only looking into his internal paranoia, but also viewing a hostile outside world from a dim room.

Some of the most astounding features of Walker’s photography are the depth and sheer amount of time he dedicates to his subjects. Walker’s work does not offer fleeting glimpses into his subjects’ lives.

Walker’s first Pulitzer in 2010 was awarded in the same category, feature photography, recognizing Walker’s series on Ian Fisher, who enlisted as a baby-faced 18-year-old. Walker stayed with Fisher for two years through graduation, enlistment, basic training, first assignment, breakup, breakup, Iraq, marriage and frequent returns home.

Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker hugs his son, Quinn, while telling his mother he won a Pulitzer Prize. (Aaron Ontiveroz – AP) In a video of Walker receiving the news of the Pulitzer Prize in the Denver Post newsroom, someone informs Walker’s new baby, “Your daddy just won a Pulitzer!”

Walker’s boss had sneaked Ostrom into the newsroom so he could be present for the announcement. After congratulations all around, the video cuts to Ostrom. “This story has definitely saved at least one guy’s life so far,” he says.

Ostrom said that he just got word the day before that the Department of Veterans Affairs finally officially recognized his PTSD. He hopes that the compensation will help him resume a semblance of normal life. Furthermore, he hopes to enroll at the University of Colorado.

Craig F. Walker hugs former Marine Scott Ostrom in the Denver Post newsroom. (Joe Amon – AP)

View the other 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners here.

By May-Ying Lam  |  07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012

The Fundamentals of Small Arms

23 Apr

I did my CHL requalifying test this weekend so guns are on my mind…

As I was doing my range test one instructor, who is an Army soldier just back from Afghanistan, leaned over my shoulder and said, “Damn, guy… seriously?”

The other instructor who is former Air Force Security Forces, did private security and is now a police officer asked where I learned to shoot and why I don’t shoot competitively 😀 I was only the 7th perfect score he’d had in any of his classes.

I was kinda proud…


50 shots (ranges 3, 7, 15 yards at varying time intervals), 250/250 pts.




Anyway, since it’s on my mind here’s a good set of videos from the Army Pictorial Service.






What’s in a number?

23 Apr


What’s In a Number

By Richard Panek | April 12, 2012 |


“Since there is an infinite number of alternative universes, there must be one in which there isn’t an infinite number of alternative universes. Perhaps this is it.”


No, that speculation didn’t come from the “Ask Mr. Cosmology” mailbag. It’s from a reader of New Scientist, courtesy of LWON’s own Sally, who is an editor at the magazine. She forwarded it to me because, she said, “it kind of made my head asplode.” After receiving reassurances from her that her head hadn’t actually spontaneously detonated—this is, after all, someone who is capable of falling into the Thames without any help—I sat and thought and tried to find the flaw in the logic.


The speculation has a logical basis in the current standard cosmological model. According to quantum theory, virtual particles should be popping into and out of existence all the time—and are, as experiments have repeatedly shown over the past six decades. In that case, the universe could be the product of one such quantum pop.

If it is, then it could have gone through a process that physicists call a “phase transition” and that everyone else calls “the thing that happens when water turns into ice or vice versa.” At the age of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of one second—that’s a 1 followed by 36 zeros, or 1036—the universe would have expanded ten septillion-fold—or to 1025 times its previous size. And it would have done so over the course of 1/1035 seconds.

And if inflation can pop one quantum universe into existence, then why not many? In fact, according to quantum theory, it should. It would, if inflation actually happened.

The inflationary universe. Also, Sally’s head.


The case for inflation isn’t airtight, but with every fresh observation of the Cosmic Microwave Background—the remnant echo of the Big Bang, loosely speaking—the evidence has looked better and better. Over the past decade, consensus has coalesced: We very likely did come from a quantum pop. In that case, our inflationary bubble would be one of an ensemble of 10500 universes. The number isn’t quite infinity, as the New Scientist reader suggests, but who’s counting?

Still, let’s say the number of universes is infinite. In that case, the reader’s argument goes like so:

A. The number of universes is infinite.

B. A universe exists in which the number of universes is not infinite.

C. This might be it.

When the argument is stated this starkly, the flaw in the logic becomes pretty clear. B contradicts A. “The number of universes is infinite” and “the number of universes is not infinite” can’t both be true. The contradiction, however, is obscured by the inclusion of “A universe exists in which.” The implication is that there’s something special about universes, something that, for instance, doorknobs don’t have. “Since there is an infinite number of doorknobs, there must be one for which there isn’t an infinite number of doorknobs” wouldn’t make anyone’s head asplode, except perhaps in bewilderment.

So what’s so special about universes that the existence of an infinite number of them would, for physics-savvy readers, somehow seem to suggest the necessary existence of one that allows the impossible?

I suspect the answer is quantum probability. According to quantum theory, everything is a matter of probability; therefore anything is possible. Anything. The probability that a butterfly will give birth to a dragon or that I will one day fall into the Thames is vanishingly small—but, technically, it’s not zero. Same with the emergence of a universe, or a cornucopia of universes, from nothing. The laws of physics allow it.

And that’s the implicit, but missing, “something special” in premise B: the laws of physics. As in “A universe exists in which the laws of physics require the number of universes to not be infinite.” What prompted the New Scientist reader, and what posed a threat to Sally’s noggin, was an unthinking assumption: that “the laws of physics”—in particular quantum theory—are part of the argument.

It’s a tempting assumption. According to current cosmological thinking, if an infinite ensemble of (or 10500, anyway) universes exists, then presumably each could come equipped with its own laws of physics. So couldn’t our universe be the one in which the laws of physics require that other universes don’t exist?

Yes—but only if our laws of physics have something to do with the other universes. We all, however, went our separate ways 13.7 billion years ago. Our laws of physics affect what happens within our universe, but there’s no reason to think they would influence the multiverse at large. Doorknobs, after all, don’t dictate the laws of physics.

Still, if they did, then maybe we could reframe the New Scientist‘s reader’s comment:

“Since there is an infinite number of alternative universes, there must be one in which there is just one alternative universe. Perhaps this is it.”

“Since there is an infinite number of alternative universes, there must be one in which there are two alternative universes. Perhaps this is it.”

“Since there is an infinite number of alternative universes, there must be one in which there are 2,125,179,218 alternative universes. Perhaps this is it.”

Memo to New Scientist staff: You can remove your plastic ponchos now.

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