These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

Subscribing to at at-home delivery box is a great way to bring fun activities straight to your home. No matter your age or interest, there is a theme boxed that can suit your needs. (Shout out to the delivery folks still bringing packages!) And while, months ago, this might have just been a fun thing to get in the mail, today, it’s an excitable event. Activities, treats or fun things to do, delivered straight to your door.

Take advantage of this growing trend and bring fun to your doorstep with these subscription boxes.


These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

1. Try the World

Foods from around the globe, delivered to your door. Sounds like a great concept, right?! This monthly box comes in two versions: snacks, where you’ll receive strictly pre-packaged snackables for /mo; or countries, including a combo of drinks, gourmet foods and cooking ingredients, for /mo.


Order yours
These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

2. Fab Fit Fun

Ladies, if you have any association online, chances are you’ve been flooded with ads for this self care and wellness box. Arriving quarterly, each box comes with a degree of personalized choices in categories like work out clothes, beauty, relaxation items, travel and more. Boxes are /pop.


Sign up.
These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

3. Dollar Shave Club

Like its name suggests, Dollar Shave Club offers razors and shaving gear, delivered to your doorstep, as well as other hygiene products like bar soap, shaving cream and body wash. The brand is primarily marketed toward men, though the razors are universal. Costs start at /mo plus shipping, and vary based on personalized boxes.

Billie is essentially the female-geared counterpart. Billie starter razor kits start at (free shipping); customers can add additional products to their order, like dry shampoo or makeup wipes.

Meanwhile, Gillette loyalists can order directly through the brand for /mo. Shipping and every fourth order are free.

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

4. Atlas Coffee Club

Coffee drinkers unite. Take a tour of the best flavors from around the world, all from the comfort of your favorite mug. Atlas Coffee Club brings the beans to you, along with a history of where they’re from. It’s where geography meets great taste.

Explore.

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

5. Once Upon a Book Club

Bring the books — and the discussion — to your home with Once Upon a Book Club. Adult and YA books are mailed monthly and can be delved into via an online community. Talk about your favorite sections with other readers as you go. But that’s not the best part — OUABC sends wrapped gifts that coincide with the story. Unwrap as you read for an added boost of fun!

Check it out

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These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

6. Battl Box

What military family isn’t complete with a growing collection of tactical gear? Choose from four levels of monthly survival supplies, ranging from .99 to 9.00 plus shipping. Past boxes have included camping gear, hiking supplies, and EDC (every day carry) items.

Stock up here.

What subscription box will you try first?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 epic photos of riverine sailors preparing for combat

The U.S. Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 is proving itself right now in preparation for mobilization, and its sailors have been showing off at tasks from convoy security to medical aid to speeding around in boats (a fun and major part of their mission) in complex tasks at Camp Pendleton, California.


So, it’s a bunch of badass sailors playing with machine guns and boats in Southern California. Wanna see some photos? Yeah, of course you do.

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Engineman 2nd Class Christian McCain of Arlington, Texas engages opposing forces while dismounted with a M240 machine gun.

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These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

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This pilot defected with the Soviet Union’s most advanced plane

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 


Lieutenant Viktor Belenko decided he had had enough. Despite being considered an expert fighter pilot with one of the Soviet Union’s elite squadrons, with all the perks that went with it, Belenko was tired of the shortages and propaganda that defined much of life in the USSR. He feared that reports of plenty in the U.S. were also exaggerated, but he decided to take a chance. On September 6, 1976 during a routine training mission, he switched off his radio and bolted to Hakodate airport in Japan. After nearly running out of fuel, barely avoiding a civilian jetliner, and overshooting the runway, he set down in Japan with only a busted landing gear. It turned out to be one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.

Given this gift, including a flight manual that Belenko had helpfully brought along, Western intelligence agencies proceeded to tear the plane to bits analyzing the fighter whose capabilities up until now were only an assumption. When the Soviet Union demanded its return, Japan agreed on the condition that they recoup shipping costs. The plane showed up at a docked Soviet vessel in dozens of crates, and when the Soviets realized at least 20 key components were missing, they demanded $10 million in compensation. As befitted the Cold War, neither ever paid.

The MiG-25 “Foxbat” was the newest and most advanced fighter the Soviet Union possessed. The United States and its allied NATO countries were genuinely concerned over its capabilities, and it was generally assumed to be an advanced fighter bomber that could outfly anything NATO had. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mig-25 was very cutting edge in its way. It was one of the fastest fighters ever produced, with a theoretical top speed of mach 3.2 at the risk of engine damage, putting it near the vaunted U.S. SR-71 spy plane. It’s radar was one of the most powerful ever put on a plane of its size.

 

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Viktor Belenko

 

But those strengths were where it ended. The MiG-25 was built around its extremely heavy engines, and it showed. It had a ridiculously short combat range, and even its unarmed cruising range was too short, as Belenko’s journey could attest. It was so specialized in high-altitude interception that flying it at low altitude and speed could be very difficult. It could not carry weapons for ground attack, did not have a integral cannon, and the large wings NATO interpreted as making it a formidable dogfighter were simply meant to keep its heavy airframe in the air. In reality, it was maneuverable and would be mincemeat in a conventional dogfight once it closed to short range. Its electronics were still vacuum tube technology, and its airframe would literally bend itself out of shape if the pilot was not careful. It was made to be a high speed missile carrier targeting bombers or U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 inside Soviet airspace, and not much more.

Despite its flaws, the Soviet Union built over a thousand of them, and it was widely exported to a number of countries, where its combat record in several wars was mixed at best. An updated version called the MiG-31 was later built that shared aspects with the original, including many of its shortcomings.

Belkov, for all his doubts, received a welcome beyond his skeptical hopes. In an old saw that applied to many Soviet visitors, he was flabbergasted by his first visit to an American supermarket, and wondered if it was a CIA hoax. He was granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1980, and he co-wrote an autobiography called MiG Pilot that had some success. He reportedly works as an aerospace engineer to this day. His daring escape still stands as one of the defining moments of the Cold War.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Governments across the world are galvanizing every surveillance tool at their disposal to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Countries have been quick to use the one tool almost all of us carry with us — our smartphones.


A live index of ramped up security measures by Top10VPN details the countries which have already brought in measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymized aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as “contact tracing.”

Samuel Woodhams, Top10VPN’s Digital Rights Lead who compiled the index, warned that the world could slide into permanently increased surveillance.

“Without adequate tracking, there is a danger that these new, often highly invasive, measures will become the norm around the world,” he told Business Insider. “Although some may appear entirely legitimate, many pose a risk to citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of expression.

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“Given how quickly things are changing, documenting the new measures is the first step to challenging potential overreach, providing scrutiny and holding corporations and governments to account.”

While some countries will cap their new emergency measures, otherwise may retain the powers for future use. “There is a risk that many of these new capabilities will continue to be used following the outbreak,” said Woodhams. “This is particularly significant as many of the new measures have avoided public and political scrutiny and do not include sunset clauses.”

Here’s a breakdown of which countries have started tracking phone data, with varying degrees of invasiveness:

The US is reportedly gathering data from the ads industry to get an idea of where people are congregating

Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the federal, state, and local governments have begun to gather and study geolocation data to get a better idea of how people are moving about.

In one example, a source said the data had shown people were continuing to gather in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and this information had been handed over to local autorities. The eventual aim is to create a portal for government officials with data from up to 500 US cities.

The data is being gathered from the advertising industry, which often gains access to people’s geolocation when they sign up to apps. Researcher Sam Woodhams says using the ad industry as a source poses a particular problem for privacy.

“Working closely with the ad tech industry to track citizens’ whereabouts raises some significant concerns. The sector as a whole is renowned for its lack of transparency and many users will be unaware that these apps are tracking their movement to begin with. It is imperative that governments and all those involved in the collection of this sensitive data are transparent about how they operate and what measures are in place to ensure citizens’ right to privacy is protected,” Woodhams told Business Insider.

The US’ coronavirus economic relief bill also included a 0 million for the CDC to build a “surveillance and data collection system.”

South Korea gives out detailed information about patients’ whereabouts

South Korea has gone a step further than other countries, tracking individuals’ phones and creating a publicly available map to allow other citizens to check whether they may have crossed paths with any coronavirus patients.

The tracking data that goes into the map isn’t limited to mobile phone data, credit card records and even face-to-face interviews with patients are being used to build a retroactive map of where they’ve been.

Not only is the map there for citizens to check, but the South Korean government is using it to proactively send regional text messages warning people they may have come into contact with someone carrying the virus.

The location given can be extremely specific, the Washington Post reported a text went out that said an infected person had been at the “Magic Coin Karaoke in Jayang-dong at midnight on Feb. 20.”

Some texts give out more personal information however. A text reported by The Guardian read: “A woman in her 60s has just tested positive. Click on the link for the places she visited before she was hospitalised.”

The director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jeong Eun-kyeong, acknowledged that the site infringes on civil liberties, saying: “It is true that public interests tend to be emphasized more than human rights of individuals when dealing with diseases that can infect others.”

The map is already interfering with civil liberties, as a South Korean woman told the Washington Post that she had stopped attending a bar popular with lesbians for fear of being outed. “If I unknowingly contract the virus… that record will be released to the whole country,” she said.

The system is also throwing up other unexpected challenges. The Guardian reported that one man claiming to be infected threatened various restaurants saying he would visit and hurt their custom unless they gave him money to stay away.

Iran asked citizens to download an invasive app

Vice reported that Iran’s government endorsed a coronavirus diagnosis app that collected users’ real-time location data.

On March 3, a message went out to millions of Iranian citizens telling them to install the app, called AC19, before going to a hospital or health center.

The app claimed to be able to diagnose the user with coronavirus by asking a series of yes or no questions. The app has since been removed from the Google Play store.

Israel passed new laws to spy on its citizens

As part of a broad set of new surveillance measures approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 17, Israel’s Security Agency will no longer have to obtain a court order to track individuals’ phones. The new law also stipulates all data collected must be deleted after 30 days.

Netanyahu described the new security measures as “invasive” in an address to the nation.

“We’ll deploy measures we’ve only previously deployed against terrorists. Some of these will be invasive and infringe on the privacy of those affected. We must adopt a new routine,” said Netanyahu.

TraceTogether: Community-driven contact tracing to stop the spread of COVID-19

www.youtube.com

Singapore has an app which can trace people within 2 meters of infected patients

Singapore’s Government Technology Agency and the Ministry of Health developed an app for contact tracing called TraceTogether which launched on March 20.

Per the Straits Times, the app is used: “to identify people who have been in close proximity — within 2m for at least 30 minutes — to coronavirus patients using wireless Bluetooth technology.”

“No geolocation data or other personal data is collected,” TraceTogether said in an explanatory video.

Taiwan can tell when quarantined people have left the house

Taiwan has activated what it calls an “electronic fence,” which tracks mobile phone data and alerts authorities when someone who is supposed to be quarantined at home is leaving the house.

“The goal is to stop people from running around and spreading the infection,” said Jyan Hong-wei, head of Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security. Jyan added that local authorities and police should be able to respond to anyone who triggers an alert within 15 minutes.

Even having your phone turned off seems to be enough to warrant a police visit. An American student living in Taiwan wrote in a BBC article that he was visited by two police officers at 8:15 a.m. because his phone had run out of battery at 7:30 a.m. and the government had briefly lost track of him. The student was in quarantine at the time because he had arrived in Taiwan from Europe.

Austria is using anonymized data to map people’s movements

On March 17 Austria’s biggest telecoms network operator Telekom Austria AG announced it was sharing anonymized location data with the government.

The technology being used was developed by a spin-off startup out of the University of Graz, and Telekom Austria said it is usually used to measure footfall in popular tourist sites.

Woodhams told Business Insider that while collecting aggregated data sets is less invasive than other measures, how that data could be used in future should still be cause for concern.

“Much of the data may remain at risk from re-identification, and it still provides governments with the ability to track the movement of large groups of its citizens,” said Woodhams.

Poland is making people send selfies to prove they’re quarantining correctly

On March 20 the Polish government announced the release of a new app called “Home Quarantine.” The point of the app is to make sure people who are supposed to be quarantining themselves for 14 days stay in place.

To use the app first you have to register a selfie, it then sends periodic requests for geo-located selfies. If the user fails to comply within 20 minutes, the police will be alerted.

“People in quarantine have a choice: either receive unexpected visits from the police, or download this app,” a spokesman for Poland’s Digital Ministry said.

The Polish government is automatically generating accounts for suspected quarantine patients, including people returning from abroad.

Belgium is using anonymized data from telcos

The Belgian government gave the go-ahead on March 11 to start using anonymized data from local telecom companies.

Germany is modeling how people are moving around

Deutsche Telekom announced on March 18 it would be sharing data with the Robert Koch Institute (Germany’s version of the CDC).

“With this we can model how people are moving around nationwide, on a state level, and even on a community level,” a spokesperson for Deutsche Telekom told Die Welt.

Italy has created movement maps

Italy, which has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, has also signed a deal with telecoms operators to collect anonymized location data.

As of March 18 Italy had charged 40,000 of its citizens with violating its lockdown laws, per The Guardian.

The UK isn’t tracking yet but is considering it, and is reportedly working on an opt-in contact tracing app

While nothing official has been announced yet, the UK is in talks with major telecoms providers including O2 and EE to provide large sets of anonymized data.

Google has also indicated it is taking part in discussions.

Sky News also reported the NHS and NHSX (the digital wing of the NHS) have been working on an opt-in contact tracing app. The app would work similarly to Singapore’s, using Bluetooth and self-reporting to establish whether you’ve been near someone with suspected coronavirus.

According to Sky, alerts will be sent out on a delay to stop individuals from being identified. The app will be released either just before or just after Britain’s lockdown is lifted.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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That time a badger lived in the White House

President Theodore Roosevelt is known for being a Rough Rider, a trust-buster, and coining the infamous phrase, “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” He also turned the White House into a veritable menagerie during his stay there. He, of course, had plenty of cats and dogs, but he was known for keeping guinea pigs for his children, and several of his sons had rabbits as well as a bright blue macaw named Eli Yale.

Arguably his most exotic pet, and probably the most unpredictable animal to inhabit the White House, was a real-life badger.


These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better
Theodore Roosevelt, like the badger, don’t give a f*ck. (Giphy)

 

While on a railroad tour through the West, President Roosevelt stayed for several days in Sharon Springs, Kansas. After he’d fulfilled his presidential duties of talking with residents and giving speeches, he was getting ready to head further west when a girl named Pearl Gorsuch, who was twelve-years-old at the time, came up to him to ask if he’d like a badger.

Not exactly your average fan gift.

Whether the president didn’t actually think she was serious, or if he was immediately ready to take a badger on a train ride, no one’s really sure. But when Pearl returned, she had with her a two-week-old badger, as well as the rest of her family.

Roosevelt graciously showed the family (and accompanying badger) around his private rail car, and gave Pearl a locket and a carnation as a thank you. When he took the badger, he was delighted when it started nibbling on his fingers. He named the badger Josiah after Pearl’s father and took it with him in his private car.

On the rest of his trip, Josiah proved to be good-natured, even when met with young children who were enchanted by the animal. Roosevelt wrote to his own children to inform them that he’d be bringing the badger home, and that he’d nicknamed Josiah “Josh” for short.

As the Roosevelt family did have plenty of dogs, a badger-specific cage had to be built, including two feet of underground space for him to burrow.

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better
The Roosevelt family with Skip, just one of their many pups. (upload.wikimedia.org)

 

Roosevelt himself loved setting the badger loose, as Josiah was known for biting ankles, and the family soon learned to stand clear when he was out of his cage.

Archie Roosevelt, who was the second youngest of six children, was nine when Josiah arrived at the White House and laid the best claim to the animal. He would walk around the grounds holding Josiah around the waist. When Teddy expressed concern that Josiah might take advantage of the positioning to bite Archie’s face, Archie insisted that little Josh only bit legs, not faces.

Though Josiah the badger did come home with a penchant for nipping but an overall friendly demeanor, he eventually lost his pleasant attitude. He may have grown overwhelmed by the bustle of the Roosevelt’s White House, or just succumbed to his primal nature, but whichever reason, the result was the same.

The Roosevelt family had him placed in the Bronx Zoo in New York, which was probably for the best both for the animal and the family. However, they continued to visit him, just to make sure he didn’t develop any abandonment issues.

Though each president has had different pet preferences—the Coolidge family actually had a pet raccoon named Rebecca—it’s safe to say that Teddy Roosevelt came the closest to running a zoo out of the White House. But really, who’d refuse a little girl in a small town in Kansas handing you a baby badger?

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better
First Lady Grace Coolidge shows off her pet racoon, Rebecca, at the White House Easter Egg Roll April 18, 1927. (Courtesy of the George W. Bush White House Archives.)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Chuck Yeager is an air combat ace, daredevil pilot, and hilarious on Twitter

He shoots down all these Germans, THEN became the fastest human being alive? And he’s this witty, rugged mountain guy? No way, re-write this.” If Chuck Yeager’s life story were a fictional screenplay, it might be rejected as too unbelievable. Just to put his accomplishments in perspective: he was the first human to travel faster than the speed of sound, and that arguably isn’t even the coolest thing he accomplished.


Born the son of a gas driller in West Virginia, Yeager enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces during WWII intending to become a mechanic. Turning wrenches presumably didn’t offer enough mortal danger, so he earned his wings as a fighter pilot. On his eighth combat mission, Yeager was forced to bail out over occupied France when his P-51 fighter was hit by German fire. He was injured and alone in enemy territory, so naturally, this was very bad news…for the Germans.

Yeager, thoroughly pissed off by anything that didn’t involve tormenting the Third Reich from the skies- linked up with the French Resistance and taught them bomb-making skills. He also saved the life of another downed U.S. pilot by amputating the man’s leg with a penknife and carrying him over the mountains to neutral Spain.

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(U.S. Air Force photo)

Upon returning to England, Yeager headed back to the States to take it easy for the rest of the war. Just kidding: General Eisenhower approved his request to return to combat duty, and Yeager promptly shot down five enemy planes in a single day, earning the rare “ace-in-a-day” status.

He also downed one of the Germans’ infamous Me-262 jet fighters by ambushing the much faster jet when it slowed down for landing, later reflecting “not very sportsmanlike, but what the hell?”

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Yeager’s P-51D fighter in Europe.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The war might have been over, but Chuck Yeager’s appetite for death-defying aerial feats remained unquenched. He remained on active duty and became a test pilot for the first generation of jet aircraft.

Piloting the experimental X-1 jet in 1947, Yeager became the first human being to travel faster than the speed of sound despite having broken several ribs horseback riding a few days before. He quipped over the radio mid-flight to a colleague, “I’m still wearing my ears and nothing else fell off either.”

Oh, Chuck.

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Chuck Yeager next to his experimental jet aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Yeager’s legendary skill as a pilot was apparently surpassed only by the ice water in his veins that enabled him to repeatedly survive disaster. While setting yet another airspeed record in 1953, his jet began spinning out of control. Despite his head smashing against the canopy, Yeager regained control of the jet and landed safely, because of course he did. By this point, even physics itself had learned not to mess with Chuck Yeager. Yeager went on to multiple command billets within the Air Force.

Despite commanding the Air Force’s astronaut training program, Yeager himself was ineligible for NASA because he lacked any formal education beyond high school (admittedly though, if anyone on earth could be justifiably declared “too cool for school,” it was Chuck Yeager). He also logged 127 combat missions in Vietnam as a bomber pilot because if there’re flying and danger involved, then no way is Chuck Yeager missing out. Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975 as a brigadier general.

He continued to work as a test pilot after retirement and broke the sound barrier again during his final Air Force flight in 1997. Yeager was portrayed by Sam Shepard in the 1983 film “The Right Stuff” in which he made a cameo as a bartender.

Oh yeah, and then he broke the sound barrier again at age 89 as a passenger in an F-15. Chuck Yeager has broken the sound barrier so many times that one might wonder if it personally wronged him at some point.

Yeager’s legacy lives on in an unexpected way, too. Think about the last time you heard an airline pilot on the intercom. You know that familiar relaxed, deliberate cadence that every pilot seems to speak with? That “pilot voice” began during the early era of jet aircraft when Yeager’s contemporaries began imitating his distinctive West Virginia drawl on the radio.

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(Photo by Olivier Blaise)

This is the point in the story at which one might expect to hear that General Yeager passed away in such-and-such year.

Wrong.

As of the time of this writing in 2019, Yeager is alive. He is very active on social media where his insights and trademark sense of humor (seriously, he’s hysterical) continue to entertain and inform fans across the world.

Check him out on Twitter at: @GenChuckYeager

Military Life

‘Operation Cure Boredom’ is a funny, unrepentant look back at life in the 1990s Air Force

The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it’s a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin’s 1990-1994 enlistment in the world’s best Air Force.

This chapter, called “Guest on the Range,” is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief:


One of the things I learned while holding a loaded semiautomatic rifle was that I shouldn’t “goof around.” Apparently it’s distracting and unnerving to the other participants at the firing range. The angry sergeant on duty pointed this out, adding that it was irresponsible and unsafe. But everyone was so serious, so uptight, so concentrated.

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Colton continued making the rest of us laugh, lightening the mood. We only managed to annihilate the dirt mounds behind the paper people. At the end of the session, when I learned that I had failed the firing range test and had one more chance to pass it or be discharged from service, I stopped goofing around.

In order to maintain a good standing with the U.S. Air Force, one must complete the annual firing range test. If you fail the retest, pack your bags because you’re heading home on an early discharge. Not wanting to go back to Long Island so soon, I concentrated and passed the retest, barely. For the following annual firing range test, I made arrangements to get help, mostly by ensuring that I was out of the country on assignment, whereupon the test was lost to bureaucracy and ultimately waived. But the year I got married and stopped going on so many TDYs was the year the test came back to haunt me.

I had taken a second job at this point, working in a liquor store not far from the Louisiana Downs racetrack, not because I was saving to buy a house and raise a family, but rather to help pay off all the loans. We had financially backed ourselves into a corner between the cars, furniture, and vacations we simply charged on credit cards. We had to have them because we were a responsible adult married couple. In my third year of military service, now that I was no longer on TDYs, I was unable to escape the firing range.

At the time I had enlisted in the Air Force, it is key to note that nobody, with the exception of the security police, the special ops guys, and maybe a few fighter pilots, had a useful knowledge of weapons, let alone were able to locate the safety. For the rest of us, the firing range seemed to only serve the purpose of reminding us what weapons looked like. I hit my targets by mistake, and self-defense skills were measured by how fast I could run a mile. Although the chow hall on the base displayed a sign upon entering that read “Those Carrying Automatic Weapons May Go to the Head of the Line,” I can guarantee that had my base ever been attacked, it would have been captured within minutes. A massive army of children riding atop Saint Bernards and wielding broomsticks could have charged the main gate and I’d have to think twice about holding my ground. Broomsticks hurt.

Now faced wit having to take the firing range test, I came to the conclusion I needed someone to help teach me how to pass it. Unfortunately, asking for help within the military community was not exactly the option I wanted to exercise. I was all too aware that I had joined the one branch of the military that didn’t require you to use handheld weapons. But asking for help was like a plumber you hired asking you to show him what a pipe fitting looked like.

We were supposed to at least pretend we knew what we were doing. There were a few guys in my squadron who grew up hunting the small animalsI always associated with my local park or the garbage cans on a trash night. But even one of them managed to book himself a trip to the emergency room. Firing a hand cannon with one hand and a large ego, he managed to adorn his forehead with a welt the size of a grapefruit, the recoil smacking him with the pistol hard enough to make him forget the date. Knowing that I was proficient in neither accuracy or emergency room small talk, I decided to search for a teacher who was not in the military.

I knew I could find someone, I had done it before.

My brother piqued my interest in firearms when he shot our father with a flare gun. To be fair, it was a misunderstanding. My father had explained to Peter that he was grounded for some infraction of the rules. Peter said no, then shot him. From the moment my father stepped into his room to confront him, he should have take notes of Peter’s nautical emergency rescue kit, now open on his desk. Normally tucked away on his lobster boat, the flare gun was now strangely instead in Peter’s hand. Moments later, the flare bounced off my dad’s chest and zipped around the carpet, finally coming to a halt near the hamster cage, melting a small hole in the synthetic rug the size of a potato.

The room immediately turned a blindingly bright white color only the Coast Guard could love, and by the time my father regained his vision and looked through the smoke, presumably to grab Peter’s neck and snap it, my brother had used the diversion to jump out the window, eluding punishment for yet another night. Peter was not the best communicator, nor was he ever considered a good candidate for “negotiator,” but I quickly learned by observing his actions that perhaps I didn’t need to learn to communicate with words. Being a shy teenager who was also lacking command of a large vocabulary, talking problems out and reasoning with each other just seemed time-consuming. That night, I came to understand the power of a gun and realized aloud, “Guns are awesome.”

I wanted to test it out for myself. So I found an instructor who chose as my first target the happy, winged creature symbolizing love that perched outside my bedroom window each morning. It was just sitting there on the branch, singing, ruffling its feathers like most swallows do. I was seventeen. My instructor was twelve. The BB gun was pumped with enough pressure to launch a kitten into space. Then I aimed and pulled the trigger, sending the bird reeling over backward in a cloud of feathers and guilt. When it was all over, Jason explained it was normal to feel nauseated:

“It’s okay. You’ll be fine. But I gotta go. My mom’s taking me to see The Little Mermaid.

That would be the last time I let a twelve-year-old whisper “kill it now” in my ear. While I learned that it was an amazing feeling to hold an object that has the ability to sway opinions, after the incident with the swallow, I decided guns weren’t really for me. Though committing arson on my father’s vegetable garden was acceptable, a gun was just taking things too far.

Now face with the firing range test, my search for a weapons instructor finally came to an end the day I met Barry, the assistant manager fo the liquor store where I worked nights. The day I walked in and inquired about a job, he was sitting behind the manager’s desk. I explained that I was looking for employment. He regarded me for a moment, then asked if I’d mind working with a fat pig name Clarence, pointing to the skinny guy behind the register. I said I thought this would be fine. He then led me on a tour through the massive walk-in refrigerator to show me where all the different beers were stacked. He asked me if I had any back problems preventing me from lifting boxes. I said no, then noticed his back brace and realized this was the best possible answer I could have given. Barry nodded his head up and down, seemingly trying to decide if I was going to work out, then wrenched open a bottle of Boone’s wine and washed down a handful of unknown pills. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Then he pulled a .22-caliber, long-barreled pistol out of his pants. It was fitted with some sort of custom-made silencer and he asked me if I’d ever seen such a thing of beauty. I said I hadn’t. Then he aimed it at a can of Milwaukee’s Best and fired, leaving a fountain of amusement in his wake.

I accepted the job on the spot.

It wasn’t until a week into the job that I learned that Barry hadn’t been the assistant manager at all. He was just an unstable employee whom the actual manager was afraid to fire. He called himself the assistant manager, and nobody argued with him. Although, looking back, it should have occurred to me, since Barry had given me a bonus one day for a job well done with a case of Miller Lite. But this guy could handle a weapon, even while hallucinating and mumbling, so who was I to question it?

Initially, I was a little nervous about taking a second job because the supervisors in my squadron tended to frown upon moonlighting, even though many of the enlisted guys I knew did it anyway. I had reached out to may coworker Tony Coloccini, who had confided in me that he also had a second job at a liquor store chain and would put in a good word. A week later, I was standing in this rundown liquor store. Needing money, and not wanting to be seen, this was the perfect job. Barry, the firearms expert, was the gift I was looking for.

Barry would walk up and down the aisles with an aimless purpose to do nothing but strut. Occasionally, he’d say he was going to take inventory or stock the shelves. But there was always some condition that prevented him from doing any actual work. He could never bend over to reach the bottom two shelves because of a bad back, nor could he stand on small ladder, claiming he once fell off one and preferred to avoid them. He couldn’t ever read inventory lists or do the ordering because he always forgot his glasses and, I suspect, couldn’t write.

This always left me wondering what Barry’s function in the store actually was until one night some suspicious-looking guys walked in and were greeted by Barry stroking a .44 magnum long barrel. This is a gun more commonly used to take down a helicopter or a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I imagine. They immediately turned and walked out. In short, the story had never been robbed since Barry started working there two years prior. And in a neighborhood where crime seemed to be the gross domestic product, Barry’s value went a long way.

As a result, the place became kind of a safe hangout for Barry’s friends who all lost their money at the track and would come in and shoot the shit with him for a while. This eventually led to the question of could have a bottle of Thunderbird or Mad Dog 20/20 and pay him back tomorrow. Barry always said yes, and, of course, would always forget that he did. In fact, unsurprisingly, Barry forgot a lot of things. He forgot to shower and shave. He forgot that you couldn’t scratch off twenty-five instant-win lotto tickets and not pay for them. And once he even forgot his gun was loaded and shot out his own windshield, or so Clarence, who had witnessed the incident, told me.

The store closed each night at midnight and by the end of the first month, Barry, Clarence, and I found ourselves on the same schedule. We got to know each other pretty well and enjoyed each other’s company and displayed our newfound friendship by developing a routine after locking up every night that involved petty theft, drinking, and soon enough, firearms practice.

Anyone else, I think, would have been alarmed by the double holster he wore to work every day, accompanied by a different set of pistols. Or, perhaps, the cocktail of pharmaceuticals, vodka, belligerence, and the dash of hallucinations that housed this human being. But one night, as we were leaving, he quick-drawed his pistols and unleashed a few rounds on the speed sign on the side of the road, hitting it perfectly without aiming and I knew I found my instructor.

The first problem with asking Barry about being my sharpshooting mentor was just trying to catch him in a moment when he was actually visiting Earth. I timed my approach carefully, since Barry was known to spend the first part of each night shift with his head down on the manager’s desk, occasionally snapping awake with a look of fear behind his milky eyes. Some nights, because the desk was located behind a small wall, his abrupt and frightening rise from the ninth circle of hell would cause a customer to drop a bottle of alcohol.

“Barry, I was wondering if you could teach me to shoot a gun and possibly–”

“Absolutely. Grab a case of beer and meet me at the trunk of my car.”

I can only assume that in the event that the local police force, the National Guard, and the entire US Army found themselves overmatched, Barry was their red phone emergency call. to find that Barry possessed a lot of weapons was not a surprise. To find that each of his weapons came with its own quick-release latch, strapped into the truck of his car, was. Barry, who stood at about five feet, two inches, drove a 1973 four-door Lincoln Continental. I t had a trunk big enough to carry a pond stocked with trout.

What should have worried me most was that somewhere over the course of his life, he came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to haul around enough ammunition to take out Shreveport, just in case he had to. Also worrisome was the stun gun he had as a “back up” in case all else failed. But honestly, what concerned me most was not passing the firing range test.

“What is that?” I asked, pointing at a weapon only Arnold Schwarzenegger could handle.

“Needed something for a crowd. Made it myself. Fully automatic.”

“Oh.”

We stared by setting up in front of what appeared to be a fenced-off electrical power station. It was located a short distance behind the liquor store and far away from the road. I inquired it if seemed troubling that, essentially, we were shooting at a potential eleven o’clock news story, but Barry explained that it was metal and would not explode, so no need to worry.

“No one’s gonna lose power,” he added.

“I meant the ricocheting bullets.”

“What about them?”

“Won’t they ricochet into us?”

“Unlikely. Now, do you want my help or not?”

Before we began, I tried to explain that there were no moving targets on the firing range, to which Barry explained that I was a woman. I said it wasn’t necessary, but that maybe we should start with something easy like a Coke can. But Barry insisted these were the basics and handed me a contraption that resembled a howitzer. Then he switched it to automatic and yelled, “Pull!”

Clarence lobbed a bottle of Bartles & Jaymes strawberry wine cooler into the sky. The weapon was so heavy that aiming it wasn’t really an option. I just sort of heaved it up, like throwing a heavy rock, and squeezed the trigger as best I could. The recoil forced me to the ground like a cannon blast. All the while, as I kept my finger on the trigger, I could have sworn I heard the faint but distinct sound of my mother crying.

It’s safe to assume that the Air Force was the right branch for me. Placing a wrench or a screwdriver in my hands at least ensures that any pain inflicted will be minimal and blunt and kept within the radius of me. Putting a loaded weapon in my hand is like strapping sharp knives to a small boy and sending him off to play tackle football with the other kids.

As expected, I missed everything, except for the power grid, a line of cypress trees, a storage shed, and the planet below our feet, which really took a kick in the balls that night. Also in the line of fire was human safety.

“F*ck this,” Clarence said, “I’m out of here.”

“Calm down,” Barry yelled. “Just stand behind him.”

“But that’s where the shed was!”

This is how it happens, I thought. This is how morons die. You always read in the paper, or hear on the news, about a couple of friends from a basement in Colorado Springs, just hanging out with a bottle of Jameson when one best friend shoots the other. There’s never any great detail about the incident. One buddy “accidentally” shoots the other. But the news anchor always includes that one fatal clue: “He thought the safety was on,” “He didn’t know it was loaded,” “He didn’t think that doing shots from the barrel was that big of a deal.” As a viewer, you sit eating your bowl of cornflakes at one o’clock in the morning, thinking to yourself, f*cking morons, and then turn the channel back to TMZ to find out what the latest Disney starlet thinks of terrorists.

But there we were, throwing a few back, shooting wildly at fast-moving wine coolers with automatic weapons and talking about how awesome it would be if Lynyrd Skynyrd could come back from the dead and play one more time. We deserved nothing more than a really stupendous obituary in which the editor would mercifully, thinking about our families, substitute the word “manslaughter” for “accidental.” The caption under the picture in the newspaper would read: “One man arrested after shooting his two best friends.” Then I realized the scariest part was that Barry and Clarence would be forever connected to me as “best friends.”

“You know what. I’ve got to get going,” I announced suddenly.

“What? But you haven’t even tried the sniper rifle yet.”

As I drove away from the scene of tomorrow’s headline, I watched Clarence crack open a bottle of something, then rummage through Barry’s trunk, reappear with the stun gun and chase him around the car, laughing.

The following week, I took the firing range test. I was really sweating hard, as this retest was a make-or-break moment – a few misplaced shot was all the difference between being able to stay in the Air Force and pay my bills and a less-than-honorable discharge, leading to financial ruin and divorce. I hit a few dirt mounds but managed to place a few on the paper target. Upon finishing, I approached the sergeant in charge of the scoring. I handed him the paper enemy that had clearly gotten away with only a few scratches.

“Huh,” he said, looking at the target. “Not great,” he observed.

“Yeah.”

I began to panic a little there. I saw my life as it truly was: a meager existence in a sham marriage, depressed and held down at twenty-one years of age by my own rash stupidity. I would have to call my parents and see if they were cool with the Stranger and I living in my old bedroom. I would have to get a minimum-wage job to pay off a mountain of debt. I began hyperventilating, seeing this whole terrible near-future play out when I suddenly heard the sergeant ask me:

“What’s your job again?”

“Crew chief.”

He rolled his eyes, and in a gesture of exasperation, made a check mark next to my name.

“F*ck it. You passed. See you next year.”

––––––––––

“Told in a collection of vignettes, Operation Cure Boredom is a coming of age story in camouflage. From dodging alligators, to surfing the inside of a plane at 30,000 feet, to being taken hostage by a Frenchwoman, and sex education in church, this absurdist portrait of life in the military is both an iconic look at listlessness in wartime, and the whirlwind journey of a young man getting the adventure he didn’t know he needed.” – Amazon

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thunderbird hits bird during Air Force Academy graduation

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird opted to depart early and land after apparently hitting a bird following May 30, 2019’s Air Force Academy graduation flyover, according to the team spokesman.

“The Thunderbirds Delta [formation] safely executed the flyover, when [Thunderbird No. 3] experienced a possible birdstrike,” Maj. Ray Geoffroy, spokesman for the demonstration team, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, he returned to the base and landed without incident prior to the aerial demonstration portion of today’s performance.”

The team typically returns after the flyover to perform an aerobatic demonstration for the event, Geoffroy said. The Thunderbirds fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


“The rest of the team safely completed the demonstration [and] all aircraft are now back at Peterson Air Force Base, [Colorado], safe and sound,” he said.

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The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation May 28, 2014, over Falcon Stadium during the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

The Air Force is investigating May 30, 2019’s episode. It’s not the first time the Thunderbirds have experienced a mishap while performing at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony.

After the academy’s 2016 graduation event, attended by then-President Barack Obama, Maj. Alex Turner, pilot for the No. 6 jet, crashed in a nearby field in Colorado Springs. Turner was headed back to Peterson but felt that something wasn’t right.

“What was that that I just felt there, with my hand?” Turner said he asked at the time of the mishap. Turner sat down with Military.com in 2017 to recall the event.

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The Thunderbirds perform May 25, 2011, after a graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The official investigation later found that an accidental throttle rotation led to a malfunction and subsequent engine stall, causing Turner’s jet to crash.

Since 1995, the Air Force has recorded 105,586 wildlife strikes that damaged aircraft, according to data recently reported by Air Force Times.

Excluding injuries, the strikes have cost the service 7,546,884, Air Force Times reported.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 simple reasons the Union won the Civil War

If zeal could be weaponized in wartime, the Confederacy might have had a chance. Not everyone in the South was very confident about the Confederacy’s chances of winning the Civil War. As Rhett Butler pointed out in Gone With The Wind, there were just some things the South lacked that the North had in massive amounts — and it just so happened that all those things were the things you need to fight a war.

Cotton, slaves, and arrogance just wasn’t going to be enough to overcome everything else the Confederates lacked. Rhett Butler wasn’t far off in listing factories, coal mines, and shipyards as essential materials.


The fictional Rhett Butler only echoed statements made by prominent, prescient (and real) Southerners at the time, like Sam Houston.

“If you go to war with the United States, you will never conquer her, as she has the money and the men. If she does not whip you by guns, powder, and steel, she will starve you to death. It will take the flower of the country —the young men.”

The Confederacy never had a chance. The Civil War was just the death throes of an outmoded way of life that was incompatible with American ideals and the nail in its coffin was manufactured by Northern factories and foundries.

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Manufacturing capacity

When it comes to actually fighting, there are some essentials that an army needs to be backed by — chief among them is the weapons of war. Southern historian Shelby Foote noted that the Industrial Revolution in the United States was in full swing at the time of the Civil War and much of that growing industrial strength was firmly in the North. Meanwhile, the South at the war’s onset was still chiefly an agrarian society which relied on material imported from outside the 11 would-be Confederate states.

It’s not that the Southern economy was poorly planned overall, it was just poorly planned for fighting a war.

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Cotton awaiting transport in Arkansas.

Economics

Very closely related to industrial output is what the South could trade for those necessary war goods. When all is well, the South’s cotton-based economy was booming due to worldwide demand for the crop. The trouble was that the population density in the South was so low that much of the wealth of the United States (and the banks that go along with that money) were overwhelmingly located in the North.

When it came time to raise the money needed to fight a war, it was especially difficult for the South. Levying taxes on a small population didn’t raise the money necessary to fund the Confederate Army and, for other countries, investing in a country that may not exist in time for that investment to yield a return is a risky venture. And tariffs on imported goods only work if those goods make it to market, which brings us to…

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Civil War sailors were some of the saltiest.

Naval strength

Although the Confederacy saw some success at sea, the Confederate Navy was largely outgunned by the Union Navy. One of the first things the Union did was implement a naval blockade of Southern ports to keep supplies from getting to the Confederate Army while keeping that valuable Southern cotton from making it to foreign ports. The South’s import-export capacity fell by as much as 80 percent during the war.

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Ground transport

Earlier I noted the Southern economy was poorly planned for fighting any war. That situation becomes more and more dire when fighting the war on the South’s home turf. The North’s industrialization required means of transport for manufactured goods and that meant a heavy investment in the fastest means of overland commercial transport available at the time: railroads.

Northern states created significant rail networks to connect manufacturing centers in major cities while the South’s cotton-based economy mainly relied on connecting plantations to major ports for export elsewhere. Railroad development was minimal in the South and large shipments were primarily made from inland areas by river to ports like New Orleans and Charleston – rivers that would get patrolled by the Union Navy.

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The port of Charleston in 1860.

Population

People who live in a country are good for more than just paying taxes to fund a functional government and its armies, they also fuel the strength, reach, and capabilities of those armies. In the early battles of the Civil War, the South inflicted a lot more casualties on the North while keeping their numbers relatively low. But the North could handle those kinds of losses, they had more people to replace the multiple thousands killed on the battlefield.

For the South, time was not on their side. At the beginning of the war, the Union outnumbered the Confederates 2-to-1 and no matter how zealous Southerners were to defend the Confederacy, there simply wasn’t enough of them to be able to handle the kinds of losses the Union Army began to dish out by 1863. At Gettysburg, for example, Robert E. Lee’s army numbered as many as 75,000 men – but Lee lost a third of those men in the fighting. Those were hardened combat troops, not easily replaced.

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Jefferson Davis was widely criticized by his own government, being called more of an Adams than a Washington.

Politics

Replacing troops was a contentious issue in the Confederate government. The Confederacy was staunchly a decentralized republic, dedicated to the supremacy of the states over the central government in Richmond. Political infighting hamstrung the Confederate war effort at times, most notably in the area of conscription. The Confederate draft was as unpopular in the South as it was in the North, but Southern governors called conscription the “essence of military despotism.”

In the end, the Confederate central government had to contend with the power of its own states along with the invading Union Army. In 1863, Texas’ governor wouldn’t even send Texan troops east for fears that they would be needed to fight Indians or Union troops invading his home state.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

One of the biggest reveals in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” other than Rey’s identity, came at its very end when the character revealed she had her own new lightsaber with a distinctive yellow-orange hue.

What color exactly is the lightsaber and how did the visual effects team land on it?

“A fair number of colors have been used in lightsabers. So there was a design challenge there in terms of what color it should be,” “TROS” visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett told Insider Monday of the direction given for the lightsaber seen at the movie’s very end.


“There was an optimistic kind of quality to that, but we also wanted [Rey] to have a very unique color,” he added of coming up with the color we see on screen. “We ran some tests and decided in the end what color it would be.”

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Rey prepares to slice through Kylo Ren’s ship with Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.

(Lucasfilm)

Is there a specific name to Rey’s lightsaber color? We’re going with ‘yellow optimism.’

“That specific color yellow, if you go too pale — this is getting really in the weeds here — if you go too pale and you make it too light, it’s going to look white a lot of times,” Industrial Light Magic (ILM) visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach said of one factor that helped them land on that precise color. “Colors on film, sometimes they bleed away depending on the exposure and the quality of the light in the scene.”

“Making it that more golden yellow gives you that optimistic feeling, and it also allows you to make it supersaturated and still feel like it’s in the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” he added.

Yellow sabers aren’t anything new to “Star Wars” lore, but they are uncommon. In the past, yellow lightsabers have mostly been limited to Jedi temple guards, who wielded double-bladed sabers.

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Here’s Kanan Jarrus going up against a Jedi Temple guard on the animated series “Star Wars Rebels.”

(Lucasfilm)

When asked if they had a specific name for the color, optimism was a word that came up frequently to describe the tone they were going for with the look of Rey’s lightsaber.

“We definitely went for things like golden and sun and optimism,” said Tubach.

“I think the optimism carried that choice,” added Guyett.

“I’m going to paint my house ‘yellow optimism,'” joked creature and makeup effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan.

Did the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber look familiar? It should have.

(Lucasfilm)

Rey’s lightsaber does include a yellow kyber crystal

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be a yellow crystal,” said Tubach.

It was not a clear crystal that changed color after chosen by Rey. Neither was it a purified version of a red kyber crystal as Ahsoka Tano did in the past to create her white lightsabers.

Insider thought Rey’s saber color may have contained a healed version of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s cracked red kyber crystal, but it seems that’s not the case.

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Did the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber look familiar? It should have.

(Lucasfilm)

The small detail within Rey’s new lightsaber you may have missed: The hilt of her lightsaber comes from her original staff.

“That was the concept,” said Guyett of the inspiration behind the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber. “The art production design and the art department, we all contribute to the designs of various things… [director] J.J. [Abrams] just thought it was logical that she had the staff, and, therefore, the saber should somehow be linked to that.”

In hindsight, when you go back to “The Force Awakens,” Rey’s staff always looked like it could eventually be transformed into the perfect lightsaber hilt.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is currently in theaters. You can read our review here.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY MONEY

Pro-tip: Active Duty gets the AmEx Platinum for free

The Platinum Card from American Express has one of the highest annual fees of any consumer credit card — a staggering $550 each year, starting when your first billing statement hits. However, the card is easily worth that annual fee because you get more value than that back. For example, I got more than $2,000 of demonstrable value from the card my first year.

However, if you’re an active duty US military member, AmEx will actually waive the annual fee. As reported by US Navy veteran Richard Kerr for The Points Guy, service members must request the benefit by calling the number on the back of the card — it isn’t applied automatically. AmEx uses an automated program to confirm your service, and refunds the annual fee in the form of a statement credit.


This can be particularly useful for military members who find themselves traveling frequently, either as a part of their service or during leave periods — or for traveling spouses and children, who can be added as authorized users. But the card can be incredibly valuable even for non-service members who have to pay the whole fee. Here are some of the benefits that make that the case.

Airport lounge access

Airport lounges are exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection, food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities. Although lounges were traditionally reserved for first class and business class passengers, many are accessible to any traveler who holds either a lounge membership or certain credit cards — and the Platinum Card from American Express offers access to three different kinds of lounge.

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The first type is AmEx’s own proprietary lounges, located at eight airports in the United States — and in Hong Kong — with three more US locations set to open in 2019. These chic venues offer an oasis in the middle of the main terminal’s chaos, featuring comfortable seating, complimentary cocktails and food created by award-winning mixologists and chefs, respectively, and other amenities. Access to these lounges is limited to holders of the AmEx Platinum or AmEx Centurion cards.

If you’re flying with Delta and carry a Platinum Card, you can also access any Delta Sky Club lounge. With more than 30 locations, Sky Clubs offer snacks, complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks (with more “premium” drinks available for purchase), fast Wi-Fi, and a place to unwind. Some locations also feature showers.

Finally, the Platinum Card comes with a Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world. With the membership provided by your Platinum card, you and two guests can access any location (as long as there’s room) to enjoy free snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, showers, and more, all separate from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal. If you have an international version of the card, instead of the US version, be sure to double check the guest policy for your card’s Priority Pass benefit. Priority Pass also offers credits at some airport lounges and restaurants.

Membership Rewards points

The Platinum Card earns Membership Rewards points, which are the currency in AmEx’s loyalty program. Points can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through the AmEx Travel website, or transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the most valuable).

The card earns a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airline, as well as flights and prepaid hotels reserved through AmEx Travel. It earns one point for every dollar spent elsewhere.

The Platinum Card comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend ,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. The value of the points depends on how you use them, but by transferring them to airline frequent flyer programs, it can be possible to use those welcome points to fly round-trip to Europe, or even one-way in first class.

0 airline fee credit

Every calendar year, the Platinum Card offers a 0 credit toward incidental fees on one airline (that you can choose at the beginning of each year). While it doesn’t cover tickets, it applies to a wide variety of charges and fees, such as checked bags, change fees if you need to change your flight, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, airport lounge day passes (if you don’t already have complimentary access), and sometimes even things like seat assignments and extra legroom upgrade fees.

Up to 0 in Uber credits

In March, 2017, American Express added this as a new perk to the Platinum Card. The credit works within the US, and is worth up to 0 per year, broken into monthly chunks; each month, you’ll get a credit added to your linked Uber account, with an extra for a total of each December.

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(Stock Catalog photo)

If you travel on a regular basis or live anywhere near most cities, this is an easy perk to get value from. You can also put the credits toward UberEats orders.

In addition, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status. There aren’t a ton of perks with this, and it’s only available in certain cities, but with Uber VIP, you’ll only be connected to drivers rated 4.8 stars or higher. Uber also says that Uber VIP drivers have “high-quality cars.”

Shopping credit

This is a brand new benefit that AmEx added to the Platinum Card in July 2018. US card members can enroll to get up to 0 in statement credits each year in store or online at Saks Fifth Avenue. The credit is broken into two parts, with up to available every six months.

Although many things at Saks are quite pricey, there are plenty of items in the -100 range — and lower — that you can find by browsing the website. Sneakers that are on sale, things like Converse shoes, t-shirts, sweaters, or more. You can learn more about the benefit here.

Elite status at Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton hotels

Elite status at hotels can be incredibly valuable, often including free perks like daily breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in or late check-out, premium internet, lounge access, free nights, points-earning bonuses, and more. Usually, only the top frequent travelers earn status, but with the Platinum Card, you can earn it before you’ve stayed a single night.

The card comes with gold-level elite status at both Hilton and Starwood hotels. Because Starwood is owned by Marriott, the latter matches your status at Starwood. If you stay at hotels even a few nights a year, these benefits can be extremely valuable — especially considering how expensive hotel breakfasts can be.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry (which comes with PreCheck) are absolute musts for just about any traveler. Once you enroll, you can use special lanes to breeze through airport security — you won’t have to remove shoes and light coats, and you can leave your laptop in your bag. With Global Entry, you can use a fast lane when you return to the US from abroad, which makes clearing immigration and customs easy and quick. The programs cost -0, and American Express will provide a credit for that fee every four years (memberships are valid for five years).

Other card benefits

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a few other benefits that help offset the annual fee.

AmEx also Platinum card members access to the AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts program. When you book participating hotels through AmEx Travel (there are nearly 1,000 worldwide), you’ll enjoy valuable perks including room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, free Wi-Fi, and a unique amenity at each hotel, like a credit to use at on-property spas or restaurants.

An exclusive concierge service is available to Platinum cardmembers, too. While the services are complimentary, you’re responsible for paying for any services booked or purchases made on your behalf (don’t worry, the concierge will always ask for approval first). The service can come in helpful for things like getting tickets to shows or making reservations at exclusive restaurants.

Bottom line

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a high annual fee of 0, but the value of the card’s annual benefits more than outweighs the fee. That’s especially true the first year, when you can earn welcome points.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. If you have questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at yourmoney@businessinsider.com.

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Why we’re excited about the upcoming Battlefield V

The Battlefield series has always been known for its breathtaking graphics and in-depth storytelling about real-life conflicts involving troops. These popular features seem to be continuing with their latest installment, Battlefield V, coming Oct. 19.


The new game will be set in World War 2 and have several modes. The single-player “War Stories” will be brought back from Battlefield 1, which gave each chapter of the story to a different soldier fighting in the war. This opened up many storytelling possibilities that could give each region and troop the respect they deserve.

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No matter how many times we play it in every WW2 game or movie, the Battle of Normandy is always one of the most hardcore scenes in every medium.
(EA Dice)

The multiplayer is also looking just as in-depth. The series is known for its massive 64 versus 64 player matches and it’s being teased that those matches may be even bigger. This even branches off into the “Last Stand” mode where a player is given only one life and that’s it.

Another much welcomed return to video gaming is an extremely interesting co-op mode called “Combined Arms.” In it, a squad of four players will be paratroopers given a mission to sneak behind enemy lines to complete their objective. The squad-based multiplayer is the game’s focus, just as it was in the phenomenal Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Everything in the game is destructible and players can interact with everything and even build their own fortifications. Not only is being able to clear out buildings standing between you and your opponent coming back, but there’s a return of minor details that make the game feel more realistic. A key example is grabbing a health pack; players have to actually apply it to heal (instead of the gaming norm of just walking over it and magically healing.)

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Even tiny things like each weapon having a certain unpredictability makes things so much more realistic.
(EA Dice)

This offers a much more difficult level of game play that is unparalleled — and very welcomed from gamers.

Another popular perk of the game is their discontinuation of a premium or season pass. Every bit of post-launch content will be free to all players. In similar fashion, EA Dice has filled previous content with enough things to do that nearly doubles the game-play content in a matter of months.

Check out the video below to watch the official trailer.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

What a battle between the Space Force and China would look like

Billions of bits of debris flying across space, lasers burning holes into the atmosphere, and space-faring robots steering satellites into fiery reentry… welcome to the Space Force vs. China.


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Luckily, for now, it seems like everyone is sticking to the “No weapons of mass destruction in Space” rule.

(U.S. Army)

Any future war between the U.S. and China will likely become a space battle, and any space battle will focus on the destruction of each other’s warfighting satellites — the ones that provide intelligence, communications, and GPS. The U.S. has over 800 in orbit and China has over 200.

The first salvos will be the least destructive. The U.S. Space Force and the People’s Liberation Army would use weapons like lasers and jammers to temporarily blind or disable. If things escalates from there, it’ll be time to turn to true anti-satellite weapons.

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The Raven allows for relatively easy and precise steering in space.

(NASA)

The U.S. could turn to systems like the Raven, a NASA program that allows for automated link ups between satellites, to get American kill satellites into position above Chinese satellites, link up with them, and then steer them downwards, turning them into a meteor that will explode and burn up in the atmosphere.

But by the time a space war breaks out, China may have has its own system for sending orbiting objects into the atmosphere, like the proposed “space broom,” a satellite bearing a laser for burning up space debris and sending it back into the atmosphere. If it aims at a pressurized tank on an American satellite, it could create a tiny hole that would vent gasses and degrade the satellite’s orbit, dooming it.

For a more visceral destruction, China’s AoLong 1 satellite can grab enemy satellites with its arm and hurl them towards the ocean.

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Like this, but then the robotic arm throws the satellite back towards earth, cups its hand to its ear, and acts like it can’t hear the crowd cheering for the first successful wrestling take down between robots in space. (Wrestling leagues, I look forward to pitching you a spec script.)

(NASA)

By this point, it would be expected that military forces would start to clash on the lands and sea — that is, if the war didn’t start there in the first place.

Once significant numbers of troops are in harm’s way, which would be immediately with both navies sailing carriers holding thousands of sailors in the Pacific, the forces would be willing to turn to even move destructive measures to gain an advantage.

This would mean the use of missiles designed for destroying ballistic missiles. Most weapons capable of engaging a ballistic missile in the middle of its flight are also capable of engaging a satellite in low earth orbit, where most military and civilian satellites operate. Some are even capable of engaging targets in higher, faster orbits.

In general, hitting an object in low earth orbit means firing a guided missile at an object approximately 250 miles above the earth that’s traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour. It’s a bit of a tricky shot, but China and the U.S. have shown they’re capable. The Space Force would likely inherit some of the land-based missiles and lasers capable of making this shot, but they would also ask for a huge assist from the Navy.

See, China and the U.S. both have land-based missiles that can make the shot, but any anti-satellite missile launch faces a fuel problem. Missiles can only hit satellites that fly within a certain range of the launch point since the missiles have to make it into space with enough fuel to maneuver and reach the target. So, a Space Force would likely be stacked to engage targets that fly over missile shields on the West Coast, but would be weak elsewhere.

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These things can reach space and kill things there. For realsies.

(Missile Defense Agency photo by Leah Garton)

But the Navy’s Standard Missile-3, a common armament on the Navy’s Aegis destroyers, has a demonstrated capability of killing satellites after a software change.

In a shooting war with China in space, expect the missiles to get their software upgraded immediately.

A tit-for-tat escalation into missiles exploding in space creates an immediate crisis for all astronauts up there. See, nearly all manned space missions have taken place in low earth orbit, an area that would become even more saturated with space debris in this situation. The International Space Station, for example, is in LEO.

Think thousands if not millions of bullets, all flying at speeds sufficient to punch right through the International Space Station or the planned Chinese large, modular space station. Expect both countries to immediately try to evacuate their troops. For the ISS crew, this means they need to make it the Soyuz capsules and immediately start the launch sequence, a process expected to take three minutes.

But the really bad thing about this type of war is that it can’t end. See, those bits of space debris go in all directions. The ones flying at escape velocity will fly away and travel, potentially forever, through the universe. The ones that explode towards the earth will likely burn up quickly.

But the ones flying at the right velocity, quite possibly thousands or millions of pieces of metal per missile vs. satellite engagement, will simply fly through low earth orbit at thousands of miles per hour, shredding everything they come in contact with and creating more debris.

Think of those really scary scenes in Gravity.

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Eventually, this is nearly guaranteed to take out the bulk of the satellites in orbit, from communications to weather to mapping.

In a stroke, we’d get rid of a significant portion of our internet architecture, our weather data, and other systems, like GPS, that we just expect to work, potentially setting us back decades.

So, even if the combatants decide to stop shooting at each other, it’s too late to save space for that generation. For decades, the job of the Space Force, NASA, and all of our allies will be cleaning up from the war, whether the whole thing lasted minutes or years.

So, let’s just make a movie about it, watch that, and try to avoid actually fighting each other in space.

Come on, Space Force. You guys can work out deterrence strategies, right?

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