Monday, December 31, 2007

Great Christmas Present

After the disaster of the expired license, I got a great early Christmas present from Ed and Jennifer an ice cream maker. It makes great ice cream. We did three batches. Two were vanilla and one I cut up a dark chocolate bar and added it in. One batch of vanilla did not turn out very well because we couldn't keep the freezer bowl cold enough.

Now you may wonder why I'm pointing up to the corner. Well my brother has a reputation of leaving the price tag on presents and that's what he did here. He told me it was the wrong price anyway.

Here I am testing to see how far along our final batch with the chocolate bar added is doing.

I will add once again that the ice cream tastes fantastic.

Making Ice Cream

Here I am along with my dad and brother making ice cream. My dad was official taster as you can see and my brother was camera operator.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Too much time on my hands

I ordered my dad some salmon from Omaha Steaks for Christmas. It arrived the day we went to the casino. After we opened up the container, I took the dry ice that was in it and put it in a bucket of water. This is what happened when I dropped it in. 

Yes you could say I had too much time on my hands but it was really cool.

A cult in Washington

I was walking around DuPont Circle yesterday and I got this card handed to me. 

The Scientologists took over a wonderful old mansion right near the Circle. I remember when it was a great restaurant but unfortunately it is now the headquarters to a cult.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Off to the Casino

Last Thursday my dad and I were up early. Then again we almost are always up early. Sleeping late means getting up around 7.

My dad had discovered another place to go gambling. It seems there are several casinos in Miami, Oklahoma. To say this place was out in the middle of no where would be an understatement.

We were off around 7:30. It took about two hours to get there. There was some fog on the drive down too. We got a little lost once we got off the interstate. A sign or two directing people where to go would have been helpful.

Buffalo Run, that's the place we went to, is essential a big Quonset hut. And while the town of Miami is out of the way Buffalo Run is really out of the way. It is a couple of miles from the town.

It is not as large as the other casinos that we've been to but it is still a good size. It has slot machines as well as black jack and other card games. There is even a video blackjack dealer that you can play against.

We played slots. This time there were no big winnings. In fact we probably lost about $50 a piece. There was one machine that we were on that no matter how things ended up we never lost any money. I think it was a dollar machine. We could bet one dollar or three dollars and we never lost any money. Our total always went back to $5. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had one once but that never happened.

We left right around 1 and got back to Springfield in a little over an hour and a half. It is amazing how much ground you can cover when the speed limit is 75 miles an hour.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Evil in the World

It is the only way I can describe what happened today in Pakistan. See this story in the Post for more information.

I have to say I was completely stunned at the death of Benazir Bhutto. She seemed to offer Pakistan a better tomorrow. A tomorrow where democracy and the rule of law would hold sway rather than the whims of a general.

Hopefully the people of Pakistan can withstand this cruel and horrible blow and come out in the end better.

Although right now that seems a very long ways away.

A Jolt in the Journey

Last Wednesday I headed out for Springfield. I got up around 5:30 to make my 8:25 flight. I decided that I could take the subway instead of trying to get a cab. I’ve never been very lucky in getting a cab around my neighborhood that early in the morning.

I’d printed out my boarding passes. I was told by a couple people at work that this would make things easier when checking in. I have to say they really didn’t. Either that or I didn’t do something so it would be easier. American was mobbed with people both inside and out. I wasn’t sure what to do. There was also no one to ask. Finally I just checked in again. I got my boarding passes and indicated the number of bags I was checking. Very quickly my name was called and the luggage tag applied. I walked the bag around to be x-rayed. I dropped it off and then just stood around for awhile. I had plenty of time before my flight was to take off. I watched the progress my bag made in getting x-rayed. It took some time. Bag after bag was placed in front of it but finally it went on its way.

It was time to head for security and the gate. I’m online for security. I get up to the guy and then I get my big surprise. My license expired in June. They let me go but I had to be checked. I was patted down and they used the wand on me and they also tested my shoes, coat, and carry on for any residue. I was told I was fine and that I could go on.

Now how does one describe what I was feeling. How to describe how I was feeling once I got to Springfield. I will just say I had hmm well a little melt down. Ok it was a big melt down. My main concern was whether I could get back to DC. My thinking was that DC is a big airport and Springfield isn’t a big airport. So maybe just maybe they might not be so forgiving and say sorry you don’t get to fly.

My brother found a TSA worker and asked him a few questions. My dad and I waited for my luggage. The time waiting helped me to calm down. My brother and I went back to the TSA guy and asked a few more questions. He asked if I had my social security card with me. I said no and thought to myself you aren’t supposed to have your card in your wallet just in case the wallet is stolen. The TSA guy said they would do the same thing in Springfield as was done in DC.

I decided to have my friend who was cat sitting go over to my house and get my passport and send it to me FedEx. Unfortunately it took an extra day to get out to Springfield because last Friday the city was fogged in and the FedEx plane could not get in from Nashville. I also didn’t realize that a signature was not required so it wasn’t necessary for someone to be at my dad’s house to sign for it.

That was the unfun excitement on trip.

Oh yes and the upshot on the license. Since its been expired for over six months, I have to take a written and driving test to get it back. I’ll start the process next week. I’d thought there was a DMV office right downtown essentially on the way to work but that’s not the case so now getting there will be a little more complicated. I’ve downloaded a rules to the road book but I want to see if there are a sample questions you can look at.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A great Christmas

I just got back from Missouri well actually I got back about 6 hours ago.

I had a great time and got some fantastic presents. It was a very fun time but it didn't start out that way.

More on that in a future post.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Cat

I know it's a little early (actually it is only a week away) but I wanted to send out a Christmas wish to everyone.

And what better way to send it than with pictures of Sam under the tree.

To close a classic Christmas song

Christmas Time Is Here

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

Another podcast

This is yet another in a series of political podcasts that I will be doing with my friend Arthur from New Zealand.

Because of his travel schedule, this will be the last podcast we do before all the election fun begins.

We discuss how the political landscape is shaping up as Iowa is set to caucus in just 16 days. We give opinion on Romney's speech on religion if Huckabee and where the Democrats stand (mostly we talk about Clinton and Obama).

Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Smile

It's the start of the work week and we all need a smile. So here are a few.

Back to Afghanistan

There's a story in today's Post about the rising concern in the Bush administration over Afghanistan. Seems the Taliban is making a come back and there is pressure to move resources form Iraq to Afghanistan.

From the story:

Administration officials say the White House has become more concerned in recent months about the situation in Afghanistan, where grinding poverty, rampant corruption, poor infrastructure and the growing challenge from the Taliban are hindering U.S. stabilization efforts. Senior administration officials now believe Afghanistan may pose a greater longer-term challenge than Iraq.

and this:
A new White House emphasis on Afghanistan would probably expose Bush to even more criticism from Democrats, who have long accused him of taking his eye off the hunt for Osama bin Laden with the invasion of Iraq.
The moral to the story seems to be to pursue one war at a time and make sure you win it before heading on to the next.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A perfect evening

It really was a perfect evening and those seldom come along.

I went off to see Spamalot again at the National Theater.

The first thing I needed to decide was what to do after work. It seemed rather silly to go home and then a little over an hour and a half later come back downtown. This is especially true since the National is only a few blocks from where I work.

So I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum. They are in the same block. The are also about a ten minute walk from my office. What is great about these museums is that they are open until 7:30 each night.

I saw two great exhibits. One on Katharine Hepburn which was a series of photos through the course of her career. Here’s a link to follow to get a look and the exhibit. Also on hand was the contract Hepburn signed which gave her the rights to the Philadelphia Story. The film that relaunched her career and made her a super star. The other one was called Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American portraits. Follow this link to take a look at it. It was a series of portraits of famous African Americans starting from the mid 1860s and going to the present. I got a very quick look at Legacy: Spain and the United States in the Age of Independence, 1763-1848 but want to go back and look at that one again. Actually I want to go back and look at everything again.

If that wasn’t enough I got to see the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard. This is a courtyard created by placing a ceiling in the space between the two buildings. It was used in the past but now obviously can be used all year round. It is spectacular and that I really want to go back and see on a bright sunny day.

For dinner I went to the Capitol City Brewery. I had a chicken Caesar Salad and for dessert I had pumpkin pie with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. On the side of the dish was sprinkled pumpkin pie spice. It was fantastic!

Then it was off for another great performance of Spamalot. Here's a link of the review in the Post. Most of the actors were the same from the last time I saw it but a couple were new. The Lady of the Lake and Sir Robin. It is a very enjoyable show. It was two hours of great entertainment and laughter. Here's what I said the last time I went.

I just may have to go back and see it again!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Odds and Ends, political

The Oprah effect

Gee was there just a little press on Oprah Winfrey campaigning for Sen. Barack Obama. What I thought was interesting was the coverage was almost completely about here and there was very little on what Obama said at the rallies. At least that was the way TV seemed to be covering the story. I'm not sure how I feel about this. This is not like a regular endorsement by some celebrity for a campaign. There were great crowds but I guess the question has to be will that translate into votes for Obama. It is very much a we'll see as we say in my family. Follow this link to read the coverage in the Post.


What to say about his speech. Seems to me the less the better. Here are two quick quotes that sum up the speech for me:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

The other is this:

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

It seems to me what Mr. Romney is aiming for is a Christian Democracy and that the form of Christianity would be dictated by the religious right in this country. I for one am not interested in that.

Huckabee surge?

Seems the Mike Huckabee is on a roll. A very big roll.

In the Republican race, Huckabee's surge in Iowa, where he has overtaken longtime front-runner Romney in recent polls, has begun to translate to the national stage, further shaking up a race that has been volatile from the outset.

Among all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, Giuliani's national lead is as low as it has been since the campaign began. And among likely Republican voters, 25 percent now back Giuliani, while 19 percent back Huckabee, whose support jumped from 9 percent last month. Romney ranks third at 17 percent, with Thompson at 14 percent and McCain at 12 percent. In the new poll, Giuliani is at his lowest level to date among conservatives, down nine points over the past month to 19 percent.

I saw another poll recently about the race in Iowa where Huckabee had a double digit lead over Romney. I don't remember who did the poll. It will be interesting to see if Huckabee is able to translate this new popularity into votes and much needed money.

Romney is trying to define Huckabee as being too liberal for Iowa. Romney has to be careful on this one because Huckabee could fight back on the ever shifting position Romney has on so many issues.

To think the fun really starts three weeks from tomorrow.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sam's first videos

Sam is finally ready for his close up.

He also does all of his own stunts.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A little snow, a big mess, total chaos

I've lived in Washington for 30 years but it never ceases to amaze me how a little snow can cause complete and total panic in this city. That's what happened on Wednesday. Of course the weather people got it wrong on how much total snow we were going to get which only added to the problem.

Sam's trouble returned and I had to take him to the vet. The drive over was not too bad. The walk to the vet wasn't bad either the sidewalks were in pretty good shape. The walk back to the car was another matter entirely. Several times I had to think and move really fast or there was going to be a cat and cat carrier launch. Luckily that did not happen. Now, however, I have to give Sam medicine. Currently he is hiding underneath the bed upstairs. But he will have to come out some time and then I'll have him.

Below are a few pictures of the snow we had.

Fun quiz

Follow this link to a quiz on the Washington Post site. There are 25 questions and answers from the major candidates to each one. You select the answer you like the most. At the end it tells which candidate has similar positions.

I took the quiz for the Democratic candidates. I thought taking the one for the Republicans would have been a complete waste of time.

Christmas Decorations phase one

Sam and I have been a bit under the weather so I've been a little remiss in posting. Sam paid a visit to the vet on the day of the DC snow "storm" more on that later. Here are a couple of pictures from the first phase of putting up decorations.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Political podcast and more

I'm on anther podcast with my friend Art in New Zealand. Follow the link to listen.

When we were growing up we would talk for hours about politics. As you can tell from the podcast, not a great deal has changes except we don't talk as long.

It's interesting that part of our discussion centered on Mike Huckabee. Well now it seems in at least one poll (from the Des Moines Register) he is in the lead (see this story in the Post about it). It will be interesting to see if he is able to maintain that position. The smart thing for his campaign to do would be to play down expectations and say that a top three finish would be great.

The problem is that a caucus state requires a great deal more organization then the Huckabee campaign not has in Iowa. But if he can motivate his people enough he just might be able to pull off the upset. (he's launched a new ad which talks about how he is a Christian Leader whatever that means) and hold of the attacks that are now coming especially from Romney, he just might have a chance of winning in Iowa.

And the reason for the sudden rise of Huckabee? The reason Romney may not come in first in Iowa? That can be summed up in one word Mormonism. This seems to be developing into a problem for Romney with he one group he seems to be courting the most: Christian Conservatives. Here's an interesting take on that from the Post. In part the article says:

In a memo summing up their findings, the three scholars wrote: "Voters across the board respond most favorably to a message that dispels the negative stereotypes about Mormons (such as learning that the church banned polygamy about 100 years ago, the LDS Church stresses traditional family values, and that the LDS Church's policy is to be politically neutral). But what does NOT work is a simple appeal to religious tolerance."

Demystifying the Mormon religion will be one of Romney's key challenges, if not in the speech on Thursday then possibly as the campaign progresses. Romney may be the best salesman for this, in part because the scholars found that among those who know he is a Mormon, the issue of his religion becomes less of a political problem.

Romney is supposed to have a major speech on this issue on Thursday. It will be interesting to see what he has to say. It will be even more interesting to see how what he says is received.

World War III Postponed

Guess we're a littler further away from World War III then President Bush thinks:

A major U.S. intelligence review has concluded that Iran stopped work on a suspected nuclear weapons program more than four years ago, a stark reversal of previous intelligence assessments that Iran was actively moving toward a bomb.

The above is from a story in Post.

This once again shows that the over heated rhetoric of the administration is just furthering to erode our position in the world. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan there Bush goes again.

The story goes on to say:

Even if Iran were to restart its program now, the country probably could not produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single weapon before the middle of the next decade, the assessment stated. It also expressed doubt about whether Iran "currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."
It also seems the administration was well aware of this when Bush gave his speech at the recent Mideast Summit. A large part of that speech focused on the threat that Iran posed to the region.

I do have to say that this doesn't mean that Iran is not a threat to the region. The only country that served as any sort of check on Iran was Iraq. And we all know the mess that Iraq is in. I'm sure other Middle Eastern states are afraid of Iran. But the threat needs to stated in a truthful and forthright manner back up by facts. Not wishful thinking and bombast by the administration.

There is a great column in the Post by Dan Froomkin on Bush's spin on this report. I think this pretty well sums up the gist of President Bush' news conference on the report:

It was neck-snapping spin even by Bush standards. He intentionally misread the report's central point, failed to acknowledge a huge change in his argument for why Iran is dangerous and exhibited pure bullheaded stubbornness.

Isn't it nice to see how some things never change.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Charlie Brown Christmas

Yes, it is on again! The best Christmas special. Here's a link to my post from last year.

And here's one of the many great scenes from the show.

The Corcoran

The lions at the entrance of the Corcoran Gallery

I don’t go to the Corcoran all that often. It’s not that there are not exhibits there that I wouldn’t mind seeing it is you have to pay to get in. With all the museums that are available for free it is sort of hard to pay to see are. I will also say that many times I find out there are exhibits I want to see at the Corcoran the last weekend they are there. Usually I have something else planned that weekend too.

So I’m very proud of myself that I got to both the Annie Leibovitz and Ansel Adams exhibits before they closed which is in January. Both were spectacular. It was interesting that the majority of both of their works are in black and white.

Adams is of course best know for his landscape pictures of the national parks. Many of these pictures are from Yosemite National Park. Another main body of his work is from the southwest. An especially wonderful photo is called Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. There is a description of how Adams got the picture. He was driving down the road and pulled over. He worked frantically before he would loose all of the light. The sun was setting and moon was rising at the same time. He was able to get the shot off just before the sun dipped below the horizon. The level of detail of this small town is breath taking.

Leibovitz is best know for doing portraits. Although she had landscapes as well. Several of them were blown up to a huge size (think a large part of a gallery wall). They were of the wilds of upstate New York. The main body of her exhibition was her portraits of her family and famous people. It seems she has photographed all of Demi Moore’s children including the one that was on the cover of Vanity Fair with Moore being very pregnant. There was also a picture of Bush, Cheney, Rich, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tennat, Ashcroft. I was thinking the title could be picture of fools.

I found that the pictures of Leibovitz family were the most interesting. Many of them were taken at the beach. I also liked the fact that there were two walls with many pictures. Most of them were blown up and put in the exhibit. These smaller and what I have to assume original versions of the pictures were broken down by year taken. It gave an excellent sense of how Leibovitz’s career has progressed over time.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

On the way to the Corcoran

This is a protest put on by the Human Rights Campaign. Each flag represents a soldier who's been discharged under the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. There were over 12,000 flags. I didn't see that many because, as one of the people from HRC told me, there'd been a great deal of wind the night before and knocked down half of the flags. They thought that it would easier just to keep up with one square of the Mall covered in flags. It was a very impressive display.

In a rather ironic twist, the helicopter you see near the Washington Monument is Marine One. That's the helicopter the president uses.

A day off

I took Friday off and went out to museums. I stopped off at the National Gallery of Art and saw the Turner exhibit again. I got the recored tour. It was very good. I had some chocolate pudding by the waterfall in honor of my mom. I saw a few more galleries and then headed out for the Corcoran.

Sam in a box

Sam loves to sit in shoe boxes. Here he is in the one from the new shoes I bought last weekend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Parade of Peanuts Ties and other holiday traditions

I’ve started my annual tradition at work of wearing a Peanuts tie to work each day until I leave for Christmas. I started this three or four years ago. I count 14 work days before I head out to Missouri. I have more than enough ties to cover that time frame. I even have three ties that are holiday themed.

I’m also listening only to Christmas music on my iPod. That’s another tradition I have. I only listen to Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving until a little after the first of the year. Lat year I bought a whole bunch of new Christmas CDs. I think at least six. I try to buy at least one new CD each year. It doesn’t have to be a CD that’s just been released but just something new to add to my collection. So far this year I really haven’t seen anything interesting. I think I’ll stop at a Borders when I’m off on Friday.

I have to plan my outside light display. I also have to start putting it up. On Sunday I bough a wreath for outside. I put it on the front porch. I keep forgetting to put it up. I’m hoping no one has swiped it. I put my lights up in stages. I’ll do the left side of the porch first because I can usually do that after I get home from work. I might try and start that on Friday. It seems a little early to be putting up lights since it is still November. But sooner than you know it; it will be time for the holidays.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Searching for a new cell phone

I’ve been looking for a new cell phone for the past six months or so. I guess you could say that I’ve been browsing for a new cell phone. The problem with my current one is that the # doesn’t always work. And lately it doesn’t stay open all the way when I’m talking on it. So I’ve been searching for a new one.

I went to the Verizon store on Friday when I was out shopping. I really didn’t like much of what I saw. I don’t want the cell phone to do the dishes and folder the laundry (although those would be two very nice features). I want it be just a plane ordinary phone. I’m not interested in taking pictures or video or surfing the web or even getting text messages. I just want to have a nice simple phone. I’d like to have a speaker phone on it. I also want a display I can read fairly easy and a key pad that isn’t microscopic.

So I looked in the store. I found one phone I really liked. Speaker phone. Good key pad. Problem was the key pad was in very metallic silver. I’m thinking if you are out in the sun it would blind you. That one’s out. I found two other phones that had the speaker phone option. One was cheap and I use that word in all of its derogatory glory. The other one was $250. And that would be the price after I got my credit for upgrading phones. I’m sorry I’m not paying $250 for a phone.

Then it occurred to me today to try the Verizon store on-line. What a difference. All sorts of phones that have the speaker phone option. I also got more of a monetary credit to devote to the new phone. I getting the Motorola RAZR V3m in Silver. The key pad is black. It should be sent my way in 2-5 business days. Problem solved. Although the last time I tried this on-line I got a message that the phone was back ordered and never heard from Verizon again.

Hopefully I'll have better luck this time.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Camera

I was going out on Thanksgiving to take pictures with my digital camera. I got the low battery signal which essential means the batteries are about to die.

I went back into my house and changed the batteries. I turned the camera back on and the LCD screen was black. The icons for operating the camera were there but there was no picture on the screen. I got out the manual and looked through it but there's nothing on a blank screen. I went to the Canon website. I found some information on what to do. I should reset the display. If that doesn't work then I might need to send the camera in for service.

I decide on Friday I'll go to a camera store and see if they can help me. I don't hold out much hope. I figure if it has to be sent in I might as well buy a new camera. Friday I go to the camera store and the sales woman looks at the camera. She checks to make sure the battery connections are ok and then says it needs to go into the shop. I add that it makes more sense to buy a new camera. She agrees.

I'm not yet ready to buy one. I want to talk to my brother and sister-in-law because they just bought a Canon digital camera. Also I have to get new shoes. I end up spending $130 on the new shoes. I then meet my friend Tom for lunch. We have a really great lunch at Zorba's which is right above DuPont Circle.

Saturday I head back to the camera store. I decide on getting the Canon Powershot A560. It is not the same as my brother and sister-in-law got. They got the step higher but I figure this one will do just fine. I get another memory card because the one that came with the camera was way too small. All total it is around $200. I said the to the sales woman that the memory card costs at much as a camera used to. She agreed. She said that's what happens with technology.

If you bought the camera it came with a freebie of a new winter coat. Yes, that's the incentive to come and buy the camera a new coat. It is actually very nice. It is also very warm. I wore it when I went out and took pictures yesterday.

I like the new camera. The view finder is larger than my last one. Also downloading pictures to my computer is much faster than the old one. I'm looking forward to exploring all the features that it has.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Autumn Leaves

All of these images come from my new camera.

The Garden is still going

The garden in back continues to grow and grow as you can tell from the pictures. The weather, however, has now turned rather cold. I don't think they flowers will last much longer. I'm going to let the flowers in back go until the cold weather does them in. The ones in front are going to have to be uprooted next weekend so I can't plant my bulbs.

Can you find the cat?

Somewhere a cat is lurking.

Can you find Sam?

Thanksgiving Smile

Happy Thanksgiving

I got so caught up in shopping at kmart that I forgot to do a Happy Thanksgiving post. Actually I was going to do one after I'd gone for a walk on Thanksgiving. I was going to take some pictures but my digital camera died. More on that later.

So anyone here's wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

And what better way to celebrate then a clip from a Charlie Brown special. The Thanksgiving special is not as good the Halloween or Christmas ones. It does however have the debut of the song Little Birdie and the wonderful ending of Snoopy and Woodstock sharing pumpkin pie together.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


It is a bright, sunny and warm Thanksgiving morning. It's 61 degrees. I look out my front door and see the paper on my porch. Now I'm surprised at this because I only get the Sunday paper. Then I realize it really isn't the paper it's all ads. That's the reason I'm getting it today.

The ads are about three times the size of the paper. All those wonderful inserts promising all those wonderful sales.

Let's see Kohl's and JC Penny are opening at 4 am tomorrow. Sears, Circuity City, and Best Buy are opening at 5 am. Those wimps at Macy's and Target are opening at 6 am. I just have to say 6 am guys that is just sooooo last year. You two need to get with the program.

I've also heard ads on the radio for an outlet mall that will open at midnight tonight. But I don't know where it is. I know that is so very sad.

But Kmart takes the cake. They are open today, Thanksgiving Day, from 7am to 9 pm. I'm not sure when they open tomorrow but that doesn't really matter because they are open today!

Wait a sec. It's almost 9. What bargains and specials have I missed!!

Why the hell am I writing on my blog when Kmart is open NOW.

Bye gotta go.

Soldiers at home

Here's a very sobering story from Men's Health about the care or lack of care soldiers receive when they get back to the U.S.

The story follows three men from the same Marine company in Iraq. It tells their story of their combat experiences. They all fought in Fallujah. It then recounts how well they've been doing at home. You can sum up the article by saying one of the guys is lost, one is probably going to be ok and one is doing "fine". I'm not entirely sure I you can define fine after reading what these guys have been through.

Paul Rieckhoff is agitated. I've just recounted Lambert's story, and as a U.S. Army veteran and founder of the nonprofit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Rieckhoff has heard and seen it all before.

"Stories like that just piss me off," says Rieckhoff, a former first lieutenant who led an infantry platoon on more than 1,000 combat patrols in Baghdad. "The reality is that mental-health issues are probably one of the greatest threats facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. But our country is not ready to care for them. Contrary to what our president keeps telling us, we're not a country at war. Less than 1 percent of this country is at war. Our military is at war. Our military families are at war. Everyone else is shopping or watching American Idol."

I think the above paragraph really sums up one of the many problems with this "war" or I guess I should say these "wars" if you remember to include Afghanistan. To me this is the one problem, the way soldiers either in Iraq and Afghanistan or here at home are treated, that pisses me off more than anything.

This article gives a good look at the lack of care for our soldiers. It's nice to run around and say we support our troops and put little decals on our cars saying the same. But when it comes right down to it that's just lip service. The article concludes this way:

George Orwell said, "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

Fred Lambert, Chris Sipe, and Ricky Mayer are such men. So what do we owe them in return?

And on this Thanksgiving, I think that is a very important question to think about as we sit down and have dinner.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Physical Therapy

I’m having physical therapy on my left ankle/foot. I’ve been having pain in it on and off for the past few months. It is not extremely painful but is a nuisance. Walking down stairs is a bitch; it really hurts then.

Today at 7:30 am I had my first appointment. I had to get there early fill out all the paper work and there was a lot of paper work. I went through when I did an didn’t have pain. My regular doctor and I decided that nothing was broken because I’d be in much more pain. Also when you touch the ankle I don’t feel any pain until you really press down on it. At that point I think you’d feel discomfort whether you had any problems or not. So here’s the info on when it hurts and when my ankle doesn’t hurt. I can go for a long walk or workout. Sometimes it will hurt after doing those two things and sometimes it won’t hurt at all. I also tried to keep track of the type of weather that was happening when my ankle hurt. There wasn’t any sort of a pattern with that. Sometimes when it was cold and damp out it would hurt more. But then again there was a bright sunny day when every time I moved there was discomfort.

I learned that your big toe has one muscle going to it. Then you next two toes have one muscle and your final two toes have one muscle too. That’s your anatomy lesson for today.

So the muscle going to my big toe is stretched and that’s part of the reason I’m having problems with my ankle. Also it was determined that my hip is tight and that is contributing to the ankle situation too. So I need to loosen up these areas and the pain in my ankle should get better. I was put through several exercises and given more exercises to do on my own. I’m supposed to do them twice a day.

I have to say after the first session my ankle feels so much better. I hope it continues to improve.

Monday, November 19, 2007

An Icon Passes

Dick Wilson died today at age 91.

Don't know who Dick Wilson is?

Well how about I call him by the name he went by in over 500 commercials. Mr. Whipple.

Remember him now?

If you were around from the mid 60s to the mid 80s and were watching TV you could not miss the Mr. Whipple commercials for Charmin bath tissue. And the slogan of Mr. Whipple, please don't squeeze the Charmin.

My brother and I adopted that slogan and used it often for several years while we were growing up. Of course we changed the tone of the Mr. Whipple line. Giving it a high screeching tone. One of us would say Mr. Whipple and the other would respond with Please don't squeeze the Charmin.

I can remember very vividly a warm summer night. We'd been called in to go to bed. I was still outside while my bother had already gone inside. From the second story window of our home came Mr. Whipple from my brother. I finished the line please don't squeeze the Charmin! It is needless to say a timeless memory which points out the carefree days of my youth.

So Mr. Wilson thanks for a priceless memory for oh so many years.

Here are a couple of the Charmin commercials.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Directions from the internet

Have you eve gotten directions from the internet? Do you use Mapquest? Or do you prefer Google Maps?

Well I actually used both for a shopping trip the other day.

I need to replace my rugby shirts that I have. They are really getting old and are starting to show it. So I thought I would go to Target and they would carry them. Last Sunday I got up really early and went to the Target close to my house. Turns out Target didn't carry them. Later in the week I stopped off at Macy's (there's a story on my way home from work). They had some. The shirt cost $90. Good to know I have such good taste but I'm not spending that much money on a shirt.

So I was stumped. Where else to go? Someone at work had been at a Kohl's and said they had a whole bunch of rugby shirts. But where's the closest Kohl's to me.

Thus came in the internet. I went to Kohl's site. I checked to make sure they indeed did have rugby shirts. Which they did. Then did the store locater and came up with one not too far away from me in Maryland. So I used both Mapquest and Google maps.

They both came up with the same basic route. I used the one from Google maps because the print out was in larger type. I will say there is nothing harder for me to do when driving then read directions and drive at the same time. I'm driving and driving. 13th Street in Washington becomes Sargent Road in Maryland. You turn on Riggs Road which runs into another road (which by the by is not mentioned in the directions). I finally pull over and take out my map and get a sense of where the hell I am. (Yes I should have done that before I left the house but it was 7 am.)

I finally get there. Find the shirts and they cost like $18 and look very nice. I look at my map again now that I know where I am and I figure out a much easier way to back to my house. I really don't understand why my route wasn't the route I got from either of the internet map places.

I have problems before with the internet maps. One time I was directed down a road which would get me to my destination once is was finished but that wasn't gong to be for awhile. I've also gotten directions that are just wrong. So the moral of the story look at you own damn map before you leave home. I sure wish I had.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Keeping the skies safe?

The newest lapses in airport security were revealed in testimony before Congress.
From the Washington Post
From USA Today

This is from the Post article:
TSA Administrator Kip Hawley minimized the threat posed by the GAO’s homemade bombs, which were developed with a national laboratory and a Washington area law enforcement agency and videotaped blowing open a car trunk and door in a test. He said the TSA is oriented toward defeating attacks powerful enough to down airliners.

“We can’t be squeamish and say, ‘Oh, my goodness, they brought some firecrackers through and put it in the trunk of a car.’ We need to stop all things, but we have to focus on what truly does us harm,” Hawley said. “I mean, my pen can do ‘severe damage,’ “ he added.

What a charmingly flip answer from the head of TSA. The small exception here is that they weren’t firecrackers. It was an explosive device powerful enough to blow open the trunk of a car. I have to assume that that would do some major damage to a plane.

Now do I expect them to catch everything? Of course not that would be silly. But TSA, it seems to me, has been slow in upgrading security at airports especially in the area of new technology. It just seems to me they always seem to be playing catch up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ocean Mystery

My mysterious ocean visitor has returned.

Click on the picture to see that this map from Stat Counter shows a hit on my blog from someone in the middle of the ocean. I wrote about this before back in August.

I didn't check to see which post was visited at that time. This time around it was my post on IED training. I'll keep watching the map to see if the pin shows up again.

Blackwater Blues

Suddenly lots of news about Blackwater and none of it very good.

It seems that the State Department’s Inspector General Howard J. Krongard brother is on the Blackwater board. As it turned out the Inspector General did not know about this. Further, the Inspector General found out about this when he was informed of it in a Congressional hearing. He denied it at first but during a recess actually called his brother and found out the truth. Once he found this out he said he would no longer participate in any investigations about Blackwater.

Here’s part of the story from columnist Dana Milbank of the Post:

At the end of his own opening statement, Krongard responded to Waxman with an off-the-cuff complaint. “One thing just came up that really does bother me, and that was an allegation concerning my brother,” Cookie protested. “I specifically asked him. I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board.”

[Rep. Elijah] Cummings distributed two documents that the committee had uncovered: a July 26 letter from Blackwater founder Erik Prince inviting Buzzy “to become a member of the Blackwater Worldwide Advisory Board,” and a Sept. 5 e-mail to “thank you for accepting the invitation to be a member.”

“Sir, I dispute that,” Cookie replied with indignation. He argued that “there is nothing in here that suggests that my brother accepted this July 26 invitation.”

Evidently, Cookie overlooked the “thank you for accepting” part.

I laughed out loud over this story. It sounds from the testimony that the IG is a real jerk. I also find it hard to believe that the brother on the Blackwater board would not call up his brother the IG and tell him oh by the way I’m on the Blackwater board.

Now in a couple of news stories there’s a report that indeed the IG’s brother told the IG about being on the board. The Post story ends with this: A family acquaintance, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Krongard brothers for many years have had a tense relationship. Talk about putting the dys in dysfunctional family.

For the straight news story on it from the Post.
And this link to the story in USA Today

Here some additional information on the IG’s actions dealing with Blackwater:

In the case of Blackwater, the Justice Department told the committee that Krongard had resisted helping with a probe of possible gun smuggling by Blackwater into Iraq and had taken steps that had “certainly impacted the investigation.”

The second story deals more directly with Blackwater (I put the story about the IG first because well it is just so funny). The headline from the Post reads: Contractors’ Actions Labeled Unjustified; FBI Probe Continues in Blackwater Case

Now this is preliminary report but it concludes that 14 out of the 17 deaths were unjustified. The story states:

The investigators discovered that some of those who died were attempting to flee and found no evidence supporting Blackwater’s contention that the contractors were fired on and shot back in self-defense. The incident occurred as the guards tried to stop traffic at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square to allow an expected U.S. diplomatic convoy to pass.

This is what America gets when it hires mercenaries. More to the point hires mercenaries who have little or no supervision. Who are told they cannot be prosecuted for their actions in Iraq. I’m not saying that these private security firms are not necessary to protect diplomats. This is especially true if the American military is stretch so thin.

But once again little or no thought was taken in how these groups would interact with the Iraqi government and people. Also it seems little thought was taken when events like this happen. Also little thought on how to investigate them.

It seems Blackwater has a history of some extremely questionable actions in Iraq. It also seems that these were not thoroughly investigated when they happened. It seems to me that these events, whether justified or not (and I sure some of them were justified), have the potential of undermining our long term goals in Iraq. These events open up the American military to possible reprisals. After all the Blackwater people leave the scene as quickly as possible and leave it to the ordinary soldier to clean up the mess. And that is just wrong.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Podcast with Arthur in New Zealand

Yes, I've done another Podcast with my friend Art in New Zealand. Ah the wonders of Skype.

Click this link and you'll reach the home page for the episode we did.

It's very wide ranging discussion. We start by talking about why I started the Those We've Lost posts and then get into politics in general and then more specifically on the presidential race. It was very fun to do. Hopefully we'll be talking about politics on a somewhat regular basis.

Hope you enjoy it!

Back to Iraq

I haven't written much on Iraq lately. It has sort of dropped down in the headlines and the TV news.

There was however a very interesting article in the Post Outlook section on Sunday. It's by a former soldier, William Quinn, who was in Iraq for about a year. He is now a student at Georgetown University. He has some very interesting perspectives on the war and how the war effects people in this country. Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

The war didn't just seem to be taking place in another country; it seemed to be taking place in another universe. There I was, in desert camouflage, wondering how all the intensity, the violence, the tears and the killing of Iraq could really be happening at the same time that all these people were hurrying to catch their flights to Las Vegas or Los Angeles or wherever.

and this:

Six years later, 9/11 doesn't seem to have had much of an effect on most people's lives. But it has had an enormous effect on mine.
He ends the article by saying this:

I'm proud to be a student at Georgetown. Though I find some aspects of campus culture discouraging, I have a lot of respect for my professors and peers. But there are still days when I think about what it must be like back in Baghdad -- and wonder whether that's where I should be.
This points out the huge disconnect between those people fighting the war and everyone else in the country. When you get right down to it, the only people feeling the effects of this "war" are the soldiers in the military, their family and friends. Otherwise I cannot for the life of me figure out how the average American is impacted by this conflict at all.

Maybe, and this is a big maybe, the instability in Iraq has contributed in a very small way to the increase in gas prices. But that's a really big maybe.

As I've said on many occasions, if you are fighting a war then the whole country needs to be involved in it. The Bush administration has asked for no sacrifice by the American people. And for that matter neither has any Republican or Democratic politician. It is in short a disgrace.

Imagine Franklin Roosevelt saying during World War II oh don't worry folks we'll defeat the Japs and Germans without any sacrifice on your part what so ever. We won't retool industry to make modern weapons; we will just use the stuff from the last war. No you cannot imagine that at all.

There is of course a huge disagreement in this country on the war. It has been so badly managed on ever level possible. But my point is that if you go to war the whole country has to go to war. And unfortunately that's not the case. And the men and women fighting the war deserve better.

Monday, November 12, 2007