Thursday, June 30, 2011

Night Time

The first time I heard this song was at 10 pm and I was driving to work at Nellis AFB in Nevada.  We were planning an exercise to demonstrate our ability to fly across the desert and seize an air field and rescue a group of American Hostages.

We were staying in motels on the far side of Los Vegas and I was driving down the strip thinking about the missions we would be executing that night when this came on the radio.  I immediately related to the idea of being a creature of the night since my job was built around planning night time operations.

Since then it has always held a special meaning for me.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ballad of the TSA (With apologies to Barry Sadler)

Bloated agents with rubber gloves
Fearful men only a mother could love
Women who mean just what they say
The brave souls of the TSA

Rubber gloves upon their hands
Men and women, guard America’s land
One hundred more will test today
And all will work for TSA

Trained to seek the terrorist band
Trained in screening, hand to hand
They are those who guard our gates
Finding ways to make us late

Rubber gloves upon their hands
Men and women, guard America’s land
One hundred more will test today
And all will work for TSA

Back in line a young wife waits
Her aged mother has met her fate
Searched by agents arm in arm
Her depends have caused alarm
From up ahead she hears this plea
Wait, wait, I have to pee

Rubber gloves upon their hands
Men and women, guard America’s land
One hundred more will test today
And all will work for TSA

Put rubber gloves on Grandson Nate
Make him share in this here fate
One hundred more will test to day
Make him head of TSA  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ode to TSA

In the aftermath of a day so dark,
We knew for sure there was a spark
The nation and world turned upside down,
While DC bureaucrats ran around
The sky was emptied of the planes
And caused the FAA lots of stuff to 'splain

(We didn’t know then, what we don’t know now)

But surely we have to make things safe,
Searching people all over the place
We needed a force, true and strong
Willing to guard us all day long
Working hard as bees
Screening us from all we see

The nation called for the best,
Finally settling for the rest
The biggest challenge in the race   
Was when mall cops said ... below my taste
So now these 10 years hence
There stands this group, alert and tense

Trained to find threats wherever they are
They know no standard above the bar
We need not fear of death dear friends
While TSA checks each our soiled depends

TSA to their credit it seems
reviewed their process with eye so keen
and found no fault in their approach
for diaper wearing women must evoke
symbols of terror in all us common folk

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Water Boarding

    I have a difference of opinion with my co-workers when we discuss the US tactic of water-boarding our terrorist detainees.  This discussion is only heightened with the revelation that its use led to the discovery of actionable intelligence that ultimately confirmed the location of ObL (or UbL) and allowed US forces to remove him has a continued threat.

     For me, to use water-boarding as an interrogation technique runs counter to the US rule of law when dealing with a prisoner, not to mention the possible violations of the laws of armed conflict as codified in the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

     I guess I am old fashioned but I would like to believe we should hold ourselves to the standard of behavior we don't have to debate.  I was taught growing up "the end does not justify the means."  It is true that while a technique may be successful, and lead to the information we want there are second and third order arguments we should consider in the end.  So let's talk about those and let me lay out why I believe as I do.

    In dealing with terrorists and the global war against them we have to determine if they are a) legitimate combatants, or b) criminals, or c) a category we have not yet defined.  All my training up until 9/11 said terrorism was a non-legitimate form of warfare conducted principally against civilians.  Therefore terrorist organizations and individual terrorists were non-state actors who should be treated as criminals.  They were not afforded the rights and privileges of armed combatants engaging is war.  This held true regardless of their origin or their political affiliation.  If a state were to catch a terrorist he or she was subject to the legal jurisdiction of the state.  It was understood then there were states whose government supported this illegal activity and were delt with as rogue governments when a linkage could be proved.  For example  in response to a terrorist attack in Berlin's LaBelle Night Club in West Berlin, the US staged Operation El Dorado Canyon to punish Qaddafi for his direction and the Libyan involvement.

     After 9/11 we chose to blur the lines on this definition when we realized that a large terror organization, with significant financial backing and safe havens from legitimate governments were capable of massing an attack on US sovereignty within the continental US.  I would say our governments before 2000 should have realized this, but since the attacks were in Africa and the Middle East they did not put effective defense mechanisms in place.  This is a rough correlation to US preparation prior to WW2.  There are conspiracy theories that put forth the President knew Japan was planning an attack, just as there are similar theorists about Clinton and Bush.  It really doesn't matter in the end does it?  In each case we were attacked and reacted to that attack with a vengeance, swift and sure.

     So, in response to the attacks of 9/11, we focused on the retaliation against the rogue state that fostered and provided the where-with-all for the terrorist organization to attack.  We sent US Special Forces into Afghanistan to remove the government.  We did that with relatively little loss of US lives and without significant troop build up.  Unfortunately, in our support of the various war lords,  we did create a relatively weak regime to replace the Taliban, and have spent the last ten years attempting to shore that government up.

     In the course of that effort we've caught a large number of individuals associated with al Qaida.  They were caught by a US or allied Armed Force engaged in armed conflict.  Does that change their status?  There is an interesting problem here.  By statue US forces serving under US Code Title X cannot serve as a police force, this power was limited by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.  Therefore, should they no longer be considered criminals but instead prisoners of war, or that third as yet to be defined category?  Let's for sake of argument say they are prisoner's of war, if they are and we are forcing them to divulge information against their will then are we in volition of the conventions that require a prisoner only to identify themselves by Name, Rank and Identification Number.  There are, of course, a fairly large range of variables to suggest they do not constitute an organized and recognizable military force, but should we really rationalize away their rights as armed combatants, would we want our soldiers, sailors, marines and airman to have their rights rationalized away?

     In the course of war there are always acts of violence that make civilized people cry in outrage.  For example, we tried as war criminals the Japanese and German Nazi's who butchered tens and hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of civilians and military prisoners.  At the Hague we are trying today, men who abused their power in Bosnia.

    Each time we rationalize a behavior, we make the next step towards torture that much easier.  Is that really a path we as Americans want to go down?  I for one would not want us to.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Test Question of the Day

Can a country rich in European Judao-Christian, pagan,  atheist, voodoo, Buddhist, and Church of Fred heritage create a climate of peaceful political change in a country where the Mullah's preach against the infidels every chance they get? 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Things That Have Changed in My Lifetime

Since I have been on this earth, some pretty amazing shifts in the way the world works have occurred.  This is my non-conclusive list of things that have fascinated me.
  • Television replaced radio and the printed word as the primary way people were entertained and informed
  • Television is being replaced by the internet
  • Al Gore invented the internet
  • We have built airplanes that can carry a human to 100,000 ft and three (plus) times the speed of sound, but are no longer capable of that
  • We have built airplanes that can carry 400 people
  • Air travel has replaced rail travel as the primary means of long distance travel
  • We went to the Moon, and are now seeing the US abandon the means of manned space flight
  • There has been one successful and two failed attempts on the life of our President
  • We have supported an independent Israel, and now appear to be ready to abandon it
  • America has lost its place as THE leading industrial power
  • We have out sourced significant portions of our manufacturing capability and can't understand why unemployment is so high
  • We are becoming a service-based economy that will be dependent on other nations seeking our services, which we are outsourcing to the lessor developed nations.
  • Where once we had a dozen successful aircraft makers we now have two
  • Where once our automobiles were the envy of the world the world brings their cars for us to buy
  • Once we welcomed immigrants and they assimilated into society so they could be Americans, now immigrants sneak into the country and maintain their original cultures
  • We built an interstate system of roads, that makes the Autobahn pale in comparison, but now we are allowing it to crumble 
  • People came to America for a chance to succeed based on their hard work and perseverance, now we have people who have spent their whole lives believing the State owes them a living
  • When people succeed we don't set them as an example, we tear them down
  • We have moved from people who become famous for daring, skill and courage to people who become famous because they are on TV or the internet
  • We celebrate stupidity in shows like Jackass
  • If people don't agree with us we call them names
  • We have become a ME first society
  • The idea that Communism is a viable economic model was shattered when the USSR collapsed, yet still dictators are able to sell that idea to their countries
  • Muslim fundamentalists  declared Jihad on the rest of the world
  • Christian fundamentalists have taken over the Republican Party
  • Communists have taken over the Democratic Party
  • Global cooling occurred in the 1970's and global warming is occurring now -- everyone thinks it is caused by something
  • The end of the world has come and gone several times
  • The Y2K collapse didn't
  • Canadians are now rioting -- What's up with that?
  • No one has found Amelia Earhart 
  • Submarines have circumnavigated the world underwater without women 
  • We still don't know if you can have sex in space
  • Hippies banded together to force the US to abandon South Vietnam, which promptly became Vietnam
  • Hippies cut their hair and are now responsible for wars in Panama, Iraq (twice), Bosnia, and Afghanistan (although Bosnia and Afghanistan shouldn't count because they are part of that Jihad thing)
  • Nuclear power plant failures have caused major problems in Russia, Japan and the US, still some think they are a great idea -- this is one of those "you've got to expect losses in a big operation" issues
  • 60's rock and roll still dominates popular music
  • Finally, anyone want a kitten?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Gulf Between Us

There was a link today on the social network Facebook.  Obviously a friend posted it or I wouldn’t have seen it.  It was a video by Robert Reich explaining the cause for our weak economy in only two minutes and 15 seconds.

  •     The economy has doubled in size since 1980, but real growth in average income has grown only slightly when adjusted for inflation
  •    All the gains in the economy have gone to the super rich
  •    The super rich have gained political power they have used to secure tax breaks and are now only taxed at 15% versus the 75% they used to be
  •    Because they aren’t taxed, they are causing huge budget deficits, which leads to a break down in the social services and infrastructure we have become used to
  •    This is driving a wedge between members of the middle class and because of that wedge the middle class spending is anemic and causing a slowed recovery
His focus is clearly aimed at the current Democratic taking point intended to drive a wedge between the haves and the have-nots, made popular these past six months. Is this really the in-depth economic analysis that passes as sound reasoning today?  Is there no option other than extreme partisan rhetoric that makes it to the light of day or show the multitudes of problems we face come from an equal multitude of sources?  Can we only expect two positions?  The first would be what I call the Robin Hood solution put forth by the socialists – if we take all the money from the rich and give it to the poor than everything will be okay.  The second is the Robber Baron solution put forth by the capitalists – if we give all the money to the rich they will create jobs and everything will be okay.  Is it really true we are still in the same class warfare we were in during the last century and what do the political parties gain by fostering this? 
I would like to take Reich’s points one for one.
In 1980 the Gross Domestic Product, the measure of our economy, was $2,788.1 billion dollars, or $2.78 trillion if you like that number better and inflation was at 13.8%.  In 2010 the GDP is $14,508 billion  ($14.5 trillion) with a 1.6% inflation rate.  Since 1980 the  inflation rate averaged 3.55%.  Just accounting for inflation since 1980 would mean, if our economy stayed stationary, the GDP would be over $30,000 billion so as a matter of fact Mr. Reich’s assertion the economy has doubled is false.  It has markedly shrunk when inflation is considered.
Funding for welfare in 1980 was $100 billion, in 2010 it is estimated at $727.3 billion.  A seven hundred percent increase.  It doesn’t match the inflation curve but it is a whole lot closer than we’ve done with the economy.  So I am not sure it is correct to say all the gains, if in fact there have been any, have gone to the super rich.
How about Tax Rates?  Mr. Reich was partially correct in his assertion the tax rate for the top income group in 1980 was 70% and it has gone down markedly since then.  But he plays fast and loose with the facts when he asserts the “nominal” tax rate is 10% now.  Actually the top rate is 35% but there are still allowances and deductions that will afford wealth holders shelters for their income.  Many were there in 1980 as well, in fact there were many other shelters that have been taken away.  He implies the super rich have used their power to somehow steal money away from the government.  I have a very hard time accepting the notion that all the Democrats who controlled Congress from 1980 until 1994 and 2004 to 2010 are the corrupt politicians he implies they are.  Surely a few corrupt Republicans can’t be held solely to blame, or can they?  I think clearly Mr. Reich believes they are.  Oh by the way, there was no mention of corporate taxes, which would amount to an even larger portion of the pie if he hadn’t been so hard over on nailing the evil super rich.  He also doesn’t bother to mention that an ever increasing portion of America’s low income families pay no taxes and receive subsidies in the form of earned income tax credits if they file at all.  His position also is based on the socialist or communist principle that all wealth belongs to the state.  Last I checked we as a nation really didn't support that did we?
Let’s tackle the budget deficits.  Are they really caused by wealthy tax cheats as Mr. Reich alleges or from uncontrolled government spending and borrowing?  In 1980 the governments took in $885.6 billion and spent $940 billion creating a deficit of $54 billion.  In 2010 the deficit was closer to $1,597 billion.  Does Mr. Reich really believe we can suck a trillion dollars out of the super rich by just returning to the 70% tax rate?  There is a great video that talks to this.
So, we have one group that believes it’s the fault of the super rich we have problems with our economy and if we only could tax them sufficiently we in the middle class would be happy and the poor would be better off.  At the same time we still have those who believe we should eliminate taxes and everything would be okay.  Too bad we can’t find the middle ground where everyone pays the exact same tax, no shelters, no exemptions, no excuses.  How about, oh I don’t know, lets say 10% to the Federal and 5% to the state and 1% to the local government.  That way we pay 16% in taxes.  If you make $10,000.00 a year you pay $1,600, if you make $10,000,000.00 you pay $1,600,000.00 how could that be viewed as unfair?  How would that work for me?  I come out ahead of what I have to pay today.

Clearly both the link in the front and the video at the end have critical errors to make their points, but they reflect the gulf between those who want the government to make their lives a utopia and those who are concerned about the ability of the government to survive.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Life During the NFL Lockout

Apparently Women's Football will fill in while the NFL is in Lock out!  Kind of like "League of their Own" when the men went off to fight WW2.

Friday, June 17, 2011

So What Happens Next?

As our middle aged Representatives and Senator's reach out to be part of this new information Age I predict the following.

  • Wiener is just the tip of the what is to come.
  • More Politicians will stick their preverbal foot in their mouth with Twitter than you can imagine
  • We will see even the most liberal of the politicians say something someone will believe to be a racial slur
What could be a benefit of this new technology
  1. Laws could be limited to 126 characters
  2. Vowels would become optional
  3. Spelling and Grammar will no longer be taught in schools
  4. Twitter would become the way we vote and whoever has the biggest following becomes President
  5. Finally, no one would follow #BCS and there would be a real College Division I Playoff system, where the team with the most tweets wins the National Championship.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Grandfather Clocks.

    There is something both relaxing and reassuring about the chimes of a Grandfathers Clock.  As the hours of the day pass, it marks the time with gentle reminders  a new period has begun.

    Grandfather's clocks are, like Grandfathers, not completely utilitarian.  They are not mass produced and sold off the shelf in the local Walmart.  We found ours in an Officers Club Bazaar in Frankfurt, Germany.  We had to pick out the body, the face, the chimes, the pendulum, and the weights.  Then we had to wait for it to be created.

     It has been with us now for 21 years, faithfully marking the passing of each hour.  Celebrating with us the joys of our lives and the sadness we also experience.  Someday this clock will find its way to a younger generation where it will help them mark the passing of their lives.

     I like Grandfather Clocks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Kittens have claws -- small and sharp
Good for playing on slack covered legs
Not so good for climbing on the bare ones!

Kittens have needs -- often at the same time
Litter boxes get a regular work out 
and need frequent cleaning

Did I mention we have kittens looking for a good home?
I know a man, in a far off state, who seems to be attracting young followers.  Perhaps he can persuade a few they need kittens!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Color Me Surprised!

    I come home tonight and what do I find on the nightly news?  The press is shocked that American school children can't identify Abraham Lincoln or a lot of other American History stuff.  They are now reporting how poorly American 4th, 8th and 12th graders are performing.

    I am shocked, stunned and befuddled.  These would be the same guys who for the past twenty years have reported how poorly our children are doing in Math and Science.  The very same critics who've complained we don't spend enough time on reading, and we need to focus all our efforts on Mathematics, and of course Science, above all else, lest we fall behind the Japanese, Chinese, Swedes, Russians, Finns, Croatians, Burmese, or Fijians.

America's Civil War 1861-1865
South was in Gray
North was in Blue
North Won!
    So our highly educated professional academic administrators have done what the politicians, journalists and outraged parents have demanded.  They've made math and science the central focus of our schools.  But a school day is finite, we are cutting out music, art and anything else we can't afford and focusing on reading, math and science.  But apparently we aren't reading about art, or music, or history because none of the children can tell you who the good guys and bad guys were in the American Revolution or when somebody landed on the moon, or even when the United States became the United States.  I seriously doubt they know much about the civil war either unless it was on Sesame Street!
America's German Rocket Scientists
Came to US after WW2
WW2 was 1941-1945 (for us)
"They helped us reach the Moon!"

    Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it -- George Santayana

Just a thought but maybe when students are reading they should be reading about history or something besides social networking, the importance of feeling good about yourself, and how to solve math and science problems.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Striking a Nerve

     Regardless of how you may feel about Gays, Lesbians, Homosexuals, Transgendered or variations there of, to say they do not serve in the military is both naive and foolish.  The military is a reflection of the society it serves.

     The compromise policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" enacted under President Clinton was an attempt to appease the liberals and perhaps buy some time for a reasonable alternative.  It has done nothing but cause problems for commanders.

     Now as the Department of Defense prepares to certify, as required by Congress, its readiness for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell there is a political clamoring by both sides that this will a) make everything okay or b) ruin everything.  It will do neither.  It will be just one more step down a road to whatever the future holds for us.

     To think its repeal will make gays openly accepted in an organization where conservative values are strong is foolish.  There will still be subtle peer to peer discrimination and potentially hostile response by those who remain bigoted.  What it will mean is a gay cannot be discharged for being gay, but if that individual does not fit within the expectations of the organization for good order and discipline they will still be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

     Also, I suspect many civilians will believe that a gay couple will enjoy all the rights of a married couple.  I don't think so, unless some action to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 is taken.  Although Attorney General Holder and President Obama have chosen not to defend this in the courts -- until it is overturned by the Supreme Court or repealed by statute it is the law of the land and the Department of Defense must comply with it.  As a federal statute it will preempt for the DoD any state laws.

     So, lets assume as one of Secretary Gates parting acts he certifies the Department is ready for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, what happens the next day?  I think next to nothing!  The war goes on, and gay men and lesbian women serving today in the military will continue to serve.  The bias we all have (either for or against) will continue, and bigotry by the uneducated will continue.  The only thing that will change are a couple of articles in the UCMJ dealing with sodomy will go away.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Wonder

I wonder what goes on in the heads of kittens.  Do they consider the finer points of litter boxes?

I wonder what goes on when a teenager gets the keys to the car to drive by themself for the first time.  Do they consider the fact they have a ton of metal moving under their control and it is quite capable of destroying something?

I wonder what weekends are like if you don't have yard work to do.  Would you be bored and just sit around or would you find something rewarding?

I wonder why so many people approach life as if they have no control.  Do they really believe they are not responsible for their own lives?

I wonder why after 30 years in power now is the right time to bomb Gaddafi in Libya.  Why didn't we do this when he directed PanAm 103 be blown up, or when we were convinced he was sponsoring terrorist training camps?

I wonder what will replace NATO when the US says it can't pay for everything.  Will it be ended, or will it just fade away?

I wonder what goes on in the heads of politicians.  Do any of them really care about anything but themselves?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cats too!

Cats in the Closet
Cats in the Hall
Cats in the Garage
I've seen them all
Cats in the bedroom
Cats in the bath
I am starting to go batty
from cats in my trash
First there was one
Then there were two
Now there are six or seven
I wonder how they'd taste in a stew?
I like cats most times
I think they are fine
but with so many felines
This house is not mine!
If we don't find recourse;
A way to less cats
I am not sure of the source
but there are two on the porch
Today is a new day,
we all start afresh
but without new philosophy
there will be a CATastrophe

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Goodbye Space,

     As the good ol' USA outsources its manned space program it will be sad to see us attaching our American Flags to Russian and then Chinese spacesuits.  Gone are the days when we had a focus and the attention span to work towards a goal that was more than six months away.

America's German Rocket Scientists
     I guess that is what happens when all our German rocket scientists die off.  Hopefully the Russian's German rocket scientists are still hanging on, at least until the Chinese's German rocket scientists mature sufficiently to take over.

    Goodbye Space....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Icarus Room

    We have conference rooms in my building.  Places where men and women can assemble and discuss issues of importance, convey concise and meticulously prepared briefings, inform commanders, and seek resolution of problems and have decisions made.  These are typical rooms with a table in the middle and chairs around, with extra seating along the walls as the room will bear.
    Someone got the bright idea that each room should be named after something of significance in our organizations history.  For example the commanders conference room is called the Chindit Room.  It is named after the British commando group that fought in the Burma Theater of operations in World War II.  The Chindits were led by British Brigadier General Orde Charles Wingate and were made up regular British Army, Gurkha’s and British Indian Army units.  This is significant to us   because we trace our lineage back to the 1st Air Commando Group, organized by the Army Air Force to support them.  An interesting side note:   they were the first unit to use a helicopter in an actual operation.
    The main conference room is of course the Air Commando Room, again reflecting back to our founding and what all Air Force Special Operators refer to themselves as.  Then we have the Jungle Jim Room, named after the force assembled in the early 1960’s to help train the South Vietnamese.  There is a Farmgate room named after the first deployment of the Air Commando Group to VietNam, and the Partisan Room, reflecting Special Operations support in the European Theater. 
    I am surprised we don’t have a Carpetbagger Room, to recall the name of the force that flew in Europe in WWII, but being in a Southern state I guess there have to be some allowances for the political sensitivities towards Carpetbaggers in the area.
    Then we have smaller rooms like the SonTay (a raid to rescue POW’s in North VietNam) and Spirit (after the call sign for an AC-130 shot down in Desert Storm).  Finally we have the A5/8/9 War Room.  I think we can do better than that and take the harsh edge off this whole “war” thing.
    I proposed we call it the Icarus Room, named after one of the hero’s of the Greek Legend of Daedalos and his son Icarus.  The story goes that once upon a time on the island of Crete a king named Minos who had Daedalos, a great architect and inventor build a great Labyrinth so King Minos could keep his Minotaur.  After the Labyrinth was build King Minos imprisoned Daedalos and his son in a high tower so they could not tell anyone the secret of the Labyrinth.
    Daedalos and Icarus did not like being prisoners so Deadalos came up with a scheme to build wings from bird feathers and wax.  Daedalos warned his son to be careful when they were flying.  Too low to the water and he might fall in, but if he flew too high in the sky the sun would melt the wax on his wings and he would fall.
    So they set off for to fly away for their freedom.  At first everything went well, but after a little while Icarus got tired of just flying in a straight line. He began to try to do tricks and go up and down. His father told him to cut it out and behave himself, but Icarus was having too much fun to listen, and he kept on going up, higher and higher. Suddenly he realized his wings really WERE melting! He tried to go back down again, but it was too late. His wings came apart, and he fell into the ocean, where he drowned.
    Daedalus was horrified that his son had died, and spent a long time searching for his body, but when he found it there was nothing he could do.
    So why would I call the room the Icarus Room?  It is the place where we come up with grandiose ideas that rise up so high they melt and come crashing down. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Importance of Being..... Something

    I am reminded in the events of this week it is easy to make fun of people, it is easier still not to see the gradual slide in our standards that make each indiscretion just that much easier to take.  

    As the events of this next Presidential campaign unfold there are certainties I do not look forward to.  I was chatting at dinner with my wife about who I thought would be the best candidate and I had to admit it was someone who is not running, at least publicly at this time.

    What I am afraid will happen is race will become a big deal, claims that one side will destroy the entire social network so many have become dependent on, and claims by the other side that America will be dragged into depression or runaway inflation.

    What will be lost is a legitimate debate on the good or workable ideas that may be available to us as a nation.  Candidates will shift positions and claim they are responding to the public will, or the will focus attention on the wrongs of the other people.

    It would be really refreshing to see a candidate be just one thing, Honest.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Cats, I've been invaded by kittens.  My beloved has salvaged four kittens from a feral mother, and caught the mother to have her spay, so right now we have the mother cat in the garage resting from surgery, kittens in a bathroom and two cats of our own lurking about the rest of the house.  No one besides the kittens and my wife are too thrilled with the situation.
The kittens and aforementioned wife
Our Cats

Sunday, June 5, 2011


An interesting thing happened the other day and it got me to thinking about the interconnectivity of our lives the Internet and smart software has brought about.  When I left High School, I was a somewhat shy, awkward, lonesome young man who was sure of only one thing; I was going to find a way to fly in the Air Force.  I had several friends, but none would remain friends though my life.  I wanted to leave the past and set out towards a different future.  I went to college several states away from where I grew up.  When I was home for summers I did not seek out old acquaintances and reestablish friendships.   I am not sure why, other than a feeling it would just reinforce those feelings of being an outsider I always had.
In the course of a life, as my family connections back to my home shrunk so did my knowledge of the classmates I had gone through 12 years of schooling with.   I never went back to reunions; there was always something that kept me away.  For the 10th I was in Japan, and it seemed too far to come.  For the 20th I was in Germany and we had an exercise I was in charge of.  The 25th found me in Florida, preparing to retire from the Air Force.  These were all legitimate excuses but in truth I think I was just afraid of what I would find and how few would care I was there.
So here we are now 40 plus years after graduation and I am now connected to several of these classmates through Facebook.  I view their pictures, see their comments, read a blog or two, and am reconnected at a superficial level.  We post pictures of family, of a recent class picnics and I am again returned to that age, long ago where I felt semi-connected, as if a stranger looking in on a scene.   They comment on my pictures or my posts, we offer snippets of polite conversation and we go our separate ways.  It is as if I am pulled back to those cold winter nights when I listened to Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles.
So what has got me so melancholy on this warm summer night?  I was at a loss the other night when someone I have not talked with in 40 years was in pain and she conveyed that pain across the space that separates but binds us all together.  I didn’t know the right thing to say, the way to say it or have any hope of easing her pain.  I could only sit there in my frustration hoping all will be well for her.
But, I guess this is how life is.  We do what we can with what we are given, and hope that it will be enough.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Blogging is like standing on a cliff and yelling out across the valley.  You wonder if anyone will hear you or you will ever hear a response.  I know that most of what is written is mundane and perhaps even a bit narcissistic in the sense the writer is usually writing about something important to him or her, but it is a way to chronicle a life.

I am grateful to have a few people who will respond to my thoughts so that I know I've been heard and perhaps sparked a new thought.  To those you have left comments thank you.  it is as if you've stopped by to sip from my babbling fountain.

For me the times I spend putting my thoughts into a somewhat coherent form is relaxing and gives me a release to express ideas that never seem to find the right moment to speak.  It takes the edge off the day and helps me unwind .

This can be like skimming across the cloud tops wondering which way to turn and what is around the next cloud.  I find in it a chance to contemplate why I feel like I do, not just jam myself into the same cubbyhole each day.

Once, at Edwards AFB, I had an opportunity to fly with one of the test pilots assigned there.  We put on our parachutes and climbed into the T-38 Talon trainer and he took us up on a ride.  It was my first experience going super-sonic, and in today's aircraft the only way you know you are going faster than the speed of sound is because the Mach meter says you are.  I found the rolling and looping to be much more thrilling and have to admit the time went by way too fast.

Some days my time here is like that ride.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

You Would Think!

If there were anyone in the world who would understand the dangers of taking a digital picture of his crotch it should be someone named Weiner.  This, not uncommon episode from a middle aged politician, has left me wondering whether I should just ignore it and move on or comment on it.  I would like to move on, but it reminded me of something that happened back in the mid-1980s and I would like to share that as a cautionary tale.
Way back then the country was growing the military, as President Reagan brought the country out of its post-Vietnam funk.  The United States Army was resurrecting the Rangers as a first line force.  In 1974 the Army Chief of Staff, Craighton Abrams, resurrected the Rangers with two battalions and a training school.  Wikipedia has a nice summary of the history of the rangers at: Wikipedia, United States Army Rangers .  In 1984 it stood up the third battalion and the Regimental Headquarters.  One of my jobs was to assist the 3rd Battalion/75th Ranger Regiment to become special operations qualified and ready to support the war on terror we were waging even then.
The 3/75th was filled with men who had succeeded at everything they tried, they were airborne (parachutist) qualified, been top soldiers in their line units, and completed a rigorous year long series of training schools.  These were all type-A personalities and their leaders where the same.  My job was a simple one, take these professionals and provide them the training they needed to work with Air Force Special Operations forces like the AC-130 and MC-130.  This involved about four weeks of train-up exercises with airdrops, calls for ground fire support from the AC‑130 gunship, and rapid on-loads and off-loads from the MC‑130.
What was memorable for me about this experience is up until then all my dealings with senior Army leadership was they knew what they wanted and told the Air Force exactly what to do, whether they did or did not.  Often they did not.  This is one of the reasons I think we failed in Iran in 1980 but that is another story.  In this case I met with the battalion commander and he laid out for his S-3 Air (the operations officer for air) and me what the desired end state was and let us get to work building a training program.  When we worked out the details we briefed him on how the Air Force would provide the training his men needed and what we would deliver at the end of the training period.  He made a couple of minor changes and we implemented the plan.  He had let us do the jobs we were supposed to do. 
During the next month I was routinely at Fort Benning, GA coordinating individual, small unit, and company training events.  Working for and with the Battalion Commander I came to appreciate what an outstanding leader of men he was.  He laid out a clear vision, expected results, held his staff accountable, and motivated the men he led.  Not once did I see his men let him down, or he fail to praise them for their efforts.
At the end of the train up period we were to have a full-scale test of the units ability to implement its Mission Essential Task List or METL.  This is a list to small things to unit must be capable of doing (like get on and off a C-130 in so many seconds, or airdrop onto a runway and clear it of obstructions) to certify the unit is qualified to do the job it is assigned.  At the pre-mission briefing this Lieutenant Colonel stood to address the Rangers and Air Force personnel assigned to this mission to lay out his commanders intent, detail what was to happen at each step of the exercise, and prepare his force for the test we were about to undertake.  His speech was right out of a John Wayne movie, brilliantly delivered and completely motivated the assembled leadership down to the squad Sargent’s.  Interestingly though I only remember one line from that speech.  He was talking about safety and the need to look out for each other when he said “Gentlemen, don’t let your little head think for your big head!”  That line has stayed with me all these years.
He lost his command less then a year later when he was caught fooling around with his secretary.  Too often testosterone gets the best of even the people you would think should know better. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Close Your Eyes

Close your eyes and rest your head back into your seat.  What do you see?  Is it just dark and foreboding or do you eventually see light and colors as a new world emerges?
When I was in college one of the Psych classes I took was on relaxation and how to put your body to rest.  I think this has been for me one of classes that have served me well through life.  We all get stressed and anxious in life and having the tools to compartmentalize that stress and allow your mind to wander free into sleep means, for me, I can face whatever life throws at me.
Speaking of classes, what do you think are the most important classes you’ve had in high school and college?  Have you ever sat down to consider what ones have had the greatest impact on you?  Well I have, and since I am now drugged up on cold medicine and can’t think of much else to write about I think I shall write about them.
In High School there were three classes that have had a profound and lasting impact on my life.  If I were to say English Literature, Western Civilization, and Art I would be pompous and a complete liar.  The first class was typing.  Back then it really was typing, with paper, ribbons, erasers and Smith Corona typewriters.   Now it is much more sophisticated and it is called keyboarding.  I didn’t do great, I never learned to type at 100 words a minute, but being able to use all my fingers without looking at the keyboard has made a huge difference in my use of the computer.  Of all the things I learned this is the class I think back on as a game changer.
The second was driver’s education.  It opened up the world to me and allowed me to get my license to drive.  I had mobility and freedom because of that class.  True, I probably would have gotten a license without it, but because of it I think I am a little bit better on the road, and Mr. King also built airplanes, how could I lose?  Our school had driver simulators and I can remember when I first came to Florida it was like coming home because all the training movies were made somewhere down here where they mixed coral with the asphalt.   I think I even had to swerve to miss the same door opening unexpectedly I did in my little Ford Falcon simulator.
The final, and perhaps the most important class I took in High School was the Humanities class.  I’m not sure how I ended up in the class but it was probably through the good graces of Mrs. U. my English teacher.  This was started my senior year and it was a team teaching class where we had three or four different teachers.  We studied art history, architecture, music history, dance, literature and a couple of other things.  I think each area of concentration was about six weeks and had a field trip to New York City to reinforce the lessons.  I can remember going to “The Cloisters” a museum in NYC devoted to medieval art and architecture and seeing the great tapestries, the Cathedral of Saint John the Devine with its flying buttresses, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, studying the architecture of I.M. Pai, we went to Kennedy Center to see opera and an almost endless variety of things that opened my mind to what can be.   When we lived in Europe I tried to share the wonders of the architecture with my kids, but I don’t think I was as effective a teacher as the team that taught me.
I think we do our young a disservice with the current concentration on math and science.  The idea we should spend most of our time on this, at the cost of the seeing the colors of the world we live in will make this younger generation myopic to the potentials we have and how all the pieces can fit together.  But I am not a professional educator trained to know what is right.
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