Sunday, July 31, 2005

The shot(s) that bring you back......

As you have probably guessed, I like to play golf. That does not mean, however, that I play golf well. My handicap hovers at 26 despite my vain and repeated attempts to lower it. Nevertheless, I still show up every week to try.

The great thing about golf is: its all what you do. You cannot blame your opponent if you putt lousy or shank an iron shot into the trees. Its the only sport I know of where you can wish your opponent well, while still hoping to out shoot him, or her. To me that's one of the great things about the game:

How few men, says the Oldest Member, possess the proper golfing temperament! How few indeed, judging by the sights I see here on Saturday afternoons, possess any qualification at all for golf except a pair of baggy knickerbockers and enough money to enable them to pay for the drinks at the end of the round. The ideal golfer never loses his temper. When I played, I never lost my temper. Sometimes, it is true, I may, after missing a shot, have broken my club across my knees; but I did it in a calm and judicial spirit, because the club was obviously no good and I was going to get another one anyway. To lose one's temper at golf is foolish. It gets you nothing, not even relief. Imitate the spirit of Marcus Aurelius. "Whatever may befall thee," says that great man in his "Meditations", "it was preordained for thee from everlasting. Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by nature to bear." I like to think that this noble thought came to him after he had sliced a couple of new balls into the woods, and that he jotted it down on the back of his score-card. For there can be no doubt that the man was a golfer, and a bad golfer at that. Nobody who had not had a short putt stop on the edge of the hole could possibly have written the words: "That which makes the man no worse than he was makes life no worse. It has no power to harm, without or within." Yes, Marcus Aurelius undoubtedly played golf, and all the evidence seems to indicate that he rarely went round in under a hundred and twenty. The niblick was his club.

From P.G. Wodehouse's short story, Ordeal by Golf.

That about sums up my golf game. However in every round is at least one shot that: "brings you back". This weekend I had more than my share.
Not that I scored well, out of 54 holes in 2 days I had a 96, 99 and a 98. BUT.......I was able to shut certain gloating fools up when it counted and I still won some money out of our match play. (Thank God for the 6 strokes my Saturday opponent had to give me......).

Saturday, front nine, holding my own to a respectable ( for me) 48 on the front. Hole #7 drive was OK, second shot was great, made it down to the 100 yard mark. ( Total length of this Par 5 is 510 yards). Now to put it on in regulation. Couple of waggles, then set up. Swing through the ball and it rises up in beautiful fashion heading for the pin....BUT as it comes down, fades right. OH #@#!! The green drops off sharply there and sure enough the ball hits and bounces down the slope to the rough.....GRRRR!!! My opponent, who has just put his shot on the green , leaving a mid length putt for birdie, is smiling to himself. " This hole is in the bag."

Your's truly reaches for his 70 degree wedge ( I keep 3 in my bag PW, SW, 70 degree, I gave my 4 iron its walking papers to do it). The ball is at the bottom of a little hill in some deep rough. The pin is close to that side of the green, meaning I have precious little distance to roll it. All I really want to do is get the ball in the air and to the edge of the green and hope momentum and Newton do the rest. Choke up on the club, and make a couple of practice swings to make sure I know "where the grass is". Then, set up to the ball; swing; and watch it go up into the air, onto the green, in front of the pin. The ball then rolls uphill and only at the last minute do I realize: "Its going to roll in the hole!" It does. Birdie on my card and a dumbfounded opponent realizing I just had won 3 holes with that shot. ( we had pushed the other two...).

The S.O. as she lines up to hit another shot into the fairway!

Sunday morning, S.O. has to work. ( Yes its true!) Its the end of the month and they are trying to get bookkeeping done before every one leaves for O-bon. I go to the course hoping to get paired up with someone fun. Instead I get paired up with another military retiree, who while both of us were still on active duty, I had disagreed with on professional issues vehemently. Now the lucky bastard works for an American company in Tokyo with the full expat package. Me I work with the full GS package. ( I think you will agree his is better...). However he and is wife are very polite and cordial on the golf course. The round starts off great for me. "X" who prides himself on being the better golfer, is not doing so well. On 2 ( Par 5, 498 yards) I get to the green in 3. Putt in for a birdie. Hole #3 (Par 4, 396 yards...dogleg left) I get to the green in 2 ( That's unheard of for me). Putt in 2 for par! Now he is really pissed.

Hole 4 is a 197 yard par 3. I hit my shot first......fades right..into the bunker! "x" takes the tee box. His shot also fades right...into the same bunker! Up we go to the sandtrap. I have to hit first. Afraid of the sand I really club it all the way out of the sand, across the green and into the rough just off the green on the other side. He hits a perfect pitch which lands about 15 feet from the hole, putting up hill. I pull out an 8 iron thinking if I can just bump it over the high grass, the ball will roll down to the flag. Sure enough it does and into the hole! PAR! Suffice it to say my opponent is pissed.

Of course he went on to kick my ass on the back......but hey, my day was made. We even had a good conversation as the round went on, and I got a birdie on 12. It's the little victories that make life sweet.....

Then again there is always the 19th hole:


That, of course is the toughest hole to play!

Skippy-san



Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday Beer and Babes.......

Another week come and gone. However its Friday, its sunny and I get to play golf tomorrow. Also get to go to a cookout tonight. Can walk to it, which means I can drink beer to my heart's content. Its the little things that make me happy.

I took a stoll over to the Red Light district here in Bloggerville. My oh my! There are a lot of really strange people out there.........

A quick round up from other neighborhoods in Bloggerville:

Lost Nomad has an interesting post about malnutrition in the North Korean Army. Let see, hungry guys with guns, in a country with nuclear weapons that can reach Tokyo. Yea, I'm sleeping well tonight...NOT!

I'd also like to thank Jenifer for providing me a liberty guide for my next trip to S. Korea:



She also reminds us about the poster child for national Anger Management Month:




Gardner in Korea has some more posts about the refugees from North Korea trapped into a bizarre world in China. For these people there are no good choices......

But here in Japan, on a better note the women's synchronized swimming team won second place in Montreal. It was big news on the TV.

Also when you go over to Bitchbert's site, have your speakers on. She has songs by Michael Wong which are really nice.......

Got to run now. Have a great weekend. Of course, too many of these:



Leads to none of these:




Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

What is the main stream media anyway?

Today was a beautiful day today. Weather was gorgeous, if just a TAD warm, work was....well it was work. However any day you can end your day shagging balls at the driving range, can't be all bad......

Took a nap at lunch time, having gone back to my apartment, having eaten a sandwich at my desk so I could use the time for re-energizing my tired body. S.O. was at work, giving me free run of our our apartment. One of the great things about being 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time is I get to take in the evening news and opinion programs during my lunch hour. Today in my short conscious intervals, listened to Lou Dobbs rant and rave about one of my favorite subjects: supposedly "free" trade and the greedy efforts of US corporations to make money while offshoring all or most of their jobs. As many of you know, Lou Dobbs beats this dead horse any and every chance he gets. From his commentary:


(CNN) -- Every so often, a member of the economic orthodoxy decides to attack me personally in print. Today I'd like to address a column in The Philadelphia Inquirer, with this question as its lead: "Will China's decision to unpeg its currency to the U.S. dollar make Lou Dobbs shut up?"

This was written by a nasty piece of business by the name of Andrew Cassel, who calls me "pompous," "portly" and a "protectionist."

First, let me answer Cassel's question: No, it won't. By the way, Andrew, bad timing. The People's Bank of China now says that the 2 percent revaluation of its currency is a one-time deal. Now, we'll see whether that turns out to be the truth, but either way, it ain't enough. Nor will it be to salve our projected $170 billion deficit this year with China. And Treasury Secretary John Snow, who hails this revaluation, can't say with any specificity at all what U.S. exports to China could possibly benefit.

And Andrew complains that in every report on this broadcast, as well as in the interviews and commentary, that I bash China and demand that America get tough with China. No bashing, Andrew, unless you consider my reference to China as a Communist, authoritarian nation as bashing. I notice, instead, you call China quote, "A country with one-party rule, a weak legal system, poor environmental record, and so on."

As to "get tough," Andrew: I'm guilty as charged. If we don't demand a reciprocal trade relationship with China, there is absolutely no limit to our potential deficit. I want expanded U.S. trade with China, it's just that I prefer the Chinese balance the relationship with purchases of U.S. products and services. Andrew, that is called balanced trade, not protectionism.

Finally, Andrew, you and your ilk are nothing more or less than corporate supremacists, and your mindless faith-based understanding of economics is what got this country in this mess in the first place.

Now, I'll leave the "portly" discussion, if I may, for another day.


Now I tend to agree with Lou Dobbs for a whole host of reasons. Yet today my purpose is not to defend or criticize him. Rather, I would like to take a minute to exam this ridiculous canard, that somehow the "media" is of a single minded bent, intent to publish only bad things about America. Accordingly, non- traditional media, such as your humble scribe here, are portrayed as doing God's work to spread the "truth" and defend the America way of freedom. Not two days go by without Michelle Malkin ( you know her, she's the C**T)beating up the MSM, as it is known in bloggerspeak. Assured in her self righteousness, she then calls her agent to book yet another appearance on some Fox news program.

Excuse me while I sneeze: Horseshit!.

All media is biased, because paid or unpaid one cannot approach a subject in a totally objective manner, no matter how hard one tries. Its why you have to read a wide variety of things and form your own opinion. The assertion that somehow, out there, is some monolithic, liberal minded set of journalists, working to defame the President and undercut truth, justice, and the American way is quite simply ....a cop out by individuals who will not do the intellectual heavy lifting to sort through the various sources of information and form one's own opinion. Michelle Macangalang is the worst offender on that score, IMHO.

Lets go back to Lou Dobbs for a minute. His other hobby horse that he loves to ride is about illegal immigration. If you closed your eyes you could just about hear the voice of any right wing Republican talking as he points out the hypocrisy of the administrations immigration policy. He works for CNN though, so according to the "conventional wisdom" he must be part of the great big liberal conspiracy.

So I roll over and change the channel. Bill O'Reilly is on. Now I know there are people who love him, but me, I always want to take a Lousiville Slugger ( I prefer the "crack" of a wooden bat to beat idiots, rather than the "ting" of an aluminum one) and swing it straight across his forehead when I see him launch into his smug self assured talking points, that because he has no respect for the intelligence of his viewers, he has to spell out in writing along the right side of the screen. Bill is one of those guys who loves to attack the " Main Stream Media" even though with his books and broadcasts, he is just as much a part of it as Dan Rather or Peter Jennings.



"Come here Bill, let me show you a thing to two....."

The term main stream media is just plain flawed. Lets replace it with a more accurate term. Namely, paid or unpaid media. Your humble scribe is part of the unpaid media, much as he hopes his efforts will earn some recognition and a job offer to write for one of Asia's leading newspapers. Bill, Lou, Dan, Peter, and many others are paid for their efforts. They sell a product.

Note to self, I HATE BLOGGER!!!!! Just tried to save what follows and the damn thing lost it all......

Anyway.......

The marketplace of ideas, expanded and enabled by the internet, is not a place of absolutes. Its more like a giant COSTCO. You can get anything there. Its up to you the shopper to make intelligent choices. Or not so intelligent choices, doesn't matter, its your money. There are name brands and there are off brands. Each company and product being sold has its strengths and its weaknesses. Its impossible to be totally 100% objective in writing about the complex issues of our day.

Think of it this way. I don't buy the Wall Street Journal because I am expecting to find a ringing endorsement of leaving Social Security alone or seeing support for John Kerry. I don't get the New York Times and expect it to have love for George W. Bush ( that's a sentiment I can agree with, by the way.) Yet each has well written stories and background information which is useful in helping me to form an opinion. The best objective source of info that I have found is The Economist, primarily because it is not an American publication.

What really troubles me these days is the way that discussion is presented by both the liberals and the conservatives. We don't argue ideas anymore, we simply discredit the messenger. It is possible to look at a set of data and come up with differing conclusions. However in today's world, if that conclusion differs from the conventional wisdom of either liberals or conservatives, then it somehow makes you a moonbat, worthy only of ridicule. Children do that kind of name calling, not thoughtful adults.

One of the big things that folks harp on these days is , "Why is there no good news reported by the media about Iraq?". A few months back, I posted my thoughts on that subject here. Problem is, that if you do a really objective look at what is being reported there is plenty of good news being reported, by all types of media. There is also plenty of violence still to focus on. Its simply ridiculous to categorically state that those who oppose the war are somehow disloyal to the nation. That being said, there are some idiots who take their opposition outside the realm of good taste. Welcome to the marketplace of ideas. Caveat Emptor.

So in the spirit of fair warning, here are the biases you will see me bring to this blog:


You will never hear a positive endorsement of feminism, gay rights, or gay marriage here.
I like women entirely too much and the more women I can like, the better.
America is the greatest nation on the planet, even if I like living overseas.
Beer is good food, the more the better.
Sex is my favorite thing to talk about, and more importantly, do.
You will never see a naked woman on this blog, but I will post pictures that come close.
There will NEVER be a naked man picture on this blog.
Sexual harassment will not be tolerated. It will, however, be graded.
Marriage is overrated.
A woman who cooks and cleans and then leaves however.......is a real find.
I still don't know what to do about the S.O.
Its all about me.



There you have it, so here's hoping you will still purchase my product, here in the marketplace of ideas.

Skippy-san

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Take me drunk, I'm home!

I was going to post something useful and pithy about the "mainstream media", but I can't tonight. The S.O. and I went to a garden party at Yasuda-san's (安田ーさん) house. Its a great big house by Japanese standards that is located on a hill so that when the weather is clear (like it was today after the typhoon came through here last night), you can see Mt Fuji very clearly. Mr Yasuda is very involved in local politics here and is the head of the Friendship Association. (米海軍海上自衛隊協会。). It was a good party. Problem was, about mid way through, he brought out the good sake (rice wine):



Trust me, this is the good stuff, priced at over $100 per 1.8l bottle. Kubota sake is made using only the "crystal" part of the rice. This is the interior 40% of the rice kernel and has a translucent crystalline appearance. Its the "single malt" of sake. SMOOTH.........!

Anyway........

Suffice it to say he brought out more than a few bottles of the stuff. Goes down well, then after a little while, the little man comes up and hits you on the head and says, "you're drunk!"

So if I had a few more brain cells working now I would render forth on why I think the term Main Stream media is total and complete BS. However in view of my rapidly deteriorating vision, it will have to wait for another day........ ( and well you might thank me for that!).

Did I mention there was also beer there:


Tomorrow, as Scarlett said is yet another day. However till then, you can chalk this up as reason 457, why I love living in Japan!

Ja ne,

Skippy-san

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

This just speaks for itself

I subscribe to an e-mail list that consists of Alumni from my college. I recieved this article by Ben Stein that I just felt I had to share with you. Since the New York Times has the balls to charge readers to view their articles, I have reprinted for your reading pleasure. I wish every stock trader or equities manager could read this.

Enjoy.

Everybody's Business

We Were Soldiers Once, and Broke

By BEN STEIN

Published: July 17, 2005

AS should be clear to anyone who reads these columns, I am fascinated by finance. I have been since I was a lad. Finance distributes risk. The smart, aggressive, tireless men and women in it allocate capital. In many ways, this efficient allocation of capital - sometimes more efficient than others - explains why capitalism so thoroughly trounces socialism and communism.

Skip to next paragraph. Finance guys take risks that would terrify most of us. They carry immense burdens of fear and retribution on their shoulders. It is a wonder to me that the managers of hedge funds and the people who trade derivatives can even sleep at night. I know I wouldn't be able to catch one wink.

Still, when I read the daily news I am often struck by something that has nothing to do with the finance classes I took at Columbia or Yale, but in a way has everything to do with them.

Maybe I can summarize the dissonance in this little example: In the financial section of the newspaper or the business magazine, there is an article about a man, Philip J. Purcell, who has just left a huge financial services company after his performance was deemed subpar, and he's taking home a $113.7 million severance package.

Then there's an article about the fellow who is replacing him, and about how he was offered something like $25 million a year. A fellow on the job just three months, whose main quality was apparently loyalty to the subpar-performing manager, is getting $32 million.

And in a publication called Trader magazine, there's an article about the top hedge fund and commodities fund managers, and they are getting $250 million to $500 million a year each, personally.

And I think to my little self: "Wow, that's a ton of money. But I guess they do something very useful, helping to allocate capital and to make money for the shareholders and for the people who invest with them."

Then I turn from the financial news to the general news section of the paper, or to the barrage of e-mail messages I get from people in the Army and Navy and Marines and Air Force, and I read about men and women who are taking fire from insurgents in Iraq and being blown up by homemade bombs that the Pentagon refers to as improvised explosive devices. The people being blown up are maybe corporals, and they get $1,900 a month, including combat pay.

Or I read a letter from a buddy of a member of the Navy Seals who was killed recently in Afghanistan when his helicopter went down, and he was getting maybe $1,950 a month, fighting the Taliban and fighting Al Qaeda (which killed 3,000 innocent men, women and children on American soil on Sept. 11, 2001). That means the guy at the hedge fund is getting as much as, say, 10,000 of these corporals per annum.

What keeps going through my mind is that there is a big, yet always unstated, connection between these two groups of men and women - on one hand, the megastars of Wall Street and corporate boardrooms, with their vast paychecks, yachts and horse farms in the Hamptons, and, on the other, the grunts in body armor chasing down terrorists half a world away in 130-degree heat.

The link is that the men and women of Wall Street and of corporate America do their very important work - and it is vital work, indeed - inside a box of security and safety created by the courage of the men and women who wear battle dress uniforms and ride down the highway of death in Iraq in armored personnel carriers handling machine guns.

The men and women in the Armani suits, who get the huge paychecks - and who, again, do work I sincerely appreciate and admire - could not exist for long if they were not being shielded by the men and women in uniforms and boots.

And I do not mean only the military. I am also talking about the police officers, the firefighters and other first responders; the Department of Homeland Security folks; the airport security people; and the people in the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency. All of them offer their time and their lives and their families' sanity to protect the country.

That means, among other things, protecting the free markets in finance - and in ideas, religions and human feelings. There would be no finance section of the newspaper without the protection of those whose job is to protect and to serve.

Skip to next paragraph. By the way, I have the very same feelings when I read newspaper book reviews, movie reviews, dance reviews and art reviews. None of this criticism or creativity would be possible if we did not have the military and the other men and women who protect us from an unending reign of terror from fanatics and maniacs. None of the astounding beauty of daily life in America would be possible without the shield of the men and women riding around in valleys in Afghanistan and infiltrating terrorist cells all over the world.

This is not leading up to a specific policy prescription beyond what my father and I have been saying for decades: that upper-income people like me (and I am a welfare mother by Wall Street standards) should pay more tax, and people in uniform should get more pay.

Mainly, what I want to say is that we should have in our hearts - far ahead of a desire for a rising stock market, a soft landing in real estate and a return to a more normal yield curve - extreme gratitude for those who make our business and finance world, and indeed our whole world, possible.

We could live a little while without a stock market. It was closed for a time after the United States entered World War I and we survived, although I personally would not have liked it. But we could not live at all without those who earn modest wages and keep the whole system going - and whose risk does not involve being fired and getting a severance package if something goes wrong, but may mean a homecoming in a box or a life with a prosthesis.

Remember that it all depends on the fighting men and women, not on the people in finance. It depends on the guys whose names you will never know, guys who come home and work - not at jobs in which helicopters ferry them to secret-deal meetings in New York or London, but at jobs in places like a car wash in Burleson, Tex., where one of the men who captured Saddam Hussein is working without complaint and with barely mentioning that he was in Iraq.

That is, if they come home with all their limbs - or if they come home at all.


Thank a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman if you get the chance. That's really the payback they want to receive.

Skippy-san

Monday, July 25, 2005

The maid's day off

I have been thinking about this post for some time, basically since my trip to Hong Kong in April. My recent trip to the Middle East brought me back to it, after being jammed in a 777 for 9 hours with 200+ Indonesians and Filipinos all riding along the 21st century's version of the "trail of tears". The coup de grace however was a post by Spike, examining possible speeches Gloria Arroyo will give today.

If you have ever been, or you get the chance to go to Hong Kong and are there over a Sunday, take some time to go over to the HSBC building, say about 11:30 a.m. Instead of a quiet office building you will find a throng of humanity sitting, talking, and eating. The building is an open air ground floor so the reverberation of the conversations sounds like 1000's of birds chirping, only louder. If you have not guessed by now I am talking about the huge crowd of Filipina's who gather there and in the park by the War Memorial:


I've always been amazed at this human procession every time I have seen it in Singapore and Hong Kong and to a lesser extent other Asian capitals. I gather it also happens in the Middle East, but in a different manner, because the customs are different and during the summer its too hot outside to gather outside for an entire afternoon. Either way it points out a disturbing fact about the Philippines. Their major export is people. There are a whole host of reasons for this exodus back and forth, but I think its a national disgrace for the government of the Philippines. Doesn't it bother them, that after over 60 years as an independent nation, they have to ship large contingents of their population overseas to work?



Its Filipino, Indonesian, and Bangladeshi labor that drives the economic engine of both the Middle East and selected Asian cities. In Diego Garcia, all of the grunt work for the US Navy there is done by Filipino laborers. For their services they are paid anywhere from a whopping 10-15K US dollars per year (plus room and board and food). In Hong Kong the average maid's salary is :


In Hong Kong, the minimum wage for a maid is HK$3670 a month(US $ 476) . In Singapore, unless the woman is protected by an individual contract, she can be paid as little as her employer chooses.According to Wee, the average income of Filipino maids in Singapore is about S$300 a month (US $230), while Indonesians earn between S$160 and S$200.But she says most Sri Lankan and Thai maids get considerably less and she is aware of one Bangladeshi maid paid just S$30 a month - far less than the global benchmark for dire poverty of US$1 a day.(Source:The Age newspaper in Australia).

Even the US government gets in on the act. As I said earlier, in Diego Garcia, a company known as DG-21 employs about 3000 Filipinos for a hell of a lot less than they would have to pay Americans ( Median yearly wage, 11,000 US dollars). I was astounded the first time I took a look at our pay documents for there. Yet I'm told its a lot of money back in the PI.

Go to a restaurant or bar in Bahrain, it won't be a Bahraini that serves you your food or drink. 95% certainty of a Filipino being on the service staff there.It will be a generally nice looking piece of Filipina tuna, who work a heck of a lot harder than I would care to, providing service to Arabs who treat them like S**t. The responses I have been given when I ask about it, is almost always the same. The money is better here and somebody has to help their family.

Many of these women ( and there are a lot of men too) leave children behind in the care of parents, at least if some of the girls I have met in Singapore and Hong Kong are to be believed.
Also in both Singapore and Hong Kong, not a few months go by with out some story of a maid who was abused badly , by her usually Chinese employers:


Purwanti Parji, 19, faces life in jail for the crime, the Straits Times said, in what is the second case in less than a week of an Indonesian maid before the courts for killing a Singaporean woman.
Sundarti Supriyanto, 23, was sentenced to life in jail on Friday after being convicted of murdering her boss, Angie Ng, 33, and the woman's three-year-old daughter, Crystal, in May 2002.
Sundarti stabbed Ng to death and then set alight with petrol the building the victim and her daughter were in. She avoided the death penalty after the High Court ruled Ng had abused her. Purwanti pleaded guilty to killing Har Chit Heang, 57, on Aug. 4 last year by strangling her while she was asleep in her bedroom, according to the Straits Times.
The High Court heard from the prosecution that Purwanti had become angry after Har scolded her. Purwanti had been forced to work weekdays for Har, and weekends at the woman's daughter-in-law's house.
A High Court spokeswoman said Tuesday Purwanti will be sentenced on Tuesday.(Source Jakarta Post 28 September 2004).



To make a extra money, some turn to other pursuits on the weekends.

In the end, money is what it is all about. Other countries have it to offer and so folks go where the jobs are. Thanks to the continual cycle of government mismanagement in the Philippines, of which Gloria Arroyo is just the latest version, the jobs are not in the homeland. FEDEX recently decided to pull out of Subic Bay and move to Guangzhou China. I can't help but think that the deteriorating economic and security environment had something to do with the decision.



Demonstration in Central, Hong Kong.

I have also found it more than a little astounding, that for a group that sticks together, as much as Filipinos do; that they have not fought back against this particular phenomenon. Being here in Japan has also given me an appreciation for Filipino culture, they are a talented people, but there are also some aspects that are distinctly troubling to me. Probably should leave it at that here, but someday I'll try to put it down on paper. (or on this blog). Its complex, but some things about Filipino society need to be changed and quickly. Their ability to stick together is both a good and a bad thing IMHO. I'll just leave it at that and try to avoid the hate mail.

I don't have a solution for any of this. I just am struggling to understand it. The only real solution lies with the Philippines itself. They need to do something to make their nation work well. Until then, it just represents untapped potential lying dormant. Would they be any worse off if they had remained a US possession? Somehow I doubt it.

Skippy-san

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Matsuri season

No post yesterday, S.O. and I went to the O-bon festival. Now the really savvy folks out there should be asking why an O-bon in July, since August is the proper season for O-Bon. You would be correct, but the activities here in Japan try to match their events so as not to conflict with each other, and our host city has their Ao-dori festival next week. So July it was. Played the Taiko drum, but sensei back benched me for the really hard one. I think Sensei made the right call, especially since I missed 10 days of practice during my mid-east run. Still it was a lot of fun. Also got a rare sighting of the S.O. in a Yukata (I've never seen her in a kimono....she does not like wearing either of them.). She prides herself on being a modern woman, but for some reason today she wanted to hold up Japanese tradition. I'm glad she did:



Lots of folks dancing and holding up the Japanese tradition:



This is a mikoshi. (神輿). It a portable shrine that weighs over a 1000 pounds! I took my turn in the circle helping to carry it, but because I slightly taller than a lot of the folks in the group, got the stuffing beaten out of my shoulder! Still a lot of fun and few more beers helped to deaden the pain.

All in all a good time was had by us and those like us.

Skippy-san

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday beer and babes ( and bombs!)

Someone is at it again in London. WTF is with these guys? This is like shooting a boar, all it does is just make him mad. These are Brits and they are just going to hunker down and fight back. Haven't the terrorist morons figured that out yet? GRRR!

TO: Al Qaeda
FROM: London
RE: Bombings
Ever heard of a guy named Churchill? We've been bombed before...worse than this...by a better man than you...and guess what, you filthy losers? We're still here. Good luck in Hell.

Lost Nomad turned me on to some really funny stuff from the Party Pooper who is stuck in Seoul because of the Asiana Airlines strike. Suffice it to say he's pissed. However he is channeling his anger into his blog and he produced this little gem. Its funny. An excerpt:

I want to date a man who doesn't suck up to his boss and leaves the office when he finishes his work for the day. However, I would like to marry a man who silently does his job even if he doesn't get along with his boss or dislikes it because he is responsible and serious about his career.
[ 'Serious about his career', by the way, means 'serious about keeping me in shopping sprees and designer shoes'. But anyway, she'll probably end up marrying a guy who hates his boss and job with a passion and will turn to drinking and taking out his frustration on her and the children. Viva la tradicion!]



Meanwhile for the fifth year in succession, Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi has won the world hot-dog eating championship in New York.


Braver soul than I,but he was disappointed he only ate 49! Me, two and a beer is fine for me.

Tokyo Times has a post about really bad use of manga. I'm not so sure a comic book is the way to tell this story:



Its about the Diary of Anne Frank told by Atom. The caption on the front says in Japanese: "Anne wrote messages in a diary, I wonder what they are?"(アンネが日記に書きしるしたメッセージは何だったのかな?)。 Somehow I don't think this is the right way to tell this particular story.


On a more positive note women who show up at an expensive amusement park wearing mini-skirts will get a 50% discount on admission. Hat Tip to Japundit. Something tells me if that was tried in America, all of the wrong type of people would show up in mini-skirts ( Can you say beached whale syndrome?).


Where is my discount?

Got to go! The S.O. and I are going out to a fancy gourmet dinner tonight. I'm wearing a really nice suit she picked out for me. She just came out and looks AWESOME! Can't keep concentration......must need one of these:




I am sure I need some of this:



See I do post more than Asian Women sometimes! Ja ne!

Skippy-san


Thursday, July 21, 2005

A new meme!

One of the blogs I lurk at, without ever commenting on is Helen's. She writes her blog like a diary should read, and she writes well, making some very thought provoking posts. This post, got me to do some very serious thinking and I have decided to attempt to turn this into a meme because I think it will reveal some good ideas and writing here in Bloggerville. At least that is my hope, and if you don't like it go on ahead and link on over to See Lai for something more interesting!

Anyway here goes: List 3-5 things that you would put in a "Back to the Future" type letter from you now, to your younger self you, say 20-21 year old you about to graduate college or any other similar pursuit. There are only two caveats here: 1) you cannot direct your younger self to do anything or violate the principle of free will in decision making and 2) you should not try to reveal specific events in the future since, in theory, if any of your advice is accepted it will already screw up the time line and the events won't happen at all. This should, however to allow you to give your younger self some advice, and in the process force some introspection into your own existence. It can be as shallow or as revealing as you like, and feel comfortable with.

So here is mine, written to my younger self when he was just starting his junior year at a prestigious military college that both Foggy and I know very well.

"Skippy,

Hello my friend its me, an older, hopefully wiser, somewhat sadder you, looking back at all 117 pounds of you as you enjoy what you are going to come to treasure as "the best years of your life". Sure you don't recognize it now, because you are immersed in the daily routine of the Corps of Cadets, but stop and think a minute; how proud are you to be wearing those gray nasty's today?



Oh how I wish I could live those days knowing what I know now! However you will quickly learn that life is not a series of life or death decisions, but rather little seemingly insignificant choices that, without realizing it, rise up and become your life and your fate. My hope for this letter is that some of the advice contained herein will allow you to make the right choices and be able to better enjoy their outcome.

So I've got 3 things to pass on ( plus a couple of sidebars....).

First: You are the only one responsible for your happiness. The idea that out there somewhere, is one special woman who will do that for you is sheer nonsense. That is not to say that you cannot, or will not, find someone with whom you can live comfortably and experience much happiness; but the idea of marriage as a be all and end all of existence is poppycock. Take your time with romance. Meet a lot of girls, but also realize that breaking up with one or two or four is not the end of the world. Its actually a good thing. If enroute, you meet one who really rocks your world great, but give it time. If she is the right one for you, she'll be patient and and together she will figure out if you are the right one for her. There are a lot of women out there and believe me, if that one passe you buy, there are others who will make you just as happy. Marry in haste, and you will feel pain like you cannot even now begin to comprehend. While you are looking, meet, (and sleep with...(but use protection...give it a few years and you will understand why)) as many women as you can. It will give you an edge and allow you to be more discerning about the choice when the time comes. Trust me, this is one area I know about from hard experience.

Second, take time to smell the roses. I'm not telling you not to study, but keep your work life and your real life in balance. The two are not the same and one of the shortcomings of your military education is that it makes you incredibly passionate about being good in your profession. That's not a bad thing, but when you are tempted to really put aside some of the fun things, only for work, ask your self this question: "How long will I be dead?" Work is with you always, other things are not. You laugh, but in a few years you are going to attend the funerals of friends you laugh with, and drink beer with now. Get out travel, explore, and do more than the same dreary routine.

Finally, when you start making real money, make it a point to save at least 10% , if not 15% of your income. Have it come out of your pay automatically. You will not notice it this way. Invest some in other things besides a savings account. Like Nike will tell you some day, just do it! Having money saved will give you options you will not have if you live paycheck to paycheck. Think about it for minute. Right now you think the old man is pissed at you because you bought that used 1970 Volkswagen. Trust me, he's not. He's actually very proud of you for making a big decision on your own. Problem is acting pissed is the only way he knows to make you understand the seriousness of what you have undertaken. Don't let a wife, a girlfriend, a friend or anyone else, stand between you and getting that money put away. Driving a used car is really not so bad, and as your savings grow you'll be able to have more options to choose from. Having money in the bank will help you face change, and allow you to be more decisive, because if things go sour, you will still be able to move on and pay your bills in the short term. Please believe me on this.

Miscellaneous things to think about:

The language courses you hate now, you are going to wish you had stuck with later in life.

If you do not get to fly A-7's its not the end of the world. So long as you end up in Naval Aviation you will enjoy it. They are not lying to you when they say no matter what aircraft you get, you are going to end up enjoying it. Just get to your wings and let the rest take care of itself.



Don't be afraid to be stationed overseas.

Go back to playing golf. You'll thank me for it later. Pay for some lessons from someone who knows how to play the game.

Call Mom. Yea its a pain in the ass and she is going to lecture you, but she loves you more than you know. And while you do not realize it now she knows a few things that you do not. That 30 minutes on the phone will make her and you feel better.

Finally, remember that you are a great guy. It does not matter what anyone else says, or what kind of evaluations you get or how much money you have or even what your future wife thinks about you. Just be comfortable with yourself. You know your boundaries. Don't let others define them for you and things will be all right.

I'm cheering for you,

Skippy.

Now comes the hard part. I tag Bookworm, CDR Salamander, and Spike! There's some good reading ahead I think.

Skippy-san


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The briefing the SECDEF missed- Part II



In part one of this post I explained why it was highly unlikely that the SECDEF really did not know about the USFSPA ( Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act) and grievous injustices it causes to current serving members of the armed forces and retired members. Tom Philpott (Early Bird access required) published a synopsis hoping that the SECDEF receiving a question on the subject, might breathe new life into the effort to bring real reform to this vitally flawed piece of legislation.

















Like I said before, it's doubtful that the SECDEF did not know about this law, but for fairness sake lets take him at his word. Here is the briefing he should have gotten:

(MANY liberties have been taken here, and those of you who work(ed) in the five sided wind tunnel know that briefs don't work this way.......humor me!)

Skippy: "Good morning, Mr. Secretary."

SECDEF: "Good morning Skippy, what's on the plate today? Why should I get on board with changing this law and why is it such a big deal to that LTC and all those veteran's groups?"

Skippy: "Sir, there are 3 reasons that you should actively support and campaign for a change to the law. First, keeping the USFSPA hurts your long term efforts to reform both the military and the civilian personnel system by treating military retirement differently than any other government retirement system. If you want to a Human Capital strategy that makes greater use of civilian workforce and keeps the military folks around to utilize their full potential, changing the law makes sense. Also if you want to move people from uniformed to civil service or to contracts, this is one potential stumbling block.

Second, the divorce rate in the military is higher than for civilian couples and is rising. According to Army data, the spike in divorces is particularly high among officers, attributed to the frequency of deployments to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 3,300 Army officer marriages ended in divorce last year, up 78 percent from a year earlier and triple the number in 2000. Among Army enlisted soldiers, more than 7,100 were divorced last year, an increase of 28 percent over 2003 and 53 percent since 2000. Its a quality of service and a quality of life issue.

Third, its an issue of basic fairness and equity. Fixing this law will keep faith with the troops and be in line with other DOD efforts to fix antiquated and outmoded practices, just like was done with the repeal of Redux Retirement. Also as a bonus, getting DFAS out of the collection agency business frees some resources up for more productive pursuits. "

SECDEF: "Now wait just a minute, the lawyers tell me that dividing up a pension is an old, established, part of divorce law. "

Skippy: "Yes sir, that is true, except that a military retirement pay is incorrectly valued as property. Furthermore, unlike a usual pension that is not collectible till much later in life, you have many people departing the service in their 40's; a fact that you yourself have lamented and are seeking to change. The payments that are made are not a pension in the traditional sense. For many years after leaving, these folks are part of the Fleet Reserve Force and in really times of dire emergency, or unique skill sets, can be recalled to active duty. It's to your benefit , sir, to support the line of thinking, backed up by federal statute that military retired pay is "Retainer Pay", described by even the United States Supreme Court as "reduced pay for reduced services". The military member does NOT pay into a pension fund or retiree's plan to receive his or her Retainer Pay. When the career serviceman or servicewoman accepts retired pay, they obligate themselves to be subject to recall to military service, to be subject to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and are members of the reserves. The retired military member is being paid a retainer for continued obligation to the United States Armed Forces. "

SECDEF: "I've been told that idea is subject to dispute. "

Skippy: "Yes sir it is. There are conflicting court rulings on the subject. However DOD has ample precedent in its own regulations and comptroller general decisions that support the rationale. Also if it was truly property, why does the IRS treat it as income for tax purposes? The I.R.S. Code 26 C.F.R. S 31. 3401 (a)-1(b) (1) (ii) states that military retired pay is a "Current Wage."

I think you will agree that most, if not all military retirees understand that they have an obligation to continue to serve their country and so by treating military retirement as income you are furthering your objective to increase the years of useful service from the force.

Another fact that you should consider is that all other forms of marital property are valued at what they are worth at the time of the divorce. Not so the military retirement. The odds are pretty good that LTC Larabee was not a LTC when she got divorced, more probably enlisted or a junior officer. So her ex-spouse has contributed nothing to her advancement within the Army. Yet the value of the money he will receive is based on her current rank, so it is in effect, a windfall to her ex spouse that is unearned.












At least when a 401K is split up , the loss is real and immediate and the service member can begin efforts to recover, by changing contributions or investment strategy. There is no such option with military retired pay. Its based on an expectation of value that goes on and on and on. "

SECDEF: "But Dr. Chu informs me that veterans are all fairly well off and that was why we were right to oppose concurrent receipt last year. "

Skippy: "Mr Secretary, current income has nothing to do with the payments. Otherwise, individual service members would be able to petition in court to have the amounts reduced and or vacated, when spouses go on to match or equal the income of the retired service member. Furthermore, DOD is going to have to pay the same amount out anyway, all we are discussing is who the payments should go to if there were any justice involved here.

Also I would point out, that programs such as Troops to Teachers which bring real value to American society, or former Secretary Powell's efforts to bring military retirees into the Foreign Service are predicated on the ability of the retirement pay to offset the relatively poor salaries of both professions. America is getting bang for its buck in these programs, however folks like me have no choice, we have to pass on these service opportunities and go where the money is."

SECDEF: "Ok, lets wrap this up. What should I do and what are your recommendations? "

Skippy: "Sir, your should not underestimate the moral authority your office brings to the argument. Obviously the most desirable course from my standpoint would be to issue a statement in strong language, urging repeal of the USFSPA by Congress. Now the DOD lawyers are going to tell you that is a dangerous course because it will force 1000's of divorce cases to be reopened. That's exactly what should happen. Why? Because it will force military retirement to be treated as income to the retired spouse and then the former spouse would have to make a case that she really needs it. Many would not be able to meet the burden of proof required and would have to get off their fat duff and get a job......Sorry Mr Secretary, I tend to become passionate on this subject.

Failing advocating full repeal, at a minimum, you should urge Congress to amend the law as follows:

1) Make payments stop on remarriage of the former spouse.

2) Figure payments based on the rank the service member got divorced at and the number of years of service turned in at the time of the divorce. In other words end the windfall payment that comes from promotions they did nothing to help.

3) Take DFAS out of the garnishment business. Let the ex spouse have to seek payment from the retired military member.

4) Amend the law to make it clear that military disability payments are not divisible under the act.

Direct Dr. Chu to make this a priority and move it to the front burner, something he has been very loathe to do.

The important point Mr Secretary is to speak out forcefully from the "bully" pulpit that you have as Secretary of Defense. Your words have impact and you can make a real difference in changing this grossly unjust, and unfair law. "

SECDEF: "Well, I'll give you this Skippy, you certainly are impassioned in your feelings. I'll give this due consideration. "

Skippy: "Always sir, thank you for your time. "



















You bet it is!

Skippy-san

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bummed by Buffoonry

Don't feel like saying much today. Work is busy and at the same time its pointless.

As an old mentor of mine once said, the script never changes in the Navy, just the actors do. Have been going through a lot of issues at work, where the powers that be are going to take something that is not broken and try to fix it. Knowing I'm right and others who are saying the same thing is not good enough. The elephants are involved now and so something that could have been solved quite easily with a bunch of bubbas around the table, will now take a blue ribbon commission that will propose sweeping changes and in the process destroy any progress that has been made.

That's appropriate though, because in Rummy and V. Clark's world its how things work. Change is good they say. Maybe, but change just for change sake is plain stupid. I am a big believer in the old adage, if its not broke, don't fix it. That used to be a well accepted truth, now its considered a sign of non-conformist thinking. Thanks guys, thanks for nothing.

Can you tell I'm more than a little bit frustrated? You bet, because in the end good guys get screwed when this is done. I was looking at my resume last night, maybe I need to look at it again and get some feelers on the street.

Thanks for listening........


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Reading between the lines in Japanese English textbooks.

Shamelessly stole this from the Cynical Traveler. Go over to his blog and read the post in its entirety. While it may play to stereotypes, he's taken his material right from the Japanese newspapers and Tokyo Govenor Ishihara:



Skippy-san

More on Friedman's book

Sitting here with the S.O. watching the British Open. I think I am back in the right time zone now, and maybe, that means I might even get a decent night's sleep.

For all you S.O. fans out there, waiting for her to dump Skippy or at least give him his comeuppance, well relax , she still loves me and also enjoys putting me in my proper place on the golf course. She beat me by 8 strokes today out playing golf. ( I'm blaming the jet lag. "Yea, Yea, that's the problem" .......not the fact that I FORGOT HOW TO USE A DRIVER!). Yes, she had packed a can of whup ass in her golf bag, putting and chipping her way to a 39 on the back and a 47 on the front. Properly humiliated, she has been doing her best to remind me who is the better golfer. I'll accept this truth the day she plays #16 from the men's tees.

Since Tiger is on the 3rd hole only, I've got time. So I thought I would offer a few unsolicited observations on Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. If you have not read the book, Amazon saves you the trouble:

What Friedman means by "flat" is "connected": the lowering of trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. This in itself should not be news to anyone. But the news that Friedman has to deliver is that just when we stopped paying attention to these developments--when the dot-com bust turned interest away from the business and technology pages and when 9/11 and the Iraq War turned all eyes toward the Middle East--is when they actually began to accelerate. Globalization 3.0, as he calls it, is driven not by major corporations or giant trade organizations like the World Bank, but by individuals: desktop freelancers and innovative startups all over the world (but especially in India and China) who can compete--and win--not just for low-wage manufacturing and information labor but, increasingly, for the highest-end research and sign work as well. (He doesn't forget the "mutant supply chains" like Al-Qaeda that let the small act big in more destructive ways.) Friedman tells his eye-opening story with the catchy slogans and globe-hopping anecdotes readers of his earlier books and his New York Times columns will know well, and also with a stern sort of optimism. He wants to tell you how exciting this new world is, but he also wants you to know you're going to be trampled if you don't keep up with it. His book is an excellent place to begin. --Tom Nissley


Maybe its an excellent place to begin, however, Friedman's book has several flaws. It's still a good book and his central premise is worth ignoring at a nation's peril. However, as I said in a previous post, perhaps because he does not have to worry about losing his job, Friedman seems to have checked his American identity at the door. Either that, or he is very heartless.

Flaw # 1.

Friedman assumes that all nations have social justice and advancement of their people as a priority. The fact is, the reason that countries such as India, China and others are thriving in the Internet ages, is that they have maintained and will continue to maintain a permanent underclass, which in turn, offers it the ability to offer the cheap labor rates with no corporate benefits or responsibility. Since America, for all her problems, really does seek social justice for all ( its one of the bedrock principles of the American ideal, the argument is how to achieve it), the USA is automatically at a disadvantage. China and India with 3 times as many people can afford to write off 300-500 million people in order to take care of the remaining group of budding entrepreneurs. There is no real incentive for these nations to change this as is evidenced by China. So the field is not really flat, these other nations have used the cost( or more correctly lack of) this underclass as a counter weight to slant the (economic) world in their favor.

Flaw #2.

Its a hell of a lot easier to compete when you don't have to spend billions from your national treasure being the world's policeman. In Friedman's "brave new world" the heavy lifting of international security is being done by a few nations and most of them are on the losing side in his global competition model. Talk all you want about the "Coalition of the Willing", but I have yet to see the PLA or the Indian Army send 150,000 troops to Iraq for occupation duty. Nor undertake, as a national objective, a war framed in terms of good vs. evil that will last for a generation. No, on the current "flat" playing field, its easier to let the US do the dirty work and laugh all the way to the (Internet) bank.

Flaw #3

The nation state is not dead yet. Neither is nationalism, and these nations benefiting from the flat world have not forgotten that. For the flat world to be truly successful, it hinges on a world of commerce with no boundaries. It seems to me his two principal competitors, China and India are very firmly committed to advancing commerce so that it favors their nation. To me, it seems however, that Friedman is asking Americans to abandon their national identity in favor of "free trade". To paraphrase Patton, " No poor bastard ever won a (trade) war by (losing his job) dying for his country, he won it by making the other poor bastard die for his." So while protectionism is counterproductive, he seems to be arguing that we just have to continue to let American jobs slip away in the name of greater commercial good.

There are two types of people who watch the Olympics: 1) those who want to see sport at its finest and 2) those who want to see the "Star Spangled Banner" played over and over and over again at awards ceremonies. I fall into the latter category, Friedman seems to be in the former. As I said earlier he has that luxury because he is rich. What about the average Joe, who has kids to raise and bills to pay? Its all well and good to talk about retraining and enhancing life skills, but in real non-NY Times world, people have to make hard choices. That is why Americans have to be sticking up for Americans.

FLAW #4-

Friedman correctly notes that their are wild cards out their that threaten everyone's well being in this flat world: Nuclear weapons, AIDS, imbalance of resources to name a few. He points out that those things make the world not flat because they unfairly siphon resources away from the greater good. But there is no incentive for the haves to change the current system. Especially when money and wealth are the sole determiners of success. He offers no real prescription to change the value system that exploits the poor. Until we do, there will be no real progress in the world, just different actors fighting the same wars.

None of this is to say its not a good book, and America does need to wake up and smell the coffee. Superpower or no, it is possible for America to become irrelevant in the interconnected world. I think we are already seeing the first signs of this in a variety of areas. Give it 50 years and we may be right back where the world was at the beginning of the industrial age, multiple powers competing for the same resources. There has to be a better and saner way to run the planet. Unfortunately, if we are not careful the US will only be a spectator to that competition.

Skippy-san






Saturday, July 16, 2005

Back to Asia!

I am so glad this week is over. Every time I come out here, the stupidity factor has gone up by at least 20%. Lots of observations I want to give about the things the US Navy is doing in the Middle East, but there is a better time and place. Suffice it to say there are too many people here, being tasked to do too many things, with not enough time to any of them well. And instead of designing ourselves for the eventual day when peace may come and we get our asses out of the Middle East, the way we should, we will be here forever. I remain firmly convinced that for Bahrain at least, less would be more, and it would be a great candidate for outsourcing "the backroom". And a whole bunch of other things. But they won't. The pampered princes need to increase their empire over here. The goal should be to work for peace and go home.

Work related issues screwed me out of my Hong Kong stopover on the way back. Got some things that need to get done before Monday, so in a remarkable change for me, I did the prudent thing and went all the way back to Tokyo. Watching Hong Kong pass by with out riding the train into town is no fun. I was even going to try to look up some of Spike's friends.

Driving over here is always an adventure especially when the Saudi's come into town for their weekend sinning. ("Allah does not look upon Bahrain"). Seems all ideas about traffic laws go out the window and its survival of the fittest at traffic lights and circles. Did drive past the big tourist attraction every day though:



Finished Thomas Friedman's book, "The World is Flat". Don't agree with all his conclusions (but I do agree with several) and I think he ignores the burden that being world policeman places on the US economy. Also, it would be good for him to remember that he is still an American when he writes these things. He is far too complimentary of Indians and the jobs they are doing. They may be doing good work, but since they don't hold American passports, that does not mean its good for American workers. A little jingoistic patriotism would have been nice to see. Since Friedman is rich though, he doesn't have to worry about losing his job or seeing good expat jobs get localized. Maybe if he did, he would not be so complimentary towards the Indian call centers and software development.

Time to go board. Internet access should have been better this week, but I had not enough time to drink and blog, so blogging went out the window. I'll fix that back in Japan.

Ja ne,

Skippy-san

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated!

No Blogging this week. Knee deep in work as I expected, plus my connectivity is not so great. Lots to say though, just needs to be said some other time!

Skippy-san

Sunday, July 10, 2005

An appalling lack of motivation.

Today is my last day here in Singapore. I had planned to go out and look at the Kranji War Memorial, but a combination of two things ruined that plan: 1) Getting back to my hotel a 3:30 am (alone) and 2) a torrential rain storm as I was heading for the MRT. I'm not just talking about a little rain here, I'm talking about sheets and sheets of the wet stuff. Screw it, might as well drink beer instead. (If you come here do go, its an interesting bit of history, I've been before.)

So, I have stumbled down to this Internet spot, after peeking outside and determining that , yes it was still raining and I really don't feel like doing anything anyway. I hate myself for that sentiment, as I leave for the Middle East tomorrow and I hate it there, so I should be making maximum use of my time here. However I just do not feel like it. Which is downright pathetic when you think about it. So much to do here and I am just like a rabbit on the track moving back and forth between the central part of the city and Orchard Road.

Because of the rain I planned my route to maximize indoors movement. Basically I sprinted from shopping mall to mall. Which, as I made my way up Orchard Road took me inside of the Lucky Plaza. Someday I am going to write down the thoughts this place inspires in me. On Sundays, this shopping center is filled with Filipina's and Indonesians on there only day off of the week. Trying to get away and not spend money so they can send it home. In fact right now, 2 lovely Filipinas are sitting next to me, sending e-mail to home and chatting in Tagalog. I wonder what their life stories are? They probably have a much different tale to tell then mine. Guess I should be thankful for the things I have. More on this subject at a different time. However, Gloria Arroyo you should be impeached for this alone.

This is my 14th trip to the Lion City. Can you tell I like the place? Tonight, I will follow my custom and go down to the Boat Quay, eat an overpriced dinner along the river, drink too much beer, and along about stage 7 or 8, I will walk over and say goodbye to my pal the Merlion:



I usually spend about 20 minutes just looking up at him and asking him questions. Same routine every time, I think hard about me and my life, and he never answers. I keep asking him how I can live here, he never answers. I ask him if this is all there is, he never answers. But it makes me feel better. Then off to a bar or 4. That's my custom and I've done it every time I have been here.

Tomorrow its off to Bahrain, a place I despise for a whole bunch of reasons. Part of what makes being here all the better, since I can get all my partying in now and get to Bahrain and do work. I know I will be counting the days till I leave there, that's for sure.

Probably should have gone to the Hash Run Friday night, would have given me more purpose. However, even doing nothing is OK with me, so long as I am doing it here. Thank you Lee Kuan Yew , for giving the world this beautiful city.

Gotta go!

Skippy-san

Saturday, July 09, 2005

No finer place on which the sun shines......

I truly love Singapore. Yesterday was my first full day here this trip, and unfortunately I had to attend to some work related things which ate up most of the afternoon hours. Still, it is nice just to be here. Don't ask me why, but this is my favorite place to be.


Shameless ,selfish, self promotion: If there are any Singapore employers out there reading this, please hire me! I'll move here in a heartbeat.
In the morning I walked up and down Orchard Road , made a long leisurely stop at Borders Books, ate some chicken rice and dumpling soup in the hopes of killing my hangover, and read the Straits Times backwards and forwards. Back to the room for a combat nap, then saddle up and head out for night of revelry.

Thanks to Expat at Large's tip, I went up to the Wine Company. I'm glad I did. Drank some good South African wine and ate bread and cheese. Got to sit outside and watch the evening come on. Sitting there by myself was very peaceful and gave me some good thinking time.

Then I began my usual circuit. Head off to Chijmes, to say confession at Father Flanagan's. ( Father, forgive me for I am going to Orchard Towers and sin...). Very bummed to find out China Jump is closed. Truly sad news indeed since I always had a good time there and it was , in fact, one of only two places in Singapore where I picked up a girl and no exchange of currency was involved. Thank goodness Insomia is still open. Made a quick foray there.

Then it was in the taxi and off to the place on Orchard Road where the escalator does not work and spiraled down the path of intoxication again.

Walking around today was most interesting. Some random thoughts:

Its clear that the London bombing has folks here thinking hard. The police are out in force. The IOC meetings had everyone here security conscious as it was, but now its very visible and different then I have ever seen for Singapore.

They have some pretty cool advertisements for the Singapore Army on the trains of the North South line. Scenes of family life intermixed with soldiers stealthily getting ready to attack a position. The end of the commercial talks about "our" Army-the decisive force.

Seems to me that America could learn something from that. That one little word "our" means a lot. It gives ownership. It implies involvement. For too many Americans the armed forces are something that other people do. Maybe if we all realized we are in this together.....Its "our" armed forces.

I have to stop now and force myself out the door. There is a lot to see and no time to see it.

Skippy-san

Friday, July 08, 2005

No posts today

No post today. Out of respect for the citizens of London. Watched Tony Blair this morning.
It's been an amazing 24 hours. I am amazed and shocked. More to say tomorrow.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Greetings from the Lion City!

Just got in to Singers........No matter how tired I am, my heart picks up when I get into the taxi and ride past the apartment buildings and into the city. This is my favorite place on the planet.

Singair was just as nice as ever proving again that customer service does matter......

Watching CNN about the attacks in London. Amazing. I did not know it had happened until the taxi driver said something. Got watch some more and get the news. Unbelievable coming on the heels of the good news about the Olympics.

Speaking of the Olympics, wonder if Hillary is somewhere crying in her (Tiger) Beer.......
(UPDATE: I think I saw her in the Crazy Horse bar!!!! Why am I not suprised?).
Personally I'm glad London won, even more so now. They will show these useless bastards!

More tomorrow.

Skippy-san

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Maybe I am accomplishing something after all.....

Or it could just fall into the category of: "new versions of the Nigerian e-mail scam.....".

I got the following in my e-mail..clear out of the blue.......

"At his Global Town Hall Meeting, on 29 June 2005, the Secretary of Defense' said he was not aware the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Act's (USFSPA) existence, in response to US Army LTC Larrabee's courageous request for support to correct its inequities. Taking the Secretary at his word, our mission is to bring him up to date, regarding the havoc this law plays on your life.

Some of us, are planning to meet with your Congressional Representatives, others will write to them, in hopes of discovering why USFSPA has been unnoticed for almost 25 years. We are urging Unit Commanders to formally and frequently brief their personnel, to forewarn them of the peril this law represents to each one of us, and we are asking your State Legislators to consider suspending UFSPA in their jurisdiction until there is conclusive evidence this is being done.

I sincerely apologize for not contacting you sooner. It is important for me to know if you are willing and able to participate in our operation, in some way, even if that means just being in touch. As a minimum, please advise, regarding your current contact and voter registration information, at your convenience.

Still serving proudly, XXXXX XXXX; President
American Retirees Association BOD
www.americanretirees.org/ "

Survey says? Respond or not?

I'd be happy if they wrote Rick Santorum and told him to do some real work for a change. Instead of just being a lap dog for President Bush.........

Skippy-san

P.S. For CDR Salamander, now we know who the LTC is, .......

On the road again!!!!

Off the boat again!
I just can't wait to get off the boat again!
So I can go booming with my friends,
I just can't wait to get off the boat again!


(Sung to Willy Nelson's "On the road again.")

We used to sing that back during my seagoing days. I still like the song, because traveling, exploring, and beer drinking all go hand in hand!

Will be out of touch for a day or 2 until I can re-establish high speed connectivity. Tonight plan on wining and dining the S.O., then tomorrow its off to Singapore and then the points beyond for 10 days or so. Details of my adventures are sure to follow.




Oh great! Skippy's back! Excuse us while we lock up the valuables.

Ja ne,

Skippy-san

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

You don't see this every day.........



Participants in a rally Sunday in Kobe, where the 7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific is being held, hold a banner calling for safer conditions for sex workers.

I can't figure out if they are talking about sex work or set work. Maybe these girls are budding tennis professionals........

Monday, July 04, 2005

Beats me how they keep it straight--Star Wars vs. War of the Worlds.

Here in Japan, Star Wars opens in 5 more days. Since I have already seen the movie, I'm probably not as excited as I should be. However its given me some great opportunities to watch the original movies as one of the TV channels here has been running Episodes 4, 5, and 6 on TV. The posters, of course, are up on all the trains.

Now also, last week, War of the Worlds opened under its Japanese title: 'Space War':



Star Wars Episode III is this in Japanese:



The War of the Worlds title translates literally as "space war". The Star Wars title literally translates as "Star Wars Episode 3 sith's (shisu) revenge" ( the bottom line means road show all over the country....).

Clear as mud, eh what?

I'm glad they can keep it straight..............

失礼、

Skippy-san

Happy 4th of July!

I'm 13 to 15 hours ahead of most of my American readers, so I'm a little early for some. Have a Happy Holiday today and God Bless America!



Sunday, July 03, 2005

The brief that the US Secretary of Defense missed. (Part-I)

Thanks to some of the other citizens here in Bloggerville, I had 15 minutes of fame last week. While my little tirade was created as a result of reviewing my finances and coming to the conclusion that handing over 39% of a hard earned retirement to woman who deserved to be run over by a steam roller did not make much sense; along comes a female Lieutenant Colonel in the Pentagon to make my point to the Mr Rumsfeld himself. Thanks to Mudville Gazette and CDR Salamander you can view this little exchange for yourself. The text is listed below. Ask yourself if something is just not right here:


Q . Sir, this is for you, Mr. Secretary. I'm an active-duty lieutenant colonel, divorced, full custody of two small children. My ex-husband resigned from the military because it wasn't lucrative enough for him. During our marriage, our nine years together, he tripled his income due to the support I provided him while he went to school full- time. And by the way, I supported a family with my military paycheck. Now I'm living with a divorce decree that not only directs me to provide a large chunk of my retirement pay to him; it also directs me to start paying him upon reaching 20 years in service, whether I choose to retire at 20 years or not. This is forcing me out of the military next year. I can't afford to write a paycheck -- write a check to my ex-husband every month out of my military pay. By the way, he makes thousands and thousands of dollars more than I do. This is a result of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act. I'm not the only one affected by this injustice. There are many other injustices that have been imposed on military members for years. Sir, we are your supporters, some of your biggest supporters in this country, and we would like to get support from our leadership as well.

SEC. RUMSFELD: This is a statute, the -

GEN. MYERS: Right. It's a law. ( Skippy-comment: A bad law not even constitutional at that!).

SEC. RUMSFELD: A law.

GEN. MYERS: In the past. (Skippy-comment: NO General, its still very much in the present!)

Q . Sir. Yes, sir. Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, which, sir, I was told that you supported. ( Skippy-comment : You do support it Mr Secretary, or do you have no say in Pentagon PR?)

SEC. RUMSFELD: I've never heard of it. (Laughter.) ( Yeaah...right......)

Q. And, sir, as you may know, or may not know, the divorce rate in the military is much higher than it is in the civilian sector, and it is growing.

SEC. RUMSFELD: When did this law go into effect?

Q. Oh, sir, people have been trying to fight this for 20 years.

GEN. MYERS: Yes, it's old. It's a couple -- it's at least 15, 20 years it's been around, right? Ten, 15, 20 years? (Skippy-comment: Its 23 years old as you know perfectly well. Ask your wife, I guarantee you she knows all about it!)

Q. Well, before I came into the military, sir.

GEN. MYERS: Right.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I'll be happy to have David Chu look at it. I'm just not knowledgeable, I'm afraid, about it. (Skippy Translation: I intend to do nothing about this as I know perfectly well Dr. Chu has been stonewalling progress on this and other veteran's benefit issues.)

GEN. MYERS: It was different -- actually, it was created, I think, in different times. I think was part of the mindset when spouses were normally women-- (Skippy-san comment: So you have heard of it!)

Q. Yes.

GEN. MYERS: -- and when they probably did not work, and when--

Q. But sir, even--

GEN. MYERS: Yeah. So it needs to be looked at. I think the secretary's idea is a good idea. (Skippy -san comment: So what are really saying is that doing nothing about an important personnel pay and benefits issues is a good idea?)

Q. May I say one more thing, please, sir? I know that it was set for a much earlier generation. But I will say that since I've been in the military, since August of 1986, everywhere I've been stationed, and Germany included, even female spouses have had opportunities for jobs, given preference for government jobs, had opportunities for education beyond high school. There's always some sort of college program. So although you may look and this may sound a little bit shocking to you because now there's a woman having to pay an ex-husband who makes just a lot more money than a lot of us in this room, this is an issue that is not a gender issue, it
is a military service member issue. And, frankly, we need some support, and we'd like for you to support change or congressional amendment to the current act and actually help promote it, because we can't get a congressman or anybody to touch this. (Skippy-san comment: Truer words have never been spoken. And Donald Rumsfeld won't touch this either. Support in his book is a one way street.....) .


SEC. RUMSFELD: We'll have David Chu take a look at it. Thank you. (How many times have I told you guys, only put the sycophants in the room.......
) .



This little exchange sounds innocuous, but really its very illustrative of a whole lot of things that are wrong with Don Rumsfeld's DOD today. Now I recognize that the Secretary is a busy man and between running 4 wars on terrorism, transformation" (read: gutting of) the armed forces, and driving US foreign policy in the opposite direction of the previous Secretary of State, well that's a pretty full plate for any one. And I am not naive enough to believe that this particular issue should be number 1, 2,3,4, or even 5 on his "to do" list. Nor should it be way up there. Like I said, he's got a lot on his to do list. And this war and its implications for the US and its armed forces is deadly serious business. But it should be on the list. One of the perks that comes with running , literally, the largest business in the world; is the ability to delegate this to folks who can make this a high priority. "Say the word and it can be done." Furthermore this is, as they describe in Pentagon "briefspeak", "low hanging fruit" that can be dealt with relatively easily by the Department of Defense.

Plus, no matter how busy Don Rumsfeld or General Myers are, its complete fantasy to believe that they have never, ever, not in the slightest, heard about this law. If that is really true, and I doubt it, then it is a sad commentary on the supposed unity of the "military coalition" of veteran's lobbyists. One of their big responsibilities is to keep these types of compensation issues in front of major decision makers. Furthermore, it is hard for me to believe that since the Secretary himself was named respondent in a major law suit, that may go all the way to the Supreme Court; that there was not , at least one time in the past few years, an occasion that he was briefed on it. I guarantee you General Myers knows about it. You do not get that far in the military without at least having one or two flag officer friends who "traded up", later in their careers, and became subject to the law. ( As an aside, it would be interesting to see how many of those "second hand models, were once military officers ( or in at least one case I know of personally:enlisted, themselves. That is for another post......)).

Dr. Chu knows about it, that is 100% sure. And he has made it very clear that repealing or reforming this incredibly stupid law is not a priority with him. After all, he is the same man that said, before Congress, that honoring a social contract...e.g. " a promise made is one that should be kept" , is hurting US military readiness. He's also the same guy who opposed:

1) Concurrent receipt
2) Reduced Reserve retirement age
3) Health Care improvements for veterans
4) Hikes in Imminent danger pay and family separation allowance .

The sad part of this whole exchange between the Lt Col, who I am sure is being taken aside and given "wall to wall" counseling, and the SECDEF, is that the fixes that DOD can advocate are relatively easy to do, and would go a long way towards smoothing the road with Congress who in the end, must approve any changes to US law. At the very least, even if it got voted down in Congress, it would send a huge message to both active duty and retirees, that the current SECDEF cares about them and their long term issues. More on that in part II of this series this week.

However, I'll bet you a pint of your favorite beverage, that this is the last that the current SECDEF deals with this particular issue.......which leaves at least a couple of folks, wishing they could live like OJ.......

Skippy-san






Saturday, July 02, 2005

This sounds depressingly like my life with the ex!

BEIJING, July 1 -- "Sex just once a week is totally unbearable" . Don't I know that! Read here for details.

On the Conduct and Procedure of the
Intimate and Personal Relationships
of the Marriage State for the
Greater Spiritual Sanctity of this
Blessed Sacrament and the Glory of God
by
Ruth Smythers beloved wife of
The Reverend L.D. Smythers
Pastor of the Arcadian Methodist
Church of the Eastern Regional Conference
Published in the year of our Lord 1894
Spiritual Guidance Press
New York City



To the sensitive young woman who has had the benefits of proper upbringing, the wedding day is, ironically, both the happiest and most terrifying day of her life. On the positive side, there is the wedding itself, in which the bride is the central attraction in a beautiful and inspiring ceremony, symbolizing her triumph in securing a male to provide for all her needs for the rest of her life. On the negative side, there is the wedding night, during which the bride must pay the piper, so to speak, by facing for the first time the terrible experience of sex.

At this point, dear reader, let me concede one shocking truth. Some young women actually anticipate the wedding night ordeal with curiosity and pleasure! Beware such an attitude! A selfish and sensual husband can easily take advantage of such a bride. One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: GIVE LITTLE, GIVE SELDOM, AND ABOVE ALL, GIVE GRUDGINGLY.


This woman must gave been related to my ex!

Getting your priorities straight.

I was going to start off on one of my tirades, but I've thought better of it. For now.

However, soon, I will get back to my ranting and I'll even be kind enough to warn my intended victim: Donald Rumsfeld, stand by for a (blogged) beating!

However today, I just can't do it. Went with a colleague up to Tama Hills golf course. For those of us who live where I do, it is a rare treat. For one thing, thanks to the fact that it is (mis)managed by the Air Force, tee times are hard to get. For another it's at least 1 hour to get there and that is if there is no traffic through Machida(町田市). That is something that rarely happens. Thus, it usually takes 1+45 to get there with lots of stop and go in between. The course, however, is worth the effort to get there:















Tama is an interesting course. Hilly, and it has lots of big trees. Thus it puts a real premium on getting your tee shot straight. (Which is not good for me!) After playing today, I have decided to bring the S.O. up there, she could do well here. For her the course is only 5251 yards (6103 for the men!) and since she ALWAYS hits the ball in the fairway, she would do ok. I hate the fact that she can do that consistently. If there is a down side, it is that the greens are rounded and sloped, thus one's chip shot better stop where it lands, or there is a significant risk of rolling it off the green into one of the many bunkers on the course:















Since my driver shots are the one part of game that is still not under control, it made things interesting to say the least. Slice? Hook? who the F**K knows? I had just about gotten to the point I could play my rather pronounced slice as a fade, but for some reason now it has vanished. To be replaced by a snap hook. Arrghhh!

As for my score, the less said the better. Front nine was OK, considering I had not played this course in a great while, a nice comfortable 47....the back? Well suffice it to say two snowmen kept me from my goal. IMHO, the out of bounds rule is the worst rule in golf. GRRRR!!

However the point is, it was nice day off, full of beer, conversation , jokes and even 3 pars! One has to savor that. For bad news from Donald Rumsfeld and DOD, there's always time for that. But today was, and is not, the time.

Update!: I am such a chump. The S.O. got back from work today and said she gets off early tomorrow(that was not supposed to happen!) and "would I like to play golf with her?" Had big plans to go into Tokyo, including stopping off at my favorite Irish pub. However, since I leave for a long business trip on Thursday, I'm feeling guilty about not being with her this weekend. Idiot!

However, I'd really like to spend the time with her......I don't know why, but I will. Someday I'm going to figure this out. Till then.......I'm a chump! Tune in tomorrow though, we are going to go straight up match play (she still gets to play from the ladies tees(?!)), mano y womano. She thinks she can kick my butt. It is my manly duty to prove her wrong. That's the straw that made me stay. It worries me how well she understands me and can bend me to her will.......

Moron!


Skippy-san

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