Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I'm still here......for what reason I do not know.

Why I am not 100% sure. Today is a very unreal day. Very Very depressed and there is no real good reason for it.

Went out to dinner last night with a co-worker. We went to the Boat Quay. Which is over priced and touristy, but still a lot of fun none the less. Stopped at Chijmes for more beers before going back to the hotel.

Made a foray through Brix, was shocked to see it full on a Monday night. I think one can say for sure now, it is the upscale sales professionals hangout.

This morning got up worked, came back to the hotel at lunch time. Read a great line in the paper. "Be the person you aspire to be". That's rich. I would be the person I aspire to be if others would stop telling what I aspire to become. And if I could just forget about these annoying things like paying the bills.

Hollywood makes it seem so easy to just run out and change ones life. The reality, I think, is that changing one's life is hard. If I could be the person I aspire to be, I would be living here in Singapore, have an OK apartment, a job that lets me live and pay my bills and I would write a book.

HA HA HA!!!!!!! Alimony, bills, incomplete retirement, lack of jobs, age discrimination, and most importantly fear all stand in the way. The S.O. has fits every time I mention the idea of chucking it all and moving here. She is probably right and on days like today I realize that she does provide structure for me which is something I sorely need.

And really don't want.

I feel like dirt emotionally today. Useless and insignificant. There is quote from Bukowski that probably covers it, I just can't be bothered to remember it.

" I'm fed up with me!"

A rambling post to be sure. I probably ought to hit the delete key. However it's the news and so I'll click on the publish button in a minute. I've got to do something to change...I just am not sure what yet..........


Better things tomorrow, I promise. Right now I just want to go lay on the bed and cry myself to sleep....................

Monday, February 27, 2006

More on the port deal..

With apologies to William Shakespere, here is Marc Antony's take on the P&O port deal. I watched the movie version Julius Caesar the other night and this came to mind. (Brando is awesome in the movie, get it and watch it sometime):

Friends, Americans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Western owned and run buisnesses, not to praise them;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interréd with their bones,
So let it be with Port Deal…. The noble Bush
Hath told you that the UAE is our friend and is fair:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Senate answered it….
Here, under leave of Bush and the rest,
(For Bush is an honourable man;
So are they all; all honourable men)
Come I to speak at the West's funeral….
It was a historical company, faithful and just to us:
But Bush says he it is a fair deal;
And Bush is an honourable man….
He hath brought many captives home to Guantanamo,
Whose ransoms have yet to be accomplished still:
Did this in the UAE seem unseemingly?
When that the poor have cried, the UAE hath raised oil prices:
Fairness should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Bush says he the deal is fair;
And Bush is an honourable man.
You all did see that from Dubai
Muslim extremists did come forth,
Which the UAE still launders money for: was this fairness?
Yet Bush says the deal is fair ;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Bush spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him American business once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for death of those companies now?
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason…. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with end of western run business,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

The UAE port deal and the rest of the globalization madness will come back to haunt us...........

Quick post from heaven........

Just a short note to say how nice it is to be back here in Singapore again. I think I am finally warm for the first time in about 9 weeks. Did work this morning, bought the S.O. the camera I should have bought in December, (she's still pissed I arranged this side trip on my way out to hell Bahrain) . However it is good for me. I still can't shake this sense of foreboding I have had for about 2 weeks. Here it translates into "Wonder if I will be able to make back here again? ". Only time will tell on that score and at this point there is really nothing I can do about it either way.

Went to Dubliners and to Brix, pretty good crowd for a Sunday. Good Salsa band playing too. Lots of women in the bar. With Top Ten being closed I wonder if Brix has become "the upscale hangout". Only problem with Brix is that the beer is too expensive. Had a night cap at the little bar I like on Orchard and found my home in good time (and alone......).

Air con feels good, but I need to leave this little internet cafe ( Chills Cafe at Stamford place) and head back out into the heat. Which actually feels good.......

More later...ja ne.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A different departure

Out the door in a few minutes to catch the train to Narita. Journeying down to my favorite spot on the planet, Singapore. Usually I'm excited when I travel, this morning I'm apprehensive. I don't know why........perhaps it just goes along with that sense of foreboding I've been having that 2006 is just going to be a different type of year for me than the happy go lucky ones I've seen previously this decade.

Can't quite put my finger on it. This will not be a tourist trip, I have a lot to write up before Wednesday. I do plan on stopping and paying my respects to the Merlion though.......

More later

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Musings and Figure Skating babes!

OK, OK, enough feeling sorry for myself. Time to buck up, dig in and get back to the normal buffoonry............I recognize that there are stupid people in the world. I choose not to be one of them.

Looking around the news its clear there are lots of stupid people still out there. Consider:

Arabs- Can't live with them, can't kill them fast enough. If the news is to be believed, Iraq is on the verge of civil war. Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia there was a major terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia

Meantime other Arabs are seeking to kill America in other ways, namely economically. " Just business as usual", the powers that be are saying. Others argue that we are slighting a valued ARAB ally in the war on terror. P&O was a historic British company after all, there was already foreign ownership of our ports.

I'll have more on the port deal at a later date. Suffice it to say, that as racist as it may sound, there are no Arab allies, only people we do business with at specific points in time. Arabs are still Arabs and one should never forget that. This is about making the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Wait till the "guest worker" deal goes through and the P&O can hire Sri Lankan stevedores at 40% of what they pay now. That's the other shoe out there waiting to drop. Lou Dobbs had a good show about it this morning. Ben Stein comments better than I:

Guest Column: 2 Cents' Worth: What Are We Fighting For?
By Ben SteinThe New York Times
Friday, February 17, 2006

In the tiny room where I write, there is a framed diploma awarded to my late father-in-law, Dale Denman Jr. of Arkansas. It is from the U.S. MilitaryAcademy, dated June 6, 1944. Next to that is a display case with two little stars awarded to my father-in-law for bravery. One is a Silver Star that he earned in Europe several months after he graduated. Next to it is a Bronze Star that he earned in Vietnam in 1966.

I have been thinking a lot lately about these heirlooms because of some mail I have been getting about the way high-ranking executives have been treating their employees and stockholders. Several people sent clippings describing how UAL, the parent company of United Airlines, provided Glenn Tilton, who was living in San Francisco when it hired him as chairman and chief executive, with a suite in a luxury hotel when he spent time at its headquarters in Chicago. UAL was paying for the suite while it was reorganizing its finances under bankruptcy court protection and telling tens of thousands of workers that their jobs had been eliminated, their pay cut, their pensions terminated or all of the above because the company was broke. Now UAL has emerged from bankruptcy with an allowance of hundreds of millions of dollars for its top executives.

Some letters pointed out that the UAL board includes Robert Miller, chief executive of Delphi, the auto parts maker. Delphi also recently entered bankruptcy, and it proposed to the bankruptcy court a retention payment of well over $100 million to its top executives. Miller has told Delphi's workers that they will have to take pay cuts of roughly two-thirds in order to save the business. But the communication that kept me awake at night was from a U.S. Army sergeant who has done two combat tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan and is now home in Georgia training others to serve in those conflicts. He simply asked, "Was this what I was fighting for in Iraq?"

The question haunts me, not only because of UAL and Delphi but also because there is something deeply broken about the corporate system in America. Long ago, my father was friendly with Harlow Curtice, the president of General Motors in its glory days in the 1950s. Curtice presided over a spectacularly powerful and profitable GM. For that, he was paid about $400,000 plus, in a peak year, a bonus of $400,000, which made him one of the highest-paid executives in America. At that time, a GM line worker with overtime might have made $10,000 a year. In those days, that differential was considered very large - the chief executive's pay being roughly 40 times that of the assembly line worker without bonus, roughly 80 times with bonus. A differential of 10 to 20 times was more the norm. Now chief executives routinely take home hundreds of times what the average worker is paid, whether or not the company is doing well. The graph for the pay of chief executives has shown a vertical line in the last five years. The graph for workers' pay shows a flat line - in every sense.

My fellow capitalists might well say: "Stop your whining. This is the free market at work." Only it isn't. For centuries, the idea has held that the stockholders own the company, and the directors are its trustees. But what has happened is that - as in a corrupt, failed third world state - the owners in too many cases are captives of the chief executive and his colleagues. The directors are a sort of praetorian guard, protecting management from its real bosses, the stockholders, as management sucks the blood out of the company. Government, meanwhile, does next to nothing. Courts, especially bankruptcy courts, do nothing. And the employees and stockholders and the whole society are looted. In the capitalist society, the most basic foundation is trust. But in today's world, trust is abused, mocked, drained of meaning. I am not talking everywhere, by any means. I work with many businessmen and businesswomen, and a huge majority are honest and amazingly hard-working. But enough are not that it takes its toll on the rest of us.

More than 100,000 Americans are fighting far from home. They are fighting for a vision of a just and decent society. Meanwhile, back home, the looters are running wild and taking the meaning out of that vision. If President George W. Bush is searching for an issue, I might suggest this: common decency for workers and savers and investors, and an end to the hideous breaches of trust that build
great mansions in the country but wreck a free society.

Ben Stein is a lawyer, writer, actor and economist.

I digress.

Meanwhile in Asia there is good news and bad news. In the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo imposes martial law, but calls it something else.

Surely you don't expect me to get the country to work?

In Japan though there is good news for the country and the S.O. has been reminding me of it incessantly.

"Shizuka Arakawa won Japan's first ever Olympic gold medal in women's figure skating with an elegant long program while American Sasha Cohen and Russian Irina Slutskaya made critical errors to take themselves out of contention tonight in the Olympics' signature event."---From the New York Times.

Its been all over the Japanese news. Its Japan's only medal of the games to date.

No beer today, still taking medication that does not mix well with beer. Sigh! Bet you didn't think I could do without.........


Friday, February 24, 2006

Under the weather......

No post yesterday for a couple of reasons.

Stupefication and sheer amazement at how you can tell someone something 10 times, in 10 different ways and they go ahead and do something really stupid.........

Utter astonshiment at trying to do a good thing for the people you work for have them repay you with not even scorn, but indifference.

Being reminded of something I already knew, that not every one gets promoted on merit.

So not feeling good again, I went to bed at 7:30 pm and slept for 11 and a half hours. The S.O. was suprised to find me asleep when she came home.

Yesterday made me think of the old Bill Murray movie "Meatballs". There is a scene where in the middle of the big competition with the super swank Camp Mohawk (Murray plays an oddball camp counselor) he gives a speech to the disheartened campers about tomorrows games:

And even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we play so far above our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days; even if God in Heaven above points his hand at our side of the field; even if every man woman and child joined hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn't matter because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk because they've got all the money! It just doesn't matter if we win or if we lose. IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!


It just does not matter............and that is really sad.

I need a change.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The check is in the mail.......

My campaign contribution check that is. A first for me, I've never, ever, contributed to a political campaign before. But I jumped for joy today when I saw this:

Too bad I'm not a Virginia resident...(I'm a resident of "No State Income Tax USA").

Just got back from putting my campaign contribution in the mail.

From his web site:

We are living in a time of divisiveness and frequent confusion in this country. I, like many others, have become deeply troubled by the tone of debate in our political circles, and by the lack of true substance in the debates themselves. I would like to change that.

During the coming months I intend to focus on four major themes.

Refocusing America's foreign and defense policies in a way that truly protects our national interests and seeks harmony where they are not threatened.

Repairing the country's basic infrastructure, which has eroded badly over the past decade, and developing more creative ways to assist disaster-stricken areas such as those in New Orleans and along the Gulf coast.

Reinstituting notions of true fairness in American society, including issues of race, class, and economic advantage; and

Restoring the Constitutional role of the Congress as an equal partner, reining in the unbridled power of the Presidency.

I look forward to exploring each of these issues in depth between now and November. If you share my concerns and my priorities, please help us out.

I'm on board!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Seeing the light.........

Lex , as he so often does, has very adeptly opened up a can of worms by pointing his readers to an article from the New York Times Sunday Magazine by (former) neo-con Francis Fukuyama ( whose name means lucky mountain in Japanese…) has finally seen the light. In a long, but well worth the read article, he acknowledges what I have felt for a long time, since 2002 and the build up to the Iraq war to be exact; that neo-conservatism is a failed ideology that “Neo-conservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I [Fukuyama] can no longer support .” .

This is progress! Maybe slowly, but surely, more folks will realize how flawed the idea is that somehow the Lord above, anointed the United States with the responsibility to forcibly instill democracy ( or at least our vision of it…..) upon nation states that are: a) ill prepared to receive it, b) sovereign nations in their own right and therefore undergoing evolution at their own pace and c) burdened by issues of religion and tribalism that will never allow a western style democracy to grow:

While clearly sympathetic to the goal of promoting democracy as the highest form of good governance in the world, Fukuyama states The problem with neo-conservatism’s agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the over militarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a “realistic Wilsonianism” that better matches means to ends.

As you might guess Lex and I see the issue quite differently. Lex believes that because of:

Iraq’s central location in the Arab Middle East, in the toppling Saddam’s dictatorship we drove the stake of modernity into the heart of regional tyranny. If we’ve learned anything in the last few years, whether we look at foreign support for jihadist mayhem on Iraqi streets or whether our example instead is the carefully constructed cultural counter-attack that is the cartoon kerfuffle, we should have learned that such tyrannies don’t go quietly into the good night of history. They push back……

You should read the rest here. It’s a thrilling tribute to the courage of the Iraqi voters who defied violence to vote in the recent elections. Never mind that their country is still so screwed up that violence prevails daily on their streets, egged on by a foreign occupying army that by any survey is not wanted by the majority of the population in Iraq. Never mind that Iraqis still do not possess the wherewithal to rise up against this daily violence and take on the little insurgent bastards themselves. Never mind that we are mortgaging our future to win the war today because we continue to rob peter to pay paul in terms of its manpower bill. Never mind that slowly but surely , because of an irrational allegiance to an apostate religion they are slowly descending into tribalism, religious animosity and are always lookingover their shoulder at potential civil war........waiting hope against hope, for the rise of a benevolent dictator strongman who will reign in all these competing factions and bring order to disorderly descendants of Babylon……….

Lex believes that over time good will out. He sees a revolution taking place:

When Egyptian protesters take to the street and say “kifaya” (”enough”), something is clearly going on. When the previously yoked-and-harnessed Lebanese risk their own bodies by taking to the streets, and by their moral strength send their Syrian overlords packing back across the border, something is happening.

What I see is a rerun of history with the same dreary and predictable results. Perhaps I have studied too much history to be quite so naïve anymore. Arabs behave exactly the same , regardless of Swiss bank account balances………….

Here is what I see. First, Iraq is not and never was “central” to the Middle East. Back in the days of the “great game” it strode across the route to India and so was important to Britain (and Russia). However Iraq has never been as important as Iran, nor is it the central focal point of the Middle East. There are two focal points and neither of them are in Baghdad : Israel and Persia. Israel because she is God’s chosen land and people who have, after a 2000 year vacation, regained rightful ownership of “Eretz Yisrael” something the wily Arabs still, after 60 years have yet to come to terms with; and Iran ( Persia) “jammed by a thoughtful Providence against the Caucasus like huge plug, holding back the bear {and his illegitimate stepchildren}. It’s as big as all Western Europe and it’s mostly harsh mountains and deserts…….its people……..are unmanageable. “ Both nations are very capable and committed to their independence even if it entails national suicide as they both have demonstrated at least once in the last 3000 years.

What invading Iraq did was divert the national will and effort from those two very different realities. Such, that as Lex points out, the appetite for further [military] adventures in the Middle East is quite diminished.

Usually, along about this time, the same tired old counter arguments are trotted out:

The United States has not been attacked in 5 Years………..

Please tell me what that has to do with the invasion of Iraq? What it tells me is that maybe we have gotten serious about Homeland security, we did defeat and capture significant Al Quaeda leadership in Afghanistan and it still does not mean that we could not be attacked again tomorrow. Furthermore, if you believe as I do, that even if we had not invaded Iraq the US would not have been attacked the argument is meaningless.

The Arabs want democracy………..

Sure they do. However with out the right tools they are not equipped to properly use it. That’s where Islam drags them down, because Islam and an educated Middle Class are two incompatible things. For democracy to truly take hold in the Middle East , Islam has to go. Till then, the national interests of the United States prescribe that we work with whatever government will provide enough stability to allow the Arabs to evolve into it themselves. There once was an order that was working towards that, albeit not at the pace anyone but the holder of the order liked. That force was the British Empire. However after the pace and devastation of World War II, Britain soon lacked the moxie to continue. Particularly after her greatest “friend” let her down in supporting a steady pace of development of the populace to a point where they might have been able to better join the community of nations.

Iraq will trigger an Arab Spring……we are seeing that in Lebanon, Egypt, and Libya

Actually no. Each nation is working through its own set of circumstances totally unrelated to Iraq. More often then not it has to do with the death of Yassir Arafat or Syrian blundering, something that existed long before Saddam invaded Kuwait. Furthermore, what does it profit us in the long run if it produces 5 more election victories for the Muslim Brotherhoods or Hamas?

If you are opposed to Iraq, you must be in support of isolationism….which means you must favor appeasement………

I’ll let the following link from Coming Anarchy answer that one…….

In reality, there is a wide spectrum of views on America’s role in the world, and it is not adequately characterized by a “Bush supporters vs. isolationists” dichotomy. Many of us believe that the Bush administration’s definition of the national interest is absurdly broad; for instance, when the president claims that the security of Americans is contingent on “the end of tyranny in our world.” But our disagreement is not based on a desire to retrench ourselves in some walled commune, avoiding the world around us and ignoring the perils there. It is not isolation we seek, but a more discriminating view of the national interest.

The irony is that while the president is radically out of touch with the American foreign policy tradition, he accuses his opponents of following an extreme ideology. Bush’s belief that our security is contingent on congenial political arrangements in all foreign countries, no matter how obscure or strategically irrelevant they may be, is both wrong and dangerous. George F. Kennan, perhaps the senior American statesman of the 20th century, remarked in 1999 that “this whole tendency to see ourselves as the center of political enlightenment and as teachers to a great part of the rest of the world strikes me as unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable.” By contrast, Kennan argued that American foreign policy is at its best when it is “very modest and restrained.” Perhaps the president believes Kennan, the intellectual architect of America’s containment policy, was just an isolationist.

I can’t state it any better and that quote sums up the heart of my feeling. That by the way, has long been the thinking of the realists that Lex blames for allowing 9-11. Blaming the Scowcrofts and others for 9-11 is quite a stretch, since they, as did many others, believed that our own security would have prevented such an attack. That it happened is not a reason to immediately go jumping off a national cliff. If any thing it should have showed the resolve of the “religion of peace” and why we need to tread carefully and deal with those who will keep it in check. Which by the way happens for the most part to be the monarchies and not the democracies in the region. It should not surprise any serious student of history.

That is probably a good place to close. So I will leave with one final link to the critique of “isolationist arguments” from Chirol:

President Bush’s foreign policy is causing the Republic great harm, besmirching our reputation in the world and dragging his popularity down at home. Tarring his many (and varied) critics with the “isolationist” epithet will not change any of those phenomena. Recently, columnist George Will pleaded for an “adult hour” in this year’s State of the Union. Instead, the president decided to play politics with the discussion of Iraq—and of foreign policy generally. Will’s adult hour will not come until the president takes off his ideological blinders and acknowledges that the world—and foreign affairs—are much more complicated than white hat vs. black hat. Or Bush vs. the isolationists.

What he said.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It always goes down hill.

When last we met:

Not to worry. No one was there on the way out. Homeward bound we went. I was really happy and content. S.O's friends dropped us off and I was looking forward to a night of sweet bliss with S.O.

Then my cell phone went off................

No good day goes unpunished and that day was no exception. After having had a nice day, expecting a nice night, the phone was ringing to tell me to expect some major diversions to our nice little airlift schedule due to USS Essex and USS Harpers Ferry being tasked with mudslide relief.

As disasters so often do, it could not have picked a worse time. No problem, just use your "excess capacity".........

Excess capacity? There is none. Despite a rather large airlift establishment, the United States Navy is still heavily dependent on the other services and more importantly commercial aviation which unlike the Air Force offers a better price and a better on time rate. Problem is all of that market is focused in the other direction from Japan and prolonged operations where they are in the PI will mean some diversion of military air. When will have to be determined, once the folks on the scene can get an idea of how bad things are and exactly what they can do. Add to that, there is this little issue of the war(s) which continue to issue forth its own demands on material that wait for no one.

Just like during the Tsunami.

So it was back into work for a while to review the bidding. Then home to an already asleep S.O. Damn! That was not what I had in mind and I was too tired to persue anything else........Guess its a couple of 12 oz sleeping pills and hope for a pre-breakfast rendevous in the morning. Also known in the venacular as a "Mooner".....

I have to confess that I had not really been following the news of the disaster that closely. After all, as Madame Chiang points out there is always some kind of disaster going on in the Philippines:

The news today has been dominated by the landslide on the island of Leyte..I use the word "dominated" very loosely. For a tragedy of this size the news coverage (at least in print) has been almost minimalist...I can't help feeling that anywhere else the newspapers coverage would be slightly different if a magnitude of this disaster had occurred instead of (as in most cases) about 50-75% of the front page and then a few pages further into the paper....elsewhere, coverage would have been the whole front page and then the majority of the pages inside particularly the first few pages of the paper.

When the Ultra stampede happened my colleagues raised an eyebrow and generally implied that, ok, this was a slightly different tragedy to befall the country but these sort of things are to be expected in the Philippines . When I saw the breaking news on the BBC yesterday afternoon about the landslide I told my colleagues in the office their response? "Again?" and then carried on talking about what they were going to do at the weekend.I am fairly sure they are not being cold hearted and un-feeling...just accepting..I am finding it hard to comprehend that just down the road, (as it were) there are somewhere between 1,500- 2,000 people lying buried in mud; including a school which was at the time, filled with an estimated 200 children.

The disaster has so far been blamed on a combination of heavy rains and logging. Man and Mother Nature struggling against each other.....as they do so often in this country.The Philippines is a particularly unfortunate country, almost every year brings natural disasters on a devastating scale..ranging from floods to typhoons to volcanic eruptions to landslides, with the odd earthquake for variety. Add to this the man-made problems: politics, population control and pollution (to name just three) and for an outsider such as I am.... the country is a ticking time bomb in serious need of someone to sort out the challenges it faces.---From her blog.

Business as usual for the Philippines. Situation normal, all F**ked up. Now there are lots of reasons for it: a poor economy, corrupt government, cronyism, and as Madame and I have discussed before, far too many of its best and brightest, gone from the country; a Philippine Diaspora that is way too large. Could it be that all the best and brightest are all somewhere else making the living their own country cannot give them?

Thus as a result, the home guard has become apathetic simply waiting for the money and the goods to arrive from overseas. A globalized welfare state.

Which to tell the truth, is hard for me to understand. The Filipinos I have met and know are for the most part, very talented people. They have to be to live as many places as they do, learn as many foreign languages as quickly as they do, and do the diverse types of work they do. One would think that all of that energy could be channeled into making it a competitive power house. A comptetitor for India or other nations even. Instead though the Philippines limps along, divided among itself, and leaving the rest of the world to wonder if anyone can govern it. In the meantime those with money ( and or hormones) enjoy other pursuits in the land that is just, "not quite right."

Madame Chiang, thinks that the Philippines needs a strong authority figure like Lee Kuan Yew who can wrap up his dictatorial strong rule in ther trappings of democracy. I don't think a repeat of Singapore's experience is possible in a nation that has as many Catholics as the PI does. They have had strong leaders before who have become corrupted. And the cultures are vastly different. The American tie and influence is still strong there and if the Philippines had a strong middle class, I would like to think it would not be as "lobotomized" as Singapore's is. However the good Madame is right, something different needs to be done.

And sadly, as Spike pointed out six months ago, that won't come from Gloria Arroyo........

No matter what, it should be a busy week.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A lazy day..........and then some....

I was originally going to post something useless profound about the world situation or some other such subject, but after the ebb and flow of yesterday I said, "Screw it. That can wait for another day". Yesterday was too nice to mess it up with the world's misery.

Yesterday was a really good day. The S.O. went to work for a half day after which we were supposed to join her friend and her husband for a trip to Toki no Sumika Onsen.
(時之住処)。 If you have never been to an Onsen, you have missed out. The popular explanation of Onsens is "Hot Spings" or Japanese Hot Bath, but actually, its more than that. I forgot how nice it could be to go to one. This particular place is located in Gotemba , right down the road from Gotemba Golf club, and is a combination resort, onsen, and tourist attraction. The traffic Gods were with us as we made it from our apartment to the Onsen in about an hour, with the S.O.'s friend's husband doing the driving. That meant that once there I could drink the local beer: Gotemba kogen. Plus by agreement, for my benefit, the conversation the whole day was to be in Japanese. ( At least till I hit a wall.) Free study and relaxation; topped off by a good buzz. What more can any serious student of the Japanese language ask for?( I'm very proud of myself, I held my own quite well in Nihongo, thank you very little!)

Perhaps I should back up a bit and explain how the process of going there works. You get there, park, then go in and pay your entrance fee. You are given a wrist band with a key to a locker, a bag with a Yukata, belt, and an outer jacket. Guys go to a guys locker room, Girls go to a girls locker room. You change out of your clothes, (usually leaving your skivvies on) put on the Yukata, then the jacket. Lock the locker, take the bag come back out. You will then look like this:

If you are a girl then we will assume you look much better than that:

Which, by the way. shows the first thing you should do. Get naked and get clean! However this is more complicated than it seems as you just don't get into the water, oh no, you have a ritual to follow: 1) go into another locker room, get naked. 2) with another key around your arm weigh your self. (Don't ask, I'm 2 kilos heavier than I should be). 3) go into the bath find a sink with a chair and clean your self all over with shampoo and soap...rinse VERY well.

Now in case you are wondering, or have not been to Japan before, the onsen is not about bathing. You need to be clean before getting in. Its about peace and relaxation.

4) Go to Sauna. SWEAT! Then come out, pour water over yourself. 5) Enter the outdoor hot spring:

Kimochi ne!

Sit, talk, watch the view of the mountains. Its Ok, the girls have their side and the guys have theirs. (Co-ed onsens in Japan are few and far between I have found......). When ready go inside to the inside bath which is usually hotter than the outside. Repeat.

When you are just about wrinkled enough, get out, go back to the locker room. Put back on the Yukata dry your hair, brush your teeth, and go on out in to the general area. Drink beer. Go to the sleeping area, sit in a massage chair. Play chess ( or Chinese Chess) . Drink more beer. Bottom line is relax. There are NO TV's here which I think is just great. When ready, go to the restaurant ( still in your Yukata.....) , have a nice dinner, drink more beer, maybe some sake too. Another trip to the bath, maybe a few more minutes in the massage chair and .....sigh...it all comes to an end.

Now mind you, I've done this several times before, but yesterday I really needed it. This past weekend had sucked and my boss had shown his true colors on Friday. ( MEAN!). So I needed a break.

Because on the way home, the girls decided to go on: THE GREAT MELON BREAD HUNT!
Seems that the Ebina service area on the Tomei Expressway is known for its Melon Bread. How a service area is famous for anything is beyond me, but that's what they said. (Known in Japanese as Meron no Pan メーロンのパン)。 Trouble is, that to get back to our apartment, one has to get off before the Ebina service area. No problem, the friends husband takes us down a series of ever increasingly narrow side streets till we end up at what looks like a warehouse. There is a big sign on the slightly open door: 立ち入り禁止。Entrance prohibited. S.O.'s friend was not dissuaded. In we went. ( Makes me wonder what stops a terrorist from getting in.......). Went to the stand that sells melon bread. CLOSED! Rapid conversation in Japanese ensues. The south bound lane stays open later..........

Back out the exit we were never supposed to have come in. Into the car, where S.O's friend's husband was on his 10th cigarette of the day ( I've never seen anyone smoke so much......). Around more narrow streets, under bridges, and on the other side we end up. Boldy pushing our way past the same signs we enter the service alley and end up at the equivelant bread stall. ALSO CLOSED! Man, this must be some kind of bread! Lots of "Sumimasen...and when do you open" said before we return to the car.

Not to worry. No one was there on the way out. Homeward bound we went. I was really happy and content. S.O's friends dropped us off and I was looking forward to a night of sweet bliss with S.O.

Then my cell phone went off................

(TO BE CONTINUED..............)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Olympic update

An Olympic update. I've seen very little of the Olympics due to the hectic work schedule last week. Plus I get caught in the double bind of being forced by the S.O. to watch the coverage in Japanese. Where they will focus on the 8th place finish of a Japanese figure skating instead of a crushing victory by one of these Americans:

(Insert blank space here...................).

That's right, so far the Olympics have not been the overwhelming American triumph that it should be. Hockey is a good example :

So far, Games are a nightmare for U.S.

Only, in their dreams, it was Sweden's women's hockey team playing the role of the underdog United States and the U.S. playing that of the indomitable, overconfident Soviet Union.

"Legs feed the wolf," said Peter Elander, the Swedish coach, repeating the line Herb Brooks said in the movie. "When they had the tie to Norway, Herb Brooks kept them on the ice (and they) skated lines. We have done that in our practices [the] last three months."

This is what the Turin Olympics have disintegrated into for the United States. Another upset. Another disappointment. Another country's coach, another country's athlete, talking about the motivation of beating the U.S., of taking our old work ethic, our old emotions and rising to glory.

Friday, it was that Swedish women's hockey team that did it to the U.S., 3-2 in overtime. They derailed an American group that has boldly called out the Canadians in the press, but couldn't even reach the gold medal game, falling to an upstart that simply wanted it more.

Even though the US has 10 medals Team USA has been disappointing here, rarely winning in any sport that we didn't just recently invent and push into the games.

Six of our ten medals, including three of our six golds have come in snowboarding. It's a great sport, but there isn't exactly heavy international competition. We have two golds in speedskating, one in Alpine skiing and that's about it. (Besides, I hate snowboarders they are the guys who are always cutting me off when skiing......).

The S.O. made me sit through a US-Japan curling match. ( Brought me desert and a glass of wine. While eating, the US lost........).

And as for men's hockey, a sport the US should be crushing all comers in, well the less said the better. I find myself in agreement with those who say its time to pull the plug on the overpaid babies of the NHL :

TURIN, Italy - After Latvia and the United States tied in men's hockey Wednesday, after the passionate Latvian fans waved flags and danced in the aisles, after the vast majority of remote controls in the U.S. tuned into American Idol, Arturs Irbe summed up the entire thing. "You can say that this probably means more to us than to the American team," the former NHL and current Latvian goalie said.
Don't stop there, Arturs. It isn't just the American team that may not
care all that much about its performance here at the Winter Olympics. It's all
of America itself. Every day, it seems tougher to be a hockey fan. Every day
brings another reminder of how far the sport has slipped, how unlikely it is to
ever capture imaginations again.
This isn't simply about a weak effort against the Latvians. This is about how another of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's marketing experiments is failing, how another winter seems lost, how not even the Olympic Games can excite anyone.

They did come back yesterday and beat Kazakhstan 4-1 at Torino Esposizioni. So maybe someone threatened their paychecks. Even so it still bothers me that the American team is made up exclusively of NHL players, and the league didn't begin its Olympic break until after Sunday's games. Because of a weekend snowstorm that socked the East Coast, only two players made it to Turin by Monday. The remaining 21 players came in on Tuesday. The team had one practice before the opener. This is what the members of a NATIONAL team do?

At this rate, I'll just start drinking and watching gay men skating, what have we come to?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Funny stuff to do...with beer and babes!

My previous post took me to one of those web sites that proves that idle hands are the devil's workshop. While the Phibian may have been focused on pertinant political commentary, I decided to dig deeper........And find the naked women!

They are there, just takes a few mouse clicks to get there. Or here to test your naked celebrity news quotient.........funny stuff! These guys are either making a lot of money, or have way too much time on their hands.

Makes me want to go have one of these:

Then go flirt with one of these:

But first maybe I should get some money from the ATM:

Or maybe not........

Have a great weekend!

Final word on the Cartoon Wars

For now that is. I do reserve the right to bash Muslim morons at a later date.

However over at the Phibian is the best analysis of the controversy I have seen to date. Go check it out!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Slogans and cliche's.......

The high muckety mucks are outta here!!!!!!! They are on the train to Narita, meeting is over, so now:

Like making sausage, getting to the end product is immensely painful, nobody wants to see how its made , but everyone wants a piece of the end product. And, if I do say so myself, we produced a good product this week, even if I did have to corner a couple of people at the bar and threaten to break out the naked pictures of their wives to get the job done.......

For a meeting like this one it seems to me that the movie Casablanca is very instructive of the types of discussion that is generated. At any meeting in which the military is involved there are basically 3 types of people:

1) There are the Capt Renault types: " I blow with the wind and today the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy (Airspeed, Cost Wise Readiness, Five Vector Model, MCPON, CNO's goals or any other trite phrase, fill in the blank as needed).

These are the folks who say one thing in the worker bee sessions and then totally change their opinion when they hear a flag officer say that he thinks that so and so would probably be a "real good idea". Then just like Capt Renault, they are shocked, shocked I say, to find out that it :a) will not work or b) is going to cost them a lot of money.

Usually at that point the croupier comes along and says, "Your winnings , sir!"........

2) The second type are the Rick Blaine's of the world. "I stick my neck out for nobody. " These guys are usually very skilled at showing up, eating the donuts, and flipping slides, talking in side conversations, and leaving as soon as they can. When pressed for an answer to a direct question they usually call a lateral and redirect the question or information to someone else. However when cornered or they have to, they can get something done:

If you think I'm staying late tonight, think again!

3) Finally, there are the idealists, the Victor Lazlo's of the world:

It's a heck of a way to run a railroad!

These guys are the ones who want to make a difference and have either not yet been chewed up by the reality of bureaucratic indifference or have been through the wringer a couple of times and now know where are all the skeletons are buried. They argue the day forcefully and are either cut off at the knees, or sometimes, on those rare occasions when the moon and the stars align, are able to carry the day and have their idea heard, and more importantly have their ideas accepted. Of course there is a cost, by then the Rick's and Capt Renault's have run off with their girl.............

How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Some day they may be scarce.

Life is tough for Victor and those like him. To tell the truth these days, in the days of corporate groupthink, is a personally hazardous undertaking. Yet without the Victor Lazlo's nothing important would get done. There used to be a lot more of them. However, 5 years of this guy, all but killed the breed. Hopefully with careful management, the species can make a comeback. Unfortunately, all of his clones are still out there.........

The flags Vorta serve the Founders, in all things!

Still, its a living. And right now its paying the bills so I guess I just have to deal with it. Someday however, Someday..............

Speaking of learning about cliches, it seems Dick Cheney has learned the old one about "bad news, unlike wine, does not get better with age!"

I told you, its rabbit season!

Murphy wins again!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Short post and no post!

No time to post. I went with the herd to a fancy dinner tonight where I was the only person who could speak Japanese. Ergo spent most of my dinner ordering food for 18 people and translating for the big wigs. It felt good to know I could do it and they could not.......

I was also busy duck hunting, see here for what that was like...............

H/T to Bubblehead!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sharks in these waters........

Butt sharks that is. Very busy this week with meetings from the muckety mucks from our higher headquarters. Have been quietly enjoying the adventures in trouser snorkeling from the military folks who still want to get ahead. Its days like today that I really can enjoy my transition to that status of being just another employee to be used and abused. I used to have to be in that mosh pit, now by the Grace of God, I can just show up, brief, sit in the cheap seats and watch the oversized egos fight it out. All with out coming out and directly saying what they really think.

That was one aspect of the military life I did not and still do not like very much. How folks, that you knew despised each other, had to pretend like they really cared about something other than themselves. Or as an adjunct, had to watch people say things you knew they did not believe in ( "I believe we have acceptable risk here", "Yes sir, of course I support diversity", and "Yes sir, I know we can do this with fewer personnel..."). Excuse me while I go wash the bile out of my throat.

Now its the peace of being relegated to being a cranky old dinosaur that knows a lot about this business. And that a lot of these fellow butt-sharkers know from past experience. That's a good feeling to tell you the truth. Tomorrow, sad to say, its back into the water!

(sung to the tune of Mack the Knife.....authored by a young JO, long ago.........)

Oh that butt shark, gets his teeth in..
Gets that nose up, oh so tight...
Yes, he's a butt shark, he loves to brown nose..
He's a butt shark, loves to brown nose all the time......

And Muslims think they have something to be offended about!

Ja ne,

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Muslims and more on cartoons

I went to see the movie Syrianna tonight. I know it got slammed by many critics, but I liked it. Both for the way it presented its message and for the message it presented. It was also good to see a Deep Space Nine actor finally get some real work..............

Plus there are some great lines in the movie. Particularly this comment on where the Arabs are and where they are going:
"You want to know what the business world thinks of you? We think a hundred years ago you were living out here in tents in the desert chopping each others heads off, and that's exactly where you're gonna be in another hundred. So yes, on behalf of my firm, I accept your money."
The movie made me think of something I read in the paper. Not that I am a fan of Ann Coulter, because I'm not, but she did say something I agreed with.

The belief that Islam forbids portrayals of Muhammad is recently acquired. Back when Muslims created things, rather than blowing them up, they made paintings, frescoes, miniatures and prints of Muhammad. But apparently the Quran is like the Constitution: It's a "living document," capable of sprouting all-new provisions at will. Muslims ought to start claiming the Quran also prohibits indoor plumbing, to explain their lack of it. Other interpretations of the Quran forbid images of humans or animals, which makes even a child's coloring book blasphemous. That's why the Taliban blew up those priceless Buddhist statues, bless their innocent, peace-loving little hearts.

Of course it has been a long time since Muslims actually created anything useful, maybe the last useful book they created was the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Then along came oil, and as it says in Syrianna, " Now they get to wear clean white sheets and stand around. As if to make the statement that I don't have to work"

No, now they just pay Filipinos, Indonesians , and Sri Lankans and guys like me to do it for them.

I also thought the movie made a great point about how Muslim schools brainwash children........

All of this in turn made me think about the cartoons. Now Muslims seem to have a selective memory about offensive things, being offended by a stupid cartoon, but not getting offended by killing defenseless people. The problem is the more we push the issue, the loonier they get.

However because the controversy is so brainless, it practically begs you to escalate it by printing more and stronger images and slowly but surely spiral down the road of trashiness till you have Andrew Dice Clay on HBO saying, "Here's to Mohammed, sucking my......."

You know you should not do it, but it just makes you feel so good to kick dirt in the Islamics faces. And so we do. And the more offended they get, the more you want to kick even more dirt in their faces. Because their devotion to this albatross of a religion is so impossible to understand.

Because what is hard for us to accept is that these morons actually listen to what is said by their clerics. Or at least they pretend they do. Personally I think they just go through the rituals because it makes the feel like they are believers with out studying what it is they are worshipping. Which makes it even more enjoyable to attack them. Even their sinning is scripted ("Allah does not look on Bahrain...."- I wonder why?)

As noted by the Economist:

Shouldn't the right to free speech be tempered by a sense of responsibility? Of course. Most people do not go about insulting their fellows just because they have a right to. The media ought to show special sensitivity when the things they say might stir up hatred or hurt the feelings of vulnerable minorities. But sensitivity cannot always ordain silence. Protecting free expression will often require hurting the feelings of individuals or groups, even if this damages social harmony. The Muhammad cartoons may be such a case.

Especially if it makes us feel better.........

Thanks to Samantha Burns!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Winter Olympics.......

The Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games have officially started. They were sanctioned by the President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, with his words addressed to athletes, technicians and spectators: "I declare the celebration of the Torino 2006 XX Olympic Winter Games officially open".

Did not get to see much of the opening ceremonies as they were on in the early morning here in Japan. Plus today was unusual as I had to work today to get ready for a visit by folks from the headquarters next week. I even went to bed early last night. Asleep at 9:30 on a Friday night, what is the world coming too?

I'm looking forward to watching some of the Olympics on TV. The S.O. loves the figure skating, I just like watching the female skaters. I'm a big fan of all the skiing events and any thing really competitive like hockey.

Its too bad that the Islamic countries are not big participants in the Winter Olympics. There would be something of a moral victory if Denmark or some other such team( like the US!) could reproduce this great moment in history say, by beating Saudi Arabia in hockey:

That would be a great moment, westerners glued to their TV's saying, "Take that you Mohammed loving camel jockeys! ". I still remember being at friend's house watching the US beat the Russians and what a great moment that was.

That is what Jimmy Carter never understood and those folks who are advocating keeping Iran out of the World Cup today still do not get. These competitions are not about the purity of sport. They are about nationalism. If the US had gone to Moscow and kicked the s**t out of the Russians on their own soil, it would have had heck of a lot more meaning. Same if Iran goes to the world cup and gets the thrashing in the first round they so richly deserve.

People talk about watching for the beauty of sport and the competition and the thrill of seeing the best compete. WRONG!

I watch the Olympics for one reason: I want to see this flag on the highest flag pole:

And I want to hear this song played over and over at awards ceremonies.

That's what the Olympics are all about!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Manly values and me--meaning Beer and babes!

I feel like Steve Martin today. "The new phone books are here! I'm somebody!"

Received an e-mail telling I had placed 2nd for the month of February in the category of Far Eastern blogs at something called the Honor Network. The stated mission of the Honor Network is to "Defend Western History From Revisionism, Deconstructionism and Effeminancy." Hoo ! Hoo! I can support that. Plus, looking at the list there is some exalted company for me. Hemlock is even on the list!

Guess I need to celebrate with a few of these:

While snuggled up next to one of these:

Nice belt , eh?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Taking one for the team.......

Here in Japan, there are some hopeful sighs of relief.

Princess Kiko is pregnant. "The Imperial Household Agency announced that Princess Kiko, the wife of Emperor Akihito's second son, is pregnant. She is expected to have the baby in September or October."- Japan Times

In bars and sushi houses near Kudanshita, you can guess what the guys must be saying, "Well , with luck, I guess we can put that female succession bill back on the shelf...". After all if she has a boy, with modern medical advances, Japan might be able to put off a female succession crisis for a 100 years. And by then cloning might be perfected............Otherwise, it might be back to concubines......

Watch how quickly the politicians are backing away from the issue of female succession to the throne:

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe backed off Wednesday from their earlier pledge to quickly get a bill passed that would allow a female on the Chrysanthemum Throne. Koizumi had maintained through Tuesday that he wanted the change to the paternal-line Imperial succession system to be enacted during the current Diet session.

But on Wednesday, during a session of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, he said, "It is desirable that each (political) party and the Diet first create a framework for discussion and talk about it calmly and cautiously.

"We will make a decision only after seeing the results" of these discussions, Koizumi said in response to a question from Ryuzo Sasaki of the Democratic Party of Japan, who asked if Koizumi will try to get the bill passed during this legislative session, which is scheduled to end in mid-June.

Abe, the point man for the government-sponsored bill, also declined comment on the state's self-imposed deadline of this Diet session.

He said during his daily news conference that no decision has been made yet on when the bill would be submitted.
The government was pushing the bill because no boys have been born into the Imperial family since 1965, raising serious concerns over the survival of the male-only Imperial line.

But the news of Princess Kiko's pregnancy changed the situation overnight, providing ammunition to conservative politicians arguing that the bill should be put on the back burner to allow more time for discussions on the centuries-old system. If she has a boy, he would be third in line to the throne, following Crown Prince Naruhito, 45, and the princess' husband, Prince Akishino, 40.

"This is good, bright news," said Nihon University professor Akira Momochi, an expert on constitutional issues and an advocate of maintaining the paternal-line succession system. He argued that ending the male-only succession could jeopardize the legitimacy of the Imperial system, which is believed to have been consistently maintained through the paternal bloodline over centuries. If a female monarch married a commoner and their descendants were allowed to reign, it would be considered a dynastic change, Momochi said. Now with the expected fall childbirth, the government should withdraw the bill and start debating Imperial succession from scratch, he said.

Japundit has more coverage of this. Reminding us that nothing is certain when it comes to Imperial succession, unlike some other things in Japan:

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Busy Busy Busy!

Work is still quite busy, but for sure today was better than yesterday! Thank goodness! One lousy day a month is my limit. Hoping for good weather today since I would really like to get out to the driving range and remember what a golf club feels like. I have not played in month. SACRILEGE! If I were a Muslim, I'd probably have to burn down a golf pro's house; for offending me by not allowing me to play golf....................

Till I get some more time, I leave you with a home video of what my day at work was like yesterday. ( Hint, I'm the guy in the Panda suit!)

Stupid Air Force guys? Bring 'em on!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blog birthday

Today my little blog is one year old. As is typical for me lately, the day just sucked at work so all the pithy comments I had to say will have to wait until I'm in a better frame of mind. The last year has been interesting and I've learned a lot: both good and bad about writing and people.

I began this blog out of a sense of frustration responding to a huge personal disappointment in my life; created by nothing but sheer stupidity on the part of other people........on the part of the "big bad establishment". My disgust with their simplistic trying to slot people into molds, set me off on the path of blogging to begin with.

More later when I can think. Right now I'm just fried. I'm sick of stupid people and the fact that in my line of work the scriptwriting never gets any better, just the people saying the lines change. Sad, but true.

So for tonight I'll close with the words I used to open this blog:

"Cynicism is the smoke that rises from the ashes of burned out dreams."

More is still to come..............

Monday, February 06, 2006

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!*


That about covers the point spread, don't you think?

* ( In memory of Mr Fred Rogers. 1928-2003. Pittsburgh Icon and all around great man.)

Did you see all of these in the stands?

Speaking of Myron Cope, he probably sums up the game best with this comment and this one.........

(For those who don't know, the nasal tones of Myron Cope were the VOICE of the Steelers for 35 years.......Most real Steeler fans turned down the sound on their TV's to hear his play by play on radio station WTAE.......)

Steel curtain baby!

Way too close and Way too lucky

This game is way too close and Seattle is showing too much ( good) defense. Any time the Pittsburgh offense wants to step up, I'll be appreciative..............

Back to the game!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Trivial pursuits

Nothing really serious tonight. Hell, the Super Bowl is tomorrow. Lest there be any doubt about who I will be rooting for:

I grew up in South Side Pittsburgh. Steeler football was like a religion and its been 26 years since they have been to the mountain top. Oh, and for the Muslims out there, if someone draws a funny cartoon about Jerome Bettis, I don't think they will setting the PPG Tower on fire. Take a note of that.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, Chap sent along a good offering for the half time show. After looking at the fat guy, you'll be wishing for a "wardrobe malfunction" on any one of the girls........... The girls are from the Hinoi Team and the fat guy is a wrestler named Korikki...Go figure. However Chap is right, I dig the girl in red! This by the way started out as a French song that got imported into Japan. Thus the Euro-trash feel to it.............

Expat at Large reminded of me of why I write. Commenting on the herd mentality he pointed out:

All E@L really remembers of any value from the night is the ease with which a few lunatics can turn a crowd into a self-destructive mob and how important it is to see the bigger situation and to RESIST when the way we are going is wrong…
So fragile our humanity, so tenuous our grasp on civility.
Our existence, it needs constant monitoring.
It needs people who push back:
- Against the unthinking crowd.
- Against the mindless masses.
- Against popularity, fashion.
- Against what is initially perceived as fun, as amusing.
- Against thinking that you can’t make a difference.
- Against not seeing that you do have a choice.
Going AGAINST the flow.… THIS is the role of gonzo bloggers, of artists.
Of E@L, scourge of the mindless, of the mob-brain infected, of the fraternity of infinite monkeys.

Some day when I grow up, I want write like that. A gonzo blogger ( and well paid for it too I might add.....)

There's one good thing about the Islamic lunacy. Its producing some good satire and some good conspiracy theories.

Richard has great observation of what it is like after being in Asia for a while to return to the states:

While I'm here, can I make one brief observation? You don't really realize just how obese so many Americans are until you come back from living in Asia, where obesity is far more rare. When you're back, you are simply blown away by the sheer number of fat people - and I don't mean pleasantly plump, but rather the type who can barely fit into a revolving door. I mean the kind of fat that hangs off the chair and kills the ants on the floor. I sympathize with the difficulties of weight loss and don't mean to make light of their plight. I'm just amazed at how prevalent obesity is here, and how different it is in Asia. (And I know it's getting worse in China, but it's still nowhere near the level here in America. No comparison.) Why has America become the Land of the Fat?

Did you notice the portions in the restaurants Richard? Can you say, " too BIG"?

The S.O. and I took turns making Chinese food this weekend. Working from my newly purchased Chinese cook book my entry was: Hot and Sour soup, Cashew Chicken, and Steamed pork Shumai. ( Already made and bought from the store, sadly). The soup turned out great, the chicken so-so and the Shumai was OK. Today, the S.O. easily trumped me with Miso soup ( yes I know its not Chinese!), Chili Shrimp, Rice, and Japanese pickles. Not quite a true Chinese meal, but I had to bow to a true professional. Her meal was better and she looked at a cookbook not once! I hate her. However, I did not let my pride stop me from eating seconds though.........

Anybody know what has happened to Milli? She left us with this charming little soccer football ditty and has not been seen since...........
(sing to the tune of Que Sera Sera)

When I was just a little boyI asked my mother,what shall I be
Shall I be Chelsea, shall I be Leeds?
Here's what she said to me
Wash your mouth out lad
And go get your father's gun
And go shoot the Chelsea scum, Shoot the Chelsea Scum
We hate Chelsea! We hate Chelsea! We hate Chelsea!

Guess you had to be there. Come back soon! We want to see more pictures!

I'm going to update and expand my link list soon and in about 2 months I plan to shift from blogspot to something else. Not sure what just yet. I want to expand and improve the site. Anybody know how to put an intro up front and link to the rest of the post someplace else?

Speaking of blogspot, I got to see what living in China was like while over in Korea. The USAF blocks so many things! All blogspot sites are blocked. So is any thing that might have half a suggestion in it. What truly suprised me was that the USAF blogged my Google searches (some of them). I had finally gotten so disgusted with not being able to go anywhere useful I tried an experimental Google search:

"How to defeat USAF Firewalls"

You can guess what came back:

That might actually be professional research you know. Even at the library, typing in Expat at Large triggered a Net Nanny alert. Funny, but Spike's did not. Must be a lesson in there somewhere.

See you tomorrow. After the Steelers win. Sorry Mark, just the way it is........... I'll think of you during the game though.

Blog birthday coming up. Got to figure out how to celebrate it........

Ja ne! Gambatte Steelers!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cartoon Wars

I've been following the recent furor over cartoons with an air of disbelief. I'm surprised that on both sides of the Atlantic, something so inane could generate so much controversy. There are 2 sets of cartoons that have created a huge row both inside the US and Europe.

Lets start with the US. This cartoon, from the Washington Post, has a LOT of people very upset. Including the all of the Chiefs of Staff of the military services.

The Army Chief of Staff was particularly blunt, saying something to the effect of that he probably would have used even stronger language to describe his feelings about the cartoon.

Toles responded to Editor and Publisher Journal and was quoted as saying:

Reached by E&P, Tom Toles said, "no comment." But he told Kurtz he did not regret what he drew. The Toles cartoon shows a soldier, a quadruple amputee, in a hospital, being visited by a Dr. Rumsfeld who is scribbling on a form. Rumsfeld says, "I am listing yourcondition as battle hardened." At the bottom a smaller figure of the doctor adds, "I'm prescribing that you be stretched thin. We don't define that as torture."

Talking to Kurtz, Toles cited recent remarks by Rumsfeld about "battle-hardened" troops and "what came soon to mind was the catastrophic level of injuries the Army and members of the armed services have sustained . . .Ithought my portrayal of it was a fair depiction of the reality of the situation. I certainly never intended it to be in any way a personal attack on, or a derogatory comment on, the service or sacrifice of American soldiers."

As for the Joint Chiefs' letter, he said: "I think it's a little bit unfair in their reading of the cartoon to imply that is what it's about."

The letter, signed by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Edmund P. Giambastini, Jr., the vice-chairman, and the four other military branch leaders -- and addressed to the Post's managing editor, Philip Bennett -- reveals that they were "extremely disappointed" in the Toles cartoon."Using the likeness of a service member who has lost his arms and legs in war as the central theme of a cartoon is beyond tasteless," they wrote.

They observed that the paper is "obviously free to address any topic," even use exaggeration. But they added: "While you or some of your readers may not agree with the war or its conduct, we believe you owe the men and women and their families who so selflessly serve our country the decency to not make light of their tremendous physical sacrifices."

Now when I read the cartoon I focused on the front of the bed and the caricature of Rumsfeld. And those two parts make a good point which is being backed up by current events, namely that the Army and by collorary the rest of the Armed Forces are being "strained" by repeated deployments. Rumsfeld has repeatedly denied that and he did use the term battle hardened:

The cartoon was a reference to comments made by Rumsfeld at a Jan. 25 Pentagon news briefing in a discussion about whether the Iraq war has stretched U.S. ground forces too thin.

In the briefing, Rumsfeld insisted the force is not broken and is capable of functioning in a very effective way.

In addition, he said, the force is battle-hardened it is not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons.

Toles was clearly out of line with his choice of imagery. I really believe he could have gotten his point across, about how Rummy can't add, without using something so obviously gruesome and unfair. Especially if you have ever seen someone who has had to go through recovery from an amputation. So IMHO the JCS are right to object. In Tole's poor choice of drawing he has, in the end, negated the impact of his real message, a very real concern that is held by more than a few people, that force structure cuts in the middle of a war are just plain wrong.

Toles should apologize and soon. So should the Washington Post.

The other cartoon controversy is more puzzling, however I believe is actually pointing up the real heart of the struggle that is going on in the world today: Islam is an apostate religion that is holding back progress of its adherents. Either it needs to go or they do. I vote for Islam to go...soon. I'm sick to death of hearing Islam described as a religion of peace. It's not. Its a faith that is the result of a historical accident. The influence of that historical accident is all out of proportion to what it should be.

What started it was publishing of these cartoons in a Danish paper.

These are pretty benign if you ask me. Hell I've seen worse cartoons making fun of Europeans. So why are people so worked up to print signs like this:

Odell over at Hemlock sums up why these people need to get a life:

OK let's have some pictures round here! This Muslim guy recently wrote to the SCMP complaining that the paper had called some place a mecca for wine lovers. It was offensive of course. Guy probably reads the paper every day looking for something to be offended by. Is he reading this??? Cos you've come to the right place. Your religion is a freakin pain in
the ass (and I'm a Mormon so it's not like I don't know what I'm talking about).

So the big news story today is about Muslims having a cow because of
cartoons in a Danish newspaper featuring the prophet Mohamed So what happens? Hilarious! Tons of other newspapers print the SAME CARTOONS just to make a point about free speech. Should've just kept their mouths shut right? Mormons get a LOT of criticism and insults, especially from fundamentalists who claim we're not really Christian and of course from people who get pissed about all the proselytizing and about the weird shit but do we have hissie fits about being offended? Do we threaten violence, bombs and shit? Nope. If your religion's so pathetic that you can't handle a cartoon, get a new religion.

That sums it up pretty well.

Drawing picutres of Mohammed is considered to be blasphemy, or so the Muslims say. Well, last time I checked, blowing up innocent people with car bombs is not exactly a way to score points with God either. Want the cartoons to stop? Then get off your Islamic ass and get your co-religionists to stop planting bombs all around. Islam is the one point every terrorist group from Morocco to the Philippines have in common. That is a hard fact for many European Muslims to accept. But they need to if they hope to understand why westerners such as myself don't like them so much.

And while we are on the subject, as I have pointed out before, its up to the Muslims living in Europe to assimilate into the European culture, not have Europe make accomodations for them. If they don't like that, go back to any one of 15+ countries where there are more Mosques than cathedrals. Oops, I forgot, these Islamic individuals left those countries because you wanted to make more money! Well there is a trade off involved folks so just get used to it.

Maybe Piglet sums it up best:

These Muslims are also welcome to have coffee with Tim Blair:

As more European newspapers reprinted the cartoons, what started off as a row between Denmark's press and its Muslim population has grown into a full-blown clash of civilisations. - from a Newspaper.

Tim Blair's response- "No; that would require two civilisations. "

Look! Here comes Tim with your (halal) coffee now!

That's all for now. I'm going to go read something fun, like Calvin and Hobbes! They are only cartoons for God's sake............


Friday, February 03, 2006

There's no place like home! Especially with beer and babe(s)........

Got back to Japan tonight. Thank goodness! It was only a 3 day trip, but for some reason this time I was really happy to get a hug and a kiss from the S.O. Suspect that it was the first time today I was actually warm. It was freezing over in Korea! Plus she looked and smelled nice. Add to that, unlike some folks, she actually likes me! Goes to show her overwhelming good taste in men..........

3 glasses of wine after dinner and now I am finally feeling warm again. I've been in a funk all week. For a whole bunch of reasons. Some related to work, some related to the world in general. More on that tomorrow.

Thanks to the misadventures of my luggage ( it finally showed up last night!!!!) , I got screwed out a planned side trip to Hong Kong and an expected foray into Wanchai and Lan Kwai Fong. Thank goodness I had changeable tickets! I 'll have to put that off till March it looks like.......well at least this way I will get to watch the Steelers kick the s**t out of the Seahawks......... On the original time table I would have been on a plane back to Narita during the game. Trouble is watching the game over here does not allow the opportunity for mass consumption of these(Its on at 8 am in the morning):

Till Monday I just want to stay warm and under the blankets with one of these:

I think it will be too cold to golf. The cold wave will follow me from Korea..........

Bet I could have been warm in Kolwoon though!


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ground hog day!

Well its ground hog day over here at least. Back in the states its still a few hours before Phil gets dragged out of his warm hole and we learn if there is going to be six more years weeks of war winter. I think its a safe bet there will, especially if the thermometer here in Korea is any indication.

Ground hog day is a good analogy for where I am in my life right now. Enjoying the same experience again and again, but really not advancing the way I probably should be. Interesting enough, I am bothered by that, but not overly much. Guess I should be.----Nahh!

Speaking of getting dragged out of a hole, or more correctly into one, I got thrown out of one of the classier establishments in Bloggerville last night, Lex's place. For "vitriol". I'm not even sure I know what "vitriol" even is, or what it tastes like. There has been a spirited discussion going on about the witchhunt court martial of a LT there for offending the sensibilities of certain people. Now this is a highly charged issue and I should have realized that it's impossible to change peoples minds on a subject that is imbued with political correctness. It was like arguing with my ex, she did not care what I said, no matter how passionately I tried to convert her to the inevitable rightness of my position. I should have known that; you would think I would learn.......but I suspect I never will.

So I'll comment over here, on my home turf and hope it finds its way back to the others.

I don't apologize for my comments Lex. Its words that need to be said, and just because others don't want to hear them does not lessen the validity of them. There is a political agenda at work here, whether folks realize this or not. This case is not about a LT who put his foot in his mouth, or said something he should not have. Its about control, of either standing up to the agenda or being dominated by it. The Academies and the other military colleges are in peril right now, because the very things that once made them great institutions are being slowly and surely torn down by those who have no idea what they are about. There is a double standard out there and its the guys who get pushed around 95% of the time. Sorry but that is just the way it is. Such are the times we live in.

The details of the case will matter little in the end. The LT is through in the Navy and thanks to the publicity, he'll probably have to move overseas or go on welfare as no one will want to hire him. The LCDR involved will be promoted and advanced and the powers that be will have their trophy to hang up for every one to see. And mind you this was after the incident involved had been resolved at the right level with an apology accepted.

My own prediction on the outcome is that Charles Gittins will make a circus of the trial. At this point I hope he does. He'll be able to discredit most of the witnesses as well as the convening authority, which is I think a part of his PR strategy. But in the end, acquittal or no, the Academy will be poorer as a result. And that's sad.

For RGT, FBL and the rest. I never dated female coworkers. Its not smart and never leads any where good I have found. Plus to be frank, its just too much of a bother to go through the motions. Maybe I am just too old to deal with the BS and besides the S.O. would probably take a dim view of it. I do admire pretty girls though, and yes, I do think impure thoughts about them, but I keep them to myself. Work is work, a necessary evil, and I don't like starving. Despite what you may think, I know where work is and where private life is and try not to get the two mixed up. I also know how to be professional at work.

Do I think men and women can just be friends? No. Sorry- maybe for you- not for me. Here is why. Just the way it is. Twas always thus and thus will ever be.

Do I have profound disgust at the political agenda of some folks? Yep. On both sides of the aisle. And there is an agenda out there, trust me.

The agenda is simple. Its not about just being good at your job anymore. Its about molding round pegs into square holes. Trying to remake the military into a middle class values, politically correct, touchy feely mindset. Lots of documentation of that here. And here and here.

I, however, will not go quietly into that great good night. Play the game sure, gotta do that. However I am never going to "drink the koolaid". In other words you can legislate compliance, but you can't legislate belief. Nor to be honest, should one try. That requires a conversion experience, conversion to feminism. I will stay a dinosaur, thank you very much. I am a lovable dinosaur though....kind of like Barney.

Gotta get back to work and its cold in here. I'll close with a quote that E @ L gave me a while back.

I'll be in bed early tonight, so when the thought police come, you'll know where to find me.

Suspect I'll get pummeled, but this is some aggression I needed to get out. Hitting a person wall is not in the cards, so I'll channel it here.

I now return you to the normal mayhem.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Morning Calm Musings........

Another banner trip for moi! I get here, my luggage does not. Made the ride down from ICN lighter, but $158 dollars later I had at least another set of clothes ( and more importantly underwear) to change into. Plus my heavy winter jacket was in my suitcase. Thank goodness, as Mark pointed out, the weather is cold, but not so bad this week.

My hat is off to the Korea dwellers. Lost Nomad, Mark, GI Korea, and Jennifer and the rest. Seems as if it takes a hardy stock to live here. Japan seems down right civilized. This is only the second time in 5 years I have been here and the last trip was only for 24 hours.

During my clothes shopping -something I never do without the S.O. along, she is my style consultant and points out"what goes with what"- I wandered into the book section and picked up a copy of Robert Kaplan's book, Imperial Grunts, my second book to be read this year........

While perusing it I cam across the following quotes, that maybe the folks at USNA might have wanted to study before they both went off the deep end:

In the Armies of the Raj, British military historian Byron Farwell writes
that opening the Suez Canal, by allowing the wives of British military officersin India to convienently join their husbands, cut the officers off from native society, and became one of the contributing factors leading to the Indian mutiny of 1857-1858 against British Rule. " In all societies women have been the conservators of culture," Farwell explains. "When British women began to arrive in India in numbers, they brought with them British attitudes, British fashions, and British morality(emphasis mine); they were soon imposing their ideas, standards, and customs on the new environment". Consequently, British soldiers, many of whom preferred to be orientalized themselves (like Skippy) rather than Christianize the Indians, now no longer went native, and a new divide opened between them and the locals.

Despite the inaccuracies of Kaplan's and Farwell's timeline- the Suez did not open till 1869- the sentiment is correct. It struct me as an apt analogy for what is going on at USNA today.

Meetings have been so-so. I have to remember I am on USAF turf, people don't always thinks as they should. However they fold soon enough once you make them realize: a) your right and b) you have some negotiating strength because your boss will back you up...( I hope....).

Made the ritual excursion into Songtan, but was so afraid I'd stumble into a off limits place, it kept me away from all the joints that really looked interesting. Settled for some beers, buying a leather jacket, and went back by 9:30 pm. What a revolting development. Actually in bed by 11 on a trip. I'm a disgrace to all members of the Pub Club!

Damn USAF computers don't allow access to blogger! Or very few other blogs for that matter. Guess its the way to keep independent thought down in the light blue service. Its been keeping me from reading Odell's guest blogging over at Hemlock though. Just when it was getting interesting; as it seems Odell is a guy I need to meet:

A guy going on a business trip to Bangkok who doesn't get laid is a liar, or a freakin pervert. 99% anyway. The difference is some of them get caught, and some don’t. How do the smart ones get away with it?, that's the question, right?

So I'm writing a book based on my experience and my buddies experience. Hemlock, God bless him, has actually suggested a title. "The Invisible Scumbag, Every Hong Kong Man's Guide to Living Life to the Full While Maintaining Connubial Bliss." Hem also suggests a fake cover for the book, so you can leave it on the shelf without your wife picking it up and looking at it. He says 'Deer Hunting on Motorbike with Tiger Woods' might work but umm..

Funny stuff!

Few more days here so anyone with liberty suggestions, I'm all ears! Just no kimichi or canine culinary treats ok? I'm still not as well as I should be.

Sure hope my bag shows up.........No news is not good news!

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