Sunday, December 31, 2006
New Years Eve
She says it's what you do to "welcome the New Year". I keep trying to remind her of this great western tradition that we ought to look at too-so far to no avail-namely, going to a party, getting wildly drunk, and then coming home in order to have spectacular sex after midnight. She continues to ignore me for yet another year-but hope does spring eternal.
We did reach a compromise of sorts on how to spend this New Years eve. We will eat Soba with dinner, then she will watch 2 hours of the Red and White show, after which we will go join a party already in progress and end up watching the fireworks in the park at midnight. I guess that's progress of a sort, although the little voice inside of me keeps telling me I would be happier here or even here. As I have had to do in previous years, I just squashed the voice and moved on.
I suppose I am supposed to publish some sort of a retrospective / prognostications for 2007. I'm not going to do that. Besides many of my observations from last year are still quite apt, so I'll not repeat them.
Yesterday the S.O. and I went to Tokyo and strolled around the Ginza. Its a great time to be doing that, if you are a
Today the S.O. and I went out walking in town. Its a fun time of year to be doing that especially as you walk in and out of the little grocery stores and fish markets. They are working feverishly to sell their stock and the cacophony of voices is amazing: "Irashimase! Yasai wo katte kudasai!", get repeated again and again. We bought what we needed and made our way to the department stores-I was hungry and wanted another free lunch! New Years food is called Osechi-its designed to stay and be able to be eaten cold without spoilage so that Okasan can talk with the family. Lots of people buying wine and sake too.
We did go to dinner in Yokohama last night, which was nice. As I said earlier, tonight is soba for dinner-another Japanese tradition-which you eat for long life. I'll try to eat as much as I can............ :-)
It's cold today, but the weather is clear. That's nice. Here in Japan starting on Thursday night, travel both out of, and within the country, so much so that airports and train stations were crowded nationwide Saturday as the outbound rush of New Year's holiday travelers peaked. JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line trains departing Tokyo were running at more than 100 percent capacity in their nonreserved sections, with one of them marking 190 percent at one point. Which probably explains why the Tokyo subways were actually not so crowded. ( Crowded by Japanese standards that is.....).
Please go check the links to some of the other blogs I link to. Lots of ideas about the news and the New Year which are worth seeing. Stop by and say hi to Madame Chiang!
The new years decorations are up, We have a miniature kadomatsu on one of our tansu's. (The real thing is too expensive!). The kadomatsu is thought to welcome good luck into the house:
Definitely not our front door!
We do have the Shimenawa, a sacred rope made of straw on which zig-zag strips of paper have been hung, hanging high on our front door:
Also not our door!
Gotta run! Its time for dinner and then get ready for the evening. Have a happy time on New Years eve!
Mou ikutsu neru to oshogatsu
Oshogatsu ni wa tako agete
Koma o mawashite asobimashou
Hayaku koi koi oshogatsu
How many more nights to sleep until New Year's Day
In the New Year's holidays, let's fly a kite
Let's play with a spinning top
Come, come quickly, New Year's Day
Saturday, December 30, 2006
I have no feeling at all about this. It was an inevitable result and one that you knew was going to happen-from the moment the troops crossed the Kuwati frontier in March of 2003. It probably would have saved considerable time and effort, if the troops that captured him had just shot him in 2003. The end result is the same.
Now mind you, I'm not blind to the fact that Saddam showed no mercy to anyone who got in his way. And if the tables were turned, the hangings would have been plentiful. So there is plenty of reason to dispatch this man, who caused so much misery in the 60+ years of his life. If you believe in Divine Justice, then he will be additionally punished for the rest of eternity. Problem is, no amount of retribution will bring back the dead; the over 500,000 to 1,000,000 (depending on whose numbers you believe) dead who have died in the tapestry that has been the Middle East for the last 25 years.
There are plenty of people here on the earth who wanted to see him hang. Ordinary Iraqis who suffered, or whose family suffered or died under his rule. Iranians, who lost family members in a war he started; that in the end accomplished nothing for either country. Arab leaders, who should have killed Saddam for invading Kuwait and, in consequence, bringing a large American military presence into the region-increasing their difficulties 10 fold. Americans, who have lost a loved one or had their lives disrupted by the requirement to deploy to Iraq in pursuit of an everchanging goal.
So its done. I'm hoping against hope that the pundits and politicians will avoid using the words, "turning point for Iraq". Its not. Tomorrow, Saddam will still be dead, the Iraqi government will still be unable to govern competently, and 140,000 American troops will still be in Iraq-never able to leave. For Iraq tomorrow will be just another day. The turning point came when his government fell. This is just the finishing up of the paper work and the balancing of the books.
However I can't help wondering if there were times that Saddam sat in his cell and wondered if there was one thing, just one thing he should have done differently. Obviously, in hindsight, there were a LOT of things he should have done differently, but if I had to boil it down to one thing, it would be this.
He should never have invaded Kuwait. Something tells me that deep in his mind he realized that this last year. If he had never given the order to invade Kuwait in 1990-the odds are pretty good he would still be alive and in power today.
Its interesting to realize how much of world history turned on that one decision he made. Consider:
-If Saddam had never invaded Kuwait, America would have not kept an large military presence in the region for the last 15 years. The Trucial states of the gulf would have had to develop on a basis of economic competition, unsupported by artificial stimuli created by massive US military investment. Also a smaller military presence in the Gulf would actually have helped the US to have a greater impact in the region, because American businessmen would have been able to be involved to a greater degree in the region.
-If Iraq had never invaded Kuwait, the twin towers might still be standing. Bin Laden would probably have taken his anger out against something else besides the United States, because troops would never have been in Saudi Arabia-save for the small AWACS and tanker contingent that had been there through the 80's. He might just have become just another wealthy Arab construction mogul.
-If Iraq had never invaded Kuwait. Qatar and Dubai would have continued their economic growth-with out the drain of having to walk the fine line with other Arab nations about American military deployments.
-Iran would have still been Iran, but they would have had hostile powers on 2 of 3 borders. It would have probably tempered their military ambitions to some degree as they would have had to always worry about Iraq on their border. Interestingly enough, it probably would have been an Iraq supported by the United States. How's that for irony.
-Kuwait would have developed differently politically.
-Oil prices and markets would probably have still gone up because of the effect of China's ever increasing thirst for oil on the markets.
-The US elections of 1992 and 2000 might have turned out far differently.
-Israel might not have gotten as much of a pass on the Palestinian issue. Then again they might have, because the Middle East would have been a lot more stable and people would have just let the issue smolder.
- European relations with the United States might have been very, very, different.
Yes, I think if you wanted to pick just one particular event that Saddam had wished he could have undone, instead of saying "Go invade Kuwait", he should have said, "Please pass the dates". Imagine how much of history would have changed if had.
UPDATE! You KNEW it was going to happen. The execution video is on the web!
Friday, December 29, 2006
beer year in recap............
The end of the year is always the time for top ten lists. Here at Far East Cynic headquarters we do the same...all the while providing you with 10 hot babes to end the year with.
So lets look at the The Top Ten Beer Drinking Schools................ Where there are always these:
There is of course, the best and worst advertising of the year. Speaking of advertising:
The top 10 books:
The top ten Tech Babes:
The top 10 stories you either missed or chose to ignore. Speaking of hackable passports:
Ten ways to keep a bar girl happy!
There are of course the Top 10 Blogger Babes of 2006:
She's got a blog!
And the Top 10 outrageous cars of 2006:
Oh, the hell with it. Go here, here and here for the rest!
So what happens to the carrier naming debate now?
Thursday, December 28, 2006
I've put it off long enough........
My experiences surfing and commenting the last few days have left me unfufilled to say the least. Of course one could argue that I am picking the wrong blogs to read, and there might be some merit in that. It could also be that the Wall Street Journal may actually have gotten something right.. So which am I?
The news has been bad this week, particularly with having to note the passing of former President Gerald Ford. I've always been a big fan of his, having placed my first ever, vote, for him (or anyone) in 1976. I am sad he did not win, because I think the military and the nation in general would have been spared a lot of misery. I truly believe I would have been spared a 15.5% mortgage in 1980, that's for sure!
Gerald Ford's most momentous decision was the one to pardon Nixon in 1974. I believed it was the right thing to do then, and I still think so now. The Democrats were not as rabid then as they are now-yet even then they were thirsting for blood. That's not to say the Republicans are any better, they proved that in 1998, but to Ford's credit, he saw what had to be done, did it, and accepted responsibility for it. Plus, Nixon made a better elder statesman than Carter ever did. Add to that the fact that Ford did not "give away the Panama Canal" and I'd say he was a great American. I wonder if a guy like him could be President nowadays. After all he liked many members of the opposition party; he liked reporters; he knew how to have fun and was not embarrassed by his own shortcomings; and he knew how to lead-without hatred. That list bit is something GWB could learn a thing or to about.
And of course, there is the news about troop levels. What has amazed me is that two very different stories have become interlinked into one. Bush's proposals to make the armed services bigger have become intermixed with the efforts of Wolfwitz's clones to get more troops into Iraq. Lets look at these issues separately, shall we?
First, it is about time that President BUsh recognized that the armed forces need to be bigger. Those of you who have visited here regularly (and judging by the attendance figures a lot of you haven't!) know that I have been advocating that since I started this blog. I've been berating Rumsfeld and his minions for not banging on the table demanding that since September 12th. As I noted earlier, it will be the most significant failing that Rumsfeld will be remembered for. He made the same mistake in 1975. Much as I dislike a lot of Kagan's writings, he is right when he says:
If the U.S. Army had begun expanding in 2001, we would have been able to:
* Establish reasonable rotation plans for our soldiers that did not require repeatedly extending tours of duty beyond one year.
* Avoid the need to activate reservists involuntarily.
* Dramatically reduce the frequency with which soldiers return from one year-long tour only to be sent immediately on another.
* Let the troops that would still have been overstrained know that help really was on the way.Kagan notes that "the U.S. military did not do these things because of Rumsfeld's choices. He chose to protect a military transformation program that is designed to fight wars radically different from the one in which we are engaged.He chose to focus on high-tech weapons technologies that are virtually useless to the troops now in Iraq rather than providing them sooner with the basic requirements of their current mission--including armored Humvees, body armor, and a regular complement of armored vehicles. Even the deployment of Stryker light armored vehicles, which many now tout as a major contribution to the fighting in Iraq, was not Rumsfeld's initiative, but that of General Eric Shinseki. Shinseki was the Army chief of staff whom Rumsfeld drove out of office, partly for correctly predicting that Operation Iraqi Freedom would require more than the handful of units that Rumsfeld and his staff were willing to send."
Bush could have intervened at any time to correct this- the indicators were there, all he had to do was listen to them. However, Bush has never been a strong President for the military-all rhetoric aside. He allowed seriously damaging policies to be set by people he appointed, and never called them to task when they failed.
A larger military is necessary for one main reason, we simply cannot keep riding the pony as we have. The services need to get back to the "2 days home for every day deployed" metric. That kind of thinking is particularly important for a time where an officer will participate as a LTJG, a LCDR and as a CDR in the same conflict. Bush never realized it, since he was led down the primrose path by his Secretary of Defense.
This is not the same however, as the calls to increase US troop presence in Iraq and ignore the advice of the Iraq Study Group. Much as I agree with Kagan about the need to raise end strength, I am dismayed at the influence that he is now projecting on White House opinion on what to do in Iraq. Jeff Huber has it well summed up when points out:
The surge plan has been in the can for a while now, and the plan for selling it to the public has too. By the time Bush goes public with his decision on the "way forward" (the only part of the Iraq Study Group report he'll adopt is its marguee catch phrase), the public will think
that it's inevitable, and that "everybody agrees" a surge is the way to go, because the only choices are to surge or withdraw, and we can't give up on young democracies and all those moms and dads and kids yearning to be free and blah, blah, blah. I could be wrong. I have been once or twice before. But it will take something very big to knock this surge train off its tracks, something a lot bigger than Congress. If anyone from either side of the aisle tries to block a troop surge, you'll see a blizzard of Rovewellian bull feathers start flying.
So we send 15-30,000 more troops to clean up Baghdad. What happens then?
It's a mistake to think you can reliably predict how the enemy will react, but in plotting branches and sequels, military planners usually project a spectrum of possibilities. At one extreme of the spectrum, all the disparate militant elements in Iraq plus jihadists from outside the country could descend on Baghdad for the mother of all brouhahas.
That's not likely: from all indications, the bad guys are all smart enough not to risk a decisive defeat, and even if they're dumber than I think they are, they aren't organized enough to coordinate in a formal battle of that magnitude.
At the other extreme, the bad guys could all run away and hide long
enough for us to start putting Baghdad back together and give Iraq's unity government a chance to get its act together. Reality will probably play
out somewhere between the extremes.
I have to give Bush some credit, he has done a hell of a job shooting the messenger, using the Iraq Study Group as a vehicle to distance himself from the failed policies that he approved. In a fashion that Bill Clinton would be proud of, he has been able to transfer blame to underlings that he appointed and directly supervised -while distancing himself from their actions. He has used every media outlet available-including bloggers, to discredit the work of the commission and ridicule their work. James Baker probably saw that coming, but at least his conscience is clear. He can say "I told you so!" -two years hence.
Just as Jerry Ford can say that from heaven today.
Finally, under the category of things I just cannot understand, is the rampant support for the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia. This is like cheering your kids for getting into a fist fight and the older one gives the younger one a bloody nose. The younger kid gets a beating sure, but it does not exactly reinforce parental discipline.
Mogadishu may have been ruled by Islamic courts, but it will ruled by no one now. If Ethiopia stays as they surely will, violence in the country will continue. Somalia has not had a government in 15 years. So I am not sure how this is good for the US goal of checking the power of the Islamists, whom American officials have accused of sheltering Al Qaeda terrorists. AL Qaeda thrives in a lawless environment. And the Ethiopian military, albeit American trained, is still a 3rd world military serving a third world nation. They are winning because the Somalis are even worse than they are.
What this tacit American approved invasion, will do is encourage other African nations that it is OK to prey on their neighbors. They will know now that all they have to do is package it as attacking terrorists. The fine points of that distinction will be lost on them I think.
One thing is for sure, Kenya and Djbouti will deal with huge refugee flows. Which cannot be good for anyone.
2007 is going to be an interesting year. About as interesting as having oral surgery.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
One last Christmas story
It occurred to me on Christmas morning that this year was my 50th Christmas, which was a sobering thought. God willing I get a few more to celebrate. All that, in turn, made me think back to those various Christmas, both good and bad. I have had a lot of good ones, some not so good, 6 deployed aboard and aircraft carrier somewhere, and some that just seemed to be just a quieter day. Its always good, Christmas is my favorite time of the year.
There is one Christmas that stands out from the others in my childhood memories. Don't ask me why, it really has no reason to. It does nonetheless. So if you will, indulge me in a little trip down memory lane.
1968-Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. By unusual circumstance it snowed on Christmas Eve (normally in Pittsburgh, its just rainy and cold), and the snow was freshly fallen. The weather had made in hard for my Dad and I to get the Lumninaria out and the candles lit. After coming back from church, my 11 year old self was packed off to bed. Except it being Christmas, I really could not sleep. So I went back down stairs, after my parents were well asleep, checked out the presents under the tree, and turned the TV on down low. Apollo 8 was flying! And they were going to orbit the moon. As I remember during this time of night they were going to have make their TLI (Trans Lunar injection) burn which was supposed to happen on the back side of the moon out of communications with earth. We accept such things as routine now ( or at least we used to till Challenger and Columbia flew...), but on that mission, a late burn or a too long burn might have left them stranded in space.
What could possibly go wrong with a plan like this?
Unlike now, where the news networks would simply have passed me off to an informercial, they tried to do actual coverage of the mission. And for this it meant "filling the empty space". They talked, they did interviews with no-names ( it as 2 in the morning after all!), they showed films about the Gemini and Mercury programs. And I watched it all. I should have been sleepy but I was not. It was truly fascinating to me. Man was going to the moon! The Solar System seemed within out reach and we were going to be living the dream of 2001.
Then, as now, the country was mired in an unpopular war, and as with Iraq, at that time it had no end in sight. Then, as now, the country had gone through a bruising election where the party in power was repudiated and the country was facing divided government.
But I did not care about any of that at the time. All I knew was that 3 men were in space doing something cool. Something I thought I might be able to do some day. I was young, naive, and still idealistic. I had not yet been worn down by life. All I knew was that they were pilots-and I wanted to be one too!
Why don't we go here more often?
Strange isn't it? The things you remember, while there are so many important things you forget? As I said in the beginning there was no reason for this to be stuck in my memory-but it is and I remember that night clearly, and more importantly, I remember it fondly.
On Christmas night, they made a presentation to the Earth. Wonder if it would be allowed by the PC police these days?
I'm glad I got see it then!
Monday, December 25, 2006
He came! Santa-san came!
That must mean there is only one thing to say:
Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Good Lord! It's Christmas Eve.............
Religious or not, you have to admit Christmas produces some good music. I love putting Christmas Carols on the DVD player while moving around the kitchen making dinner. Its been interesting to learn some of the carols in Japanese and since I studied German in college so I know a few in that language too. I can now sing Silent Night and O come all yea faithful in 3 different languages. That knowledge and 340Y will buy you a mug of Starbucks coffee. (Small size of course!).
Recently, the S.O. and I went to a Christmas concert. The band played some neat things. They had March of the Toy Soldiers which is another of my favorites. During my college years, we used to have one parade in December before exams would begin. The Band Company would always play it and we all got a big kick out of it. It's not a song you can march too very well though.
Speaking of my alma mater, they also used to have a church service with candles and Christmas music that was one of the highlights of the year for me. You can click here to download some of the music in an MP3 format.
As an aside, I was married to my ex in front of that very altar and flags. If I had known what I know now, then, I would have turned around and run like hell.........
But I digress. The next 3 paragraphs will be a rerun of a last year's post for all you loyal readers....(and I do appreciate your readership!), but I thought it was worth repeating.
Christmas is also the time of year for TV specials, something else I am a sucker for. Last year I got to watch something unique. On NHK they had "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" animation special. Its the original from 1965 dubbed in Japanese. I watched it as good Japanese listening practice, plus I did not have to struggle with the translation so much, since I have seen this show probably 30+ times in my life. Nonetheless, some of the Japanese interpretations were interesting. For example, the song "We are Santa's Elves" was translated as 私たちは サーンターサンの好きな人。( "We are the people Santa likes" ). "Bumbles bounce" was translated as "Bumble jump!" . Not quite the same, methinks.
Here is a list of my favorite shows- I suspect some of them have made their way to where many of you live-even down to Australia. Then again maybe not.
Its a Wonderful Life
A Christmas Story
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The Grinch who Stole Christmas ( Cartoon version, not the crass movie ripoff!)
Miracle on 34th Street ( the original B&W version, although the remake is not too bad.......this movie is also known as the story of my sex life!)
Donovan's Reef (Don't ask me why this is here, I just like it!)
Which one is the best? That's easy. A Christmas Story is without a doubt my favorite Christmas movie. The story is well told, tastefully done, genuinely funny, and original. While most folks focus on the "BB gun" piece of the story, for me it is the description of the boy's father: "My old man was the connoisseur of using the "F" word"; " Over the years I got taste many kinds of soap in my mouth, I found Palmolive to be the best...." .
They don't write stuff like that anymore. I sure wish they did.............. They don't have experiences like this anymore either..........much to my chagrin:
If I had only one place in the world to spend Christmas Eve...this would be it!
When one starts waxing poetic about TV its time to close. I will leave you with one more shot of the chapel and the advice it gave every one of us cadets every day walking past........
May God bless us, each and every one!
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Back to reality.........
" Wine, good food, and roses; the milieu that is Tokyo out beyond the windows under a round moon. Not so young lovers....joined together by accidents of geography and fate;.......making love on a broad hospitable bed, performing secret rites as old as time, but forever fresh and sweet between lovers, the best moments human existence offers-such was our last couple of nights. The human predicament sometimes seems a gloomy tapestry with an indistinct, baffling design that swirls around and inward to the brilliant, naked lovers. The Bible starts with this centerpiece. Most of the old stories end with the lovers....retiring to their sacred nakedness. But for Skippy and the S.O. the story may just be beginning..."
-paraphrased with apologies to Herman Wouk.
Well, maybe the last couple days were not that good, but they were still pretty nice. I've just always wanted to use that quote. And, truth be told, we both had a really good time. And like an idiot, I forgot to bring the digital camera. So you will just have to take my word for it when I say the S.O. looked absolutely beautiful when we went to our fancy dinner. She wore a long black dress with the pearls I had bought her; her hair was up in a very attractive way, her skin was shimmering / glowing with vitality. The restaurant, having been called by me earlier, had given us the nicest booth. The check caused me to choke a bit........it was over 140 dollars...but all in all well worth it. Especially because we took over 2 hours to eat and finish our meal-over glasses of champagne and a bottle of wine! (Australian no less- I highly recommend it).
That was then. Now, of course, it is back to the daily grind. Nothing like getting back to the apartment and hearing "Doshite!" (WHY!) in that annoying, drawn out whine that only Japanese females seem able to produce-coupled with a few choice words in Japanese-to bring me back from Neverland. Back to dealing with mundane and silly things! It was nice while it lasted.(anyone who has ever lived with a Japanese woman knows it..........when you hear the Japanese word "Chanto" its all down hill from there).
Lots to talk about in the news of the past few days-but I'm sticking to my word-all will be addressed when the time comes. No war or politics till Christmas! Speaking of Christmas-hope you have all your gifts bought. I still don't. I'm not too worried since it is a Christmas tradition of mine to always buy at least one gift on Christmas eve. Plus. true to form the S.O. marched me to the jewelry store where I purchased yet another pearl pendant and earrings set. I think all in all, I've made good on my part of the deal. Lets hope she ,makes good on hers by going on Tuesday and picking up my new driver.
Today is a holiday in Japan. It's Tenno no tanjobi or the Emperor's birthday. Which explains in part why there was so much traffic on the roads today. Then again, it could be from the answer to my gaijin prayers-the opening of the first KRISPY KREME in Japan! Now that makes for a Merry Christmas! There are some nay sayers-particularly among Mr Donut fans, but I say to heck with them! Just have the store put on the 温かいドーヌツ！ (Hot donuts) and let the world beat a path to your door in Shinjuku.
Finally, proving that even in Japan, they train girls early in the feminine wiles-take a look at this Christmas wish from a 3rd grader. The students drew/wrote their Christmas wish or the present they desired in the middle of a wreath and then made Santa heads:
From Japan Probe
Santa-san comes in 24 hours! Time to get ready!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Also, I'll be out of touch for about 3 days. The S.O. and I are going away for a couple of days and celebrating an anniversary of sorts. Hotel, nice dinner, walking in the city, wine, and.......especially and............ (at least I hope so-if not I'm going to demand an 84,000 yen refund from Saikaya!). I'm not taking my laptop, so it will be the equivalent of going cold Turkey for a computer addict like me.
The S.O. and I have been together for over 4 years. Like all relationships we have had our ups and downs-to tell the truth I never expected to be here now, with her, when all this started. I still wonder each day whether next year will still find us together or not. Not for mean reasons, but more because of ambivalence on both our parts. Allow me to explain a little bit............
When I met the S.O. I had been in Japan for just over a year. A year later we were living in the same place-with all of the attendant fal de rol. The year before we met had been a watershed for me in my life. Coming from the US and the hell that is a sexless marriage, it was astonishing to see that all turn around in just a few short weeks. That year I probably got laid more than I did the entire time I was married to the shrew. I had come to Tokyo and immediately knew that Asia was the place for me! Spike noted this some time ago and I blogged about it saying that I fully understood the sensation:
"As much of an outsider as I was, there was something there, I felt like I belonged there. I was an alien and at home at the same time. "
It was awesome. I felt like I had gone to heaven. I'd been to Bangkok for a couple of manhood "reaffirmation" tours where I had literally gone nuts in Patpong and at the Eden Club. I'd traveled around Japan and the region to Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei. I had a Chinese girl on the string in Kyushu ( a doctor no less!), a couple up here in Tokyo and a Thai girl who worked as a make-up artist at the Navy exchange. ( She is the subject of a whole other post.....lets just say that memories of sex with her will be in my "old man " memories!). The hard part was keeping them from finding out about each other. I was gearing up for a trip to Jakarta to see what they had to offer me down there.
So why, I've asked myself over and over again, would I go and complicate my life with a serious relationship with obligations (financial and otherwise) when things were just hunky-dory without one. I've yet to give myself a good answer. I had been down this path before and I knew it led no where good. Unlike many people, I have no problem with living by myself.
When I met the S.O. I had no other aspirations except to make her another notch on my bed post. She was beautiful to look at ( she still is!) and interesting to talk to. Then again, all women are when you first meet them. Its new, they smell nice, you are captivated by the way her skirt drapes over her thighs-or fascinated with the way her blouse comes to a point that shows her cleavage. It's as you get to know them that the challenge of staying engaged kicks in.
Yet, there was something about her, something that was just more than a little different from the Shibuya Girls I had met and bed. For one thing she was my age (more or less...), she'd worked for all of her adult life, she had a good job and she had her own car, apartment and goals. She knew how to talk about many things, because she was just a very smart and witty lady. Unlike her American sisters though, she was not pushy about that fact. So suffice it to say I was curious. When she gave me her e-mail and phone number, I did what you should never do, and immediately e-mailed her when I got home and called her the very next day asking for a date.
And so it began. I was still traveling, but at the same time calling her and asking her out-a lot. She was in the process of moving to a new apartment. I rented a van and helped her move. The whole time I was thinking in terms of a clock ticking within my head. Soon I would have to move on-or she would-especially when she learned that if she wanted to take this to its ultimate extreme, there was no way I was ever going to have any children again. For sure that would tear it. If not that, then fact that I was chained down with economic slavery from my divorce would do the trick.
Except it didn't. And to this day I am not sure why. I think deep down inside of her she wants a child. If so, she needs to seek a new man-I'm not equipped physically or emotionally to do that. I've been very up front about that-its in my walk out the door criteria-but to date she seems to deal with it ok.
I'm always afraid that means that she is just settling for me- out of fear of growing old alone. I talked to her about that more than a couple of times. I am who I am -and with my life experience I'm not going to change. I'm a party boy and proud of it. I'll be one as long as I live.
She said she was a party girl. She may have been, but she is most definitely not one now. I always tease her that she is guilty of false advertising. We are so very different in so many ways. We are alike in one way though-we are both selfish.
Which is perhaps why we seem to be comfortable together. I know I am comfortable -to date. We'll see what the out years hold; I'm not going to plan that far ahead. After having jumped off the cliff once, walking away holds none of the terrifying fear it used to.
But not yet. Truth be told, I just could not bring myself to do that. To her-or to myself. I must be an idiot or a useless romantic. Does not mean that may be out there in the future one day-but for today its not. I still believe that I am the only one responsible for my happiness. The idea that out there somewhere, is one special woman who will do that for you is sheer nonsense. Living with her has not changed my thinking on that subject. I might think differently if I did not like women and sex so much. ( as in I like it a LOT!).
If she senses my qualified regard for her, it is counterbalanced by what I know is her qualified regard for me. The stuff of sonnets, our relationship is not. We do say, "I love you" to each other. It seems the right thing and more romantic than the more accurate statement of our relationship with each other: "You'll do."
Still, my worst day with the S.O. has been far better than my best day with the ex, so that must be progress of a sort. Plus, she has brought a lot of structure to a very disorganized life. She has got me focused on some goals besides a girl's ankles up in the air, and gotten me focused on saving money. She's actually taught me a lot on that score. We do, however, maintain complete and separate finances though. I will never ever, ever, share money with a woman again!
So pop the champagne! I've got the silly cards, and I know I'm going to get dragged into the shop to buy her the jewelry of her choice tomorrow. What the future holds-hell, I have no idea-but for today and the next few days we will savor the present. Come to think of it that's just about all anybody can do.
And if it does not work out? She can keep the furniture so long as I can keep my computer and the car! See what a nice guy I am?
"Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same." - Unknown
"We all want to fall in love. Why? Because that experience makes us feel completely alive. Where every sense is heightened, every emotion is magnified, our everyday reality is shattered and we are flying into the heavens. It may only last a moment, and hour, an afternoon. But that doesn't diminish its value. Because we are left with memories that we treasure for the rest of our lives."
Cross posted at Exordinarly Ordinary.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
During a farewell ceremony at the Pentagon last week, Dick Cheney called outgoing cabinet member Donald Rumsfeld the best Secretary of Defense the United States ever had. Apparently, no one in the audience laughed, a sign that sanity has yet to be restored at the Pentagon.
Nor does sanity regarding what to do about the situation in Iraq seem to be busting out all over Washington D.C. On Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopolous, incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) that he might "go along" with a plan to add more troops in Baghdad as long as "it's part of a program" to get U.S. troops out of Iraq by some time next year.
I don't think putting more troops in Baghdad is a sound strategy for getting all the troops out of Iraq, and I don't think it's intended to be.
The Baghdad strategy, which Mister Bush is rumored to be favoring, is based on a report titled "Choosing Victory: a Plan for Success in Iraq" prepared for the America Enterprise Institute (AEI) by Frederick Kagan. The AEI is a neoconservative think tank closely associated with the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Kagan, a former professor of military history at West Point, has a long association with both AEI and PNAC. His brother Robert Kagan is a confederate of PNAC founder and Weekly Standard publisher William Kristol. Bob Kagan, Kristol, and others in the neocon-controlled media are touting Fred Kagan's "fundamentally simple" plan as the one that can "succeed."
I'm skeptical of this "plan for success" on two counts. First is that it's coming from the very people who pushed us into this quagmire. Second is that Fred Kagan's plan is a compendium of the same kinds of glittering generalities, appeals to emotion, questionable assumptions and PowerPoint aphorisms we've been listening to all along.
One should be skeptical of this plan- particularly when you look at the who is supporting it. Its tempting, however it the plan ignores two fundamental problems: 1) it expects Arabs to do the right thing-they have proven themselves ill equipped to do so and 2) it assumes the insurgents are just going to stand still and take it. If I were an insurgent, I would be going into hiding now-especially since it seems that we are telegraphing out punches and lay low. Let the herd come in-observe- then be ready to strike where you can. For that matter laying low may be the best of all insurgent stategies since it will give the illusion of progress and hasten American withdrawal-which makes it easier for them in the long run.
Perhaps if GWB had actually studied some of the history he supposedly learned at Yale he would understand the forces at work here. Instead he is content to rely on the opinions of agenda driven ideologues......and we all know where that leads...........
No where good.
What happens when you have fun........
Click on the image!
Monday, December 18, 2006
This weekend another group of long suffering captives was ransomed from captivity, as Donald Rumsfeld had his last day at work. Praise be to God!
Its way past bedtime for the Donald. Today I was watching the TV at work when AFN broadcast his "Farewell message to the troops". True to form it was full of Rumsfeldian admonitions about how they need "to get it" and " the war on terror is complex and misunderstood". He, of course, uttered the usual platitudes and they would have meant something-maybe-had they not been belied by his actions while in office.
Don't let the automatic door hit you in the ass on the way to your limousine good sir. You are about 5 years late in leaving. Leo Amery had some words for you that I think you might know:
Speaker after speaker, on both sides of the House, castigated the Government for its failures and its lack of will. Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, bedecked in full uniform including all medals, entered the House to a resounding applause. But the most devastating blow came when Leo Amery quoted Oliver Cromwell's words to the Long Parliament: "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"
For brevity's sake I will skip debates about the war in Iraq, except to note that no matter how it turns out-his name will be forever linked with it. It will probably not be in a positive light. More likely he will be compared with McNamara. A man who should have known to do better, but chose not to- for his own selfish reasons.
Rather I will stick to what I feel is Rumsfeld's major failing as the Secretary of Defense: He failed to use the power of his office to resource the armed forces for the challenges that were placed upon it. In today's world, the armed forces are the guarantor of the American Empire-an empire unique in history where we get all of the burdens and none of the perks. Like territory with the American flag flying over it, or preferred employment and life style overseas for the citizens of the regent. What is the point in that?
For all his emphasis on the military "getting it", in the end it was Rumsfeld who never "got it".
Rumsfeld failed to do the right thing in 3 specific areas:
1) Force structure and end strength.
Its no coincidence that the Chief of Staff of the Army is in front of a commission today stating that the Army needs to get bigger-a lot bigger- to avoid being ruined in the long run. In the words of General Shoomaker, "Over the last five years, the sustained strategic demand ... is placing a strain on the Army's all-volunteer force," Schoomaker said during a Capitol Hill hearing. "At this pace ... we will break the active component" unless reserves can be called up more to help, he said.
You think so?
When units are making their 3rd and 4th deployments to that hell hole, something is terribly wrong. The only question is why did it take so long to say it?
That's where Rummy's talents of intimidation come in. He made sure that all toed the party line- his line- that the force did not need to grow. Rather we should just make the rest of the armed services pick up the army's job and failing that, create a "shadow army" of contractors who make a lot more money-and are not subject to the same rules. Reduce Air Force and Navy aircraft and ship numbers and tell every one that technology will make up the difference. Package it in a neat ribbon and call it "transformation".
The problem is, that there is more than just Iraq going on. America is essentially fighting 5 differen wars-not just one, which need all force structure the armed forces can muster. I don't think Rummy ever really understood that-or if he did, he just thought he could keep the same people deploying over and over again to do it. For a representative of an administration that was elected on a promise to restore Americas armed forces, he sure had an odd way of doing that. In doing so he violated a cardinal rule of force planning-the threat determines the size of your forces and your stategy. Rummy got that one backwards, basically allowing the size of the force to determine what threats would be countered, and the strategy to do so. He got lucky in Afghanistan and then had it handed to him in spades in Iraq. Now people can go on arguing as to whether the US should have invaded in 2003 with more troops-at this point, one has to ask, " What would it have hurt to go in heavier?".
Its not like DOD did not have a good template to work from. 9 years previously, GWB's dad had left a good model of an appropriately sized military for the post Cold War-Irregular conflict era. Clinton disregarded that , much to the nation's detriment. However that was Clinton-Bush was supposed to know better.
That model was the so called Base Force. It envisioned an Army of 14 Divisions, 451 ships in the Navy, and 27 Tactical Fighter wings. It would be backed up by just under a 1 million man reserve force. As envisioned by Powell it was a floor not be dropped below. Unfortunately subsequent administrations viewed it as a ceiling-eventually disregarded entirely.
All Rummy would have had to do was vow to restore the armed forces to the level of the base force. Had he made this his mantra in 2001 then today-9-11, or Iraq war or not- the Armed Forces would have been in a much better position to sustain the so called "long war". Yes it would have cost more to be sure, but in the end it would have been the right thing to do. Congress was practically falling over itself in 2002 and 2003 to vote him the money. Rumsfeld however, chose a different path. Idiot.
2) Personnel and pay policies
This is the area where Rumsfeldian hypocrisy was really shown. The powers that be talked a good game-mouthing the right words about supporting the troops. However their actions-the legislation they sponsored, the pay raises and supplemental pays they supported set hidden messages that were understood well by the working Soldier and Sailor. Namely, "We don't really care about you-all you are is just another resource that costs us money". Which is incredibly odd from an administration that said at its start that US forces were over deployed and underpaid. That was before 9-11. So the statement is even more true now. However lets look at the Rumsfeld record shall we?
- Latest pay raise proposal in the lowest in years AND it violates key tenets of fairness and equity by focusing pay raises on only a few at the expense of the rest. That's the smallest military raise in 13 years, even while Congress itself has acknowledged that there's still a military pay gap of more than 4%. Interestingly enough the most senior leadership of the armed services got a pay raise totalling 8.7%. Don't think that was not noticed by the working man and woman in uniform. Shades of United Airlines!
- Had to be browbeat by Congress into keeping separation pay and Hazardous duty pay increases in place-in fact his stated intent was to roll them back. Additionally Congress twice had to intervene to prevent service cuts and fee increases for military and retiree health care.
- After over 5 years of authority to do so, has yet to pay anyone matching funds on their TSP contributions-even Soldiers in a combat zone.
- Dramatically expanded ILO (In Lieu of) and IA (Individual Augmentation) taskings to support the GWOT WHILE AT THE same time dramatically reducing end strength of both the services on the hook to provide them, the Navy and the Air Force. These deployments have caused problems of their own for the respective services- which continue to be ignored or glossed over.
-Opposed concurrent receipt provisions for disability retirees-in spite of the fact that all other facets of the government had such provisions. Again Congress had to intervene with only mixed success.
-And of course, he ignored my personnel favorite-did nothing to advocate reform of the USFSPA, the law that screws military retirees out of money they earned. In fact DOD continues to suppor this very bad law.
This list can go on and on because the list of insults from the Secretary on pay and benefits is long and its effects will take years to undo. Part of that road to recovery has to be in firing Dr. David Chu. It is my sincere hope that Mr Gates makes that one of his first accomplishments while in office.
3) Failed to make necessary procurement decisions to avoid the service life train wreck that is coming.
This is another area where Rummy's record is long, sad, and undistinguished. Sure he cancelled Crusader and the RH-66. However just about every procurement decision that has been made in the last 2 years could have been made 5 years ago- at less cost overall. Rumsfeld for all his rhetoric about "being the boss" allowed all of the services to punt procurement decisions they should have faced-and relied on him to deliver the money. Just about every Navy aircraft under procurement now could have been authorized in 2001. Furthermore while some improvement has been made in improving process and flow of spare parts-he has not made the kind of significant changes in the business rules that the services operate under. One example, near and dear to my heart is in transportation. Despite increased usage of commercial lift, the services still operate under a non standardized method of paying for this. In particular if DOD had wanted to be transformational-they would do away with the system of one service having to "pay" the USAF for lift it provides. Its just one example of how he did cosmetic surgery while ignoring the real problems. Oh and by the way, the USAF still does not have enough airlift, hwoever we closed the C-17 line anyway.
In terms of hardware America has never before had such older aircraft and ships. Yet we are retiring some ships with life still left in them- while flying other aircraft into the groound(like the P-3)-ignoring the fact that their replacements are years away. See the preceding paragraph.
There are plenty of other examples, but this is long enough as it is. Bottom line is that for a supposedly transformational thinker-Rummy really was not. He was just a bully. The President's hatchet man who got the boy what he wanted-despite the cost to the country in the long run. That is hardly a record of "the finest Secretary of Defense". No way that history will prove that statement correct. Rumsfeld's record will earn him a parking space with the other group of former SECDEF's-the infamous ones. He'll be right there with Charlie Wilson and Robert McNamara. As one commentator noted, "Historians will reinterpret him over and over. They will find brilliant, insightful, clearheaded decisions, and they will find boneheaded, jarring, dumb mistakes." . More of the latter than the former, methinks.
THANK GOD AND GREYHOUND HE'S GONE!
Sunday, December 17, 2006
All the news that fits!
Yesterday, the S.O. went to a Shrine sale. She goes with a bunch of other ladies , Japanese and American, and they leave early. I rolled over and went back to sleep, only to reawaken to a note from her asking me to do some errands in Yokohama-would I please, please, do these for her? Damn! Perfectly beautiful day-meant for golf-ruined. Plus, I have to live with the underlying fear of the corroding effect on the S.O.; spending too much time with specimens of American womanhood-filling her head with really bad ideas-just a risk that will have to be taken, I guess.
So I saddled up. Pulled out some Rush, Jethro Tull and Outlaws CD's since this was going to require about 100 km of travel in the car and on the way home, no guarantees of a quick ride down the road. Least I could do is rock out. For you youngsters out there asking, "Who or what is Rush?"-I weep for you.
First stop, my usual golf course where they were having a Ping demo day. Hit about 100 balls while trying to make up my mind between the new fusion driver they have and the G5. I'd already made up my mind I wanted a new driver ( proving again the theory that new equipment can solve any problem with my game-NOT!) I just needed it proved to me that a higher loft would work better for me and keep me from slicing so much. Decided on the G5. Called the S.O. and told her thanks for my Christmas present........the one she did not know she was buying. She could stop by and pay for it next week when it is delivered!
After that, off to Camp Zama to get some things framed for the S.O. Bought her some small Christmas presents-saved the receipts cause I know she will make me take them back if she does not like them. The set out for the journey home.
Missed the turn to take me back to the expressway and ended up really lost. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the entrance to Tokyo Engineering University-which is in east Yokohama. Cut back down another series of roads only to find myself in more and more unfamiliar territory. Thank goodness I could read Japanese because the English signs had all but vanished. Long story short I turned a 1 hour return trip into 2 hours-thank God for the rock and roll!
The new Master Chief of the US Navy continues to impress me. (MCPON). He is slowly but very surely undoing all of the bad ideas his predecessor put into place. First he got rid of the tiny CMC badges that were worn as an affront to every ship, sub or squadron commanding officer, and now he has gone ahead and gotten rid of another gross insult:
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) (SW/FMF) Joe R. Campa Jr. announced Dec. 4 that upcoming revisions to the command master chief (CMDCM) instruction will feature the return of the traditional command master chief title for 25 senior leaders previously appointed Chief of Naval Operations Directed Master Chiefs (CNOCMs).
Word has it he wants the Chief's mess to return its roots. Good for him. Having been blessed in my time as a commanding officer with an outstanding chief's mess and a command master chief who I still revere as both a man and a leader-its a change for the better.
My shoulders are sore today. Having gotten up to see Donald Rumsfeld's
So even in parting, Rummy causes me pain!
My favorite curmudgeon, Fred, has once again captured my thoughts on the pompous nitwits who insist on legislating morality-which regrettably includes a lot of denizens here in bloggerville-and in the armed services. You folks know who you are, trying to lecture those of us who have chosen a different path. He foretells my future sitting in Pattaya someday. And why, without the curse of divorce and its financial constraints-transferring hard earned wealth to a worthless, fat, bitch-it would be a good path for me:
We live in a censorious age in America, an age of "Gotcha!" in which drinking looms loathsome, smoking is a crime to be punished, second-hand smoke a fearful threat to children and plants and wallpaper. Oh dear. We all must be vigilant for racism, sexism, and the rest. Psychologists call it passive aggressiveness, though I think that "the Higher
Priss" does nicely. Well, I say, each to his or her or its own. Still, I have always found people who smoke and drink and do the occasional doob to be more interesting than those who don't, certainly more than the drab Comstocks of the current Carryan Nation.
So I'll cut these guys some slack. You choose an exit door, or fall through one. They have. So will you.
Take that all you budding moralists-hypocrites each and every one!
Madame Chiang has an interesting post up about the Subic Bay rape case. One of her commenters, a certain Filipino named , the Jester made the startling pronouncement that :
"The overall feeling I got from the case was not that justice was being sought for 'Nicole', but that justice was being sought for years of American colonisation."
i'd like to think that this case was nicole's, but then again it can be a beacon of hope for 2000+ sexual assault cases perpetrated by US servicemen in the country that justice someday will be served.
If the majority of Filipinos believe this line of thought, and I do not really think they do, then the country may be farther gone than I thought. First of all, I'm not so sure PFC Smith is a worthy martyr for all of America's so-called colonial sins, second, just about every good thing that is in the PI today came from America or American society (except perhaps Angeles or Emrita....). and third, there is considerable doubt about the veracity of young Nicole's story. Couple with the fact that the Philippines hardly has what one would term an efficient government or justice system. Or for that matter a capable police force or judicary.
I'm not buying it Jester. Perhaps then you could explain to me why the Philippine government has done such a bang up job of pacifying Jolo and Mindanao Islands?
Spike has a good summary of Hong Kong blogs up. Useful for me since , as I have noted before, I am actually enjoying reading those more than some of the american ones lately-particularly the one's where like mindness is a prerequiesite of entry. He's also put up a post about the 50 worst songs in history-far too many of which are ones I like!
Finally, in case you think I have forgotten it some beer and babes. Went to what I hope was my last "offical" Christmas party last night. The ones here are far more non-fun than the ones I went to last year. Probably because down here there is much more a sense of haves and have nots than used to be at my previous place of employ. At least there folks wanted to have fun. Here, folks want to avoid pissing off the big guy.
So now I can focus on something really fun. This:
Desperately seeking Skippy!
7 more days till Christmas!
What is wrong with these people?
It would be funny if the issue were not so serious. Then again, if it was things were the other way around, Cal Thomas would be talking about exactly the same thing-insisting all the while that he was on the moral high ground.
To hell with both parties!
Saturday, December 16, 2006
The new political correctness...........
Fortunately for me, and for the United States in general, there is a woman of stature, wisdom, and vision, who understands that it is not a blow for women's equality when the nation sacrfices key parts of what keeps its society together simply in the name of political correctness.
God Bless Elaine Donnelly! America needs her to keep pointing out the facts. My donation to the CMR will be in the mail soon. Till then, here is the reply that I wish I could have given:
GRIM TOLL OF MILITARY WOMEN LOST IN WAR.
Updated: December 12, 2006
Since the attack on America on September 11, 2001, a total of 69 women deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait have lost their lives in service to America.
Most Americans, and even members of the media, are not aware that 69 brave servicewomen have died in the War on Terrorism. With few exceptions, news stories about their tragic deaths usually appear only in the military press, or in small hometown newspaper stories and television accounts that rarely capture national attention.
Everyone in this war is serving "In Harm's Way," but “Direct Ground Combat,” such as the infantry, engage in deliberate offensive action against the enemy. Most of the servicewomen whose names are listed below were killed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and some died in military plane crashes. Seven were mothers of children age 18 and younger. One female soldier, whose body was shattered by an explosive device she was attempting to disarm, died in the arms of her soldier husband who was stationed nearby.
Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. has cared for many female heroes who have lost legs and arms. When two women Marines and a female sailor were killed in a Fallujah truck attack in June, eleven more were sent to Brooke Medical Center in Texas, which specializes in the treatment of severe burns. Hundreds have received medals for serious injuries and for personal valor under fire.
Heartbroken family members have expressed indescribable grief and great pride in their daughters, which is universally shared by a grateful nation. It is always when soldiers die, but losses of women in this war are unprecedented in modern history. According to Army Times, 7,000 women served in Vietnam, but only 16 were killed, most of them nurses. In the first Persian Gulf War, 33,000 women were deployed, but only 6 perished due to scud missile explosions or accidents. (Nov. 24, 2003)
Some have argued that the women who have died are no different than the men. But deliberate exposure of women to combat violence in war is tantamount to acceptance of violence against women in general. As a nation we must consider the long-term implications of this cultural shift, which many see as a setback for our values and civilization.
At times in our history it has been necessary to send young men to fight in defense of America. Women have always served in the armed forces with courage and distinction, but there is no military necessity to send young women and mothers to fight in close combat areas where they do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive. Concern for men who are fighting and dying in this war should not preclude discussion of problematic policies affecting our women.
Decisions by Default Disrespect Women.
As the war advances into its fourth year, it is appropriate to ask serious questions about policies that have led to this grim reality. Our female soldiers are being asked to shoulder heavier burdens and greater risk than military women have ever faced in America’s history. Recent policy changes have been implemented with deception and advanced by default, with elected representatives in Congress paying almost no attention to what has been going on.
In 1991 the military service chiefs expressed strong reservations about the consequences of repealing women’s combat exemptions. Their testimony was forgotten when the Navy’s Tailhook scandal led to sweeping changes in policy and law demanded by feminists who have not suffered the consequences themselves. Former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder argued, illogically, that abuse of women in a Las Vegas hotel corridor was wrong, but combat violence at the hands of the enemy was perfectly all right.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has not heard testimony about women in combat since 1991, 15 years ago. Nor did the SASC have time to hear a single word of testimony about the findings of the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Services, which recommended that most of women’s combat exemptions be retained.
The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) did hear five minutes of testimony from former commissioner Elaine Donnelly about the panel’s report in 1993, but nothing more on the subject was heard until May 18, 2005, when the HASC briefly debated limited legislation regarding women in or near land combat. The last committee hearing on the subject occurred in the House in 1979, 27 years ago.
Female soldiers and the men with whom they serve have a right to expect that policies and laws will be honestly explained and faithfully enforced. But as CMR has explained in several articles posted on this website, critical policy decisions are being made by default, in violation of current Defense Department regulations and two specific laws written to ensure congressional oversight.
Neglect of this issue by President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and by members of Congress shows disrespect for our women in uniform and the importance of congressional oversight. Failure to discuss this issue could also result in successful litigation to include civilian women in Selective Service registration. It is long past time for the Bush Administration and Congress to pay women the compliment of taking this issue seriously.
The following list of the names of deployed women killed since 9/11, updated on December 12, 2006, should be viewed with sober reflection and gratitude for the courageous women who gave their lives in service to America. Unless otherwise indicated, all were soldiers in the Army:
1. Marine Sgt. Jeannette L. Williams, 25, KC-130 crash in Pakistan mountains, Jan. 9, 2002
2. AF Staff Sgt. Anissa Shero, 31, loadmaster, MC-130H, crash on takeoff of Special Operations mission, June 12, 2002
3. AF 1st Lt. Tamara Archuleta, 23, co-pilot Pave Hawk helicopter, crashed while picking up two injured Afghan children, Mar. 23, 2003
4. Sgt. Maj. Barbaralien Banks, 41, Chinook crash, Apr. 6, married, one son, 19, Apr. 6, 2005
5. Spec. Chrystal Stout, 23, Chinook crash, Apr. 6, 2005
6. 1st Lt. Laura M. Walker, 24, IED attack on Humvee, Aug. 18, 2005
7. Sgt. Wakkuna A. Jackson, 21, IED attack on convoy vehicle, Aug. 19, 2006
8. Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Merideth L. Howard, 52, suicide car bomb attack on Humvee, Sept. 8
1. Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, captured, died in captivity, Mar. 23, 2003, two children, 4 and 3, Mar. 23, 2003
2. Sgt. Melissa Valles, 26, non-combat gunshot wound to abdomen, cause unknown, July 10, 2003
3. Spc. Alyssa Renee Peterson, 27, gunshot wound to head, cause unknown, Sept. 15, 2003
4. Pfc. Analaura Esparza Gutierrez, 21, RPG attack on supply vehicle, Oct. 1, 2003
5. Spc. Tamarra J. Ramos, 24, non-combat injuries, armor medical company, Oct. 1, 2003
6. Pfc. Rachel Bosveld, 19, MP, attack on Baghdad police station, Oct. 26, 2003
7. Pfc. Karina Sotelo Lau, 20, Chinook crash, under fire, Nov. 2, 2003
8. Spc. Frances M. Vega, 20, Chinook crash, under fire, Nov. 2, 2003
9. Chief Warrant Officer Sharon T. Swartworth, 43, CWO, JAG Corps, Blackhawk downed under fire, Nov. 7, 2003
10. Sgt. Linda C. Jiminez, injuries following a fall in Baghdad, Nov. 8, 2003
11. Staff Sgt. Kimberley Voelz, 27, explosive ordnance disposal expert, bomb exploded, died in soldier husband's arms, Dec. 14, 2003
12. Capt. Kimberly Hampton, 27, helicopter pilot, downed under fire, Jan. 4, 2004
13. Sgt. Keicia M. Hines, 27, MP, struck by vehicle, Jan. 14, 2004
14. Pfc. Holly Jeanne McGeogh, 19, vehicle hit by IED, Jan. 31, 2004
15. Pfc. Nichole M. Frye, 19, Civil Affairs Reservist, vehicle hit by IED, Feb. 16, 2004
16. Capt. Gussie Jones, 41,non-combat death (surgical nurse, possible heart attack), Mar. 7, 2004
17. Spc. Tyanna Avery-Felder, 22, shrapnel wounds, Apr. 4, 2004
18. Spc. Michelle Witmer, 20, Wisconsin NG MP, killed by small arms attack (one of three sisters in the Army), Apr. 9, 2004
19. Spc. Isela Rubalcava, 25, hit by mortar round to Stryker brigade, May 8, 2004
20. Pfc. Leslie D. Jackson, 18,vehicle hit by IED, May 20, 2004
21. Pfc. Melissa J. Hobart, 22, collapsed while on guard duty, mother of 3 year-old, June 6, 2004
22. Spc. Julie R. Hickey, 20, Civil Affairs Reservist, died in Germany after complications from non-combat related illness, July 4, 2004
23. Sgt. Linda Terango-Griess, Ordnance Company Reservist, 33, vehicle hit by IED, July 11, 2004
24. Sgt. Tatjana Reed, 34, vehicle hit by IED, July 22, 2004
25. Sgt. Shawna L. Morrison, 26, IL NG, 26, hit by shrapnel when barracks mortared, Sept. 5, 2004
26. Spc. Jessica L. Cawvey, 21, vehicle hit by mortar, single mother of 6 year-old, Oct. 6, 2004
27. Sgt. Pamela Osbourne, 38, three children, ages 9 t0 19, Oct. 11, 2004
28. Sgt. Cari Anne Gasiewicz, 28, convoy vehicle hit by grenade, Dec. 4, 2004
29. Sgt. Tina S. Time, 22, vehicle accident, Dec. 13, 2004
30. Sgt. Jessica M. Housby, 23, IL NG, hit by IED near truck convoy, Feb. 9, 2005
31. Spc. Katrina L. Bell-Johnson, 32, truck overturned, cause unknown, mother of 1 year-old, Feb. 16, 2005
32. Spc. Adrianna Salem, 21, vehicle rolled over, unknown cause, Feb. 21, 2005
33. Pfc. Sam W. Huff, 18, IED attack on Humvee, April 18, 2005
34. Spc. Aleina Ramirez Gonzales, 33, Puerto Rico, April 15, mortar attack on forward operating base, Apr. 29, 2005
35. Spc. Lizbeth Robles, 31, vehicle accident, Mar. 1, 2005
36. Spc. Carrie L. French, 19, bomb hit on convoy, June 5, 2005
37. Marine Lance Cpl. Holly Charette, 21, attack on truck convoy in Fallujah, June 23, 2005
38. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Regina Clark, 43, 1 18 year-old son, Fallujah attack on truck convoy, June 23, 2005
39. Marine Cpl. Ramona Valdez, 20, Fallujah attack on truck convoy, June 23, 2005
40. Staff Sgt. Tricia L. Jameson, 34, medical specialist, Army NG, IED explosion while responding to a casualty incident, July 14, 2005
41. Pfc. LaVena L. Johnson, 19, non-combat related injuries, July 19, 2005
42. Spec. Toccara Green, 23, IED explosion, Aug. 14, 2005
43. Airman 1st Class Elizabeth N. Jacobson, 21, IED explosion, Sept. 28, 2005
44. 1st Lt. Debra A. Banaszak, 35, non-combat related injuries, Oct. 28, 2005
45. Sgt. Julia V. Atkins, 22,IED attack near Humvee, Dec. 10, 2005
46. Sgt. Regina C. Reali, 25, IED attack, Dec. 23, 2005
47. Sgt. Myla L. Maravillosa, 24, RPG attack on Humvee, Dec. 24, 2005
48. 1st Lt. Jaime L. Campbell, 25, helicopter crash, Jan. 7, 2006
49. AF Senior Airman Alecia S. Good, 28, Gulf of Aden helicopter collision, Feb. 17, 2006
50. Pvt. First Class Tina M. Priest, 20, gunshot wound to the chest, unknown cause, Mar. 1, 2006
51. Pfc. Amy Duerksen, 19, of injuries suffered in Iraq, Mar. 11, 2006
52. Spc. Amanda Pinson, 21, mortar attack while waiting for bus transport, Mar. 16, 2006
53. Marine Lance Cpl. Juana Navarro Arellano, 24, of wounds received in Iraq, April 8.
54. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaime S. Jaenke, 29, Humvee struck by IED, Iraq, June 5, mother of 9 year old girl.
55. Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman, 20, vehicle accident in Taji, Iraq, Sept. 4.
56. 2nd Lt. J. T. Perez, 23, IED explosion near Humvee in Al Kifl, Iraq, Sept. 12.
57. Sgt. Jennifer M. Hartman, 21, suicide bomber attack on West Baghdad Substation, Sept. 14.
58. 1st Lt. Ashley (Henderson) Huff, 23, suicide attack on convoy, near her Humvee, Sept. 19.
59. Sgt. Jeannette T. Dunn, 44, of non-combat related injuries, Nov. 26.
60. Maj. Megan McClung, USMC, 34, IED attack near Ramadi in the Anbar province, Iraq, Dec. 6.
1. Reserve Sgt. Denise Lannaman, 46, non-combat-related incident at Camp Arifjan, Oct. 1.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Who says sex doesn't sell?
Or take this comic strip-Day by Day, from Chris Muir. You never EVER see any fat chicks in it. This particular strip caught my eye. Trust me, I never figured out what the point was since my eyes never made it past the middle panel:
I don't follow the strip, but she ranks right up there with Betty Boop, and Wilma, as far as cartoon characters I would have sex with!
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Sometimes pictures are better than words........
So I was pleasantly suprised to see that Berkely Breathed had started a Sunday strip which brought Opus and the gang back. I did not know that till I opened my Sunday paper while leaving Honolulu last Sunday.
Here is the current Iraq debate-nicely summed up in 7 panels:
Click on the image!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
And the winner is........
No, what I am talking about is something much closer to home and much more important. Namely which of the 1,994 kanji officially recognized in Japanese will be named "Kanji of the year" (今年の漢字）。Its a contest run to determine which kanji character best represents the year gone by. Submissions for the Kanji of the Year were sought from the public by the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation in Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, and 85,322 people responded. In a ceremony in Kyoto at a temple, the winning character is painted on a piece of butcher block paper to in front of a very large crowd. Some of the previous winners have been:
2001-「戦」 Sen., which means war-because of 9-11 and Afghanistan
2002- 「帰」 Kaeru- to return to a place. In honor of the return of the abductees.
2003- 「虎」 tora- Tiger. Honoring the Hanshin Tigers who won their first Central League pennant in 18 years. Also folks felt Japan sending troops to Iraq was like walking into a Tiger's den. (koketsu).
2004- 「災」 wazawai-disaster. Nigata had an earthquake and there were 27 Typhoons that year. This was chosen before the Tsunami, but it seems appropriate.
2005- 「愛」 Ai-love. People reaffirmed the importance of nurturing love through various events in 2005, such as the marriage of the former Princess Nori and the relief activities for victims of the disasters in America and Pakistan.
And this years winner?
"The envelope please............and the winner is!"
The Chinese character of the year, "Inochi,"
which means "life," is unveiled Tuesday at Kiyomizu
Temple here by Chief Priest Seihan Mori. The character
was chosen because several student suicides and other
incidents underscored the importance of human life,
said the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation,
which organizes the annual event
So there you have it. A contest that really means something. Unlike that blog thingy that just passes so many deserving people by............
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Please come back and comment again. We apologize for any inconvienence.
Ever since I came to Japan, the December holidays has been really weird for me. Generally it becomes too expensive to fly back to the states, given that as New Years approaches the air fares zoom. Part of THAT is fueled by the fact that Japan takes the first four days of the year off. Before I met the S.O. it was a time of prowling around Roppongi and other less reputable places looking for Miss Right (for tonight!). My first New Years here I spent new years day sleeping off new year's eve. Thank God it was the one day of the year the trains ran all night. Since meeting the S.O. we usually exchange gifts on Christmas, have dinner together and New Years....well we've just agreed to disagree about how to spend that. She favors quiet and reflection and I favor dressing up, Auld Lang Zyne, and boozy kisses at midnight. Suffice it to say she gets her way more than I get mine.
Which got me to think of how the holidays are celebrated around the world. Without meaning to, Christmas has become a holiday celebrated even in countries without a Christian tradition. Probably there are some who might argue this, but the fact that there are Christmas decorations in Shanghai at least proves one part of my theory:
Retailers will jump on anything that makes profit!
Now when I was growing up, we had a relatively "normal" American Christmas. I use the word normal sparingly because in our family, family type gatherings always had an underlying layer of tension. That applied both when I was teenager and then subsequently when I was married to the ex. However we followed a formula. Christmas Eve was a ham dinner, usually followed by a trip to church. Christmas day was opening presents in the morning, eating as little as possible until the Turkey Dinner was served. My mom never varied her menu: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, scalloped oysters, pea and asparagus casserole, bread, wine, and milk for us underagers.
New Years had its own ritual too-New Years eve would find me scheming to get to a new years party, and after I had children, not being able to do that much. New Years day was a set menu: Pork Roast, Potatoes, Blackeyed Peas with what my father called Hog Jowls. (Pork Loin with fat.) The theory was the more Blackeyed peas you ate the more money you would see come your way the following year. The Hog Jowls were for luck. This meal was usually followed by copious amounts of college football on TV.
Now in Japan, the Christmas and New Years holiday are just the opposite. For a young 20 something single person, being with out a date on Christmas eve is the low point of the year. As was described in the Tokyo Classifieds a few years ago:
On Christmas Eve, trains will be packed to shame any weekday morning. Every single road on the map will be fender-to-fender. Cell phone lines will cease to function, due to an overload of calls being made by couples trying to find each other in packed train stations. Oh, and don't even bother trying to find a hotel room. Yes, Christmas Eve in this country frightens me to the very core.
For those of you who have just arrived in Japan, Christmas here has been turned into some kind of second Valentine's Day. Spending Christmas Eve alone is the most degrading thing in the world for a young person in Japan. Apparently, the correct way to spend Christmas is to go out to an overpriced restaurant (usually of the French or Italian variety) with a member of the opposite sex, and then, after a few minor detours and an exchange of overpriced gifts, to end up in an overpriced hotel room with a view and share more than just presents.
And there is, of course, the little detail of of the Christmas Cake:
I observe with a blend of amusement and disbelief the distinctly Japanese (commercial sector-generated) custom of combining strawberry shortcake (don't forget to light the birthday candles and blow them out while making a wish) and Kentucky Fried Chicken (make sure you reserve it well in advance, or you might have to stand in line for two hours to get the 12-piece party pack) on the Christmas dinner menu.
Arguably there are worse ways to spend the holiday, but as an American it is different from what I was used to before I came.
New Years on the other hand is very much family time. There are New Years parties, especially in Gaijin heavy areas but on the whole they are not the norm. People go to see their families, pray at the Shrine on New Years day and eat the food that mom has either prepared in advance or purchased at higher than normal prices. Its called Osechi Ryori-quite good actually.
Now Sourrain lives in Leeds and I know little of English Christmas tradition. I have been in England during December , up in Linclonshire, and saw in all the pubs flyers for making reservations for Christmas dinner. I'm not sure how popular and pervasive that tradition is. And I have no idea what Boxing Day is all about.
I spent New Years in Naples once. I paid some ungodly amount of lire to attend a New Years party at the AFSOUTH (NATO) officer's club in Pazzuoli. Good time, but different than I expected. It was mostly couples there which limited oppotunites for yours truly. The ticket price covered all the booze though. The real point of the story was, in Naples on New Years eve get off the streets around midnight. Evidently, it was a Neapolitan tradition to throw old things out on the street at the stroke of the new year. I'm told that can include things such as washing machines. Not sure if that is true, but it sure did get noisy when midnight came and went. Lots of fireworks and sounds of metal on concrete!
So what say you? Any other interesting holiday traditions that are worth passing?
cross posted at Exordinarily Ordinary.