Thursday, December 29, 2005
Now, all I need is someone to send me some money for using them...
Check it out: http://www.painetworks.com/TNP024.html
If you want to see all of our submissions to PAI Newtorks, click here.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I sure am glad I chose XM over Sirius.
XM is all about the music while Sirius execs apparently think there are enough Howard Stern fans to keep them afloat. Sirius announced they reached the 3 million subscriber mark today. XM expects to have 6 million subscribers by the end of the year, i.e. Saturday.
I can't help thinking that Dylan is a bigger draw than Stern and will only serve to widen the gap.
Adobe Photoshop CS2 Upgrade
To install this upgrade successfully, you will need a licensed version of any version of Adobe Photoshop, on the same platform as this purchase.
I bought a copy of the Adobe Creative Suite, which included Photoshop CS, earlier this year and I registered it with Adobe at the time of installation. After visiting the Adobe website to check the requirements for the Adobe Photoshop CS2 Upgrade, I put it on my Amazon.com Wish List for Christmas. My son in Cincinnati ordered it and gave it to me on Christmas Day.
Yesterday, the day after Christmas, I sat down at my desk to install the upgrade. I typed in the serial number for my new copy of CS2 and waited for the setup program to find the already-installed copy of Photoshop CS as a prerequisite for installing the upgrade.
To my surprise, the program said it couldn't find a verified copy of Photoshop on my computer.
I re-ran the step, using the Browse feature to point it directly at the Photoshop CS subdirectory. Same result.
My wife was wrestling with a computer problem at her office and needed the phone, so I waited until this morning to call Adobe tech support to get a solution to the problem.
The pleasant young woman who took my call confirmed through Adobe's records that I had a verified, registered, legitimate copy of Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop CS.
The problem, she informed me, is that since Creative Suite includes several products: Photoshop, Go Live, Illustrator, Image Ready, etc., I could not upgrade just one of them. I had to buy the Creative Suite Upgrade ($500+).
The Photoshop CS2 Upgrade my son bought for me only works for stand-alone versions of Photoshop v5.5 and up.
I referred her to the verbiage on Adobe's own website where it says any version of Adobe Photoshop, on the same platform as this purchase.
She called up the website and confirmed that is, indeed, what it says.
How is a purchaser supposed to know that this won't work with the Creative Suite package, since there is no mention of this detail in the website description of the product and its requirements?
"Well, that would have come up in the ordering process," she said.
That's fine if you're ordering off of the Adobe website, but there is no such admonition when you order from Amazon.com. So you only get to know that if you order directly from Adobe.
"Amazon.com is not one of our authorized re-sellers," she said.
How the hell is the customer supposed to know that?
My only recourse, she said, is to see if my son had a proof of purchase and try to get a refund from Amazon.com.
Amazon.com, however, does not accept returns of opened software.
So I'm screwed.
Monday, December 26, 2005
We drove down to Cincinnati Saturday evening for Christmas with my son Steve, his wife Nicky and daughter Lisa.
Maria was official photographer and here are my two favorite shots of the weekend:
1. Lisa freaking out over being held by Grandpa and
2. Steve on the baby grand and Lisa on the embryo grand.
It was a splendid visit. Steve and Nicky are most gracious and generous when it comes to hosting and gifting and Nicky's extended family was lots of fun Saturday night.
Because we didn't have any real alternatives, we took the dogs along. Nicky's brother Rodney brought his dog Brutus along, so with Steve and Nicky's Frank and Emily and our Ruthie and Pete, it was a real dogorama.
Ruthie the Wonder Dog is getting crankier with age and tangled with Frank before we could even get from the car to the front door. Steve put Frank in luxurious time out in the master bedroom, but Ruthie continued to be unpleasant to the other dogs. We set up her kennel in the guest bedroom, complete with food and water, which we thought might put her a little more at ease. Unfortunately, Emily got too close to the kennel and Ruthie attacked her. Emily was on her back, being bitten and screaming when I rushed in and yanked Ruthie off of her. A careful examination showed no broken skin and no bleeding, but Ruthie spent much of her remaining time at Steve and Nicky's place in the slammer.
Pete, on the other hand, played his "adorable puppy" role to the hilt and had everyone fawning over him.
Friday, December 23, 2005
It will be a miracle if any work is done here today. Brandy came with her dog, for which she had permission, and her dorky husband, for which she did not. He's walking around wearing his cell phone head set.
And, of course, nothing goes simply with Brandy. The dog rolled in goose shit on the way to the car. They have to leave from here this afternoon to see family out of state.
So she called me on her way here to ask if I could make her an appointment with the dog groomer, which I did. The dog groomer rejected her in person, but on the phone gave me an appointment for him. I also found a pet store where my son works that does not offer grooming, but would let her bathe the dog in their sink.
In the meantime, Derek got Mary a darling beagle puppy, which also visited and is clad in a T-shirt. I swear I need to blog. The dog is named Emmy for Eminem the rapper. Em, at six weeks, is having trouble pooping today. Mary asked if she could keep the pup with her here.
How can I say 'no' when I've authorized the shit-covered dog? Mary is also worried the dog will contract Parvo and die like her other dog almost did. So she wants to keep an eye on this one. Em is on the floor now ripping into a cat-shaped toy. She won't walk without the leash in her mouth.
And Mary is on the phone with her fiancé telling him the dog has bad gas, but she doesn't think it hit me yet. I just sprayed Lysol as a pre-emptive move.
I haven't even seen Dan yet so I don't know if this will be a sober day.
It seems a little odd, considering the signing, addressing and mailing of the Christmas cards was a yearly ritual for my parents.
My mother kept a running list of friends and acquaintances, updating it annually with address changes and to include new people who had sent cards the year before.
When I was little, my parents and I would sit at the kitchen table one evening a week or two before Christmas. They signed the cards and addressed the envelopes and it was my job to lick and seal the envelope and affix a 3¢ stamp and a Christmas Seal to it.
The cards had varied themes - religious and secular - and I remember a few years when they favored Currier & Ives images because they thought they looked classy.
My parents never went in for long "Christmas letters" like some folks enclose with their cards.
My first wife and I did Christmas cards sporadically. I remember making photo cards for two or three years.
I guess she thought it was a good idea because she and her new husband still send cards. I just couldn't get into it. I don't know if it's because I'm cheap or because I think it's archaic or maybe I'm just lazy.
Some years, I compose an e-mail Christmas card with an appropriate photo and message and maybe a brief synopsis of the high points of my year, like a new granddaughter or Maria being named editor or me riding a zillion motorcycle miles. I do usually reply to e-mailed Christmas greetings I receive, but mostly I let it all slide by.
I admit to a faint twinge of guilt when I open the mailbox and find a fistful of Christmas cards from folks who won't get one from us. I take comfort in the thought that they toss their cards into the postal stream without any expectation of a return card - just the knowledge that they've sent greetings to friends and relatives.
So let this serve as my Christmas card to the world. It was cheap and it was easy and it didn't involve any 37¢ stamps. By the way, the first class postage rate jumps to 39¢ on Jan. 8.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Sitting in the Subaru in the Meijer parking lot while Maria & Morgan scour the store for last-minute gifts and stocking stuffers for the dogs. I've lost my capacity for courtesy toward other shoppers, so I'm hiding out in the car, blogging and listening to "Louie Louie" on the XM radio.
Sent from my Treo
Petition the Lord with prayer.
Petition the Lord with prayer.
YOU CAN NOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!
— Jim Morrison
Sorry. It's been running through my mind all day.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I say Cancerians because we are more tightly attached to our past – people, places, things and memories – than any other sign of the Zodiac. So the saying goes, once the Cancerian crab’s claw grasps something, it never lets go. That’s why we have a hard time parting with possessions and mementos that everyone else would toss out without a second thought.
So when I set my Wayback Machine for my childhood Christmases, I’m awash with memories of:
Lying under the Christmas tree, gazing up at the lights and my reflection in the blue, green, gold and red glass ball ornaments.
My dad’s fascination with the early Noma Bubble Lites.
Christmas presents like the Hopalong Cassidy cowboy outfit, the Gilbert Erector Set, the Gilbert Microscope, and the little Cub rotary printing press with moveable rubber type and later my first transistor radio – a Channel Master AM model that had an earphone that let me listen while slogging through the snow on my newspaper route.
My mother’s Christmas cookies.
My mother was a good cook within her culinary range. Being a Registered Nurse, she had a horror of parasites and disease and consequently she overcooked hamburger to the point of crunchiness. Her turkey often had the dry consistency of cardboard. But there were also some things she did supremely well. Chief among them were an absolutely spectacular version of pumpkin pie, a killer glazed ham loaf and her Christmas cookies.
I found myself hankering for cookies the other day, so I went up to the attic and rummaged around in the jumble of boxes until I found the contents of Mom’s kitchen tools drawer, which included a couple of aluminum 1950s cookie cutters. One is a Santa Claus in profile with sack of goodies slung on his back and the other is a Christmas tree. There’s a red plastic gingerbread boy cookie cutter floating around up there somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet.
Maria understands and values my attachment to the past, which I find remarkable in a Gemini. But then she also had an empathy for my mother that no other woman – my first wife included – ever seemed to have. Maybe it’s because Mom was a Gemini too. Maybe it’s because she encountered my mother at a point in life where Mom was more vulnerable. At any rate, she uses a lot of my mother’s kitchen equipment and keeps Mom’s recipe file and red-and-white checked Good Housekeeping Cookbook in a place of honor.
So it was natural that Maria would be eager to whip up a batch of Christmas cookies using my mother’s cutters and what she supposed was the recipe.
I just finished the last two of them with my afternoon coffee and, for awhile at least, all is right with the world.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
My wife used to work in a dentist's office where this guy was a patient, so she knows a bit about him and was able to fill me in on his background and capacity for strangeness.
I became aware of him because his house is on one of my alternate routes to my doctor's office and various other destinations. He keeps a weathered old wooden Adirondack lawn chair in front of his house and spends a lot of his waking hours sitting in it and watching the traffic go by. For the past several years, I've gotten into the habit of looking for him. If I see him, I honk and wave and he waves back. I imagine there must be hundreds of other regular passers-by who have the same honk-and-wave relationship with Carl.
So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised this morning when I saw him standing at the roadside in 7-degree (make that about -14 Celsius for you Canadians) cold. He wore an unzipped parka with the hood over his head and his shirted chest exposed and had what I assume was a cup of coffee in his ungloved left hand while he waved with a bare right hand.
Cold enough for you, Carl?
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Saturday, December 17, 2005
We are now officially a two-dog family.
We picked up Pete - that's what we're calling him at this point - about 3 p.m. today after a brief bit of confusion over which puppy we had selected the other day. I settled the matter by calling up the picture of Pete from this blog on my Treo smartphone.
As of 10:20 p.m., the little guy is amazingly mellow and doesn't seem to have any separation anxiety over being torn from his mother and siblings.
He also seems to have passed the Ruthie test. According to plan, Maria took Pete over to her parents' house and I followed a few minutes later with Ruthie. The two went nose-to-nose and Ruthie showed no hostility. Mostly indifference after the initial sniffing.
After we brought them home, there were a couple of growling episodes when Ruthie thought Pete was getting too close to her food and water, but they were brief and non-violent.
He'd never been bathed and had some fleas, so Maria filled the kitchen sink with warm water and hunted up a bottle of puppy shampoo that she'd had since Ruthie's youth. She gave Pete a good scrubbing and after he was dry, I applied a couple of drops left over from Ruthie's monthly dose of Frontline flea and tick treatment.
Now she and Morgan are cutting up quilting fabric with Pete dozing in the corner.
It appears he may be easy to housebreak. After making a small puddle on the bathroom floor, he whizzed and crapped outside under Maria's watchful eye.
Today we pick up little Pete. But first, we had to go to the quilt store for Maria to use the 25 percent off coupon that expires today.
Then it's off to Meijer for groceries, all the while keeping a wary eye out for a loony relative who works in the dairy aisle and bends our ear with family dirty laundry to our embarrassment and the amusement of other shoppers.
And then, after taking the groceries home, we can fetch Pete.
We'll introduce him to Ruthie on neutral ground - Maria's mother's kitchen - before taking him home.
Sent from my Treo
Friday, December 16, 2005
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Meet the newest member of our household.
He's an Australian Shepherd puppy who will be 7 weeks old when we bring him home this Saturday.
He's also Maria's Christmas present. Well, the main one. There will be others.
Since Ruthie the Wonder Dog is past her 7th birthday and well into doggy middle age, Maria has been agitating for several months for a second dog. We tried out a red heeler last spring but he was too emotionally fragile and Ruthie drove him so deep into his shell we worried that anyone would ever be able to coax him back to life.
A couple of years ago, Maria noticed an Aussie at a farm she drives past everyday on her way to and from work. He seemed to enjoy herding everything in sight, especially a couple of horses that humored him even though they didn't have to.
The owners put out a sign advertising Aussie pups last year, but they were all spoken for by the time Maria stopped to inquire. She asked them to call us in time for the 2005 litter and, sure enough, a few days before Thanksgiving they called to say they had five new pups - two females/three males.
We checked them out and settled on this little guy.
Then we spent the next several weeks trying to pick a name.
At this point, "Pete" is the front-runner, but I'm not crazy about it.
A couple of years ago when my son Sean brought his fiancee Ruth for a Christmas visit, he seemed peeved that our dog was also named Ruthie. Sorry. We had the dog long before he met the young lady who is now his wife.
So I toyed with the idea of naming the new dog "Sean," just to tweak him up, but the joke didn't seem funny enough to risk bad feelings. Besides, the pup doesn't look like a Sean. I don't know what name he looks like.
What would you name him?
Monday, December 12, 2005
In my haste to get photos of the Newfoundland dogs and their owners posted to our photo sales site last week, I forgot to back up the originals and made irreversible changes to them as I prepped them for the specific needs of the site.
Mostly, that meant downsizing them from the original 300 dpi to a more manageable 200 dpi. When you make that kind of change, in the instant that you click on "save," you throw away a huge volume of image information that you can never get back.
And, to make matters worse, I didn't realize my blunder until after I'd put the CompactFlash card back into my camera and formatted it.
My stomach did a slow roll when I realized I had destroyed irreplaceable images, several of which could be stock photo money-makers.
Then I remembered the Lexar Media Image Rescue software that came with one of my CompactFlash cards. I was pretty sure I'd installed it on my computer, but couldn't find an icon for it. The "Find" program tracked it down on my C: drive and a few minutes later I was delighted to discover I had retrieved all of the images, even though the card had been formatted.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Sharing a tidbit of information:
Yahoo is now using something called "Web Beacons" to track Yahoo Group users around the net and see what you're doing and where you are going (similar to cookies). Yahoo is recording every website and every group you visit.
Take a look at their updated privacy statement:
About half-way down the page, in the section on cookies, you will see a link that says web beacons. Click on the phrase web beacons. That will bring you to a paragraph
entitled "Outside the Yahoo Network." In this section you'll see a little "click here to opt out" link that will let you "opt-out" of their new method of
snooping. Once you have clicked that link, you are exempted. Notice the "Success" message on the top of the next page. Be careful because on that page there is a "Cancel Opt-out" button that, if clicked, will undo the opt-out.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Today was Newfie day at our favorite Christmas tree farm - the day a Newfoundland club brings their big dogs out to haul fresh-cut trees in from the fields on sleds and carts. There were about a dozen of the dogs and it looked like they were having more fun than the people were.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I've bold-faced the passages I think are particularly important:
It is my last night in Iraq. Tomorrow night I will begin the long journey home as we depart BIAP and fly to Kuwait and then fly on to our homes in Germany at 0300 the next day.
Cindy has forwarded me a lot of your discussions of strategy in Iraq, discussions about Nate Sassman, the media and questions about the way ahead. I just wanted to share with you some observations that I have now in my 12th month here and on the eve of our redeployment.
I commanded the 18th Military Police brigade for its second rotation to Iraq. We were among the first brigades to return having served in OIF I. 45% of my unit were returnees-tremendous heroes. Several of them stop-lossed from approved retirements. I looked them in the eye and told them that we needed them and they never complained. In fact the two that this applied to did incredible feats in supporting our team here. The morale of our Soldiers in the mission was very high. Only three of our Soldiers in the headquarters chose not to reenlist and all three have clear plans for their futures. All our other eligible Soldiers reenlisted here among us in Iraq.
Our mission in Iraq was to support all Iraqi Police Services in Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniya, Kut and Hillah (ancient Babylon). We were charged with developing the Iraqi Highway Patrol into a Federal Law Enforcement Agency and establishing a training academy for the highway patrol, building a national headquarters for the Highway Patrol and contracting for the construction of all Iraqi Highway Patrol Headquarters. We also were in charge of the security of our Corps Main Supply Routes in the most embattled areas of our lines of communication and the escort of convoys. Finally, we were in charge of Abu Grhaib and Camp Bucca Detention Facilities. In the Fall, our mission changed dramatically to where we ran all detention operations for all theater level detainees in Iraq.
As with most units in the Army, we accomplished our mission with excellence, values and the compassion that has marked American Soldiers since our inception as an Army. We had no scandals due to NCOs and Officers selflessly serving with our Soldiers 24/7 and enforcing standards and combat disciplines that keep Soldiers alive, alert and successful. If something didn't look right we investigated right away and took immediate action to correct any minor deficiencies before they were allowed to fester and create the impression that the standards were not enforced. Our Soldiers responded to their NCOs and junior officers with pride and confidence-they represented you well 24/7.
Leading a brigade that included up to 4,000 members of Army Reserve, National Guard and Active battalions as well as two active U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Security Forces Squadrons (Battalion equivalents), two US Marines Corps companies, and one Airborne Battalion Task Force, my CSM and I committed ourselves to a program of leader development sessions to insure that all leaders had a common understanding of standards and that we professionally grew as a joint team. It was an amazing ride. In order to lead, coach and mentor this team, we were on the road constantly and we logged just over 40,000 miles in our HMMWVs to do this. This gave us a tremendous situational awareness and experiences that were perhaps not completely unique, but are shared by a fortunate few who got to traverse Iraq as we did. I'd like to offer some insights into the strategy here, the media and our enemy here that I have formed over the past year.
Who ever designed the plan for the transitional government here is a genius. The employment of three elections in one year, while frenetic, has first taught the value of voting and then has allowed those who didn't previously vote to step forward and join in the process. When the first election occurred in the end of January, I had been here two months. Up to the 30th, I had seen very few women in public. On the 30th of January, I was in Najaf, Karbala, Hillah and Diwaniya and I saw thousands of excited citizens streaming to the polls to vote. Many of the voters were women. It was so exciting to see them finally have a voice in their future. The Iraqis did a great job of securing their country that day and it was the first true democratic election in Iraq. The election resulted in an Iraqi Transitional Government that had the charter of drafting a proposed Constitution for the Iraqi people. The government achieved this and the second election on 15 October was a referendum to see if the people would approve the document. Participation in the second election now included large numbers of Sunnis-many who would oppose it, but they were voting to let their voice be heard. Two days before the nationwide referendum, we conducted the referendum actually in our major detention centers at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca where half of our detainees chose to vote on the referendum as well! The vote was observed by UN workers and went extremely well. The election throughout Iraq was more successful than the first as it included a growing number of participants. People like to be heard. They like to vote and we are seeing democracy move forward here in Iraq. The evening before the election, I stopped in a village just South of Scania near Najaf. I had the opportunity to speak with a village elder who told me with great pride about the fact that he now had a cell phone, red car and TV with satellite. He showed all off to me and told me that "without the American Army, none of this would ever have been possible, Sadam never allowed us to have these things." He was so excited about the vote the next day and he insisted that we join him for his Ramadan supper as the sun was just setting. I thanked him, but told him I had to be heading on---the reason I had stopped is that the temperature in my vehicle had been over 140 degrees for several hours and we needed a break! I also was fascinated to see his village as it looked like it came out of the pages of the Bible, the only differences being electricity, satellite dishes and cars!
The third election this year is now coming and it will be to elect the first true Iraqi Parliament-I expect that due to the trend with the past two elections that the turnout for the next one will be the highest yet. It is too costly not to vote and to risk going under represented. This is why I think the framers of this process were geniuses. They have educated the populace as to the value of participating in democracy all prior to actually electing the first government. The momentum of democracy is gathering steam and people want their voices to be heard.
We have learned a lot about our enemies this past year. One of the most significant events was the interception of the Al Qaeda strategy letter from Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan to Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq. The letter demonstrates that our enemies are waging a global war against us and all free peoples. The desired endstate of our enemies is to take us from a multicultural society with freedom of religion and thought to an eighth century caliphate dominated by a religious zealot who will tell us what to wear, what to think and how we are to worship. This war has truly become one of good versus evil. We are fighting an enemy that threatens the whole world and he has declared that this is the decisive battleground for the struggle: "As for the battles that are going on in the far-flung regions of the Islamic world, such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Bosnia, they are just the groundwork and the vanguard for the major battles which have begun in the heart of the Islamic world." (Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi p. 2). What I have seen of our enemies here tells me that we are fighting in the right place. We have all seen people butchered because they worship in different mosques than those of our enemies-men, women and children. My personal experiences here have shown me an enemy far more evil than I have encountered anywhere else.
On 20 March 2005, one of our squads was involved in a very famous fight against an ambushing element of 45-50 highly trained insurgents that sought to annihilate a supply convoy. Fortunately, our squad was only three minutes behind the convoy and immediately attacked into the flanks of the enemy. As the squad of 10 initially attacked, they were going at 1 to 5 odds. The odds changed immediately with the loss of the third team to rifle fire that critically wounded the team leader and driver of the third vehicle while wounding the gunner as well. The medic of the squad was in this vehicle and fought to hold the attackers at bay while kicking the wounded bodies under the vehicle to save them from further injury. The lead vehicle of the squad had been hit by an RPG right as they turned into the enemy and the gunner was thrown down into the vehicle. Thinking he was dead, the squad leader, SSG Timothy Nein, began to climb towards the gun when the gunner came to and jumped up on the .50 Cal and returned fire. The enemy was filming this attack up to this moment as the .50 Caliber machine gun killed the cameraman with its first burst of fire. SSG Nein and SGT Hester both charged into the enemy positions and killed many of the enemy in close quarters combat. At the end, 27 enemy were killed, 7 WIA and one was captured with no injuries. This heroic action, which resulted in three Silver Stars for valor including the first to a woman since WWII, has been well reported in the Washington Post and now Soldier of Fortune Magazine. What is not reported is that in the cameraman's pocket was another film. It was of a beheading that these same insurgents had done in the day prior. The victim was a man of different religious belief. He was also bound with handcuffs. The insurgents we fought and killed were extremely well armed and they were all carrying handcuffs. Their vehicles, which were destroyed by the .50 cal gunner as well, were all parked with trunks and all doors open. It seemed that the enemy wanted to take US hostages and they clearly showed what they intended to do with them.
This summer, one of our squads came across three vehicles on the side of the road. 15 people had been taken out of the vehicles and machine-gunned. Five were already dead, but the squad called for a medevac and began to treat the wounded. What they didn't realize at the time was that only two of those vehicles belonged to the victims. The third was a VBIED that had been placed there waiting for our MPs to lend life-saving aide. When it went off, it wounded 11 of our heroes, but miraculously killed none.
Just last month, my squad and another MP Squad were intended victims of a similar ambush when I saw three men hooking up a tow truck to a broken vehicle shot by a sniper. As the men fell and pleaded for help, an MP Squad directly in front of me responded right away, pulling the men from the scene. I moved my security squad into a security position guarding the MPs as they went to work. We had pulled our vehicle next to the victims in a blocking position. Scanning for the sniper, I told my Soldiers to stay in the vehicles and scan for the enemy. Right then an explosion went off in the median. My gunner shouted "IED!" It seemed like a plausible tactic, but it wasn't a very large IED. Right then another went off and we realized we were being mortared. We took several more hits and shrapnel damage before reinforcements tipped the scales our way. What an evil enemy we face. LTG Vines reminds us that this is an enemy who would kill every man, woman and child attending a sports event in the US and call it a good day. I'm thankful that I have been here with my brave and heroic Soldiers to face this enemy and stand up for freedom here. It is my belief that we are fighting an enemy who has both the capability and the will to follow us home if we don't win this fight here. I don't want my grandchildren to face the terror that our enemy would want to impose on them.
There has been much concern about our media reporting only the bad in this war and not what is going well. I have had the opportunity to work extensively with our media and I have almost always found them fascinating, informed and engaging. I have not been overly disappointed with our coverage. I do get a sense when I see CNN playing in a mess hall that you will see much more gore in one week of CNN than the average Soldier in a year of service here. There are some exceptions among us, but you get a lot more of it bombarding you there at a faster rate than most of our Troops have here. When the media reports bad news about Soldiers it is because that is the exception. American Soldiers are expected to be moral and to employ their weapons and force in accordance with our Rules of Engagement and the vast majority do. So when an aberration occurs it does make the news. I found out personally that the thing that most disturbs the American people is when our Soldiers are undisciplined. The average troop may be college aged, but he/she is expected to act like a Soldier and not a sophomore on Spring Break. Fortunately we haven't had a problem with that here, but I did get some high adventure when the antics of some troops prior to our arrival here hit the news after we were here!
There is a lot of good news to report on here and to see how much the Iraqi Army and Police have improved in a year is simply miraculous. In late September, I was driving from Um Qassr to Baghdad and was just north of Basra where our FM communications were in a momentary blackout. We came upon a bus of religious Pilgrims that had been returning from Najaf to Basra and the driver had apparently fallen asleep and flipped the bus. It was a tragic scene of carnage with the roof of the bus crushed in and one woman still pinned inside and another man dead inside. Another Army medic as applying an emergency measures to try to establish an airway for another woman whom we were fighting a losing battle to save. A team of our Soldiers worked feverishly to cut the trapped woman out of the bus and we set up two casualty collection points. I was able to get a medevac request out through my FBCB2 Computer in my vehicle and we where now working to stabilize patients and calm them. Right then the Highway Patrol showed up in the trucks we had given them and began to evacuate the wounded to local hospitals. They did everything that you would expect of the Highway Patrol in California or New York! It was so wonderful to see the team that we had raised, trained and outfitted doing exactly what we had envisioned! Together we saved more than a few lives that day. There is much good news indeed.
I just want you all to know that I leave here in the continued belief that it was very important to come and work to transform this ravaged country to a democratic representational government. There is much hope ahead for Iraq. The output of fuel is only 40% of its possible capacity at present and in the future they will be much more able to stand on their own. The true wealth of Iraq is not oil though...it is fresh water and soil. I have been amazed how much land the people here can cultivate using Nebuchadnezzar's canals and ancient farming methods. I have no doubt that in the future-with modern irrigation and farming methods, Iraq will feed most of this region of the world.
This war will go on for some time in my opinion. But it also has been going on for some time as well. Our enemies tried to blow up the World Trade Center in February 1993 and they never stopped till they achieved their evil objective. This war has actually been going on since the late 70s. We must continue this fight until we have won it. The cost is very real. For the 18th MP Brigade this time it was 10 more heroes who have given up their lives for our Freedom. The 18th MP Brigade has now lost 28 heroes in the Global War on Terror and there are many who have been wounded. Please keep their sacrifice and their families, loved ones and comrades in your hearts. I ask that you specifically pray for:
SGT Leonard Adams, HHD 105th MP Bn SPC Jonathan Hughes, B/1-623 FA SPC Eric L. Toth, A/1-623 FA PFC Michael R. Hayes, 617th MP Co SPC Ryan J. Montgomery, B/1-623 FA SSG James D. McNaughton, HHC 306th MP Bn SGT William A. Allers, 617th MP Co A1C Elizabeth N. Jacobson, 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron SGT Steven Morin, A/1-133 FA SGT Christopher T. Monroe, HHC 785th MP Bn
Well, tomorrow we begin movement back to our wonderful families. I wish you could see these heroines and heroes whom we know as our best friends, encouragers and confidants. Just today, Cindy was back at Landstuhl visiting and ministering to our newest wounded. The incredible strength, patriotism, sacrifice and service of our spouses is most humbling to me.
I hope that my comments have helped some of you to at least see some more of the perspective that our great teammates and heroes like Casey Haskins, Kenny Dahl have been sharing.
God bless you all, and God bless our wonderful Soldiers and Spouses,
--Jim Brown Baghdad, 4 Nov 2005
James B. Brown COLONEL, MILITARY POLICE COMMANDING 18th Military Police Brigade CAMP VICTORY APO AE 09342
I downloaded and installed the beta version on my Sony VAIO notebook and the standard version on my desktop. Neither one displayed my blog correctly and the standard version disabled my IE for looking at my computer's directories and files.
Needless to say, this was unacceptable, so both are gone and I'm back to IE.
Since we now have a website for our wedding and portrait photography business, I want to be able to view it the way most prospective customers see it and that means using IE. (Stats from my web host indicate more than 95 percent of the hits come from people using Internet Explorer.)
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Today was Thanksgiving at our house for Maria's family - her parents, her two brothers and their wives and eight kids, her kids and even her ex's father and his girlfriend. It was a chaotic day and I'm glad it's over.
Here's a cheery item I found on a blog about how Australia is dealing with the Muslim Menace. This is what the Dutch, French and Germans should have done a decade or more ago.
Get out if you want Sharia law, Australia tells Muslims
CANBERRA: Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks. A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown.
Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state and its laws were made by parliament. "If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you," he said on national television. "I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that is false If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country which practises it, perhaps, then, that's a better option," Costello said. Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked move to the other country.
Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off". "Basically, people who don't want to be Australians, and they don't want to live by Australian values and understand them, well then they can basically clear off," he said. Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spies monitoring the nation's mosques.
Friday, November 25, 2005
A former dentist of mine once referred to me as a "dental cripple" and that was when I was in my early 30s.
I come by it honestly, I guess. My father had a full set of upper and lower dentures by the time he was 40. When I was a kid, he used to roll them out for my amusement. He startled the hell out of my sons the first time he did it in their presence.
I've maxed out Maria's dental insurance coverage for the year with an abcessed tooth that required a root canal and a crown, followed soon after by a bridge failure.
Now, with more than a month to go before we re-set the insurance clock, another tooth has blown up on me.
Maria, who was a dental assistant in a previous life, says it's #30 or #31 - a lower tooth on the right side.
The last time I saw my dentist - about six weeks ago - he pointed to it on the panoramic x-ray and said it looks like it has some infection and could blow up at any time.
Naturally, it became an issue on Thanksgiving Eve. All of my dental emergencies occur during or just before a weekend or holiday, making it a major deal to get relief.
So it was no big surprise when I called my dentist's home yesterday and got his voicemail because he and his family were away for Thanksgiving. Fortunately, I had a supply of Vicodin left over from the previous crisis, but what I really needed was an antibiotic to put out the fire in my throbbing tooth.
He called about 9 p.m. to say he had just phoned a prescription to the open-on-holidays Walgreen's pharmacy I'd mentioned when I left a message for him.
Even so, I slept very little last night, slamming down a pair of Vicodins every four hours.
By this morning it seemed that I was getting the upper hand, but the right side of my head - from my temple to my neck - still aches.
The plan, endorsed by my dentist, is to get this thing under control and keep it subdued until after Jan. 1 when my insurance coverage returns to full strength.
In the meantime, I'm just painfully stoned.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
We awoke this morning to the first snow accumulation of the season. It looked gray and miserable. Some years, I'd be out with a camera, but I'm just not ready for snow.
I still haven't got the front porch painted and I need to top off the tanks and add fuel stabilizer to the two bikes and the lawnmower.
Maria and I looked at each other and I said what she had been thinking: "+2EV"
That's the exposure correction for getting good snow pictures on an overcast day. The light meter sees the scene and decides the whole world is a gray card. The result is an underexposed, murky image.
So there's your free photo tip of the day: reset your EV by 1.7 or 2 stops or, if you're shooting manually, open up about two stops. It works like a charm for digital and I suspect it's the same with film cameras.
Little or no correction is needed, however, for bright sunny snow scenes.
Here's an example of a +2EV correction.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I had a really classy-looking animated .gif slideshow that was spectacular on the three computers in our house, but looked like crap on the Macs at Maria's office and on my son's PC in Cincinnati. So I went back to revisit the site I'd borrowed the ideal from and discovered the slideshow there is a .js (Java Script) file.
So now I'm climbing the learning curve on Java.
As soon as we get the website up and tweaked, we can get our print advertising going.
Friday, November 18, 2005
This came to me from one of Maria’s coworkers and it’s apparently making the rounds. I think it’s a must-read if you want a clearer perception of what’s going on in Iraq.
Got this from a former Marine first sergeant - thought you might be interested in his son's assessment of weapons and enemy tactics in Iraq (the boy is home from his first tour, going back in early 2006, and early re-enlisted for another 4 years.)
Hello to all my fellow gunners, military buffs, veterans and interested guys. A couple of weekends ago I got to spend time with my son Jordan, who was on his first leave since returning from Iraq. He is well (a little thin), and already bored. He will be returning to Iraq for a second tour in early '06 and has already re-enlisted early for 4 more years. He loves the Marine Corps and is actually looking forward to returning to Iraq.
Jordan spent 7 months at "Camp Blue Diamond" in Ramadi. Aka: Fort Apache. He saw and did a lot and the following is what he told me about weapons, equipment, tactics and other miscellaneous info which may be of interest to you. Nothing is by any means classified. No politics
here, just a Marine with a bird's eye view's opinions:
1) The M-16 rifle: Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder-like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. Jordan says you feel filthy 2 minutes after coming out of the shower. The M-4
carbine version is more popular because it's lighter and shorter, but it has jamming problems also. They like the ability to mount the various optical gunsights and weapons lights on the picattiny rails, but the weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. They all hate the 5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinderblock structure common over there and even torso hits can’t be reliably counted on to put the enemy down. Fun fact: Random autopsies on dead insurgents shows a high level of opiate use.
2) The M243 SAW (squad assault weapon): 223 cal. Drum fed light machine gun. Big thumbs down. Universally considered a piece of shit.
Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly.
(that's fun in the middle of a firefight).
3) The M9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun, performs well in desert environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm:
Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.
4) Mossberg 12ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for clearing houses to good effect.
5) The M240 Machine Gun: 7.62 Nato (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun, developed to replace the old M-60 (what a beautiful weapon that was!!).
Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62 round puts 'em down. Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up the structure over there.
6) The M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. "Ma deuce" is still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper, puts their dicks in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater.
7) The .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol round out there.
Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands on
one. With few exceptions, can reliably be expected to put 'em down with
a torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work) use the HK military model and supposedly love it. The old government model .45s are being re-issued en masse.
8) The M-14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a modified version to special ops guys. Modifications include lightweight Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 round.
9) The Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Used frequently to take out vehicle suicide bombers ( we actually stop a lot of them) and
barricaded enemy. Definitely here to stay.
10) The M24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in 300
win mag. Heavily modified Remington 700's. Great performance.
Snipers have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it that a marine sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded
Carlos Hathcock's record for confirmed kills with OVER 100.
11) The new body armor: Thumbs up. Relatively light at approx. 6 lbs. and can reliably be expected to soak up small shrapnel and even will stop an AK-47 round. The bad news: Hot as shit to wear, almost unbearable in the summer heat (which averages over 120 degrees).
Also, the enemy now goes for head shots whenever possible. All the bullshit about the "old" body armor making our guys vulnerable to the IED's was a non-starter. The IED explosions are enormous and body armor doesn't make any difference at all in most cases.
12) Night Vision and Infrared Equipment: Thumbs way up. Spectacular performance. Our guys see in the dark and own the night, period. Very little enemy action after evening prayers. More and more enemy being whacked at night during movement by our hunter-killer teams. We've all
seen the videos.
13) Lights: Thumbs up. Most of the weapon mounted and personal
lights are Surefires, and the troops love 'em. Invaluable for night urban operations. Jordan carried a $34 Surefire G2 on a neck lanyard and loved it.
I can’t help but notice that most of the good fighting weapons and ordinance are 50 or more years old! With all our technology, it's the
WWII and Vietnam era weapons that everybody wants! The infantry fighting is frequent, up close and brutal. No quarter is given or shown.
Bad guy weapons:
1) Mostly AK47s The entire country is an arsenal. Works better in the desert than the M16 and the .308 Russian round kills reliably. PKM
belt-fed light machine guns are also common and effective. Luckily, the enemy mostly shoots like shit. Undisciplined "spray and pray" type
fire. However, they are seeing more and more precision weapons, especially sniper rifles. (Iran, again) Fun fact: Captured enemy have apparently marveled at the marksmanship of our guys and how hard they fight. They are apparently told in Jihad school that the Americans rely solely on technology, and can be easily beaten in close quarters combat for their lack of toughness. Let's just say they know better now.
2) The RPG: Probably the infantry weapon most feared by our guys. Simple, reliable and as common as dogshit. The enemy responded to our
up-armored humvees by aiming at the windshields, often at point blank range. Still killing a lot of our guys.
3) The IED: The biggest killer of all. Can be anything from old Soviet anti-armor mines to jury rigged artillery shells. A lot found
in Jordan's area were in abandoned cars. The enemy would take 2 or 3
155mm artillery shells and wire them together. Most were detonated by cell phone, and the explosions are enormous. You're not safe in any
vehicle, even an M1 tank. Driving is by far the most dangerous thing our guys do over there. Lately, they are much more sophisticated "shaped charges" (Iranian) specifically designed to penetrate armor. Fact: Most of the ready-made IEDs are supplied by Iran, who is also providing terrorists (Hezbollah types) to train the insurgents in their use and tactics. That's why the attacks have been so deadly lately. Their concealment methods are ingenious, the latest being shaped charges in Styrofoam containers spray painted to look like the cinderblocks that litter all Iraqi roads. We find about 40% before they detonate, and the bomb disposal guys are unsung heroes of this war.
4) Mortars and rockets: Very prevalent. The soviet era 122mm
rockets (with an 18km range) are becoming more prevalent. One of Jordan's NCOs lost a leg to one. These weapons cause a lot of damage "inside the wire.” Jordan's base was hit almost daily his entire time there by mortar and rocket fire, often at night to disrupt sleep patterns and cause fatigue (It did). More of a psychological weapon than anything else. The enemy mortar teams would jump out of vehicles, fire a few rounds, and then haul ass in a matter of seconds.
5) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is
by cell and satellite phones, and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and "Google earth" for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent.
Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the captured GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured.
Who are the bad guys?
Most of the carnage is caused by the Zarqawi Al Qaeda group. They operate mostly in Anbar province (Fallujah and Ramadi). These are mostly "foreigners", non-Iraqi Sunni Arab Jihadists from all over the
Muslim world (and Europe). Most enter Iraq through Syria (with, of course, the knowledge and complicity of the Syrian govt.) , and then
travel down the "rat line" which is the trail of towns along the Euphrates River that we've been hitting hard for the last few months.
Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide bombers or in "sacrifice squads". Most, however, are hard core terrorists from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.) These are the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads off. The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian), are
supposedly the most ruthless and the best fighters. (they have been fighting the Russians for years). In the Baghdad area and south, most of the insurgents are Iranian inspired (and led) Iraqi Shiites. The Iranian Shiia have been very adept at infiltrating the Iraqi local govt.s, the police forces and the Army. The have had a massive spy and
agitator network there since the Iran-Iraq war in the early ‘80s. Most of the Saddam loyalists were killed, captured or gave up long ago.
Bad Guy Tactics:
When they are engaged on an infantry level they get their asses kicked every time. Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very
common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice 8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing AKs and RPGs directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get mowed down like grass every time. (See the M2 and M240 above). Jordan's base was hit like this often. When engaged, they have a tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think will be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and that's the end of that, more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey Romeos (Allah's Waiting Room). We have the laser guided ground-air thing down to a science. The fast movers, mostly Marine F-18's, are taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre gunships cut them to ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly, artillery is hardly used at all. Fun fact: The enemy death toll is supposedly between 45,000-50,000. That is why we're seeing less and less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber shit.
The new strategy is simple: attrition.
The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and (especially) Mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans or the new Iraqi govt. Kidnapping of family members (especially children) is common to influence people they are trying to influence but can’t reach, such as local govt. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc.).
The first thing our guys are told is "don't get captured". They know that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the internet.
Zarqawi openly offers bounties for anyone who brings him a live American serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don't give a shit about the war. A lot of the beheading victims were actually kidnapped by common criminals and sold to Zarqawi. As such, for our guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option.
The Iraqis are a mixed bag. Some fight well, others aren't worth a shit. Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but
they are getting better. It is widely viewed that Zarqawi's use of suicide bombers, en masse, against the civilian population was a serious tactical mistake. Many Iraqis were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went up, along with their
motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because the Iraqis are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians.
The Kurds are solidly pro-American and fearless fighters.
According to Jordan, morale among our guys is very high. They not
Only believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see shit like "Are we losing in Iraq" on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their
equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians just can’t stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally (with, of course, permanent U.S. bases there).
Monday, November 14, 2005
Now that Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce are revisiting their days as Cream, this seems like a good time to trot out some images from that period.
It was the night of March 22, 1968, at Clowes Hall on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis.
The opening act was the American Breed whose bright pop sound attracted lots of younger kids and their parents or grandparents. They were having a splendid time until Cream hit the stage and Eric cranked up the sound.
That first number - I don't recall the set order - sorted out the crowd. All of the old folks headed up the aisles to the exits.
I was there with my Pentax Spotmatic and f/1.4 50mm lens to record the proceedings on Tri-X for The Indianapolis News. My friend Bob Basler, also a Newsie, was there to write the review.
We went backstage to the dressing room after the show to meet the guys, take photos and ask inane questions, although I'm sure Bob's were more incisive than everyone else's. (He went on to a stellar career with Reuters and, at last report, was in charge of their online content.)
So here are three of my favorite images of the evening: a group shot, a tight shot of Ginger looking kinda scary, and a barely recognizable (by today's look) Eric.
While I was in Cincinnati Saturday morning, Maria was checking out one of only four new Nikon D200 digital SLRs presently in the U.S.
It's the next generation of our D100s (10.2 MP, vs our 6.2, a much larger monitor screen and lots of other improvements) and, at $1,700, is a killer bargain. We will almost certainly buy two of them in the next few months.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Looking deranged at Denny's - waiting for my Sausage Lover's breakfast.
We were seated across the aisle from a couple who didn't think it was important to control their two young sons. The kids alternately complained in piercing whiny voices and drummed on the tabletop with their silverware.
They were all mouth-breathers and the mother, who was left to settle up the bill, was somewhere between "dull normal" and retarded.
God keeps hurling these challenges to my egalitarian nature into my path and I keep failing.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
"He’s probably the most underestimated musician on the planet and also probably one of the most advanced." - Eric Clapton on Sonny Landreth.
My son Steve and I took in Sonny Landreth's performance last night at the Southgate House in Newport, Ky.
I first heard Sonny this summer on XM Satellite Radio and promptly downloaded his live album, Grant Street, from Napster. It was pretty much all I listened to in my car for about two months.
This guy from Lafayette, La., does stuff with a slide guitar that has to be heard to be believed.
The 90-minute set he played last night was pretty much what's on the Grant Street album, with a couple of other tunes added.
If you like blues with a Cajun flavor, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Billy Gibbons and Jimi Hendrix, I strongly recommend you check him out. His website is a good place to start.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
What happened at Abu Ghraib amounted mostly to psychological abuse. I know guys who endured worse as fraternity pledges in the 1960s.
And what they do to us:
The beheading of Nick Berg and those that followed had no tactical military value. They were not done to extract information. They were meant to intimidate the weaker among us and make us fear an essentially cowardly enemy.
I believe it requires a response:
I once shared your perspective and in a war between civilized nations, mutually agreed-upon humane treatment of prisoners is a wonderful thing.
But the Geneva Conventions make sense only if your adversary has some compelling reason to observe them, be it concern for the fate of his own people who fall into our hands or a concern about world public opinion.
Our present enemy has neither. We've seen repeatedly in the revolting beheading videos how he treats prisoners.
I doubt that our treatment of captured terrorists comes anywhere close to that level of savagery.
Also, implicit in your argument is the kind of moral equivalency that suggests that Islamic fundamentalists are somehow justified in their attacks on Western Civilization because of some perceived injustice we have done them. That's the kind of foolishness that is being foisted upon the World Trade Center survivors in the form of an International Freedom Center at Ground Zero that makes excuses for the 9/11 attackers.
We're talking about people who are sitting up nights trying to find a way to murder you, your wife and your child.
This is not a gentleman's war and it cannot be prosecuted with gentlemen's rules. We have to extract every bit of intelligence any way we can, no matter how distasteful the means. You can be sure that any kindness we show to captured enemy combatants or terrorists will be lost on those still free to attack us.
The point of this war of self-preservation is to win, not to die feeling good about ourselves.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Bush supported an effort spearheaded by Vice President Dick Cheney to block or modify a proposed Senate-passed ban on torture.
I'm not even remotely concerned that the CIA may be leaning hard on the terrorist types it's holding outside the U.S.
And I'm not at all concerned about the legal rights of the detainees at Guantanamo or elsewhere.
As far as I'm concerned, if it takes the application of a little electricity or other forms of discomfort to extract the information that will keep me, my sons and their families safe, then go for it, CIA.
We face an irrational implacable enemy and there will be no accommodation with these hate-filled berserkers.
The French are reaping the fiery fruits of their efforts to accommodate Islamic fundamentalism. The results look a lot like what happened when they tried to accommodate Nazi Germany.
These people cannot be appeased.
It's like the exchange with the alien in Independence Day. In response to the question, "What do you want from us?" the alien replies, "We want you to die."
They don't want free trade with us. The don't want handouts from us. They don't want anything from us other than our deaths.
We can't afford to lose this one and it that means inflicting some pain on the occasional prisoner, so be it.
This month's check from our rental property almost covered the fall property tax bill on the place. We need to buy and apply paint to the rehabilitated porches before the cold rains of November intervene. We got a $390 bill from Maria's attorney for his less-than-impressive efforts to protect us from her ex-husband's greed. And we got a $103 overdue dentist bill that her ex was supposed to pay for their daughter.
Fortunately, we've done six photography jobs since Oct. 17 - something that has kept us afloat and optimistic about someday making some serious money with our cameras.
At the moment, I'm in the newsroom at Maria's paper waiting for the reporters to write something for me to edit.
Sent from my Treo
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Imagine my surprise when the data started rolling in, indicating I average more than 40 hits from more than 20 unique visitors every day. The peak so far was 64 hits on Tuesday.
If I hadn't spent most of my adult life writing for publication, I might feel a little self-conscious.
So, welcome friends. Feel free to comment if something resonates with you or annoys you.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
A glorious period of Indian Summer is upon us this week. The warm weather and deep blue skies coincide with the peak of the fall color, so I was compelled to load my camera stuff into the del Sol and head out in search of colorful vistas.
I found what I was looking for at Turkey Run State Park in western Indiana.
Turkey Run is one of Indiana's best parks and I was pleased to see that the usual $4 admission fee is waived Monday-Thursday this time of year.
Nevertheless, the park was busy with retired folks like me and a few hundred kids from some Pentecostal school or schools.
One of my favorite vistas at the park is the suspension bridge over Sugar Creek, so here's one of my shots of that scene.
I used the trusty Nikon D100 with the 12-24mm lens and a polarizing filter to punch up the color saturation.
The weather is expected to be even nicer - i.e., warmer - tomorrow, so I may be forced to go for an extended motorcycle ride.
I closed my 41 days of service as an Airman Basic and earned a marksman ribbon for my skill with an M-1 carbine. The M-15 was in short supply, so we qualified with the obsolete .30 caliber carbine.
I don't remember a lot about basic other than I got really good at shining shoes. I'd been in marching band in high school, so the parade ground maneuvers that seemed to hard for some of my buddies were second nature to me.
I remember going through an obstacle course that seemed more like a playground. The teargas building was out of order the day we were scheduled to experience it, so I never got to feel the sting of it.
As basic training flights go, we were pretty good. We earned the status of "honor flight" early on and hung onto it through basic. That meant we got a black-and-white TV in the barracks, had base liberty more often and even got to go into San Antonio on a couple of occasions. I remember the downtown was infested with little Mexican kids offering killer shoeshines to Air Force trainees. I'd been warned that their shoe stuff would wreck a good shine, so I kept my money in my pocket.
Oh, yeah. I remember my first payday. Standing in line to pick up $22 in cash from a sergeant who had a .45 automatic on the table in front of him. And being coerced to give $1 of my hard-earned military pay to the United Fund of Greater San Antonio. I've resented the United Way to this day.
(When I was pressed to donate at the newspaper where I worked years later, I opted to give $5 in 10-cent increments over 50 weeks. It was my way of protesting the pressure tactics by making it cost more in bookkeeping time to get my donation than the donation itself. After about five years, the company banned the practice of spreading out small contributions, but I think I made my point.).
I spent my last 10 days or so in what was called a "casual barrack," a building set aside for those of us who were being processed out of basic training and the Air Force. I was one of the few going home with any honor. Most were discipline or psychiatric problems or just plain fuck-ups.
As I've detailed here before, my ticket home was a slew of allergies revealed during a physical exam. Apparently the Air Force decided that, medically anyway, I would be more trouble than I was worth.
At any rate, I turned in all of my uniforms, shoes, boots, overcoat - everything but my USAF underwear and physical training shorts and t-shirt. I also signed a statement stipulating that I would never apply for veteran's benefits. Okay by me. I don't feel like a 41-day vacation in San Antonio, Texas, entitled me to any government freebies.
Except the flight home.
Braniff Airlines flew me home and I spent my first night of freedom with my girlfriend - later my first wife - at the Antlers Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. My dad drove down the next morning, picked me up and took me home to Delphi.
I was none the worse for my adventure, having lost a few pounds, built a little muscle bulk and learned a bit about what I didn't want to do with my life.
Here's a photo my mother took of me and the family dog in the back yard the day I got home.
I often wonder about the guys with whom I went through basic. How many of them are still alive today? Are any of their names on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.?
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Cholesterol: 197, down from 222 six weeks ago (anything under 200 is cool)
Triglycerides: 113, down from 158 (under 150 is good)
Hdl: 48, up from 45 (good range is 40-90)
Ldl: 127, down from 145 (needs to be under 100)
Not too horrible for an overweight omniverous 60-year-old.
Nikon announced a new digital camera today - the D200 - which fills the niche between high-end amateur and low-end pro previously occupied by our pair of D100s.
Maria forwarded the announcement e-mail to me and I did some Googling and confirmed that it has 10.2 megapixels, compared with our 6.1, and can shoot up to five frames per second. List price is a nickel under $1,700. And they make a vertical grip for it that holds two rechargeable Nikon batteries or 6 AAs.
I'd rather have the new D2X, Nikon's flagship digital SLR that has 12 megapixels, but it retails for about $3,350. Considering how quickly these cameras become obsolete - we were cutting edge with our first D100 three years ago today - I think we'd have to be doing a helluva lot of business to justify the D2X.
Of course, it's our goal to do a helluva lot of business, so it's not out of the question.
We had two senior photo shoots - the daughter of Maria's publisher on Saturday and the grandson of a neighbor on Sunday - so things are picking up a bit...
With the prospect of substantially higher heating costs this winter, I decided it's time to conserve energy. We haven't started our caulking campaign yet, but I installed a couple of Honeywell CT3200 programmable thermostats today that I bought on sale last night at The Home Depot (yeah, they prefer it with the word "the" included in the name). Normally $49.97, but on sale for $32.78. Hey, I'm saving money already.
We needed two thermostats because our big old (c1903) Queen Anne Victorian house has two furnaces and two air conditioning units - one pair for downstairs and the other for upstairs. It's a consequence of retrofitting a house that was built before there was forced-air heating. While it gives me twice the number of furnace filters to change, it also allows for a bit more fine tuning when it comes to managing our energy resources.
Since we don't spend much time downstairs on weekdays - briefly for breakfast and then again from about 6-11 p.m., I'm programming the downstairs to maintain 68 degrees when we're there and 58 degrees when we're not.
I spend much of my day in our upstairs office, so we'll maintain 68 degrees from about 6:30 a.m. til 11 p.m. and 58 or 60 while we're asleep.
The changeover was simple - just yank the old thermostats off of the wall, remove the color-coded wires from them, mount the baseplates for the new units, reconnect the wires, snap on the new units, pop in some AA batteries and set the time and programs.
At the end of the 2004-05 heating season, we had piled up about $250 worth of credit with our natural gas supplier by paying on the budget plan. So when it began to cool off again, I took us off of the budget plan and we've had two months with no gas payment while we use up the credit. Unless the weather goes to hell soon, the December bill should be little or nothing as well.
Then, armed with the programmable thermostats, we'll take on the winter heating season.
Monday, October 31, 2005
My son Steve is 35 today.
He was born on Halloween, 1970, and scared the hell out of his mother and me on several occasions during his growing-up years.
A professional jazz musician, Steve graduated cum laude from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
He married a beautiful, brilliant doctor and they have a beautiful little girl who is already a Force of Nature.
Here's how he looked 35 years ago.
Happy Birthday, Steve.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Reed was a skinny hell-raiser with a kind heart and an outrageous sense of humor. His face was almost skeletal and we often kidded him that he had been the model for the skull on the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity badge.
Those, as I've probably related earlier, were the Animal House days for American fraternities. Lots of drinking and plenty of what would be considered criminal hazing by today's standards.
The Tekes, whose house was next door to ours, had a grease pit in the garage. One of their favorite games was to crowd their entire pledge class - could be as many as 20 guys - into the grease pit, giving each pledge an onion and a cigar. Then they would cover the greasepit with boards and lay a piece of carpet over the boards. Nobody came out until everyone had eaten his onion and smoked his cigar.
Over at the ATO house, my pledge class had it considerably easier. Mostly we got to do endless push-ups, "happy time" (back against the wall, knees bent in a sitting position and arms straight out in front of us until our muscles screamed in pain and failed us), and lineups where we stood at attention while the actives got in our faces with generous amounts of "constructive criticism."
One or two pledge classes later, someone came up with the idea of "ice baseball." The playing field was the fraternity house basement and the bases were three cakes of ice. The bat was a fraternity paddle. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
Anyway, there was also a tradition of "road-tripping" in which pledges abducted actives or vice-versa, drove them miles out into the countryside and dumped them.
I was among a group of pledges who got road-tripped one cold March night. I think there were six or eight of us. We were bound, blindfolded and driven many miles from campus before we were released far up a remote southern Indiana valley at the foot of one of the world's longest wooden railroad trestles. It was a moonless night and the temperature was well below freezing, but we'd been gifted with extra sweatshirts and coats, so frostbite wasn't an issue. The first three houses we stopped at didn't have telephones - it was that deep into the boonies. We finally hiked into a small town, found a storefront hotel lobby that was open and phoned one of our pledge brothers who lived with his parents in Terre Haute. He rescued us and we were back in town in plenty of time for me to use my starter pistol to awaken the actives, slumbering in the third floor dorm at the house.
So this is all leading up to a story about the time some pledges bagged Reed and were preparing to road-trip him. According to the gentlemanly rules of road-tripping, if you were abducted alone you could request a buddy or a bottle. Reed chose the bottle. They provided him with a fifth of whiskey and he drank most, if not all, of it. He got so drunk and so sick that his abductors were panic stricken, worrying that he would die. Obviously, he didn't die, but it made everyone think twice about offering a bottle to a road trip victim after that.
Reed went on to a career in education in Arizona and Indiana. At present, he's at a cutting-edge charter school in Arizona and presumably has maintained a respectable front for many years.
My son Steve called yesterday to give me an update on her condition following palate reconstruction (or would it just be construction?). He said she was in some discomfort but was playing and doing great.
He also said something that choked me up.
"She can say 'Dad' now. She makes the 'd' sound perfectly."
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Maria and I must have been sleeping lightly about 3:30 this morning because we both heard the mousetrap under her dresser go "whap!"
We both chuckled and went back to sleep.
I promised her she wouldn't have to look at our most recent victim, so I waited until she went to work before I retrieved the trap and attached mouse.
After photographing the deceased rodent, I tossed its body into the bushes for disposal by Mother Nature.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Steve called me about noon today to say the palate repair operation was successful and he and Nicky were getting ready to go see Lisa.
Maria phoned him this evening and he reported Lisa is in some discomfort, but was on her second viewing of the evening of the "Finding Nemo" DVD on Steve's Powerbook.
Needless to say, we're all breathing easier now.
Thanks to everyone for your kind words and supporting thoughts.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
So I knew there would be trouble when some movement over by the paper shredder caught my eye this afternoon. I turned to see a little gray mouse gazing back at me, sitting up on his haunches and twitching his nose.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I asked him. He responded by scurrying out of the office door and out of sight.
I waited through dinner to broach the subject with Maria, who had me setting traps upstairs and down a few weeks ago after she glimpsed a mouse in the bedroom.
She was upstairs on a cordless phone making family Thanksgiving plans with her paramedic brother a few minutes ago when I heard her shriek. I knew right away what was up, even before I heard the word "mouse."
She insisted that I rebait the traps and set them near her closet, which is where the mouse fled after she shrieked.
Retrieving the trap from under her dresser, I discovered a very dead and somewhat smelly mouse, the steel bar of the trap having caved in his little skull. I hadn't looked at the trap for several days and, since we didn't hear it snap, we just supposed our trapping efforts were fruitless.
I carried the trap and the fruit of our trapping out to the far side of the driveway and dropped the dead mouse where I hope a neighborhood cat will find it.
The trap has been re-baited with Jif smooth peanut butter, reset and positioned near Maria's closet.
I am confident the trap will claim the most recent offender within the next day or two.
I hold no particular malice toward mice, but I think catch-and-release is a stupid waste of time. So I have no problem with killing things that don't belong in my house.
Update, 90 minutes later: We came upstairs after watching TV and found a dead mouse in my freshly set trap. This one went down the toilet.
My son Steve, his wife Nicky and their daughter Lisa just left here for Chicago where Lisa will undergo palate surgery tomorrow morning.
Here are Steve and Lisa with their drinks for the road.
Send some positive thoughts their way, please.
Friday, October 21, 2005
I suspect this is an unintended validation of the name of the Crazy D's truck stop on I-74 at Crawfordsville, Ind.
Or maybe it should be called Stupid D's, or Illiterate D's or Dyslexic D's.
Or was the sign-maker subconsciously thinking of the word "imbicile?"
At any rate, this sign appears on each of the dozen or so gas pumps at the car fueling area.
I made a point of staying with my vehcile while fueling.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
I told you I was getting lots of ideas for calendars.
Today's effort is called Back Home Again in Indiana 2006 and features a dozen photos from rural and small-town Indiana - real Heartland stuff.
The trick, of course, is to promote these things and get enough eyes on them to generate sales. I'm still working on that.
I spent an hour or so today looking up Civil War re-enactor websites and e-mailing people associated with them, asking them to pass the URL for our calendar around to their members.
Here's a small-scale preview of the Indiana calendar.
I got word that I've won a spot news photo award from the Hoosier State Press Association (won't know if it's a 1st, 2nd or 3rd until the state convention on Dec. 3) and I published a Civil War re-enactor calendar..
I'm a computer geek and a devoted viewer of Leo Laporte's "Call for Help" on the G4 channel. The other morning, they did a piece on Lulu.com, a self-publishing website where you can create books, calendars, music, video, all kinds of stuff. The printed matter only gets created in paper form when someone orders a copy, so there's no inventory to worry about and the Lulu folks let you keep 80 percent of the profit.
After I checked out their website, my head was full of ideas for calendars drawn from our extensive photo archives. My first effort was the 2006 Civil War Re-enactor Calendar, which I put together over about a three-hour period yesterday and got posted. If you're a Civil War buff, or know someone who is, check it out.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I think he's a high school graduate, but I can't substantiate it. At last report, he was unemployed, living with friends in Bloomington, Ind.
After months of mental and emotional abuse from this jerk, my stepdaughter finally wised up and decided she was done with him. After all, she's a dean's list business major at Indiana University and he's a loser with at least a juvenile record.
So she told him it's over and now he's stalking her.
I fully expect he will assault her before this business is over.
This is the little puke Maria chased out of the driveway with a garden hose this summer.
We did a photo shoot for a girl's senior portrait(s) on Saturday - our first for pay.
Every job we do, we conclude that we're underchaging.
The original deal was an hour's on-location shooting for $100, which gets the client CDs with all of the images and then it's up to them to get prints made.
This gig ran three hours, but we stuck with the contracted $100 price. It looks like most of our business will be by word of mouth from satisfied clients, so we resolved to suck it up and give it our best shot and charge more up front next time.
The original plan when the mother contacted us a couple of months ago was to wait for the leaves to change to their fall colors and we penciled Saturday, Oct. 15 in as a possible date. By late last week, it was obvious that the colors would just not be there yet, so I assumed we would reschedule. The mom called at 8 a.m. Saturday to confirm that we were going to be at their plate at 9 a.m. I noted that the trees were still pretty green, but she felt we should go ahead because it was a bright sunny day.
Bright sunny days may be nice for landscape photography, but they make for deep facial shadows and lots of contrast that is bad news for portraiture. Nevertheless, we threw all of our gear into the back of the Subuaru Forester and drove to their place.
The girl and her family live on a farm near us and have horses, so they went with mostly equestrian themes.
The first outfit they had for her was a white satin gown straight out of Lord of the Rings and the plan was for the girl to wear it while walking her snow-white horse through a field. Sounds fine in concept, but white horses and white satin gowns in brilliant sunlight make for a huge tonal range that exceeds the capacity of our digital cameras and is way beyond the even more limited total range of film.
Consequently, about two-thirds of those images were so blown out with light overload that they were unusable, although we did get a few that are pretty decent.
Then she changed into jeans, t-shirt and vest and we did a series of shots of her riding the white horse.
Next, we put her in a cowboy hat and posed her at the door to the horse's stable.
The girl is a classical pianist, so her mom next dressed her in a red satin gown and we posed her at the keyboard of their baby grand in an impossibly small music room - thank God for wide-angle lenses. Then mom put her on top of the piano in a Jessica Rabbit-type set of poses.
Finally, the girl changed into a t-shirt and cammo pants to pose with her cat.
We ended up shooting about 900 images, which we ended up paring down to about 670 usable pictures, including 63 that we recommended as candidates for the final selection.
I've not done the math to figure out how much we made per hour, counting shooting and photo prep, because I know I would be very depressed. I'm pretty sure it would be less than the current Federal minimum wage.
But what the hell? It's a start and, if they like our work, they'll show it to friends and that could lead to more (appropriately priced) business.