Memphis, Tennessee

Made it to Memphis on the long drive home. Gonna try and make it the rest of the way back to Stafford, VA tomorrow. If all goes well I can do it in less than 15 hours. When I was younger I could (and did) drive all night long—now I can feel it in my body after 8 hours or so….well, I am just gonna suck it up and put the cruise control on 74 mph and roll down I-40…..

It was a little melancholy leaving Oklahoma today. Had a great but too brief visit with the parents. When I get back from Korea my folks should be all settled into their new South Carolina homestead. Don’t know that I will have any call to spend much time in good ol’ OK. Lots of nice memories and good friends from my days there. Well, the world keeps on spinning and the only constant is that things change. We move on, but I guess we also leave a little bit of ourselves behind.

It’s late, I’m tired, and have been true to my desire to post some words here each day. I’m at a hotel with wireless Internet, and it took me a while to figure out how to get my new laptop to find the network. I have no clue when it comes to these technical niceties…but I did persevere. And this post is YOUR reward. Yeah, I’m generous to a fault. I know.

A quiet day

You know, spending time with the parents is nice. Relaxing. Slow pace. We took a drive through downtown Eufaula (which is nice in a quaint kind of way). Had lunch on the lake. Went to Wal-Mart to purchase a couple of DVDs. Then I hooked up the DVD player we gave them for Christmas and we watched Fried Green Tomatoes. I have seen it several times, but I still enjoy it. First time for the folks and they got a kick out of it too. I have also been going through picture boxes and selecting some photos from the distant days of my youth to bring home. Oh, and had a great pork roast for dinner.

So, not much blog material in there, but sometimes real life is like that (which is something to be thankful for). Like everyone else we are just blown away by the devastation and loss of life from the Tsunamis. The horror these people are experiencing is simply beyond comprehension. And the carping about whether the US is stingy or whether the President should have had a press conference sooner is so dispicable in the face of this tragedy that it does not dignify refutation. It just sickens me that such small minds are even given a forum in the midst of worldwide grief.


Eufaula, Oklahoma

Made it safe and sound to my folks place. Although I never lived in this house, I did live in Oklahoma and Arkansas for a few years in 80’s. I spent the evening looking at photo albums and tripping down memory lane. There might be a post about my country lifestyle all those years ago. But not tonight. It’s late, I’m tired, and working with a dial-up connection is frustrating.

Back tomorrow.

Oh yeah

I am staying at the “Best” Western motel here in Jackson. All I can say is if this is the best, then I would HATE seeing the Good Western. Well, I chose to stay here for the free high speed Internet access and that works. Who needs wash cloths anyway?

Jackson, Tennessee

Home of Casey Jones. You can read about the wreck that made him famous here.

But being in Jackson brings to mind the poem. As a child my father would read us poetry, and this was always among my favorites:

Come all you rounders that want to hear
The story of a brave engineer.
Casey Jones was the rounder’s name,
On a six eight wheeler, boys, he won his fame.

Casey Jones mounted to his cabin,
Casey Jones with his orders in his hand
Casey Jones mounted to his cabin,
And he took his farewell trip to that promised land.

The caller call Casey at half past four,
He kissed his wife at the station door,
He mounted to the cabin with the orders in his hand,
And he took his farewell trip to that promised land.

When he pulled up that Reno hill,
He whistled for the crossing with an awful shrill;
The switchman knew by the engine’s moan
That the man at the throttle was Casey Jones.
He looked at his water and his water was low;
He looked at his watch and his watch was slow;
He turned to his fireman and this is what he said,
“Boy, we’re going to reach Frisco, but we’ll all be dead.”

“So turn on your water and shovel in your coal,
Stick you head out the window, watch those drivers roll;
I’ll drive her till she leaves the rail,
For I’m eight hours late by that Western Mail.
When he was within six miles of the place,
There number four stared him straight in the face.
He turned to his fireman, said “Jim you’d better jump,
For there’re two locomotives that are going to bump.

Casey said just before he died,
“There’re two more roads I would like to ride.”
The fireman said, “Which ones can they be?”
“Oh the Northern Pacific and the Santa Fe.”
Mrs. Jones sat at her bed a-sighing
Just to hear the news that her Casey was dying.
“Hush up children, and quit your crying’,
For you’ve got another poppa on the Salt Lake Line.”

Authorship is often attributed to the fireman and friend of Jones, Wallace Saunders. That seems to be pretty much in dispute, but whatever the source, the story of Engineer Casey Jones is now well-established in the annals of American folklore.

Anyway, I drove 12 hours today to get here. The weather cooperated, cold but dry. Well, after Nashville there were still some slick spots in the road from the Christmas storm and the trees still had ice in the branches. But no problems. In fact I saw a beautiful southern Virginia sunrise near Charlottesville and a great sunset as I pulled into Jackson.

Several times during the drive I thought about how truly wonderful this country of ours is and how much I am going to miss it. Well, it will be here when I get back, and I am taking some beautiful memories with me. Which is all have from this trip since the one thing I forgot to pack was my digital camera. Damn.

On to Eufaula, Oklahoma tomorrow to see the parents. More from there.

This really says it all

A poem from a Vietnam vet. Posted at Pass The Ammo.

I think it captures the overall theme of my posting this week….

“Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”George Orwell

There’s a character trait that’s decided by fate
Comes sadly to many, far too faint, far too late.
They won’t face the aggressor, stand up to his ire
They have not the will to fight his fire with fire.
So they bend over backwards to see all sides as fair,
Till they’re faced with dragon breath fire in their hair.
Like our brethren in France, who’d know better than we,
Yet seem never to learn, seem doomed never to see.

Yes, it seems there are some who’re determined by fate,
To possess not the courage to step up to the plate,
Who shrink from all threat because nothing’s worth war.
But how can they know lest they’ve been there before?
Thank God some have courage, the will, yes, the grace,
To stand for the shirkers, stand strong in their place.
Thank God we have stalwarts who’ll stand for us all,
Who will rise to the challenge at their nation’s call.

The faint-hearted, who fear, whose reaction is flight,
Have no comprehension of those who will fight.
To hide their own trepidation they attempt to demean
The rough men, who defend them, as barbaric, obscene.
Yet these rough men stand ready, hard weapons to hand,
To put placaters behind them, draw a line in the sand,
To preserve for the peaceniks what they won’t defend,
So their own unearned freedom won’t perish, won’t end.

To appeasers, rough men are coarse government tools.
To rough men, appeasers are dumb delusional fools.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66

(via Parrot Check)

Road Trip

Early tomorrow morning I am hitting the road for Oklahoma. I want to spend a couple of days with my parents before I leave for Korea. It is a LONG drive and I am hoping for good weather. I chose not to fly because I do long to experience the open road and a taste of backcountry Americana that you can only see from the highway.

So, posting will be light next week but hopefully I will come home with some new blogfodder to share.

The Return of the King

Just finished watching the extended version of ROTK Santa brought me. The extra 50 minutes really helped overcome some of the flaws in the original. I was glad to see Faramir redeemed and at least some of the backstory of his relationship with Eowyn shown. I know some have criticized the portrayal of the death of Saruman, and although not true to the book, it at least closes that loose end in a believable manner.

Seems to me any criticisim of this movie is really just quibbling. The audacity of taking on the challenge of even making this film makes Peter Jackson worthy of praise. The acting, the scenery, the special effects, and the fealty to the vision of Tolkein are all there. So I will always treasure the books first and foremost, but the big screen depiction is nothing short of outstanding.

Now, if we could have a new movie just for the appendix I would be very pleased indeed.

Is it worth it?

A commenter to my post “A Voice of Reason” asks:

the end, if accomplished, will be great…but does it justify the means?

Comment by Anonymous — 26/December/2004 @ 9:26 am

A fair enough question. I take it to mean does the loss of life and destruction in Iraq outweigh the uncertain outcome of freedom and democracy. I think the answer is no, and here is why. To begin, it is not like people weren’t dying in Iraq before we came. Hundreds of thousands (including women and children) found in mass graves so far. I believe that even the innocents killed by our intervention pale in comparison to the systemic rape and murder perpetuated by Saddam and his sons and cronies. I also believe that we are fighting and killing terrorists on ground of our choosing. Someone likened it to the flypaper effect. With so-called insurgents coming in from Syria and Iran, we can and will kill them in the streets of Fallajuh or Mosul or wherever else they foolishly raise their heads. I say better on the streets of Baghdad than NYC.

Finally, I believe recent events demonstrate that what our enemies fear most is democracy gaining a foothold in the region. I remain confident that the Iraqi people will demonstrate their resolve, beginning with next months elections. Security will be gradually turned over to the Iraqi armed forces and they will once again assume responsibility for their future. Democracy has never come easy, and unfortunately the cost of freedom is often paid for in blood. But history has proven (see Germany and Japan) that even at that price it is worth the effort.

So yes, the long-term implications in this global war on terror do justify the means we have utilized. This article says it much better than I can.

The enemy in Iraq is brutal, ruthless and, yes, evil. There’s no other word for people who murder civilians organizing elections, bomb churches and mosques, and saw the heads off innocents while screaming slogans and making home videos.

But they are not stupid. They know that every time they stage a massacre, millions of people get angry – not at them, but at Don Rumsfeld and President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and the “neo-cons.”

“We have seen …the weakness of the American soldier who is … unprepared to fight long wars,” Osama bin Laden said in 1998, as he began contemplating his next attacks. “This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia. We are ready for all occasions.”

Only when the kind of butchery we witnessed this week strengthens, rather than weakens our resolve, will the barbarians see that the road they have chosen is a dead end – figuratively and literally as well.

There are casualties in war. Let’s us pray that it is not our will and resolve to see this mission through to the end.

To a soldier

Our daughter Hillary is spending Christmas far from home in Afghanistan, but we are holding her close in our thoughts this day. A soldier’s life is not an easy one, but I know being away from friends and family during the holidays is especially hard on her. She is doing much with her comrades in the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion to improve the lives of the Afghani people. She was so excited and proud as she watched these people freely elect their president, especially when she saw women walking miles and waiting in long lines to exercise their newly found freedom. Here are excepts from one of Hillary’s emails:

“This place is dusty, hot or cold, and half way around the world from my loved ones. I believe in what I am doing here and if I didn’t I would not be here. There are some serious disadvantages to traveling around the world conducting peacekeeping missions, but at the end of every day I recap what I have done for Afghanistan and for the people I have met here, and in the end it is extemely rewarding.

The people of this country have the most unique characteristics of any ethnic group I have ever met. They are the warmest, most generous people with high morals. One thing all of the Afghans have in common is that they are a very courageous and strong people. Throughout their history they have fought the rule of the Persians, the Mongols, the British, and the Soviets. Never yet have they sold their soul to another. Afghans remain free.

Even though we have not found Osama Bin Laden, and my fellow soldiers are still being wounded and worse in Afghanistan, at least we have given these people a chance. When I look over the compound walls and see a kite flying in the sky, I know that represents one happy child who otherwise would not know that feeling.

This is the beginning for them, it is not perfect, nor is it expected to be, but it is progressive change in the right direction. I realize the news back home is filled with all the horrible things taking place here and in Iraq, but this is one story Americans don’t get to hear often–we are making a difference! Afghanistan is a better, safer place than it was. You have the combining of coalition forces and NGOs to thank for all their hard work. Together we are working towards the same goal and that is to liberate Afghanistan by providing the resources to sustain them economically and politically. As the Afghans would say, “Inshallah”. If God wills it.”

Merry Christmas, Hillary. There is no greater gift than the gift of freedom. Even though it comes at great personal sacrafice you are making a difference in this world. I am proud of you and all the other soldiers who give so much of themselves. You are all truly America’s best.

I love you.

I Heard the Bells…..

One of my favorite Christmas songs. It seems especially appropriate this year with so many of our brave men and women overseas in service to our nation.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet the words repeat,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll’d along th’ unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bow’d my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

‘Til ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
–Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

The wrong SHALL fail….the right WILL prevail. That is my prayer for the new year.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Love 1.0

Found this over at Flight Pundit this morning. Something to keep in mind as you prepare to install an upgrade**cough**kevin**cough.

Last year, my friend upgraded his GirlFriend 3.1 to GirlFriendPlus 1.0 (marketing name: Fiancée 1.0). Recently he upgraded Fiancee 1.0 to Wife 1.0 and it’s a memory hogger, it has taken all his space; and Wife 1.0 must be running before he can do anything. Although he did not ask for it, Wife 1.0 came with Plug-Ins such as MotherInLaw and BrotherInLaw.
Some features I’d like to see in the Upcoming GirlFriend 4.0…

* A “Don’t remind me again” button
* Minimize button
* Shutdown feature
* An install shield feature so that Girlfriend 4.0 can be completely uninstalled if so desired (so you don’t lose cache and other objects)
* A Remote control for the these features would be a nice upgrade.

I tried running GirlFriend 2.0 with GirlFriend 1.0 still installed, but they tried using the same i/o port and conflicted. Then I tried to uninstall GirlFriend 1.0 but it didn’t have an uninstall program. I tried to uninstall it by hand, but it put files in my system directory. Another problem with all versions of GirlFriend that I’ve used is that it is totally object oriented and only supports hardware with gold plated contacts.

Wife 1.0 has an undocumented bug. If you try to install Mistress 1.1 before uninstalling Wife 1.0, Wife 1.0 will delete MSMoney files before doing the uninstall itself. Then Mistress 1.1 will refuse to install, claiming insufficient resources.

Related Experiences *

Last year a friend upgraded GirlFriend 4.0 to Wife 1.0 and noticed that it soon began spawning child-processes that are consuming valuable resources. No mention of this phenomenon was included in the product brochure. In addition, Wife 1.0 installs itself in such a way that it is always launched at system initialization where it can monitor all other system activity. My friend is finding that some applications such as Poker-Night 10.3 and BeerBash 2.5 are no longer able to run, crashing the system whenever selected (even though they always worked fine before).

As a result, I decided to avoid all the problems associated with Wife 1.0 by sticking with GirlFriend 4.0. Even here, however, I found many headaches. For example, the uninstall program for GirlFriend 4.0 doesn’t work very well, leaving undesirable traces of the application in the system. Even worse, all versions of GirlFriend constantly pop up little annoying messages – about the advantages of upgrading to Wife 1.0.

And Lynn, I AM teasing. We all know that the Wife software corrects all the bugs in Male 1.0!

The Voice of Reason

I mentioned to my wife Carol that when I start blogging in earnest after my move to Korea, I need to find my “voice”. In other words, I want to bring something unique to my blog–my viewpoints of course, but hopefully something that will make the reader stop and say ‘I hadn’t really considered that’. Hell, I would be happy if I can routinely provoke a response–even if only to disagree and point out the flaws in my thinking.

Anyway, Carol said “you should be the voice of reason”. I don’t know that that is particularly helpful, but from her perspective I have become estranged from my moderately liberal beliefs. Hmmm. While it is true that I voted for a Republican for the first time since reaching voting age, it seems to me the Democrats are the ones who deserted me rather than the other way around. I see my support for the liberation of Iraq as no different than my support for our intervention in Kosovo. You remember, that little war of Clinton’s that the UN also refused to sanction. And as I stood in front of my DC office and watched the smoke rise from the Pentagon something did change for me–I knew we were at war to defend our way of life. So Carol says I am a neo-con. I don’t particularly care how I am labeled. I think being on the side of freedom and democracy is the right side.

Now, Carol is a liberal. A liberal who buys into the rantings of people like Michael Moore. The recent election put some strains on the marriage, because as the rhetoric became more and more heated, we began to lose respect for one another. I think we have pretty much called a truce and we have chosen to not let our politics define our relationship. And maybe we are even stronger for it.

If I aspire to be “the voice of reason” perhaps I need to find a good role model. Ann Althouse commented on the oratory skills of British PM Tony Blair the other day and linked to his speech and press conference during his recent surprise visit to Iraq. You can read it all here. But this is the part that puts it all in perspective:

Blair: “Now where do we stand in that fight? We stand on the side of the democrats against the terrorists. And so when people say to me, well look at the difficulties, look at the challenges – I say well what’s the source of that challenge – the source of that challenge is a wicked, destructive attempt to stop this man, this lady, all these people from Iraq, who want to decide their own future in a democratic way, having that opportunity.

And where should the rest of the world stand? To say, well that’s your problem, go and look after it, or you’re better off with Saddam Hussein running the country – as if the only choice they should have in the world is a choice between a brutal dictator killing hundreds of thousands of people or terrorists and insurgents.

There is another choice for Iraq – the choice is democracy, the choice is freedom – and our job is to help them get there because that’s what they want. Sometimes when I see some of the reporting of what’s happening in Iraq in the rest of the world, I just feel that people should understand how precious what has been created here is. And those people from that electoral commission that I described as the heroes of the new Iraq – every day… a lot of them aren’t living in the Green Zone, they’ve got to travel in from outside – they do not know at any point in time, whether they’re going to be subject to brutality or intimation even death and yet they carry on doing it. Now what a magnificent example of the human spirit – that’s the side we should be on. “

That’s the voice of reason. It does not matter whether you were for or against the war in Iraq. It does not matter whether you respect or loathe the President. History will judge the wisdom of our intervention. Now, we must look to the future and ask ourselves do we stand with the forces for freedom or those who will stop at nothing to see us waiver and grow timid in the face of violence. Democracy or terrorism–those are our options in Iraq. And so I would ask my “liberal” friends this simple question: where do YOU stand?

Is Christmas a dirty word?

Over at Cao’s Blog, there is an interesting post about Christianity being under attack. She makes some points that are pretty compelling. My liberal wife and I had a rather heated “discussion” on this topic the other day. Even though I am not outwardly religious or a churchgoer, the post-election rhetoric from the left demeaning people of faith has been hard to miss.

I believe I saw it first on Lileks, but this effort to make Christmas into nothing more than a secular spend-fest is growing ever more apparent. Check out the U.S. Postal Service holiday stamps on line. Let’s see, they advertise Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, EID, and the freakin’ Lunar New Year. What do they call the Madonna and Child stamp: Holiday Traditional. So, when did Christmas become a dirty word?

Oh yeah, Cao also links to a hilarious animation that nails this issue in a manner that would make the South Park boys proud. It’s on the top left and is called “No Christmas for You”. Warning: strong language. But then again, strong language is sometimes called for.

UPDATE: If I were a dyslexic atheist I’d say I don’t have a god in this fight. Credit where credit is due, Mr. Lileks is the master.

The Plan

Just to clarify: I actually depart for Korea on 22 January. Lisa at Just a Girl in the World (who did my blog design) was gracious in giving her readers an invite here, but I won’t have any first hand reports from Seoul for another month. But stick around, I might surprise you with something worthwhile.

What you get now are the boring preparation details (what to pack?), and an occasional witty insight on current events (or at least a link to a witty insight). I figure it may take this last month in country just to work out how to use all the features I get with this WordPress interface.

Ah, but what’s the plan you ask? Two more work days this week, then I am taking leave from work until 3 January. Christmas at home with the lovely wife of course. Then a road trip to Oklahoma to visit my parents. Carol has to work so I will make the journey alone. I debated flying, but I have an urge to see the open road one more time before I go away. So that’s the plan.

Monday Morning

Well, we got our first snowfall of the season yesterday. Not much, half inch or so. Still it was nice to watch it fall, nice to have logs burning in the fireplace, and nice to just enjoy the simple pleasures of a lazy day. This morning, it has dropped to 12 degrees F (I guess I will soon need to learn to covert to Celsius), but the big thing is the wind. Gusting so hard it woke me twice during the night. It is gonna be a cold, cold, morning at the train station.

And I have an F’n cold! Second one of the year for me, and that is unusual. And the timing really sucks (not that there is ever a good time for being sick). My boss has been reminding me that I only have 3 weeks left to work and he is wanting me to finish out as much as I can. It’s a matter of pride for me not to leave a mess. So, no sick leave unless this gets a whole lot worse.

We did see that Jim Carrey movie–Lemony Snicket [I think that’s right]. The acting was a little over the top, but I believe it was intended to be. The sets, locales, (or computer generated settings) were fantastic. The story was a bit thin, but I guess we were entertained. I am sure the young audience for which it is apparently intended will be captivated.

I spent my free time this weekend playing CIV III which is one of my passions (my wife would call it an obsession), so didn’t do much on the ‘Net. I really am going to start serious blogging one day soon. Really. For sure when I get to Korea, hit and miss until then.