Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Is For Remembering

May is a strange month for me. My wife has her birthday on the 13th, and she loves having her day. On the other hand, we lost our cat, Holmes, last year on May 19th, and I'm still trying to get over it. I hope I haven't beat up on you all too much about her in the last year.

But May has Memorial Day in it every year. And I live in the DC area. You out of towners always see the statue of the Iwo Jima Memorial, shown below

which is also known as the Marine Corps Monument. This is because it was the Marine Corp that fought at Iwo Jima, which was one of the most brutal battles of World War 2. But the following image of the almost 4,000 American graves near Cambridge, England is more in keeping with the idea I am slowing trying to get at, slowly but surely.

If you have ever seen the movie, "Saving Private Ryan", the movie both starts and ends in the Normandy Cemetery, with Matt Damon, as an older gentleman standing at a graveside, and crying, almost out of control. The question he asks his wife, at the end of the movie is, 'was I a good man? Did I lead a good life?' In a very direct way, in combat, the Damon character had asked a Captain, played by Tom Hanks, what the eight men who were sent to pull him out of combat to go home expectedof him. Hank's answer was to lead a good life. Hanks was subsequently killed in front of Damon, and the final scenes were of Damon returning to Hank's grave some number of years later to show Hanks that he had done as he had requested. That was a movie.

Below is where the real action will take place on Memorial Day in D.C., the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

I started college when we were just starting to send advisors to Viet Nam. We had over half a million troops there when I got out. I lost a lot of friends to that war. More came back broken. At high school reunions, the vets gathered in a corner and relived old experiences with people that knew what they went through and didn't need any explanations. If you said anything about not having gone to Viet Nam, they simply said that we didn't miss a thing. To this day, they don't talk about it. It seems it was too horrible. The best I have heard was that they can't understand how something that took 2% of their life had such an effect on such a huge percentage of their life. And then society didn't treat them very well when they got home.

I could go on, but I can tell you this, they still talk about their friends that died there. As if it were yesterday.

And then, I read Odat's blog on Sunday, and one of her reader's named Sarge wrote the following quote from Elanor Roosevelt.

"Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways, help me to remember that someone died for me today. And if there be war, help me to remember to ask and to answer “am I worth dying for?”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I think it should be obvious now that I have decided that it's time for me to become a better person than I am now. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Glamourpuss

Glamourpuss is one of those people that I have been reading since I have been blogging. You can read her for her insight into pole dancing, or you can read her for her insights into life in general. Regardless, she possesses a rare intellect and knowledge base that makes her almost uniquely qualified in her approach to thinking about things.

I found her exposition on Buddhism to be quite interesting, and illuminating from a different perspective than I had approached it. I had come from reading Zen and dropping into Buddhism, the same as reading the philosophy, then learning the religion. It changes your perspective, coming from the top down as opposed to the bottom up. Yet Puss has an intellectual mastery that is second to none, and at the same time she is graced with a humanity and sensitivity not often found in most people.

To say that I like this woman is an understatement of huge proportions. I consider it my good fortune to know her as little as I do. What I cannot explain is how a 27 year old woman, I believe that today is her 27th birthday (could be her 28th birthday, but I doubt it) could have achieved such wisdom and insight at such a young age. I am much older than her, and still working at it.

I know she likes the color pink. I know she likes the flower vendor at the Kent Train Station, and the fresh cut flowers. I also know that she likes the peonies that are in season now. So, I cut her a bucket of pink peonies, and they are right here, waiting for you, Puss. The ones that are open are bigger than my fist. And the others are still opening, and some are just starting to open!

So please, leave Puss a birthday message in the comments section, and as usual, have a great day!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gang Stupidity Causes Depression

I promised Tiffany King that I'd write a brilliantly funny, insightful and absolutely true pieces about Farmville (actually pronounced Fahm-vuhl, say it with me Fahm-vuhl, it's almost musical!). But, in actuality, I was very depressed until just a little while ago.

Directly below is the neighbor who lives to the right of us if you face my house from the street. He and his family are from El Salvador. He's 17 years old, and he is always working on his car. He goes to high school, gets good grades, and works after school at Toys are Us. He is soft spoken, always polite, speaks excellent English, and Spanish. He is the only one in his house who is multi-lingual.

At about 12:30 AM Saturday morning, the Police Department came knocking at the door, wanting to know if we had heard anything. We had been watching TV and talking, being old married people, it wasn't time yet for the wild sex. It was a good thing we had waited as it turns out. There was a pole on the front lawn. They wanted to know if it belonged to us. We had never seen it before.

We naturally asked what was going on. It turns out, our next door neighbor the quiet spoken teenager is also a local gang member. The Police believe there was a 'misunderstanding' with another rival gang member and the difference was settled in a knife fight ending with our next door neighbor being stabbed in the stomach

Upon being taken to the hospital, the same hospital that saved my life last year around the same time, my neighbor decided not to cooperate with the police. So the Police were knocking on my door at 12:30 AM to collect evidence from my front year to see if it was a crime scene. I offered them coffee, I offered the officer with the K9 dog water or the dog, and told the Officer in charge that I/we would cooperate completely and that we were on their side, just so they were absolutely clear on the matter. The Police told us that we had nothing to worry about, the gangs kept the violence to themselves as they knew that the public would turn on them otherwise. What bothered me was the length of time I had talked to this kid about getting an education and succeeding in America. I had absolutely no idea he even had the time to be involved in a gang. Talk about feeling out of it.

Things got worse over the weekend. Judy took a bad fall. She's OK, a little bruised, and a skinned elbow, but shook up. We are having difficulty adjusting to the fact that we moved into a farm town of 6000 people that is now a city of 100,000 with big city crime. I had told the Police that we weren't moving, we have lived in this house since August 1, 1973. This is the first time we have paused to question that decision.

Late Sunday we found out that the neighbor to the left of us, a Chinese couple, had a baby on Friday after a long labor period. Probably about the same time as the knife fight. I am looking forward to seeing the baby. Pictures are below, and where I am trying to focus at the moment, for reasons of mental health! Have a good week, I'll get to Farmville soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Slowly I Write

I started writing a post on the Pugh Report from the United Nations which simply said that we have about 3 billion people living in cities now, and that in something like 30 years that would double to 6 billion people. The simple statistic blew my mind when you consider that the infrastructure doesn't exist now to support the population levels in the cities now, much less the surrounding areas. We desperately need actual decentralization. This is a huge topic, as I find out.

You have seen the post on Stagflation, and how it is playing out in the economy. That took more than a few minutes. And some of those commodities seem to have peaked, such as gold, maybe.

Oil, on the other hand seems destined to go higher. Goldman Sachs wrote a report about a spike to $200 a barrel. Can you say $8 a gallon for gas? Is anyone else wistful for $2.50 a gallon gas? Please don't shoot the messenger. If this price level happened this year, Congress would act, and it would probably not be smart, but it would do something to mollify the taxpayer/voter. A substitute is really needed.

There is something else that I am also hinting at, so let me be more specific. We need more telecommuting. More working from home, or local offices at computer centers, and less commutes that take huge amounts of time and gasoline to move a person from home to their work place. We can do a lot of business without seeing each other face to face.

Next year, $6 gasoline. It's not the price level, it's the rate of change that kills you. That's what the experts say. What do you say?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Change In The Air

The gasoline refiners are reporting their earning now, and they are getting killed. Even Exxon, who earned more money than God, earned less than expected because their refining earnings were lower than expected. Politicians rarely have a good grasp of economics, or what the economy is actually doing. This is typically true regardless of party, so I'm not favoring either party here.

This week, oil bounced off of $120 a barrel and closed today at $111.00 a barrel. It could test $100.00 a barrel. Gold was close to $1000 an oz., and is now under $900. Most of the commodities have dropped too. What is hard to know is if this is temporary, and that the trend upward in prices will resume, or if we have hit the top, and prices will now moderate somewhat. Only time will tell for sure.

So on Friday morning, I will take Judy away for a quiet weekend away from here in a secluded retreat in a secret location for a fabulous get-a-way weekend in exotic surroundings. More later! We're going to have fun. There could be a little sushi involved.