Saturday, March 31, 2007

Too much time on their hands?

I got these from someone from work. There elaborate open faced sandwiches. I'm not sure I could eat one of them but they do look cool.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On vacation

I'm taking the week off. I've planned a couple of day trips. The first of which was going to Rehoboth Beach. It was a little cooler than I thought it would be but other wise I had a great time. Here are some pictures:

The beach at Rehoboth

The bandstand and War Memorial

Here's a guy out surfing. I think the water would have been cold!

This is the Indian River Life Saving Station Museum. This is before the Coast Guard. I got a tour of the building. It was very interesting. There were 6 men and a keeper. Two men were always out on the beach patrolling and one was up in the tower keeping watch. The men had to stand for 4 hour shifts. Really neat place.

St. Peter's Episcopal Church and graveyard.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Yum Yum.

Surge Outpost

Here's an interesting article from the Post last week.

Here's what I find interesting:
Abu Ameer [the caretaker of the gym the soldiers were moving into]paced around aimlessly. Lacking an interpreter on their first night at the gym, the soldiers had no way of communicating with him.

Why would they not have an interpreter? The soldiers thought there was no electricity in the building. Mr. Ameer turned it on. The soldiers decided that was a bad idea. If they had had an interpreter present, the interpreter could have asked Mr. Ameer to turn the lights off. Instead the soldiers had to break into the electrical room. It seems that planning is lacking even on the basic level for the surge. How is this going to work?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Letter to Bush

Here is a link to a story from the Chicago Tribune . It's a father's letter to Bush about the death of his son in Iraq. I think everyone no matter what their view on the war should read this.

Once again it comes down to competent leadership which is totally lacking in this administration regarding the war.

Here are the last few paragraphs of the letter:

I want you to look me and my wife and daughter directly in the eye and tell me why my son died. We should not be there, but because of your ineptness and lack of correct information I have lost my son, my pride and joy, my hero!

Again, you, Cheney and Rumsfeld will never understand what the families of soldiers are going through and don’t try to tell me you do. My wife, my daughter and I cannot believe we have lost our only son and brother to a ridiculous political war that you seem to want to maintain. I hope you and Cheney and Rumsfeld and all the other people on your band wagon sleep well at night….we certainly don’t.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Light bulbs

I went out and bought a bunch of those compact fluorescent light bulbs. At least I think I did. I got them at Home Depot. They didn't seem to be as expensive as I read so I hope I bought the right ones. I'm pretty sure that I did. These are made by a company called n:vision.

It is interesting that there are several different type of bulbs. You can get 3 versions of the "100 watt" bulb. There's a soft white, bright white and day light. I've replaced most of my regular bulbs in lamps or fixtures that I use often. It will be interesting to see, what if any difference, there will be in my electric bill.

Recipe for success?

Interesting story in the Post about Bush's statement.

I think this comment is telling of the exchange between Tony Snow and a reporter:

Ed Henry reported for CNN this morning: "Tony Snow a few moments ago in an off-camera briefing telling reporters that the president wants to talk about how this plan by the Democrats is a, quote, 'recipe for defeat' and how it would, quote 'provide victory for the enemy'. Now when I pressed Tony Snow and said 'What's your recipe for success?' he got a little frustrated and thought I was interrupting and said, quote, 'Zip it'.

"He later apologized and acknowledged it was inappropriate to say that to me. And then when I pressed him more on the subject, he said 'Well, we're trying to turn this over to the Iraqi army' and he talked about what we've heard a lot of in the last four years, about turning this over to the Iraqis. But again, still now, Tony Snow adding the caveat that they're just not sure what's next. He said, quote, 'We don't know how things play out'. That's something the American people have heard over and over again over the last four years. And now obviously, a lot of predictions at the beginning of this war, about how long it would last, how much it would cost, have all turned out to be wrong."

A couple of quick comments. There's no idea or plan on what to do next. This is the main reason we've been unable to win the war. No one has thought about the next step. Most importantly what to do if the current "plan" doesn't work. Printing up a huge banner saying "Mission Accomplished" doesn't mean that's what happened. Over and over again underestimating what it would take to win the war. Or more realistically not thinking about what to do after Iraq fell under our control.

Continuing to send troops into harms way when they don't have the right equipment. There was a story on ABC about a vehicle called the cougar. It is built in such a way as to channel the explosive power of an IED away from the vehicle. No one has died in one of these or been seriously injured. The factory that makes them can only produce about 50 a month. About the time we're ready to leave Iraq there will be enough of these cougars to protect our troops. Why the hell is the government not taking over one of the factories GM is closing and using the workers to make cougars to protect our troops. Oh yes, I know that would be acknowledging the complete incompetence of this administration.


That's the word from President Bush:

"Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won," Bush said toward the end of his five-minute speech. "It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through."

From Secretary Rice:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this morning asked Americans "to be patient" as the war in Iraq entered its fifth year, acknowledging early missteps in the conflict but saying "it is worth the sacrifice" to have toppled former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Patience when the the vast majority of our troops would be home by December.

Patience when the war should be over in six months.

Patience because Iraqi oil will pay for most of the war.

Patience because the insurgency is on its last legs.

Patience because this time this plan will work.


How many more people will we have to patiently watch die before we get out of this conflict.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I went and saw Spamalot in Baltimore yersterday. What a very very funny musical. Who couldn't laugh with such lines as:

Stand aside Mrs. Galahad while the Lady of the Lake and her Laker girls welcome your son to my army.

A sentimenal song
That casts a magic spell
They will all hum along
And we'll all overact, overact like hell

We're knights of the round table
We dance when e'er we're able
We do routines and gory scenes
That are too hot for cable

There's a very small percentile
Who enjoys a dancing gentile

A very very funny show. A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Sun seeker Sam

Morning Walks

I try and take a morning walk at least three times a week. I’m doing it to help me loose weight (which was going pretty well until a couple of weeks ago but that’s another story). It also is a nice way to start the day and I find I have more energy throughout the day as opposed to the days when I don’t do the walk. I don't have a set pattern to my walk. The main thing is that I try to increase the length of the walk each day.

With the change in time last week, I’m doing the walk in the dark now. Before dawn was just starting to break when I was walking. All the birds were out singing. The moon was slowly fading from the light of dawn. It was a really great way to start the day.

So like I said I’m walking around in the dark now. I think I’ve adjusted to the change but it will be nice in a month or so when I’m out walking at dawn instead of before dawn. Also don’t hear as many birds in the morning.

However, I did hear a cardinal the other day. The cardinal must have been very close to me, because when I walked under a bunch of branches to a tree, he stopped signing. Once I passed his spot he started up right again. It was a great way to start the morning.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Some common sense

Here's a great op-ed piece from Alan Simpson on don't ask don't tell. And here's the view from the the Post.

The army and marines seem on the verge of falling apart. I think they should be more concerned about that than whether gays are in the military.

As for Senator Simpson's piece it is just great. As he points out:

My thinking shifted when I read that the military was firing translators because they are gay. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 300 language experts have been fired under "don't ask, don't tell," including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. This when even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently acknowledged the nation's "foreign language deficit" and how much our government needs Farsi and Arabic speakers. Is there a "straight" way to translate Arabic? Is there a "gay" Farsi? My God, we'd better start talking sense before it is too late. We need every able-bodied, smart patriot to help us win this war.

He concludes with:

Let us end "don't ask, don't tell." This policy has become a serious detriment to the readiness of America's forces as they attempt to accomplish what is arguably the most challenging mission in our long and cherished history.

Way to go Senator. And I'll also add it's nice to hear the voice of a real conservative who knows the meaning of the word instead of these people running around Washington using that label today.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Kiley exits

Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley has decided to retire this from the Post. It's about time. This is the clueless general who ran Walter Reed and helped to see it run into the ground. This is the guy who would take ultimate responsibility but blamed everyone else for the problems. This is the guy who lived across the street from the infamous building 18 but never bothered to inspect it because "he didn't do inspections"

It seems because he hasn't been in his current post long enough he will loose a star which should the least that should happen to this guy. Somehow something more should happen to him like having to navigate the army's health care system.

It is amazing to see what two articles in the Washington Post have done. It makes me very glad that we live in a free society where these types of things can be brought to the attention to the public. I am also glad that help will be directed at the soldiers who really need it. We sent them to the hell of Afghanistan and Iraq and we should do everything in our power to make sure they have all the care necessary to get better.

1, two, 3 red light

I should no longer be amazed at the way drivers ignore traffic signals, but I still am. I’ve renamed stop signs and stop lights as stopping suggestions since that’s how many drivers view them.

I’ve lost count of the number of time I’ve been walking by my house and see people run the stop sign. Some drivers will at least slow down and do what’s called a rolling stop. Others don’t even do that they just go right through.

Lights seem to be no different but the consequences of running a light can be greater than just running a stop sign. Running a light usually means a much busier intersection than one that has a stop sign. Busier intersection means of course more cars but it also means that pedestrians can be present.

One of the intersection near where I work has a right turning arrow. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve almost been hit while crossing the street. When the light changes to green, the right turning arrow comes on. When turning arrow changes to red, the light for cars to go straight remains green. Drivers irregularly ignore the red arrow and turn right. Most if not all of the time the drivers do this there is a pedestrian in the cross walk. Now even if you have a green light, drivers are supposed to yield to pedestrian which they fail to do. But on top of it they have a red light. On occasion the driver will even honk at the pedestrians one of my favorites try to turn wide and go around the pedestrian.

I’ve decided in the future if this happens to me I’m just going to stop in front of the car and not move until the light changes. Then I plan to get out of the way of the car.

It’s almost safer to cross against the light when the traffic is clear as to trust that someone will stop when you have the walk sign. I never step off the curb right when the light changes because you never know who’s going to run the light.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring ahead early

It's 7:50 no wait it's 8:50.

We've sprung ahead early. I think it will be very dark come Monday morning and I'm out taking my walk. You never really realize all the time keeping devices you have in your house until time changes which reminds me I need to go and change my clock radio.

Changing the time on my watch was the biggest pain. It took a little while but I was finally able to do it. It is supposed to do it by itself because it receives some sort of radio signal from Ft. Collins, Co. but it didn't seem to do the trick.

Anyway welcome to daylight savings time three weeks ahead of normal expect now of course it will become the normal time.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The check is in the mail

I did my taxes last Sunday. I used TurboTax. This year I didn't need to call tech support and talk with them for an hour. For some reason last year the files for the Mac version were locked which prevented the program from working correctly. I had to download a program that would unlock the files. Then I had to download the updates to the program. Finally, I was able to get the program to work.

This year no such problems. So I did everything on Sunday. I was even able to download DC tax forms and file my DC return too. As I said that was Sunday. Friday in the mail I received my DC tax return.

It is so great when things work exactly as they are supposed to.

Snooping on you

Well it seems that the FBI has been gathering all sorts of information on people and not taking care of it properly:
Over a three-year period ending in 2005, the FBI collected intimate information about the lives of a population roughly the size of Bethesda's -- 52,000 -- and stored it in an intelligence database accessible to about 12,000 federal, state and local law enforcement authorities and to certain foreign governments.

The FBI did so without systematically retaining evidence that its data collection was legal, without ensuring that all the data it obtained matched its needs or requests, without correctly tallying and reporting its efforts to Congress, and without ferreting out all of its abuses and reporting them to an intelligence oversight board.

This story in the Post gives the details. The bottom line it seems is that agents were not following the rules to go and get someone. They were not following the rules because they were being sloppy. Gee what does this remind you. The use of national security letters to get information was under reported and it seems not even properly cateloged so if it did produce something useful would be linked to a specific case.

As the story notes:
The FBI also did not keep correct records of the investigations to which these requests were linked, according to the inspector general's report. Its agents did not always obtain the correct, internal authorization for those requests; they made typographical errors in listing key telephone numbers and e-mail addresses; they sought information the laws did not permit them to have; and they were given little to no policy guidance on what they could request or when to report mistakes and abuses, the report said.

Once again common sense seems to go out the window in the Bush administration. Here is this important information and there are no rules or guidelines on how it is to be cataloged. It seems there was also little if no quality control. And one wonders what happened to those people who's information got screwed up. And another thing one the info is collected it seems there is no procedure to purge bad or no longer useful information. So you have an ever growing badly managed data base which over time will become completely useless.

And the report goes on:

The tens of thousands of data-collection requests have produced few criminal charges directly related to terrorism or espionage, according to the inspector general's report. About half of the FBI's field offices did not refer any of those targeted by such requests to prosecutors, the report said, and the most common charges cited by others were fraud, immigration violations and money laundering.

Commercial firms and institutions, which face court action and contempt fines if they do not comply with data-collection requests, were generally exceptionally eager to do so, the report said.

The bottom line seems to be a big huge waste of time. It begs the question what the FBI could have been doing to really making sure it got the bad guys.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, apologized for the abuse and has said that steps have been taken to make sure this does not happen again. And why exactly should we believe that anything has been done. And then this from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

"People have to believe in what we say," Gonzales said. "And so I think this was very upsetting to me. And it's frustrating."

"We have some work to do to reassure members of Congress and the American people that we are serious about being responsible in the exercise of these authorities," he said.

And once again why exactly should we believe you? Mr. Gonzales has show little or no respect for the rule of law which seems to be bendable and stretchable at his whim and fancy. Say like retaining federal prosecutors.

This just shows that there needs to some sort of oversight so questions are raised when the government plans to obtain information on people. This does not, as the Bush administration says over and over again, hinder the ability of law enforcement agencies from going after the bad guys. This is to make sure they go after the right guys.

The mantra after 9/11 was that law enforcement didn't connect the dots and get the big picture of what was about to happen. The rationale goes further to say that law enforcement needs expanded powers to pursue terrorists. I agree whole hearted with this. But law enforcement needs to be overseen so that they connect the right dots and in the right order.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Walter Reed Fallout

Fallout continues from the stories in the Washington Post regarding Walter Reed. What now has become overwhelming apparent is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Several stories are in the Post today. One is about the two generals in charge of Walter Reed. Gen. George Weightman seems to be the fall guy. The one who was fired. He seemed very upset that he let down the servicemen. But it also sounds like he was trying to fix the problems. The problems left to him to fix by General Kevin Kiley who is in see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil mode. He was the top person in charge and yet somehow everyone else is to blame but him. Several of those people testifying say they feel that Weightman is getting blames too much and obviously Kiley way too little.

The main story in the Post is just gut wrenching.
This is one particular unbelievable exchange:

Shannon was shot in the head during a firefight near Ramadi, Iraq, in November 2004 and has languished at Walter Reed ever since, awaiting plastic surgery so he can be fitted with a prosthetic eye. Paperwork for his retirement from the Army has been on hold.

But his ire yesterday was less about his own treatment than about the sense of betrayal he feels for younger soldiers he has tried to shepherd through the bureaucracy at Walter Reed.

“I will not see young men and women who have had their lives shattered in service to their country receive anything less than dignity and respect,” said Shannon, who at times said he is having difficulty controlling his anger.

It is rather interesting that the Bush administration is bashing Democrats saying they don’t support the troops when they are the ones not supporting them. Once again we will get the slogan of the Bush Administration: no one could have foreseen. At some point it is there job to that.

This from Cheney:

Cheney said that President Bush “has made our administration’s priority very clear to the Congress and to the country: There will be no excuses, only action. And the federal bureaucracy will not slow that action down. We’re going to fix the problems at Walter Reed, period.”

Well it has to be more than Walter Reed. It seems the Post series has opened a flood gate of complaints about facilities all over this country.

A great article about all of this from Howard Kurtz and a little bit about the bitch de jour Ann Coulter.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The little guy

More zoo pictures

One of the adult pandas had an itch it really needed scratching.

Time for some chow

Open House

It’s Sunday afternoon. I try and take a little longer walk than usual on Sunday. A fun way to do that is to go to open houses. It also gives me a good idea of just how great my house really is.

I walked a little over 2.3 miles. I saw two places. There didn’t seem to all that many places to see. March might be a slow time. It is amazing what is being asked for houses in this area now. I couldn’t afford to live here now. I bought at the right time.

The first place was going for $500,000 ok it lists for $499,990. As the flyer says it has 4 spacious bedrooms (I don’t think they know what spacious is supposed to mean because the rooms were not spacious). It has some of the most God awful wall paper I’ve ever seen. The second place was selling for $549,900. It was much nicer no horrible wall paper. Although the upstairs bathroom didn’t have a door.

The amazing thing is that yesterday I got my tax assessment. In five years it has increased 3 fold. I certainly did buy at the right time.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Wonderful day

I took the day off and here's my adventure for the day.

The zoo

I’m writing this as I sit at the Navy Memorial. It’s Friday. It’s a little after one. Winter seems to have receded and Washington is being visited with a bright sunny 60 degree day. It’s a little windy but that’s to remind you it’s spring time.

I’ve taken the day off after last week which was hell at work. So I’m taking this day.

I started the day at the zoo. As my mom would say oooh oooh you went to the zoo.

I saw lions and tigers and bears oh my. Also elephants, eagles, seals, otters, gibbons, sea lions and of course the pandas. Their new habitat has opened and it’s very impressive.

I decided it was such a nice day I would walk from the zoo to my next stop the National Gallery of Art. I’ve got my iPod and I’m listening to the Carpenters. I think it’s going to be a wonderful day.

Walking down Connecticut Ave

I’m walking down Connecticut Avenue. All I Get From Love Is a Love Song is playing on my iPod. It takes me back to the time right before I went off to college. I’d have friends over and we’d swim in the pool. I’d put a speaker in the window that faced the pool and we’d listen to records. Yes that’s right records.

Life seemed better than or at least looking back on it, it seemed that way. It wasn’t any easier than life is today; it was just much less complicated. The biggest worry was what to pack to go to college not figuring out your taxes.

The White House

Yes it is the White House. And this being Washington you need to have a protest too.

Freedom Plaza

I’m at Freedom Plaza. I can look down Pennsylvania Avenue and see the Capitol. What I’m doing today reminds me of how much I love living in this city.