Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Reporting from the war

I saw a very inspirational and at the same time disturbing show on TV last. It was about Bob Woodruff the correspondent from ABC news who was wounded in Iraq (Here’s a story about it in the post.)

The inspirational part was the fact how far Woodruff has come. How much he is back to normal. This was in stark contrast to some of the other patients who had head injuries. It was amazing to see the care he received. How quickly after his injury he was in surgery in Baghdad (37 minutes). The incredible people who take care of him not only in Iraq but in Germany and then here back home.

The disturbing part of the show was what happens to the soldiers with these injuries. The VA centers that are designated to handle these soldiers are fantastic. The problem comes when the wounded return home and go to their local VA. In a recent report the majority of soldiers come from small towns. Therefore their local VA is in all likelihood not going to be state of the art. It might not even have the facilities to treat these people. This was the case in one of the men that were followed. He left the special VA head injury facility and ended up in Dallas which had no place for this guy to go. To top it off, his paper work was lost so treatment was delayed even further. Rehabilitation has to be an ongoing process. If it is stopped the patient slips back which is what happened to this man. They showed how he was in the treatment center and then at his home waiting for treatment. You could see that he’d slipped back. Now with the paperwork all straightened out he is getting treatment but in a private facility.

The Pentagon center of head injuries thinks that 10 percent of returning soldiers may have some sort of a head injury. Some may not even know they have one because the symptoms are not that noticeable. They recommend that every solder be tested when they come back. That is not happening. They had a story in the report on one soldier who felt something was wrong. He couldn’t remember things the way he used to. It took over a year to convince VA doctors that he had a problem.

The VA should be doing a better job taking care of these people. But it also needs to have the resources to take care of them which clearly it lacks. Once again the total lack of planning by the Bush administration is showing through. It is a disgrace that we ask these men and women to put their lives on the line and there is so little thought about how to take care of them when they are injured.

It seems the story did some good. The VA will now be screening all returning soldiers for head trauma

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ten years ago today

Ten years ago today I was living at 12th and E Streets NE.

Ten years ago today I was employed at the World Bank.

Ten years ago today I took a class on Illustrator at EEI Communications in Alexandria.

Ten years ago today on my way home from the class I stopped off at the video store where my friend Carol worked to say hi.

Ten years ago today a block from my apartment I was mugged.

It had been a fairly nice day for the end of February. The weather was rather warm and sunny. I’d gotten out of the office. The class had been very interesting. If I hadn’t been at the class none of this would have happened. I’d gotten out of the class before I’d normally would have gotten out of work. Even with the time figured in for the commute from Alexandria to the Union Station Metro stop, I was getting home earlier than I would have from work. I’d stopped by to say hi to my friend Carol at the video store and headed home.

I was less than a block from my apartment in fact I was practically across the street from it when everything happened. Two young African-American men were walking down the side walk. To get past them I walked between them which is of course what they wanted me to do. The one guy asked me for my wallet. Well perhaps asked is not exactly the right way to describe the tone of voice used. I guess I didn’t react fast enough. I was after all a little surprised at the request. So I was punched in the face. As an interesting side note when you’re punched in the face there’s an actual sound made when the fist connects with you the area around your eye. I had my backpack with me and the other one grabbed that and swung me around and I ended up on the ground.

I was dazed because I’d hit my head on the grass. As I was laying prone on the ground, my wallet was taken and my other pockets searched. There were also two other guys there. I’m pretty sure at one point a knife was pulled. So even after getting my money, which wasn’t very much, they were going to hurt me. (In fact this turned out to be the m.o. of the ring leader of the group getting money from people and then hurting them.) Thankfully at that point in time a neighbor came out of his house and scared them away.

I was a little dazed and confused. I’d lost my glasses. The main thing I wanted to do was get into my apartment as quickly as possible. Luckily, although my keys had been taken out of my pocket, they had just been thrown on the ground. The neighbor asked if I was ok. I just picked up my keys and headed into my apartment.

I was bleeding from my head and I would later find out I had one hell of a shiner. The first thing that I did was call 911. Now I realize the series of questions I was asked is used to determine the priority of the emergency but at the time they seemed to be sort of silly to me. One was well are the perpetrators still there. I’m thinking well no because I’m talking to you on the phone. The one that really got me was did I think I needed medical attention. I’d described my injuries and thought it was pretty obvious I needed an ambulance.

I waited for someone to arrive. I paced my apartment. I just couldn’t sit still at all. The police were the first to arrive. I’m not even sure how they got into the building. I must have let them in. Then the questions started. How many, what they looked like, where’d they go etc etc. Then in a little while the emergency crew arrive. They gave me a once over. Felt pretty sure I did not have a conclusion but weren’t sure how sever the cut on the back of my head was. They thought I should go to the hospital. The EMT guys were great and the police were too.

Before I got in the ambulance, I asked if we could see if it was possible to locate my glasses. They had been punched off my face when I’d been hit. The police, EMTs and myself looked but couldn’t find them. I made a big deal out of it. I guess in some way I wanted to take back what had happened to me.

Off to the hospital. It took longer than it should have because some guy had parked his car in the street and the ambulance couldn’t get around it. The driver had to get out and tell the guy to move. The driver came back and said the guy was drunk in his car.

At the hospital I was whisked into the emergency room. They went over me. Looking at my eye. Seeing to my head injury. They decided I didn’t need any stitches and that I didn’t have a concussion. In one of those small world moments, I was given an ice pack to put on my eye. There wasn’t any ice in the bag . It was a plastic bag with two sections in it. When twisted the sections would break into one section and the chemicals in each of the sections combined and produced the same effect of an ice bag. As I was looking at the bag I noticed it was made by Abbot Labs in Mundelein, Illinois which just so happened to be the town I grew up in. In fact I’d even worked at Abbot Labs one summer during college. I will say that I would have been more than happy to not have found that out.

The police came in and took pictures of me to document what had happened to me. I’d be interested to see the pictures to see what I looked liked. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. After about an hour or so I was released.

And as much fun as the afternoon was it got even better. I didn’t have anyone that I could call to come and pick me up because no one was going to be home. It was in an era with no cell phones. I still had my ATM card so I thought I’d find a machine get some money and take a cab home. The one ATM I found was out of order. To find this machine I’d wondered around the hospital and was in a very deserted area of the it. I was not going to go back because I wasn’t sure where to go. What I should have done was found someone to help me out.

All I wanted to do was get home. I was not exactly sure where I was. I didn’t have my glasses so I couldn’t see anything far away. I had a huge black eye and a bandaged wrapped around my head. But I still decided I would walk home. I got my barrings. I figured out where I was. In order to do that I had to get right under a street sign and look straight up at the sign to read it. Ouch. Big bump on head. Looking straight up. It hurt.

I was easily a mile or more away from my apartment. It was a really stupid thing to do. But at the time I think it was important to show I wasn’t going to be bowed but what these assholes did to me. It also was something to do; a task that was needed to be completed and took my mind off what had just happened. I knew that I could walk to a Safeway grocery store. I knew in there would be an ATM and I’d be able to get money and then get a cab. But as I got close to the store; I thought about the way I looked and decided I didn’t want to have any more possible with people. So I ended up walking the rest of the way home.

It took several months before the main guy was caught. I won’t go into the long story of the process to bring the guy to justice. The cliff notes version: Two detectives came to my house to talk about what happened. I went to a line-up, I met with the district attorney, I testified before a grand jury, I wrote a victim impact statement, I attended the sentencing and then went out for coffee with all the other victims of this guy. He was sentenced to 19 1/2 to 58 years in prison.

It’s interesting to think how this one event change my life. I had to sleep with the lights on for about a week. I propped a chair up against my apartment door each night. I could barely stand to walk past the place where I’d been attacked. I decided I had to move. In the next three weeks I saw at least one apartment a day. Sometimes it was two or three. I was lucky. I ended up in a very nice apartment in Foggy Bottom. But because of the circumstances of the move, it took me a very long time to appreciate the area. I even mentioned that in the victim impact statement I did. In fact, I didn’t realize I felt that way until I wrote the statement.

There are still some residual effects of the mugging. From time to time I still get nervous around groups of your African-American men. I try not to let it bother me but it still does. And it bothers me that this still bothers me. I’ve always tried to judge people on who they are not what they are.

The mugging forced me to move. Eventually the rent at my new apartment got so high, I decided to look for a house. I wonder, if the mugging had not occurred, if I would be in my house today. I think the answer to that is no. So it is strange how one very very bad event changed my life. And not all of those changes were bad.

And that’s what happened to me ten years ago today.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Star Wars

I just finished watching Star Wars on HBO. Well actually it was on HBOHD. It was impressive most impressive.

The opening scene has to be one of the most memorable in any movie. I remember seeing it and being just blown away by it. I saw Star Wars many many times over the summer it opened.

May 25 will be the 30th anniversary of Star Wars opening. I remember seeing it the first day it opened and first show no less. I also remember that there was almost no one in the theater. I went back to the theater that night and the line wrapped around and around and around. In fact when I came out to DC to go to George Washington University, it was playing at the Uptown theater. I think it played there a year. Movies just don’t do that any more. Sometimes you’re lucky if a movie plays for a month.

It is amazing to think that in its original limited release it was only in 43 theaters. And the most theaters it ever played in was 1,750. (Today films open in almost twice that number of theaters.) This one movie changed the movie industry. Summers became the time for blockbusters.

No matter how many times I see it; it still gives me chills.

May the force be with you . . . always.

Monday, February 19, 2007

HDTV great, DirecTV not so great

I am still amazed at the quality of the picture with HDTV. Fantastic! I just wish there were more stations broadcasting in HD.You really notice the quality of the picture at sporting events. Not so much the close ups of the players but the wider shots. I’m watching a lot of basketball and the shots of the full court you can really make out individual people in the stands. Also crystal clear is the shot from the top of the basket when a guy is shooting free throws. Some of the movies I’ve watched on HBO make you feel like you’re in a movie theater.

Too bad DirecTV isn’t up to the same standards. I got the bill on Saturday. On the bill I was charged for leasing 3 receivers and a pro-rated charge for HD service. When HD receiver was installed the old receiver was left behind. This was just an oversight on the installers part. I hadn’t gotten around to finding out how to return it. However, the HD receiver I bought at Best Buy and so I shouldn’t have been paying any sort of lease fee.

Now to the HD charge. I’d been told that my first year of HD service would be free. I was told that on no less than three times.

I decided to call DirecTV. They have a really annoying automated answering system. I was finally able to get through to someone. I explained my problems with the bill. She then put me on hold so that she could review the account. Well she never came back on-line. I was on hold for about another five minutes and then I was disconnected.

So I called again. I get through again and explain again the problem with the bill. So he brings up my account information. He then asks when the HD receiver was installed because under the station plan I have I should get 4 months free. I’m thinking to myself why do I need to tell the guy when the HD service was installed when he has the account information on his screen. He said he would send me some FedEx form so that I could return the receiver. He was also able to give me a $40 credit toward HD service but would not be able to give me the HD service free for a year. In order for that to happen I would have to talk to someone else.

On to another person. Had to explain everything again. In the end she was able to give me a $10 credit. I would still have the HD charge show up on the bill but then I would get a $10 credit. In the end I was able to get everything I wanted but it took almost an hour to do it..

Like I said HDTV great; DirecTV needs some improvement.

What's promised doesn't always happen

The headline in the Post says Convention Center Not Living Up to Lofty Goals. Another article says A Thwarted Renaissance Near the Convention Center. And yet another article Convention Hotel Called Crucial to Bookings, but Deal Beset by Several Snags.

The theme is that the tremendous redevelopment promised around the DC Convention Center has failed to happen nearly four years after it opened. Instead of being the great boom convention attendance is dropping. Is the area better off than it once was? Yes. But the great boom has failed to materialize and it may take many more years before it happens.

This is something the DC government should take to heart as it continues to build the baseball stadium. In all likelihood history will repeat itself in that area as well.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Having friends in the right places

A friend and I were heading out to a GW basketball yesterday. They were going to play Temple. I walked by the Smith Center and little before we were supposed to meet up and there was a sign up that said the game was sold out.

I met my friend in the Marvin Center and told him the news. I was a little pissed. I had taken Friday off and had hoped to do something fun but ended up shoveling a space for my car on the street in front of my house. There been some rain and sleet and snow and freezing rain on Wednesday.

Anyway we decided to go by the Smith Center and pick up tickets to the Richmond game which is on Wednesday. My friend is on a first name basis with the people that work the ticket counter. Well we got tickets for the game on Wednesday but we also got tickets for the Temple game too. It’s good to have friends in the right places.

But this was not the end of our seating arrangements for the game. We were far up in one of the end zones. I wasn’t complaining. Hey we were going to see the game. As we were sitting there a guy approached us and asked if we would like to be part of the UPS promotion. The promotion is you get reseated. You get seats right at floor level. Now if you’ve seem basketball games there are the seats that are right on the court. Well we didn’t get those but we were right behind them. And we were in really nice seats with cushions and the seats were raised sort of like a directors chair. And wow did it make a difference. It was sort of like going from regular TV to HDTV. On several occasions I was glad a player caught the ball or I’d have to have done that. At first it was hard to keep up with the pace of the game but after a little while we adjusted. GW ended up winning the game 84-72. The score doesn’t reflect how close the game was. I was a very enjoyable afternoon.

One more thing we got our names announced over the loud speakers and our pictures on the jumbotron. Pretty cool.

More clean up pictures

Here are some pictures of the cleanup going around my brother and sister-in-law's house. There is still more to do. My dad said that he talked to one of the tree guys. The tree guy says that some people are just letting the limbs hang from the trees. One can only wonder the additional damage that will be done from these limbs when a spring thunder storm comes along.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pictures from the cleanup

Here are pictures of the cleanup that my dad and brother did at my dad's place. It still sounds like there is a great deal of work still to be done.

This was just damage from an ice storm. So the cleanup consisted of tree limbs. I can only imagine the amount of stuff that had/has to be cleaned up from Katrina.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Problem with Iran

It seems the Bush administration is having a hard time selling the idea that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqis (see story in the Post.) And just as much trouble convincing people that this is not a run up to an invasion of Iran. They seem to be very exasperated at all this. I think this sums up the situation very well:

“In the old days, if the U.S. government had come out and said, ‘We’ve got this, here’s our assessment,’ reasonable people would have taken it at face value,” the official said of the Baghdad briefing. “That’s never going to happen again.”

The Bush administration has only itself to blame for this. It also seems that the very background briefing in Baghdad over stated some of the evidence of the involvement of the Iranian government (imagine that). In his news conference Bush continued to push the involvement of the Iranian government in supplying the weapons. The evidence seems rather weak.

Is some elements in Iran supporting Iraqi insurgents? Of course they are. You’d be a fool not to think that.

But to use a phrase my grandmother used to use they are adding two and two and getting seven. Last time around everyone swallowed it and took it as gospel. Thankfully, this time around the Bush administration is being challenged on its addition.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How to loose a billion

No I’m sorry make that $12 billion. Here’s a link to the story in the Post. Ambassador Paul Bremer was on the Hill testifying about this. I think of all the terrible decisions this guy made in realtion to Iraq. I guess not being able to account for $12 billion can be added to the list. I love his response on de-Baathification:

“It was the right policy, but poorly implemented,” Bremer said.

Gee Mr. Ambasador who might have been responsible for that implementation. Oh yes that would have been you.

Also today yet another helicopter has crashed in Baghdad. It seems to be open season on American troops. And with the surge there will be even more American targets to shoot at.

Stupid Bowl ad

Mars candy caves.

Oops ran a stupid Super Bowl ad. Had even dumber content on the web site. I have to wonder what people are thinking. What was the advertising agency thinking. And what was Mars thinking or not thinking ( click for story) when it approved the alternative endings that were posted on the web site. Like this one:

In one ending, one of the characters grabs a wrench to beat the other, who responds by slamming a car hood down on the other guy’s head.

I watched the ad and thought it was stupid. You could see what was going to happen a mile away so no surprise there. I just “oh no there not going to go there are they.” Now if you’d had a clever ad agency they might have come up with something that was funny. Instead the commerical goes on and the characters say oh do something manly. So they pull off their chest hair. How dumb just dumb dumb. Not funny at all.

And some people still don’t get it. See the story in the Post for this morons take on the commercial:

Los Angeles ad woman Claudia Caplan said yesterday that gay groups may be overreacting to the Snickers ad: “My take on it is, why is it homophobic for two heterosexual men to kiss by mistake? If a homosexual man kissed a heterosexual woman by mistake, would that be considered hetero-phobic?”

By itself it was stupid with the alternate endings it was objectionable. Claudia needs to do her homework a little better. You’d think after the flap with Grey’s Anatomy they would have looked at the commercial again. Idiots.

Guess I won’t be buying anything from them for awhile.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

29-17 Colts win

Rex Grossman is not a very good quarterback. But all the blame for the lost cannot rest on him. The defense needed to step up and stop Indy but just didn't seem able.

In all I'd say the game was sort of flat. The first quarter was exciting if not particularily well played and then it went down hill from there.

I think the Emerald Nut commercial was the best of the night.

There's always next year.

Sloppy first half

Prince is "singing" in the background. The first half is over. 4 turnovers in the first quarter; the most ever in one quater. The first time the kick off has been run back for a touchdown. Yeah Bears.

The Bears are only down by 2 points. Yes I know a miracle to think that one side hasn't knocked the crap out of the other. A close game which I really like.

However, the Colts get the ball to start the second half. If the Bears have any chance of winning they need to stop the Colts right away. Then the offense needs to go on the offense. As we say in my family we'll see.

The ads have been pretty bad so far. One or two funny ones but mostly just well head scratchers and saying who the hell thought up of that one.

The second half is just about to start. Go Bears.

It's the Super Bowl

Yes, it is that time of year again. Where millions of people will tune in to watch the Super Bowl and hope that the score is not 44-3 with 6 minutes left in the first quarter.

You used to tune to watch the commercials too but over the years they have become less and less interesting. In fact, except for maybe for Career Builder which has the apes, the commercials have become rather mundane if not out right bad.

I always hope for a good game which does not always happen. The following post give a clues as to which team I'm rooting for.


Bear Down, Chicago Bears
Make every play, clear the way to victory!

Bear Down, Chicago Bears
Put up a fight with a might so fearlessly!

We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation
With your T-formation

Bear Down, Chicago Bears
And let them know why you're wearing the crown!

You're the pride and joy of Illinois,
Chicago Bears, Bear Down!!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

More pictures from the storm

Here are some pictures my dad sent me. This is his back yard from last year.

This is the back yard as well as other views of the house after the storm.

My brother in my dad's livingroom. When they finally got into an hotel my dad said it was nice to be able to eat your cereal without having to wear your gloves.

Sign sign everywhere a sign

The joys of parking in Washington, DC.

Here's a pretty obvious sign saying you can't park or stand at any time.

This sign has set certain hours when you can and cannot park or stand.

Now if I move back a little you can see both signs are on the same pole. Oh and there's a parking meter right underneath the pole. So what exactly are you supposed to do.

Yes parking is fun in Washington.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Pictures from the storm

Here are a few pictures that my brother sent me that shows some of the damage caused by the ice storm. The first one says it all.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Final Harry Potter Book

The date for the final Harry Potter book has been announced. It will be July 21. I'm sure Warner Brothers is thrilled by the timing since Order of the Phoenix opens the Friday before.

I hope Harry doesn't get killed but not matter what it will be a very exciting yet at the same moment a sad day when the book comes out.