Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What Christmas is all about...

A classic courtesy of Charles Schultz...



Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Little Drummer Mouse

I was substitute teaching at a school during their fall book fair. I found a cute little Christmas book with a slightly different take on the traditional story of The Little Drummer Boy. This story is The Little Drummer Mouse written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer.

I love the rich, detailed artwork in this book. Although it is part of the Christmas Story, all the characters - human and animal alike - are dressed in medieval-style attire, except for the three kings in their foreign garb and the "royal family", who are dressed the way the Holy Family is traditionally depicted.

The Little Drummer Mouse is the smallest mouse in his family, and his mother worries that he will lag behind and get lost, so she gives him a little acorn drum play in order to be heard. Since he is so small, he cannot play with the other, bigger, forest animals, and he is teased by both his siblings and the animals of the forest. One rabbit tells him to go play to the stars, which he does sometimes at night, out in the farmer's field.

One day, the animals hear that "the greatest king of all" would be born to man the coming winter, and the royal family would be passing through their forest. The animal decide to decorate their forest for them to see as they travel by. They wait and wait, but "only a poor man leading a donkey, and a woman wrapped in a thin blanket who rode on the donkey's back." The forest animals are greatly disappointed they went to all that work for nothing, but they decide that something important must have prevented the royal family from making their trip.

Later, when everyone else in the house is sleeping, the Little Drummer Mouse sees a new star - the loveliest star he's ever seen - out of the window. When he goes outside for a better look, he meets three kings on the way to see the new king, and they ask the Little Drummer Mouse if there is a stable nearby. After pointing them in the right direction, the Little Drummer Mouse decides he wants to see the baby king, too, and plucks up the courage to follow the three kings. He thinks he will not be noticed and watches as the people present the baby with their simple gifts to the man and woman the animals had seen in the forest. Then, he sees the three kings present their extravagant gifts and thinks that since he wasn't invited, he should leave. However, he is prevented from going by a shepherd's foot.

The shepherd start playing their instruments. The Little Drummer Mouse is so caught up with the music, he joins in on his little acorn drum and does not notice when the other players stop. The baby's mother asks the drummer to be brought forward. The scared Little Drummer Mouse is picked up. He is astonished to hear the new mother ask him to keep playing, as the baby seems to like it. Soon, not only was the Little Drummer Mouse joined by the other musicians, but everyone else began to sing. No longer was the Little Drummer Mouse being teased for playing his little acorn drum...

While the book never names the man, his wife, or the new baby, it is completely obvious they are meant to be Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus, even though the setting is wrong. I think it is a clever telling of part of the Christmas Story, and it is perfect for little children. The Little Drummer Mouse is recommended for children age 4 to 8.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Belleau Wood

This song by Garth Brooks was inspired by actual events during World War I. Not released on a Christmas album (it was on the 1997 Sevens album), I long ago included it on my home-made Christmas CDs. Here, Brooks performs it live:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Finished project

I wanted to make my mom a Christmas-themed scrub top, but it was hard to do it in secret, because that meant I could only work on it when she wasn't home. I was finally able to finish it last night:















And, happily, I guessed good enough on which size to make, that it fits ;-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

I met a SEAL today

Subbing has been a little slow since my extended sub, for an opening position I had applied for and (obviously...) was not selected to fill, that ended just over a month ago. Yesterday, I was able to pick up a half-day sub for this afternoon. So, I left my other (contract office job) about 10:45 and headed to the school. It was in a first grade class, and the teacher warned me she had a class full of talkers. Yeah, that was a bit of an understatement... I managed to make it through the day, and even though one little boy quite a handful, I'd be willing to give that classroom another try if the teacher decided to invite me back for future sub jobs.

Today, unlike that extended sub job, included the responsibility to walk all the students out to be picked up. Sometimes, it's hard to keep track of 15-20 kids you've only just met when there are all the other classes out for dismissal, as well. Most of the time, kids are good about saying their parent or whoever is there to take them, or the car is there, or whatever, and sometimes the parents will come up to us instead of the kids running off to the parent. That little handful's dad came up, and was letting me know he was taking his son. He's possibly somewhere about my age, and he was nicely dressed, with a long, dark, winter overcoat. Then, I noticed the Trident on his lapel. I asked if he was a Navy SEAL. He said he was, and that most people don't know the significance of the Trident. I, of course, thanked him for his service. He told me what team he's served with, and when he'd served in Iraq (I won't post that here). After something he'd said, I mentioned I was currently reading Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor, in which BUD/S is described. His response? "Don't remind me..." He asked if I'd read any Richard Marcinko. I haven't, but I'm aware of his books. He said he's acquainted with Marcinko, and he'd bring some books to the teacher for me, just in case I subbed there again. I wasn't expecting to meet a SEAL, and I'd wished very much that I had my wallet handy (it was still back in the classroom), because I have some cards in there to give to people like this father of a first grader, thanking them for their service. Maybe I will get the chance again, if I am invited to substitute in that classroom again. But, it just goes to show you: you never know when or where you might come in contact with one of America's defenders...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Celebrating the season

A little while back, I was playing around, looking for a different blog layout. Didn't find a "regular" one that I was able to get to work out properly to my liking, but I ran across a couple for the holidays. Since I am big into Christmas, I downloaded them to try out at the right time of year. So, I'm celebrating the season with a different look for a while. Yeah, I know - I'm missing a lot of my usual stuff on the sidebar. I'll get around to adding that, maybe this weekend, but it's almost midnight, and I have to go to work in the morning, so I'll be needing to get to bed here shortly. I'll be doing a bit of cat-sitting for my little sister this weekend, so I be hanging at her new apartment, enjoying her comfy new living room furniture and her new 42" HDTV, and I'm sure I'll be dragging the laptop along, too ;-) Oh, and, happy birthday to her. She turned 24 today.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Peter Pan Prequels

A while back, I discovered a book by Dave Barry (the humorist) and Ridley Pearson called Peter and the Starcatchers. Since I am trying to build what will (hopefully) someday be my classroom library, I decided to pick it up. My familiarity with Peter Pan is from the animated Disney movie (I've seen the old live action movie just once or twice), so I thought it would be fun to read a "back story" of where Peter came from. We meet a seemingly ordinary orphan boy named Peter who, along with some fellow orphans, is on his was from St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys to a ship. As far as the boys know, it is destination unknown. After the boys board the Never Land, the adventure begins. There is a mysterious cargo on board, and also a mysterious young girl named Molly. Together, Peter, Molly and the orphan boys battle pirates and other ne'er-do-wells to keep that mysterious cargo safe, and in the process, help save the world. Along the way, we meet other well-known characters: Captain Hook and Tinker Bell.

Later, after the second book in the series, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, came out in paperback, I picked that one up, as well. Peter and the Lost Boys are living on an isolated island, along with the native Mollusk Tribe and Captain Hook and his stranded crew. Captain Hook has it in for Peter and the Lost Boys, as he blames Peter for being stuck on Mollusk Island. Life gets interesting - and much more dangerous - after a ship brings the shadowy Lord Ombra to Peter's island. Lord Ombra is after the starstuff left behind by the Never Land. Only the starstuff is no longer on the island. Lord Leonard Aster, a Starcatcher, has taken it back to England. Peter noticed something strange happens to people if their shadows came into contact with Lord Ombra. Peter knows Molly, Lord Aster's daughter, is in danger, so he sets off with Tinker Bell on Le Fantome, hiding on the ship on its way to England. Once the ship reaches London, Peter and Tinker Bell must find their way to the Asters' home. By the time he does, Lord Aster has already left on his mission to take the starstuff to The Return to keep it away from The Others, leaving Molly and Mrs. Aster under the protection of a pair of bodyguards. However, the bodyguards aren't prepared for Lord Ombra. Peter manages to save Molly from Lord Ombra's clutches, but Mrs. Aster is taken prisoner. Molly and Peter turns to young George Darling. Can they keep the starstuff safe from The Others until it is time for The Return? Can they rescue Mrs. Aster, and stop Lord Ombra?

In Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter is back on Mollusk Island when it is invaded by the Scorpion Tribe from another island. During the invasion, Peter is scratched by a poisoned arrow, so he is unable to fight the pirates when they try to escape in a Scorpion canoe, or when the canoe is attacked by a mysterious underwater craft. Peter, the Lost Boys and Captain Hook are prisoners of Lord Ombra, on their way to the kingdom of Rundoon. Molly and George Darling discover that Peter may be the son of a Mr. Pan, a Watcher, who would give the Starcatchers warning of a Fall of starstuff. Lord Aster fears Peter is in danger. Back in Rundoon, The Others are plotting a way to get all the starstuff they need to destroy the world. Lord Aster will make his way to Mollusk Island, and Molly, Mrs. Aster and George Darling are to return from Paris to London. However, the children give Mrs. Aster the slip in the train station and follow Lord Aster, stowing away on the ship. When they get to Mollusk Island, they are warned away by the porpoise, Ammm. Tinker Bell, who was not with Peter when he was taken, informs them Peter was taken. Will the Mollusks defeat the Scorpions? Can Lord Aster, Molly and George rescue Peter? Will Peter and the Starcatchers be able to the day?

I have very much enjoyed the series, which was inspired by author Ridley Pearson's daughter asking - after a bedtime story - how Peter Pan met Captain Hook. These books are recommended for children 12 years and older. While avid younger readers are might be fully capable of reading the books independently, some aspects might be a little disturbing to younger readers (in the third book, evil King Zarboff the Third likes to feed people to his giant snake...). The only thing I found objectionable was in the third book, when we learn of the origins of the starstuff: life on earth was just an accident:

"The first thing you must understand," groaned Ombra, "is that humanity is an accident. You, who think you are the center of creation, are in fact here because of a flaw in the cosmos."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," said Leonard.

"No," said Ombra, "you would not. You humans are so involved with the details of your tiny lives that you never notice the immense struggle beyond this insignificant speck you call the world."

"Then perhaps you will be so kind as to enlighten me."

"I will try," groaned Ombra, "though it will be difficult for you to comprehend, given the limitations of human thought and language. To put it simply as I can: there are two conflicting sides in what you call the universe. On one side is creation, being, light; on the other side is destruction, nothingness, darkness."

"And you are on the side of darkness," said Leonard.

"I am not on the side of darkness," groaned Ombra. "I am darkness."

"And the Others?" said Bakari.

"The humans you call the Others are unimportant. They do what I wish them to so, without knowing why. Like you Starcatchers, they are pawns in a game they do not understand."

"If we're so insignificant," said Leonard, "then why are you here, interfering in our affairs?"

"I will explain," groaned Ombra. "But you must first understand some history. The struggle between light and darkness had gone on since the beginning of what you call time. It was going on before there was time, though I do not except you to know what I mean by that. What you need to know is this: for the past several billion of your years, light has been winning the struggle. The side of existence, of being, is expanding. The side of nothingness, of darkness - my side - is retreating. We have survived in pockets, in voids of darkness; one such void is...not far from here. But we are losing. We are being driven back everywhere, by a force we cannot match."

"Starstuff," said Bakari.

"Yes," said Ombra. "Starstuff. It flows outward across the universe from a point called the Beginning. Where there was nothing, it creates something. It leaves in its wake galaxies, structures bigger than galaxies, and structure bigger than those. Along the way it also leaves incalculable quantities of smaller, random clots of matter and gas - comets, asteroids, rocks, dust particles - and planets. There are untold millions of planets about the same size as your Earth, did you know that, Lord Aster? I see by your expression that you did not. You humans believe you are unique. And in a sense, you are correct. Because of all these untold millions of planets, yours alone is located near the flaw."

"What flaw?" said Leonard.

"In the starstuff conduit," said Ombra. "it passes very close to Earth. You cannot see it; it does not exist in the same way that ordinary matter exists. But it is there nonetheless, carrying starstuff from the Beginning to the remote reaches of the universe, as an aqueduct carries water. But there is a flaw, and sometimes it causes a leak in the aqueduct. This is known as a Disruption, and when it occurs, a tiny quantity of starstuff escapes and enters your reality."

"A starstuff Fall," said Bakari.

"Yes," said Ombra. "It has been falling here for quite some time. That is the reason life came to exist on this barren rock in the first place. That is the reason this life acquired intelligence. You humans, and what you call your civilization, are here because of a leak in the plumbing of the universe."

"And is that why you've come," said Leonard. "To retrieve this leaked starstuff?"

"No," said Ombra. "We have come for far more than that. But to understand it, you will need to indulge me for a bit longer."

Leonard nodded.

Ombra continued: "As humans gained in intelligence, they began to understand the power of the starstuff. Some humans wanted to use it to dominate; other humans wanted to prevent them from doing so. This led to the struggle between the Others and you Starcatchers. This struggle went on for thousands of years before it was noticed."

"Noticed by whom?" said Leonard.

"By my enemies," said Ombra. "By the powers of light. Their attention had been focused elsewhere in the universe, on their struggle against my side, against darkness. When they finally saw what their starstuff Falls on Earth had caused - the development of intelligent life and the conflict between the Starcatchers and the Others - they felt responsible and decided to intervene. Had my side been in control, we would have simply eliminated your troublesome planet. But the powers of light choose not to destroy life."

I'm okay with a battle between good and evil in a fantasy novel - I've read fantasy for years - but most of the fantasy I've read don't take place in the "real world", but in completely fictional settings. Given that these Peter Pan books happen in the "real world", and because I am a Christian, I have a bit of a problem with this discussion of how we came to be here chalking it up to a twist of fate when I believe we are here for a purpose: that God placed us here. So, if you are a parent wondering whether or not to let your child read these books, forewarned is forearmed. Maybe you can use it as an opportunity to talk to your child about why you believe the way you do, and to talk about how not everyone believes the same way? But, really, this is the only part of this series that makes me uncomfortable about making them available to my future students, knowing that some parents might object...

In addition to the Starcatchers series (recommended for children age 12 and up) - which range from between about 450 pages to about 550 pages, there are a couple smaller chapter books (130-160 pages), Never Land Books, intended for younger readers, ages 8 to 12. Escape from the Carnivale and Cave of the Dark Wind both take place on Mollusk Island, and focus on what the Lost Boys are up to when Peter is gone from the island. These are easy, quick reads with much simpler plots than the Starcatchers books, but they, too, are full of adventure.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fight For The Troops

After I got done watching the copy of Kung Fu Panda I borrowed from my sister yesterday, I was flipping through the channels for something to watch while I worked on a cross-stitch project that someone's Christmas present. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back had started on SPIKE about 45 minutes earlier. Since I've see it more times than I could count, and it didn't matter that I'd missed the beginning of it, and that I didn't need to pay close attention to it to know what was going on, that's what I went with. I'm now on to Return of the Jedi, and I've now seen several commercials promoting Fight For The Troops. It seems that UFC and SPIKE are teaming up to raise money to benefit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. UFC Fight For The Troops is a charitable services fund of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

You can make a donation - from yourself, or in honor of someone else, or even in memory of someone - in any amount you wish, or, there is also an auction for those with both the interest and the deeper pockets. Up for auction is:


So, whether you would like to donate just a little, or if you'd like to go for one of the pricey auction items, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is a worthy charity. What has the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund done?
  • The Center for the Intrepid, co-located with Brooke Army Medical Center, opened in January 2007, specializes in physical rehabilitation
  • Provided unrestricted grants of $11,000 to each spouse and $5,000 to each dependent child; and $1,000 to parents of unmarried servicemembers killed in the line of duty prior to May 12, 2005 (the government has since increased survivor benefits)
  • Began construction, in June 2008, on the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (located near the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda), which - when completed - will be an advanced facility dedicated to research, diagnosis and treatment of military personnel and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health issues.

Please do what you can to support the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

As I get ready to celebrate out at my Grandma's house this afternoon (Dad has cooked the turkey and is working on the cornbread dressing, and I've taken care of a couple of chocolate pies, and everyone else will contribute some dish or other to the feast), I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. I know things aren't as I would wish them to be at this time, but I try to remember that things could be worse. Even though there is much I would like to be different in my life and in the world, I still have much to be thankful for: a roof over my head, food on the table, family and friends whom I love - and love me, and I am a citizen of the best nation in the history of the world.

I would also like to thank all those who serve - or have served - who help make the life I have possible. No matter where you are in the world today, know that many Americans - this one included - appreciate all the sacrifices you have been willing to make for the rest of us.

For a bit of history, The Lost Story of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A long way to go, and a short time to get there...

If this year's Valour-IT fundraiser is going to make its goal of $250,000, we need to get on the ball. As of now, we've raised just a little more than 27% of that goal, with $68,367. I got paid today, so I'll see what more I can do to help the cause. Please give what you can to this wonderful cause.

British Marine Rugby Tackles Homicide Bomber in Afghanistan

Saw that headline when I was checking FoxNews.com today at the office. From their story:

A British Marine saved the lives of 130 soldiers in Afghanistan when he used a rugby tackle to take down a homicide bomber before he was able to detonate a motorcycle bomb, The Daily Mail reported Tuesday.

The unidentified 40-year-old Marine sprung to tackle a Taliban fighter when he reached for a detonator button to blow 154 pounds of explosives strapped to a motorcycle that had been driven into a group of 130 Marines and Afghan soldiers, The Mail reported.

Fox News links to the UK Daily Mail:

Major Rich Cantrill, Company Commander of L Company, said the marine saved many lives.

Major Cantrill said: 'He acted with conspicuous gallantry in the situation and put himself at great peril to get the suicide bomber away from the motorbike.

'He ran over and more or less rugby tackled him to the ground. I got on the radio and I heard mention of hand fighting.

'He had grabbed him away from the bike after seeing wires and switches. He quickly realised the full implications of it all.

'He showed great restraint in dealing with him especially as he had tried to kill him and the other lads around him.

'It was conspicuous gallantry. He saved multiple lives. Everyone thinks he's a hero.

'It was a bungled attempt at a suicide bombing but he still could have set off the other charge.

'Had it not been for this Marine's actions there would have been a massive explosion.'

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Today is V-I Day

Image courtesy Zombietime
From Zombietime:

We won. The Iraq War is over.

I declare November 22, 2008 to be "Victory in Iraq Day." (Hereafter known as "VI Day.")

By every measure, The United States and coalition forces have conclusively defeated all enemies in Iraq, pacified the country, deposed the previous regime, successfully helped to establish a new functioning democratic government, and suppressed any lingering insurgencies. The war has come to an end. And we won.

What more indication do you need? An announcement from the outgoing Bush administration? It's not gonna happen. An announcement from the incoming Obama administration? That's really not gonna happen. A declaration of victory by the media? Please. Don't make me laugh. A concession of surrender by what few remaining insurgents remain in hiding? Forget about it.

The moment has come to acknowledge the obvious. To overtly declare a fact that has already been true for quite some time now. Let me repeat:

WE WON THE WAR IN IRAQ

And since there will never be a ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue in New York for our troops, it's up to us, the people, to arrange a virtual ticker-tape parade. An online victory celebration. Saturday, November 22, 2008 is the day of that celebration: Victory in Iraq Day.


Read it all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Auctions in support of Project Valour-IT

Okay, I'm a little late to the party with posting about the auction. However, it's not just the books up for auction now. There is now also a hand-made fleece tie blanket.

Books for auction:

The Last Centurion by John Ringo (author autographed & dated)
The Quantum Connection by Travis S. Taylor (author autographed)
Warp Speed by Travis S. Taylor (author autographed)
Slanted Jack by Mark. L. Van Name (First Edition; author autographed)
Complete Hammer's Slammers Vol 1 by David Drake (author autographed)
Von Neumann's War by John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor (author autographed)
Vorpal Blade by John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor (author autographed)
The Ransom of Black Stealth One by Dean Ing (autographed by author)
The Nemesis Mission by Dean Ing (autographed by author)
American Rifle by Alexander Rose (autographed by author)
The War Within by Bob Woodward

And, the fleece tie blanket:
Hand-made two-layer fleece tie blanket


Update 11/25/08, 11:16pm

As of Sunday (the 23rd), the fleece blanket sold. There are plenty of books left, though - 25 as of now, with some auctions ending as soon as midday Thanksgiving Day, the rest running as long as until late Saturday. To see all items still available in support of Valour-IT (there are new books added since I originally posted which I do not have time to individually link), you can see them here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008 Project Valour-IT Fundraising Competition

Update 11/15/08, 2:39pm CDT:

Team Army is in second place with $11,037. Total raised overall, so far: $36,473. That's not quite 15% of the $250,000 goal.


It's that time again. Time for the annual Project Valour-IT Fundraiser. Yesterday, I joined Team Army and added the team donation button to the sidebar.

This morning, I received an email from the man who got this whole thing started:

The valour-IT project is out of cash--unless we raise the funds to keep going, it will cease to exist, and the DOD will issue voice software to people who don't have computers to run it.

As of this writing, just over 5% of the goal amount ($250,000) has been raised.

Last night, I found Chuck's post explaining what it's like to try to use a computer without the use of one's hands:

Okay, this is really cool.

First, if you haven't already, maximize your browser window.

Next, (and this is critical) put your drink/cereal/whatever down.

Next, and this is also critical, (trust me--I work for the gummint) you must put your hands under your legs until you finish reading this post.

Now, start reading.

Some of my first memories in the hospital were of an angel at my bedside. Not the winged, harps and choruses kind of angel, but an angel in Human form named Kathleen.

I don't remember what she first said to me. I don't remember much really, but to this day, I still remember the soup.

...

Soon Kathleen told me there was clear broth to be had

...

There was just one

small

problem:

I didn't have anyway to feed myself. My hands were bandaged, my shoulders swollen from being dislocated, I had tubes coming out of my arms, which had swollen so much from infection that I now sport scars on both where they had to cut them open to keep them from splitting open on their own--an armpisiotomy, if you will.

I could continue this story, but I won't right now, because if you're reading this, you've failed to follow instructions. You pulled your hand out from under your legs, and either used you mouse or touchpad to scroll down this far.

Being able to use a computer sure is nice, isn't it?

I had the privilege of meeting Chuck's amazing wife, Carren, the weekend of October 18th at SpouseBUZZ Live in San Antonio. She is a strong advocate for Valour-IT and what it gives to our Wounded Warriors who have lost the normal use of their hands, even temporarily. This is an important program, and we should all do whatever we can to ensure that it continues to help those who need have given so much for all of us. This year's theme is "give up something to give to the troops". So, even if all you can do is skip that weekly $5 value meal at McDonald's, it's the least that can be done for them... Please donate. You have until Thanksgiving!

Nineteen years later...

With me being so busy lately, I completely missed the 19th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Nineteen years ago, on November 9, 1989, I was watching it all on CNN in my college dorm room, in complete disbelief. It was an event I never thought I would witness in my lifetime.

I had been to a divide Berlin twice before, when we were stationed in Augsburg from 1978 to 1982. As it happened, even though I was stateside going to college, my dad was once again stationed in Augsburg.

When I returned home for the summer in May 1990, we immediately left for Berlin. I was able to see with my own eyes that The Wall had, indeed, fallen. It was an amazing sight, one I will never forget.

This photograph of a section of The Berlin Wall that had been beautifully painted (something that only even happened on the Western side of The Wall until after it fell), had been spared destruction, and sat on display outside (IIRC) the Checkpoint Charlie museum.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Cherish your freedom and guard it with honor and respect
For it carries the blood of those who gave it to you


Update: The Virtual Veterans' Day Parade at YouServed

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Virtual Veterans' Day Parade

From CJ @ A Soldier's Perspective:

Just a reminder for those that have signed on to participate. The cutoff for sending me your images or ideas is November 4th! If you or a fellow milblogger want to participate, I just need three things: the name you'd like us to use, a "float" (basically an image associated with either your blog or your feelings about Veterans Day), and a brief description of what Veteran's Day means to you. If you don't have an image, we can try to create one for you. Just send us an idea of what you're thinking about. The Virtual Veterans Day will be composed of a scrolling images or floats along with your names, blogs, and thoughts on Veterans Day. I've only got about 14 participants right now, which means only $280 for Valour-IT. I'm sure we could do much better than that. I still need some info from a few of you, which I'll remind through email.

veterans day

Greetings fellow milbloggers and assorted opiners of liberty!! For those that don't know me, you haven't had your head in the sewage much and I applaud you for it. For those that do, I apologize again. I write this to ask for your help in arranging a virtual Veterans Day Parade that will be hosted on the YouServed blog and I would like to enlist your help (yes, even if you are/were commissioned, you're being enlisted for THIS cause!).

Here's what I need from you. First, of course, is participation. This hasn't been done before and if we pull this off I may have a shot at being the next writer for Blackfive during the upcoming television series "So You Think You Can Blog For Blackfive"!!

We'd like to get at least 30 participants for the "parade", but the more the merrier. For every participant I can get, the VA Mortgage Center will donate $20 to VALOUR-IT. That's right, for EACH participant.

Second, I need you to contact other milbloggers and ask for their participation. For blogs like ASP, Mudville Gazette, and Blackfive where there are multiple authors, each participant will count as a separate person for this purpose.

Finally, I need each milblogger to provide the following information:

Name or screenname
Blog URL
Character "float" you'd be and why you picked it (for example: Snoopy because he was the Red Baron - a veteran like no other!!)
Personal thoughts about Veterans Day.

You can either send me the picture you'd like to use for your float or we can make one to use. The picture can be something you create or just an image you like that reminds you of Veterans Day and speaks to your "float". Please forward this post to your favorite milbloggers and have them contact me if they're interested. Share this on YOUR blogs and snatch this up into emails to milbloggers as well. The deadline for this is November 4th - one week prior to Veteran's Day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Learning Experience

This past weekend, even though I am not a military spouse, I had the privilege of attending SpouseBUZZ Live in San Antonio, at the invitation of Carren, wife of milblogger Chuck Ziegenfuss. I had never met Carren before, but I've been a long-time reader and commenter at Chuck's place. Carren and the other ladies I met made me feel very welcome.

SpouseBUZZ Live itself was very interesting. The two panels ("A Humorous Look at the Milspouse Experience" and "Making the Most of the Milspouse Experience") were both very informative, at times very entertaining, or very touching. It made me understand that some things for the military family have changed quite a bit in the 17 years since my father retired after nearly 27 years of service, but it also reminded me that some things about military family life will probably never change.

After the event was over, some of the ladies wanted to go to Brooke Army Medical Center. There was a specific person one wanted to visit in the burn unit, and Carren and I wanted to see if we might be able to meet service members in the ortho ward. The other ladies were going to knit in the lobby while we went upstairs. When we checked in at the desk on the ortho ward, we were informed that there were actually only a couple of service members currently on the ward. The gentleman we spoke to walked us around the ward and showed us the brand new hospital beds the ward had just been outfitted with, to replace the original, 12-year old, beds. Carren, having become quite familiar with WRAMC and what a Wounded Warrior goes through while an in-patient was very much impressed with the new features of the bed: they will help to tilt the patient to the left or right, based on the doctor's orders, eliminating the need to stack pillows and to turn the patient manually; also, it can weigh the patient without having to move them out of the bed. We were able to meet one of the patients, a young Air Force lieutenant who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident (a woman pulled out in front of him) and his mother. I followed Carren's lead, since I had no prior experience meeting injured troops. Carren spoke to Mom about Soldiers' Angels and Valour-IT while I talked baseball with the LT. He's a Red Sox fan, and at the time, they had yet to be eliminated in the ALCS.

On Sunday, I went back down to San Antonio. The plan was to go to the Fisher House at BAMC to deliver some of the extra (very nice) giveaway bags from Saturday's event (and to share information about SpouseBUZZ, and to see check in to see what's going on. When we got back over to BAMC, and were to have meet a couple of "locals" at the Powless Guesthouse. Unfortunately, there was a family emergency, so we were on our own, but that didn't turn out to be any problem. We went into the Guesthouse and learned that the place we wanted to go, the Warrior and Family Support Center was housed on the second floor. One of the volunteers walked us up and introduced us. Once Carren explained what we were about, we went back out to my car to get the bag. The Center is the main gathering place for guests at Powless and the Fisher Houses, so we could leave all the bags there. Carren spoke at length with the volunteer who seemed to be "in charge", and Kate (another milspouse) and I interacted with the cutest little 2-year old girl who was there with a family member, and also were individually snagged by another volunteer - an older gentleman - to be told about the new facility that will be having it's grand opening on Monday, December 1st, 2008.

The Returning Heroes Home will give the officially named Warrior and Family Support Center about ten times the space they currently have with the second floor space at the Powless Guesthouse. Given all the services the Center provides, they really need it. Many area churches provide dinners for the Center. We were also told that at Christmas and Easter, the Jewish synagogues volunteer to provide dinner: they figure that since they aren't celebrating these holidays, they can gift the gift of their time to allow Christian volunteers to celebrate instead of working.

Seems someone came to Judith Markelz, the program manager, asking what they wished for. "A new building." Now, less than two years later, through the efforts of brothers Steve and Les Huffman, owner of Huffman Developments (a construction firm), that wish is coming true. The 3.589 million dollar project has been funded entirely with private donations. If you would like to help out, you can make a donation. At this point in time you can still make a donation of $50 to purchase a personalized paver brick (about 100 left) ("a tasteful and permanent way to honor your family or loved one"). Returning Heroes Home is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your donation would be tax deductible.

This architectural drawing is impressive enough, showing the Hill Country style that can be seen all around this part of Texas, but it doesn't do justice to the actual building, which we were able to get a glimpse of before heading out to take my new friends to the airport for their flight home.


This building, with the white rock and tin roof, would be at home on any Central Texas or Hill Country spread... While the volunteer who was bragging on it invited me to attend the grand opening, I don't think I'll be able to make it. However, I do hope to work out being able to volunteer there from time to time. I sent an email last night to the contact information I got on Sunday, but I haven't heard back yet. If anyone is interested in volunteering, drop me an email and I can pass along the contact info.

For a little background, this is a video about the Returning Heroes Home from July 2007...



...and this report from WOAI television from September 2007...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An American Carol



I went to see An American Carol yesterday afternoon. I have to say I agree with Wordsmith over at Flopping Aces (H/T: CJ @ ASP):

The movie itself is uneven, crude, unapologetically- nay, proudly- pro-American, over-the-top, simplistic, funny, stupid, less-than-funny, hilarious, offensive, mercilessly lampooning the American Left. I loved it.

I don't usually go for David Zucker movies (Airplane! and The Naked Gun - generally not my preferred sort of humor), but I figured any movie that openly made fun of The Left deserved my support. I went to the first showing - 12:30pm Saturday afternoon. When I got to the 14-screen cinema, the parking lot wasn't very full, and there were maybe a dozen people there to see An American Carol. After the movie ended, someone even applauded! I laughed; I got a little teary-eyed with American pride. I'll try to see this movie again before it leaves the theater...

Judging from what Wordsmith had to say, not all theaters showed the same previews before the movie. The ones I saw were Oliver Stone's W, Defiance, Proud American and Milk. The only one I'd heard of before was W, and I thought to myself that people going to see Carol likely weren't the same folks who would be interested in seeing W...

Defiance, set to be released December 12th, looks to be an excellent movie. It is the true story of three brothers, Jews from Poland, who escape the Nazis into the Belorussian forest where they eventually come to lead a group of resistance fighters and save the lives of many Jews.

Proud American, in the trailer, seemed to be a series of vignettes of different inspiring American stories. The movie's website says:

This story takes the audience to the most stirring and heartwarming scenes in America. History, adventure and spectacular scenery are the backdrop. Opportunity, personal responsibility, and the free enterprise system is the platform in which America's success is molded. We are a nation that owes much to many. This is an American story told through the magic of magnificent music performed by top performers, breathtaking photography, thrilling aerial scenes, and some of the most touching human moments ever presented on the giant screen.

I admit that isn't very helpful, but it could be an interesting movie to see - if I had a clue as to where it is showing, since it came out in September...

Milk - starring Sean Penn - another movie I thought wasn't really for the same target audience as Carol... It is the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to win public office in the United States, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Might be an interesting story, but I've long since decided I won't go see any more movies with Sean Penn in it...

I just hope An American Carol does well, and that Hollywood will figure out that if they make movies celebrating America, Americans and American Exceptionalism, people WILL go. Kind of like the voice from the cornfield in Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come..."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bats At The Beach

I found Bats at the Beach, written and illustrated by Brian Lies, around Halloween, I think in 2006. It's a very original, fun concept. Bats aren't really my favorite animal, but they are made to be very likable, cute, even, in this book. The bats are anthropomorphized, but also retain their "battiness", coming out at night, eating bugs or fruits, and living in dark places.

The story is presented as a poem:

Sun slips down and all is still,
and soon we can't tell sky from hill.
Now from barn and cave and rafter,
bats pour out with shrieks of laughter.

The rising moon can grow no fatter
as sky lights up with gleeful chatter:
Quick, call out! Tell all you can reach-
the moon is just perfect for bats at the beach!


Soon we've got out buckets, trowels,
banjoes, blankets, books, and towels,
strapped on backs and under wings.
- Have we forgotten anything?

Once at the beach, the bats toast bug-mallows, bury each other in the sand, play in the surf, play games, and moon-bathe. As the sun starts to come up, the bats return home for the day.

All in all, this is a cute book, which B&N recommends for children 5 to 8 years old. When I was at Barnes & Noble the other day, I did see that Brian Lies has another book, Bats at the Library, which I now see just came out this month. I'll read it when I have a chance and let you know what I think...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

I have been trying to develop a diverse library of children's books. One of the areas that is still pretty thin is music. When I saw Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney, I picked it up and flipped through it. I think it is a very fun book with a clever "format"...

Although it is a picture book (recommended for children 5-9 years of age), it is sectioned into "tracks": Hoofin' in Harlem, Jammin' at Yale, Stompin' at the Savoy and Carnegie Hall Scat. Ella's story is told by "Scat Cat Monroe", a zoot-suited feline.

Track 1

Ella hoped to make it big as a dancer. She taught herself to tap. She and her friends would perform on the street corners in Yonkers, New York. Neighbors told her to go to Harlem, in New York City, "where dreams really do come true." At seventeen, at the Apollo Theatre, she entered a talent contest. When the got on stage, "her feet failed her", but she wouldn't be booed off the stage, so she started to sing. "She won the contest straight up, kicked her dance dreams to the curb, and pinned all her hopes on being a singer."

Track 2

The following year, as a "featured singer" at the Harlem Opera House, "Bardou ALi, the master of ceremonies for the Chick Webb Orchestra, saw Ella perform." He knew she had to sing with Chick, but Chick didn't think people came to listen to a singer, but to hear the instruments. "What Chick didn't know was that Ella's voice was its own instrument." Chick gave her a chance:

He told her she could sing with his orchestra at a college dance the next night. At Yale University - the Ivy League, where gettin' loose don't always come easy. Chick told Ella that if she could work that college crowd, she could join his band.

So Ella went to Yale with a purpose. And, man, once Ella started to sing, she had them Yalies
jammin'.


Track 3

The Chick Webb Orchestra regularly played the Savoy in Harlem "to a house packed tighter than the A train". The band played, Ella sang, and she joined the audience on the dance floor when she was done.

"When the sun set on Harlem, and the cats and kitties came out to play, it was Ella and Chick they were coming to see."

The Savoy also had a battle of the bands. One contest was between Chick Webb's orchestra and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. The applause from the audience would determine the winner.

Benny set the contest in motion. His band started with a song called "Peckin'." They made the place swing, no doubt.

Then Chick's band took their turn. Chick's drum solos were slammin'. They backed up Ella's vocals, which gave new meaning to the word divine.

The contest was close from the get-go. Those musicians put a fever to the room. They had me sweatin' the sheen off my fur, and scuffin' my wing-tip shoes. When Chick's band played "Harlem Congo," the crowd got hotter than bootleg Tabasco. That's 'cause Ella set "Harlem Congo" on fire. Her voice was quick-fried rhythm, with a brassy satin twist.

She sizzled with Chick's cymbals.

Busted loose with his bongos.

She tamed the crowd while Chick played his timpani.

And, man, that ain't all!

Ella worked the downbeat. She milked the backbeat.

She sang like tomorrow wasn't ever gonna come.

Four thousand people filled the Savoy Ballroom that night. The contest lasted five hours. When it was done, everybody knew who was boss.

Track 4


Chick had to put nightclubs on a waiting list for his orchestra. "Ella's popularity showed them that a true star has no color - it just shines."

Ella wasn't afraid to try new things in music. She tried bebop, which is "jazz on the wild side."

It was: SYN-CO-PATION. LO-CO-MOTION.
Fast-smack sound - done low down.
It was slam-bamming on the flitter-tip.
It was ham-hock-jabber.
FEVER. Pitch.

Dizzy Gillespie was a bebop star. "With his trumpet, he could blow notes into back flips." Ella joined his band. She "used her voice in the same way Dizzy used the notes he made with his horn - like a runaway leaf flying high on a breeze."

Dizzy & Ella performed before a sell-out crowd at Carnegie Hall on September 29, 1947.

Dizzy's trumpet chirped. It zipped. It sputtered in double-time tempo.
Ella's singing hung fast to Dizzy's rhythm.
Dizzy bounced his bebop to Ella.
Ella shot him back her scat.
Man, those two were making up music in the moment.
It was invention.
It was frolic.
It was cooler than cool.
Ella put scat on the map. When she and Dizzy threw down their skippity-hop-doo-dee-bop, every soul in the place slipped into the jam.

Ella Fitzgerald became The Queen of Scat, The First Lady of Song; she was a Vocal Virtuosa...

At the back of the book, there is a Note from the Author and a Note from the Illustrator. The author's note include specific biographical information about Ella Fitzgerald and lists many of the honors she received. The illustrator's note discusses his inspirations for his paintings for this book. Also included at the back are a bibliography, videography and "selected" discography.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa has fun with words. It's not "perfect" English, but I think it perfectly illustrates the musical culture Ella Fitzgerald represents. Even though this is "just a book", the words seem to make the music come alive from the printed page.

This book would be good to share with any child, but I think it could be a great tool to introduce music lessons about Ella, the Big Band era, and jazz.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Words of Wisdom

I've been reading The Button Box:A Daughter's Loving Memoir of Mrs. George S. Patton by Ruth Ellen Totten Patton (the younger of the Pattons' two daughters). I've not been able to just sit and read, with some of the other things I've had going on, but when I know I'll have some "down time" (waiting for appointments, break time when I am subbing), I bring it along.

I've got a lot of stuff in storage right now, and I needed to go dig something out. My storage place is right next to a Sonic Drive-in, so I figured I'd grab some lunch before "excavating" for my toaster oven...

The first thing that grabbed me today was something I think would be very much at home on some of the threads over at Cassandra's place:

A marriage is like a tree; sometimes it is in bud; sometimes in blossom; sometimes in leaf, sometimes in fruit, and then; sometimes the leaves will all fall off and it will look dead, but if you keep on cultivating the roots, always cultivating the roots, it will come alive again. (p. 261)

Not too much after that, Ruth Ellen relates the story of a young lieutenant and a lady friend who came to see Mrs. Patton during the Patton's last time in Hawaii. Seems the young lady had gotten thrown out of her family's home after "getting into trouble (remember, this was the 1930s). The woman who "helped" the young lady through the birth of her child up the baby up for adoption and introduced her to a man who "promised her a good job in San Francisco" (p. 266), and the poor girl ended up in a whore house in Honolulu. The young lieutenant met her shortly after her arrival and "fell in love with her, bought her time-book from the Madam who was a well-known and respected figure in Honolulu [ed. - prostitution was regulated and legal there at that time; remember that Hawaii was not yet a state], and intended to marry her. (p. 266)" He wanted Mrs. Patton to "check her out" and hoped for a "seal of approval" from Mrs. Patton (p. 266). Mrs. Patton did approve. Apparently, the lieutenant later became a lieutenant general in the Air Force, and he and the lady (who "was an asset to him" [p. 267]) had a successful marriage and four children.

Mrs. Patton, being a concerned mother, worried about the virtue of her two girls remaining intact. Ruth Ellen's recollections of the lessons:

Ma had told us from as long as I can remember that a woman's only truly personal possessions are her reputation and her virginity; you inherit your maiden name from your father; your husband trusts you with his family name when you marry; but your virginity is yours and yours alone to give to whom you choose, and if you give it away for nothing you get nothing in return. She said that virginity was a physical fact and that chastity was a spiritual virginity and it was to be handled with equal care. After Bee [ed. - the Pattons' eldest daughter] and I resented being different we started to glory in it, and keeping ourselves for Prince Charming in his golden cloak was very real. (p. 267)

If more mothers would teach this to their daughter today, and if those daughters would take those lessons to heart, I think certain things would be so much better today than they are...

Supporting Any Soldier, Inc.

I've been a little lax in posting about Any Soldier lately. This morning, I participated in a chat at Any Soldier with one of Any Soldier's most popular and well know contacts, Major Gary Bourland. Since Gary was a pen pal of mine back in 2004 when he was in Afghanistan with 1/6 Marines, it was a chat I didn't want to miss. Gary mentioned that there were some items up on eBay. So, I went to eBay and searched on "AnySoldier", as instructed. There are currently six items up for auction:

Marine Corps 25 count Cigar Humidor (dark finish)
Marine Corps 25 count Cigar Humidor (light finish)
Marine Corps 75 count Cigar Humidor (dark finish)
AnySolider Golf Package
Marine Coffee Mugs and Coffee Package
Freedom of Expression Lithograph

All proceeds from these auctions will go to Any Soldier, Inc. Also, the National Museum of the Marine Corps donated a number of the items up for auction.

Any Soldier also has a raffle going. Someone offered up their house in Prince Frederick, Maryland for the fundraiser. The house recently appraised for $835,000.

This beautiful single-family home is nestled on 7.989 acres in Prince Frederick, Maryland. WATERVIEW OF PATUXENT RIVER -- INCREDIBLE Farm Property! Beautiful Custom Colonial Home has much attention to detail; approx. 3500 square feet on two levels with 1620 square feet finished in basement, five bedrooms, 2.5 baths, zoned heat, upgraded fixtures, HWD, Imported Italian Limestone, authentic barnwood in LL, Recessed Lighting, Cherry Cabinets in Kitchen, Hot water in Garage. 5 Stall Barn, 6 paddocks, Hay Bin, Saw Dust Bin, Wash Rack, Electric and Water in every stall, large run-in.

There are lots of pictures of the house. I would love to have a house like this, with all that land and the pretty views. Raffle tickets are $100 each. If you don't win the house in the raffle (drawing to be held November 11, 2008), you have a chance at other prizes: 2nd Prize - $10,000 cash, 3rd Prize - $5,000 cash, 4th Prize - $2,500 cash, 5th Prize -$1,000 cash. Nine thousand tickets must be sold for this auction to be a "go". All the legalese is posted on the raffle page for those with a serious interest in this raffle.

Any Soldier, Inc. is a fabulous organization that now provide support to more than 100,000 service members through more than 3,000 service member contacts. If you are able, help keep this valuable operation going.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Too many holes in the story

Stanley Kurtz is doing a job that should be done by the rest of our free press. He is asking important questions that need answers. And there are other who seems to be stonewalling about letting those answers get out:

Questions to Press
While Rolling’s letter raises more questions than answers, it seems clear that we’re not being told the whole truth about who chose Obama to lead the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. In particular, the Obama campaign’s claim that Deborah Leff and Patricia Graham may have put forward Obama’s nomination can no longer be taken as the last word on the subject. The Rolling letter strongly suggests that Obama and his allies are not being fully forthcoming on this issue, quite possibly in an attempt to disguise the fact the Bill Ayers had a substantial role in elevating Barack Obama to the chairmanship of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. More generally, in the immediate wake of my attempt to gain access to the CAC records, Rolling appears to have been maneuvering, both to block my access, and to make sure that the full story of who chose Obama as CAC head would not come out.

Given the Rolling letter, here are some questions that need to be asked:

1. Why did Ken Rolling contact UIC on August 11, 2008? Was he tipped off to my inquiry on the same day by someone at UIC? If so, who?

2. Was Ken Rolling in touch with anyone in the Obama campaign on August 11, or shortly thereafter. Has Rolling been in touch with Bill Ayers since August 11? Has the Obama campaign been in touch with any of the CAC founders, Chapman, Hallett, or Ayers, since August 11? In other words, has the Obama campaign been working through Rolling or the other CAC founders, including Ayers, to help manage this story?

3. What is the full story of Obama’s elevation to the chairmanship of CAC, and what role did Bill Ayers play in the choice of Obama?

4. Did Obama and Ayers know one another prior to their time at CAC?

The Obama campaign’s initial response to this issue notwithstanding, the question of how a young and inexperienced lawyer like Obama was chosen to head a foundation created by Bill Ayers in 1995 is still very much open. Ken Rolling, Warren Chapman, Anne Hallett, and indeed, Barack Obama and Bill Ayers must now provide some answers.

Burning Down The House: What Caused Our Economic Crisis?

Updated after someone attempted to get the original video banned from YouTube...

How did we get here? Watch this 10-minute video. All claims are cited, so you can do your own research if you so choose:



H/T: Instapundit

Thursday, September 25, 2008

COP Lybert

Haole Wahine sent me a link to yesterday's post at Gratitude & Prayers, which is currently supporting 6-4 CAV, 3-1 INF in Afghanistan. COP Lybert, named for a soldier killed in the area in 2006, came under attack on September 11, 2008. One soldier was killed. Go read the story and watch the related video.

Haole also informed me there would be a memorial service at Fort Hood tomorrow, but I am unable to attend.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama's Presidential Coin

Will the narcissism never end? Grim links to Dad29, who links to Hot Air, who links to the Birmingham (UK) Post article:

The coins already sold to the Democrats will be presented to the senators, congressmen, governors and other politicians they are being given to within the next two weeks.

There will also be a television advertising campaign launched in the US.
...
When they got in touch with the Democrats the party jumped at the chance. And the coins have proved such a hit that locally produced versions have already been launched to compete with the UK originals.

The coins show Senator Obama’s face, along with a picture of the White House and the legend “President of the United States of America”.

Never mind we are still more than 6 weeks from Election Day, and even further from Inauguration Day...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ASP raffle to help family of fallen blogger

I never read any of Bane's stuff, but he was apparently a friend of sorts to many in the milblogosphere. Bane, who was a veteran, passed away Monday morning. CJ over at A Soldier's Perspective is raising funds to help the family with funeral and hospital expenses by raffling off this "Paratroopers of Blackfive" t-shirt he wore at this past weekend's Milblog Conference in Las Vegas. If you would care to contribute, go on over to CJ's place.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bill Whittle: The Undefended City

Popped over to Bill Whittle's place this evening to see if there was something new. Indeed there was:

If you step far enough back to look at the whole of human history, you will begin to see a very plain rhythm: a heartbeat of civilization. Steep climbs out of disease and ignorance into the light of medicine and learning — and then a sudden collapse back into darkness. And it is in that darkness that most humans have lived their lives: poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

The pattern is always the same: at the height of a civilization’s powers something catastrophic seems to occur — a loss of will, a failure of nerve, and above all an unwillingness to identify with the values and customs that have produced such wonders.
...
When all is said and done, Civilizations do not fall because of the barbarians at the gates. Nor does a great city fall from the death wish of bored and morally bankrupt stewards presumably sworn to its defense. Civilizations fall only because each citizen of the city comes to accept that nothing can be done to rally and rebuild broken walls; that ground lost may never be recovered; and that greatness lived in our grandparents but not our grandchildren. Yes, our betters tell us these things daily. But that doesn’t mean we have to believe it.

As always, go read all of The Undefended City.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Challenger: A Free-flying American Bald Eagle

Got this link in an email from a new internet acquaintance. Challenger is an American Bald Eagle who was rescued at five weeks of age who became human-imprinted and unable to be re-released into the wild. He is now an ambassador of the efforts to preserve his species. He was named to honor the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger that was lost on January 28, 1986.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dig It

You should be judged by the company you choose to keep. When you keep company with unrepentant domestic terrorists, I find you lacking. You have no moral compass and you should not be the Leader of the Free World.



H/T: TigerHawk

Update: Jane of Marine Moms - Bethesda sends a link to her "The Man Who Would Be President". It's just another example of how Obama lacks the character to be President of the United States of America.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Question...

Have we ever had a sitting president who had a child on active duty in the military?

I asked my dad that this evening - him being the history teacher and all - and he said there was a Roosevelt involved with the D-Day invasion.

I did a little checking, at that was Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., eldest son of President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, but as far as I can tell, he was not in the military while his father was still in office.

So, does anyone know of one? If not, if John McCain is elected President, he would be the first, what with his son Jim, 20, in the Marine Corps (as a Lance Corporal at this time), and his son Jack, 22, in his fourth year at the U.S. Naval Academy.

I guess the same question could he asked of sitting Vice Presidents, as well. Would Sarah Palin be the first, with her son, PFC Track Palin, having just deployed to Iraq. Of course, Joe Biden has a son in the JAG Corps in Iraq right now, too.

9/16/08: Welcome ASP readers!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years later

Where I was, seven years ago, when I heard about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon:

9/11/01 was the last morning I just listened to the radio in the morning while getting ready to go to work. That morning, I was going into work late because I had to take my car in to get payment for repairs arranged after I had been re-ended in my new car. I always just had the radio on as part of my alarm clock, and it would turn off an hour after my alarm. The radio had turned off before I left for the insurance office.

When I arrived at the insurance office, the agent I was dealing with (the agent for the guy who rear-ended me) asked if I had been watching or listening to the news. I told him no, and he informed me that a jet had hit the World Trade Center. At first, I thought small jet, not commercial airliner. While he was looking at the damage on my car, the Pentagon had been hit. I immediately thought Bin Laden. I went home before going into the office. I called in to see if they knew yet - yes, they did. I had turned the TV on when I got home, and I watched as the first tower collapsed. I knew that about 50,000 people worked in the towers, and I anticipated a death toll far more horrifying than it was, although nearly 3000 dead is horrifying enough.

At the time, I was part of a small church group at my parish in Fayetteville, and we had our regular weekly meeting that night. Instead of what we originally had scheduled, we went into the church and prayed the Rosary.

Since that day, I am even more of a news-junkie than I was before. I kept the TV on all the time when I was home, even overnight, watching nothing but news for days on end. I kept hoping for survivors. To this day, I often sleep with the TV on FoxNews channel.

Sadly, the deaths resulting from that attack didn't all occur on that day, or as a result of physical injuries received that day. Another friend of mine has a boyfriend who had a brother who had recently moved to Virginia and worked at the Pentagon. Stephen was a helicopter pilot. He had been part off Dust-Off during the Vietnam War. I'm not sure what Dust-Off was - I'd have to do a bit of research. Anyway, Stephen was at the Pentagon that day. Apparently, he was often in the part of the building that was hit and he lost people he knew. I'm not sure, but I think he was involved in either rescuing or dealing with the people who were pulled from the building that first day. Stephen later commited suicide. My friend and I surmised that what Stephen saw that day brought back the traumatic memories of the Vietnam War, and did not seek help in dealing with what he was going through. Stephen in buried at Arlington National Cemetry. My friend accompanied her boyfriend to the funeral. Stephen's wife moved away from there - I think she had been home when Stephen killed himself there. I happened to have a business trip to DC in May 2003, after Stephen's funeral over the winter. I was able to find Stephen's grave and photograph the headstone, since it was not in place yet at the time of the funeral. I'm sure Stephen's wife was still visiting - there were small stones placed on the top of the headstone. I don't remember the significance of that gesture.

We will never know the true toll of people whose lives will end as a direct result of the attacks. I'm sure Stephen's was not the only suicide of a survivor or a family member of those killed, and there are also those who are now getting sick and dying from illnesses connected to working at Ground Zero....

A local high school remembers

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The World of Harry Potter

I had avoided writing about the Harry Potter series. These books are generally well known, and others have done very in-depth commentary on them. So, what I will do is look at the series, overall, for those who haven't actually read them who are on the fence about them.

I started reading the books long before I went back to school to earn my M.Ed. Lyric Mezzo, who had introduced me to other fantasy series, loaned me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone back in the late '90s. Only after having borrowed all the released books from her did I decide I would get copies of my own - after another friend gave me a copy of a new release in hardcover. I've even recently gotten the older of my little sisters - who is 27 - to read them. Just the other day, she gave me back Chamber of Secrets and told me it would be okay if I brought her the next one of my "nerd books"...

The series consists of seven books, beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This is where we meet Harry Potter, an eleven year old orphan, living in the cupboard under the stairs in the home of his aunt and uncle. Harry learns that his parents were wizards, and that he is one, too, and that he has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That is where lots of people have a problem with the series, thinking it promotes witchcraft to children. People who think that, in my opinion, haven't read the books and don't know what the heck they are talking about. For those of you who lean this way, I invite you to check out Fantasy Fiction for Christians, where you can find discussions of the Christian imagery that can be found in the books (WARNING: there be spoilers there!). There are also books on the subject, as well as at least one "anti-Harry Potter" commentary book (none of which I have read). Let me just say that in the Harry Potter books, whether one is a witch or wizard is something you are born with and is not something that can be acquired. Anyhow, Harry learns that his parents were murdered by a "dark wizard" called Lord Voldemort, and that Harry is the only one to have survived when Voldemort decided to kill them; most people think Voldemort died when Harry became "the boy who lived", but there are some, including Hogwarts' headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, who believe otherwise and are on guard against Voldemort's return.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone covers Harry's first year at Hogwart's. As mentioned above, Harry turns eleven at the beginning of this book. I think it would be appropriate for a child to start reading the series about this age - 10 or 11, though I had a student in my 3rd grade student teaching class (who was 8 or 9 at the time) who was reading it. Each of the subsequent books are the succeeding years of Harry's life.

One thing I will say is that the books get progressively darker in plot as they go along. So, even if a child is a good enough reader to get through all seven books right off the bat, I'm not sure that most kids would be mature enough to deal with the darkening plot line. I would really recommend that parents read the books themselves in order to be able to make the judgment about whether or not their child is ready to read them. The first death - a murder - of a character occurs in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which is the fourth book.

Harry Potter's world is one of fantasy: magic spells, fantastical creatures, and all the conveniences enchanted objects can provide. But, it also presents situations where characters must make choices between right and wrong, and as Dumbledore says: “The time is coming when we must all choose between doing what is right, and doing what is easy.” The lesson being: sometimes doing the right thing is the difficult choice. This theme carries throughout the series, in this fantasy context. I think that parents could use the books to talk to their children about making choices, being honest, helping others: Does Harry always make the best decisions? What other choices could have been made? Is it right or wrong to keep secrets? Does evil really exist? The possibilities, I think, are fairly endless.

So, the series, in order:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


There are other "Harry Potter" books by Rowling, but they aren't really about Harry. They appear to be - I have not read them - "books" mentioned in the actual Harry Potter books: Tales of Beedle the Bard (to be released December 2008) and Classic Books from the Library of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: Quidditch through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001).

So, while I have very much enjoyed reading the Harry Potter books, I know not all parents are okay with them, and that not all children will be ready at the same age to deal with the progressing plot line through all seven books. But, before you decide to not allow your kids to read them, I would ask that you read them yourself first and make an informed decision.

On a related note, unless you've been living under a rock, you are likely aware that the books have been turned into a highly successful movie franchise. Like the books, the movies are getting progressively darker. While these movies are based on children's books, these movies - especially as the series has progressed - are NOT for small children. I've seen (and own) the already-released first five movies. A small child - and possibly not-so-small kids - might get very scared by these movies. The sixth movie is to be released July 17, 2009. As with the books, screen them first for young children.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bill Whittle: Proud of the GOP

H/T: a commenter at Michelle Malkin

Bill Whittle has a new essay, but this time it is at National Review Online:

Sarah Palin has done more than unify and electrify the base. She’s done something I would not have thought possible, were it not happening in front of my nose: Sarah Palin has stolen Barack Obama’s glamour. She’s stolen his excitement, robbed his electricity, burgled his charisma, purloined his star power, and taken his Hope and Change mantra, woven it into a cold-weather fashion accessory, and wrapped it around her neck.

A candidate who is young, funny, well-spoken, intelligent, charming, drop-dead gorgeous — and one of ours? Is this actually happening?

...

And, finally . . . what of John McCain? I’ve read many comments about his speech being a disappointment. I don’t know how it looked or played from the floor. But I know how it played from my Los Angeles living room. I believe — and we’ll know soon enough if I’m right — that John McCain did something Thursday night more powerful and astonishing than Sarah Palin did the previous evening. Sarah stole Obama’s glamour. McCain stole his message. (Granted, that may not be a lot, apart from the glamour, but it was all Obama had left.)

...

John McCain got me to believe tonight what I never really believed about him before: he is serious about changing Washington. He is serious about getting the GOP back to basics. John McCain wants to repair the brand. Claiming to want to do something is talk. What I think will cause many to believe him is something more than talk: McCain decided to man up. It’s our fault. We lost the confidence of the American people. We said we’d be true to our principles, and we weren’t. The Democrats didn’t make us do it. We did it to ourselves.

That has the ring of truth to it. It is a grownup accepting responsibility for a mistake not of his making and asking for the chance to rectify it. I don’t know how much of the country will believe him. But I did.

...

When John McCain told me what I and untold millions of Americans have always believed, what others tell me to be ashamed of and mock me for — that I live in the greatest country in the world, a force of goodness and justice in dark places, a land of heroism and sacrifice and opportunity and joy — to me that went right to the mystic chords of memory that ultimately binds this country together. Some people don’t know what it is, but there is such a thing as patriotism — pure, unrefined, unapologetic, unconditional, non-nuanced, non-cosmopolitan, white-hot-burning patriotism. John McCain loves this country. I love it too. Not what it might be made into someday — not its promise, always and only its promise — but what it was and what it is, a nation and an idea worth fighting and dying for.


Go read the whole thing.

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Must-reads from Bill Whittle (5/22/07)
Bill Whittle: Forty Second Boyd & The Big Picture (1/2/08)