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Archive for May, 2011

 

There is no cure for birth and death, save to enjoy the interval.
  —    George Santayana
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Memorial Day Graveyard at dawn

We thank you for your sacrifice…

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
A Memorial Day Message from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki
Washington, DC
May 30, 2011
Today, we pay homage to those who placed themselves on the Altar of Freedom for love of country.  Memorial Day is a time for remembrance, reflection, and respect — for honoring the men and women who gave their lives in service to the Nation.
On the last Monday of May each year, we observe moments of silence and moments of tribute to acknowledge the sacrifices by these brave few for principles greater than self. In answering their calls to duty — at Tarawa and Normandy, Seoul and Chosin, the Ia Drang and Khe Sanh, and at Baghdad and Mosul, the Shahe’ Kot, Korengal, and Marja, or any of a host of other crossroads of conflict — these American men and women stood their ground, held back the dark forces of oppression and destruction, and advanced our founding principles, ideals, beliefs, and values about the right of self-determination.  They cherished liberty and loved freedom enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life.
Many lie in final rest in our national cemeteries.  Whether at Gettysburg, one of our country’s first national cemeteries, or at Washington Crossing, our most recent dedication, each VA national cemetery is a sacred place of honor befitting the great deeds and sacrifices of the Fallen.
More than 3.7 million Americans — Veterans of every war and conflict, from our Revolution to the Global War on Terror — have been laid to rest in these hallowed shrines.  The quiet serenity, pristine nature, and strict adherence to time-honored Service traditions make our cemeteries the healing places where families and friends can remember and honor those who gave, in President Lincoln’s words, “the last full measure of devotion.”
This Memorial Day, a Nation at war prays for peace and the safe return of our sons and daughters, even as it exacts justice from those who trampled our most cherished principles.  Now, as then, in addition to our prayers for peace, we pray for the families of the Fallen.  And we pray for the Almighty’s continued blessings on this great and wonderful country of ours.
[The above photo and remarks have been taken from the Department of Veterans Affairs web site.   —   KMAB]
[The following is taken from the Wikipedia biography about General (now Secretary) Shinseki:
“General Shinseki publicly clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the U.S. would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country.  As Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required for postwar Iraq.  This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation.  From then on, Shinseki’s influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly waned.  Critics of the Bush Administration alleged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of staff because of his comments on troop levels, but the claim is disputed.
When the insurgency took hold in postwar Iraq, Shinseki’s comments and their public rejection by the civilian leadership were often cited by those who felt the Bush administration deployed too few troops to Iraq.  On November 15, 2006, in testimony before Congress, CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid said that General Shinseki had been correct that more troops were needed.”
I remember watching the evening’s news clips of General Shinseki’s Congressional testimony and thinking – “there sits the last honorable General on active duty”.  When he was later proven correct, I smiled to myself and wondered how many of our losses could have been avoided if the General’s testimony had been received by an equally honorable Congress.   —   KMAB]
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When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened.
  —    Mark Twain
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But nothing in life can ever be cleansed completely of fiction because memory is unreliable and selective at the best of times.  To those who have been misquoted, misnamed, or mischaracterized, I apologize.  I did the best I could with the limited faculties I still possess.
  —   Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Medal of Honor recipient
From the Author’s Note to his book:  “If Not Now, When?
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Talent only goes so far, but faith gets you a little farther.  I take it as a reminder of why I’m out here.  It’s, ‘Remember what kind of gift you have, and most of all, don’t let your team down.’
  —   Brian Wilson,
Closing pitcher for the SF Giants, describing the crossed-arm gesture he makes after the end of a game
(Quoted in “A Band of Misfits“, by Andrew Baggarly)
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It’s one thing to see a movie or listen to music and to think “genius” — that some gifted person and exalted apparatus has put together this unique work of art we appreciate.  However, once you know what’s behind the curtain, you begin to realize that it could be you.  It is when the tools of production are transparent that we are inspired to create.  When people understand how great work is made, they’re more likely to want to do it themselves.
  —    Chris Anderson
From his book:  “The Long Tail
[It could be you, but do you want to?   —   KMAB]
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We’re doing great!  Just last week we killed five hundred beggars.
  —    Red Skelton
(When asked how President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” was progressing.)
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Talent is not universal, but it’s widely spread:  Give enough people the capacity to create, and inevitably gems will emerge.
  —  Chris Anderson
From his book:  “The Long Tail
[This is why I’ve always favored the PC over the mainframe and the PC over Apple: give the tools to the masses of people and the Mozart’s will emerge.  Restrict opportunity by monopoly (Apple) or access (mainframe) and we never reach the potential of human creativity.  We are more likely to find Mozart with 7 billion people typing on 7 billion PCs than we are with 7 billion people constrained by the use of only limited access on single mainframe.  Yes, we will have more drudge to filter in order to find the Mozart, but in the end, they will emerge.  —  KMAB]
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Every job is important and achieving excellence should be the goal.  This is true for work, school, art and life.
  —    Rebecca Barrett
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The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.
  —   Arthur C. Clarke
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Today, James and I went to see “Pirates of the Caribbean (4): On Stranger Tides“.  It’s another of the summer block-busters and it’s basically pure Disney entertainment.  The reviews I saw were BAD, but the movie I saw was good…  Go figure!  It doesn’t have the originality of the first and it’s missing two of the three main characters, but the main man (Johnny Depp) aka Captain Jack Sparrow is there and he pretty much carries the movie.  The romantic interest is played by Penelope Cruz and she’s ok.  The camera still loves her, but they are both just a little too old for these roles.  The action is not as swashbuckling as in prior editions, but it’s still ok.  I say that because the scenes seem to lack the spontaneity of the first two.  Like the third, they are starting to become set pieces always calling forth the Pirates Theme music.  Still, both James and I found it very entertaining and a good summer flick.  I’ll definitely add it to the other three when it comes out on DVD.
I’ve added three songs to my Poems page: Patches, This Ain’t Nothin’ and Tough.  The first (Patches) is a song I remember from my teens (1970 – although it seems like it’s from an earlier time).  Some vague memory came back to me and I looked it up on Google and YouTube and found it.  The song was originally performed by Chairmen of the Board, but it’s the Clarence Carter version which I remember.  His voice still haunts me when I hear this song today.  If you’re too young to know this song, you have GOT to go listen to it on YouTube!  (Check out the lyrics first…)
The second and third songs are performed by Craig Morgan.  He’s not a real big country star on my radar (yet).  I guess because he’s only been around for about ten years, but he keeps putting out songs I like.  These two are about loss (“Nothin’“) and almost losing (“Tough“) and what really matters most in life.  I admit I’m a softy and both of these songs make me cry.
Enjoy!!
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Today I finished “Who’s Afraid Of A Large Black Man?“, by Charles Barkley (edited by Michael Wilbon) (2005©).  This is a book about racism in America.  More specifically, it’s a book about asking successful people to discuss their experiences and views about racism in America.
Charles Barkley is a famous former professional athlete.  In this book, he interviews thirteen people to open a discussion about race and racism in America.  The list includes: Tiger Woods, former President Bill Clinton, former Senator (current President) Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, and George Lopez.  Each of the interviewees brings their perspective to the issue.  All say essentially the same thing: we’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a ways to go.
I found the book a fascinating (and very quick) read.  My own view is, of course, mixed with my personal experience – racism exists and is a powerful force for division in the country I love.  I have seen it face to face, experienced it, seen people look away, and seen people rise up to the challenge of it.
I believe racism in America is about fear and economic opportunity.  The fear is the fear of “others”.  Those not like us.  Those not from around here.  Them.  I believe there is a natural tendency in humans to bond with those we are near and associate with.  Call it localism, nationalism, tribalism or some other kind of “groupism” and it still results in the same thing – “us” against “them”.  This tendency is played upon and magnified by those who seek to “control” the majority of Americans – the majority who just want to get on with their lives, get ahead a little financially and raise a family.  The tactic is to divide and conquer and, as I mentioned previously, race is one easy way of dividing people who might otherwise find common cause.
There is a perception in modern society that we can’t ALL have great jobs – whatever “great jobs” means.  That may be correct.  But, we should all be able to work hard for a living wage.  Note, I said “living wage”, not “minimum wage”.  “Work hard” means more than just showing up, although that is a very important part of working hard.  It also means giving your best effort during the time you are working. It normally means using your brains as well as your muscles.
I question this perception / belief / assumption.  I believe we can all earn a living wage. We are not all going to be “rich”, but I believe our nation is unique in its ability to fund equal opportunity.  I’m not sure we always had this ability, but I certainly believe we do now.  I believe we are moving into a post-industrial (post-standardized, post-mass produced) world where the benefits of industrial scaling are beginning to decrease and the benefits of limited, customized, specialized manufacturing are starting to dominate.  On top of that, we are now better able to use technology to make very specific (small scale) manufacturing cost effective for the majority of products.  And finally, a significant portion of the economy is now purely digital, meaning: it isn’t consumed by use.
There is a saying that a smile is something you can give away freely and never have less of.  This is what we are approaching with an economy based on digital use without consumption.  The trick will be the distribution of wealth and opportunity for economic advancement.  It will be a disgrace to see race rather than ability as the determinant factor in distribution.
The book is a terrific thought provoking read and I highly recommend it!
Finding this book was pure serendipity.  A co-worker is also an avid reader and she brings in books and just leaves them for anyone who wants to take and read them.  I was walking along the bookself and there it was…
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The advantage of probabilistic systems is that they benefit from the wisdom of the crowd and as a result can scale nicely both in breadth and depth.  But because they do this by sacrificing absolute certainty on the microscale, you need to take any single result with a grain of salt.  Wikipedia should be the first source of information, not the last.  It should be a site for information exploration, not the definitive source of facts.
  —   Chris Anderson
From his book:  “The Long Tail
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In a classic demonstration of the law of unintended consequences, it was the GI Bill that had been the engine driving change.  It’s hard for us as a nation to remember this, but at one point during the 1940s this country had nearly nineteen million young people in uniform, and by war’s end we had almost fourteen million Americans who were suddenly being mustered out of the service.  And they were all rushing into the weak economy of a country in debt.  The workplace that had been dominated by defense manufacturing during the war was, perforce, going to shrink, and there would be no work for the large majority of returning veterans.  Millions would swell the rolls of the unemployed, and the economy, unable to cope, would plummet again into a depression.  Neither the economic nor the political consequences of the situation could be risked, and something had to be done to delay or prevent certain catastrophe.
The Truman administration is often given credit for the GI Bill, but it was actually the idea of Warren H. Atherton, a California Republican and a consultant to President Roosevelt’s secretary of war.  His brilliant concept became the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, and it was the last bit of Roosevelt-era New Deal legislation.  The law enabled returning GIs to go to institutes and universities, thus keeping them occupied and off the unemployment rolls.  It wasn’t cheap, but the government could always print more money, and the negative effect of doing so was calculated to be far less deleterious than the alternative.
So what happened? The program had its desired effect.  Averted were the likelihood of millions of unemployed and the dire possibility that a nation that had won the war would be destroyed by the peace.  And there was another, unexpected and joyous result.  The American generation that had fought to save the world from fascism became the best-educated cohort in history, and when the veterans were graduated from school they fueled an economic boom never before experienced by any country in the world.
And the results were magnified further by another crucial provision of the GI Bill, one that granted low-interest, zero-down payment home loans for these veterans.  This enabled Americans to own their own homes, and suddenly millions of ex-servicemen’s families — families like ours —  were being propelled into a genuine middle class that was born during the early days of the automobile and grew to maturity in a great exodus from the traditional urban centers.
  —    Colonel Jack Jacobs
Medal of Honor recipient
From his book: “If Not Now, When?
[I would argue the slow but steady reduction and elimination of these benefits has also been one of the long term brakes on the greatness of American society and the economy.  Now, servicemen must pay a portion of their salary towards their future education benefits — as if risking one’s life and limbs in the service of one’s country is insufficient “payment”.  —  KMAB]
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There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours.  I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter things are breaking even for both.  Maybe so, but I’ll swear I can’t see it that way.
  —   William Barclay “Bat” Masterson
(These were also Masterson’s last recorded words, which were in the bit of column found on the typewriter Masterson was using before he died while typing.  Bat Masterson died a sports columnist in New York City.)
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