Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Signposts to Afghanistan, two years on....

Today, December 31 of 2008, is the second anniversary of the genesis of my story, 'Signposts to Afghanistan', written in early 2007. That story meant a lot to me at the time, and it still does today. It was the first time I had put down into words my motivations for joining the Army in the time of the Vietnam War, how I recalled my experiences gained during those service years, and how I came to follow the path I did after I was discharged from the Army.

Today, one year after writing that story, I am every bit as distressed over our presence in Iraq, and at the horror we have allowed to continue in Afghanistan, as I was then. After having served a year in Vietnam, I was an Afghanistan Analyst for Military Intelligence at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. I fell in love with the country of Afghanistan, and I dreamed of visiting it one day. But life didn't work out that way.

What is going to happen to the current war veterans and their families of today, what with the stresses of multiple deployments and separation, the interruption of careers. I fear that America is going to pay a fierce price for this war and their service. In this day of the assault on the middle class, and CEOs making billions in bonuses by shipping work off to foreign shores, what opportunities await the foot soldier here in America after three tours in Iraq?

To read the entire story follow the link below.

Signposts to Afghanistan

Laudizen King

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Thought for the Day from Walt Whitman

Sea of stretch'd ground-swells,
Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,
Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell'd yet always-ready graves,
Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea,
I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases.
-Walt Whitman, poet (1819-1892)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Drive in California

Shirley and I left downtown Los Angeles on the day before Christmas at 11:00am and headed north. We were driving to the Central Valley town of Modesto for Christmas, about six hours away, and the forecast called for heavy rain in the afternoon. That meant we faced the possibility of snow up in the hills so we needed to get over the mountain passes before the storms came through; snow at the high elevations had stranded thousands of motorists the previous week.

We followed rte 2 north into La Canada, then began our climb into the San Gabriel Mountains. As the road climbed higher, snow began to appear on the side of the pavement. We left the Angeles Crest above 4000' and turned left on the Angeles Forest Highway; this began the long twisting road that snaked through the San Gabriel Mountains before descending the north slope below the town of Palmdale. We often went this way instead of taking the direct route of Interstate 5 over the Grapevine; that stretch of highway could be a high-speed horror show and winter storms often snarled traffic near Tejon Pass.

An hour after leaving our home in LA we pulled onto Highway 14 just as it turned northwards, crossed over a pass, and descended into the Antelope Valley town of Palmdale. We continued north into Lancaster and then across the high desert to the town of Mojave. Here we gassed up and grabbed a quick bite before continuing on our way. A few miles up the road to the north, we exited Highway 14 and turned left onto rte 58 which we now followed west towards Bakersfield.

After we left Mojave, which sits at an elevation near 2700’, the road began a long and gradual climb towards the town of Tehachapi, the highpoint of our travel on rte 58 at an elevation of 4000’. Rain began to patter softly against the windshield and it gradually grew more determined before it turned completely to snow with the gain of elevation. We entered a mean-looking gray cloud and drove for several minutes in a snow-squall of limited visibility and furious wind-driven snow. Near Tehachapi, the snow stopped and we glimpsed blue sky and sunlight, and the mountain vistas all around us were sporting a fresh dusting of white.

We crested the pass and began the 38-mile descent towards Bakersfield. Finally, we could see into the Central Valley itself. After the road had leveled off, I stopped on an an exit ramp on the valley floor and let Shirley drive. I climbed into the passenger seat and quickly dozed off. When I awoke, we were 100 miles north of Bakersfield and driving on Highway 99 through Fresno. To the east, we had intermittent glimpses of snow in the Sierra near Kings Canyon and Yosemite before storm clouds obscured the view. We pulled over for coffee and a rest near the town of Madera, and I took over as driver. In an hour, we were home in Modesto.

California is an incredible state, filled with diversity and wonder at every turn. On our six-hour drive we left the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, went over and across the San Gabriel Mountains, drove across the Antelope Valley and the high desert of the Mojave, crested another 4000’ pass before descending into the Central Valley, and then watched storm clouds collide with the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

How sweet it all is. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thinking of Spring - May Camp

Winter has just started in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but here is a story about setting up camp at Dolly Copp in a driving May rainstorm. This should stir your appetite for the spring.

May Camp


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Texas Stadium

Last night on TV, I watched the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens play the last regular season football game in Texas Stadium. I never saw a game there, yet I spent some time in that area of Texas, and I have good memories of the people and things that I saw and did there.

When the stadium opened in 1971, I was still in the Army at Fort Bragg.

On major life changes, I drove past the stadium on 5 occasions as I traveled from coast to coast in ’71, ’72, ’90, ‘94, and ’97.

When I worked for Mitsubishi in the early ‘90s, I met a woman named Marilyn who worked in our warehouse there, and we remained friends.

As I began working with SAP technology, I made several visits to the SAP training center that was located in the area known as Las Colinas, situated close to Texas Stadium.

About ten years ago, I flew to Dallas for an SAP conference. I went early and spent a couple days with Marilyn, and we saw a great concert at Texas Stadium featuring Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart.

Leaving Marilyn, I hooked up with friends from work that arrived for the SAP conference. On our spare time we acted as tourists and did what anyone wanted to do. We went to South Fork to see the set of the TV show "Dallas", we visited the Sixth Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza to experience the Kennedy assassination, had drinks at the Reunion Tower, and tried to find the graves of Bonny and Clyde. I came away from that trip with two shot glasses: one from a Hooters restaurant where we stopped for chicken wings, and one from the Mustang Café in Las Colinas, where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner.

The shot glass from the Mustang Café was a beautiful frosted-glass piece that featured the mustangs seen in the fountain by the Cafe running around the glass; the mustang images on the glass were crystal clear as opposed to frosted, the liquor showing its color through the images of the horses. Jim McCall and I both bought one on that trip.

Jim passed away in 2004, and on occasion since, I would raise the Mustang glass and have a shot in his honor. That glass broke early this year.

So tonight, I’ll raise one for Texas Stadium, Jim, Marilyn and the other friends I met and traveled with during those years of many changes.

The Hooters glass survives.

Friday, December 19, 2008

NBC Programming Schedule

Here is the new TV Programming schedule from NBC

05:00am to 05:00pm The Today Show
05:00pm to 08:00pm NBC Stock Footage and News Shorts
08:00pm to 10:00pm American Dickhead
10:00pm to 12:00am The New Tonight Show
12:00am to 02:00am The Old Tonight Show
02:00am to 04:00am The Old Late Tonight Show
04:00am to 05:00am I Love Lucy

Total NBC Employees: 50

Thursday, December 18, 2008

ChoSun Galbee, Korean BBQ in Los Angeles

A friend at work, Sam Soon Kim, asked my wife and me to join her for dinner at a Korean BBQ restaurant in Los Angeles. Shirley and I accepted, and after Sam told us we were going to the ChoSun Galbee Korean BBQ off Olympic Blvd in Koreatown, I went and looked up some reviews.

Non-Asians (or non-Koreans) did not seem to like the service. Many said it was pricey, and that parking was an issue. Many reviewers loved it. Forewarned and forearmed, Shirley and I met Sam at ChoSun Galbee on Tuesday night.

The restaurant was already busy at 6:30 pm, so I pulled into the small valet-parking lot. We met Sam and were shown to our table. If you want BBQ you get a table with a grill in the center. Sam is Korean so we already had an 'in' as she handled the discussions in Korean as to what was good and fresh that night, and she also ordered drinks. One review that I had read earlier said that the best thing to have with dinner was an ice-cold Hite beer, so I asked Sam to order me one.

We ordered two plates of prime beef to BBQ, one plate marinated and one not. We also ordered Galbee Jjim, a cooked short-rib dish. A plethora of small dishes appeared: kimchi, pickled radish, broccoli with a piquant sauce, and many more. There was rice and seaweed soup as well, and a large green salad with a tasty dressing.

Everything was delicious. The BBQ was exquisite, just take it off the grill in front of you and place it on your salad, and we grilled peppers, garlic, onion and mushrooms along with the meat. As for the Galbee Jjim, it was absolutely the best short-rib dish I have ever tasted, the beef melted in my mouth. The seaweed soup was surprisingly good. We were never rushed, and the wait-staff was not cold and distant as much as they were busy; the place was packed.

The three meat dishes we ordered cost between 26 and 31 dollars each, and valet-parking cost two dollars. I'm not sure about the cost of drinks as Sam picked up the tab. But it was impressive that the restaurant was busy as it was.

If I had to choose between a restaurant that was empty and a busy one with difficult parking, well, I'd take the busy one every time.

We had a wonderful dinner, and we had a great time talking to each other and enjoying the atmosphere.

My review: It was excellent.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NBC is Dead

If they're not, we can only hope that the end of their TV programming comes soon and with as little publicity and reality show advertising as possible.

Republican Senators and the hubris of the South

It's a special sight to see the Republican Senators from the South line up in opposition to the Big-3 Auto bailout proposal because it doesn't eviscerate the auto unions as much as they would like. It was a different tune when deregulation was the word and obscenely-paid CEOs were contributing large sums from their ill-gotten gains (read CEO compensation) to the anti-union and conservative shills in the South.

You two-faced bastards. You'ld sell the whole country down the drain if it would service your own aims.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Cards

The last batch of Christmas Cards is complete, stamped and addressed, sitting on the counter ready for mailing on Monday. I like to send them and I like to receive them. Even if a contact with someone is a once-a-year event, it keeps the lines open so to speak, and acknowledges that which has gone before.

So this year, like every year, I sat down and filled them out and readied them for mailing in small bunches. Now that I am done, the effort of it feels good.

The number of cards I send seems smaller every year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Riots in Greece

Wither goest thou Greece, in thy anarchist's car in the night?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Barbara Walters Special

Barbara Walters is going to have a special where she interviews the 10 most fascinating people of 2008. What a hollow and self-serving shill she is. What talent or skill did she ever really have, other than the enduring fame she garnered by being skewered for so many years on Saturday Night Live.

Perhaps something else will be on television that night, something not so baseless. Perhaps there is a show on the Gem shopping network, or maybe I can get a free miracle prayer-scarf blessed by some snake-charmer preacher in Tennessee. Or if I'm really lucky, I can learn how the proper and regular use of enemas holds the key to a long and healthy life.

The TV networks are dead, the final insult

Television is dead. I mean, even more than yesterday. My wife and I have cable to enjoy the pay-movie channels and sports. But that is getting hard to tolerate. Two hundred channels for gems, auctions, and hustlers selling everything from Jesus to sex. They pay the cable companies for access, and we subsidize it by paying for cable.

The networks are so bad that they make cable a necessity. The news programs are just shills for their own reality shows, every half-hour of programming has fifteen minutes of commercials, and canned or studio directed laughter still is the most unfunny sound there is.

And now there is a new assault upon the viewer, the final insult for me. Like pop-up windows on the internet, viewers have to endure the images of people and skits superimposed over the program they are watching, filling up a portion of the screen with ads and hype for mind-numbing new series or for future shows. How insulting.

That's it. The days of watching a movie on network are over. I guess I'll have to endure the insult when watching sports.

But I have a message for the television executives.

You suck.

Who is to blame for the big-3 auto debacle

In regards to the big 3-auto meltdown, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the bloated union contracts lately, how the high wages and cost of health and retirement benefits for union autoworkers immediately dooms the American auto industry.

Let’s remember why unions exist in the first place, because of the abuse that the American worker has endured at the hands of management over the years. I see nothing different today.

Corporate executives that make tens of millions a year yet don’t modernize their operations or change with the times. Isn’t that kind of compensation outright larceny? To me it seems like stealing from the shareholders. In addition, all of these CEOs sit on each other’s boards of directors, and always seem ready to approve the highest compensation packages for one another.

Unions? The credit crisis started the downward spiral in the auto industry, and the arrogant CEO-asses show up in Washington in their corporate jets. After they get their hands slapped, they drive back looking for handouts in hybrids. What an act.

What we are watching is an assault on the middle class in America. What place does the American worker occupy in a global economy? None as far as I can see, unless you want to include the fast-food service or lawn-care industries.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Georgia, shame on you

Georgia, shame on you. As if you needed Sarah Palin to make you look this bad.

Saxby Chambliss, Elected but Guilty

As all America looks at the cheaters and swindlers that have brought us to where we are, we ought to take a fresh look at Saxby Chambliss. He is the Republican that accused Max Cleland of failure to defend the Constitution. The three limbs Cleland sacrificed in Vietnam wasn't enough. When it is time to make the CIOs of AIG and other financial institutions that have gone bust accountable for their actions, it is high time to look at this Cretin for the lies and deceit he has spread on the honorable service of others

That the hollow Sarah Palin became a part of this spectacle in Georgia is not surprising. Ambition aside, every time she opens her mouth she reveals the ugly truth about herself: aside from ambition, she offers naught but ignorance and hate.

Real veterans will remember.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sylvian Ofiara

Sylvian Ofiara is an artist and a photographer from Manchester, Connecticut.

Follow the link below to witness the passages of life reflected in the images of four Christmas Cards.

Sylvian Ofiara