June 2007 Archives

Given I couldn’t get a flight early enough to get me home so that I could unpack, repack, and get back to the airport, combined with my lack of faith in the airlines being able to get luggage back on schedule when it really counts, I opted to stay in Richmond tonight and leave for the ASEE conference in Hawaii from here tomorrow. So, what to do with the day?

I went to Fredericksburg and toured the battleground and cemetery. With all of the houses that have been built and the growth of the trees, it was difficult to get an appreciation of the terrain facing the soldiers of the Civil War. The cemetery was impressive and even more impressive when you realize that there were some 15,000 plus soldiers, many unknown, buried there.


There were the requisite canons placed here and there and even though I’ve seen more than I can remember, I still felt compelled to take a photo or two.


Much of the stone wall has been rebuilt over the ages, but there is still a section of the original which remains. I also walked along Telegraph Road, now known as “Sunken Road”. It was from this road, behind the stone wall, that the Confederate soldiers repelled the Union.


Usually I do not like having tour guides for things like this because they tend to either be too canned, or to have too little knowledge to be useful. Today was an exception though. The historian we had as our guide was a former Park Ranger who was not only very knowledgeable about the site; she made a dramatic impression that conveyed the feelings of the battle rather than just the facts. The best tour I have had was of Gettysburg while at a National Defense University class, but that was given my a staff member of the college who was very knowledgeable about that battle.

Today I drove over to visit George Washington’s Birthplace. The National Park Service site made for a very nice visit. There were a few people around, but not too many. I walked around the grounds and certainly understand why it was selected as a home site.


There was an interesting house there but, as the park Ranger pointed out, it was not the actual house, nor was it on the actual site. It seems that years ago people took it upon themselves to rebuild our first president’s birthplace (the original burned in 1779). When the well-intentioned folk decided to rebuild the house they built what they thought was befitting a President. The house was built where a marker had been placed indicating it was the birthplace.

Once the site became a national park, the archaeologists started their investigation and found the site of the original house. It was very close (about 50 feet) from where the rebuilt house was. Of course no one knows what the original looked like above ground but the archaeologists did find that it had been built in three stages.

I did enjoy getting out and walking around. There was a workshop, complete with a forge, which my grandfather would have loved. It was quiet and cool and I found my self standing inside the workshop thinking about the time I had spent with my grandfather in is workshop. He loved tools, he loved to collect tools, and I have no doubt that had he had a forge, he would have loved making tools.




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I hate flying. I’m not afraid of flying, it’s not that I mind traveling, I just hate to fly. Well, to be completely accurate, I hate to fly commercial; private planes or charter is just fine.

What I hate about flying is the fact that you are at the mercy of the airlines. The first leg of my flight was overbooked so some poor sucker was bumped. Then the flight is short so they opt for a bottle of water and some crackers. Of course the seats are always too small and I seem to always end up next those who take more than their fair share.

To add insult to injury, the flight attendants always ask if there is anything they can do to make your flight more comfortable. Well let’s see. First, makes these seats a little wider and a little softer. Second, put a little more height to the plane so I can and not bend my neck sideways. Then add a little more insulation to dampening the noise. And finally, tell that lady in 7B to turn around and be quiet. I can’t hear the person sitting next to me but I can hear her and she is 5 rows in front of me!


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Marine General Peter Pace will not be nominated for a second term as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Admiral Mike Mullen, current Chief of Naval Operations will be nominated as his successor. I have mixed feelings about this. Reportedly General Pace is not being nominated because his re-confirmation process could be “contentious”. Well, shouldn’t it be? Is there not supposed a little tension, a little contentiousness, between the branches of government? That tension is what keeps everyone honest and makes sure the tough questions get answered.

General Pace seems to support the troop increase in Iraq while Congressional Democrats do not. Admiral Mullen, according to news reports, is not so favorable of the troop surge. Of course the articles on the net also mention General Pace’s recent anti-gay comments. Okay, quick poll now, who is surprised that a Marine General opposes gays in the military? Anyone? If you are then are so out of tune with the military, especially the Marine Corps, that you are not qualified to have an opinion. I have to wonder that, if in this day and age where political correctness is valued more the freedom to say what you think, if that is not a major factor in the decision.

My other concern is that Admiral Mullen will be nominated to replace him. Don’t get me wrong, I think, no, I know, Admiral Mullen will do a great job as CJCS. My concern is selfish. Admiral Mullen is making great strides in making changes in the Navy and they seem to be welcomed changes. He has a new uniform in the works, is working the 1000-ship Navy concept, and appears well-respected by those in and out of the Navy. He will do a good job as CJCS but he will be missed as CNO, I think.

There is one thing I have learned over the years however, there is a seemingly limitless supply of talent and leadership in the military, so every time a great leader leaves one position, another comes in to fill the void.

Iraq War Memorial Sparks Fight Over Property Values, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, 6 Jun 2007, p. B1.

Scuttle Diplomacy, Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, 2-3 June 2007, p. A11.

It is stories like this that really get me angry. While I disagree with anti-war protestors, I not only support their right to engage in protest, I also respect those who are willing to stand up for their morals. But people like Shelly Valerio mentioned in this WSJ article really irk me. Shelly is against the war, and like so many, she has developed a deep appreciation for and understanding of international relations through her career as a personal trainer. Of course she can afford to protest, she obviously has enough money given she lives in a house she bought in 1998 for $469,000.

Well good for Shelly. She is very principled in her protest, except that one of her neighbors is also protesting the war by displaying 3000+ crosses on his property. Well heavens, this affected Mrs. Valerio’s property value and she might want to sell her house. I have to admire such upstanding, principled citizens like her. She will protest unless it affects her property value.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, we have outstanding young men and women fighting the war on terror, fighting to give the Iraqis basic freedom, all of which Mrs. Valerio opposes, but she doesn’t want to protest too much because she lose a few tens of thousands of dollars on her house sale. Most of those who are fighting will probably never be able to buy a $496,000 house but I would take anyone of them over Mrs. Valerio. The men and women in Iraq have values that are not affected by their property values.

Contrast this article to the editorial Scuttle Diplomacy published in Saturday and Sunday’s WSJ which discusses President Reagan’s work in scuttling the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOS) 25 years ago. Reagan saw this treaty as “global socialism” and, although it was set to be passed by the UN, he instructed Alexander Haig to oppose it. They then set about on a journey and garnered support to kill the treaty.

Reagan opposed 150 nations on the sure passage of this treaty because he thought it was wrong. The President was listening to SecState Haig review the treaty when:

The president looked bored—we all were—and then puzzled. Finally, he broke in. “Uh, Al,” he asked, “isn’t this what the whole thing is all about?”

None of us could fathom what Reagan meant. Mr. Haig asked him. Well, Mr. Reagan shrugged, wasn’t not going along with something “really stupid,” just because 150 nations had done so, what the whole thing was all about? Our running? Our winning? Our being here? Our governing? Wasn’t that what the whole thing was all about?

President Reagan knew that the treaty would fail. France was even taking the position that they would vote for its ratification because they knew it would fail so why make people angry by opposing ratification? Reagan had moral conviction and he took the hard road.

We see the same thing with John McCain and his stance on torture and immigration. His views are, according to the pundits, “unpopular”. McCain surely knows that his positions are hurting him in his quest for office, but he sticks to them anyway. He is determined to do what he thinks is right, regardless of what others or the polls say he should do, and that is why he has my support.

Reagan had and McCain has moral convictions and they do not waiver regardless of what the personal costs may be. Shelly Valerio and her neighbors in San Francisco may have moral conviction, but they are willing to compromise those as soon it hits their pocketbooks. Reagan and McCain have my respect, Mrs. Valerio and her neighbors have my contempt.

Tonight my wife, my daughter, and I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End tonight. I really enjoyed the movie although it did get just a wee be slow there for a few minutes. Ordinarily I wouldn’t worry about a little slowness in a movie but given this thing was nearly three hours long, they could have cut a little bit and no one would have missed anything.

Keith Richards made his appearance and you could immediately tell the age of each person in the audience by those who laughed and those who said, “Huh?” Nice thing about going on a Tuesday is that there were not too many little ones out and about.

I did enjoy watching people at the movies though. I am truly amazed at how difficult some people find it to select a place to sit. Come on people, it’s a chair, and you’re only borrowing it, you’re not buying it. Pick one and sit down.

I recommend the movie to you all. Stay through to the end of the credits. There is one last scene that may be a set up for the next movie, or maybe not. Music is good too. Of course I’ve had the sound track since it was released. I really like Hans Zimmer and will buy his tunes even before I listen to them and have never been disappointed. Gladiator remains my favorite sound track though.


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I just downloaded the CNOs podcast from www.navy.mil. The article mentions, as does the CNO, that he uses an iPod. CNO says he loves to read but has little time to do so. Guess what he says is on his iPod? Books. Would be neat to know what the titles are.

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